U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donahue (second from right), pictured with, from left, the Legion’s Joe Sharpe, Bob Madden and Mark Walker. Photo by Craig Roberts

A 'fantastic plan' for veterans

The American Legion is expressing high hopes for an ambitious new joint initiative by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Labor (DOL) designed to find jobs for military veterans. 

In announcing a 14-state pilot program by the partnership, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donahue said, “We’re launching this program not just to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans but because it makes sense for America’s businesses.” 

Ray Jefferson, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training (VETS) — a wounded veteran himself — said the program will bring “urgency, impact and innovation” to the joint government and private sector effort to reduce the chronically high unemployment rate among veterans. The DOL and U.S. Chamber are planning to deploy a cadre of highly trained representatives to educate local chambers of commerce and, by extension, mass numbers of employers on the benefits of hiring veterans and the procedures for doing so. 

The initiative will be limited initially to Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia. But it will be expanded nationwide, according to Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, “as soon as possible.”

“I think this is a fantastic idea,” said Joe Sharpe, the Legion’s Economic Commission director. “I know this is something the Department of Labor has been planning for some time, but it’s great to see it’s actually coming to fruition.  A lot of federal agencies come up with a lot of plans,” Sharpe continued, “but you don’t actually see them implemented.  (It) is a really gratifying thing to see that it’s actually going to come about.”

Sharpe testified before a Congressional committee earlier last week on currently failing government efforts to encourage federal contractors to recruit veterans as employees.