Legion job fairs help 7,000 find employment

In 2012, The American Legion participated in a record number of veterans jobs fairs where nearly 7,000 attendees were hired, according to a recent report by the organization’s Economic Division. The achievement comes as unemployment data indicates a disturbing trend among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have returned home and are looking for work.

Data gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Recruit Military and Monster/Military.com show an overall unemployment rate among veterans of 6.6 percent, markedly below the national average. However, joblessness among young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is dramatically higher: 9.5 percent among males and 12.9 among females, who, according to the BLS, comprise 15 percent of returning U.S. troops.

While these figures reflect a disturbing rate of unemployment among young veterans, the news is "not all bad," American Legion National Commander James Koutz said. "This report also exhibits the enthusiastic and proactive role The American Legion is playing to correct the injustice of joblessness among our young heroes. The Legion’s sponsorship and hosting of job fairs at the national, department and post levels is having tangible results. We are helping match America’s best workers with America’s smartest employers."

For years, The American Legion has been sponsoring and staging hiring events, small business workshops and educational sessions for job-seeking veterans. But this year’s activities have been unprecedented in number and scope. Alliances with Recruit Military, which bills itself as "the top military-to-civilian recruiting firm in the United States," Monster/Military.com, a military and veteran job board partnership, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s "Hiring Our Heroes" program has resulted in the rapid acceleration of the Legion’s veteran employment campaign.

Koutz said the Legion will continue to respond to the employment needs of the veteran community in the coming year. "I pledge that our efforts will be redoubled in 2013 and that our message will be proclaimed even more loudly," he said. "As we have said so many times before and will say again and again, an employer can do no better than to hire a veteran."

In 2013, the Legion will adjust its relationship with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC). The Chamber will host 200 job fairs, focusing on states with the highest numbers of unemployed veterans. Those include Washington, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, California, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.  Departments in those states are encouraged to host a job fair during their state convention.

In other news:

Legion joins Sanders at news event: On Dec. 19, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont held a news conference to oppose cuts in benefits for disabled veterans and their survivors. He asked The American Legion and three other veterans groups to speak at the press conference and support him in his efforts to stop a proposed change in how annual inflation adjustments to Social Security and veterans benefits are calculated.
Legislative Division Deputy Director Dean Stoline spoke on behalf of The American Legion.

“The American Legion agrees with you and we are here today to stand with you – and with these other organizations – to oppose a change that will reduce, for the rest of their lifetimes, the earned benefits of service-connected disabled veterans, the surviving family members of these veterans, and those veterans who are on VA pension because they are elderly or because they became 100 percent disabled in military service to their country,” Stoline said. “The American Legion is concerned about the fiscal situation of our country. And The American Legion stands ready to help Congress and the president find fair ways to reduce the deficits for the American people. However, we will not support deficit reductions placed on the backs of our elderly veterans, our sick and poor veterans, or by reducing earned benefits to their families and survivors.”

Stolen Valor effort falls short: The approved defense bill stripped out a section on Stolen Valor, shelving efforts to allow criminal charges to be brought against people who misrepresent their military service to obtain veterans health care, a job or other benefits. During the 94th National Convention, The American Legion passed Resolution No. 283: “Amend Stolen Valor Act."

Bill boosts student veterans: A bill designed to help protect the interest of student veterans is one step closer to enactment. H.R. 4057 - the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012 - passed the U.S. Senate on Dec. 19, after major lobbying efforts from The American Legion. The bill calls for greater transparency by institutions with regard to the schools' quality of instruction, accreditation, recruiting practices and post-graduation employment records. The bill now returns to the House for a final vote.

Working with SBA: The Economic Division met with the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Veteran Business Development (OVBD) on Dec. 17 and discussed a Strategic Alliance Memorandum (SAM). The SAM covered how the OVBD can assist the veteran business community and how the Legion can utilize our membership to assist OVBD with their programmatic outreach. The American Legion’s resolution 320 passed in August at the National Convention supports increased funding for the efforts of the SBA's OVBD, in its initiatives to provide enhanced outreach and specific community-based assistance to veterans and self-employed members of the Reserve and National Guard.

Legion, USDA work on MOU: Members of the Economic Division met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Dec. 19 to discuss implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in February 2012. The parties discussed the three main parts of MOU that included programmatic outreach, veterans’ employment and veteran-owned small business piece. The discussion focused on finding ways the Legion can use media to reach veterans with regards to USDA’s job openings; how the Legion and USDA can promote each other in public; how the Legion and USDA can work together to diversify their supplier base and increase the number of contracts awarded to veteran-owned small businesses; and find ways the Legion can help advance USDA’s veterans initiatives. 
MVP program enrolls 100,000 volunteer: The Department of Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program (MVP) recently enrolled its 100,000 volunteer research participant, and now stands at more than 110,000 enrollees, marking a major milestone in the nearly 90-year history of VA research. For more information about MVP, visit www.research.va.gov/MVP.

VAVS volunteers of the year: Applications for VAVS volunteers of the year are due to the Department of Veterans Affairs by Dec. 31. We have applicants for male volunteer of the year, but have the ability to also submit a female volunteer of the year. If you have someone that you would like to nominate, please contact the chief of volunteer services at the facility where the volunteer works to submit a package.

POW/MIA Update
Korean War soldier identified: On Dec. 4, the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, killed in action during the Korean War, had been identified and was returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Army Sgt. Bobby R. King, 19, of Seymour, Texas, was to be buried on Dec. 7, in Dallas. In August 1950, King and his unit, Battery A, 90th Field Artillery Battalion, were fighting against North Korean forces in a battle known as the “Bloody Gulch,” near Pongam-ni, South Korea. After the battle, on Aug. 12, King was listed as missing in action.

Vietnam War soldier identified: On Dec. 7, the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, killed in action during the Vietnam War, had been identified and was returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Army Capt. James M. Johnstone, 28, of Baton Rouge, La., was buried Dec. 12, in Arlington National Cemetery. On Nov. 19, 1966, Johnstone was the pilot of an OV-1A Mohawk aircraft that crashed while conducting a daytime reconnaissance mission over Attapu Province, Laos. Nearby U.S. aircrews reported seeing the wing of Johnstone’s aircraft hit a tree during a climb to avoid a nearby ridgeline. No parachutes were seen exiting the aircraft. Heavy enemy presence in the area prevented recovery efforts.

VA claims: During the week ending Dec. 14, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reached dispositions on 142 American Legion represented appeals.  Of those dispositions, 64.7 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran.  In 36 cases, the Board granted benefits outright after considering the Legion’s arguments. In 56 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims which mandated corrective action under the law.  Of the total number of dispositions, 41 (28.9 percent) were outright denials.