Job fairs unite veterans, opportunities

More than 240 veterans received provisional job offers during two recent Hiring Our Heroes job fairs.

On March 21, more than 150 veterans received provisional job offers at the job fair in Chicago. The success illustrates how public-private efforts that involve the state’s hiring tool,, can link employers with qualified applicants to further support the Illinois economy. With more Hiring Our Heroes events planned for Illinois and across the country, well-qualified vets and military family members can find a new career or a new job.

More than 1,500 veterans and spouses attended, as well as 112 employers with immediate openings and 12 veteran service organizations that provided interview guidance, career readiness and individual counseling. In partnership with the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the event utilized pre-screening and pre-matching through to provide 577 on-site interviews and 152 provisional job offers. The Department of Illinois and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce contributed to the success of the event.

On March 27, a similar event was held at the National Guard 69th Regiment Armory in New York. The Legion helped connect 108 employers with 585 job seekers from the local military population. Throughout the day, 2,719 resumes were collected, 710 interviews were conducted and 90 conditional jobs were offered on site.

American Legion Past National Commander Fang Wong and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki were among those at the event. The event was a success thanks to the Department of New York, Wong and his wife Barbara, Legion and Auxiliary members from Post 1291 who came out to volunteer, and to Legion DSO Dana Verissimo, who was on-site to assist veterans with their medical claims.

In other news:

Letters of support: The American Legion on April 1 sent a letter of support to Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Jon Tester of Montana, giving our organization’s support for S. 210, the Stolen Valor Act of 2013. Our organization believes, in the aftermath of last year’s Supreme Court decision United States v. Alvarez overturning the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-437), this new legislation will rightfully target those who seek to gain tangible benefits and, with the addition of the definition of "combat badge," should be sufficient to pass court review. Related resolution

Also on April 1, The American Legion sent a letter of support to Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, giving our organization’s support for draft legislation to repeal time limitation on the eligibility for use of educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill program, to improve veterans education outreach and other purposes. This legislation would change the expiration from 10 years after the veteran leaves active duty to 10 years after the veteran begins using the benefit. Related resolution

Stand Down in Florida: The Economic Division participated in the North Florida Stand Down in Tallahassee April -57. During the three-day event, the North Florida Fairgrounds took on a military atmosphere as tents and cots are set up for homeless veterans who benefited from a range of services designed to help them escape the vicious cycle of homelessness.

Grants for the homeless: The Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service announced April 3 the availability of up to $5 million to fund 16 or more Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) grants. The grants will allow 2,600 veterans to receive job training and related services to help them succeed in civilian careers.

Funds for the grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, public agencies, nonprofit organizations, tribal governments and faith-based and community organizations. Because these groups are intimately connected with their local economies and the needs of homeless veterans, they can offer occupational, classroom, and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance, including follow-up services. Awards will range from $100,000 to $300,000 each. HVRP is recognized as extraordinary efficient and effective, and is the only federal program that focuses exclusively on the employment of homeless veterans.

A related resolution calls for The American Legion to:

• Renew its commitment to assisting homeless veterans and their families.

• Continue its support the efforts of public and private sector agencies and organizations with the resources necessary to aid homeless veterans and their families.

• Seek and support any legislative or administrative proposal that will provide medical, rehabilitative, and employment assistance to homeless veterans and their families.

SBA programs: The Economic Division met on April 1 with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Mike Haynie from Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families to discuss the possibility of working with The American Legion to bringing SBA entrepreneurial programs to our national convention in Texas this year. Because of the date restrictions the current curriculum would have to be tailored to highlight the best of SBA’s two programs aimed at empowering veterans and assisting them in becoming entrepreneurs. The parties discussed the possibility of creating a hybrid version of Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship and the Veteran’s Boots to Business program to fit within a two-to-three-day session for our veterans and membership during the convention.

Farm bill implications: The Economic Division met April 2 with Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) to discuss concerns facing a minority of veteran entrepreneurs and ways our two organizations can work together to ensure our veterans are gainfully employed. FVC’s major concern was the Farm Bill. Though the bill’s provisions have been extended until September, the funding for veterans programs need to extend beyond the immediate future to be effective. There has to be some guarantee of success or a failsafe to incentivize the younger veterans to invest their money and labor into a farm or ranch. Every veteran-owned farm is in essence a veteran-owned small business. Not only does the agriculture industry provide gainful employment, it also provides therapy for many disabled veterans.

Planning ahead for SWS: Staff from The American Legion’s Legislative and VA&R divisions met with staff from the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health on April 3 to discuss the upcoming System Worth Saving visits for 2013-2014. The meeting was aimed at garnering input from the congressional staff on particular sites and issues they felt might be useful or important to explore during the visits. The focus of the System Worth Saving visits in 2013-2014 will be veteran mental health.

SWS site visit: On April 1-3, a team of Legionnaires representing the System Worth Saving Task Force, comprised of task force member Vickie Smith-Dikes of Georgia, VA&R national field representative Roscoe Butler, Department of Wisconsin Commander Wayne W. Jensen and Past Wisconsin Department Commander Denise Rohan conducted a site visit at the William S. Middleton VA Medical Center in Madison to discuss women veterans health care.

The SWS team interviewed the executive leadership, women veterans program manager and other staff on subjects affecting women veterans health care. A town hall meeting was held at The American Legion Cross Plans Post No. 245 in Cross Plains, Wis. Enrolled VA patients attended the town hall meeting to provide their feedback regarding their care and services at the medical center.

DoD review: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week signaled possible big changes ahead for his department in acquisition, personnel and organization as he delivered his first major policy speech as Pentagon chief.

Hagel outlined his plan of attack for the strategic and financial challenges the Defense Department faces during remarks at the National Defense University here. "We need to challenge all past assumptions, and we need to put everything on the table," he said.

The review will consider big choices – "change that involves not just tweaking or chipping away at existing structures and practices but, where necessary, fashioning entirely new ones that are better suited to 21st-century realities and challenges," the secretary said. Related resolution

Claims: During the week ending March 29, the Board of Veterans Appeals reached dispositions on 103 American Legion-represented appeals. Of those dispositions, 73.7 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 21 cases, the board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion’s arguments. In 55 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims that mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 21 (20.4 percent) were outright denials.

POW/MIA update: Pfc. Roosevelt Clark, U.S. Army, 35th Infantry Regimental, was lost late in November 1950 in North Korean along the Kujang, Kuryong and Ch’ongch’on River. He was accounted for on Feb. 25, 2013.