By Donna Miles
One of the best ways Americans can honor the nation’s veterans this Veterans Day is by giving them a job.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis and U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen G. Mills praised initiatives under way to support returning combat veterans, including those President Barack Obama announced yesterday.
They echoed the president’s comments yesterday, as well as those of Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta as he met yesterday with chief executive officers at an event hosted by the Goldman Sachs Foundation in New York.
“The men and women of the 9/11 generation have risked their lives fighting overseas defending our freedoms, and they have been a formidable force for good,” said Shinseki during the joint conference call today. “They are remarkable men and women and shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they come home.”
Shinseki noted that 850,000 veterans are unemployed. For veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the unemployment rate is 12.1 percent — 3 percent above the national average, he said.
Efforts by the United States to help them will impact the estimated 1 million more service members expected to leave the military within the next five years and seek civilian jobs, he said.
“They have every right to look for the American dream, and it should not be out of reach for them and their families,” Shinseki said.
Solis praised new tax credits Obama announced Nov. 7 for employers who hire post-9/11 veterans and wounded warriors, as well as enhanced career counseling services for veterans.
She joined Shinseki and Mills in encouraging Congress to pass legislation to provide more opportunities for veterans.
Solis encouraged veterans to visit the Department of Labor website to download a new Veteran Gold Card that entitles them to six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling services at roughly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers nationwide. She also encouraged veterans to take advantage of the new My Next Move for Veterans online tool to identify civilian careers that correlate with their skills and interests.
The Department of Labor recognizes the service and sacrifice of the nation’s veterans and strives to honor those contributions every day, Solis said.
“We put the full weight of the department behind programs that ensure rewarding careers are waiting for them when they come home,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mills noted increased efforts within the Small Business Administration to help veterans start their own businesses. SBA has doubled its loans to veterans and disabled veterans since 2009, she said.
Last year, Mills said, the SBA approved 4,300 veterans loans amounting to $1.5 billion.
Veterans have a lot to bring the workplace, she said, noting their skills “translate very much into entrepreneurship.”
While these and other programs assist the nation’s veterans, Shinseki said, they also help the country by strengthening its economy.
“The American economy needs veterans,” he said. “They make exceptional employees.”