By JOE MANCHIN
U.S. Senator (D-W.Va.)
If you want to help a vet, hire a vet.
That is the single most important message the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus, which I formed along with my friend Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is hoping to communicate through our new “I Hire Veterans” initiative.
Throughout our history, Americans have always had a personal way to demonstrate their support for our troops. We have proudly displayed the yellow ribbon, a symbol of our appreciation for our servicemen and women, and flown the American flag.
But right now, our veterans need more than just our support. In addition to our gratitude, our veterans and brave National Guard and Reservists need jobs.
A persistently high unemployment rate is one of the most serious crises facing our veterans and their families. In February 2012, we had 777,000 unemployed veterans. And as we draw down from the conflicts in the Middle East, about 100,000 additional servicemembers will be separating from the armed services and in need of a good job.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 was 12.1 percent in 2011. Nationally, the unemployment rate was about three points lower. And on top of that, young male veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 had an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent in 2011.
That number is absolutely mind boggling.
I know there are many efforts out there to help our veterans find employment, but it’s clear that we can do more. When my friend Senator Mark Kirk and I looked at all the different ideas that have been put in place to help our veterans find jobs, there was one major piece missing: public awareness.
And so we started the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus in February as an effort that could complement everything else that’s out there and add one new piece. We now have 29 members, Democrats and Republicans.
The Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus started the “I Hire Veterans” program as a way to publicly commit to hiring the veterans and current serving members of the National Guard and Reserves who have sacrificed so much for this nation. It’s a way for employers to proudly display that they have made a public and personal commitment to hiring veterans.
The members of our caucus span the ideological spectrum – and each and every one of them has made a commitment to hiring veterans, veterans’ family members and members of the National Guard and Reserves in their office. They are really putting their money where their mouth is.
I have three veterans working in my office, and let me say, they are some of the most skilled, dedicated and disciplined individuals around. Our veterans have such valuable training and important skill sets, and these talents can and should be put to good use once they leave the armed forces.
We want members of the public – especially business owners – to make the commitment to hiring veterans and current serving members of the National Guard and Reserves and to proudly display the “I Hire Veterans” logo. We should all think of it as another Yellow Ribbon. Anyone — whether that be a private company or a federal agency – who hires veterans and wants to show their support can go to my web site, download the logo, and display it in their business.
Just visit manchin.senate.gov and it’s right there. And if you can’t download the logo, please call my office at 304-342-5855 and we will send you an “I Hire Veterans” logo to display in your place of work.
I want to thank everyone who has shown their support for the “I Hire Veterans” initiative, including Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, who joined us at the caucus’ kickoff event last month. Our list of supporters keeps growing, and includes so many important military service and veterans organizations. I want to encourage each and every one of you to get involved in any way you can.
May God bless you, our veterans, and the state of West Virginia.