WAMU 88.5 : News

Legislation Seeks To Ease Vets' Transition To Public Sector Jobs

Play associated audio
Baltimore native and Iraq veteran Eric Smith speaks on Capitol Hill about the difficulties he faced in getting employment in medical field, despite years of combat training as a Marine corpsman.
Armando Trull
Baltimore native and Iraq veteran Eric Smith speaks on Capitol Hill about the difficulties he faced in getting employment in medical field, despite years of combat training as a Marine corpsman.

Nearly 30 percent of young veterans end up unemployed for some length of time after returning home. Critics say it's a combination of poor transitional training by the Pentagon and ignorance in the private sector about the soldiers' skills.

Now, thanks to a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, there are efforts underway to address these issues -- like the ones faced by Eric Smith, a 26-year-old veteran from Baltimore.

Smith went to Iraq twice. While there, the marine was a combat field medic, dealing with everything from gunshot wounds to broken limbs.

When Eric left the service in 2008, he was turned down for medical jobs as basic as nurse's assistant.

"During my tours I gained valuable experience in the medical field under extreme conditions," says Smith. "In spite of my knowledge and service I'm struggling to find a job today."

He wasn't qualified for many positions because he didn't have the proper certifications, and to get them meant starting from scratch.

That's why Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has introduced the "Hiring Heroes Act of 2011," which requires improved transitional training for soldiers leaving the armed forces and a mechanism to validate military training in the public sector.

"We train them, we educate them, we give them the skills, and then we don't use them and then if they're unemployed we pay their unemployment insurance," laments Murray, who chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

One military sergeant, who asked that his name not be used, told WAMU that he thinks the bill is needed.

"It helps, you know," he says. "That way when our soldiers do get out they get out on the ground running."

Smith says that he is speaking out in support of the Hiring Heroes act in order to save some of his colleagues from the suffering the same problems he went through. His old unit is about to return from another deployment in Afghanistan.

"If what I'm doing right now can see to it that not a single one of those guys go through half of what I did ... then I would have done as best as I possibly can," he says.

The legislation has bipartisan support in the Senate.

NPR

On Television, More Transgender Characters Come Into Focus

Now that it's more common to see gay characters on TV, is the medium turning to transgender people for fresh stories? NPR's Neda Ulaby looks at TV's crop of transgender and "gender fluid" characters.
NPR

Obama Gets A Taste Of Jiro's 'Dream' Sushi In Name Of Diplomacy

On the first leg of his Asian tour, the president stopped by the iconic sushi restaurant. David Gelb, who directed a documentary about the restaurant, says eating there is amazing and nerve-wracking.
NPR

Pennsylvania Congresswoman Goes All In For Obamacare

Does Rep. Allyson Schwartz's pro-Affordable Care Act television ad signal a new thinking among Democrats running in statewide races?
NPR

Reports: FCC Poised For About-Face On Net Neutrality

According to reports, the FCC is set to approve a system in which Internet service providers offer a faster pipe to American homes to content companies willing to pay for it.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.