(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) attended a hearing of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs examining the barriers veterans face in the job market and the unique skill set they bring to employers. The committee also discussed how to provide more employment opportunities to veterans. Microsoft General Manager Lutz Ziob was among the witnesses testifying at the hearing. Ziob discussed the special technology skills many veterans bring to employers.
The full text of Senator Murray’s opening statement follows:
“Chairman Akaka, Senator Burr, thank you for holding today’s hearing on easing the burdens for veterans seeking civilian employment.
“Thank you also to all of the witnesses appearing before the committee. I look forward to hearing your comments on this critical issue.
“Before I begin I would like to welcome one of today’s witnesses who is a Washingtonian and a Microsoft employee. Lutz Ziob is here to discuss barriers and opportunities for veterans in the information technology realm. And I know that in today’s hi-tech military we need to be working to find ways to translate our service members technology skills into the civilian world, so I’m really looking forward to his testimony.
“Mr. Chairman, our nation's veterans have all the character and skills necessary to succeed in the working world – they are disciplined team players who have proven that they can perform under pressure. Now we need to ensure that the VA, the Department of Defense and Department of Labor are given the tools needed to give them the support they deserve. In the coming months I plan to introduce a veterans employment assistance bill that will add to the toolbox.
“My bill is designed to expand employment, training, and placement services for veterans.
“In particular, it would help veterans seeking to create small businesses by establishing a veteran’s business center program. It would also help unemployed veterans get the job training they need, and set up a demonstration program to examine how transitioning service members can build on their military IT skills to enter the civilian IT workforce.
“In addition to that bill, last week Senators Klobuchar, Johanns and I introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans’ Job Training Act. Our bill takes a critical step forward for veterans by expanding benefits available under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to include job training and apprenticeships.
“In these tough economic times, we need to expand the opportunities opened under the Post 9/11 GI Bill to include workforce training. I would urge my colleagues to consider looking at legislation like this to help our veterans obtain access to employment through better training.
“Mr. Chairman, our men and women who are fighting overseas face incredibly dangerous and stressful situations on the battlefield. So it is critical that we not add to the stress by burdening them with worries about keeping or finding jobs for themselves and their families.
“In my home state, the citizen-soldiers of the 81st Brigade Combat Team of the Washington Army National Guard just returned this year after serving their country honorably in Iraq. I know that over the last three months - since they have returned home, many of them are having a very difficult time in this job market and they need all the help that we can provide. I also know that as thousands of soldiers from Fort Lewis return home from Iraq and Afghanistan we will need additional employment resources.
“But I also have to say that I have been encouraged by the grassroots work that is being done in my state.
“In fact, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the important work being done by Hire America’s Heroes, a Washington state-based organization that focuses on improving access to corporate jobs for transitioning military service members, veterans, and military family members.
“By bringing together major employers like Comcast, Boeing, Weyerhauser and Starbucks with area-veterans, Hire America’s Heroes has been able to side-step many of the barriers that often prevent veterans from having their unique skill set recognized.
“I especially want to mention the great work being done by Marjorie James, the President of Hire America’s Heroes and General James M. Collins who will be in the audience a little later today.
“General Collins is a two star general who has been one of the main forces behind Hire America’s Heroes, and he has served our nation honorably both in and out of uniform. As a retired officer, and a former Weyerhauser employee, General Collins brings a valuable perspective on veterans employment issues to the table, and I want to thank him for his invaluable work.
“As I have said countless times, I believe how we treat our veterans when they come home is an indication of the character of our Nation. We must do all we can to make the transition from servicemember to citizen and workforce member a smoother one.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to today’s hearing.”