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A bill aimed at helping young veterans find jobs in a tough economy has received a strong bipartisan push in the House of Representatives.
A group of lawmakers, led by Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Ga., have introduced a House version of a Senate bill, HR 1941, which would improve training programs for separating and retiring service members and modify federal hiring practices to help new veterans find jobs.
Called the Hiring Heroes Act, the legislative package initially was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and has become a top priority for military and veterans groups, who have assigned members to fan out across Capitol Hill to get lawmakers to support the measure.
Bishop, ranking Democrat for the House Appropriations Committee's military construction and veterans affairs panel, is joined by Democrats Bob Filner and Jerry McNerney of California and Norm Dicks of Washington, and Republicans C.W. "Bill" Young of Florida and Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland.
Dicks and Young are senior members of the House Appropriations Committee, Filner and McNerney serve on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and Bartlett is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.
The concentrated effort to help veterans find jobs comes as the Labor Department reports that one in four veterans age 20 to 24 are unemployed, and that the April unemployment rate for veterans discharged from active duty since 2001 is 13.1 percent, which is higher than the 9.9 percent national unemployment rate.
The Murray-Bishop bill takes a multi-prong approach to help veterans find jobs. It would make Transition Assistance Program classes mandatory for all separating service members, require employment assessments for every participant and direct the Labor Department to follow up with veterans after separation to see if they need more help.
Bishop aides described the bill as a combination of new programs and modifications in existing programs, aimed at showing some immediate results.
"As the war in Iraq comes to an end and we begin to draw down our forces in Afghanistan, even more veterans will be looking for work," Bishop said in a statement. "We have an obligation to help our veterans land on their feet when they come home and help them find good-paying jobs to support their families."
The Congressional Budget Office has not yet assigned a price tag to the bill, which could be a big factor in trying to get it passed. Murray's Senate committee could have a hearing in mid-June to hear from the Obama administration and veterans groups on the bill, a point when a cost estimate could be available.
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