House panel focusing on job creation for veterans - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

House panel focusing on job creation for veterans

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

More than 3,000 Iowa Army National Guard troops returned from Afghanistan this summer, and many of them are still looking for work.  That struggle was the topic for discussion at a field hearing of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on economic opportunity in Waterloo Monday.

National unemployment currently stands at 9.1%.  But the Iowa Army National Guard estimates that as much as 25% of returning soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team are out of work.  Vets testifying at Monday's hearing say the combination of an already tough job market and marketing their unique skills are part of what make finding work so difficult.

Captain Aaron Robinson is still trying to readjust to family life after returning in July from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.  On top of that, he's tasked with finding a job.

"I need to go out and work.  I need to do something to get out of the house.  I kind of, in a way, am down foot at this point.  It's good to be home and be able to do things with the wife, with the kids.  But now it's time to get back to work, and it's just a real struggle to do that," Robinson said.

Fellow soldier, Staff Sergeant Nathan Rose, is finishing up college at the University of Iowa.  He's concerned that after graduating, he could be in the same boat.

"I'm worried about my resume because that's what people use to hire.  And if I can't properly translate what I've done in the military into a civilian resume, they're going to pass me over," Rose said.

That's why both soldiers wanted to share their issues with the US House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on economic opportunity.  The committee wants to brainstorm about strategies and services that might be useful in better bridging the gap between soldier skills and the jobs employers are looking to fill.

"The men and women who put their lives on the line for us deserve a chance at achieving the American dream.  And the best way for many of them to start that is by putting them back to work and finding them a job," said Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA).

One solution?  Some of Iowa's largest employers testified that they'd love to hire veterans, and they might be more apt to do so if existing tax credits for hiring heroes were extended or increased.

One bill introduced by Congressman Braley would extend those perks to employers hiring combat veterans.  But there are still added challenges.  Veterans testifying Monday also believe some companies may be reluctant to hire them because they could be concerned about ongoing soldier training duties and the chance for future deployments.

The House subcommittee hopes to take the input collected at field hearings Monday and Tuesday back to Washington D.C. to look at additional legislation that might help veterans get jobs.  The panel is also encouraging veterans to attend a statewide "Hiring Heroes" job fair in Des Moines, set for November 8.

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