Increasing numbers of veterans are returning from duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world only to face obstacles in finding good jobs.
According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among post 9/11 veterans stood at 11.5% in 2010 – almost two full percentage points above the national average. Combat operations in Afghanistan may be winding down, but our duty to our returning soldiers does not.
The federal government is working to embody this principle, to become a model employer when it comes to hiring our nation’s veterans. President Obama signed an executive order to prioritize the employment of veterans in federal service. The Council on Veteran’s Employment, co-chaired by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, recently published a study which found that the federal government actually increased both the percentage and actual number of its veteran hires for the 2010 fiscal year, despite a decrease in overall government hiring.
We are doing our part and expect the same commitment from those companies that profit from government contracts.
In April, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs proposed a rule to strengthen affirmative action requirements of federal contractors and subcontractors for veterans protected under Section 4212 of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. The 60-day comment period was set to expire earlier this week. However, after receiving requests for more time, we are extending the comment period until Monday, July 11. This decision was made in an effort to balance requests for an additional period of review and comment, with the urgent need to put in place rules that will help our nation’s veterans find and keep good jobs. Information about the proposed rule can be found in the Federal Register.
In his address announcing troop withdrawals, the President said he spoke for all Americans when he assured our veterans that we “will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care, and benefits, and opportunity that you deserve.” He speaks for America. He also speaks for the Secretary of Labor, the OFCCP, and for me. I take that promise seriously.
Understanding the unique challenges our country faces with regard to service men and women returning home, we remain resolved to assisting those who have served our country with their transition back into civilian life. We’re revising our rules to improve employment of protected veterans by those companies who do business with the federal government and we want your input.
Ultimately, the goal is to honor our returning veterans the way they deserve: by ensuring them equal opportunity for employment in their civilian lives. As President Obama reminds us, America’s commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, but it must never end.
Patricia Shiu is the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
Editor’s Note: Comments posted to this blog are not part of the formal rulemaking process. You can find DOL’s proposed regulations, and submit comments by visiting www.regulations.gov.