EDITORIAL: California is still failing its many out-of-work veterans

Other states have better results in employing vets.

The Fresno BeeNovember 7, 2013 

Jess Palomar, 71, speaks with Kathy Cabrera, left, and Earline Kilpatrick, right, at a veterans job fair at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District building last year. A new report shows few vets get job offers as a result of job fairs.

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The state Employment Development Department has held another "Honor a Hero, Hire a Vet" job fair and the Department of Veterans Affairs has a deal with the High-Speed Rail Authority to help involvement by small businesses owned by disabled veterans.

There were good photos and nice speeches. But according to a new state audit, these efforts probably won't actually help many veterans find jobs.

Despite the best intentions by many state agencies, California's efforts to help unemployed veterans aren't producing enough results. In fact, the audit says California has one of the worst records for vets who go through employment programs and actually land jobs.

For instance, after thousands of veterans and hundreds of employers attended job fairs last year, there were a grand total of 60 job offers or hires, according to the audit. Besides helping businesses owned by disabled vets, the rail authority is supposed to push other contractors to hire veterans as well. But of 1,000 veterans who were referred to federal contractor job listings, only 28 said they found work, according to a quarterly report by EDD.

If you're a jobless veteran, it can be frustrating to find your way through the bureaucratic maze. The California Interagency Council on Veterans, created by Gov. Jerry Brown in August 2011, is trying to coordinate what state agencies are doing. As successes, it points to a program to help veterans become security guards and apprenticeships in the construction industry. There are lots of initiatives, but many are unfocused and unproven.

One major flaw is that it's not clear which agency can best oversee jobs programs for veterans. The audit shows that EDD is not doing the job. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez wants to create a separate veterans employment office within the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Other legislators think CalVet should be in charge.

Another big failure: It's still too difficult for veterans to transfer their military training into civilian workplaces. Despite a bushel of bills, the Legislature has not done enough to help veterans get college credit and licensing credentials -- for instance, combat medics who want to become nurses.

Other states are making much more progress. Maryland's governor signed the Veterans Full Employment Act, which requires public colleges to develop policies to grant academic credit for military training and which also ensures that vets who apply for occupational and professional licenses get credit. It's very disappointing that when the feds in September announced $2.8 million in grants to nine universities to help medics get nursing degrees, none of them were in California.

More veterans live here than in any other state -- 1.8 million. The state has had years to work on these issues. California should be leading the way -- not still trying to figure out where to go.

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