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Officials push to help jobless vets

STEVE RANSON
Lahontan Valley News

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller – along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval – remain committed to finding relief from the high unemployment in the state, especially with military personnel.

Heller, a Republican, made his remarks on Friday in his monthly rural news conference to Nevada reporters and editors.

Heller co-sponsored a veterans job bill in November that emphasizes and pushes for more opportunities for veterans.

When the Senate bill was passed on Nov. 8, Heller said at the time the legislation is focused on helping veterans, a segment of the population that struggles with disproportionate unemployment rates. The House of Representatives also passed the legislation.

“This legislation is an example of what can get done when Congress engages in a real bipartisan dialogue,” Heller said. “These joint efforts are long overdue, but helping our nation’s veterans is a good place to start. The men and women of our Armed Forces have made significant sacrifices on our behalf. Our country must do all that we can to make sure they find employment.”

When told during the news conference that several companies within the Nevada Army National Guard’s 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion now serving in Afghanistan will have 30-40 percent of its soldiers jobless when they return from deployment, Heller said that was unacceptable.

“We need to be pro-growth (for jobs) not only for our veterans but also for all Nevadans,” he said. “The governor’s staff was in the office yesterday. “We’re even talking about getting vets into houses sitting vacant.”

Nevada continues to have the highest unemployment in the nation at 13.4 percent.

Sandoval’s press secretary, Mary-Sarah Kinner, said Friday the governor also is taking a proactive role in helping guardsmen find jobs.

“The Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) currently has veteran representatives available to all Nevada veterans. As the number of troops returning home increases, including the return of several hundred 422nd Signal Battalion members, the governor has asked to increase our efforts,” she said in an email statement. “Ensuring that our returning veterans have access to all the services available to them is one of the governor’s highest priorities.”

Likewise, Caleb Cage, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Service, is also working with DETR.

“We are working in support of the Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation to meet the employment needs of our returning service members in the short term, and on ensuring that veterans have every opportunity to gain employment in the long term,” Cage said. “We are also working with a nonprofit organization in Reno that has space for 12-20 service members for a program that will take them through the transition process to full employment. We have offered to reserve as many of those spaces for this program for the returning Guard members as are interested, and people can contact my office for more information.”

Heller, however, pointed out the statistics for the Silver State do not bode well since Nevada still leads the nation in the number of housing foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment. The junior senator said opportunities must exist to create jobs.

Heller’s office, though, said it will continually reach out to veterans.

“Our office has resources available to help veterans navigate the benefits they earned while in the service,” said press secretary Chandler Smith in a follow-up email.

He said veterans can contact the senator’s office at any time for assistance.

The Nevada Army National Guard started working on the unemployment issue affecting soldiers earlier this month.

The Nevada Army National Guard outlined the following steps to assist soldiers returning home from deployment next month:

• The 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion Rear Detachment commander (Capt. Brian Capra) and Directorate of Family and Soldier Services (DFSS) partnered to develop a targeted employment initiative to assist redeploying 422nd soldiers with job searches and marketing themselves to potential employers.

• Emily Minkle with the DFSS Employment Enhancement program has been working with Capra to send out numerous job notices and openings to 422nd soldiers while in theater.

• The decisive operation is a new initiative with the 422nd to combine the Yellow Ribbon events with a targeted employment workshop and job fair that will take place in three phases.

• Minkle met with Caleb Cage on Dec. 16 and is working to partner with local employment networks to offer additional workshops to assist 422nd Soldiers in marketing themselves with local employers. These workshops are similar to JOIN and PRONET employment workshops in Las Vegas.

• Capra back briefed the survey results and calculates actual unemployment at about 28 percent. The unit and DFSS now have a by-name list of job seekers within the battalion to start working employment initiatives.