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Summit to discuss civilian credentials for vets

Feb. 13, 2012 - 01:51PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 13, 2012 - 01:51PM  |  
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The American Legion is bringing together industry, trade unions and military training officials next week for a three-day summit on cutting red tape to help separating service members translate military-learned skills into immediate post-service jobs.

The federal government, including the armed services, has launched dozens of pilot programs aimed at making it easier for people who learned a marketable skill in the military to get a civilian license or credentials.

This has not been an easy process, said Steve Gonzalez, assistant director of the Legion's national economic division.

Military training often differs from private-sector training in fields such as emergency medicine, where someone who knows how to save a life on a battlefield may find his training does not automatically translate into the skills needed to work for a local ambulance service.

On the federal side, the Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs departments are working under various congressional mandates to come up with ways to ease the transition for separating service members. State and industry initiatives also are ongoing, Gonzalez said.

There are so many ongoing experiments and changes in law that is hard to get a sense of what's working, Gonzalez said. For a separating veteran, it also is hard to understand what rule might apply; there are significant differences from state to state, and among different specialties.

Next week's credentials summit in Washington, co-sponsored by the Legion and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is designed to help leaders get a better grasp on the efforts underway, whether they could work in more than one state and whether there are some military skills better suited to immediate civilian credentials that would help a large number of veterans find work, Gonzales said.

The Legion's goal is to produce a post-summit plan of action for use in narrowing the number of credentialing programs and, if required, to get Congress to grant new authorities.

"Progress is being made in some states," Gonzales said. "We need to look at what is working and whether this can be a cross-state program."

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