Friday, January 28, 2011

Murray Named Chair SVAC

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statement after she was announced as the new Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Senator Murray, who has been a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee since 1995, is a widely recognized and outspoken advocate for America’s veterans.

Senator Murray has also worked to expand access to care for Washington state veterans by saving three state VA facilities (incl. American Lake) from closure and by pressuring the VA to open community based health care clinics.

This is a great honor, but an even bigger responsibility. As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have a tremendous duty to the 22 million veterans across the country who have stepped up to serve our nation and who deserve the highest quality care, benefits, and treatment in return.

I am humbled by this Chairmanship not only because of the great veterans I’ll serve, but also because of the man whose shoes I’ll be working to fill. Senator Akaka has been, and always will be, a champion for his fellow veterans. I know that in the coming years he will continue to be a leader on this Committee, someone who I will rely on heavily, and someone who’ll never stop fighting for the veterans of his home state and our nation.

I plan to work each day to ensure that the VA is working for our veterans, not against them. Our service members should never have to come home from fighting a war only to fight to get the benefits and care that they deserve.

I know the VA has some of the most dedicated employees in the world and provides tremendous services to many of our veterans. But I also know there are a great many challenges to be met. Today, too many veterans are waiting far too long to get the benefits they’ve earned. Too many veterans are struggling to get access to mental health care, worker training, and other resources to help them transition from the battlefield to the civilian world. And still, far too many veterans are sleeping on the streets after serving their country. These are among the many issues I plan to take an active and aggressive approach to helping find solutions for.

It has been one of the great privileges of my Senate career to fight for veterans like my father - a World War II veteran, or the Vietnam veterans I met interning at the VA in college, or the countless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who I have spoken to about returning home with the visible and invisible wounds of war.

These men and women, and all American veterans, will always be who I fight for, who I listen to first, and who I answer to. Their needs, their struggles, and their stories will be the ones I bring to the VA to help deliver change and meet the many challenges we face.

Vet Bills in WA Legislature

Here is the current status, provided by the WA Dept. of Veterans Affairs, of veterans' bills in the 2011 Washington State Legislative Session.  You may go here to find copies of individual bills, current status and revisions, scheduled actions by committees, etc.

The yellow-backlight areas are of two companion bills relating to crediting applicable military training and experience for certain civilian professions.  Of special interest are health care professions which are laboring under a significant labor deficit for employers. Both these bills are covered by the Chamber's TEACH agenda for workforce development. 

The Chamber continues to testify before applicable Legislative Committee hearings and is active in the political session with the help of its lobbyist Michael Transue. You are encouraged to be involved!

Click on images for a larger view.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Noteworthies with a Local Link

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead announced today the following assignment:

Rear Adm. (lower half) Troy M. Shoemaker will be assigned as commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine, Everett, Wash. Shoemaker is currently serving as assistant commander, Navy Personnel Command for career management, PERS-4, Navy Personnel Command, Millington, Tenn.

Dollars for New Jobs

The U.S. Department of Labor just awarded $4.8 million to WorkForce Central and its partnership which includes Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, Thurston County Economic Development Council, WA State Employment Security Department, and the City of Lakewood to help those relocated to Joint Base Lewis-McChord from closed military bases find new employment.

Of this awarded amount, $2.2 million is Pierce County’s share!

The first activity under this award is an impact study to identify existing skills needs and skill gaps within our region’s major industries so that we can utilize training dollars effectively by training individuals for available jobs now and in the near future.  This impact study will be led by the Thurston County EDC.

WorkForce Central and Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council will administer these funds in their respective counties to assist 825 military spouses and civilian defense workers impacted by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure action that closed military bases nationwide and resulted in the creation of JBLM in 2010. The majority of those affected are spouses who have left jobs to follow military members assigned to JBLM.

Services provided will include career coaching, case management, job training, supportive services and employment linkage. In addition, the grant will assist in identifying skill gaps in new and emerging industries critical to the economic growth of Pierce and Thurston Counties.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

WA Bills to Help Vets Win Jobs

Military veterans who seek civilian employment will not have to repeat training in areas where they are already experienced, under legislation introduced this week by Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island and Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor.

Senate Bill 5307/House Bill 1417 and SB 5308/HB 1418 would evaluate the training men and women have received and apply it to educational and licensing requirements in the private sector.

These bills give credit where it’s due. Many military personnel have undergone highly specialized training and education in certain areas, so we should honor that for licensing requirements. Duplicating efforts doesn’t benefit anyone, Rolfes said.

The bills provide similar benefits for different groups of professions:
  • SB 5308/HB 1418 develops a process to evaluate training for educational credit or professional licensing requirements for cosmetologists, barbers, manicurists, engineers, land surveyors and security guards.
  • SB 5307/HB 1417 does the same for health professions, including osteopathic physicians’ assistants, physicians’ assistants, radiologic technologists, nursing assistants, respiratory care practitioners, health case assistants and surgical technologists.
The men and women in our armed forces not only acquire valuable skills, they often perform their jobs under the intense life-and-death pressures of combat conditions, Kilmer said. It’s a poor use of their time and money to ask folks to get retrained for things they’ve already learned just so they can get a professional license and get to work in a civilian position. This state should be rewarding knowledge, not seat time.

The Chamber supports vets getting credit for training taxpayers have already paid for and the vets have gained experience. This is part of the Chamber's legislative TEACH agenda.  The bills also have the support of legislators from Pierce County, home of Joint Base Lewis-McChord and a large military population.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

JBLM Growth Coordination Plan Briefed

Rick Stevens, Chair, Military Affairs listens to Dan Penrose.

The Military Affairs Forum heard a presentation about the JBLM Growth Coordination Study.  Presented by Dan Penrose, lead planner for the City of Lakewood as administrator of the OEA/DoD study.

Among highlights are the handful of recommendations (buttressed by detailing of projects and specific programs) the community in collaboration with JBLM officials, should tackle. 

Most striking fact: JBLM is the third largest employer and largest single-site employer in Washington!

Get the full presentation here.

Volunteer for the Selective Service?

Folks are needed from our area to represent our community on the Selective Service Local Board.

A Selective Service Local Board is a group of five citizen volunteers whose mission, upon a draft, will be to decide who among the registrants in their community will receive deferments, postponements or exemption from military service based on the individual registrant's circumstances and beliefs.

How Local Board Members are Appointed
Local Board members are appointed by the Director of Selective Service in the name of the President, on recommendations made by their respective state governors or an equivalent public official. If you are interested in serving as a Local Board member, you may apply online for an application package.

Some requirements to be a board member are that they be:
  • U.S. citizens
  • at least 18 years old
  • not a retired or active member of the Armed Forces or any Reserve component
  • live in the area in which the board has jurisdiction
  • be willing to spend enough time at the position
During Peacetime
The Board Member program is one of the primary components of the Selective Service System. Over 11,000 volunteers are currently trained in Selective Service regulations and procedures so that if a draft is reinstated, they will be able to fulfill their obligations fairly and equitably. Board members undergo an initial
5-hour training session and then participate in annual training in which they review sample cases similar to real-life situations.

During a Draft
Registrants with low lottery numbers will be ordered to report for a physical, mental and moral evaluation at a Military Entrance Processing Station to determine whether they are fit for military service. Once a person is notified of the results of the evaluation, the registrant will be given 10 days to file a claim for exemption, postponement or deferment. At that time, board members will begin reviewing and deciding the outcome of the individual registrant's case. They may personally interview the registrant and persons who know the person to gain a better understanding of his situation. A registrant may appeal a Local Board's decision to a Selective Service District Appeal Board.

Their website.  Go here for local board member information and application request.

For more information, contact Edward Medina, (720) 941-1670 ext. 108, Program Analyst, Selective Service System.