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Legislature Talks Jobs for Vets

Nathan Bernier, KUT News.
The Texas House and Senate need to reach a compromise on a bill to overhaul the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association before this special session ends.

Unemployment among U.S. veterans fell in 2012 but is still higher than the rest of the workforce. Two bills dealing with vets and employment are before the Texas Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee. One would help veterans find work in Texas agencies; the other would ensure they could take time off from work.

Both bills are aimed at reintegrating veterans into civilian life and jobs.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) is behind SB 10. It would require state agencies to interview a certain number of veterans for open jobs, and to set some jobs aside for veterans specifically.

James Cunningham with the Texas Coalition of Veterans Organizations supports the bill.

“The state of Texas has an abysmal record in hiring veterans,” Cunningham said. “Other than Texas Veterans Commission, most of the state agencies have very, very few veterans.”

In 2012, 5 percent of Texas state employees were veterans. That’s compared to about 20 percent of federal employees. Many employers aren’t convinced that veterans have the right skills for civilian jobs, while for others even the possibility of mental health issues is a deterrent.

Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) is the author of bill SB 442. It would give veterans up to 15 days of additional time off from their earned leave for doctor visits or counseling.

Perry Jeffries with TexVet at Texas A&M spoke to the committee about the 1.6 million veterans in the state.

“Most of the people that exit the service tend to stay in the state,” Jeffries said. “So there’s a lot of veterans entering Texas every day.”

At least seven bills were on the committee’s agenda, all written to help the state’s veterans readjust.

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