After serving their country, veterans come home looking to make the next step. For many, that means finding a job.
Representative Bill Flores, who represents most of the Brazos Valley in Congressional District 17, is the Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. He's learning what is and isn't working for veterans in the real world as the start their next tour of duty.
"Motivated. Self-disciplined. Have unique and special skill sets," explains Flores. Those are three terms that describe the perfect soldier. But Flores isn't talking about war time warriors.
"They make great employees," he continues. Flores is talking about veterans. Those highly-trained and skilled soldiers who are exiting the service and looking for the next step. Usually that means getting a job.
It's not that easy, though.
National unemployment sits at 7.3 percent. In Texas, it's 6.4 percent. You would think that's a gloomy outlook for veterans, until you see that unemployment among veterans is the lowest at 5.5 percent. The hardest thing for those soldiers coming home is knowing where to start.
"We get it right in Texas," says Flores.
"Even my ranking member from California, Mark Takano, said California has adopted parts of the Texas Model and needs to adopt more parts of the Texas Model," he continued.
There are two state agencies that work to get veterans employed -- The Texas Veterans Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission. Both, Flores says, have tangible programs that help the veteran understand, to actually get employment.
Flores, who chairs the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, has been working on the Veterans Economic Opportunity Act. It passed the House of Representatives in October.
During a field hearing Wednesday in Waco, Flores heard from experts in higher education who say the G.I. Bill doesn't work exactly how it was intended.
"It provides for housing during educational time, when you're actually having veterans in a classroom. But it doesn't provide housing when they're having internships. That's a valuable part of the educational experience," says Flores. The other issue he heard was over the text book allowance. Experts said it doesn't really fit the real world cost of those books.
Between education and employment, Flores says there is always more to do for those who serve our country. He recalled a witness during the field hearings who told him that a job was the best way to honor a veteran.
Flores hopes he can help make that next step into a career for a veteran easier. He says the information gathered at those field hearings will help him better fix the problems facing veterans and employers. He also says the Texas Veterans Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission are working together to get veterans employed. So effectively, he says, that many states are trying to copy their success.
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