ATA supports expanded benefits for vets job training

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The American Trucking Associations has hailed the inclusion of transportation in legislation that will ease the transition of military veterans to civilian jobs and provide a partial solution to the nation’s truck driver shortage.

Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said Thursday, June 8, at a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing that the Veterans Employment Training Act of 2006, S.2416, would expand eligibility for accelerated GI Bill benefits, giving many veterans an opportunity to obtain training and employment in some of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, including transportation. The Veterans Employment Training Act of 2006 would add trucking to the list of industry sectors for which servicemen and women moving to the civilian job market could receive expedited financial aid.

“A number of these sectors face a critical shortage of employees now or will do so in the near future and are anxious to attract veterans to their professions,” Burns testified. “The modest change that we are proposing today will help to provide needed workers to these and other industries.”

Under the current Montgomery GI Bill, the Veterans Administration covers up to 60 percent of the cost of some educational benefits to make short-term, high-cost training programs more attractive to veterans. However, these lump-sum benefits currently are available only to veterans pursuing high-tech occupations. The Burns-Pryor legislation would expand the list of occupations eligible for accelerated GI bill benefits to any industry identified by the Department of Labor as high-growth, including transportation, construction, hospitality, financial services, energy, homeland security and health care.

“Expedited training and transition will help many men and women leaving the Armed Forces successfully move from the military into many areas within the trucking industry,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “We appreciate members of the Senate supporting this initiative.”

Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) are co-sponsoring the legislation.

“We have industries in need of skilled employees, and we have many young men and women in need of good, high-paying jobs,” said Pryor. “The VET Act will encourage returning veterans to pursue careers in occupations that will contribute most to the U.S. economy. This legislation will assist in matching the available work force with our needs to keep the economy growing.”