The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 12, 2012

Obama to sign Walz veterans legislation

By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press

— President Obama indicated Thursday that he will sign legislation sponsored by Mankato Congressman Tim Walz that requires federal agencies to take veterans" military training into account in judging whether they qualify for federal occupational licenses.

The "Veterans Skills to Jobs Act," co-sponsored by California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, passed the House and Senate this week with broad bipartisan support.

"No veteran who fought for our nation overseas should have to fight for a job when they return home," Obama said in a statement. "That's why I'm pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have come together to pass legislation that will make it easier for veterans to put their skills to work."

The federal role in occupational licensing is minor compared to the states, but agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission license jobs ranging from aircraft mechanic to radio operator to parachute rigger. Many jobs on ships, fishing boats and barges require licenses from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The larger challenge for returning troops may be occupational license requirements by the states. Minnesota, for instance, requires licenses for dozens of jobs -- everything from animal waste technician to private pesticide applicator to bear-hunting guide to X-ray technician.

Walz has another bill that would streamline state certification so veterans who have training in a particular skill wouldn't need to duplicate it to meet a requirement for a state occupational license.

Examples of where military schooling and experience should carry over in meeting state occupational license standards include jobs as a truck driver, nursing assistant, dental hygienist, radiology technician, emergency medical technician and registered nurse, according to the three-term Democrat.