Transition Workshop Valuable to Vets, Labor Officials Say

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2006 - All separating servicemembers should know about Transition Assistance Program workshops, Labor Department officials said here today.

The Labor Department teams with DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer these workshops to transitioning servicemembers, Charles S. Ciccolella, assistant labor secretary for the veterans employment and training service, said during an interview.

Ciccolella said the workshop is the best program to help servicemembers make the jump to civilian jobs. Officials hold the workshops at each base or installation.

He said that servicemembers don't normally have trouble finding work, but if they do, it is usually because of shortcomings in writing resumes, and with networking and interviewing skills. "We can teach that in the transition employment workshop," he said.

Each year, around 318,000 servicemembers transition from the military to civilian life. This year, about 140,000 servicemembers are using the workshop. While many servicemembers leaving the military go to school or to other jobs, there are still a number that don't have employment. "We would like to see many more attend the workshops," Ciccolella said.

The workshops go over job search skills, writing resumes and cover letters, interviewing skills, career planning, veterans benefits, disabled veterans issues, and much more. Members retiring from the military are eligible to attend 24 months before retirement; members separating are eligible to attend 12 months out.

Ciccolella said that all servicemembers -- but especially those in the reserve components -- should know their rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. This legislation is aimed at protecting servicemembers' jobs while they are deployed and that they are not penalized for their military service.

During the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, the military called up about 265,000 reserve servicemembers, and there were problems with reemployment. "Our complaint rates were quite high -- up to 2,500 a year," Ciccolella said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the military has called up more than 582,700 reservists, and employment complaints are around 1,400 to 1,500 a year and trending down. Ciccolella said part of this is because the Labor Department produced "easy-to-understand federal regulations that don't sound like federal regulations because they are written in plain English."

Now employers can read the regulations, know the law and know the particular issue that they may have to deal with. "It's not that employers don't want to reinstate their employees, but it was hard to figure out how to restore the pension and health care benefits and when they have to reemploy them," Ciccolella said.

He said DoD's National Committee for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve has been excellent to work with on the reemployment problem. "They do so much to help that employers understand the law, and servicemembers understand their rights," Ciccolella said.

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