Ohio is home to more than 890,000 veterans, making our state the nation’s sixth-largest population of veterans. 

Despite their service, an unacceptably high number of veterans struggle to find work. Just as we invest in our servicemembers while they’re on the battlefield, we should do the same when they return home.

That’s why it’s imperative that we do a better job of connecting veterans with the support resources they deserve.

Among them is the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), a joint Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Labor training initiative that is a component of the recently passed VOW to Hire Heroes Act. VRAP provides unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 the opportunity to pursue training for new careers in high demand occupations. From welders, to paralegals, to teacher’s aides, VRAP offers wide ranging opportunities for veterans seeking work.

However, as the program is limited to 99,000 participants through March 31, 2014--and with the first wave of enrollment closing at the end of September-- it’s crucial that Ohio’s veterans apply quickly for these vital benefits. It’s our duty to Ohio’s heroes that we spread the word to all eligible participants.

Eligible veterans must be at least 35 but no more than 60 years of age; unemployed, received an other than dishonorable discharge; not eligible for any other VA education benefit program; not receiving VA compensation due to being unemployed; and not enrolled in a federal or state job training program.

Veterans can also find work through the Justice Department’s new initiative, “Vets to COPS” (Community Oriented Policing Services). This program, which is a component of the Department of Justice’s Cops Hiring Program (CHP), requires that all new officers hired through the program must be military veterans that have served at least 180 days of active military service, any part of which occurred on or after September 11, 2001.

While too many police departments across our state have had to lay off police officers due to budget challenges, too many recently-returned veterans have struggled to find work.

These men and women who fought to keep our country safe shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they come home.

“Vets to COPS” is a critical investment in the people who devote their lives to protecting Ohioans—both as members of our Armed Forces and as law enforcement officers.

Finally, it’s crucial that word spreads regarding the U.S Department of Transportation and VA’s new websites designed to help military veterans find jobs in the transportation industry.

The websites will link to the Veterans Transportation Career Center, where veterans can enter their specific military work experience and see how it translates to jobs in the civilian transportation industry.

The site will guide veterans to jobs in five positions from aviation pilot, aviation maintenance technician, air traffic controller, commercial motor vehicle driver, and emergency medical services. Veterans seeking work can find what training and certification is needed for civilian jobs, determine what career fits best with their background, and search for available jobs in their field. The portals are available at www.dot.gov and www.va.gov.

Our servicemembers and veterans deserve our nation’s full support. And at the very least, they deserve elected officials who are willing to put partisan battles aside to ensure that returning veterans have jobs to ease their transition into civilian life.

My constituent services office – which you can reach by calling 216-522-7272 – stands prepared to help Ohio veterans receive the support they need. As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I’m committed to ensuring veterans have the tools they need to find employment.