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Schumer pushes to create vets job program

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On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced he is pushing to create a $1 billion Veterans’ Job Corps Program designed at helping unemployed veterans find jobs, but a local veteran’s advocate thinks the program is nothing more than election year smoke and mirrors.

David Mahoney, area coordinator for the Franklin County Veterans’ Coalition and a Vietnam War veteran himself says one of the program’s main problems is that it will not provide enough jobs compared to the number of veterans returning home each year.

The program, according to a news release from Sen. Schumer’s office, is aimed at helping veterans in upstate New York find jobs “in public works projects related to transportation, the protection and conservation of federal lands [and] waters, and other construction work” as well as “expand job opportunities... in public safety positions such as police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians.”

“They’re saying they can create 20,000 jobs over the next five years. There’s going to be 50,000 veterans coming back each year,” Mahoney said, pointing out that number may increase with de-escalation of the war in Afghanistan. “It’s a short-term fix to make him [Obama] look good in an election year.”

Sen. Schumer’s office provided information saying that there were 80 unemployed veterans in Franklin County in 2010. Sen. Schumer’s Spokesperson Meredith Kelly said she was only able to provide local statistics on unemployed veterans as of 2010; It is the most recent information her office can access that breaks down county-by-county.

In an email, Kelly said that there were roughly 27,000 unemployed veterans in New York State in 2011.

During an interview, Mahoney pointed to a news story published on the Navy Times website where a Congressman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) is quoted speaking against the Veteran’s Job Corps.

“At a cost of $50,000 per veteran, the initiative would offer ‘no guarantee of a long-term position after the government funding runs out,’ Miller said,” the Navy Times article reads.

According to the Department of Labor, the job corps is available only to veterans age 20-24, which Mahoney said makes the program open to one third at most of the veterans that could use the help.

Mahoney said the sluggish pace of veteran’s programs will most likely affect anyone who is accepted into the job corps.

“They’re so far behind, the guys will be waiting forever,” Mahoney said, pointing out that all federal veteran’s programs are administered out of one office in New York City. He said he has worked with veterans who are still waiting to collect benefits from their service four decades ago.

Mahoney suggests as an alternative that local veterans in need of assistance contact the Veteran’s Coalition, which operates out of the Mental Health Association at 7 Pearl Street, Malone.

He said although the operation is all-volunteer and works on no budget, they are linked in with a larger veteran’s advocacy group that operates out of New York City. The affiliation gives his coalition more clout, Mahoney said.

He cited as an example recently helping a local veteran infected with hepatitis C get his name on a liver donor list. He said the Veteran’s Coalition also helped the man get money to pay his rent, as he had fallen behind on his bills because he was hospitalized for two months and nearly died.

Mahoney said the coalition also helps veterans by providing rides to and from hospital visits to Albany and will help them apply for benefits. Veteran’s advocates can make house visits and give assistance with day-to-day life. He said he also runs a veteran’s support group every Friday night at the Mental Health Association from 4 to 6 p.m.

“It’s just veteran-on-veteran helping each other out,” Mahoney said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Anyone seeking more information about the Veterans’ Coalition can contact Mahoney at (518)521-3507.

agardner@mtelegram.com

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