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Local Vet Responds To Assembly Passage Of VA Jobs Bill

Jeanette Lenoir, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) - A bill to help Veterans find jobs and apply for state and federal programs passed the Assembly today. The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman William Scarborough and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, would require the Division of Veterans Affairs to maintain an employment section on its website, as well as, provide access to government programs.

In a released statement, Scarborough said, “As we end the war in Iraq and wind down the war in Afghanistan, over one million service members are projected to leave the military between 2011 and 2018, and return back to their civilian lives. This creates a demographic of qualified, mostly young people, looking for jobs. This measure makes available a great resource to help them navigate through this difficult job market.”

Freddie McElveen is a local out-of-work Veteran. He says it’s been tough trying to find and maintain a job since his Army discharge in 2007. “They have a term in the Military, they usually tell us when we get out, they say we’re like fish out of water, so if we could find something that we did while we were in there, it would make us feel a lot better,” he said.

McElveen joined the Navy in 1988 right after high school and served three years on the USS Carl Vincent. He said he then joined the Army in 2000, where he trained as a Medic and served in Korea, Arizona, Germany and Iraq, before being discharged in 2007. “It’s been kind of topsy-turvy ever since then and up to this point,” he explained. McElveen lost both his parents during his struggles in and out of the service. He’s held several positions after his Military duty, including a year stint with IBM in Fishkill, NY. “The jobs they [IBM] were requiring us to do was done, so they laid off about 500 to 1000 people I think it was,” he said.

He said his next move was relocating to Utica. He’s called the area home for the past three-years. “I’ve been basically walking around this town and other places such as New Hartford, Rome, to try to find work … it’s been tough,” he said. McElveen said he tried unsuccessfully to get help from Oneida County. “I tried to get them to help me with whatever, I didn’t have clothes when I was here, I didn’t have nothing … I didn’t get a warm feeling from those people,” he said.

McElveen said a friend steered him to the Veteran’s Outreach Center in downtown Utica where he found people willing to help him with some of his basic needs. “And they’ve helped me ever since. I’ve lived in my apartment for a year now.” McElveen says staff at the center also helped him sign up to take part in state and federal programs designed to help returning Vets transition to civilian life. He says the assistance has also allowed him to preserve his love for sports and serves as a volunteer football coach during the season.

He says his goal is to find work in the medical field to maintain the skills he gained while serving his country, and says the Veterans bill just passed in the Assembly is crucial to returning service men and women who are facing similar circumstances. Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Phil Ramos said, “No veteran should have to struggle to find a job when they return from serving our country. This bill will connect veterans with jobs that utilize their skills to help them successfully transition to civilian careers.”

McElveen is counting on that promise and says his message to Albany lawmakers is simply this: “The help that you’re trying to extent to us, make sure it goes because we will except any benefit, or anything that you guys feel like we need, as far as, furthering what we’re trying to do out here in the civilian world.” In the meantime the bill is off to the Senate for consideration as McElveen continues his search for suitable employment in a tough job market.

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