ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Small businesses were issued a challenge by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill on Tuesday: hire more veterans.

McCaskill, D-Missouri, says the employment picture has improved for those who have served in America’s military. The jobless rate for veterans stands at 7.7 percent, down from 8.9 percent a year ago.

Still, McCaskill says there have been pitfalls along the way. The Democrat says there have been times when the U.S. Department of Labor, which is charged with overseeing veteran employment, has not been paying full attention.

“There was one company that was reporting, without any inquiry from the Department of Labor, that 400 percent of their workforce was veterans. Now that’s a trick,” she told a crowd at the Veterans Small Business Conference in St. Louis Tuesday.

On the hand, McCaskill touted what she calls a major accomplishment: legislation that requires federal agencies to recognize military training when certifying veterans for private sector skills.

“A veteran who has lifted the wounded in a Black Hawk, landed in a temporary medical tent, and rushed the victim to a temporary structure for brain surgery has sure as heck proved they they’re competent enough to provide emergency medical care stateside,” Missouri’s senior senator said.

Attending the same conference, Dr. Tommy Sowers with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says there is still a dark side to the plight of veterans today.

“We’ve had 22.4 million veterans and only 8.9 million are accessing their services,” he said. “When we talk to veterans and survey them, 59 percent know little to nothing about their benefits.”


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