By Pamela Passman, Corporate Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft

Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (D-WA), is to be commended for introducing the Hiring Heroes Act (S. 951) this week. It is important legislation designed to help American veterans translate their skills into language US employers can understand. Sen. Murray’s bill is leading the way by providing significant support to our veterans as they return to civilian life and easing the transition from the military to family wage jobs in the civilian economy.

There is great need for this assistance. Today, nearly 185,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are unemployed -- a rate that is significantly higher than the rest of the US population. Our servicemen and women possess strong military and leadership skills, but many lack the formal education, technology training and certifications employers seek.

In response to these needs, Microsoft launched the Elevate America veterans initiative, an initiative to bring together a coalition of public, private and nonprofit organizations from around the country to help veterans and their spouses get the skills and support they need as they return to civilian life. Microsoft is contributing $2 million in cash and $6 million in software in partnership with 6 nonprofit organizations to conduct this important work. Our partners are providing not only job training but also placement, counseling and other support services, including childcare and transportation assistance. These efforts target members of the armed services and their spouses who are separating from the military and re-integrating into their communities. We are assisting both former active-duty soldiers and members of the National Guard and reserves.

Microsoft also has a long history of supporting the military and veterans as an employer. Microsoft’s military outreach program, called Military2Microsoft, assists U.S. veterans and those serving in the National Guard and Reserve to transition to the civilian workforce and find job opportunities within Microsoft. The Military2Microsoft program incorporates a variety of resources online to help make the job search experience easier for military talent.

Through the Hiring Heroes Act and initiatives like Microsoft Elevate America and Military2Microsoft, there is a great opportunity for the public and private sector to partner to ease the transition for veterans and to provide more skilled workers for US employers. We look forward to working with

Senator Murray and others to help move this important legislation through the Congress.

Additional resources and information for veterans and their spouses:

Elevate America veterans initiative & partners

Hiring Heroes Act