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Jobless rate down for first time in a year

By Barbara Adams, CPRW, CEIP, CMRC, CFRW
www.militaryresumewriters.com and www.careerproplus.com

The economy shed 247,000 jobs in July, less than expected and lowest total of losses since last August. Unemployment rate inches down to 9.4%. Read More

Obama: VA Outreach Aims at Seamless Transition

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2009 – The days of the Department of Veterans Affairs waiting passively for veterans leaving the military to come seeking benefits and services are over, President Barack Obama told military reporters yesterday. Read More

Quick Hire of Military Spouses Starts in September

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2009 – Under a personnel rule that takes effect next month, some military spouses could be quickly hired for federal jobs without going through the usual competitive process. Read More

Google Voice Answers Nation’s Call

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2009 – Google is tinkering with a new service that could transform the way troops on the frontlines communicate with their families on the homefront. Read More

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TAOnline helpful hint of the month Federal Benefits for Veterans

Jobless rate down for first time in a year

By Barbara Adams, CPRW, CEIP, CMRC, CFRW
www.militaryresumewriters.com and www.careerproplus.com

The economy shed 247,000 jobs in July, less than expected and lowest total of losses since last August. Unemployment rate inches down to 9.4%.

In a recent article by CNNMoney.com they posted the following charge on the number of jobs lost by month from January 09 to July 09.

The long-battered U.S. job market showed some signs of improvement in July as employers cut far fewer jobs from payrolls and the unemployment rate fell for the first time in more than a year, according to a government report Friday.

The Labor Department reported a net loss of 247,000 jobs in July, the fewest job losses since August 2008. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a loss of 325,000.

The job loss in June was also revised lower -- to 443,000 job losses from 467,000.

The unemployment rate fell to 9.4% from 9.5% in June, the first decline in that closely watched reading since April of 2008. Economists had expected unemployment to rise to 9.6%.

The unemployment rate fell even as employers continued to cut jobs because the Labor Department estimated there were 237,000 fewer people it counted as unemployed.

That decline in the labor force can be due to discouraged job seekers who have stopped looking for work, people who now consider themselves retired or those have gone back to school rather than applying for jobs.

"You can't lose jobs and have the unemployment rate decline unless folks are opting out," said Tig Gilliam, CEO of Adecco Group North America, a unit of the world's largest employment staffing firm. "That means unemployment is going to go back up again."

Now, I have to agree with Tig Gilliam. The Labor Department also said that one reason for the declining number of job losses was because cuts had been so deep leading up to July that there were fewer workers to lay off during the seasonal shutdown that happens in some factories, such as those in the auto industry.

There were other signs of improvement in the report, however.

The average hourly work week edged up to 33.1 hours, from a record low of 33.0 hours in June. The number of workers who wanted full-time work but could only find part-time jobs fell by 191,000, or 2%. That suggests that many workers who had their hours cut or were given unpaid days off in the current downturn are going back to full-time status.

Since the start of 2008, 6.7 million jobs have been lost in the U.S. Several economists said that while the report confirms other economic readings suggesting that the recession may be ending, it's too soon to predict a sharp gain in jobs in the near term.

"The dawn of an economic recovery is here," said Sung Won Sohn, a professor of economics at Cal State University Channel Islands. "The economy is in the process of bottoming, but the job market will lag behind. Businesses, which engaged in preemptive layoffs earlier, are not about to start hiring people."

Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo, agreed that job losses are likely to continue into early next year, with unemployment eventually rising to about 10% to 10.5%. He said the fact that unusual extended shutdowns in auto plants distorted these seasonally-adjusted numbers.

"We're not ready to break out the champagne," he said. "There's less improvement than meets the eye."

Gilliam also doesn't expect to see overall job gains until late this year at the earliest.

"The glass is both half empty and half full in this report," said Gilliam.

But Robert Brusca of FAO Economics said he believes there is more strength in the job market than many people are willing to acknowledge. He said that the government may even report an overall payroll gain for August next month.


Obama: VA Outreach Aims at Seamless Transition

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2009 – The days of the Department of Veterans Affairs waiting passively for veterans leaving the military to come seeking benefits and services are over, President Barack Obama told military reporters yesterday.

Today’s VA is reaching out, while servicemembers are still in uniform, to make sure they know what their benefits are and what services are available to them, he said during a White House roundtable interview.

Obama called this “active outreach” an important first step in ensuring servicemembers don’t “fall through the cracks” as they transition from the Defense Department to VA systems.

“We have been placing a lot more emphasis on outreach, because although there are hundreds of thousands of veterans who are using our services, we know that there are hundreds of thousands more who may not know that benefits are available,” he said.

Obama said he wants to ensure that “every single veteran -- not just our active forces, but also the National Guard and reservists -- are aware of the benefits that are available to them.”

“Guiding them through that process, we think, is extraordinarily important,” he said.

That’s particularly true in the cases of wounded warriors, he said, whose transitions are being eased by VA’s additional claims adjusters and technological improvements to streamline the application process.

“What we’re trying to do is just break down the hurdles that exist between veterans and the VA,” he said.

Obama called the new joint virtual lifetime electronic record one of the longer-term answers to promoting a more seamless transition process. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates proposed the measure to improve care and services to transitioning veterans by smoothing the flow of medical records between the two departments.

“When a member of the armed services separates from the military, he or she will no longer have to walk paperwork from a [military] duty station to a local VA health center,” Obama explained as he announced the initiative in April.

The new electronic record, which includes administrative as well as medical records, will reduce lost hard-copy files and delays in getting benefits processed, the president said. It also provides a framework to ensure health-care providers have all the information they need to deliver high-quality health care, while reducing medical errors, officials noted.

Shinseki told reporters yesterday the new record represents a big step forward that will require a merger of the electronic records within the two departments.

Noting that he lived under the Defense Department’s system for many years when he served in uniform, the retired Army general said he’s “very proud” of the VA’s electronic records system. “We have to get them to talk, or to come together,” he said. “That’s what this is about.”

The full impact of an integrated system will take some time to realize, Shinseki said.

“Trying to do the seamless transition when a youngster takes off a uniform today and is inducted into the Veterans Department tomorrow -- nearly impossible,” he said. “And so what we’ve agreed to do is create a system where a youngster takes the oath of office today, and while he or she is serving, we begin the process of creating an electronic record in [the Defense Department] that is mirrored in VA.”

This will go a long way toward plugging any gaps that inadvertently occur during the transition process, he said.

“However long they serve -- whether it’s two years or 10 years -- when they take the uniform off, a seamless transition has already occurred,” Shinseki said. “They’re a known quantity. We know where they’ve been. We know what injuries [they’d had], what operations they’ve been on.”


Quick Hire of Military Spouses Starts in September

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2009 – Under a personnel rule that takes effect next month, some military spouses could be quickly hired for federal jobs without going through the usual competitive process.

The new hiring authority takes effect Sept. 11. The Office of Personal Management issued the authority’s final regulatory guidelines Aug. 12. The guidelines are posted in the Federal Register under the title: “Noncompetitive Appointment of Certain Military Spouses.”

The intended effect of the rule, according to documents listed in the Federal Register, “is to facilitate the entry of military spouses into the federal civil service as part of an effort to recruit and retain skilled and experienced members of the armed forces and to recognize and honor the service of members injured, disabled, or killed in connection with their service.”

“Military spouse employment is a key to the quality of life of our military families,” Kathleen Ott, director of talent acquisition, development and management in the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy, said yesterday during an interview with Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters.

The availability of jobs for military spouses contributes to the sustainment of the all-volunteer force, Ott said, citing a recent survey in which employed military spouses reported that their work income constitutes about 48 percent of total family income.

“But, it’s really hard to keep a job if you have to move from station to station,” Ott said. Federal employment, she said, offers military spouses a portable career with transferable benefits and worldwide presence.

“We thought, in order to help our military spouses continue their employment, it would be a good thing for us to facilitate their entry into the federal government,” she said.

Eligible individuals, Ott said, include spouses of active-duty servicemembers who have been called on to relocate. This includes spouses of Guardsmen or reservists who’ve been called up for more than 180 days of active service other than training. Eligible spouses must be moving to another duty station accompanied by their servicemember husband or wife.

Spouses of former servicemembers listed as 100-percent disabled and separated or retired, as well as widows or widowers of servicemembers who died on active duty and who have not remarried also are eligible.

The new hiring authority does not constitute a hiring preference for eligible military spouses, according to OPM. “This authority is a noncompetitive hiring mechanism; it does not establish or constitute a hiring preference for eligible spouses, nor does it create an entitlement to a federal job for an eligible spouse,” according to regulatory documents listed in the Federal Register.

Applicants still must meet specific job-qualification criteria listed for individual positions, according to OPM documents.

“This is not a preference. We firmly believe that our spouses can compete on their own merits,” Ott said, noting that the new hiring rules provide military spouses with “a streamlined, facilitated means of obtaining federal employment.”

Use of the new hiring authority “is completely at the discretion of hiring agencies,” according to OPM documents, and “it is one of many hiring tools agencies may use to recruit needed individuals.”

Spouses who complete three years of continuous satisfactory service will be converted from a career-conditional appointment to career appointment, Ott said.

Personnel officials do not anticipate that the new military-spouse hiring authority would adversely affect the hiring of military veterans into the federal government, Ott said.

Military spouses can find out about federal job opportunities through OPM’s USAJobs Web site, Ott said.

The new hiring authority “sends a very important message to our military families that their sacrifice is recognized by the federal government, and that they recognize that having a career opportunity is really critical for their family’s well being,” said Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth.

More than 77 percent of military spouses have indicated in surveys that they are interested in establishing careers, Thompson said. Other data, she added, indicates that military spouses are, overall, more highly educated than their civilian counterparts.

“I think it’s a win-win situation that the federal government is accessing a pool of spouses who have the same levels of commitment and caring and service to the nation,” Thompson said.

The department’s Military Spouse Career Advancement Account, also known as MyCAA, provides employment, career, education/training, counseling and financial assistance for spouses of active-duty military and activated Guard and reserve members worldwide, she said.

President George W. Bush issued an executive order establishing guidelines for the hiring authority in September 2008, but implementation of the order was delayed while it was reviewed by the Obama administration.


Google Voice Answers Nation’s Call

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2009 – Google is tinkering with a new service that could transform the way troops on the frontlines communicate with their families on the homefront.

Google Voice assigns users a single U.S. phone number that can ring at phones in multiple locations like the home, office or on a cellular device -- all at the same time. Coupled with a feature that stores and transcribes voicemail in e-mail form, Google Voice can relieve some of the technical hassles that come with staying connected.

“Google Voice can help keep people connected, can help servicemembers worry less about missing a call or not getting in touch with people they need to, and focus more on getting the mission done,” said Army Sgt. Dale Sweetnam, who the U.S. Army is loaning to Google for a year to help the company coordinate its military outreach efforts.

Sweetnam, who spent 13 months deployed in Iraq with Task Force 49, provides Google a window into servicemembers’ experiences downrange where keeping contact with family and friends back home competes with the demands of daily military objectives.

“With the operation tempo of the military and the intense nature of accomplishing a mission, to make communication just one less thing you have to worry about is a great tool,” he said in an interview.

As Google puts the final touches on Google Voice, the service is available in limited capacity and only by requesting an invitation from the company. But given its recognition that military deployments are often fraught with communication lags, Google is giving priority invites to active members of the military.

Earlier this month, the company announced that troops with a .mil e-mail address can visit www.google.com/militaryinvite to sign up for a free Google Voice account.

While the service has real-world applicability for many people, Google Voice is an especially useful tool for servicemembers, both deployed and at home.

“It is often hard or near impossible to receive calls when deployed abroad, due to limited access to phones and time zone differences,” Sweetnam said in an e-mail. “With Google Voice, you can listen to and read voicemail online, so you can hear messages from family members more often and keep up with what is going on back home.”

Having one, unchanging phone number could also be a welcome constant in a military career filled with frequent moves. Keeping a single phone number that travels with servicemembers amid permanent changes of station means no more need for new numbers or missed calls to old numbers along the way.

An additional kicker is that because Google Voice is free, phone calls between friends and family who live overseas or in another state won’t cost a small fortune.

“Military servicemembers often don't live in the same states and countries as their friends and family or other buddies they met in the military,” Sweetnam said. “Google Voice helps save money by offering free calls in the continental U.S. and low-priced international calls.”


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TAOnline.com Helpful Hint of the Month

Federal Benefits for Veterans