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Jobless vets get help

WAGNER -- Veterans in Charles Mix County have better access to job possibilities and training through a state Department of Labor and Regulation outreach program.

Mike Murphy, an employment representative in Veterans Services at Yankton, said the program is in its beginning stages. Through contacts with Wagner's former mayor, Sharon Haar, Murphy has a space in Wagner City Hall between 2 and 4 p.m. the third Thursday of each month.

"Our goal is to get them to come in and we'll help them look at job opportunities in their area, in Charles Mix County," he said.

The Department of Labor and Regulation has an office in Lake Andes, but Lacey Curr, the new manager at the Yankton office, wanted to make sure a wider area of the county is being covered.

"We wanted to reach out to the smaller communities we serve," she said. "So we're trying to reach out in the Wagner area."

Within the last few years, a VA Health Clinic was established in Wagner.

"Obviously there was a need for that, so we thought maybe we can reach out to local veterans," she said. "Maybe they don't have the capability of coming to the Yankton area to visit with a representative."

Murphy will be on hand locally to help veterans with anything from building a resume to accessing retraining opportunities to gaining employment.

"They need not to be registered in our office to receive help," he said. "But they can register because that opens them up to our services."

So far, Murphy said he hasn't visited with many people in the area due to poor weather and other circumstances. His most recent visit to Wagner wasn't much different, but he was able to visit with the VA Health Clinic's registered nurse, Mary Lou Morrow.

"She's been a real promoter and supporter of what it is our office is trying to do," he said.

Through brainstorming with Morrow, Murphy plans to make contact with the Rural Office of Community Services, the Ihanktonwan Community College in Marty and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, among others, to find veterans who may need or want jobs.

Morrow said Murphy's presence in Wagner will help veterans in the area seeking employment.

"It will help greatly, because of our very limited employment availability here, and limited resources," she said. "Veterans don't have the money to travel to Yankton."

Morrow also said several patients she's spoken with at the VA Health Clinic are interested in finding work but need to improve their skills to apply for the higher level employment available in the area.

"Jobs are scarce for what their skills are at this point," Morrow said. "They are very excited that the opportunity is there. They're excited something is available."

Murphy is available at his Yankton office as well, but hopes veterans will take advantage of his time in Wagner.

He will be able to help veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 participate in the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP. The program was implemented in 2011 through the Department of Labor and Regulation. It provides training toward certification -- associate's degree, non-college degree or certificate -- for high-demand occupations.

To qualify for VRAP, veterans must be unemployed when they apply; must have received other than a dishonorable discharge; must not be eligible for other VA education benefits; must not be enrolled in federal or state job training programs; and not receiving VA compensation due to unemployability.

Murphy said anyone interested in the VRAP program must submit an application before Oct. 1, as the program will not be available after that.

Murphy said he can also speak with and help any veteran ages 18 through retirement age who is unemployed or are seeking work opportunities.

"There are a lot of seniors looking for part-time work," Murphy said.

Murphy is hopeful through more word-of-mouth and advertising that veterans will become aware of his Wagner office by Aug. 15, which is the next time he will be there.