Culminating a strong push by The American Legion to improve work opportunities for America’s jobless veterans, the House of Representatives has passed the final version of legislation that will help provide jobs for about one million veterans who are currently unemployed.
Provisions of the bill, passed by the Senate on Nov. 10, include expanded education and training and transition assistance for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as older veterans.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, shepherded through the legislative process by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has several provisions that fall in line with recommendations made to Congress last September by American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong.
“The final version of this bill passed today by the House, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, is welcome news to us and to America’s jobless veterans,” Wong said. “It shows us that Congress still knows how to compromise for the good of our country, and we want to thank Sen. Murray and Rep. Miller for their impressive efforts in building the consensus that got this legislation passed.”
The new legislation, once signed into law, will provide tax credits to businesses that hire veterans who are out of work — $5,600 for each veteran and $9,600 for each disabled veteran.
Wong said that veterans should not be held hostage by partisan politics. “The American Legion has been urging Congress to pass this legislation quickly and not jeopardize it by attaching other provisions — like tax increases — that have nothing to do with getting our veterans back into the civilian work force.”
Key provisions of the bill include:
•Tax credit of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, as well as a $2,400 credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than four weeks, but less than six months.
•Tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.
•Makes the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) — an interagency workshop coordinated by the departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs — mandatory for servicemembers moving on to civilian life to help them secure meaningful jobs through resume-writing workshops and career counseling.
•Expands education and training opportunities for older veterans by providing 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to one year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits for education or training programs at community colleges and technical schools.
•Provides disabled veterans up to one year of additional vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits.
•Allows servicemembers to start looking for federal jobs before separating from active duty in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at federal agencies.
According to Tim Tetz, the Legion’s legislative director, provisions of the bill are fully paid for by a continuation of existing VA Home Loan fees and other savings within VA. “The VOW to Hire Heroes Act won’t add to our federal deficit. But it does add to what the Legion has been pressing Congress to do for some time — help our veterans get jobs. We look forward, in the very near future, to having President Obama sign this bill into law.”
The unemployment rate for about a quarter-million veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan stands at about 12 percent. Of the estimated one million jobless veterans in America, two-thirds of them fall within the 35- to 64-age group.