The VOW to Hire Heroes Act, co-sponsored by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), passed the Senate today by a vote of 95 to 0. The legislation, which is also a key part of President Obama's job creation proposal, will expand employment opportunities for veterans by offering a tax credit to companies that hire unemployed veterans. It will increase existing tax credits for companies that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities and ensure that all service members transitioning to civilian life receive the job training skills they need to find a job.
"On the eve of Veterans day, we should all remember that we keep faith with veterans in actions not words," said Sen. Kerry. "That's personal for me. I came home from a war and saw that too many politicians in Washington didn't do for veterans what they promised. I pledged that if I ever had a position of authority, that I'd keep faith with my brothers in arms. That's what I've worked to do in the Senate from the investigation I led with John McCain to the bills I wrote and passed for military families and veterans. This is what it's all about. We've got a new generation of veterans coming home to an economy that's in trouble and I'm sickened when I read the unemployment rates and foreclosure rates for veterans. It's wrong. Helping these men and women find jobs and get back to work is a sacred obligation. The least we can do is help these veterans and their families transition to civilian life. This bill is a down payment on the work we need to do."
Senator Kerry has been a longtime advocate for veterans and military families. Early in his career Kerry fought for comprehensive research to understand the effects of Agent Orange and to ensure that veterans suffering from Agent Orange-related illnesses received disability pay. He was the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, which sought answers on the fate of all veterans of the Vietnam War and helped lead to the normalization of relations with Vietnam. He has helped secure funding to support soldiers suffering lasting damage from their time in the military, and has repeatedly sponsored legislation to improve veterans' benefits. Last year, The Corey Shea Act, legislation sponsored by Kerry to allow parents of fallen servicemembers to be buried with their children, was signed into law. He also successfully introduced and fought for the Helping Heroes Keep Their Home Act of 2010, which provides enhanced protections for servicemembers and military families against foreclosure.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act:
* includes a 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 4 weeks, but less than 6 months;
* includes a 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) mandatory for service members moving on to civilian life to help them secure 21st Century 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 1-year of additional Montgomery GI benefits to go towards education or training programs at community colleges or technical schools;
* provides disabled veterans up to 1-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits; AND
* allows service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at VA, Homeland Security, or the many other federal agencies in need of veterans.