As Veterans' Day approaches, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on her Senate colleagues to swiftly pass legislation to address unacceptably high rates of unemployment among veterans including incentivize their hiring and ease their transition into the work force. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which includes bipartisan job training provisions from both the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees, aims to ensure that all troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have the necessary tools for a seamless transition from military service to the civilian workforce.
"The unemployment rate among our veterans is a national crisis," said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Our men and women in uniform have put their lives on the line in the service of this country and deserve to come home to good-paying jobs and the genuine opportunity to support their families and advance their careers. Our troops represent some of our most talented, courageous and productive citizens and it is our moral imperative to provide them with the necessary tools to compete in today's difficult job market."
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act represents the latest effort by Senator Gillibrand in her long-established commitment to combating rising joblessness among veterans. Last February Senator Gillibrand hosted roundtables across New York State with local veterans and business leaders to seek out solutions to unemployment among veterans. The new bill, which was introduced this week, reflects the approaches discussed at the roundtable and expands upon Gillibrand supported legislation.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 contains a series of tax credits available to employers hiring veterans including a credit worth up to $2,400 for employers who hire veterans unemployed for over four weeks, a credit worth up to $5,600 for veterans unemployed for over six months, and a credit worth of up to $9,600 for unemployed veterans with a service-connected disability. The credit is based on 40 percent of first year wages of qualified individuals, up to the caps noted above.
In addition, the bill expands and improves upon several existing benefits aimed at helping service members find jobs. The legislation would make mandatory the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) which provides career counseling and job search skills to service members, and would allow troops to begin the federal employment process while still serving in the military. The bill would also provide up to one year of additional training benefits for disabled veterans through the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. Finally, the bill would expand education and training opportunities for nearly 100,000 veterans from past eras by providing an additional year of Montgomery GI bill benefits to be put toward programs at community colleges and technical schools.