Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Dan Inouye (D-HI) discussed how tax credits in the VOW to Hire Heroes Act are being put to use by one Seattle business as it hires veterans. The business, VECA, which stands for Veterans Electrical Contractors Association, was founded by World War II veterans and has a long history of training and hiring veterans. Over the last 10 years, the company has employed more than 300 veterans. Seven more veterans will start at VECA on Monday.
The Senators also urged veterans to take part in a new job-training program that begins July 1, 2012, three months from today. The program, known as VRAP, will offer qualified veterans over the age of 35 a chance to earn $1,473 per month to help offset the cost of job training at community or technical college in 200 "high-demand" fields, such as learning how to be a machinist or electrician.
"No veteran should enter civilian life and be unable to find a job," said Cantwell. "But the unemployment rate for some veterans is double the rate for non-veterans the same ages. This is unacceptable. I'm proud of the steps we've taken and I will continue to work in Congress to give veterans the tools they need to find a job."
During their visit to VECA, the Senators met with Brian Westerlund, president of VECA, Jason De Leon, a veteran and VECA employee, and Marléna Sessions, CEO of Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County.
The average nationwide unemployment rate in 2011 was 8.9 percent. Yet the unemployment rate that same year for veterans who served since September 2001 was 12.1 percent. For male veterans ages 18-24, the unemployment rate is nearly 30 percent, almost double the rate for the young male non-vets, which is about 17 percent.
Last November, Cantwell and Inouye both cosponsored the bipartisan VOW to Hire Heroes Act.
Senator Inouye, a veteran, is the longest serving member of the U.S. Senate and currently serves as the President Pro-Tempore. He is known for his distinguished record as a legislative leader, and as a World War II combat veteran with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who earned the nation's highest award for military valor, the Medal of Honor.
The law created a tax incentive for employers who hire veterans and disabled veterans who are out of work. Employers can receive a tax credit of up to $5,600 when they hire veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months; a $2,400 tax credit when they hire veterans who are unemployed for more than four weeks but less than six months; and up to $9,600 for for-profit employers or up to $6,240 for tax-exempt organizations when they hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months. VECA plans to apply for tax credits for each of the new veterans that start work Monday.
The new law also created VRAP, or the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. VRAP will provide nearly 100,000 long-term unemployed veterans ages 35 to 60 who enroll at a community college or technical college with up to one year of additional Montgomery GI Bill education benefits to help them qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors, from trucking to technology to aerospace. The program is limited to 45,000 participants during fiscal year 2012 and an additional 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012 through the end of the program on March 31, 2014.
Additionally, the new law requires all outgoing service-members to participate in the joint Department of Defense and Labor's Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which is designed to help facilitate the transition between military and civilian life as well as put a particular emphasis on helping veterans update resumes and job hunting skills tailored for the 21stcentury job market.
Veterans interested in learning more about VRAP should visit http://gibill.va.gov/benefits/other_programs/vrap.html.