With Memorial Day approaching, U.S. Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz (PA-13) this week introduced the Veteran Employment Transition (VETS) Act to help veterans find work and have greater economic security as they transition to civilian life. The bill provides a new, streamlined $2,400 tax credit to businesses hiring a recently discharged veteran.
"As the daughter of a Korean War veteran, I am committed to ensuring that our nation's veterans can find good, stable jobs when they return home," Congresswoman Schwartz said. "I have a vivid memory of my father's sacrifice on behalf of our nation, an experience that is shared by countless veterans and their families. It is unacceptable that so many veterans are struggling to find work. We must do more to help the servicemen and women, who have risked all for our freedom and prosperity. Our veterans bring unique skills, perspectives and training that would add value to American companies and help grow our economy."
Rep. Schwartz introduced the VETS Act with Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) and the bill has 70 additional bipartisan cosponsors. It has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Senator Max Baucus, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over the tax code, introduced companion legislation in the Senate on January 24, 2013.
In addition, like President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget, Congresswoman Schwartz's legislation makes the existing veteran Work Opportunity Tax Credits permanent. These credits allow businesses to claim a credit of up to:
$2,400 for veterans in a family receiving supplemental nutrition assistance.
$2,400 for short-term unemployed veterans.
$4,800 for service-related disabled veterans discharged from active duty within a year.
$5,600 for long-term unemployed veterans.
$9,600 for long-term unemployed service-related disabled veterans.
The VETS Act is similar to legislation Congresswoman Schwartz introduced during her first year in Congress, the Veterans Employment and Respect Act (VERA), which offered tax incentives to employers that hired veterans. That bill was signed into law in 2007 by President George W. Bush and subsequently strengthened by President Obama and the Congress. Since fiscal year 2008, more than 84,000 veterans were certified for these veteran employment tax credits.
The VETS Act takes several additional steps to help veterans succeed in the workforce:
Expands on an existing Department of Defense program that issues civilian equivalent certification and licensing for military professional skills so servicemembers are immediately prepared to reenter the civilian workforce;
Calls for better coordination between the six different veteran unemployment programs in the Departments of Veterans' Affairs and Labor;
Seeks to increase the number of executive branch contracts awarded to small businesses owned by disabled veterans.
Pennsylvania is home to almost one million veterans. Nationally, 170,000 post-9/11 veterans are unemployed, and in Pennsylvania, 31,000 veterans were jobless in 2012.
STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT:
Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee: "Every single veteran deserves to come home to a paycheck, not an unemployment check. Already, the unemployment rate of our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is shameful. As more and more veterans begin returning home from Afghanistan, we've got to do all we can to make sure they are greeted with the good-paying jobs they deserve. That's why I declared war on veterans' unemployment and introduced the Veteran Employment Transition Act in the Senate as my first bill of the year. I thank Representatives Schwartz and Peters for joining our effort and look forward to working with them to get this bill signed into law."
Alex Nicholson, IAVA's Legislative Director: "After defending this nation in Iraq and Afghanistan, too many veterans are struggling to find employment back home, a battle that should not have to be fought. IAVA supports Representative Schwartz's legislation, the Veteran Employment Transition Act, which would make it easier for business owners to hire hard-working vets. Our veterans have proven their capabilities on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and this bill will help us further reduce veteran unemployment."
James E. "Jim" Koutz, National Commander of The American Legion: "Our returning veterans have earned the right to expect our help as they reintegrate back into the society and economy they risked their lives to defend. It is only fitting that Congress set rules and establish proposals like the initiatives set forth in your proposed legislation to aid them and their families as they return from deployment The American Legion supports passage of this legislation, and applauds your leadership in addressing this critical issue facing our nation's service members and veterans."
Robert E. Wallace, Executive Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Washington Office: "With more than one million veterans expected to leave the military and enter the workforce in the coming years, the VFW appreciates your leadership on this issue and your continued commitment to America's military and veterans."
Ruth A. Fairchild, State Commander, Pennsylvania Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars: "On behalf of the 97,000 members of the Pennsylvania Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, I write to strongly endorse your Veterans Employment Transition Act, which will help veterans to gain employment. We strongly agree with you that one of our nation's priorities should be creating employment opportunities to those who have recently returned from military service."
Gerald Hawk, the Executive Director of the American Veterans' (AMVETS) Department of Pennsylvania:
"It is important that we do not forget those men and women who have been fighting the wars over the last 10 years. They have not had the opportunity to attend college or seek gainful employment while those who were here at home enjoying their freedom have had many opportunities to seek jobs. Giving this credit to employers who hire veterans is a great start in the process of helping veterans transition back into civilian life. Meaningful employment also helps to reduce many other problems down the road such as homelessness and drug and alcohol abuse. We need to support this effort to provide these credits to employers who will hire veterans."
James G. Conybear, President of Metlab: "We applaud your work on behalf of returning veterans and welcome the bill that you are cosponsoring, the Veteran Employment Transition Act. Through initiatives like these, Metlab has already been able to add returning veterans to our workforce, enabling us to help our returning veterans make the difficult transition to civilian life. We believe that the high quality training that veterans received while on duty serving our country is a great resource for small manufacturers, and this Act will make it easier for us to do our part in assuring that the veterans return quickly to productive lives."
Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52): "Men and women who have served our country with honor and distinction are still struggling to find a job after leaving the military, often with exceptional leadership and job skills that we desperately need in the American workforce. This bill encourages employers to seek out unemployed veterans, and encourages greater opportunities for our men and women who have served our nation honorably and bravely."
Tim Meserve, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service & Education Center:
"The Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service & Education Center (PVMSEC) wholeheartedly supports Congresswoman Schwartz and her efforts to support our veterans. Providing an additional incentive for business to hire great Americans is the right thing to do and will benefit business since our veterans have the perfect qualifications to drive our economy forward. The PVMSEC trained and placed well over a 100 veterans in jobs over the last quarter, but there is still a lot of work to do and this legislation improves an effective program while making it permanent."