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Congressional Priority: Helping To Hire Veterans


Location: Washington, DC

One of the components of his jobs plan the President promoted this week was his tax credit for hiring veterans.

Over a month ago, on September 16th, the House Republican Leadership circulated a memorandum to highlight areas of common ground with the President that will create jobs in our economy. With respect to the President's veterans proposal, the memo included the following:

Incentives for Hiring Veterans: Current law includes employer tax credits for hiring disabled veterans (up to $4,800) and unemployed veterans (up to $2,400). These tax credits will expire at the end of 2011. The President has proposed expanding these credits. The House Veterans' Affairs Committee is considering a more comprehensive effort to assist returning heroes, examining the range of challenges they face entering the workforce, including the need for education and training assistance and to address other barriers to employment. We believe there is an opportunity to make meaningful and significant progress in this area.

Last week, with Rodney full support, the full House followed through on this commitment and passed by a vote of 418-6, the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 (VOW Act). This legislation provides:

1. Access to Education and Training Funds: The VOW Act temporarily provides 100,000 unemployed veterans between the age of 35 and 60 with up to 1-year of education and training benefits related to gaining a job in high-demand occupations, from trucking to technology.

2. Improvements to the Transition Assistance Program: The Transition Assistance Program is designed to help veterans find meaningful employment after discharge through a series of career training workshops. The VOW Act will make TAP mandatory for most service members transitioning to civilian status, upgrading career counseling options, and resume writing skills, as well as ensuring the program is tailored for the 21st Century job market.

3. Reporting Requirements to Reform Employment Programs: Few evaluations have been conducted or completed to identify areas for improvement within existing veterans employment programs. The VOW Act includes several new reporting requirements to evaluate how to reform the programs to provide transitioning service members with greater employment opportunities.

4. Breaking Down the Barriers to Employment: The VOW Act would also allow for Congress to work with governors and states to create a uniform licensing and credentialing standard for returning servicemen and women to use the skills they learned in the military in the private sector. Combat medics, aircraft technicians, and truck drivers all face lengthy reaccreditation when they return from the battlefield to do the jobs here they performed while deployed.

The benefits of the approach advocated by House Republicans are evident in a front page Washington Post story this week which, in reporting on the President's proposal, stated:

But employers say such financial incentives for hiring veterans would not address the heart of the problem.

Lionel Batty, vice president of corporate research at GrafTech International, which makes graphite materials integral to products such as smartphone batteries and solar panels, said his firm is moving to hire more veterans, in part by trying to better understand their experiences. But, he said, tax credits have nothing to do with that effort.

"We'll take them, but we don't hire people because of tax credits," he said. "We do what's right for our business."

More important than financial incentives for hiring returning veterans is making the skills and experience they earned in the military more understandable for civilian employers, experts say.

Rodney and other members of the House have heard the exact same complaints directly from employers themselves. The VOW Act received bipartisan support.

The question is now: when will the Senate consider it?

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