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President Unveils Plan to Boost Hiring of Veterans

By Bill Leonard  8/8/2011
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After months of contentious debate over the federal debt ceiling and deficit reduction, President Barack Obama has again turned his attention to job creation. A key piece of the president’s jobs agenda is a plan to increase job opportunities for veterans of the U.S. military.

The president outlined his administration’s plan for improving the job outlook for veterans on Aug. 5, 2011. During an event at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., Obama emphasized his administration’s commitment to supporting the nation’s veterans and people who are serving in the U.S. military.

“Having served and defended our nation, veterans are well-trained and highly skilled and will add value to any company,” Obama said in his remarks. “But today’s veterans face unique challenges when looking for jobs, and we must find ways to help them transition smoothly to civilian life.”

The president is urging Congress to pass legislation that would create tax credits for employers that hire unemployed veterans. The proposal would offer businesses a maximum tax credit of $2,400 for unemployed veterans hired to fill temporary jobs and $4,800 for those hired to fill full-time permanent positions. According to a White House fact sheet, the president’s proposal would increase existing tax credits for employers that hire veterans who were wounded and disabled in the line of duty.

It is unclear when the tax credit proposal would be introduced in Congress. The White House was looking for sponsors, and legislation could be introduced soon after Congress reconvenes in early September 2011, following its summer recess.

The White House and supporters of the president’s plan point to statistics that show 13.3 percent of veterans who left military service after Sept. 11, 2001, are unemployed—or 4.2 percentage points higher than the latest national unemployment rate. The president said that the higher unemployment rate for veterans was disturbing and a clear indication that more must be done.

Traditionally, proposals aimed at supporting and creating job opportunities for military veterans receive strong bipartisan support. However, the recent debt ceiling/deficit deal changes the outlook for such measures. The deficit reduction law creates a congressional joint committee to review government expenditures and tax proposals. This new and increased level of scrutiny could make some congressional leaders cautious about passing any proposal that offers new or expanded tax credits and reduces government revenue.

In addition, the president issued a challenge to employers to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. The president’s challenge has received support from Microsoft, Wal-Mart, AT&T and Hewlett Packard. Business and veterans groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Veterans on Wall Street and the American Legion have demonstrated their commitment to the president’s challenge.

Another key element of the president’s plan will be the efforts of the departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) to work closely with other federal agencies in developing reforms that ensure every person serving in the U.S. military receives the training and education they need to transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education. These reforms will include development of a Reverse Boot Camp by the DOD and VA, which will extend the transition period and provide active duty service members more counseling and guidance and help them prepare better for careers in the private sector.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.

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