On the eve of Veterans Day, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to get veterans more job training, and encourage businesses to hire them. Thursday’s unanimous vote was a rare display of bipartisanship in Congress – and the first piece of President Obama’s jobs package to get approval.
The “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” provides new tax credits up to $5,600 to companies that hire unemployed veterans, and up to $9,600 in credits for hiring disabled vets who’ve been out of work for at least half a year. It also improves or puts into place career counseling and job training for troops transitioning to civilian life, and lets them apply for jobs in the federal government before they leave service.
Alaska’s Senators were both been pushing for the changes before President Obama incorporated them into his jobs plan.
“With 12 percent or more unemployed within the veterans community, and an enormous amount 1 in 4 Afghanistan-Iraqi veterans unemployed, we have to do something to help get folks back to work,” Senator Mark Begich said.
Begich says the tax breaks also help businesses with their bottom line, but he says the main goal is helping veterans transition to civilian life.
The bill requires the government to do studies comparing military skills with the civilian world, which could help vets prove they’re qualified to hold jobs similar to what they did in the service. Senator Begich recently heard from an Alaskan who was a skilled combat-zone medic but here at home was considered qualified only to drive an ambulance.
Begich says this is just one way Congress can help veterans, who face not only high unemployment rates but emotional and psychological challenges transitioning out of the war zone and high suicide rates as well.