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Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

‘Hiring Heroes’: Bill aimed at putting ‘our veterans back to work’

- The Bayonet
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Unemployed veterans and those leaving the military may soon find a rosier civilian jobs market and get an inside track to better education and training opportunities after passage of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.

The legislation breezed through the House and Senate last week via unanimous vote and was signed into law Monday by President Barack Obama.

Eddie Perez, the transition services manager for Fort Benning’s Army Career and Alumni Program, said the new bill presents Soldiers and veterans a great opportunity for a successful move into a new career.

  • Key provisions of H.R. 674:
    • Tax credit up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been seeking a job for more than six months, as well as a $2,400 credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than four weeks, but less than six months.
    • Tax credit up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.
    • Makes the Transition Assistance Program — an interagency workshop coordinated by the departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs — mandatory for service members moving on to civilian life to help them secure 21st-century jobs through resume writing workshops and career counseling.
    • Expands education and training opportunities for older veterans by providing 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to a year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits to go toward education and training programs at community colleges or technical schools.
    • Provides disabled veterans up to a year of additional vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits.
    • Allows service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at VA, Homeland Security or other federal agencies in need of veterans.

“This is a win-win situation,” he said. “The federal government can keep its most valuable and highly trained resource — our Soldiers. Soldiers can obtain veterans preference status prior to separation, and over 100,000 veterans will receive an additional year of education and training.”

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Ga., sponsored the initiative in the House.

The VOW to Hire Heroes Act provisions will ensure that all service members transitioning to civilian life receive the job-training skills they need to find a job, according to a news release from the congressman’s office. The legislation also offers a tax credit for companies that hire unemployed veterans and increases existing tax credits for companies that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities.

“We all have an obligation to ensure our veterans land on their feet when they come home and help them find good paying jobs to support their families,” Bishop said in the release. “These heroes have risked the most for our country. They shouldn’t be coming home to unemployment checks. That’s why providing this support to our nation’s veterans is simply the right thing to do.”

The Hire Heroes Act measures were included in H.R. 674, a comprehensive bill that also repeals a 2006 law requiring federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of payments due to government contractors.

In October, the unemployment rate for veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan was 12.1 percent, compared to 9.1 percent for the U.S. overall, the release stated. The youngest of veterans, ages 18 to 24, had a 30.4 percent unemployment rate last month, an increase from 18.4 percent a year ago. Among black veterans in the same age group, the jobless rate is 48 percent.

“We have the largest talent pool in the country for many companies to draw from at no cost to them,” Perez said. “Many companies know this and are gainfully working with us to put our veterans back to work. This tax incentive will make it an even sweeter deal for them. Success in achieving what is laid out in this bill begins in the Army Career and Alumni Program center on Fort Benning.”

For more information about ACAP services, call 706-545-2308.

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