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Obama unveils major jobs initiative for vets

Aug. 5, 2011 - 05:31AM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 5, 2011 - 05:31AM  |  
Military personel get one-on-one mentoring at the Military and Veterans Employment Expo, aimed at combating veterans' high unemployment rate, on May 24 in Golden, Colo. President Obama wants to use employer tax credits to help veterans, especially disabled veterans, get jobs in a tough economy.
Military personel get one-on-one mentoring at the Military and Veterans Employment Expo, aimed at combating veterans' high unemployment rate, on May 24 in Golden, Colo. President Obama wants to use employer tax credits to help veterans, especially disabled veterans, get jobs in a tough economy. (John Moore / Getty Images)
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Facing another dismal report about high unemployment for veterans, President Obama is proposing new tax breaks to encourage employers to give a hiring edge to veterans.

The initiatives come as the Labor Department reported Friday that the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans was 12.4 percent in July, up from 11.8 percent in July 2010. Unemployment problems for these veterans, separated from the service since 2001, come despite the fact that the overall unemployment rate for all veterans is 8.6 percent — slightly lower than the 9.1 percent national unemployment rate.

The White House proposals, similar to other initiatives discussed in Congress in recent years, would provide businesses a $2,400 tax credit for hiring any unemployed veteran, a $4,800 tax credit for hiring a veteran who has been out of work for at least six months and a $9,600 tax credit for hiring a veteran with a service-connected disability who has been out of work for six months.

Obama also is working with private industry to get 100,000 or more veterans trained and hired in new jobs by 2013. He has ordered the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to form a new task force to come up with a detailed plan for helping separating services members find and obtain post-service jobs. One of ideas is "reverse boot camp," designed to help troops transition into the civilian workforce. The training would be more intensive than the transition assistance program classes and workshops now available.

Tax credits and even the reverse boot-camp are ideas that have been considered in Congress but have stalled. But Obama's support might help get legislation moving. The problem with tax credits is not a lack of support but reluctance by the tax-writing committees to approve a bill that provides credits only to the employers of veterans. Any bill moving through those committees also automatically becomes a magnet for other tax legislation, quickly bogging down the process.

This new effort was unveiled on Friday as the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics was reporting that the national unemployment rate improved a bit in July as the economy created 117,000 jobs, compared with just 46,000 jobs created in June.

Veterans appeared to be helped, at least a little, by the newly created jobs, as the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans dropped from 13.3 percent in June to 12.4 percent in July.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a small but influential group, has been pushing Congress and the White House to do more. Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA's founder and executive director, said he is "extremely encouraged" by the Obama administration's effort.

"With over a quarter-million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans jobless in June, this is the exact kind of attention our community needs," Rieckhoff said. "There is no silver-bullet solution for veteran unemployment, but IAVA is pleased to see the president sending a clear message to the nation: If you want to support veterans, hire them."

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