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White House says new jobs plan will help vets

Sep. 15, 2011 - 03:10PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 15, 2011 - 03:10PM  |  
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The White House is promising some veterans could find work on transportation and infrastructure construction projects if Congress approves President Obama's American Jobs Act.

Jobs would result from a partnership proposed between the Transportation Department and the Veterans Affairs Department to try to interest contractors in hiring veterans because VA will cover part of the cost of civilian licensing and credentials for people with military-learned skills.

An example, said Allison Hickey, VA's under secretary for benefits, is heavy-equipment operators who have worked on military-related construction projects around the world and could use GI Bill education benefits to pay for professional licenses and credentials needed to work for commercial construction companies.

Obama's plan also includes tax credits of $5,600 to $9,600 for businesses that hire veterans, another encouragement for contractors to hire people with military-learned skills who are ready to work, Hickey said.

There is no guarantee that Obama's $450 billion jobs' package will pass Congress, so the new federally funded construction projects may not materialize. But licensing and certification would help veterans find work on nongovernment projects.

The jobs package includes $50 billion to spend on railroad and airport construction, $25 billion for school-related construction and $15 billion for rehabilitating vacant and foreclosed housing that could create more jobs. None of that work is specifically reserved for veterans, but the job training opportunities could be available to veterans as well as other groups with high unemployment rates.

Many House Republicans oppose the plan. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., called it a "no-jobs plan" because he sees it as just putting the U.S. deeper in debt.

"We have been down this road before," said Rep. Paul Broud, R-Ga., adding that the new proposal is similar to the last economic stimulus bill.

"The stimulus did not work two years ago and it will not work today," Broud said.

The package's Returning Heroes Tax Credit ranges from $5,600 for hiring a veteran who has been out of work for six months to $9,600 for hiring a veteran with service-connected disabilities who has been unemployed for more than six months.

Several similar plans have been introduced in Congress, but at a Tuesday veterans' employment summit hosted by the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, some business leaders said tax credits are not necessarily a big factor in hiring veterans because of the paperwork involved in filing for the credit and because the credit only applies for the first year of employment.

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