Obama Announces Veteran Workforce Initiatives

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2011 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma today announced a series of admin­is­tra­tion ini­tia­tives to help mil­i­tary vet­er­ans find jobs.
Dur­ing remarks at the Navy Yard here, the pres­i­dent pro­posed a set of tax cred­its for com­pa­nies hir­ing vet­er­ans, announced a new task force to devel­op reforms that will help ser­vice mem­bers tran­si­tion to civil­ian jobs or high­er edu­ca­tion, and chal­lenged indus­try to hire more vet­er­ans.
“Today’s vet­er­ans are Amer­i­cans who have done their duty,” the com­man­der in chief said. “They have fought our wars with val­or, from the jun­gles of Viet­nam to the deserts of Iraq to the moun­tains of Afghanistan.”
But many of those vet­er­ans find when they leave ser­vice that their mil­i­tary skills don’t qual­i­fy them for civil­ian jobs, the pres­i­dent said.
As of June, a mil­lion vet­er­ans were unem­ployed, and the job­less rate for post-9/11 vets was 13.3 per­cent, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said. Anoth­er mil­lion vet­er­ans will return to the civil­ian work­force over the next five years, they said.
Oba­ma cit­ed a for­mer com­bat medic and a finan­cial spe­cial­ist as exam­ples of vet­er­ans fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties trans­fer­ring mil­i­tary skills to the civil­ian mar­ket.
Nick Col­gin deployed to Afghanistan as a com­bat medic with the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion, Oba­ma said. Dur­ing his tour, Col­gin saved the life of a French sol­dier who was shot in the head, and helped 42 peo­ple escape from a flood­ing riv­er.
“He earned a Bronze Star for his actions,” the pres­i­dent said. “But when Nick got back home to Wyoming, he couldn’t get a job as a first respon­der.”
Col­gin had to take class­es he eas­i­ly could have taught before he could get a civil­ian job with the same duties he per­formed dai­ly in Afghanistan, Oba­ma said.
Maria Canales was a finan­cial spe­cial­ist in the Army who’d served in Iraq and fin­ished a degree in busi­ness man­age­ment when she returned, the pres­i­dent said. Still, she couldn’t find a job in account­ing or finance.
“If you can save a life in Afghanistan, you can save a life in an ambu­lance in Wyoming,” he said. “If you can over­see mil­lions of dol­lars in assets in Iraq, you can help a busi­ness bal­ance its books here at home.”
Gov­ern­ment must do more to help vet­er­ans tran­si­tion from mil­i­tary to civil­ian work, Oba­ma said.
Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said a new task force, led by the depart­ments of Defense and Vet­er­ans Affairs, will devel­op reforms, includ­ing a “reverse boot camp,” to ensure ser­vice mem­bers receive the train­ing, edu­ca­tion, and cre­den­tials they need to tran­si­tion to the civil­ian work­force or to pur­sue high­er edu­ca­tion.
“In addi­tion, we’ll make it eas­i­er for vet­er­ans to go to their local, one-stop career cen­ter and get help pur­su­ing a career that fits them best. These steps will help bridge part of the gap between vet­er­ans look­ing for work and com­pa­nies look­ing to hire,” the pres­i­dent said.
The Labor Depart­ment will estab­lish the cen­ters to deliv­er career devel­op­ment and job search ser­vices to tran­si­tion­ing vet­er­ans, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said.
“But that’s only part of the equa­tion. The oth­er half is about encour­ag­ing com­pa­nies to do their part,” Oba­ma said.
As incen­tive to hire vet­er­ans, the pres­i­dent pro­posed a new “Return­ing Heroes” tax cred­it for com­pa­nies that hire unem­ployed vet­er­ans, and an increase in the exist­ing tax cred­it for hir­ing dis­abled vet­er­ans.
The Return­ing Heroes cred­it would offer a max­i­mum of $2,400 for every short-term and $4,800 for every long-term unem­ployed vet­er­an hire, offi­cials said.
A “Wound­ed War­riors” tax cred­it would increase the exist­ing cred­it for firms that hire vet­er­ans with ser­vice-con­nect­ed dis­abil­i­ties who have been unem­ployed for six months or more to a max­i­mum of $9,600 per vet­er­an, and up to $4,800 for all oth­er vet­er­ans with a ser­vice-con­nect­ed dis­abil­i­ty, offi­cials added.
“Final­ly, we’re chal­leng­ing the pri­vate sec­tor to hire or train 100,000 unem­ployed post-9/11 vet­er­ans or their spous­es by the end of 2013,” Oba­ma said.

Many com­pa­nies already have hired or com­mit­ted to hir­ing vet­er­ans as part of the “Join­ing Forces” cam­paign cham­pi­oned by first lady Michelle Oba­ma and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, the pres­i­dent said.
“Siemens, for exam­ple, recent­ly met their goal of hir­ing 300 vet­er­ans, so they’re aim­ing to hire 150 more by Decem­ber,” he said. “Microsoft is help­ing more than 10,000 vet­er­ans get IT-cer­ti­fied over the next two years. And, today, groups from the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce to Accen­ture to Lock­heed Mar­tin have all agreed to do their part to help vet­er­ans get back in the work­force.”

Join­ing Forces will lead the vet­er­an-hir­ing effort with busi­ness­es and indus­try, the pres­i­dent said.
“Today we’re say­ing to our vet­er­ans, ‘You fought for us, and now we’re fight­ing for you — for the jobs and oppor­tu­ni­ties that you need to keep your fam­i­lies strong and to keep Amer­i­ca com­pet­i­tive in the 21st cen­tu­ry,’” Oba­ma said. “And at a time when there is so much work to be done in this coun­try, we need everyone’s help to do it.”

Also today, the Labor Depart­ment announced 23 grants total­ing near­ly $5.5 mil­lion to pro­vide home­less vet­er­ans with job train­ing. The grants are being award­ed by the department’s Vet­er­ans’ Employ­ment and Train­ing Ser­vice through the Home­less Vet­er­ans Rein­te­gra­tion Pro­gram.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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