The chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said he’ll push to extend tax credits that expire this year for employers who hire jobless veterans.
Representative Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, said there’s anecdotal evidence that the tax credits, which President Barack Obama signed into law in November, are beginning to help troops coming home from war find private-sector jobs.
“I think it will be easy to extend them,” Miller said at a Bloomberg Government lunch today.
The law provides employers a credit of as much as $5,600 for each unemployed veteran they hire. The credit rises to $9,600 for disabled veterans.
Miller estimated the cost of the tax credits at about $100 million over two years, “and I have an offset for them,” he said, referring to spending cuts he’s prepared to offer to pay for the tax breaks. He declined to say what he’ll propose.
Pointing to pledges by companies to hire more veterans, Miller said, “I think you’re going to see the numbers drop,” referring to unemployed veterans.
The jobless rate among veterans who’ve served since 2001 was 9.5 percent in June, compared to an unemployment rate that month of 8.1 percent for all non-veterans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As tens of thousands of young veterans return from Afghanistan and Iraq and adjust to civilian life, many are struggling to find work with employers who don’t recognize their skills, haven’t shared their war experience, and aren’t sure what to make of them.
While the U.S. economy slowly recovers, the disparity between veterans and non-veterans may grow as thousands more veterans come home from Afghanistan and federal purse strings tighten. The Pentagon plans to reduce the U.S. military by 123,900 troops, or 5.5 percent, by fiscal 2017 to meet budget- cutting goals.
The Obama administration is also revamping the military’s Transition Assistance Program, a three-day workshop aimed at helping departing service members prepare for the civilian job market. Veterans and their advocates have described the existing program as ineffective.
The remodeled program, called Transition GPS, will offer a five-day curriculum, individual counseling sessions and a redesigned employment workshop, among other things.
“I think it will make a difference,” Miller said of the reform effort, which is slated to be in place throughout the military by the end of next year. “It makes no sense that we will spend weeks and months training the warfighter and then not giving them the opportunity to transition back to civilian life.”
Miller said he wanted to give the new program time to work before pushing for any additional changes.
Miller also said he’s concerned about the impact that automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, might have on veterans’ programs.
Although the administration has said veterans’ benefits would be exempt from those cuts, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki told Congress last week that administrative costs would not be exempt, according to a statement from the House committee.
“I’m still concerned there’s been no direction given to veterans, even though the president has said their benefits would be off the table,” Miller said.
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