With the Iraq War over and the war in Afghanistan drawing to a close, the Administration has undertaken an unprecedented effort to help our veterans and military spouses find employment and build their careers. Today, the overall unemployment rate for veterans remains below the national rate at 7.1 percent. But for veterans of the post-9/11 generation, many returning to the civilian workforce at a time when our economy, while making progress, is still healing from the Great Recession, too many American heroes are struggling to find work. This is a critical economic challenge that requires our long-term focus, especially as in the coming years over one million service members will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning back to civilian life.
In August 2011, President Obama visited the Washington Navy Yard to outline his comprehensive plan to ensure that all of America’s veterans have the support they need and deserve when they leave the military, look for a job, and enter the civilian workforce. This plan included a total redesign of the military’s transition program to ensure every service member is “career-ready”; a challenge to the private sector to hire and train veterans; increased access for veterans to intensive reemployment services; and new online tools to boost veteran employment.
A signature component of his plan was a series of significant, new tax credits aimed at getting veterans back to work. In the American Jobs Act the President proposed three new veterans hiring tax credits that greatly expanded the number of veterans eligible to be hired with tax credits. Recognizing the specific imperative of helping veterans dealing with long-term employment, the President proposed in the American Jobs Act tax credits that for the first time offered tax relief at least two times larger than current veterans tax relief for those veterans that have been pounding the streets for over six months looking for work. This includes the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which provides an incentive of up to $5,600 for firms to hire long-term unemployed veterans, and the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit, which provides firms with up to $9,600 for hiring long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities.
The President’s tax credits were passed with full bi-partisan support by Congress and signed into law by the President in November 2011 as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, and were extended through the end of 2013 by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.