White House announces initiatives to spur hiring of veterans

The White House on Tuesday announced a new initiative intended to help veterans get jobs in the healthcare sector. 

The proposal is the latest effort by the administration to take steps intended to help the economy that do not require action by Congress. 

The administration is challenging Community Health Centers to hire 8,000 veterans — about one veteran per health center site — over the next three years. It is also fast-trackiong military medics into programs to train them as physician assistants.

The announcement is part of a broader plan to create 100,000 jobs for former service members by the end of 2013.

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The administration started a more aggressive campaign on jobs and economic initiatives on Monday — part of a new "We Can't Wait" series of executive actions.

As part of Tuesday's plan, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will give priority in grant awards to universities and colleges that help expedite training veterans for careers as physician assistants. Between various funding mechanisms, including the healthcare law, 2009 economic stimulus and appropriations in 2010 and 2011, $45 million has been invested to support accredited programs, the White House said. 

During a bus tour through Virginia and North Carolina last week to tout his jobs plan, President Obama announced that a group of 270 businesses has pledged to hire 25,000 veterans by the end of 2013 as part of the larger goal. 

Last month, the Obama Administration announced an initiative to align accreditation requirements for nursing programs with medic training so that military medics can receive academic credit for their service. Beginning in fiscal year 2012, the administration is giving priority to nurse training programs that serve veterans when awarding grants.

The Obama Administration has also taken a series of steps in recent months to help reduce a level of unemployment for veterans that has hovered around 13 percent, much higher than the national rate of 9.1 percent. 

The president has proposed two tax credits to provide an incentive for businesses to hire veterans. 

During an August speech, the president suggested a plan that would provide businesses with a $2,400 credit for hiring an unemployed veteran who has been unemployed for at least a month. The tax credit would increase to $4,800 for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed six months or longer.

The proposal also included a two-year extension of the "Wounded Warriors" tax credit, which gives companies that hire veterans with service-related disabilities a $4,800 credit. If the veteran has been unemployed for six months of more, the tax credit increases to $9,600.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, is pushing for passage of a bipartisan bill that aims to help veterans find jobs when they return home. The measure has cleared her committee but hasn't come up in the Senate yet. 

On Oct. 12, the House passed a similar bill, an effort applauded by Murray.

“This is an issue that should transcend partisanship and remind us that doing right by our veterans always comes first," she said. 

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments will also develop programs to ensure that every member of the service receives the training, education, and credentials they need to transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education. 

These changes include the creation of a “Reverse Boot Camp,” which will extend the transition period to give service members more counseling and guidance and leave them career-ready, the White House said.