Obama pressures Congress to help veterans find jobs

President Obama on Monday announced new initiatives to help veterans find work, blasting Republicans in the process.

In pressing the Senate to pass a package of tax incentives for businesses that hire unemployed veterans during a Rose Garden event, Obama castigated Republicans for voting against his jobs bill and said, “There's no good reason to oppose this bill. Not one.”

“Our veterans did their jobs,” Obama said. “Now it's time for Congress to do theirs.”

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Veterans jobs issues have remained largely bipartisan on both sides of the Capitol, and the White House is seeking cooperation from congressional Republicans, who have pushed back against Obama's jobs initiatives and refused to pass his $447 billion measure as a whole.

The veterans bill set for Senate consideration this week is a collaboration of proposals by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee; Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee; and Obama.

The measure would provide businesses with a “Returning Heroes” tax credit for 2012-2013, 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 bill also includes 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.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus, employers who hired certain unemployed veterans were eligible for a tax credit of up to $2,400. This credit expired at the end of 2010.

Senate Democrats plan to attach the veterans’ bill to the repeal of the 3 percent withholding provision, which also passed the House overwhelmingly and has broad bipartisan support.

Officials called the hiring incentives a “critical part” of the president's jobs bill.

Administration officials said there is a “sense of urgency” to boost jobs programs for veterans because more than 1 million service members will separate from the armed forces between 2011 and 2016.

The White House has estimated the cost of the tax credit program to be about $120 million over two years, depending on how many employers hire veterans.

Offsets for the tax incentives have not been determined, and White House officials would not speculate on the options although some lawmakers have suggested that the bill would be offset by keeping the current fee structure for certain veterans’ home loans.

White House officials on Monday said they have been “in consultations over the last several days” with lawmakers on the matter.

The Labor Department will use existing resources to establish a new initiative to deliver an enhanced “gold card” career development and job search service package to transitioning veterans at their local career centers.

The program includes six months of one-on-one case management services and new training opportunities that White House officials say they “believe will help young men and women get the tools needed to navigate the difficult labor market.”

The agency also will create new online resources that connect veterans military experience with civilian occupations. The site will also include information about salaries, apprenticeships, and other related education and training programs.

The president also announced an online jobs bank for veterans that will search more than 500,000 jobs listing.

The administration says the unemployment rate for the post-Sept. 11 veterans is 12.1 percent, a drop from 13.3 percent in June. That is still much higher than the overall 9 percent national jobless rate for October.

This story was posted at 10:40 a.m. and updated at 12:45 p.m.