“By providing them job preference in highway and transportation projects, we are affirming that we are honoring that debt," Petri continued. "It is important to thank veterans for their service, but we need to thank them with deeds as well as words.”
No new money is appropriated for transportation projects by the bill, but Rahall agreed that giving veterans preference in hiring practices could lower unemployment among the group, which is usually higher than the general population.
“The brave men and women who have put their lives on the line in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere deserve to be at the front of the line rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges here in America when they return home,” Rahall, who is the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee, said in a statement.
“Our veterans are highly-skilled, have demonstrated enormous leadership, and the best way we can support our troops and veterans is by creating jobs for them when they come home," he continued. "This bill would help veterans transition from the war zone by creating job opportunities for them in the work zone.”
Veterans support groups such as the American Legion hailed the legislation.
"The American Legion is very concerned about reducing the ongoing high unemployment among veterans of all of our nation’s conflicts," American Legion National Commander Fang Wong said in statement. "This legislation will provide veterans opportunities for employment due to this veterans preference requirement.
“More importantly, for veterans of the current wars, this construction work will allow them to continue their service to their country by rebuilding our national infrastructure which is similar to the nation-building missions they participated in during their military service,” Wong continued.