Baucus, Tester call for answers on fixing veteran unemployment

Senators Request New Report as Part of Continued Effort to Help Montana Veterans Find Good-Paying Jobs

(Washington, D.C.) – Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester called on the Government Accountability Office today to produce a new report examining federal jobs programs for veterans in an effort to better serve Montana veterans and ensure the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.  Today’s request is part of Baucus and Tester’s longstanding effort to help Montana veterans find good-paying jobs, including their recent introduction of the VETs Jobs Bill to provide tax cuts for businesses who hire veterans.

"The unemployment level among our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is higher than it’s ever been, and it hits home even harder in Montana where we are proud to have more veterans than nearly any other state in the country.  Something isn’t working and we’ve got to fix it, because no soldier returning home from service should be greeted with an unemployment check instead of a paycheck.  This report will help us build on what’s working and cut what isn’t so we can reduce bureaucracy and increase jobs for our veterans,” Baucus said.  “We will continue to fight to pass our VETs Jobs Bill to provide tax cuts to businesses who hire veterans and look for other ways to tackle veteran unemployment anyway we can.”

“Montana troops put their lives on hold to serve our country, and it is our obligation to provide them with the appropriate tools they need to compete in the workforce and provide for their loved ones,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our nation’s veterans protected our freedom and deserve to have every opportunity to enjoy everything America has to offer when they return home.”

Despite a wide variety of veterans jobs programs across a number of branches of government, the unemployment rate for veterans remains higher than non-veterans.  Baucus and Tester have asked the Accountability Office to examine which programs work best, how programs can consolidate and coordinate to provide better service and cut down on red tape, and what legislative measures would help connect more veterans with good-paying jobs. 

Montana is home to the second largest population of veterans per capita in the country.  The average unemployment rate among veterans in Montana jumped from an average 4.3 percent in 2005, 0.7 percent below civilians, to 9.8 percent in 2009, which is two percentage points higher than civilians. Nationwide, 15.2 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were out of work in January, while the overall unemployment rate had dropped to 9 percent.

Text of Baucus and Tester’s letter follows below.

February 9, 2011

The Honorable Gene Dodaro
Comptroller General
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

The unemployment numbers among veterans are unacceptably high.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 15.2 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were out of work last January, while the overall unemployment rate had dropped to 9 percent. The unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans averaged 11.5 percent in 2010, up from about 7 percent in 2008.  In Montana, proudly home to the second highest per capita veteran population, the unemployment rate among veterans jumped from an average of 4.3 percent in 2005, 0.7 percent below the overall unemployment rate, to 9.8 percent in 2009, which is two percentage points higher than the overall unemployment rate.

The federal government operates a wide array of different programs to help veterans find work. These efforts span across a number of federal departments and branches of the military.  The troubling unemployment figures among veterans make it clear that we need to take a hard look at improving the way these programs work. Business as usual just isn’t cutting it.  Therefore, we respectfully request a report on the options available to improving the efficacy of federal veteran employment programs. The report should include:

  1. An assessment of which federal programs are the most effective at helping veterans find work.
  2. Recommendations on which veteran employment programs would benefit from improved cross-agency and cross-department coordination and cooperation.
  3. In selected states, assess the extent of coordination between federal and state veteran employment programs. 
  4. An assessment of the capability of the Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program and the Local Veterans Employment Representative one-stop centers to integrate other veteran employment programs.
  5. A list of options for eliminating waste among veteran employment programs and recommendations on how to reinvest those savings to expand effective veteran employment programs.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 


Max Baucus
Jon Tester