Tester leads charge on major veterans’ jobs bill

Senator pushes plan to put more veterans to work, expects Senate vote next week

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today unveiled a critical, bipartisan jobs measure to put more veterans back to work and spur the nation’s economy.

Tester is leading the charge to pass the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which the Senate will consider next week. The jobs bill takes significant steps to reverse what Tester calls the “morally indefensible” trend of veterans returning home without the job opportunities they were promised when they signed up to defend the country. 

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, noted that the unemployment rate for Montana’s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is over 20 percent, far above the statewide average. Nationwide, there are nearly one million unemployed veterans.

“For too long, we’ve patted our veterans on the back for their service and then pushed them out in the job market,” Tester said. “My bill is a common-sense, bipartisan plan to empower veterans and translate their hard-earned skills to the private sector. It’s shameful that so many veterans can’t find work. The Senate needs to pass this plan as soon as possible.”

Tester’s veterans’ jobs bill combines numerous popular proposals from both sides of the aisle aimed at putting more veterans back to work. A major component of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act is Tester’s Hiring Heroes Act, which requires the federal government to establish a system for certifying certain employment skills gained during active military service.

The VOW to Hire Heroes Act, also:

• Expands education and training opportunities for older veterans by providing 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to one year of additional Montgomery GI benefits to go towards education or training programs at community colleges or technical schools.  

• Provides disabled veterans up to one-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits. 

• Allows service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at VA, Homeland Security, or the many other federal agencies in need of our veterans.

• Provides a tax credit of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, as well as a $2,400 credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than four weeks, but less than six months.

• Provides a tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.

The VOW to Hire Heroes Act is cosponsored by Sen. Max Baucus, who with Tester recently proposed similar tax credits to encourage the hiring of veterans.

During a conference call today to introduce the VOW to Hire Heroes Act with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tester said hiring veterans shouldn’t be a partisan issue. He also emphasized that military experience should count when applying for civilian jobs.

“If you spend six years in the Army driving a truck, you ought to be able to get your commercial license a lot faster than someone who doesn’t have that experience,” Tester said. “That’s the kind of common-sense idea we need to be looking at.”