It’s easy to spot the likely spike in unemployment among veterans that will come with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. As of October, the unemployment rate among vets who served in post-9/11 operations was 12.1 percent, compared to 9 percent among non-vets. That rate is particularly bad news for the 1 million servicemen and women expected to return home between now and 2016. The White House, the Senate, the House, and even the first and second ladies have the issue under their wings. But finding a real solution before Veterans Day—or, more importantly, before troops come home from Iraq in December—is proving difficult.
- Executive Action (White House): Obama announced on Monday a plan to connect veterans with jobs at their local employment offices. A “gold card” will now allow vets a specialized jobs counselor for 6 months, and a new website will allow vets to type in their military occupation to be connected with hiring companies in the area. But, like other executive orders on jobs, without tax incentives passed by Congress, the new programs will only lead employers to vets—it can’t make them hire.
- Hiring Heroes Act (House): The House introduced a bill in May that would require all troops to receive job training before returning home. The House passed it, but the Senate has yet to take up the bill. Instead, they’ll roll it into what Obama proposed in the American Jobs Act, and an unrelated repeal of a 3-percent tax withholding for businesses who contract with the government. The amendment will require the bill to be sent back to the House, where Obama-proposed legislation is usually met less favorably.
- Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits (White House and Senate): Without regard to the House’s proposal, Obama’s American Jobs Act includes up to $5,600 in tax incentives for companies hiring long-term unemployed veterans—double that if the veteran is disabled from service. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will introduce the bill to the Senate this week. Unlike its failed predecessor bills taken from the American Jobs Act, the incentives are paid for without raising taxes on millionaires, making it more likely to pass. But the road will be harder when the House sees its Hiring Heroes bill returned with many an amendment.
- Physician Assistant Training (White House): In a string of executive orders to boost job creation, President Obama announced that a program that trains veterans to become physician assistants would get priority in federal funding. But the scope of the program is unclear. When the initiative was announced, White House officials could not say how many it would reach.
- Joining Forces Initiative (first and second ladies): Jill Biden and Michelle Obama took on the issue of unemployment among vets and their spouses this fall in their “Joining Forces Initiative.” The goal is to connect 100,000 unemployed members of military families with jobs, and last month, the first and second ladies announced an initiative by large private companies to hire 25,000. But none of the companies is bound to their word. A spokesman for the group said, “They don’t have to hire, but they set the objective.”