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November 10, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Senate passes veterans jobs act backed by Murray

Posted by Kyung M. Song

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a jobs program for veterans to help them find work, starting from before they leave service and ending with tax credits for their new employers.

The provision, VOW to Hire Heros Act, was tucked into bill concerning payment withholding for government contractors.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted the amendment after melding portions of President Obama's jobs plan, a veterans-hiring act introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in May and a similar bill sponsored by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., which passed that chamber in October by a 418-6 vote.

The amended legislation passed with 95 yeas; four senators did not vote, while Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, did not take a position. The House will vote on the bill after it returns from recess next week.

Murray, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said too many newly discharged veterans struggle to fit into the civilian workforce.

“This is a huge victory for our veterans who have returned home only to have to fight to find work to support themselves and their families," Murray said in a statement. “Our veterans have the drive, discipline, and self confidence to succeed in any workplace. But for too long at the end of their career we’ve patted them on the back for their service and pushed them out into the job market alone."

Joblessness among veterans as a whole is lower than with the general population. Veterans' unemployment rate in October was 7.7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That compares to 9 percent for the nation, and is far below the unemployment rate for blacks, Hispanics and teenagers. The jobless rate for veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, is higher at 12.1 percent.

The Hire Heros Act would provide veterans with comprehensive transition assistance, ranging from resume writing to an extra year of training for high-demand fields like technology and trucking. In addition, companies would get up to $5,600 in tax credits for each veteran hired, and up to $9,600 for a disabled veteran, as long as he or she has been job hunting for at least six months.

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