Our Opinion: Help veterans make transition from service to workforce

Veterans Day this year marks a flurry of activity — in both the executive and legislative branches — designed to improve the job market for military veterans.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a jobs provision for veterans and advanced it to the House.

And President Obama this week announced a new website — MyNextMove.org/vets — to help veterans adapt their military skills to civilian occupations. (See the column by U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis).

Existing unemployment statistics for military veterans are grim. The Obama administration reports about 240,000, or 12 percent, of veterans who have served since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are unemployed.

And Solis adds that in Missouri, the jobless rate for veterans is 7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bill being considered in Congress includes some reasonable components. They include:

• Tax credits up to $9,600 — twice the current amount — for companies that hire disabled veterans who have been jobless at least six months.

• New tax credits of up to $5,600 for employers that hire veterans who have been job hunting for at least six months, and up to $2,400 for those unemployed more than four weeks.

• Mandatory career counseling and other job training for many troops leaving the military, as well as benefits for older veterans for up to a year of education or training at community colleges or technical schools.

• Allowing troops to begin applying for civilian jobs in the federal government before leaving the military.

The tax breaks and training programs are estimated to costs just over $1 billion, to be paid by extending a fee charged by the Veterans Affairs Department to back home loans.

A provision of the bill we believe needs further debate would repeal a law — which does not become effective until 2013 — requiring federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of their payments to contractors.

The law was enacted five years ago, after government investigators found thousands of contractors owed billions of dollars in overdue taxes.

Repealing the law is expected to cost the government $11.2 billion in the next 10 years, and some economists contend it would have an negligible impact on job creation.

The repeal provision appears more beneficial to tax scofflaws than military personnel, a departure from the tax incentives and training programs aimed at responsible employers looking to hire jobless veterans.

This Veterans Day, let us honor our military veterans by helping them transform their valiant service into productive work.

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