Raymond Bates is a disabled veteran of the 101st Airborne Division and now works as a veterans employment representative for the state Department of Labor and Industry and PA CareerLink.
On the eve of Veterans Day, Bates joined U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13th dist.) at American Legion William D. Oxley Post 133, at Torresdale Avenue and Decatur Street in Holmesburg, to push for passage of legislation to help veterans find work.
“Please go out of your way and look for veterans first,” Bates urged employers.
Schwartz, whose father served in the Korean War, held a news conference on Nov. 10 to discuss the Hiring Our Veterans Act, which she sponsored. Andy Desmond, commander of Oxley Post 133, was also in attendance.
The measure would increase the maximum tax credit from $4,800 to $9,600 that is available to employers that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been unemployed for six months or more.
Additionally, it would provide a $2,400 credit for employers that hire any veteran who has been unemployed for at least four weeks. There would be a $5,600 credit for hiring veterans who have been out of work for at least six months.
In his American Jobs Act, President Barack Obama has called for Congress to enact legislation that would accomplish the goals of Schwartz’s bill.
The House of Representatives last week passed the VOW to Hire American Heroes Act. The Senate passed it the same day as the Schwartz news conference. And Obama signed it into law on Monday.
“This is a huge victory for our brave men and women and their families who have sacrificed so much for our nation and our freedom,” Schwartz said.
Now that the VOW act is law and includes Schwartz’s goals, the Hiring Our Veterans Act will not be needed.
Jobs, though, are needed.
There are an estimated 34,000 unemployed veterans in Pennsylvania. The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is 12.1 percent.
“We have to be able to help our veterans,” Schwartz said.
In 2007, Schwartz introduced the Veterans Employment and Respect Act, which later became law. It gave tax credits to businesses that hired service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In her opinion, veterans bring a set of unique skills, experience and training that add to companies. Their service should be rewarded, she added.
“I think it helps our employers as well,” she said.
Veterans deserve to be honored every Nov. 11, the congresswoman said, but also in ways that allow them to work at stable jobs when they return home so they can support their families and regain their footing in civilian life.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America all supported the measure.
“This is important legislation,” Schwartz said.
Bates said the leadership skills that veterans gain are “bar none, the best in the country.” He said veterans learn teamwork and to be on time. The unemployed just need a break to bring their military skills to the civilian workforce.
Obstacles to passage of the bill include a divided Congress, a country mired in debt and an upcoming presidential election.
Even with the bill signed into law, employers hesitant to hire in this difficult economy would have to be persuaded to add to their work force.
The nation might be continuing to recover from the most recent recession, but there have been little job gains.
A full economic recovery would open up job possibilities for everyone, including unemployed veterans.
“We can surely fill these positions,” Bates said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org