Veterans preference

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is mak­ing it worth em­ploy­ers’ while to hire mil­it­ary vet­er­ans.

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 twar­

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