It's an initiative long overdue, especially here in Southwest Florida where unemployment rates remain high and returning vets must compete for scarce jobs while carrying the baggage of remaining on inactive and active reserve time as well as, for some, service-related health issues or disabilities.
The White House reported 1 million recently returned service personnel are unemployed and their 13.3 percent jobless rate in June is higher than the population at large.
Most vets were employed prior to military duty in sectors hardest hit but the recession - construction, mining, manufacturing, transportation and utilities. The White House estimates another 1 million vets will come home by 2016, adding to the number of those looking for work in an economy that in Southwest Florida is stagnant with little in the way of job creation. Many businesses are just holding their own.
President Obama's "Commitment to Employing America's Veteran's" plan calls for a comprehensive plan to lower veteran unemployment and ensure that service members leave the military career-ready through hiring tax credits, private sector commitments and reforms that improve the way military personnel are prepared, trained and educated for life after the military.
The plan outlined by the White House includes:
n Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits for firms hiring unemployed veterans. A maximum credit of $2,400 for every short-term unemployed hire and $4,800 for every long-term unemployed hire.
n The Wounded Warriors Tax Credit would increase the existing tax credit to a maximum of $9,600 for firms hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been unemployed long-term per veteran and continue the existing credit for all veterans with a service-connected disability to a maximum of $4,800.
n Challenge to the private sector to hire 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by 2013.
n The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, working with other agencies and the President's economic and domestic policy teams, will lead a new task force to develop reforms to ensure every member of the service receives training, education and credentials needed to transition to the civilian workforce or pursue higher education.
"These reforms will include the design of a 'Reverse Boot Camp,' which will extend the transition period to give servicemembers more counseling and guidance and leave them career-ready,: according to the White House.
n The Department of Labor will establish an initiative to deliver an enhanced career development and job search service package to transitioning veterans at their local One-Stop Career Centers.
The goal is to train 100,000 unemployed vets or their spouses by the end of 2013. Given the White House estimated 1 million vets who likely qualify, that's less than 10 percent of those affected.
But some big names are already jumping on board, including Microsoft, which says it will offer 10,000 technology training and certification packages to vets over a two-year period, as well as Siemens, Honeywell, Humana, JP Morgan Chase and AT&T. Lockheed Martin, Hewlett Packard and Walmart have committed to job fairs, mentoring programs and funding initiatives, according to the White House.
We hope these initiatives trickle down and our homecoming vets, the young men and women who have done their duty and served their country, stand on an at least equal playing field here at home despite the fact they may still owe their Uncle Sam a weekend a month and two weeks a year, although they may have come home in not quite the prime physical condition in which they left.
They're ready and willing to work - and they're proven workers trained by the best to follow direction and push themselves hard.
No matter your politics, party or fiscal philosophy, this is one initiative we can all embrace. Give a vet a chance at that job opening. It's good business.
And it's the right thing to do.
- Gasparilla Gazette editorial