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House lawmakers tackle new veterans jobs bill

WASHINGTON — At least one jobs bill appears poised to pass Congress this year: The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the Veteran Opportunity to Work Act afternoon, and supporters are optimistic it could become law before Veterans Day next month.

The legislation, sponsored by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., would overhaul the military’s Transition Assistance Program, update job protection laws for deployed guardsmen and reservists and create a job training program for unemployed older veterans. It’s expected to gain bipartisan support, despite funding concerns raised by House Democrats.

The move comes days after the Labor Department announced that unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans spiked again in September, hitting 11.7 percent. That’s well above the national rate of 9.1 percent, and the overall veteran’s unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.

Both Miller’s bill and a similar measure pending in the Senate include initiatives targeted at younger veterans, and a closer examination of licensing and certification programs that are preventing servicemembers from transferring their skills to the civilian sector.

Both lawmakers and veterans groups say they’re confident that the two measures can be reconciled, but the House bill is the first to move ahead. Officials say they hope that spurs action in the Senate, with a goal of getting the bill to the president’s desk before Veterans Day next month.

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