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House passes veterans jobs bill

WASHINGTON -- After a day's delay, the House overwhelmingly approved the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act on Wednesday evening, a move supporters hope sets the stage for a veterans job bill being signed into law in the next few weeks.

The measure passed 418-6. A similar measure is pending in the Senate, but House leaders and veterans groups said they expect Wednesday's House vote to speed up work for on a compromise measure reconciling the two.

In a statement, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., called Wednesday's vote "a strong message that we need to get America’s veterans back to work."

"(The bill) garnered bipartisan support for legislation that is comprehensive, thoughtful, and provides real solutions to getting America’s veterans out of the unemployment lines and into the workforce. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to have a veterans jobs bill in front of the President by Veterans Day.”

The House legislation 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. Funding for the measure -- VA home loan fees that were set to expire next year -- drew criticism from committee ranking member Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., but most members ignored those concerns.

UPDATE: Shortly after the vote, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., issued this statement:

“I look forward to working with Chairman Miller to build around both of our efforts to start putting veterans to work. This is an issue that should transcend partisanship and remind us that doing right by our veterans always comes first. We have made tremendous investments in training and supporting those in uniform and simply patting them on the back for their service and sending them into the working world alone isn’t good enough. We must improve the opportunities and resources available to our veterans to help them find the dignity and financial security that a job helps provide.”

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