As Obama unveils new veterans initiatives, lawmakers reach compromise on jobs bill
WASHINGTON — Saying he’s frustrated by congressional inaction on his jobs proposals, President Barack Obama on Monday unveiled a new slate of veterans hiring initiatives, including personalized career counseling and a job-search site for veterans.
“Connecting these veterans to the jobs they deserve isn’t just the right thing to do for our veterans. It’s the right thing to do for America,” Obama said in a White House press conference, flanked by representatives from veterans support groups. “More than 850,000 veterans remain unemployed. Too many can’t find a job worthy of their tremendous talents. … It’s not right, and it doesn’t make sense.”
The event was the third time in less than three weeks that the president has spoken publicly on employment issues for former servicemembers.
It’s also part of a broader push by the White House — dubbed the “We can’t wait” tour — to shift pressure onto congressional Republicans who oppose Obama’s jobs bills, painting the delay as culpable for the country’s lingering unemployment problems.
Officials acknowledged that none of Monday’s initiatives will create new jobs for veterans. The goal, said White House director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy Matt Flavin, is to give veterans easier access to existing positions and to highlight the need for action by Congress.
Since August, Obama has been pushing a slate of tax credits for hiring veterans as part of his overarching jobs plan. Those credits — up to $5,600 for hiring an unemployed veteran, and up to $9,600 for hiring a wounded veteran — will also be included in a separate veterans employment bill up for vote in the Senate this week.
As Obama made his announcement, House and Senate leaders said they had reached a compromise on that measure, an amended version of House Republican veterans jobs bill passed last month.
In addition to Obama’s tax credits, the bill makes the military’s Transition Assistance Program mandatory for separating troops, gives disabled veterans an extra year of vocational rehabilitation benefits, creates a job training program for unemployed older veterans, and establishes a nationwide licensing and credentialing standard for veterans seeking trade jobs.
In a statement, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairs of their chamber’s veterans committees, said the legislation will boost employment opportunities for veterans.
“Today, we are putting aside politics and putting America’s veterans first,” Miller said. “This is the how the process should work.”
The bill must still be approved by both chambers before it can be sent to Obama to become law, but congressional staffers said they expect that to happen this month.
The White House initiatives announced Monday include a “Veterans Gold Card” which gives access to six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling trough the Department of Labor. Job seekers can use those services through that agency’s 3,000 career centers nationwide.
The department also launched a pair of websites to help in that employment search. The first, My Next Move for Veterans, offers tools to translate military skills and occupations into civilian jobs.
The second, through the National Resource Directory, includes more than 500,000 job postings across multiple employment sites tagged specifically as veteran-friendly positions.
Last month, White House officials announced plans to go around Congress by instructing community health centers to hire veterans, and fast-track military medics into physician assistants training programs.
All of the veterans initiatives are available online at www.WhiteHouse.gov/vets.
The unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has remained several percentage points above the national unemployment rate, and could get worse in coming years. Defense Department officials estimate that more than 1 million servicemembers will leave the military by 2016.