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WASHINGTON — Programs to find jobs and housing for former servicemembers would see a slight increase in the proposed 2006 federal budget, delighting veterans groups.

The Department of Labor, which oversees those programs, faces a 4.4 percent cut in its funding under President Bush’s plan, and officials from the groups believed the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service programs would see similar cuts.

Instead, plans call for an $1.5 million increase from the $222.8 million allocated in 2005.

Money in those programs goes toward things like job training for former and outgoing military personnel, free transitional housing for homeless veterans, and legal advice for reservists and guardsmen who have trouble returning to their jobs after deployment.

And even though the increase was less than 1 percent, it was a pleasant surprise to Jim MaGill, director of employment policy for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“The mood with domestic spending this year was all doom and gloom,” he said. “I expected this to be flat-lined at best.”

Many civilian job assistance programs saw dramatic cuts, like the 40 percent cut proposed for the office of disability employment policy.

“I think this shows the administration has recognized an obligation to those who have served, and especially to those who are just recently veterans,” MaGill said.

David Greineder, national legislative assistant for AMVETS, said the labor department programs offer an important service to recently returned troops.

“When our guardsmen and reservists come back, they want to see their families and be with them,” he said. “But we want to make sure they know what their employment rights are too, when they get to that. We’ve heard a lot of success stories with these programs.”

About $162 million of the proposed budget would go to state grants through the Jobs for Veterans Act. Among the recipients of those grants last year were groups like the United States Veterans Initiative, which provides housing and employment assistance for homeless veterans, and Workforce Essentials, a Tennessee-based group which provides job placement services.

Frederico Juarbe Jr., assistant secretary for veterans employment and training at the department, called the programs a way to prepare veterans for their future.

“These men and women have served their country proudly and we can’t leave them behind,” he said.


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