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Denham bill looks to hire vets

POSTED November 25, 2011 9:59 p.m.

A new law, championed by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater) through the House of Representatives, will aim to put thousands of unemployed veterans back to work.

The VOW to Hire Heroes act, a bipartisan, bicameral measure signed into law by President Barack Obama this week, will offer additional training, transition assistance, and tax credits to veterans.

“With thousands of troops returning home before the end of the year and hundreds of thousands of unemployed veterans already here at home, it is increasingly important that we honor our promise to our veterans and their families,” said Denham, who serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and is a veteran of Desert Storm. “We must uphold our commitment to ensuring a seamless transition to civilian life for all our veterans.”

According to the Labor Department, there are nearly 3.4 million job openings in the United States today. But many workers – including the nearly 900,000 unemployed veterans in the United States – lack the necessary skills or training to hold those positions.

The new law offers an additional  one year of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to nearly 100,000 unemployed veterans, allowing them to train for high-demand jobs from trucking to tech. Disabled veterans will receive up to one year of VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits.

The law also requires the Department of Labor to look at how military skills can translate to civilian sector jobs, providing an easier path to licenses and certifications needed for civilian work.

To help troops transition back to civilian life after service, the law will make mandatory the Transition Assistance Program. The longstanding, previously-optional program will also be updated, offering 21st century career counseling, job hunting skills, and individual-focused knowledge of how to reintegrate with civilian life.

“Many times the struggles of our service members are forgotten,” Denham said. “This can no longer be a reality, our veterans are some of the most committed and skilled people in our nation and we need to empower our returning troops to use the skills they have to get jobs.”

A change to the federal job application process would allow service members to begin applying for civil service posts even before leaving their military posts. The shift could prevent many veterans from going on unemployment by effectively shortening the oftentimes lengthy federal hiring process.

In hopes of encouraging more businesses to hire veterans, the bill offers a tax credit to businesses hiring veterans – $5,600. Those hiring disabled veterans will receive a $9,600 tax credit.

Those tax credits were of particular importance to Bill Lawson, national president of Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Paralyzed Veterans of America. But Lawson noted that the new law still requires the cooperation of local business owners to put veterans back to work.

“Paralyzed Veterans of America is very pleased with the passage of these tax credits and other vital measures to help our jobless veterans,” Lawson said. “We now encourage businesses to take the next important step — to create more jobs and hire veterans.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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