by Kurt Ronn, president and founder, HRworks
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has been emphasizing veteran and disabled veteran hiring. There is some good news. There are new incentives for employers to hire veterans, which line up well in support of federal contract military outreach programs. The bad news is, there aren’t enough jobs.
President Obama signed the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (VOW to Hire Heroes Act) into law on November 21, 2011, as part of the jobs bill. The new law provides employers with incentives to hire veterans.
There are different levels of tax credits available: a $2,400 tax credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than 4 weeks, but less than 6 months; up to $5,600 credit for hiring veterans who have been unemployed for more than 6 months, as well as a tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with serviceconnected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than 6 months.
In addition to the tax credits, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act provides educational and enhanced transition assistance. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) offers mandatory assistance for servicemembers transitioning to civilian life with a focus on career counseling, résumé-writing workshops, interview skills, and other employment-related services.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act will expand education and training opportunities for older veterans by providing 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to 1 year of additional Montgomery GI benefits toward education or training programs at community colleges or technical schools.
Disabled veterans can receive up to 1 year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.
In addition, the new law provides servicemembers early access to the federal employment process before separation in an attempt to facilitate a seamless transition from the military to federal agencies’ jobs.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs website released information on the new law at http://veterans.house.gov/vow. The title of the website page announcing the law is “Comprehensive Legislation to End Veteran Unemployment.” Wouldn’t it be great if it were true?
As of October 2011 there are 14 million people unemployed in the United States, roughly 9% of the population, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The actual number of unemployed is higher if you count those who will reenter the workforce as the economy recovers.
Within the unemployment numbers there are nearly 900,000 unemployed veterans. The U.S. Department of Labor unemployment report shows that in October
2011, the average unemployment rate among all veterans was 7.7% and 12.1% for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Compounding this veteran situation, an additional estimated 40,000 servicemembers are expected to return from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, and defense budget cuts are likely. Underemployment is estimated to be around 20% of the workforce.
Regardless of how you count the employment statistics, the unemployment numbers are staggering.
President Obama stated at the VOW to Hire Heroes Act signing, “Today, because Democrats and Republicans came together, I’m proud to sign those proposals into law. And I urge every business owner out there who’s hiring to hire a veteran right away.” If it were only that easy, the problem would be resolved.
Unless the government decides to hire every veteran, there is no such thing as legislation to end veteran unemployment.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs website states “According to the Labor Department, there are 3.4 million job openings right now in the United States.” So if every open job was filled, there would still be at least 10 million people unemployed. It takes private sector employers creating jobs to end unemployment.
The tax credits and additional educational support are positive steps to enhance veteran selection by employers. Employers need to take advantage of the tax credits. Additional training can be helpful, and government funding will continue to support employment growth in the education sector.
However, it is important to be realistic when communicating to unemployed veterans. There is no such thing as “comprehensive legislation to end veteran employment.”
Jobs are created by people and companies taking risk and innovating, not by legislation. Employers need to vow to grow, vow to create, vow to train, and then vow to hire. When they do, consider a veteran.
Kurt Ronn is the president and founder of HRworks, an award-winning national recruitment firm that helps companies acquire talent with an expertise in federally compliant, executive, large-scale project and military recruitment. For more information, visit HRworks.com.