On Friday, President Obama announced his plan to provide incentives to businesses as part of an effort to put returning service men and women back to work in the private sector.
It's an initiative that's long overdue, especially here in Southwest Florida where unemployment rates remain high and returning vets find themselves trying to compete for scarce jobs while carrying the baggage of remaining inactive and active reserve time as well as, for some, service-related health issues or disabilities.
According to numbers provided by the White House, a million recently returned service personnel are unemployed and their jobless rate, 13.3 percent in June, is higher than the population at large. Most, pre-enlistment, were in employed in sectors hardest hit but the recession - construction, mining, manufacturing, transportation and utilities. The White House estimates that another 1 million vets will be coming home through 2016, adding to the numbers of those looking for work in an economy that, at least here in Southwest Florida, is stagnant, with little in the way of job creation and many businesses just holding their own.
President Obama's "Commitment to Employing America's Veteran's plan call for a number of things.
According to the fact sheet provided by the White House Press Office on Friday, the president's plan strives to "provide a comprehensive plan to lower veteran unemployment and ensure that servicemembers leave the military career-ready through hiring tax credits, private sector commitments, and reforms that improve the way we prepare, train, and educate servicemembers for life after the military."
Specifically, the plan, as outlined in the fact sheet, calls for:
n Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits
This provision calls for a new Returning Heroes Tax Credit for firms that hire unemployed veterans - a maximum credit of $2,400 for every short-term unemployed hire and $4,800 for every long-term unemployed hire. The Wounded Warriors Tax Credit would increase the existing tax credit for firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been unemployed long-term to a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran and continue the existing credit for all other veterans with a service-connected disability to a maximum credit of $4,800.
n Challenge to the Private Sector to Hire or Train 100,000 Unemployed Veterans or Their Spouses by the End of 2013.
The President will challenge businesses to commit to hire or provide training to unemployed veterans and military spouses.
n Presidential Call for a Career-Ready Military.
The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, working closely with other agencies and the President's economic and domestic policy teams, will lead a new task force to develop reforms to ensure that every member of the service receives the training, education, and credentials they need to transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education, the White House release states.
"These reforms will include the design of a 'Reverse Boot Camp,' which will extend the transition period to give servicemembers more counseling and guidance and leave them career-ready," according to the White House.
n Transition to the Private Sector.
The Department of Labor will establish an initiative to deliver "an enhanced career development and job search service package to transitioning veterans at their local One-Stop Career Centers," officials said.
The goal of the plan? To get 100,000 unemployed vets, or their spouses, trained by the end of 2013.
Given that there are currently, by the White House's own numbers, 1 million vets who likely qualify, that's not a big number, it is, in fact, less than 10 percent of those affected, when you consider that the initiative is also aimed at spouses.
But there is a need - and there already are some big names on board, including Microsoft, which says it will offer 10,000 technology training and certification packages to vets over a two-year period, as well as Siemens, Honeywell, Humana, JP Morgan Chase and AT&T. Others, including Lockheed Martin, Hewlett Packard and Walmart are committing to job fairs, mentoring programs and funding initiatives, according to the White House release.
Good and good. What we hope is that these initiatives trickle down and that our homecoming vets, the young men and women who have done their duty and served their country, stand on an at least equal playing field here at home -despite the fact they may still owe their Uncle Sam a weekend a month and two weeks a year, although they may have come home in not quite the prime physical condition in which they left.
They're ready and willing to work - and they're proven workers, trained by the best to follow direction and push themselves farther than they ever thought they could go.
No matter your politics, party, or fiscal philosophy, we think this is one initiative we can all embrace. Give a vet a chance at that job opening. It's good business.
And it's the right thing to do.
- Breeze editorial