Bloomberg News

A Small Tax Change Can Bring U.S. Veterans Needed Jobs: View

November 18, 2011

Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- It’s admittedly difficult to argue for jobs legislation that costs more than $1 billion, won’t produce many new jobs and will clutter an overly complex tax code.

Yet when it comes to veterans, it’s the right thing to do. We applaud the Senate for passing a measure yesterday to provide tax credits to employers who hire veterans. We hope the House will follow suit, giving President Barack Obama the opportunity to sign into law a small piece of his $447 billion jobs bill.

Here’s why. Unemployment among veterans who served after Sept. 11, 2001, is about 12 percent -- significantly higher than the nation’s overall unemployment rate of 9 percent. In addition to the challenges posed by lengthy deployments -- and long absences from the workforce -- veterans are more likely to have disabilities and sometimes have trouble matching military skills to civilian tasks.

The Obama administration, which has made helping military families a high-profile priority, this week initiated a Veterans Job Bank that allows employers and veterans to seek each other out using search filters, including zip codes and military occupation codes. The program, which began with 500,000 job postings, complements other low-cost public and private efforts to give veterans a boost in the job market.

Gunnar Counselman, who served in the Marines before starting Fidelis Inc., a veterans’ job-placement company, says dozens of employers, from PepsiCo Inc. to Facebook Inc., are eager to hire more veterans. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, hires former military officers as store managers, tapping their expertise in logistics and leadership. Amazon.com Inc. recruits veterans to run its distribution centers. Lockheed Martin Corp. recruits former military information-technology specialists.

New tax credits will provide further incentives for employers. A $4,800 credit is already in place for hiring a veteran with a service-related disability. The Senate measure would provide up to $9,600 for hiring a disabled veteran who’s been out of work for six months or more, up to $5,600 for hiring any veteran unemployed for six months or more, and up to $2,400 for hiring any veteran unemployed for more than four weeks.

We have no illusion that these credits are going to create lots of new jobs. But they will encourage employers to favor veterans when hiring. In a robust, growing economy, that might be an unnecessary accommodation to returning military personnel. However, after a decade of brutal warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, where fighting men and women have served grueling multiple deployments, it seems a small and entirely just recompense.

--Editors: George Anders, Francis Wilkinson

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To contact the Bloomberg View editorial board: view@bloomberg.net.


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