(Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch)
WASHINGTON — Embracing veterans, President Barack Obama yesterday urged Republicans in Congress to “ put country before party” and support new ways of helping former members of the military find jobs in a sluggish economy.
“Our veterans did their jobs. It’s time for Congress to do theirs. It’s time for them to put country before party,” Obama said in the Rose Garden, flanked by leaders of veterans groups.
Ahead of Veterans Day, Obama pressed lawmakers to approve tax credits for businesses to hire unemployed veterans or injured veterans who have been out of work. The Senate is expected to consider the measures this week.
Obama said the administration would act unilaterally to help veterans match their skills to job openings and access job banks. He said veterans could download a “Veteran Gold Card” issued by the Labor Department that allows former military members to get six months of personalized case management, assessment and counseling at career centers.
The White House estimates the gold card could help more than 200,000 unemployed veterans who served after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
“Just as you fought for us, we are going to keep fighting for you,” Obama said.
Obama pushed anew for the package of tax credits of up to $5,600 to businesses that hire a veteran who has been unemployed for six months or more. Another tax credit would provide $9,600 for companies that hire an injured vet who has been unemployed that long.
The Senate is expected to take up the tax credits in combination with a measure to repeal a proposed requirement to withhold 3 percent of payments to federal, state and some local government contractors with unpaid taxes.
Obama noted that when he proposed the tax incentives for veterans during his jobs speech before Congress, lawmakers from both sides stood and applauded. “I expect both sides of the aisle to stand up for our veterans and vote in the affirmative,” he said.
With American soldiers leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 million service members are expected to depart the military by 2016 and enter the job market. Advocates for veterans say many returning soldiers struggle to translate their skills into the civilian work force and that some companies are reluctant to hire veterans because of fears about mental-health issues.