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U.S. Senate approves tax credits for companies that hire veterans

In a rare bipartisan effort, members of the U.S. Senate voted Thursday, before returning to their districts to attend Veterans Day ceremonies, to approve a portion of Obama’s American Jobs Act that provides tax breaks to companies that hire veterans.

Tom Harkin

“It is deeply disturbing that one in five veterans under the age of 25 is unemployed. The men and women who fought for our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan have to fight for a job when they return home — and the odds are stacked against them” Harkin said Thursday during a conference call with reporters.

“We have a solemn obligation to do right by the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk for our nation.”

Government officials estimate that roughly 240,000 veterans who served in the Middle East are currently unemployed. The bill approved by the Senate provides tax breaks of up to $9,600 to businesses that put them to work.

The tax breaks were included in the Obama administration’s American Jobs Act, a $447 billion package that was wholly refused by Republican lawmakers last month. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says the initiative dates back to May 2010 and this past January, when he and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus introduced and reintroduced the Veterans Employment Transition Act, or the VETs Jobs bill.

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/chuck_grassley_125.jpgChuck Grassley

“These men and women are extremely capable,” Grassley said. “They have a lot of skills to offer in the workplace. The legislation that Senator Baucus and I put together clears some bureaucratic hurdles and adds a financial incentive to encourage employers to seek out veterans.”

The legislation reinstates a tax credit that expired at the end of 2010, and makes it easier for veterans and small businesses to use. The credits will range from $2,400 to $9,600 in 2012, depending on the veteran hired. Tax exempt organizations are eligible for the credit.

  • $9,600 for veterans with service-connected disabilities unemployed for 6 months or longer in the past year
  • $5,600 for veterans unemployed for 6 months or longer in the past year
  • $4,800 for service-disabled veterans hired within 1 year of being discharged
  • $2,400 for veterans who do not fit any of the above categories and are unemployed for between 4 weeks and 6 months in the past year

Any veteran who has left active duty in the past five years who has discharge paperwork showing 180 days of qualified active duty would be eligible for the credit. This would include those men and women who were activated by their states as members of the National Guard. The bill also helps service members market themselves to prospective employers by requiring the military to educate service members about how the credit works.

The only senator to vote against the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, who indicated the measure gave veterans an unfair advantage.

“I cannot support this tax credit because I do not believe the government should privilege one American over another when it comes to work,” DeMint said on the floor Thursday.

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/dave_loebsack_125.jpgDave Loebsack

The U.S. House is expected to take up the measure next week, and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack is optimistic that the bill will be quickly passed.

“Tomorrow, we set aside time to honor the men and women who have served our great country in uniform. As we pause to pay tribute to them, we must also remember that we have a moral obligation to serve our troops and veterans with the same dedication and honor with which they serve us. Yet our troops are returning home from the battlefield to face the same economic reality that families across our country are facing,” Loebsack said in a Thursday statement.

“The World War II generation returned home and became part of our nation’s economic recovery. Today, as we work to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it is up to all of us as a grateful nation to ensure that those who have fought for us overseas do not have to fight for a job here at home. This generation of veterans can and will be part of our economic recovery, but we must give them the opportunity to do so. This bipartisan legislation demonstrates the progress we can make when both sides of the aisle work together.”

Two members of Iowa’s federal delegation are veterans. Harkin served as an active-duty jet pilot in the U.S. Navy from 1962 to 1967. U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell served 20 years in the U.S. Army, including two one-year tours of duty as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

According to a January 2011 report by Jennifer Rizzo of CNN, only 20 percent of the members of Congress have served in the military — 25 from the Senate and 90 from the House. It is the lowest level since World War II.

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