Bennet Applauds Senate Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Put Veterans Back to Work
A bipartisan bill passed by the Senate today to put veterans back to work includes several key elements of the “Better Serving Those Who Have Served” report presented to Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet earlier this week by participants in his Colorado Veterans Forum.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act aims to lower the unemployment rate among veterans with a combination of expanded and enhanced education and career training, support to make transition to the civilian workforce more seamless and tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, among other measures. The bill, which Bennet has cosponsored, passed the Senate 94-1.
“Our troops make up 1 percent of the nation’s population, but they have 100 percent of the responsibility to fight to defend our freedom. Americans want to keep the promises we’ve made to support them as many transition to the civilian workforce,” said Bennet. “I am glad to already see some of the elements that came out of the Colorado Veterans Forum included in this bill, which will help put veterans back to work.”
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act includes three major elements outlined in the “Better Serving Those Who Have Served” report. The bill would:
- Improve the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) by making it mandatory in most cases for service members returning to civilian status, upgrading career counseling options and helping ensure the program is tailored for the 21st century job market. The report recommended reforms to TAP to better serve the needs of returning service members.
- Provide unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to one-year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits to obtain a degree or certification in high-demand sectors and certain disabled veterans with up to one-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits. The report recommended improving education and training opportunities for veterans and promoting use of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E).
- Direct the Department of Labor to begin a process to make it easier for exiting service members to get professional licenses and certifications related to their skills and training. The report recommended easing the licensing burden for exiting service members trying to translate their Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) to the civilian world.
Approximately 160,000 active duty service members and 110,000 National Guardsmen and Reservists transition to civilian life each year. We’ve thanked them for their service, but for far too long, we have not provided them the tools they need to transition from the military into a difficult job market.
Despite the skills our veterans have to offer, the unemployment rate for veterans climbed from 9.8 percent in August this year to 12.1 percent in October – about three percentage points higher than their non-veteran peers. Last year, the unemployment rate for young veterans age 18 to 24 spiked to 21.1 percent. Currently, there are nearly 1 million unemployed veterans in the United States.
In addition to the elements included in the report, the bill also allows service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation to facilitate a more seamless transition, strengthens employment protections for member of the National Guard and Reserve and provides tax incentives for hiring veterans and disabled veterans who have been looking for work for six months or more. This fiscally responsible bill is entirely paid for.
To read the “Better Serving Those Who Have Served” report, click here.