From ABC News’ Devin Dwyer and Ann Compton:
President Obama today announced three initiatives to help unemployed military veterans, including the issuance of a “veterans gold card” that will provide access to case management and job counseling to help in finding work.
The unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans stood at 12.1 percent in October, according to the Labor Department, a level Obama says is “not right” and “doesn’t make sense.”
“Just think about the skills these veterans have acquired, often at a very young age,” Obama said in remarks from the Rose Garden where he was flanked by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and other veterans groups. “This is exactly the kind of leadership and responsibility that every American business should be competing to attract.”
Obama said new job search tools, provided through the Labor Department using existing funds, would immediately help veterans transition to the civilian workforce, though they offer no guarantee of jobs. Several of the resources, which Obama first discussed in a speech at Navy Yard on Aug. 5, are already in place in some form.
A so-called “veteran gold card” would allow post-9/11 veterans to receive six months of case management, skills assessments and career counseling at one of the roughly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers run by the Labor Department. The administration says more than 200,000 unemployed veterans are eligible for the benefits.
The Labor Department has also launched two new websites: My Next Move for Veterans, which will provide information on salaries, apprenticeships and training programs, and the Veterans Job Bank, which currently lists 500,000 job postings companies have tailored for veterans.
Obama said the steps were meant to demonstrate the urgency with which his administration is tackling the jobs crisis for veterans.
“We can’t simply wait for Congress to do its job,” he said, referring to his American Jobs Act, which includes benefits for veterans but has stalled in Congress. “As commander in chief, I won’t wait nor will I let politics get in the way of making sure that veterans share in the opportunity that they defend. If Congress won’t act, I will.”
Obama also urged the Senate to approve tax breaks for businesses which hire veterans, a component of his jobs plan which the Senate is expected to take up this week.
The Returning Heroes Tax Credit would provide companies that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran. The Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, an existing tax credit, would double for firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities to a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.
“I expect both sides of the aisle to stand up for our veterans and vote in the affirmative,” Obama said of the upcoming Senate vote. ”There’s no good reason to oppose this bill, not one. Our veterans did their jobs. It’s time for Congress to do theirs.”
Republicans say, contrary to the president’s characterization, that they have been “doing their job” acting on behalf of veterans to boost their employment. The Republican-controlled House voted last month, for example, to overwhelmingly approve the Veterans Opportunity Work Act, which would provide training and job search assistance to returning veterans. It has been stalled in the Senate.
In August, Obama announced a campaign to promote private sector hiring of veterans, setting a goal of businesses hiring 100,000 veterans by the end of 2013. To date, more than 12,000 veterans have been hired under the initiative, according to the administration, with pledges to train or hire 25,000 more.