With lawmakers and Veterans alike looking on, President Barack Obama signed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act into law Monday.
In a statement before signing the bill, the president commented that there are currently 850,000 Veterans looking for work. The highest unemployment rates are among young Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The bill, which was approved by both chambers with strong, bipartisan support, seeks to better prepare troops for the transition to civilian life and the civilian workforce, to provide tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed Veterans, and provides educational assistance for Veterans who no longer qualify for G.I. Bill benefits.
“The men and women of our military don’t just fight for each other, they don’t just fight for their units or for their commanders; they fight for every single American, . . .” the president said before signing the legislation. “And just as they fight for us on the battlefield, it’s up to us to fight for our troops and their families when they come home. And . . . today a deeply grateful nation is doing right by our military and paying back just a little bit of what we owe to our veterans.”
Although this law may not go as far as some would like (Bob Filner, ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was vocal in criticizing the fact that the legislation would only provide training, but not actually create any jobs), any step taken to try to combat the rising Veteran unemployment rate is an important one.
This debate over this legislation has given the issue of Veteran unemployment a national spotlight. It has forced lawmakers and the general public to discuss the reasons behind the rising numbers – and it has much more to do with a weak economy.
The immediate impact of this new law remains to be seen, but hopefully these measures will ensure that when our troops come home, they are more prepared to enter the civilian job market. A common theme in the coverage of the legislation was how unprepared soldiers are when they come home – many entered the service straight out of high school and have never even written a resume. They spend so much time in the military, yet those skills are not valued or understood in the civilian world. The mandates in this law will hopefully help to change that. The unemployment rate for the general population has been slowly decreasing in recent months; hopefully this legislation will mean the number of jobless Veterans will start going down as well.