President Barack Obama signed into law provisions of the American Jobs Act to help unemployed veterans. The measures had broad bipartisan support and provide significant tax credits to businesses that hire those who have returned from war; additional credits are given to those who hire “wounded warriors.” At a time when there is little agreement on war policy, the tax code, or how to solve joblessness in the broader population, the passage of this bill — signed just as the supercommittee was throwing in the towel — was a welcome sign that progress is possible.
Yet it is also a reminder of how difficult life is for many returning troops. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rate above 12 percent for veterans of recent wars, more than 3 points higher than the civilian market. The new bill, structured to create incentives to businesses willing to hire long-term unemployed veterans, will be paid for by delaying a planned reduction in fees for a Department of Veterans Affairs home-loan program. The bill also will support transition-assistance planning and make it easier for veterans to use their military skills to satisfy state licensing and accreditation requirements that often hinder employment. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown was instrumental in moving these provisions forward.
As calls grow louder for a thorough reform of the federal tax code — and for an elimination of tax credits — the bill for unemployed veterans sends an important message. While some credits are little more than giveaways crafted by lobbyists for favored industries, others are attempts to enlist private businesses in addressing broad public needs. The latter is true here: Returning veterans are deserving and struggling, and Congress was right to offer a hand.
The Boston Globe (Nov. 30)