News Releases

Senate Democrats Announce Bill to Put America's Veterans Back to Work

Nov 04 2011

Bill Offers Tax Credits to Companies That Hire, and Ensures Vets Get Job Training Skills to Find Gainful Employment

Washington, DC— Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Max Baucus (D-MT) unveiled the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011,” which combines a key component of President Obama’s jobs bill with a related, bipartisan initiative to boost employment opportunities for veterans.

After serving our country honorably, all veterans deserve the chance to earn a paycheck and support their families.  Unfortunately, the unemployment rate for veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan remains stubbornly high.  Borrowing from the American Jobs Act proposed by the President, the bill unveiled Friday would offer a tax credit for companies that hire unemployed veterans, and will increase existing tax credits for companies that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities. In addition, following negotiations with House Republicans, the legislation contains bipartisan provisions to ensure that all service members transitioning to civilian life receive the job training skills they need to find a job.  

Cost estimates for the fully paid-for legislation were expected to be available Monday after the bill is filed. It is expected to be offered as an amendment to separate legislation that eliminates a withholding requirement for government contractors.

“The bill we are introducing is a bipartisan and comprehensive approach to getting our nation’s veterans back to work,” said Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “It includes Republican and Democratic ideas because getting our veterans the financial security and dignity a job provides should never be partisan. For too long in this country we have patted our veterans on the back for their service and then pushed them out into the job market alone. With this bill we are giving our veterans the job skills to get their foot in the door and incentivizing employers to make sure that door is open to them.”

“No veteran should stand at the back of any unemployment line,” Senator Debbie Stabenow said.  “When we say ‘support our troops’ that can't just be lip-service, we must support them through action.  Congress shouldn’t just pass a resolution honoring Veterans Day next week, it needs to take real action to help America’s one million unemployed veterans get back to work.”

“Our commitment to our service members shouldn’t end when they return home as skilled, experienced civilians. Today, the unemployment rate for young veterans is 27 percent—which is simply unacceptable. That means more than one in four of these young veterans can’t find a job to support their family or to ease the transition to civilian life,” Senator Sherrod Brown said. “Our veterans’ service to our country does not stop when they leave the military. From leadership experience to technical and scientific skills, veterans are key to our nation’s economic competitiveness.”

“It’s unacceptable that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher unemployment rate than the rest of America, and we owe them better than that,” Senator Jon Tester said.  “We have a responsibility to empower all veterans with the tools they need to find good-paying jobs.  And this plan incorporates bipartisan ideas to ease the transition between military service and the civilian workforce.”

“The unemployment level we are seeing among our veterans is a disgrace, and hits home especially hard in Montana, because we have more vets per capita than almost anywhere else.  That's why it's so important we pass this legislation to give tax credits to businesses that hire veterans and make it easier for veterans to translate the valuable skills they learn in combat to civilian employment.  I'm also committed to continue working to cut down on red tape and make it even easier for businesses to take advantage of this tax credit.  Creating jobs is our number one priority, and there is no better place to start than with our veterans - especially right now with thousands of troops set to return home from Iraq by the end of the year," said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.


  • Tax credit of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, as well as a $2,400 credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than 4 weeks, but less than 6 months.
  • Tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.
  • Makes the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)—an interagency workshop coordinated by Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs—mandatory for service members moving on to civilian life to help them secure 21st Century jobs through resume writing workshops and career counseling.
  • Expands education and training opportunities for older veterans by providing 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI benefits to go towards education or training programs at community colleges or technical schools.  
  • Provides disabled veterans up to 1-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.
  • Allows service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at VA, Homeland Security, or the many other federal agencies in need of our veterans.


Veterans Account For Approximately 9.5% Of The Adult U.S. Population.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), in 2010, 20.2 million men and 1.8 million women in the civilian population were veterans.  Of them, 2.2 million were veterans who served in the Gulf War-ear II, which is any time after September 2001, and approximately two-thirds of these recent veterans are under 35 years old.  Women account for 17% of Gulf War-era II veterans.  Furthermore, according to BLS, about 25% (530,000) of Gulf War-era II veterans reported having a service connected disability, whereas only 13% of all veterans have reported a service-connected disability. [BLS Employment Situation of Veterans, 10/20/11.]

  • You can access state-by-state veterans statistics for 2010 HERE
  • You can access county-by-county veterans statistics for 2010 HERE.

Although The Overall Unemployment Rate For Veterans Is Lower Than The National Figure, The Unemployment Rate Among Veterans Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan Has Risen to 12.1%. The national unemployment rate for October was 9.0%, while the overall veterans’ unemployment rate was 7.7%.  However, the joblessness rate for Gulf War-era II veterans, of which two thirds are younger than 35 years old, is 12.1%, up from 10.6% at this time last year. Within this group of returning veterans, 240,000 are now unemployed, up nearly 30,000 in the last year.  The youngest veterans are the ones having the hardest time finding work. According to BLS, “Young male veterans (those ages 18-24) who served during Gulf War-era II had an unemployment rate of 21.9% in 2010." [BLS Employment Situation, 11/4/11; BLS Employment Situation of Veterans, 10/20/11; BLS Veterans Employment Figures, 11/4/11.]

Although We Are Making Progress, Veterans Are Over Represented in the Homeless Population, Accounting for 11.5% of All Homeless Adults. During a one year period, an estimated 144,842 veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program, according to a recent report released by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA).  While that figure is down 3% from last year, it is still an unacceptably high number.  Veterans comprise roughly 9.5% of the total U.S. population, but account for approximately 11.5% of all homeless adults in America.  In 2010, 1 in 150 veterans were homeless, and 1 in 16 veterans had an income below the poverty line.  On a given night in 2010, over 76,000 veterans were homeless.  Furthermore, in line with the high unemployment rate for younger veterans, “Young veterans are more than twice as likely to be homeless as their non-veteran counterpart, and young veterans in poverty are almost four times more likely to be homeless than their non-veteran counterparts in poverty.”  [HUD’s 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), 10/28/11.] 

  • You can access state-by-state statistics on veterans’ homelessness from 2010 HERE

GOP Senators Support Veterans Hiring Incentives:

Sen. Murkowski Said She Was “Proud” To Add Her Name To A Bill That Gives Veterans The Skills They Need To Compete For Jobs “It is tragic our men and women in uniform come back from combat and find that some federal and private sector employers do not appreciate, or question, how veterans’ skill-sets and commitment translate to the workplace. I am proud to add my name to a bill that gives veterans the skills they need to compete for jobs, an opportunity for a non-competitive appointment to the federal civil service, and enhanced vocational rehabilitation if they need it.  Actions speak louder than words, and I hope this bill empowers our men and women of action with the skills and the support to hear the words: ‘You’re hired.’” [Press Release, 5/11/11]

Sen. Hutchison Said She Could Support Preferring Veterans for Jobs “Preferring veterans for job creation; we're for that.”[WSJ Opinion Journal, 9/15/11]

Sen. Enzi Supported Veterans Hiring Programs. “Helping our veterans turn the skills they learned in the military into a rewarding job not only honors our promise to take care of those who served their country, it helps guarantee all of our cities, towns and counties have the highest quality emergency medical personnel available.” [Press Release, 9/13/11]

Sen. Johanns Supported Help For Unemployed Veterans. “The unemployment rate of our returning service members is a concerning sign that we are not doing enough to help them assimilate into their communities once they have completed their tours of duty They are more than deserving of our greater efforts to get them back on an even playing field in the job market.” [Press Release, 11/12/09]

Sen. Grassley Supported “Financial Incentives” For Veterans Hiring. “These men and women are extremely capable. They have a lot of skills to offer in the workplace. This legislation will clear some bureaucratic hurdles and add a financial incentive to encourage employers to seek out veterans. These steps are a logical follow-up to my effort to increase the IRS' hiring of veterans. The IRS saw the value of this pool of potential workers and followed through on increased hiring of veterans. Other employers, including small businesses, should have similar opportunities.” [Press Release, 1/26/11]

Sen. Boozman Supported Funding to Help Homeless Veterans Get Back Into Society and Into Jobs. “While the VA data shows that we are making progress in reducing the number of homeless veterans, there is still a need to get our veterans off the streets and into jobs.  … To be successful in returning veterans to full members of society, it is vital that homeless veterans programs offer more than just shelter and meals. Services such as substance abuse treatment, mental health services are needed to lay the foundation for a return to work whenever possible. It is the ability to make one's way in the world - to contribute rather than just take - that gives a sense of self-worth and pride.” [House Floor Speech, 3/30/09]