(This story was updated at 12:22 p.m.)
President Obama kept the pressure on Republicans to support provisions of his American Jobs Act on Monday when he announced new initiatives intended to reduce unemployment among military veterans.
Flanked by veterans in the Rose Garden, Obama announced a new “veterans’ gold card” program in which former service members can receive customized job search assistance at existing employment centers operated by the Department of Labor. Obama also highlighted a new Web page, www.mynextmove.org/vets, that is designed to connect veterans to job openings across the nation.
The programs are modest and are intended to pressure congressional Republicans to support a larger-scale measure in Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act that would give a tax credit of up to $5,600 to companies that hire veterans. The Senate is scheduled to vote on that bill later this week.
However, not a single Republican in the Senate has voted in favor of Obama’s comprehensive jobs plan, which was blocked last month. Nor has any GOP member supported the two individual components of the jobs plan that have been voted on subsequently — one aimed at hiring more teachers and police officers and the other that would provide funding for modernizing roads and bridges.
None of Obama’s jobs proposals has made it out of the Senate.
“They’ve had three chances to do the right thing; three times they said no. I believe it’s time to say yes,” Obama said of his GOP adversaries. “Our veterans did their jobs; it’s time for Congress to do theirs.”
The unemployment rate among veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq is at 12.1 percent, well above the national average of 9.0 percent, officials said. As the Post’s Checkpoint Washington national security blog points out, that rate has been steadily ticking upward.
Obama said 850,000 veterans of those two wars remain unemployed, and the situation is becoming more pressing as the president winds down American involvement in the conflicts. One million more service members are expected to transition to civilian life over the next five years, officials said.
Obama’s latest initiatives build on previous small-scale announcements by the administration over the past couple months aimed at improving the jobs outlook for veterans. Last month, the White House called on health clinics across the nation to hire at least 8,000 veterans over the next several years.
Also last month, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama announced a commitment from the private sector to hire 25,000 veterans by the end of 2013.
Danielle Gray, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said the new “veterans’ gold card” program would offer jobs,counseling and other services at the 3,000 one-stop jobs centers that the Labor Department operates nationwide.
“Just think about the skills these veterans acquire at a very young age: the leadership they’ve earned, the technology they’ve mastered, the ability to adapt to changing circumstance that you can’t learn in the classroom,” Obama said. “This is exactly the kind of leadership and responsibility every American business should be competing to attract.”
House Republicans, however, said the president cannot credibly complain that the GOP is standing in the way of helping veterans find jobs.
The House approved the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act that would provide veterans access to education and retraining funds and allow Congress to work with governors to create uniform licensing and credentials standards. But that legislation has not been approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Details of the White House initiatives can be found on its Web site.