President Obama is set to announce several major initiatives to combat the nation’s high rate of veteran unemployment during an appearance this morning at the Washington Navy Yard, according to White House officials.
Obama will deliver his remarks against the backdrop of a stock market meltdown Thursday and the release of jobs numbers Friday that turned out better than expected, with unemployment dropping to 9.1 percent from 9.2 percent.
The president will challenge the private sector to hire 100,000 veterans or spouses by 2013. Other steps for veterans include proposed tax credits for companies that hire unemployed veterans and the creation of an inter-governmental agency task force to explore the idea of “reverse boot camps” to better prepare veterans for reintroduction to the civilian workforce.
More than one in four veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 are unemployed, according to Labor Department figures.
“We’ve wanted the president to use the bully pulpit,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which will have representatives at today’s event. “A lot of Americans don’t know how bad it is.”
“We’ve got a serious problem here,” Rieckhoff added. “If people want to help vets, they should hire them.”
The White House estimates the cost of the tax credit program to be $120 million over two years, depending on how many employers hire veterans. “Let me be honest — we hope it will be more,” said a White House official speaking to reporters on background.
The tax incentive program would be set up on a scale providing companies a $2,400 credit for hiring an unemployed veteran, $4,800 for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed six months or longer, and $9,600 for hiring a veteran with a service-connected disability who has been unemployed for six months or longer.
The White House is hoping the program will lead to jobs for 100,000 veterans by the end of 2013.
The task force will be led by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs and include representatives from other agencies, including the Department of Labor, Office of Personnel Management and Department of Education. They are to present recommendations to the president by year’s end, according to officials.
The task force will look at a major revamping of programs that train veterans for the civilian job market. The system “as it stands now is not working,” said Rieckhoff.