Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus on Thursday introduced a bill to help veterans transfer military skills to the civilian workforce and sweeten the tax credit offered to businesses that hire veterans.
Baucus, a Democrat, highlighted his VETs Jobs Bill before the Montana Legislature last week. He officially introduced the bill to the U.S. Senate on Thursday, saying service members deserved to return home to good-paying jobs.
“This is a real jobs bill for Montana because we have more veterans per capita than nearly anywhere else in the country,” Baucus said. “I’m calling on Congress and the president to join me in declaring war on veterans’ unemployment and work together to get this done.”
The new bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., would help veterans transfer military skills into the civilian workforce by expanding a program started in 2012. The program enables enlisted service members to obtain the civilian equivalent license or certificate for skills earned in the military.
Also included in the bill is a measure to meet a 1999 goal of ensuring that 3 percent of all prime contracts and subcontracts be awarded to small businesses owned by veterans who were disabled during their service.
The goal has never been met, Baucus said. The new bill would pressure agencies to meet the 3 percent goal through better disclosure and public review.
"Preparing veterans to use their military skills in civilian jobs honors their service,” said Tester. “It’s important that we support employers who hire our heroes and ensure that our most dedicated Americans find good-paying jobs."
The VETs Jobs Bill also looks to increase the coordination and accountability of veteran employment programs. Lastly, Baucus said, it would improve the tax credit for businesses that hire vets.
Montana has the second highest rate of veterans per capita in the country. In 2011, roughly 1,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars were unemployed in Montana, and 234,000 were unemployed nationwide.
Baucus said that in 2010, the state’s unemployment rate among veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars was 20.3 percent. It dropped to 17.5 in 2011.
“When our men and women in uniform put their lives on hold to protect our nation, they deserve to come home to good-paying jobs and a nation that honors their service,” Baucus said.