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The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman has introduced a two-part bill aimed at creating pilot programs to help veterans find jobs.
The Veterans Equipped for Success Act of 2013, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, includes one pilot apprenticeship program in which veterans would receive at least minimum wage while receiving job training from employers, which could include nonprofits and small businesses.
A second pilot program would provide a salary subsidy of up to $14,000 a year to employers who hire a veteran as part of a skill-learning program or work experience.
Both programs would be available to veterans who are either 18 to 34 years old or 55 to 64 years old and are not enrolled in a state or federal job training program, are considered by the Labor Department to be either unemployed or underemployed, and were discharged from the military under other than dishonorable conditions.
The program would be limited to 150,000 participants, and no more than 50,000 a year. As introduced May 9, the bill includes no provisions to pay for the salary subsidies, which could hold up passage of the measure — even though the chief sponsor is the veterans’ committee chairman.
The bill is scheduled for discussion at a June 5 hearing
Sanders acknowledged that the job market for veterans has been improving, but said, “We continue to find high unemployment rates among veterans, especially the youngest generation.”
One in five enlisted members leaving active duty has “a military-learned skill that is not easily transferable to a civilian occupation,” he said, noting that the bill is aimed at helping them find a civilian job that is different from their military job.
Some businesses interested in hiring veterans end up hiring someone else because the veteran lacks experience, Sanders said. The bill tries to get them the experience, with the Labor Department’s help.
A program that subsidizes salaries or pays only minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, could cause problems if employers hire veterans while laying off existing better-paid workers — so the bill would prohibit employers from displacing a current employee in lieu of a veteran under the new program. It also would not allow a veteran on an apprenticeship or in skill training to do the work of anyone who has been laid off.
Businesses also would have to be in good standing with their local business bureau, could not be delinquent on employer tax contributions, and must not have been the subject of a Federal Trade Commission investigation or action in the previous 180 days. ■