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Hiring veterans is good for economy, bottom line

Published: 02:04PM November 7th, 2013

On Veterans Day we remember the sacrifice and selfless-service of the men and women who have proudly worn the uniforms of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. For generations, American service men and women have not only demonstrated courage and bravery on the battlefield; they have shaped the world for lasting peace.

Over the next few years, communities here in Washington will experience something they have not for more than a decade. Instead of saying goodbye to Soldiers deploying for war, our friends and neighbors of the South Sound will see more Soldiers leave the service as part of the military reduction in force. Thousands of those military personnel will trade in their fatigues and enter the work force here in Washington.

The most recent numbers reported by the U.S. Department of Labor show that the unemployment rate for veterans ages 18 and over is 6.5 percent. This percentage equates to roughly 700,000 unemployed veterans. While the figures show that our Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans ages 18-24 are more likely to have higher earnings if employed, they also have higher rates of unemployment than their non-veteran counterparts. At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, it is anticipated through 2016, that roughly 6,000 military personnel per year will leave the service, and approximately 40 percent of that number will remain in Washington.

Every eligible service member who separates from active duty qualifies for the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-service members or UCX. The program is administered by the State of Washington as an agent of the federal government. Washington consistently ranks in the top ten in the nation for the Army UCX. In terms of dollars, this equates to roughly $30 million in UCX going to Washington veterans. As a community, we have to do all we can to reduce that figure. This money could be put to better uses, such as job training programs that help veterans transition from military life to a successful civilian life; or job placement assistance that connects the veteran with an occupation that utilizes his or her skills to the fullest.

The government offers several incentives for private sector employers to offer jobs to veterans and wounded warriors. The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011 provides tax credits up to $5,600 for businesses that hire 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 four weeks, but less than six months. VOW also provides businesses a 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.

There are also numerous intangible benefits of hiring former military men and women whose abilities were forged on the battlefields of the past decade. Veterans tend to boast leadership and teamwork skills that outpace those of their civilian counterparts. They are versatile and can adapt to dynamic workplace situations. A vet’s decision-making skills are primed by quick and clear thinking. They’re accustomed to uniform policies and structure, and they’re often more loyal as well. This translates into longer tenure and quicker advancement. Veterans possess a work ethic that is centered on an unwavering commitment to excellence. To them, it’s all about mission-first and a “never quit” attitude. The bottom line — veterans are value-added to any organization.

As we pause to honor and express our gratitude to America’s veterans, let’s join together and make a difference by ensuring our veterans have every opportunity to reach their highest potential. They have served this great nation with honor and distinction; we must ensure our veterans do not come home to joblessness and homelessness, to apathy and indifference. I encourage you to see the strength of our veterans. Let’s not let them down.