I had the honor this week of introducing a jobs bill in the U.S. Senate that enjoyed a rare victory: overwhelming bipartisan support.
The Senate passed my VOW to Hire Heroes Act with a vote of 94-1. It’s a victory that belongs to the many Montanans who came to me with concerns over this nation’s unacceptably high veterans’ unemployment rate.
The jobless rate, especially among younger veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, is getting worse. I consider it a national disgrace. Veterans deserve better.
So working with Montana veterans, we proposed several solutions that proved to be too important for politics-as-usual — at least for most senators.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act is fully paid for, meaning it won’t increase the deficit and it won’t raise taxes. What it will do is connect veterans with good-paying jobs. It is the most significant piece of veterans’ jobs legislation since we passed the 21st Century G.I. Bill.
This jobs bill combines several popular proposals from both sides of the aisle, including a bill I introduced earlier this year to make the transition to post-military work as seamless as possible. It will make it easier for veterans to be certified for civilian work if they already have military experience as truck drivers, paramedics or health providers, mechanics or engineers.
This bill would directly help a young Montanan named Nathan Wiens. Nathan attended Montana State University on an ROTC scholarship, earned a degree in civil engineering and then served in Iraq as a captain in the Army.
In Iraq, Nathan used his engineering degree. But when he came home, his military experience didn’t count toward his professional engineer certification.
Now Nathan has to spend a couple years building up the civilian equivalent of the military experience he already has, just to be able to qualify to become a certified professional engineer.
This bill will help fix it so that military experience counts. It requires the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should count in the civilian sector. And it would make it easier to get the licenses and certification our veterans need.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act also provides important tax credits (up to $5,600 for hiring veterans, and up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities) to encourage more businesses to employ out-of-work veterans.
And it provides additional education and job training for veterans to gain additional skills to be more successful in an increasingly competitive job market.
These are the kind of common-sense ideas we ought to be passing into law for the men and women who served us.
As your U.S. senator, it’s my role to make sure that this nation lives up to its promises to every American who serves in our military. That promise includes access to jobs, higher education and quality health care. It includes a commitment to the well-being of all our troops, and their families. All of them deserve opportunities for a better future.
I have always believed that working together across party lines is the best way to deliver this promise. On this important veterans’ jobs bill, my colleagues in the Senate agreed.
(U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, is from Big Sandy.)