EDITORIAL: Our valuable vets

Post-military employment is higher than national average

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Congressmen from both sides of the political divide joined hands last week to support a White House proposal to give tax credits to businesses that hire veterans. While most measures that reduce the high tax burden on businesses are a good idea, this proposal has more to do with politics than sensible policy.

The tax credit is a mixed blessing for veterans. It’s “paid for,” to use that obnoxious expression, by delaying a planned reduction in fees on home loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. So to the extent it helps some vets get jobs it equally hurts others seeking to buy homes. The home-loan fees will remain higher than they would have absent this legislation, but none dare call it a tax increase.

There’s also a question whether this legislation is necessary. Unemployment among veterans is reportedly at 3 percent above the national average, but this may be a statistical artifice. A March 2011 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the unemployment rate of those who served was in fact 1 percent lower than among those who had not.

Part of the explanation is that increasing numbers of young people are getting out of the service. Those who muster out don’t immediately find work, and according to the Labor Department, 12.5 percent were unemployed six months out of uniform. After 12 months, 8.7 percent were jobless, and after 24 months it was 5.6 percent. Given those numbers, the tax credit comes off as a solution in search of a problem.

The Labor Department also recently rolled out the “Gold Card” initiative, but this is simply a repackaged promotion for the type of services available to any citizens from the Labor Department and not as impressive as the armed services’ existing transition-assistance programs.

The administration’s manner of “helping” veterans doesn’t sit well with everyone. The idea that they are special-needs cases comes straight out of the stereotype of the veteran as a whacked-out, alienated loser suffering from PTSD and unable to adjust to life back in the world. “We like to be honored for our service,” an Iraq combat veteran explained to The Washington Times, “but not pitied for it. We’d like the respect of our fellow citizens, and a hand up for the wounded. But we don’t need these kinds of special handouts to succeed.”

Former members of the military are already attractive to potential employers. “We are a higher cut than the average citizen to get in,” the combat veteran said. “Once we get out, we have proven we can work hard, handle complex instructions, think on our feet, are mission oriented and can take orders. We are physically fit, can work as a team and with diverse groups of people. Veterans are dream employees.”

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