The President launched his Veterans Employment Initiative, challenging the private sector to hire or train 100,000 Veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013 and proposing Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits for businesses that take up that challenge. The President is adamant about solving the issue of unemployment, especially for those that have served our country.
Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Paul Rieckhoff reflects on the President’s commitment to resolving veteran unemployment.
On Friday, President Obama announced that America is bringing our troops home from Iraq. That’s welcome news for thousands of troops and their families. But as a country, we need to make sure that we welcome them home with more than just a pat on the back.
Everyday, I talk to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who are struggling to find good jobs. Even with the staggeringly high rate of Veteran unemployment, these stories should shock us. Our Veterans are motivated, technologically savvy, independent and have leadership experience in some of the toughest environments in the world. I look at these Vets and see leaders that any company should be fighting to have on their team. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have the potential to lead their companies – and our country – for years to come.
This is why the First Lady and Dr. Biden started the Joining Forces initiative. They understand that we must work to ensure our Veterans and their families receive the benefits and opportunities they have earned. The President knows this too, which is why this summer he launched his Veterans Employment Initiative, challenging the private sector to hire or train 100,000 Veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013 and proposing Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits for businesses that take up that challenge. The President understands that our Veterans are among our most valuable resources as we work to out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build the rest of the world.
In this spirit, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has launched our Combat to Career Program. We aim to bring the private, nonprofit and public sectors together to create jobs for our newest Veterans and provide these leaders with the tools they need to launch their civilian careers. It’s about engaging the corporate sector to hire new Veterans. It’s about pushing leaders in Washington to pass targeted jobs legislation. And it’s about leaders like President Obama and the First Lady who have made Veteran employment a priority.
And we’re thrilled to announce another influential leader has joined the fight against Veteran unemployment. IAVA and JCPenney just launched an innovative joint program called “Welcome Heroes.” This program provides over $1 million in free certificates for new Veterans to purchase business attire and apparel at JCPenney, either in their local store or online. Over six thousand service members and Veterans will be eligible for the $200 gift certificates (IAVA members can visit TheRucksack.org to enter to receive their certificates; non-member Veterans can register for free IAVA membership on our web site).
Together, with continuing commitments like this and others we have seen from the private sector, we can lower the unemployment rate for our newest generation of Veterans. They’ve sacrificed for us during over ten years of war. And now, as we work to rebuild America's economy, it only makes sense for us to invest in our New Greatest Generation.
To learn more about what you can do to help our Veterans and military families, check out JoiningForces.gov. You can find volunteer projects, write letters to the troops, share personal stories, and more. Only one percent of our population serves in uniform, but we can all pitch in to show our appreciation and help uphold our country's obligations to these heroes.
Darienne Page is the Assistant Director of the Office of Public Engagement.