By Debbie Gregory.
Since September 11, 2001, the United States military has taken on enough members in its ranks to sustain their campaigns in Iraq & Afghanistan. This includes the defense of U.S. borders & territories, and maintaining a presence on land, at sea and in the air for the rest of the world. Now that the U.S. is nearing the conclusion of 12 years of war, the swollen military ranks are being trimmed down. The men and women who dutifully wore their American Flag patches on their uniforms have begun to flood the already challenged job market. The government expects one million Veterans will be looking for civilian jobs within the next five years.
In 2011, President Obama challenged employers to hire 100,000 Vets by the end of 2013. The president’s call to arms inspired many employers to make it a point to hire Veterans. The president’s goal was reached in August, 2013, with 125,000 Vets finding employment.
In a continuing effort to ensure that newly discharged Vets find employment, it is vital for employers to know that there are incentives for companies who hire Veterans. Under the American Jobs Act, companies can qualify for tax credits if they hire Veterans. The Returning Heroes Program can give an employer a tax credit of up to $5,600 for hiring an unemployed veteran. The Wounded Warrior Program offers employers a tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring an unemployed veteran with a service-connected disability.
And as of August, 2013, 200,000 private companies that have contracts with the government were required to demonstrate that they were making an effort to hire Vets, or else they may have jeopardized their contracts. With a projected goal of having eight percent of government contractors and subcontractors be comprised of Veterans, many companies have their own initiatives in these measures, coming up with their own campaigns to hire Veterans.
Veterans who held positions before they enlisted may also seek to get their old jobs back. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects individuals in the armed forces who leave their employment to serve in the military and return with an honorable discharge. In order to seek re-employment, the veteran must apply for reinstatement within 180 days following the end of service.
USERRA makes provisions for Veterans to be restored to the job and benefits level they would have achieved had they not left their employment for military service. If that is not possible, the service member must be provided with a comparable job. The act also states that returning service members cannot be fired without cause for a period of six months to a year (depending on their length of service) after they return to a job they held previously. For this period of time, they are exempt from “at will” employment standards.
Under USERRA, Veterans are protected against discrimination based on past or present military service in decisions regarding hiring, re-employment, retention in employment, promotion or any other employment benefits. Also, if the returning Veteran is disabled, then the employer must provide reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.