Military Connection: House Passes Vet-friendly Bill: By Debbie Gregory

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By Debbie Gregory

On January 6, 2015, the new Congress’ first day of conducting business, the House unanimously approved legislation that will make it more advantageous for smaller companies to  hire military Veterans.

The Hire More Heroes Act of 2015, H.R. 22, was passed by a vote of 412-0. It is believed to be the first of many bills aimed at altering President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The health care measure, commonly referred to as “Obama Care” is currently phasing in a requirement that obligates companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide medical coverage for its workers.

The House bill that was passed this week would create an exemption in that obligation for Veterans who are already receiving healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the military.

H.R. 22 was sponsored by Representative Rodney Davis from Illinois’ 13th District, and passed on the same day that the congressman was sworn in for his second term.

Supporters of the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 believe that the measure will encourage employers to hire more Veterans. Reducing the Veteran unemployment rate has been a goal consistently pursued by both parties and in both houses of Congress. Bi-partisan legislation, which promote incentives to employers who hire Veterans, is a major reason why the unemployment rate for Veterans has seen a major decrease, even over the past year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly report, the unemployment rate for all Veteran ages 18 and older has fallen from 6.7% in November, 2013 to 4.3% in November, 2014. But even more impressive is the improvements made to the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan War-era Veterans, who in the BLS report are referred to as “Gulf War II Veterans.” This demographic saw an unemployment rate of 9.9% in November, 2013 and was down to 5.7%  in November, 2014.

For years, the Gulf War II Veteran unemployment rate was well above the non-Veteran unemployment rate. With years of Veteran-friendly bi-partisan legislation, the unemployment rate for our most current generation of Veterans is within striking distance of the non-Veteran rate, which was at 5.5% for November 2015. This was just 0.02% less than the Gulf War II unemployment rate.

Similar legislation passed the House last year by a vote 406-1, but went nowhere in the Senate. Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri has introduced the same legislation in the Senate, and there is optimism that this Senate will approve the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015. In a written statement from the White House, the Obama administration said that it backed the measure, admitting that the bill supports “commonsense improvements” to the Affordable Care Act.

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Military Connection: House Passes Vet-friendly Bill: By Debbie Gregory