Today we remember the sacrifice and selfless service of the men and women who have proudly served in the U.S. armed forces.
For generations, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have not only demonstrated courage on the battlefield, but also helped shape the world for lasting peace. Over the next few years, the South Sound will experience something not seen for more than a decade. Instead of seeing soldiers off to war, they will see thousands leave the service as part of the military reduction in force.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for veterans ages 18 and over is 6.5 percent. This equates to roughly 700,000 unemployed veterans. For our 18- to 24-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans, the rate is much higher. Over the next few years, roughly 6,000 Joint Base Lewis-McChord troops will be discharged - per year. Approximately 40 percent of them will remain in Washington.
Every eligible soldier who separates from active duty qualifies for unemployment compensation for ex-service members, called UCX. Washington consistently ranks in the top 10 in the nation for Army UCX.
This equates to roughly $30 million in UCX going to Washington veterans. As a community, we must do all we can to reduce that figure. The money could be put to better uses, such as job-training programs that help veterans' transition to a successful civilian careers, or job-placement assistance that connects them to occupations that utilize their skills to the fullest.
The government offers several incentives for employers to offer jobs to veterans. The Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 provides tax credits up to $5,600 for businesses that hire veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, as well as a $2,400 credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than four weeks but less than six months.
The act also provides businesses with a tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.
Veterans bring numerous intangible benefits to their employers. They tend to possess leadership and teamwork skills that outpace those of their civilian counterparts. They are versatile and can adapt to dynamic and complex situations. Their work ethic is centered on an unwavering commitment to excellence. To them, it's all about putting the mission first and a "never quit" attitude. The bottom line is that veterans are value-added hires for any organization.
As we pause to honor and express our gratitude to our veterans, let's join together and make a difference by ensuring that they have every opportunity to reach their highest potential. They have served with honor and distinction; we must ensure they do not come home to joblessness and homelessness, to apathy and indifference. I encourage you to see the strength of our veterans. Let's not let them down.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown is commanding general for I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The senior Army officer wrote this for the News Tribune newspaper in Tacoma.