Welcome efforts to connect veterans to jobs

The News TribuneMarch 10, 2014 

Retired Army helicopter pilot Anne Sprute is the founder of Rally Point 6 in Lakewood, and former Lakewood Police Chief Larry Saunders is co-chairman of its board. Staff photo

With the military anticipating serious downsizing in coming years, organizations like Rally Point 6 have their work cut out for them.

Tens of thousands of veterans will be hunting for jobs and support services, and the new Lakewood nonprofit is uniquely poised to help them. With close ties to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the organization founded by retired Army helicopter pilot Anne Sprute has a mission: Don’t leave anyone behind. Do what it takes to help each veteran succeed in the post-military world.

Sprute has brought together resources from local businesses, political and military leaders, and the Gary Milgard Foundation to create Rally Point 6. Case managers called “scouts” work with vets, and the organization’s headquarters offers computer labs, meeting rooms and even a playroom for clients’ children.

Vets will need all the help they can get. Finding a job is hard enough as it is now, prior to the anticipated downsizing. Veterans overall have a low jobless rate, but that’s not the case with those under the age of 24, whose unemployment rate was 14.2 percent at the end of 2013. The rate was 9.8 percent for veterans aged 25 to 34 — still higher than the overall national jobless rate, which was 6.6 percent in January.

Many out-of-work vets also are out of jobless benefits. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that close to 200,000 veterans are among the 2 million unemployed workers who lost federal jobless benefits when Congress failed to renew them at the end of 2013.

Many businesses are stepping up and making it a priority to hire more veterans. That’s laudable.

Now the state Senate has unanimously passed legislation to create an incentive for even more veteran employment.

Senate Bill 6049, sponsored by Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, would give business and occupation tax credit to employers that provide full-time jobs to veterans who have been out of work for at least 30 days. The tax credit would be equal to 20 percent of the worker’s wages and benefits up to $1,500.

If passed, the legislation wouldn’t go into effect until Oct. 1, 2016. That seems a long way off, but the military is expected to be shedding jobs for years to come. The Legislature should pass this bill.

In the meantime, services provided by groups like Rally Point 6 will fill an urgent need. Communities like the South Sound — with its high concentration of military members — need to step up to help ease the transition back to civilian life.

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