Employment is an important key to economic, social, and psychological well-being, community reintegration, and family financial stability. A public policy that supports integrated services, one-stop information gathering, referral and access to services, and financial and technical assistance is critical to achieve the full potential of Veteran employment.
VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011
In his first term President Obama challenged the private sector to hire 100,000 unemployed veterans by the end of 2013. This has increased awareness of the disproportionately high rate of unemployment among our nation’s veterans. To further raise the issue and incentivize employers, the president signed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011,1 wherein the federal government now offers tax credits for companies that hire unemployed post-9/11 veterans or their spouses.
According to TriWest, many companies across the U.S. are not aware of the veteran unemployment issue. The tax credit helps raise awareness among these companies and provides visibility that veteran unemployment is a national concern. President Obama’s 100,000 Jobs Challenge, the Joining Forces initiative, private sector hiring initiatives like the 100,000 Jobs Mission led by JPMC, the Hiring our Heroes initiative led by the Chamber, and the tax incentives of the Vow to Hire Heroes Act have contributed to increased media coverage. The public/private partnerships highlight the tax incentives available, and positive exposure of companies that are championing the cause to hire more veterans assists with awareness and provides benefits to the employers that are active in the issue. Additionally, positive public response received by these initiatives have received has incentivized new participating companies to join.
Overall, companies that have championed these veteran initiatives are not making hiring decisions based on tax breaks, nor are they influenced by social or civic pressure; rather, they are making their decisions based on the skills and talents that make good business sense. According to Walmart, hiring veterans is a great long-term investment. However, some companies are making veteran hiring decisions based on the tax breaks, so once the tax credit is gone, the hiring of veterans could decrease. To avoid this situation, it is important to collect data to make the case that hiring veterans makes good business sense. With limited durations of the tax incentives, the window of opportunity exists now to address unemployment issues among veterans and to make the case to help create sustainability in the hiring efforts and retention of veterans.
Because tax incentives are specific in nature and duration, with required steps to use them, and varying levels of benefit depending on characteristics of the veteran, it may be difficult to plan for specific credit levels for each hire. Alternatively, if tax credits are a determinative factor in hiring veterans, then it will be necessary to identify the level of credit desired, the characteristics of the veteran necessary to claim the credit, and then to recruit based on these characteristics.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 amended the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to add credits for hiring veterans who are qualified under the act, and also to allow the tax credit to be taken by some tax-exempt employers, not against income taxes, but as credits for the employer’s payment of social security taxes.
Vets must begin work before January 1, 2013 under the current legislation. The credit may be worth up to $9,600 for each veteran hired at for-profit employers, and worth up to $6,240 for certain tax-exempt employers. The level of the credit varies by certain factors, such as length of unemployment, hours worked, and first-year wages.2 A fact sheet is available from the DOL which provides an overview of the credit and the various eligibility factors.3
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
USERRA protects the job rights of past and present members of the uniformed services, applicants to the uniformed services, and those who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to undertake military service or certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System. By providing for the prompt reemployment of such persons upon their completion of such service (including training or retraining), USERRA is intended to minimize the disruption to the lives of service members, as well as to their employers, their fellow employees, and their communities. Title 38 U.S.C Section 43 of the act prohibits discrimination in employment or adverse employment actions against service members and veterans. Congress designated that the federal government should be a model employer in demonstrating the provisions of this chapter. Most importantly, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the legislation includes a mandate for its liberal construction for the benefit of service members, indicating that no practice of employers or agreements between employers and unions can cut down the service adjustment benefits which Congress has secured for veterans under the act.4
Companies like Allied Barton Security Services, Verizon Communications, United Research Services Corporation, and General Electric (GE) all indicate that they have a company policy to comply with the intent of USERRA. Additionally, a new bill (H.R. 3670)5 proposed on December 14, 2011, would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to comply with USERRA. In short, employers in both the public and private sectors have committed to honoring the provisions of the act, and many more companies continually join the list of its supporters. While USERRA provides protections for veterans, the burden of proof of discrimination rests with the veteran. The DOL enforces USERRA and provides ombudspersons to engage with employers to assist in resolving complaints prior to either litigation or enforcement actions, but voluntary support, and particularly public statements of support, such as engaging with ESGR, may prove more advantageous than enforced support.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Though not a military-specific law the ADA of 1990 affects veterans who have sustained physical or mental disabilities related to their service, by protecting against discrimination based on the presence of disabilities and mandating that employers make appropriate and reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.6 The ADA defines accommodation as any enabling change to a work environment that allows a qualified person with a disability to apply for or perform a job, as well as any alteration that ensures equal employment rights and privileges for employees with disabilities. Corporations complying with this law will afford veteran employees with disabilities an equal foundation on which to apply and further their skills and talents. USERRA contains disability accommodation requirements that go beyond the ADA as well, requiring affirmative steps to bring an employee to the level of being qualified for other positions, including promotions for which the employee would have been granted had the employee remained employed and working. Generally, similar accommodations will be effective under both laws, with training and retraining to attain qualification offered only under USERRA. This addresses the needs of returning service members who have sustained injury or disability (short term or permanent) while in service.
Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA)
VEVRAA7 (as amended) pertains directly to veterans, prohibiting employment discrimination by contractors with subcontracts entered into or modified on or after December 1, 2003 against certain veterans and requiring affirmative action for specific veterans. Under the regulations implementing VEVRAA, all covered contracts and subcontracts must include a specific equal opportunity clause and certain contractors and subcontractors are required to have a written affirmative action program (AAP). For employers with contracts and subcontracts entered into on or after December 1, 2003, each contractor or subcontractor that has 50 or more employees, a federal contract or subcontract of $100,000 or more, and that does not fall in certain exceptions, such as being out of the country or working for certain state or local governments, must prepare, implement, and maintain a written AAP for each of its establishments.
VEVRAA protects several categories of veterans who served in the U.S. military on active duty for a duration of more than 180 days during the period of August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975, as well as those who served in the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975, including special disabled veterans, disabled veterans, recently separated veterans (three years), other protected veterans, and Armed Forces Service Medal veterans.
- A special disabled veteran is a person who is entitled to compensation under laws administered by the VA for a disability rated at 30 percent or more; or, rated at 10 or 20 percent, if it has been determined that the individual has a serious employment disability; or, a person who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.
- A disabled veteran means a veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. military ground, naval, or air service and is entitled to disability compensation (or who but for the receipt of military retired pay would be entitled to disability compensation) under laws administered by the VA Secretary; or, was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.
- With respect to federal contracts and subcontracts entered into on or after December 1, 2003, recently separated veterans means any veteran who served on active duty during the three-year period beginning on the date of such veteran’s discharge or release from active duty.
- An other protected veteran means any other veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. military ground, naval, or air service during a war, in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized.
- An Armed Forces Service Medal veteran means a veteran who, while serving on active duty in the U.S. military ground, naval, or air service, participated in a U.S. military operation for which an Armed Forces Service Medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985 (61 Fed. Reg. 1209).”8
DOD Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP):
Established by the federal government, the CAP is a centrally-funded program that provides assistive technology (AT) and reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. CAP’s mission is to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to information and employment opportunities in the DOD and throughout the federal government.
Phone: 703-681-8813 or 703-681-3978 (TTY).
ADA Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs):
The DBTACs consist of 10 federally-funded regional centers that provide information, training, and technical assistance on the ADA. Each center works with local business, disability, governmental, rehabilitation, and other professional networks to provide current ADA information and assistance, and places special emphasis on meeting the needs of small businesses. The DBTACs can make referrals to local sources of expertise in reasonable accommodations.
Phone: 800-949-4232 (Voice/TTY).
America’s Heroes at Work
America’s Heroes at Work has created an employer fact sheet and resource guide for employers. These resources were developed in cooperation with the DOL’s ODEP, JAN, the VETS, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. The information available includes frequently asked questions about PTSD and TBI, Dispelling the Myths about PTSD, Accommodating Employees with PTSD/TBI, Promising Practices for Employment Success, Employers and the ADA: Myths and Facts, and Tax Incentives for Providing Business Accessibility. Spanish materials are also available. For more information, visit
Gold Card Initiative
The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) have joined forces to develop the Gold Card Initiative. The program provides post-9/11 veterans with intensive and follow-up services, necessary to their success in today’s job market. Eligible veterans can present their Gold Card at any One-Stop Career Center to obtain enhanced intensive services, including up to six months of follow-up, job readiness assessment, referral to job banks, and much more. To learn more, visit http://www.dol.gov/vets/goldcard.html.
My Next Move for Veterans
DOL/ETA have also created My Next Move for Veterans, an online tool that allows veterans to enter information about their experience and skills in a field, and match it with civilian careers that put that experience to use. The site also includes information about salaries, apprenticeships, and other related education and training programs. To learn more, visit http://www.mynextmove.org/vets.
National Resource Directory (NRD)
The National Resource Directory (NRD) is a partnership among the Departments of Defense (DOD), Labor (DOL) and Veterans Affairs (VA). The information contained within the NRD comes from federal, state, and local government agencies; veterans service and benefit organizations; non-profit and community-based organizations; academic institutions; and professional associations that provide assistance to wounded warriors and their families. It provides access to services and resources at the national, state, and local levels to support recovery, rehabilitation, and community reintegration, and includes benefits and compensation, education and training, employment, family and caregiver support, health, homelessness assistance, housing, transportation, travel, volunteer opportunities and other services and resources. The NRD’s Veterans Job Bank connects unemployed veterans to job openings with companies that want to hire them. The partnership between leading job search companies enables employers to tag job postings for veterans. It launched with more than 500,000 job listings, and includes employer and job board job postings, tagged on their own websites. To learn more, visit http://www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/ and http://www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/home/veterans_job_bank.
Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011
The Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 overhauls the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), creating a job retraining program that will help 100,000 veterans, who have been unemployed for 26 weeks or more. This legislation also extends the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) through fiscal year 2012, authorizing $50 million for the DOL to provide grants to agencies and organizations that provide job placement, training, and vocational counseling to homeless veterans. Further, the act provides up to $5,600 in tax credits for employers who hire veterans, who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, and up to $9,600 for hiring disabled veterans, who have been unemployed for longer periods of time. To learn more, visit
VA for Vets
The VA launched VA for Vets, a website that provides a variety of tools to job-seeking veterans, with the goal to recruit more veteran applicants. Tools offered by the site include a military skills translator and access to career coaches that will provide support with interview preparation. By interlacing the tools, the VA creates a total support package to help prospective veteran hires navigate the bureaucracy that comes with applying and accepting a federal job. To learn more, visit
Wounded Warrior Employment Conference
The Wounded Warrior Employment Conference is hosted by the Army Warrior Transition Command (WTC), Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment (WWR), Navy Safe Harbor and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. The program focuses on enabling veterans and employers to match needs for jobs, and on employment initiatives and protections focused on enabling wounded veterans to enter employment. To learn more about the 2012 agenda, with speaker names and session titles, visit
Feds Hire Vets
Feds Hire Vets is one of the programs developed through the president’s Veterans Employment Initiative in 2009; with the goal to encourage agencies to recruit veterans by simplifying the hiring process and helping them transition to civilian work. As a result, 2011 employment data within government agencies demonstrated the highest percentage of veterans as new hires in more than 20 years, with veterans today making up 28.5% of all new employees. To learn more, visit
Revisions to Guides for Veterans with Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued two revised publications, addressing veterans with disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The revised guides, one for employers and one for wounded veterans, reflect changes to the law stemming from the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which make it easier for veterans with a wide range of impairments, including those that are often not well understood such as TBI and PTSD, to receive needed reasonable accommodations that will enable them to work successfully. To learn more, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/2-28-12.cfm.
Transportation Security Administration complies with Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
A bill introduced in 2011, H.R. 3670/S.1990 by the 112th Congress, was enacted after being signed by the President on August 16, 2012. The law requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. This law guarantees that employees in both the public and private sector who are called to active duty could keep their jobs while deployed. To learn more, visit
Virtually Enhanced Transition Assistance Program (VTAP)
The DOD redesigned the online component of TAP, creating a Virtually Enhanced Transition Assistance Program (VTAP). Launched in early 2011, VTAP first provided a limited release of an online DOD Career Decision Toolkit and TAP Virtual
Learning Seminars, which offer virtual resources enabling users to tailor their
transition experiences. Although the virtual learning opportunities are primarily
being marketed to service members, military spouses and family members are allowed to participate in online sessions and utilize the site’s resources. VTAP is currently in its beta release and is being provided for demonstration purposes only. DOD is also modernizing TurboTap.org and is working to engage service members through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. To learn more, visit http://www.acceptance.virtualtap.org/home.
Transition Process for Army Soldiers Begins One Year Before Separation
On December 29, 2011, a Department of the Army executive order was signed, creating a new mandate that soldiers planning to leave the Army must begin the transition process at least one year before their separation. The order is part of recent Army efforts to expand its transition assistance. Other results of the efforts include a new toll-free call center for transition assistance, offering transition advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A new website, or virtual ACAP
Center, will also be available soon to transitioning soldiers. To learn more, visit
Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Labor (DOL) opened up the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) for applications in order to retrain 99,000 veterans to meet and qualify for job demands. VRAP is the cornerstone of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, and program funding will cover up to 12 months of educational programs for qualifying veterans. This is equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty rate, currently at $1,473 per month. Upon completion of the program, DOL will offer employment assistance to every veteran who participated. To learn more visit,
http://benefits.va.gov/vow/education.htm or http://www.benefits.va.gov/VOW/.
VA VOW to Hire Heroes Act 2011:
VOW to Hire Heroes Act 2011, For Employers:
Internal Revenue Service Expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit Available for Hiring Qualified Veterans:
DOL Fact Sheet:
Help Navigating DOL Laws and Regulations:
Equal Employment Opportunity on the Job:
EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the ADA:
The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA):
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA):
Title 38, United States Code, Chapter 43 - Employment and Reemployment Rights of Members of the Uniformed Services, 38 U.S.C. § 4313; 20 C.F.R. §§ 1002.198, 1002.225 -.226.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 503:
DOL Civil Rights Center:
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
Job Accommodation Network (JAN):
Phone: 800-526-7234 or 877-781-9403 (TTY).
JAN Veterans Resources:
1 Library of Congress. (2011). The veterans’ opportunity to work act of 2011. Bill summary and status 112th Congress (2011-2012). H.R. 2433.
2 Internal Revenue Service. (2012, March 27). Expanded work opportunity tax credit available for hiring qualified veterans. Retrieved from http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=253949,00.html.
3 U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. (2011). The work opportunity tax credit (wtoc): An employer-friendly benefit for hiring veterans most in need of employment. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. Retrieved from http://www.doleta.gov/business/incentives/opptax/PDF/veterans_fact_sheet12_1_2011.pdf.
4 Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, 70 Fed. Reg. 242 (2005) (to be codified at 20 C.F.R. pt. 1002). Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/vets/regs/fedreg/final/2005023961.pdf.
5 Library of Congress. (2011). Bill text 112th congress (2011-2012).
6 Matos, K., & Galinsky, E. (2011.) Employer support for the military community. Families and Work Institute. Retrieved from http://whenworkworks.org/research/downloads/www_military_support.pdf.
7 U.S. Department of Labor, Compliance Assistance. (n.d) The Vietnam era veterans’ readjustment assistance act (VEVRAA). Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-vevraa.htm.
8 U.S. Department of Labor, elaws Advisors. (2009). Employment law guide: A companion to the FirstStep employment law advisor. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/vietvets.htm.