Friday, September 14, 2012

The Veterans Jobs Corps Act and the Senate Republicans against it

The Department of Labor released August employment data late last week. Yet again, 9/11-era veterans have significantly higher rates of unemployment than the population at large - nearly 3 percentage point higher. Lauren Bailey at the VA has some good analysis at VAntage Point on how the overall trend is positive, but employment prospects remain quite bleak for those recently separated from active duty. Congress has been mulling legislation to help the situation for some time now and is getting closer to passing a bill.

Enter Senate Bill 3457 (Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012). This bill, introduced by Senator Bill Nelson, would establish a job corps for veterans that allows the VA to provide grants and contracts specifically for post-9/11 veterans in areas such as first responders and public land conservation. The bill would provide $1 billion over 5 years for this and includes taxes to pay for it (because of that whole Budget Control Act thing). This would obviously help chip away at the current and outrageous unemployment levels of this population. This bill contains a couple of other provisions to help veterans find jobs, but most importantly is that it will begin laying the groundwork to ease state certifications and licensing for veterans based on training and work experience from active duty service. This is an enormous problem where combat medics cannot be certified as EMTs because of onerous training and certification requirements that could be eased if the states and the Department of Defense just talked about it to make transition easier. Section 4 of this bill requires the states to provide information about this to the DoD if they want any veterans job money from the VA. This is a great step forward.

This bill should be a slam dunk. It helps veterans in need and it pays for the program. Now enter a couple of Senate Republicans, specifically Senators Jeff Sessions and Rand Paul, who are trying to hold this bill up. Sessions took to the Senate floor yesterday to gripe about how this bill violates the Budget Control Act. He mentions that it's important legislation, but by God we can't afford it and that the additional revenue the bill purports to raise is really just funny math. We simply can't afford this $1 billion in additional expenditures. Unfortunately for Senator Sessions, the Congressional Budget Office disagrees about it being funny math and estimates that over 10 years this bill will actually reduce the national deficit by roughly $200 million. Some people have a hard time with facts and numbers.

Senator Paul seems to have a different problem altogether: that the U.S. is doling out cash to our enemies. He tried to add two amendments to the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012 that would have cut U.S. aid to Libya, Egypt, and Pakistan. I very much understand that amendments like this happen all the time and that Franken-bills are how lots of laws are passed. Paul is willing to hold up aid to unemployed veterans because of a foreign policy issue that belongs somewhere else and is most likely more about scoring political points than making actual policy. This is unconscionable.

In all, 8 Senate Republicans voted against moving forward with this bill: Senators Blunt, Coburn, DeMint, Inhofe, Johnson (Wisconsin variety), Lee, Paul, and Sessions. They all say they care about veterans and that they care about jobs, but their actions today have proven otherwise.  Of course there is some skepticism that the House would not pass this bill. But put simply: this bill should be passed. We have a specific American population that is hurting more than others and that hurt is originating from the fact that they were in their Nation's service. This bill helps compensate for some of that and sets the framework to help future veterans transition more easily than this generation.


  1. Didn't AMEDD make EMT-Basic (EMT-B) certification part of AIT for 91W when that changed from 91B ten years ago? How is this still an issue? Or are we talking about EMT-Paramedic which usually corresponds to an associate degree level of study?

  2. It's incredible that an extra $1 billion in spending can generate $200 million in revenues. Shouldn't we just increase the spending to $100 trillion so that we can generate $2 trillion?

    1. It's incredible that those who happily reap the benefits of freedom granted by our service women and men are so quick to throw them under the nearest bus when it comes to actually supporting the troops once they return from the battle, save wearing lapel pins and waving the Stars & Stripes.

  3. Anon 1: It's still an issue for EMT-B as each state has different licensing requirements. There are other licenses involved in the bill.

    Anon 2: I take it you didn't read my words or the CBO link. The bill reduces the deficit by $200 million beyond paying the $1 billion in spending for jobs corps. In other words, it creates a tax that raises $1.2 billion.

  4. Slime can vote to KIlL em, but can NOT vote to retrain them...

  5. Democrats have finally found a use for our armed forces. They may oppose using the military to fight the Taliban or protect our diplomats, but now they've found a project they can get behind: converting our troops into members of the Democratic client groups known as public employee unions.

    The Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012 would have taxed Medicare providers (who knew Medicare was such an inexhaustible piggy bank?) to subsidize the hiring of veterans in jobs that just happen to entail public employee union membership.

    Everyone agrees that aiding veterans is a laudable goal, but not all aid is created equal, and for a variety of reasons this was an unusually bad idea.

    Last week, 42 Republican Senators looked at this cynical Democratic scam, surely realizing that they may pay a political price on such an easily demogogued issue - I guess John McCain just doesn't care about veterans, one can almost hear Chuck Schumer lamenting to the nearest television camera - and did their job anyway, blocking the bill.

    Senate Republicans deserve our gratitude for doing the right thing instead of the easy thing. Senate Democrats should feel ashamed of themselves, but they won't, because that would require a capacity for shame.

  6. Congrats, Senator, for writing the single most cynical comment in Ink Spots's history. I doubt I'd change your opinion on the matter so I won't bother. I will, however, point out that the bill isn't funded by a tax on Medicare providers, but a levy against Medicare providers who don't pay their taxes. It's a big difference.