CEDAR RAPIDS -- With large numbers of military personnel, including about 2,500 Iowa National Guardsmen, returning from active duty, the country has a "moral responsibility" to help them find employment, according to Eastern Iowa U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley.
"It's our responsibility to do all we can to give back to these veterans ... so they can live the American Dream," the 1st District congressman said Aug. 23 in Cedar Rapids.
Braley, a Waterloo Democrat who is the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, said he plans to introduce the Combat Veterans Back to Work Act to cut payroll taxes for businesses that hire recently returned veterans, including members of the Iowa National Guard, who are unemployed. Employers who keep eligible employees on the payroll for 52 consecutive weeks will receive an additional $1,000 tax credit.With so many veterans returning to civilian life and the economy struggling, Braley said it's necessary to offer the tax breaks to encourage the hiring of those who have served their country. Currently, approximately 600 Iowa Guardsmen, who recently returned from Afghanistan, are looking for work.
Americans should be angry, he said, that one out of every four post-9/11 veterans is unemployed.
"That's a shameful legacy," he said.
Marine Corps veteran John Powers agreed and welcomed the "pro-active response."
"When the Vietnam vets came home, there was nothing," he said.
Braley's plan would help veterans like Matt Rowell, 24, who has had 11 surgeries to repair injuries suffered while serving in the Army in Afghanistan.
Rowell, a 2005 Kennedy High School graduate, who attended Braley's news conference at Veterans Memorial Building, said the legislation could benefit him when he's ready to seek full-time work. He now works part-time for his dad, Mark Rowell, at Air Management, and is a full-time student at Kirkwood Community College.
Braley was advised that encouraging employers to hire veterans may not be enough. Cedar Rapids City Councilman Don Karr, a veteran who operated a plumbing and remodeling business, said employers need to be educated on dealing with issues that affect veterans, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"Employers may not understand issues like that that make it hard for veterans to hold a job," he said.
Braley explained the Combat Veterans Back to Work Act will exempt small businesses from paying the employer's share of the Social Security tax for up to one year through December 31, 2012, if they hire current members of the National Guard or Reserve, or any veteran who has returned from deployment within the last 18 months and is currently unemployed.