Ernie Lombardi, regional associate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, spoke Tuesday in Kingsport on the value veterans can bring to a civilian workplace. Photo by David Grace.
Employers who hire military veterans know they will get someone with proven leadership qualities. What employers may not know is the additional benefit they get from hiring those who have served our country.
That benefit comes in the form of tax credits that are still available despite a shrinking federal budget.
On Nov. 21, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act into law.
The law contains tax credits involving veterans who haven’t been out of work long and also for the long-term unemployed.
For the short-term unemployed, employers can expect a credit of 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages, or up to $2,400, if they hire a veteran unemployed at least four weeks.
As for the long-term unemployed, employers receive a 40 percent credit of the first $14,000 of wages or up to $5,600 if they hire a veteran unemployed longer than six months.
The law also provides a “Wounded Warrior” tax credit that doubles the existing benefit for long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities. Employers could collect a new credit of 40 percent of the first $24,000 of wages or up to $9,600 to hire disabled veterans unemployed longer than six months.
The VOW tax credits won’t be affected by the budget-cutting federal sequester, according to U.S. Rep. Phil Roe’s office.
The tax credits remove one of two known hurdles private sector employers face in hiring veterans.
The second hurdle doesn’t involve whether the veteran suffers from health-related issues, such as post traumatic stress disorder. Instead, it’s how the veteran’s skills translate into a civilian job.
“The veterans have definitive skill sets,” said Ernie Lombardi, regional associate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Lombardi spoke during last Tuesday’s “Hiring Our Heroes” (HOH) jobs fair for veterans held at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort and Convention Center.
“I think maybe what is a difficult conversation is how to translate what they do so the civilian employer understands what they do, and sometimes the civilian employer doesn’t understand the military language. There’s a disconnect. ... Part of our goal is providing these transitional workshops to help the veterans translate what they do so it becomes more friendly on the civilian side.”
The White House Business Council (WHBC), in a 2012 document called “Guide to Hiring Veterans,” noted veterans are quick to praise their team or unit but aren’t good at selling themselves.
“Military personnel will often present themselves with eyes forward, back straight, and using ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ vocabulary (often without much smiling),” the WHBC document pointed out. “This behavior may be perceived as cold, distant, unapproachable or demonstrating a lack of social skills. While this is generally not the case, these perceptions have caused many service members to be discarded early in the interview process.”
The WHBC document also directs employers to address questions related to the job and not ask veterans about the type of discharge they received, what combat they experienced or if they are in the National Guard.
Acceptable questions, according to the document, include training and education, and whether the veteran was involved in management of personnel or supplies.
While there are multiple resources for veterans from the government and through the Internet, there’s also local help through the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council (TC-MAC).
“If someone comes to the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council, we refer these veterans out to various employers to obtain employment,” TC-MAC President Ernie Rumsby said at the HOH jobs fair. “If they have a technical background, we can find someone who’s looking for them as well as other jobs.”
The biggest benefit of the HOH job fairs, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is giving veterans face time with employers.
Nearly 100 veterans and more than 40 employers participated in last Tuesday’s HOH event at MeadowView.
There was a 38 percent job offer rate at a similar HOH event last November, job fair organizers said.
The HOH events offer training in resume writing, interviewing and transitioning to a civilian job.
Kingsport Economic Development Planner Jeanette Scalf, a Desert Storm veteran, told veterans at the HOH event that no one would hire her after her military service because they were afraid she would be redeployed.
“So employers, hire somebody,” she told the employers staffing tables at the event. “Take a good hard look at these people. They’ve served their country. And now it’s time to get them integrated in the civilian world. Before they left, they were told ‘You won’t make it on the civilian side.’ I’m living testament you can make it on the civilian side. Veterans, put your best foot forward. (Employers) want to find you a job.”