Earlier this week, President Obama signed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 into law.  Explained in more detail on the Veterans Affairs website, the law provides expanded education and training programs for soldiers, improves reemployment rights for guard members and reservists,  and offers disabled veterans additional vocational assistance.  Of course, the reason I am writing about it is the tax credits for employers who hire veterans.

For example, employers that hire a veteran who has been unemployed for at least 4 weeks can obtain tax credits near $2,400.00 and an employer who hires a veteran who is disabled and has been unemployed for 6 months or more can get up to $9,600.00.

NPR is dubious about whether this change will make any difference.  Quoting David Loghran, a senior economist for Rand Corporation: “In the long run, if you look at veterans compared to comparably educated people in the civilian labor market … in fact they have lower unemployment.”   According to the NPR piece, “[t]he jobless rate in October for vets of the first Gulf War was 5.9 percent. For earlier conflicts, it was 7.2 percent — in both cases, lower than the 9 percent rate for the population overall.”

I personally have mixed feelings about the new law.  I am very thankful for our veterans, but the law looks a little bit like window dressing by an administration that has a bad reputation with the troops and it may have some unintended consequences.  Veterans already receive the protedtion of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act which provides for guaranteed reemployment of servicemembers returning to jobs after being called to active duty or who left jobs for military service.  (USERRA is the subject of an upcoming EH piece so look out for that).  Given the overall low unemployment numbers for service members and the other protections in the law, service members may end up with jobs that, as I have noted before, are already not making it to older workers.

There are only so many jobs and there is a fight to get those jobs among the unemployed.  It is a zero-sum-game.  When you give to one, you are likely taking from another.

Setting those concerns aside, employers should take a look at the benefit to them for hiring a service member.