Meadville Tribune

March 23, 2013

Vets hiring tax credit measure welcomed by VFW head

By John Finnerty
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — As the adjutant general and quartermaster for the Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars, John Getz is one of the people desperate veterans call for help when they are at their wits end.

Getz is called all the time.

“I get a couple calls a week, and it seems to be accelerating,” he said. “It certainly isn’t getting better.”

For that reason, Getz welcomed news this week that the state House of Representatives had unanimously passed legislation that would provide a $4,000 tax credit to any small business that hires a veteran. It is just the latest of several initiatives that have been put in place over the years as the country has struggled to find the best method of helping young people transition from military service into careers.

But with more young veterans leaving service, Pennsylvania needs to act to augment the efforts of the federal government, said Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria County, who authored the tax credit legislation.

Ken Hulling, a local veterans employment representative at the Harrisburg Careerlink office, has a noticed an uptick in requests for help too. He had been getting about 20 new requests for help a month, but lately it’s been more like 30 to 40, he said. There are 66 Careerlink offices run by the Department of Labor and Industry across Pennsylvania, and nearly half of them have people on staff, like Hulling, veterans who understand the challenges facing other veterans, said Sara Goulet, a Labor and Industry spokeswoman.

The veterans representatives at the unemployment office will help vets refine their resumes and help them identify suitable jobs.

The local veterans representatives are funded by a grant provided by the federal Department of Labor. The job coaches for veterans program was created at the end of the first Gulf War in the 1990s.

In Pennsylvania, the 6.7 percent unemployment rate for veterans generally is below the nationwide unemployment rate of 8.1 percent for all residents.

The situation for post-9/11 veterans is far different.

“Veterans returning from Afghanistan, as a group, face an unemployment rate twice the state average, as well as wounds caused by IED explosives,” said Barbin, D-Cambria. “After the sacrifices made by them and their families, it is our duty to honor their sacrifice by getting these men and women back into the workforce first.”

Barbin’s legislation would create a $50 million tax credit, enough tax forgiveness to allow businesses to hire 12,000 workers.

There are about 35,000 unemployed veterans in Pennsylvania. Barbin said that as more veterans return from Afghanistan, the situation could worsen.

That’s why he felt it was important to move now to create a tax credit to encourage businesses to hire veterans.

“The economy is getting better, so people are going to be hiring,” Barbin said.

To make the tax credit program more attractive to small businesses, the bill included language that would allow the tax credit to be sold if the business does not have enough tax liability to use it, he said.

“One of the things the vets have is discipline to work. They know what they have to do. All those things are great work skills.”

One of the challenges is that veterans may not always know how to translate their experience into terms that make them marketable to people hiring, Hulling said.

Getz said that in addition to the economy, which makes it difficult for anyone to find work, there may be other biases at play. For one, he wonders if employers are passing on veterans out of concern about having to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In other cases, some of the biggest impediments to getting jobs for vets are that they have run afoul of the law and employers refuse to hire them, Hulling said.

“That rigidness in treating everyone the same, without looking at the individual, is a challenge,” Hulling said. “The larger the company, the more rigid they tend to be.”

Veterans can get free help with a job search through a workshop in April in Titusville.

“Hiring Our Heroes” is a military veterans only workshop designed to connect veterans with a variety of veteran programs as well as information on employment opportunities and how to translate service experience into a resume which “speaks” to employers.

Offered at no cost to veterans only on April 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Haskell Library at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville, the workshop is on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is required and space is limited. The registration deadline is Friday.

It is presented by the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber Foundation, University of Pittsburgh at Titusville, Crawford County Department of Veterans’ Services, Pennsylvania Career Link and Gannon University Small Business Development Center.

For veterans who cannot attend this workshop, additional workshops will be offered throughout 2013.

Registration for the workshop includes an authorization for the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce to release contact information to prospective employers interested in hiring veterans for open positions. The release will remain in effect for 90 days after receipt. Veterans will receive a registration confirmation letter in the mail with additional details.

n More information: Call the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce at 337-8030.