On Thursday the Senate voted 95-0 in favor of legislation that would provide employers with tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed and wounded veterans. These benefits were approved as an amendment (S. Amdt. 927) (pdf) to the 3% Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act (H.R. 674) that the House of Representatives cleared in October. Introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 amendment would provide employers with a “Returning Heroes” tax credit of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been unemployed for at least six months, a $2,400 credit for hiring veterans who have been unemployed for more than four weeks, but less than six months, and a credit of up to $9,600 that would increase the existing Wounded Warriors Tax Credit for employers that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been unemployed for at least six months. These credits were initially included in President Obama’s more comprehensive job stimulus bill, the American Jobs Act (S. 1660), which stalled in the Senate last month. The Senate agreed to include the VOW to Hire Heroes amendment to H.R. 674 by a vote of 94-1 before passing the entire measure.
In addition to the tax credits, the legislation would provide a host of veterans’ benefits and programs. Among other things, the measure would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Labor to establish a veterans’ retraining assistance program; extend by two years the Wounded Warrior Act, which provides rehabilitation and vocational benefits to members of the armed forces with severe injuries or illnesses; and provide training and rehabilitation for veterans with service-connected disabilities who have exhausted rights to unemployment benefits under state law.
The underlying bill (H.R. 674) that served as a vehicle for the veterans’ provisions would repeal the imposition of a not yet implemented 3% withholding on certain payments made to federal contractors, and modify how adjusted gross income for individuals is calculated for the purposes of qualifying for certain healthcare programs under the Affordable Care Act.
Since the Senate voted on an amended version of H.R. 674, it will either be sent back to the House for another vote, or to conference to reconcile the differences between the two measures.