The Value of Hiring Veterans

Hiring a VeteranAs business people, it’s important that we not only understand the laws that protect veterans relative to employment, but also realize that there are incentives in place to encourage businesses to hire veterans.

With the United States engaged in two wars for nearly a decade, the number of veterans in America is constantly increasing.  This is an extremely valuable pool of candidates that employers can benefit greatly by hiring!

Veterans have good skills & experience:

In the military, men and women undergo extensive training that teaches them how to:

  • Hold positions of leadership
  • Handle problems, resolve issues, multitask and work in teams
  • Work in positions of intense stress and pressure, while maintaining composure & focus
  • Work within a tight budget & stretch limited resources
  • Work and live with a wide variety of people & be sensitive to other cultures

Those aren’t the only skills that military training and hands-on experience help veterans develop!

Their schedules often require them to work long hours, including evenings and weekends, and they are frequently ordered to work in locations that prevent them from seeing their friends and family for long periods of time.  These experiences teach them to be flexible and cooperative with an employer.

All of these skills are valuable, and, let’s face it,  sometimes in short supply in today’s workforce!

Veterans receive great education:

Another reason that veterans make great employees is that they are well-educated by our military.

Every year, the U.S. military spends several billion dollars on educating the members of the armed forces in areas such as health care, engineering, electronics and information technology, among others.  In addition, many veterans avail themselves of the education resources available through the military, earning their bachelors and advanced degrees while serving.

Recent legislation regarding employing veterans:

Our political representatives are well aware that veterans possess a rich array of experiences and skills that make them very valuable employees.  As a result, our legislators here in Washington state have recently passed bills that aim to aid veterans in their search for jobs.

Here’s what these bills do:

  • They make it easier for veterans to utilize their military training to find employment:

Two of our local legislators, Sen. Kilmer and Rep. Rolfes, were sponsors of legislation that will allow people with military training and experience to count it towards professional licensing requirements.

This legislation applies primarily to professions in the medical field, such as physician assistants, EMTs, physical therapists, radiology techs, etc.

Both businesses and trained professionals will benefit by putting these trained professionals to work in jobs which are often hard to fill.

  • They grant private sector employers the ability to give preferential treatment to veterans when considering candidates for a job:

The public sector has long been able to give veterans preferential treatment during the hiring process, but Washington state is the first in the nation to also allow the private sector to do this too.

This new legislation applies to veterans and their widows or widowers, as well as to the spouses of honorably discharged veterans with a service-connected permanent and total disability.

While employers are not required to give preference to veterans, they can choose to do so, and if they do, it will not be a violation of any equal employment law.

Laws that protect veterans & service members from discrimination:

Laws that protect veterans and service members against discrimination based on past, present or future military service include:

  • The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
  • The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act
  • The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act
  • The Washington Law Against Discrimination

Under USERRA, an employer must re-employ a returning service person to a position that reflects the pay, benefits and seniority that they would have attained if they had not left for military service.

Unfortunately, the laws that protect veterans are too complicated to try to explain in this short article.

A good starting point for information for Washington employers is the website of the Washington State Human Rights Commission. Under its FAQs, it has a section about laws protecting veterans.  It also offers a Self Assessment Checklist and Best Practices section to assist employers to improve their veteran employment policies.

Hire a vet, get a tax credit:

Who couldn’t use a tax credit these days?  If you hire a veteran, you just might get one!

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, there is a veteran category that is eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).

Now, any veteran who was discharged or released from active duty within the past five years qualifies for WOTC if they received unemployment benefits for at least four weeks during the past year.

In the current economy, it is not uncommon for a veteran to be unemployed for four weeks, making this a great incentive to hire a veteran!

Here’s a quick overview of the WOTC program’s veteran eligibility qualifications:

Companies can take a tax credit of up to $4,800 (the size of the credit varies depending upon the number of hours worked) per veteran for any veteran who is/was:

  • Discharged or released from active duty within the past five years, and in receipt of unemployment compensation for at least four weeks during the past year
  • A member of a family that received food stamps for at least three months during the past fifteen months
  • Entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability, and discharged or released from active duty during the past year
  • Entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability, and unemployed for a period or periods totaling at least six months during the past year

If you’d like more in-depth information about the WOTC program, read our helpful WOTC article.

Resources for hiring veterans:

In Kitsap County, there is a Veterans Employment Program, affiliated with the state’s WorkSource office in Bremerton.  They can be reached at (360) 337-4804.

The staff there can refer qualified veterans for positions with local employers, help employers translate military resumes in order to understand how they relate to civilian positions, and help employers understand the many benefits, including available tax incentives, for hiring veterans.

The bottom line:

Veterans are a protected class under the law, and therefore hiring a veteran enhances the diversity in your workplace.

They bring with them experience, training, education and talent that will benefit your business.  When you hire a veteran, your business will not only benefit from their talents, but may very well profit financially from a variety of government sponsored incentives.

It’s good business to hire a veteran for your business!

Originally published in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.

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