Even with the news that the economy added 257,000 private sector jobs in January, there is more work to do to help our veterans returning from war find new jobs at home. And this morning, President Obama visited a fire station in Arlington, Virginia to discuss a new set of ideas to do just that -- including a Veterans Job Corps.
In the State of the Union, President Obama said:
[Our] freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. As they come home, we must serve them as well as they’ve served us. That includes giving them the care and the benefits they have earned –- which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President. And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation.
That's a sentiment the President echoed today at Fire Station #5:
Our veterans are some of the most highly trained, highly educated, highly skilled workers that we’ve got. These are Americans that every business should be competing to attract. These are the Americans we want to keep serving here at home as we rebuild this country. So we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that when our troops come home, they come home to new jobs and new opportunities and new ways to serve their country.
Already, the Obama Administration has helped 600,000 veterans and their family members go back to school on the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and hired more than 120,000 veterans to serve in the federal government. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have worked with the private sector to secure a pledge from businesses to hire 135,000. And President Obama worked with Congress last fall to pass two new tax credits for companies that put veterans to work.
Now President Obama is making a new push to help veterans build the lives the deserve. In Arlington, he called for three new initiatives.
First, President Obama is working to help state and local communities hire veterans to work as first responders. The administration will make available $166 million in 2012 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Grant funding and $320 million in 2012 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants and award that money with a preference to communities that recruit and hire post-9/11 veterans. The President's budget for the 2013 fiscal year will include additional $5 billion for these grant programs.
Second, the President is working to develop a Veterans Job Corps conservation program that will put up to 20,000 veterans to work over the next five years. They'll work to restore habitats, eradicate invasive species, maintain public lands, and operate public facilities.
Third, President Obama wants to expand entrepreneurship training opportunities for service members and veterans. Back in August, the Administration established a two-day course in entrepreneurship as part of the Transition Assistance Program with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, along with the Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers an eight week online training program that will teach the fundamentals of small business ownership to more than 10,000 veterans every year.