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POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH PAPER

Legislative Process

Introduction

In March this year, 28 members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (IAVA) of America group took their IAVA Storm the hill campaign to the Capitol Hill. They were demonstrating against the increasing rate of unemployment among the veteran community. In this event, they held a meeting with more than a hundred elected officials with whom they discussed the emerging crisis of Veteran unemployment within the recently deactivated groups. They expressed their concern over the impact of unemployment amid the Global financial crisis. According to March 2011 report by the Bureau of statistics, although the unemployment rate for Afghanistan and Iraq veteran had dropped from 12.5%  in Feb to 10.9 % in March there were 213, 000 veterans who stood unemployed within the same period (Maxwell par, 2011, para  1-2).

Every year, thousands of Americans are expected to join the armed forces and loyally serve the country. At the same time, several others leave the military every year after the completion of their National duties. While out there, this military do everything to ensure that America is a safe place Despite their military commitment, it has been very hard for most of the veterans to adapt back to the life in the civilian world. It becomes hard for a veteran to find a job after a long period of absence from the civilian society. This is especially more difficult for those who are injured while performing their military duties. Others, who have suffered from work based trauma, come back with mental disorders that make some employers, deny them jobs. For instance, the US department of labour has reported that 20 % of 2010 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans were unable to find any employment for themselves due to mental illness stigma(Ross 2011, para 25).

There is therefore a need for a legislation that will allow the acceptance of veterans into the job market once they have finished serving their term. The Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011, which has the support of IAVA, will help solve this problem. The following is a research that will advise the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 sponsors and Co-sponsors on how to get the Bill supported by both the Senate and Congress and the American population at large.

What is the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011?

The Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 is a bill that seeks amendment to the 1986 Internal revenue code Act, such that it allows employers who engage recently released veterans in their companies, to get some tax credits (The Library of Congress Thomas, 2011 para1).In definition of Veteran, this amendment will replace the words ‘means any veteran’ with ‘means any recently discharged Veteran’ and ‘any veteran receiving specified benefits’ (The Library of Congress Thomas, 2011 para 5).In addition, the phrase ‘recently discharged veteran’ is defined by this Bill as, ‘any individual who has served on active duty (Other than active duty for training) in the Armed forces of the United States for more than 180 consecutive days, or any individual who has been discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States for a service connected disability , or any member of the National guard who has served for more than 180 consecutive days of active duty; fulltime National guard duties;  duties separate from inactive duties or duty for training in state status; any combination of the three other duties described’ (The Library of Congress Thomas, 2011 para 6).

The passing of this Bill would ensure that employers are aware of the type of credits available to them on the employment of a veteran; how to treat veterans; and the dates on which the credits are available (The Library of Congress Thomas, 2011 para 14).

History of the Bill

According to Govtrack.us (2011, para 1), the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 was first brought to the parliament in 2010 for discussion in the 111th Congress. This happened twice, first as the H.R.5400 Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2010 Bill by Timothy Walz, then as the S.3398 Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2010 by Max Baucus. Although both Bills had been discussed in previous sessions of the Congress, they died at the committee stage at the end of the 111th Congress (Govtrack.us 2011, para 1).

Max Baucus reintroduced this Bill into the 112th Congress on Jan 25th 2011 as the S. 146: Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011.It has undergone two reading and been sent to the Committee on Finance. Later in March 1 2011, Rep Tim Walz took the H.R. 865: Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 to the 112th Congress. The Bill has been referred to the House armed services committee, House ways and means Committee, and the House Armed services subcommittee on Military personnel. All these committee are yet to give back their reports (Govtrack.us, 2011, para 2).This Bill is related to other Bills including the Taxation Bill, Disability and paralysis Bill; Income Tax credit Bill; Veteran’s Education, employment, rehabilitation Bill; National guards and Reserves Bill; and the Veteran’s pensions and compensation Bill.

Support and Opposition to the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011

Although both Senator Max Baucus and Representative Timothy have taken the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 to the congress, Timothy is considered to be the original sponsor of this Bill. 57 co-sponsors to this Bill include 9 republicans and 48 democrats (Veterans for foreign war, 2011, para 1-3).

According to Military officers association of America (2011, para 1),  the following is the list of the Defense policy Hawks who are cosponsors to the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 per state: the American Samoa has one cosponsor of the Bill who is a democrat; Arkansas has one co-sponsor , a democrat; California has 8 cosponsors with one of them being a republic and the rest being democrats; Colorado has one co-sponsor and he is republican; Connecticut has two co-sponsors and they are democratic; Florida has one co-sponsor who is a democrat; Georgia has one cosponsor who is a republican; Guam has one cosponsor is also a democrat: Hawaii one democrat; Illinois two democrats; Iowa five co-sponsors 3 of them democrats and two republicans; Maine has one , a democrat; Massachusetts two, democrats; Minnesota two, democrats who include Timothy Walz; Missouri two, democrats; New Jersey has five cosponsors including two republicans and three democrats; New York two, Democrats; North Carolina two, democrats; Ohio two, democrats; Oklahoma one, democrat; Oregon one, democrat; Pennsylvania two , democrats; Rhode Island one, democrat; Tennessee one, republican; Texas two, democrats; Virgin Islands one, Democrat; Virgin two, a democrat and a republican; Washington two, democrats; West Virginia one, democrat; and Wisconsin one, a democrat. This means that there is a niche for support among the remaining states. In addition, there is a need to lobby for support among the Republicans.

Supporters of the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) who represent all the branches of military. When they stormed the Capitol Hill in March, they urged their congress representatives and senators were to cosponsor this Bill since they believe that it will better  to implement the work opportunity tax credit (WOTC) for the veterans and propel the hiring of about 17, 000 by the year 2012(Maxwell, 2011, para 4). Others supporting organizations are Reserve enlisted Association; Reserve officers Association; Veterans of foreign War and the Association of United States Navy (Open Congress, 2011, para 3).

So far, no opposition has been cited for Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011. The most likely reason for this is that it has not received much publicity. Most representatives have not expressed their support or lack of it meaning that more lobbying needs to be done towards encouraging the undecided group on supporting the bill. If it proceeds to the subcommittee stage where public hearing will take place, those afraid of the impact that tax credit may have on the budget, may stage some opposition to the Bill. The bill sponsors will be required to display a financial expertise that demonstrates the economic benefits of enacting the Bill. There is therefore a need to employ some of the best financial advisers who will help the supporting group to anticipate and handle any opposition based on finances.

Committee stages of the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011

The Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011, is just in the 2nd stage of passing a bill into a law where the assigned committees have to consider whether the Bill is eligible for a debate (Longley, n.d. para 6). The first committee stage is where the house committee, and in this case any of the committees that the bill has been referred to, is expected to go through the Bill and figure out whether is relevant to the addressed issues. At this stage, it will be important to have some members of these committees supporting the Bill. This will help to make the importance of the Bill noticeable and to ensure that the 112th congress, unlike the 111th Congress gives it priority. The advantage that the S. 146: Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 has is the fact that, Max Baucus is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to which the Bill has been referred. In addition he has the support of Chuck Grassley of Iowa who is a member of the same Committee (Cohn, 2011, para 1).

The second committee stage, which entails the Committee Action on the Bill, will analyze whether it will be possible to accommodate this Bill within the annual National budget. If this Bill is not acted on at this stage, it will die out of technical reasons (Longley, n.d., and para 7-8). According to Cohn who gives a budgetary impact of this bill (2011, para 2), if the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 becomes a law, those who employ war veterans will enjoy up to $ 2400 tax credit per each veteran who has finished his military duties. Although one might view this as an economic burden to an already suffering economy, the budgetary estimates of extending tax credits is comparable to the Work opportunity tax Credit, which had until its expiry in 2010 helped employers in the hiring of veterans. This means that one should be able to convince the action committee on the financial feasibility of this Bill (Cohn, 2011, para2).

The Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 would help in the reinstatement of tax credits such that employers would have an incentive for hiring veterans. The economic advantage of this move is that, the tax break will enable the employer to use the extra cash to expand and create more jobs for the unemployed. More jobs mean that the government will have more people to tax. Tax credit on small businesses started by veterans will enable them to grow within a less constrained environment (Cohn 2011, para7).

The third committee stage will be the subcommittee stage, where a small group within the assigned house committed is delegated with the duty of studying the bill further and allowing for public hearings on it. This is one of the stages that the Bill sponsors and supporters can maximize on by giving either an oral or a written testimony. They should be able to mobilize military experts on veteran welfare, past and present war veterans, interests groups including individuals in the senate and congress, veteran’s families, veteran organization lobbying for veterans concerns and any other interested member of the public. The success of this stage is based on the subcommittee reporting to the committee, failure of which the Bill dies (Longley, n.d., para 9).

If the subcommittee decides to recommend the Bill to the main committee it will carry out the fourth committee process known as marking up where relevant amendments and changes are made before returning the Bill to the main committee (Longley, n.d. para 10). Again, having a supporter of this Bill in the subcommittee will ensure that the amendments made do not water down the original idea.

The fifth committee stage is termed as the committee action stage. During this stage, the house committee in-charge reviews the recommendations and deliberations that the subcommittee has sent back. It may decide to either hold more hearings or just cast a vote concerning the subcommittee report. An affirmative vote on the feasibility of the Bill will be followed by a vote on the final recommendation to be given to the congress. If the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 passes this stage it will be said to be reported (Longley, n.d. para 11).The reported Bill will then be published giving details on it purpose, impact on the constitution. Budgetary impact and it impact on taxes. It will also entails the public opinion concerning the Bill in the form of  public hearing transcripts and the committee’s supporting and opposing points concerning the Bill (Longley, n.d. para 12).

The committee stage will be followed by debates and voting in both houses and finally a signing by the president. Like in the committee stage, the most important thing is to Lobby as many representative as it’s possible in supporting The Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 during the debate and voting stages.

Why push for the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011?

Since the beginning of the 20th century, America has engaged in several wars. With the end of each of these wars, there were veterans coming bank to a civilian society that had moved on during their absence. Whether it was after the Vietnam War, or recently after the Iraq and Afghanistan war, several ex-servicemen returning home to their families have had a challenge fitting back into the normal labour force. President Roosevelt recognized this transition problem in 1944, leading his government into enacting the original GI Bill that assured the returning World War II veterans of an affordable education, economic assistance in the purchase of a house or in starting a business and some financial assistance during the transition period. This Bill was amended in 2008 allowing the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war the access to affordable college tuition (Williamson & Mulhal, 2009 p. 11).

Although the GI bill and other legislation have attempted to assist the ex-military men to adapt back to life in the civilian world, there has been an abject discrimination of veterans when it come to getting a job in the civilian world. Despite their academic qualification, the number of unemployed veterans is growing by the day and there is a need for the government to come up with a legislation, which allows a smooth and non-discriminating admission to the job market (Williamson & Mulhal 2009 p. 11).

According to Waterhouse and O’Bryant  (2008, p.5), in the CRS Congress report, a  total of 254, 894 National guards, 1, 193, 234 Active component, and 202, 113 reserves were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan between the years 2001 and 2007.This information on the number of American joining the military is shown by the graph below:

The above statics means that there are several veterans that are expected to be returning to the job market once their military duties are over.

The number of individuals joining the military each year is not constant. According to the American forces New Service (2011 para1), some military units either activate or deactivate some military men. By August this year, there are 70, 442 members of Army reserve and National guard on duty;  4, 454 Air force and Air National guard on duty; and 9728 Marine Corp reserves on duty; and 742 Coast guard reserves on duty for America (American Forces News Services 2011, para 2). In addition, most military people are on part time duty and once they finish their tenure they are usually released back to the civilian world by the military. This means that each year the deactivated veterans are expected to return to the civilian society and look for non-military employment.

According to the Williamson and Mulhal (2009, p.1) every year, 300, 000 troops complete their military service. This is the average number of veterans who are expected to benefit from the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 every year. Fig. 2 indicates the number of veterans under the age of 25 per every state (National centre for veteran analysis and statistics, 2010 n.p.).

Recently, these veterans have been faced by uncertain economic future due to a difficult transition period and the economic downtown that Americans are facing today. The problem here is that most employers in the civilian world are unable to understand the kind of skill that the veterans acquired in the military world. In addition, those who had employment or businesses prior to reporting for duty find their economic life disrupted by multiple tours than one may be required to take in his part time military life. For instance, the number of veterans who lose their income after mobilization stands at around 40% while those whose businesses have been affected by deployment stands at 22% (Williamson and Mulhal, 2009, p.1).

The history and experiences of earlier generations indicates that most of them have continued to struggle economically. For instance, those who fought in the Vietnam war have for

Fig. 2

decades earned lesser than their civilian peers due to lost years of labour (Williamson and Mulhal 2009, p.1).Unlike past veterans, present day veterans are relatively young with a different ethnicity and race demographics compared to the past veterans. Most of these individuals who were sent to fight in Iraq individuals were high school graduates from American working and middle class families. Yet most of them are not able to fit in the civilian labour market due to difficulties in translating their military skills to civilian abilities (Williamson and Mulhal 2009, p.2).

Apart from adaptability problem, most veterans suffer from stigma that is associated psychological disorders and treatment. Most of these veterans worry that the stereotype attached to mental health problems across the military might affect their chances for landing a job Williamson and Mulhal (2009, p.2). This fear is not unfounded, since the National Alliance of mental illness has reported that one out of three veterans with a history of mental illness has been denied a job despite their qualification, due to the problem of psychiatric labels (Williamson and Mulhal 2009, p.3).

Williamson and Mulhal (2009, p.4) report that those veterans leaving active duty have a higher chance of unemployment. This opinion is supported by Patton (2011, para 1) who asserts that although the retention of individuals in military was previously a hard sell, the recent economic downturn has been making many veterans prefer to be deployed instead of going back to the civilian world. Jobs have become scarce and most veterans have not been able to access decent housing and other benefits that dignifies a human life (Patton, 2011, para 1).

The publicity given to the military life has made several employers have apathy towards ex-military persons. This means that most organization feel that having a military history hurts a person’s chance at landing a civilian job (Patton 2011, para 1).This has driven some of them into re-enlisting in the army rather than deal with long-term lack of job. In addition, those veterans who have recently left their military duties are given lower wages than their non-military peers. In fact those veterans with college degree earn $ 10, 000 Dollar per annum less than their non veteran peers. (Williamson and Mulhal 2009, p.4).  For example a woman working in a staffing agency in Pittsburgh referred to the young veterans being released from Iraq and Afghanistan as risky hires. This is because most of them are unable to translate their combat skills to corporate ones. She added that, even those who were very marketable on paper were dismissed by employers on the fear of them having some form of mental instability (Patton, 2011, para 2).

Reservists and National guards have their own unique problem when it comes to unemployment. This is because the nature of their military job is such that one can face repeated deployments most of the time without giving any notice to the civilian employer. This poses a challenge to business owners who are forced to train replacements without prior budgetary plans for such a task. This nature of their job has made most employers to keep away from hiring veterans in this category. This is despite the fact that the jobs of such service men are legally protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Act (USEERA) (Williamson and Mulhal 2009, p.4).

Instead of returning to work, the above veterans end up collecting compensations for unemployment. Statistics between  2001and 2009 indicate that, about 11, 000 veterans have been denied  immediate employment by former employer; over 22, 000 lost their senior positions and the associated pay and benefits; about 20, 000 lost part of their pension while about 11, 000 were denied health insurance by their former employers. Most of these veterans did not report their loss due to unfamiliarity with USERRA. In addition, other lose hope in the filing of the USERRA complaint, since it can take up to two years before a case is investigated. USERRA has also been faulted for not extending compliance that is uniform across the board. Despite of this, there has been a rise in the number USERRA complaint filed every year (Williamson and Mulhal 2009, p.5).

Although the government has come up with various programs like the Transition Assistance program that offers training on job hunting and counseling programs; and Special Employment Program for those who are disabled at war among others other programs, there has not been a law that helps to curbs the discrimination of veterans by the employers (Williamson & Mulhal 2009, p. 6).

Patton (2011, para3) suggests that the only way that veterans can make themselves more attractive to the employers is through the enactment of the H.R. 865 and S.146 the Veteran Employment Act of 2011 that will award tax credit to any employers who is willing to take the risk of giving a job to a disabled or recently discharged veteran.

 The effect of veteran unemployment is not only felt by the veterans but also their families who have to suffer through the plight of a struggling bread winner. Apart from that, some problems affecting the veterans affect their families leading to extra financial burdens. For instance, the family is expected to take care of the veterans who were injured or disabled at wars and veterans with mental disorders like post traumatic disorder. Above this, the family will have suffered from long separation with their loved one and disruption of parenting duties (Medline plus n.d., para 1).All this problems can be handled smoothly if there is at-least some source of constant income when the veteran comes back home. The Bill will help to cushion families from extra economic burdens, since even the disabled or mentally disturbed individual will have a chance of getting a source of income. Finally, the Bill will save several families from becoming homeless once they have been released from military quarters since with a job, most veterans will be able to afford basic needs for their families.

Conclusion

Although there are several legislations that are meant to smoothen the post deployment transition of ex-military men, there is still an increasing problem of unemployment among the recently released veterans. This is usually caused by the stigma associated with being an ex -military man whereby the employers think that most individuals are either incapable of converting their combat skills into civilian skills or may be suffering from a mental disorder associated with war time trauma. The situation has been worsened by the trending economic downturn.

At its best, the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 can be sold as a legislation that will provide some sort of employment assurance to the recently released veterans by neutralizing employment discrimination. The tax credit incentive is an attractive offer to any organization that is battling with the economic slump down. It will offer benefits that will make employers to hire even disabled veterans in the highly discriminatory labour system that exists in America.

The Bill will offer the veterans the benefits of going through the certification process and getting their documentation directly from the Department of defense rather than going through the present day tax credit process that is long and tedious. All a veteran who has been released from duty in the last five years will to carry to a potential employer is documentation indicating that he is a veteran as per the definition of the Bill. It also covers any person who had been activated as a National Guard. The Bill will above all task the military with the role of educating the veterans on the tax credits so that they can take advantage the employment benefits availed by the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011.

Now that the Bill is already in the committee stage, the best that can be done is to lobby as many members as possible into supporting it in all the committee, debate and voting stages. Indeed, this bill will not only reward the country’s military heroes, but it will also help to meet the growing employment deficit in America.

References

American Forces News Services. (2011). Number of National Guard and Military Reserves Mobilized. Retrieved on October, 21 2011 from: http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/guardandreserve/a/reservedeployed.htm

Cohn, M. (2011).Senate Bill would extend tax credit for hiring Vets. Accounting Today. Retrieved on October, 21 2011 from: http://www.accountingtoday.com/news/Senate-Bill-Extend-Tax-Credit-Hiring-Vets-57042-1.html

Govtrack.us. (n.d).Veteran Employment transition Act 2011: Other legislations with the same title. Retrieved on October 21, 2011 from: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-865&tab=related

Longley, R. (n.d.).The Legislative Process: How Bills become Laws or not. Retrieved on October, 21 2011 from: http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/legprocess.htm

Maxwell, B. (2011).Vets storm Capitol Hill ahead of Monthly job reports.IAVA. Retrieved on October 21, 2011 from: http://iava.org/blog/vets-storm-capitol-hill-ahead-monthly-jobs-report

Medline Plus. (nd.).Veterans and Military Health. Retrieved on October 21, 2011 from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/veteransandmilitaryhealth.html

Military Officers Association of America. (2011).Current legislation. Retrieved on October 21 2011 from: http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/?bill=34852501&cs_party=all&cs_status=C&cs_state=ALL

National centre for veteran analysis and statistics. (2010).Veteran population under 25 years old by state: Fiscal year 2010. Retrieved on October, 21 2011 from: http://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/Maps/VetPop_Under25.pdf

Open Congress. (2011).Interests that support this Bill. Retrieved on October, 21 2011 from: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h865/money

Patton, J. (2011).Stigma six: The battle of perception facing out of work veterans. Veteran Journal. Retrieved on October, 21 2011 from: http://www.veteranjournal.com/out-of-work-veterans/

The Library of Congress Thomas. (2011). Bill Text 112th Congress (2011-2012) H.R.865.IH. Retrieved on October, 21 2011 from: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.865:#

Waterhouse, M. & O’Bryant, J. (2008). National Guard personnel and deployment: Factsheet. Retrieved on October, 21 2011 from: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22451.pdf

Veterans for foreign War. (2011).Action corps: Current legislation. Retrieved on October 21 2011 from: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/bills/?bill=35327506