With unemployment in Southwest Ohio approaching 13 percent in some areas, it can often be difficult for our service members to find jobs upon their return home. Just last year, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan aged 18-24 wars was a staggering 21.1 percent. That is why I sponsored the Hire a Hero Act of 2011, to offer tax credits to small businesses that hire a returning veteran or member of the National Guard or Reserve. The bill would extend the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to include current National Guard and Reserve members and make the credit permanent for veterans.
Those who return with disabilities from their service often rely on their military benefits to make ends meet. However, upon applying for assistance, they may often have difficulty accessing those benefits. For example, there is a loophole in the benefits system which does not allow veterans with a service-connected disability of less than 50% to concurrently receive both retired pay and disability compensation. To remedy this issue, I have cosponsored the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act which amends federal military retired pay provisions. This commonsense reform has the bipartisan support of 118 of my House colleagues.
Similarly, I have signed onto support the Retired Pay Restoration Act. This legislation expresses the sense of Congress that military retired pay should not be reduced because a military retiree is also eligible for veterans' disability compensation awarded for a service-connected disability. Congressional approval of this bill would allow the receipt of both military retired pay and veterans' disability compensation with respect to any service-connected disability.
We should also take care to support those surviving family members of our men and women in uniform that made the ultimate sacrifice. Current law states that survivors of those lost in action are to receive funds under the Survivor Benefit Plan. However, if they receive veterans' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, this sum reduces the amount of money given to widows and orphans. The Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act would halt reductions to the amount of money that is received by veterans' widows. I’m glad that this bill has the support of 128 of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle.
While our service members fight in multiple theatres and undertake dangerous missions each day, they should rest assured that they have our support here at home. These bills are some of the steps Congress is taking to further our commitment to those who serve. I look forward to continuing to work across the aisle to provide our troops what they have earned through service to this nation and support our men and women in uniform.