WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Spurring U.S. companies to hire veterans can help men and women returning from war zones move into routine civilian jobs, President Barack Obama said.
"Today we're saying to our veterans, you fought for us and now we're fighting for you, for the jobs and opportunities that you need to keep your families strong and to keep America competitive in the 21st century," the president said as he unveiled a plan that offers tax credits to companies that hire veterans.
Obama, speaking at the Washington Navy Yard Friday, said the proposal calls for a $4,800 "Returning Heroes" tax credit to companies that hire veterans unemployed for six months or more and a $2,400 tax credit if they hire one without a job for less than six months, a White House release said.
Companies would get a $9,600 "Wounded Warriors" tax credit -- an extension of an existing program -- if they hire a disabled vet who was unemployed for six months or more or $4,800 if the vet was without a job for less than six months, the adviser said.
The administration estimates the cost of the tax credits will be $120 million over two years and will be funded from the existing budget.
Obama also ordered the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to head up a task force on reforms, including a "reverse boot camp" to help veterans make the transition to civilian careers.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management will be directed to publish a manual showing business managers how they can locate veterans with skills and training that match open positions, CNN reported. And the U.S. Labor Department would unroll an "enhanced career development and job search service package."
Obama challenged private-sector businesses to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses during the next two years.
Many economists forecast the civilian unemployment rate would remain at 9.2 percent, as it was in June, with 75,000 to 120,000 in net new jobs created.
The job growth would largely come from the private sector, with government losing about 30,000 jobs, the economists forecast.
The unemployment rate among recent veterans was not included in the forecast, but it was 13.3 percent in June and was expected to increase in the coming months as an expected 10,000 troops return from Afghanistan and 46,000 return from Iraq.
An additional 23,000 troops from Afghanistan are set to return by September 2012.
The unemployment rate among veterans who served since Sept. 11, 2001, was 11.5 percent a year ago, the Labor Department said. In 2008 the rate was 7.3 percent.
Obama's proposal will require congressional approval. The credits would be made available in 2012 and 2013.
The military's existing training program for soldiers re-entering civilian life hasn't succeeded, senior administration officials acknowledged.
One jobless veteran told CBS News it was probably easier fighting in Iraq than searching for a job in the United States.
The White House plans to meet with House and Senate finance committee leaders to craft the tax-credit legislation when lawmakers return to Washington the second week of September.
The program, which would be considered government spending through the tax code, has been proposed at a time when heated debate is expected on finding $1.5 trillion in budget cuts.