US President Barack Obama makes remarks on military veterans and spouses employment, as First Lady Michelle Obama (C), Vice President Joe Biden (2nd,L) and Jill Biden listen, during an event in the East Room of the White House, April 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. The announcement, attended by numerous business executives, is part of the Joining Forces initiative to assist military families in finding employment after their military service. UPI/Mike Theiler | License Photo
WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) -- The White House said Tuesday U.S. businesses have hired or trained 290,000 veterans or military spouses and have committed to hiring 435,000 more by 2018.
The announcement came the same day first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, who is married to Vice President Joe Biden, said in an op-ed on Fortune.com the United States "is making real progress" on hiring of veterans and their spouses.
"We're encouraged that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans dropped by 2.2 percent in 2012," they wrote. "But it is still too high; because as long as any veteran or military spouse who needs a job is unable to find one, then we still have work to do."
Michelle Obama and Jill Biden initiated a program in 2011 called Joining Forces, intended to generate public support for veterans and military families.
"We did this for two simple reasons: because we were both awed by the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day to protect our values and keep us safe," they wrote in their op-ed. "We were also awed by their families, the spouses and children who serve right along with them, enduring deployment after deployment with grace and resolve."
They said U.S. businesses -- in response to President Barack Obama's call in 2011 to "hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013" -- have nearly tripled that goal. The White House singled out Walmart, UPS, Home Depot, the Blackstone Group, Target and McDonald's, saying U.S. private-sector firms "have committed to hire or train another 435,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years."
"These men and women are some of the highest-skilled, best-trained, hardest-working people in this country," Michelle Obama and Jill Biden wrote.
"They are eager to work and determined to keep on serving this country. All they need is a chance."
The op-ed noted an estimated 1 million service members will leave the military in the next few years, "on top of the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses already out there looking for work."
"Every single one of these women and men have families, have a story and a future, and many of them still have a future," Vice President Biden said at a White House event Tuesday. "So this obligation is real, and it's going to be lasting, and it's consequential."