This week the 114th United States Congress came into session, as House Republicans quickly re-introduced legislation that didn’t make it out of the Senate last year. The House has already passed this piece of legislation with a 412-0 vote on the first day of the new session.
At first glance, it appears this Congress is wasting no time to get out and support veterans—and with a name like the “Hire More Heroes Act of 2015,” who could be opposed to this measure? Under the thin veneer of patriotism, however, this bill does little to help veterans and is simply the worst kind of politics as usual. The bill, if it becomes law, would allow businesses to hire veterans without having to count them as full-time employees under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, also known as ObamaCare, requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to offer health insurance for their employees. These exemption will be made available only to veterans who utilize VA healthcare or TRICARE. Supporters argue this new bill will encourage companies to hire more veterans to increase their workforce while remaining under the 50-employee mandate. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this bill will would reduce revenue and in fact increase budget deficits by $858 million from 2015 to 2025, because it would reduce federal receipts that employers are responsible for under ACA.
This bill will do nothing, however, to bring down unemployment numbers among veterans, and is meant only as an attack on the Affordable Care Act under the guise of veteran support. In 2014, 44.2% of the overall veteran population are already of retirement age or older, and that number will only increase with time. Currently, just over 1.8 million post 9/11 veterans are eligible for VA healthcare, but less than 60% of eligible post 9/11 veterans actually utilize VA healthcare. That means employers have a pool of just over a million veterans to recruit from.
This past November, the U.S. Department of Labor reported a 5.7% unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans. With this bill aimed at small business owners, most of them will not have the organizational capacity to headhunt enough qualified veterans to fill positions and avoid ACA employer responsibilities.
At Swords to Plowshares, we do our best to find quality employment for veterans, and we advocate for companies to hire veterans. Our Employment and Training Department works one-on-one with our veteran clients and acts as job broker to place veterans in quality positions. Our Institute of Veteran Policy trains dozens of recruiters, human resources personnel, and hiring managers through our Combat to Community curriculum, where employers learn how to find quality veteran candidates as well as how best to support them after they’re brought onboard.
Sadly, “Hire More Heroes” is just another partisan attack on the President’s Affordable Healthcare Act that masquerades as support for veterans, and that is plain disingenuous. If we want to support veterans, find them good careers, and bring down their unemployment numbers, then let’s invest that $858 million toward veteran job programs that work.
Kevin C. Miller
Kevin served in the United States Marine Corps infantry from 2002-2006 with multiple deployments to Iraq. He graduated from Humboldt State University with a BA in Recreation Administration and a minor in Business Administration.
He works at Swords to Plowshares as the Strategic Partnership Associate and his primary focus of work includes building partnerships between employment and training providers, relevant state entities, not for profit associations and private employers. Follow his work on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Feature image from MajorityLeader.gov