White House: ‘We Can’t Wait’ To Put Vets Back To Work

A soldier helps guard the Rumelia Oil Field in southern Iraq on April 2, 2003.
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As part of its new “We Can’t Wait” for Congress theme, the White House has announced an initiative to help veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars get back to work.

The latest effort, part of a comprehensive plan to transition veterans from the battlefield to the workplace, challenges community health centers around the country to hire 8,000 veterans over the next three years.

Community health centers, clinics where the poor can receive medical services even if they have limited or no health insurance, are uniquely positioned to hire veterans because many of them are located within 100 miles of a military base and many military veterans have the medical and team-oriented organizational skills these clinics need, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.

“I think all Americans can agree that veterans shouldn’t have to fight for a job once they’ve come home from the fight overseas,” Matt Flavin, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and White House director of veterans and wounded warrior policy, wrote on the White House blog Tuesday.

“But, all too often, those who have sacrificed so much for America struggle to find a job worthy of their talents,” he continued. “As the President has said, ‘if you can save a life in Afghanistan, you can save a life in an ambulance. If you can oversee millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home.'”

Through the new initiative, the Obama administration is trying to make it easier for veterans to use the training they have in the military to become physician assistants, healthcare professionals who work with patients in limited ways under doctors’ supervision.

In an attempt to expedite physician-assistant training for vets, the administration will give priority for grants to universities and colleges that help train vets and identify model programs that offer expedited curricula for veterans with medical experience on the battlefield.

The Obama administration is trying to build on previous efforts, including sending 600,000 veterans back to school on the Post–9/11 GI bill and hiring more than 100,000 veterans into the federal government over the last year and a half. Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that the American Logistics Association and its 270 affiliate companies had committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013.

The President also included tax credits for hiring veterans in his jobs bill — $5,600 for firms that hire unemployed veterans and $9,600 for firms that hire veterans with service-oriented disabilities. With Republicans blocking the full jobs bill in Congress, the new initiative to transition veterans into healthcare positions is part of Obama’s plan to take executive actions to create jobs and reduce unemployment. The White House is working with Senate Democrats to offer the bill in pieces, and Republicans have said they support the tax credits for hiring veterans.

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