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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An amendment worked into the national economic stimulus bill would expand tax incentives to employers who hire veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the measure is needed because the current generation of soldiers and sailors are returning home after military discharge to find a shrinking work force.

The amendment was approved Friday as the Senate worked on the recovery package. The measure would apply to veterans who are discharged from September 2001 through December 2010.

To qualify for the tax credit, employers would need to hire a post-9/11 veteran who has received unemployment benefits for at least four weeks within the past year. The veteran would need to work at least 120 hours for the employer to be eligible.






Four leading veterans groups called Friday for a $4.5 billion increase in veterans programs, including $3.6 billion for health care.

This is an even bigger increase than the groups asked for a year ago, and puts added pressure on President Barack Obama to keep campaign promises for full funding of Veterans Affairs Department programs.

The increase, which would result in a $54.6 billion discretionary VA budget, comes in the so-called “independent budget” prepared each year by AmVets, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The $54.6 billion budget includes health care, administrative and construction funds and some costs related to the administration of benefits, but not the costs of the benefits themselves.

Recommendations made in the independent budget often become a benchmark used by members of Congress to judge the adequacy of administration budget requests. Its timing – before the Obama administration makes its first budget submission – sets the stage for criticism if Obama asks for an increase of less than $3.6 billion.

This is the 23rd year that veterans’ groups have joined efforts to craft a combined budget recommendation.

Randy Pleva Sr., Paralyzed Veterans of America president, said the four organizations “urge” Obama to adopt the independent budget recommendations. “It is good for veterans. It is good for the economy. It is good for America,” he said in a statement.

In addition to the health care increase, the budget calls for increases in funding for information technology, the National Cemetery Administration, the VA inspector general’s office, administrative costs for processing benefits claims and a $2 billion increase in construction money.

The big increase in major and minor construction is an effort to reduce a backlog of infrastructure needs, according to the veterans groups.

Part of the health care increase would be used to lease facilities for outpatient care, said Glen Gardner, VFW national commander.

“Forcing disabled veterans to travel great distances because their local VA medical center dropped inpatient care is not the proper way to care for America’s veterans,” Gardner said.


$3.6 BILLION HIKE URGED FOR VA HEALTH CARE By Rick Maze, AirForce Times, 02/06/09, http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2009/02/military_independentbudget_veterans_020609w/

With all that is going on, including the alleged trimming of the stimulus package, our Military must not be compromised, forgotten, sacrificed or neglected in any way.