State Policy Options
States have demonstrated a strong commitment to easing transitions into civilian employment for veterans and creating policies to sustain such employment. While many laws apply broadly to veterans, others recognize the unique challenges that veterans with disabilities face in the labor market and target approaches to this population. This section of the report profiles several areas of public policy emphasis by states relating to veteran employment.
Veterans Bills of Rights
A trend in the several years in state legislatures is the introduction of Veterans Bill of Rights legislation. Several states have considered and/or adopted this approach. In 2015, California enacted SB 112 that “proclaimed the rights of veterans in the state of California, including, among others, that veterans have the right to be treated with dignity, understanding, and respect, and have the right to housing, education, job training, and physical and mental health services.” Introduced bills in 2020-2021 in Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, and Maine seek a comprehensive state-coordinated effort across multiple agencies addressing a wide spectrum of services and benefits for veterans, with a focus on employment. This is based on a model created by a group of state legislators seeking better ways to help veterans. Following the model, the Illinois legislation requires the Department of Veterans' Affairs to do several things including:
- Increase loans and technical assistance to small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans or service-disabled veterans.
- Increase veterans’ and their families’ access to health care coverage and services, using navigators. The navigators would also help identify mental health benefits, directing them to services for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicide prevention.
- Take steps toward preventing veteran suicide.
- Implement a strategy to end veteran homelessness within three years.
- Recognize military training and experience toward licensing.
- Help veterans at public universities receive college credit.
- Require the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to annually review apprentice, training, and other vocational programs focused on providing job training and placement to returning military service members and veterans. It will also use labor force data to direct veterans to in-demand job fields.
Veterans’ bills of rights existing in Massachusetts and Missouri before the newer model was introduced include standards related to assistance and counseling that is to be received from veterans service officers, public employment preference and fair, equal, respectful and timely treatment in service provision.
Mental Health and Veterans Employment
The federal government handles most mental health needs for veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, states provide a variety of services designed to complement and connect the dots with federally provided services, particularly recognizing the important link between employment and improved mental health.
Access to and retention in jobs is inseparable from the issue of good mental health. Having a job is fundamental to financial security and without it, money problems can exacerbate underlying mental health issues for veterans, many caused by combat-related injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. Profiled below are two states that provide a variety of services to assist veterans, including those with disabilities, with employment while providing wrap-around social, health and mental health services. Several states are also addressing veteran suicide prevention.
In 2021, Nevada set up a military-to-civilian transition program by enacting AB 22. It provides military servicemembers with facilitated access to earned benefits as they transition to civilian life. The Nevada Department of Veterans Services is charged with creating this program to provide veterans with information and resources to obtain higher education, career training, small business start-up, housing, physical and mental health care, treatment for sexual trauma and other benefits to equip them for success in civilian life. Called the Nevada Transition Assistance Program (NVTAP), it will operate in coordination with Department of Defense transition centers across Nevada. NVTAP includes classroom and online training and is designed to support veterans, active duty, Nevada National Guard and Reserve as well as families in their transition from the military.
A significant effort in South Carolina (HB 4724 enacted in October 2020) established a committee to study veteran homelessness, unemployment, job placement, incidence of PTSD, access to basic human services, and other issues affecting South Carolina veterans. Key language in the committee’s report states:
The fundamental insight of this study is that today's veteran does not face a small number of individual risks, but a complex environment in which multiple risk factors interact to produce a cumulative level of risk greater than the sum of the individual factors. Unemployment, as an example, often drives a veteran into homelessness; being homeless creates insurmountable barriers to employment. In the same manner, substance abuse can lead to incarceration; incarceration, in turn, increases the risk of unemployment, homelessness and suicide.
The current model for serving veterans has many deficiencies, according to the report, necessitating three actions:
- Expand South Carolina's vision for veteran care to encompass the social determinants of health by having the South Carolina Department of Veterans' Affairs develop a state-wide network of organizations that provide services to veterans and by expanding and standardizing the scope of services provided at county offices to address the full range of veteran needs.
- Integrate efforts to aid veterans across the state by developing a collaborative coalition of organizations (federal, state, non-profit and private sector) which serve veterans, operating with enough central direction to allow for the efficient use of resources and enough decentralized control to allow for local solutions to the unique challenges facing veterans.
- Objectively measure the effectiveness of efforts to serve veterans by tasking the South Carolina Department of Veterans' Affairs to identify, measure and report specific performance measures that can be used to determine and track trendlines within the South Carolina veteran population along all social determinants of health.
Veteran Employment Preference
Preference policies provide a uniform method by which special consideration is given to qualified candidates seeking employment. Veterans’ preference laws recognize the sacrifice and value of those who have served in the armed forces by helping position them more competitively in the hiring process. While all states provide some form of preference to veterans applying for a public position, private employer preference is relatively new.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands award preference to veterans in hiring for public positions. This is typically achieved by adding points to examination scores that determine the ranking of candidates. It can also take the form of interview requirements, veteran-only positions and hiring goals.
For positions that require an examination, at least 37 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have procedures to prefer veterans with disabilities over veterans and nonveterans. In New Jersey, veterans with disabilities are given the highest preference for civil service employment. Eligible candidates who pass an examination are placed at the top of open competitive employment lists, ahead of veterans and nonveterans, regardless of their scores. To qualify for the state’s disabled veteran preference, the veteran must (1) have served on active duty during a qualifying war era, (2) received an honorable discharge, and (3) have a disability rating of at least 10%. This preference also applies to the spouse of a disabled veteran, the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran, the surviving spouse of any veteran who died in service, and the parent of any veteran who died in service. In Arizona, individuals with disabilities receive an additional five points and veterans with disabilities receive 10 points. Wyoming provides an additional five percentage points for veterans and surviving spouses, 10 points for veterans with disabilities. If the public department does not use a numerical scoring system, the advantage must be reasonably equivalent (2017 SF 53).
Florida Senate Bill 922, enacted in June 2021, expands the benefit of a veteran’s preference by authorizing the state or a local government to waive a postsecondary educational requirement for a position of employment. The education waiver applies to honorably discharged veterans, as well as current members of the National Guard or Reserves. The bill also increases points used for appointment and retention determinations, up to 20 points for a veteran with a service-connected disability.
In some states, veterans with disabilities may be considered for employment without having to compete or take an examination. This is the case in Minnesota, where eligible veterans must have a disability rating of 30% or greater. Oklahoma provides a similar exemption, with the caveat that veterans complete a one-year probationary period before acquiring permanent employee status.
Texas has taken a multi-pronged approach to increase employment of veterans in state government. The Texas Military Veterans’ Full Employment Act of 2015 sets a minimum 20% veteran hiring goal for each state agency. To meet this goal, the law requires that employers interview a certain number of qualified veterans for each open position—one veteran when the total number of applicants interviewed is six or less, and 20% veterans when more than six interviews are planned. Agencies may also designate certain positions as veteran-only and hire a veteran from within the agency without advertising the position. In addition, state agencies of a certain size must designate an employee to serve as a veteran’s liaison.
At least eight other states—Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Tennessee—have an interview requirement for veteran candidates. Nevada’s law requires employers to interview every veteran with a service-connected disability who is qualified for a particular position.
Maryland law authorizes an appointing authority in the State Personnel Management System to select a disabled veteran for a vacant position on a noncompetitive basis and interview only those disabled veterans who express interest (2017 HB 1466).
School districts in South Dakota provide a preference to veterans in appointment, employment and promotion. A veteran who has a service-connected disability is given preference over a non-disabled veteran (2015 SB 90).
Wisconsin has a hiring goal specific to veterans with disabilities. AB 441, enacted in 2016, established the Wisconsin Veterans Employment Initiative and set up the Council on Veteran Employment. The initiative is designed to increase the number of veterans and veterans with disabilities employed in state government. The council helps both large and small agencies achieve a 1% hiring goal for veterans with disabilities—7% to 9% for veterans overall—depending on the size of the agency.
While all states grant some form of employment preference to veterans in the public sector, private employers had been hesitant to favor veterans due to long-standing federal laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits veterans’ preference in employment as unlawfully discriminatory due to the potential disparate impact on women. However, Section 11 of the act allows special rights or preferences to be granted to veterans if they are authorized under federal, state or local law.
Thirty-nine states have enacted legislation allowing private employers to give preference to veterans in hiring, promotion and retention decisions. Of these, 16 states extend the preference to the spouse of a disabled veteran or to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.
Washington was the first state to pass a private veterans preference law in 2011 with HB 1432. The law applies to honorably discharged veterans, surviving spouses and spouses of veterans who have a service-connected permanent and total disability, stating clearly that such preferences are voluntary. Other state laws contain similar language, varying slightly in which individuals are covered by the preference. Alaska HB 2, passed in 2018, authorizes employers to grant preference in hiring to veterans and members of the National Guard.
At least five states—Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio and Texas—maintain a registry of employers that have adopted a veterans preference policy. Veterans in Texas can view an online list of more than 130 employers separated by locality.
Private Sector Veteran Hiring Initiatives
In addition to states enacting policies to support veteran hiring and promotion, many private sector companies have established their own internal employment preference policies or hiring initiatives for veterans. Examples include Comcast NBC Universal, Google, Starbucks, U.S. Bank, General Motors, Home Depot, Boeing, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Walmart, The Walt Disney Company, Southwest Airlines and Verizon.
Many companies, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International Inc. and Xcel Energy, have hiring initiatives aimed at veterans with disabilities. Through partnerships with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and organizations including the Wounded Warrior Project, many firms actively recruit and hire veterans with service-connected disabilities and provide assistance, such as resume and interview help, to those transitioning into the civilian workforce. For employers looking to hire, the Disabled Veterans of America’s “Guide to Hiring and Retaining Veterans with Disabilities” helps navigate the often-unclear terrain of recruiting, hiring and retaining such veterans.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also started Hiring Our Heroes in 2011. The initiative helps veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful work. As of March 2021, the 10th anniversary of its founding, more than 31,000 veterans and military spouses have found jobs through Hiring Our Heroes events, and more than 2,000 companies have committed to hire 710,000 people. Of those commitments, there have been more than 505,000 confirmed hires.
Career Development and Job Placement
States operate a variety of programs to prepare veterans to enter or reenter the civilian workforce through personalized assistance and sharing of resources at the local, state and federal levels.
In Tennessee, veterans with disabilities can take advantage of one-on-one services provided by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Staff members help veterans develop a plan of action for long-term employment, which includes career guidance. In addition, the department offers all veterans priority access to new job listings, resume assistance and interview coaching.
The California Transition Assistance Program (CalTAP), created by 2014 AB 1509, builds on the U.S. Department of Defense’s transition program by providing state-specific information and resources so veterans can maximize their benefits. Launched in 2017, CalTAP offers support and assistance to veterans of all eras as their needs change over time. The program is divided into the following five pathways: core curriculum, education, employment, entrepreneurship and service providers. The employment pathway prepares veterans to enter or reenter the civilian workforce through training on a variety of topics, from choosing a career to evaluating a job offer. In addition to personal marketing, job search and interview techniques, veterans also learn about state and federal jobs and apprenticeships. With support from the California Governor’s Military Council, CalTAP is currently offered at more than 20 military installations in the state.
A similar program in Virginia reached nearly 109,000 transitioning service members and spouses in fiscal year 2020. The Virginia Transition Assistance Program (VTAP) provides peer-to-peer support to new veterans and their families and makes referrals to address specific needs, mainly about employment, education and entrepreneurship. VTAP offers networking events, hiring events, resume reviews and an electronic newsletter of job postings.
The Nevada Veterans Advocate (NVA) program casts a wider net by empowering citizens, not necessarily with military experience, to educate veterans in their community about earned benefits and opportunities. This extends the ability of Veteran Service Officers to reach a population of over 212,000 veterans, particularly in rural areas. Prospective advocates must complete a free course covering 20 topics, including several that affect employment for disabled veterans. Those who complete the course receive a certificate and participate in local events sponsored by the Department of Veterans Services.
The Texas Legislature recently codified (2019 HB 696) a program operated by the state’s workforce commission. The Texas Veterans Leadership Program employs veterans as research and referral specialists and asks them to seek out other veterans in need of assistance related to employment, education and/or medical care.
States have also created online portals that veterans can use to access a range of benefits and services, including employment opportunities, all in one location. The Alabama Veterans Network (AlaVetNet) was established in 2013 and rechartered by the governor in 2017. The network is a partnership of 19 state agencies and several nonprofit veteran groups. Its searchable database of resources is organized by need and location, allowing users to quickly identify service providers in their region. Each of the resources listed on the website have been vetted for legitimacy and relevance.
New Hampshire is also sharing information directly with veterans and advocates through a monthly report detailing the state’s workforce needs projections. HB 1582 enacted in July 2020, requires the Department of Employment Security to release workforce projections for veterans by industry, job type, geography and needed credentials.
Employer Certification and Recognition
Employer certification programs facilitate the exchange of information between the state and employers, with the goal of linking veterans with businesses looking to hire.
Virginia was one of the first states to adopt this approach. In 2013, the General Assembly passed SB 829, codified as Va. Code §2.2-2001.2, establishing a program that came to be known as Virginia Values Veterans (V3). The V3 Program, a free training and certification program to help employers implement best practices in recruiting, hiring and retaining veteran employees. To date, almost 82,000 veterans in Virginia have been hired by 1,400 V3 certified companies.
North Carolina is also focusing on the demand side of the employment equation with its NC4ME program. NC4ME, which stands for North Carolina for Military Employment, is a public-private partnership created by the governor in 2015. Its members include workforce offices, veteran service organizations and military installations. Together, they leverage resources and technology to connect veterans with a coalition of employers who are trained and ready to hire military talent. In the past five years, the program has provided training to 872 human resource managers and arranged 3,513 interviews for veteran candidates. In addition, the official state labor exchange system, NCWorks Online, has several features for veterans, including a 24-hour “Vet Hold” on each new job posting, meaning only veterans can apply within the first 24 hours.
Other states are attempting to recognize employers that hire veterans. In 2017, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Veterans Commission and the governor’s office initiated the We Hire Vets program to recognize employers whose workforce includes at least 10% military veterans. Similar programs exist in at least three other states—Michigan, Nevada and Utah. Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training
Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training
At least 15 states—Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin—have programs that help veterans gain internships, apprenticeships and training. States have employed a variety of approaches, including direct training funding, promotion of existing apprenticeship programs, tax credits for employers and industry-specific incentives.
At least four states enacted legislation in 2020 and 2021 that would increase focus on apprenticeships and other training activities to help military veterans.
In 2021, Texas enacted Senate Bill 337 relating to the award of grants by the State Workforce Commission to facilitate the participation of certain veterans and military personnel in apprenticeship training programs. The commission will award grants to one or more nonprofit organizations that facilitate participation in apprenticeship training programs by veterans and servicemembers transitioning into civilian employment.
House Bill 1582 in New Hampshire, passed in 2020, requires the adjutant general to review expanded training and apprenticeship programs for providing job training for veterans and to submit a report detailing the findings. The bill also allows for low or free tuition at colleges and universities for children of veterans who are totally and permanently disabled, along with establishing programs to aid veterans' access to employment, housing, health care, and college degrees, among other provisions.
Michigan enacted House Bill 5396 in 2020 to appropriate $250,000 for an award to a national, nonprofit program that connects National Guard, reserve, retired, and transitioning active-duty military service members with skilled training and quality career opportunities in the construction industry. The grant funding is used to recruit and assist veterans to transition into apprenticeship programs in the state.
New Jersey established a five-year Apprentice Assistance and Support Services pilot program through 2020 SB 3067, codified as N.J. Rev. Stat § 34:15D-6.2. The program addresses two key barriers to successful apprenticeship completion: lack of reliable transportation and insufficient affordable and high-quality daycare, by providing stipends to eligible individuals participating in apprenticeships.
Veterans are eligible for the program along with displaced workers, and people with disabilities, among others.
Washington specifically assists veterans with disabilities through an internship program in the Department of Transportation. The program, created by 2007 Senate Bill 5242, assists veterans with disabilities by matching them with appropriate jobs within the department that use their military skill sets, or that would teach them new skills. The jobs may include, but are not limited to, engineering, construction trades, logistics and project planning.
A new resource from the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeships is Veterans Spotlight: Creating Jobs for Vets through Apprenticeship. This webpage helps employers and veterans learn about inclusive apprenticeships for former service members, including those with service-connected disabilities.
Employer Tax Credits
Employer incentives are another way states can increase employment of veterans with disabilities. At least 11 states—Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Utah, Washington and West Virginia—currently provide an income tax credit to private employers that hire one or more veterans. Employers typically may claim the tax credit for the first and second taxable year in which they employ one or more qualified veterans. Credits range from $1,000 to $15,000 for each veteran hired. Some states limit the duration of the tax credit, as evidenced by the five states and the District of Columbia where credits have expired in recent years.
Three states—Alaska, New York and West Virginia—offer a larger tax credit to employers who hire veterans with disabilities. Each state calculates the tax credit differently. In New York, employers who hire a veteran with disabilities may claim 15% of total wages paid during his or her first year of employment, up to $15,000. Employers who hire a veteran who is not disabled can claim 10% of wages up to $5,000. In Alaska, employers may claim an additional $1,000 ($3,000 total) for each disabled veteran hired, provided he or she was discharged in the past 10 years. A veteran who is not disabled must be hired within two years of discharge for the employer to claim a tax credit. Finally, West Virginia calculates the tax credit based on the employee’s disability rating. The credit is equal to the percentage of an employee’s disability multiplied by the first $5,000 in wages earned.
IIn 2021, Maryland repealed the Hire Our Veterans Tax Credit and expanded the existing Job Creation Tax Credit to cover the hiring of a qualified veteran (SB 186). The amount of the credit is equal to $4,000 for each qualified veteran hired and $6,000 if the veteran is employed at a facility located in a revitalization area. A small business can claim an income tax credit of $2,500 for each qualified veteran hired.
IIn addition to state incentives described above, the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is available to private employers and certain nonprofit organizations. The WOTC incentivizes hiring of individuals in nine target groups, including veterans with disabilities, who have faced significant barriers to employment. Employers can receive between $2,400 and $9,600 in tax credits for hiring a veteran with disabilities, provided he or she was hired within one year of discharge or release from active duty or was unemployed for at least six months in the year ending on the hiring date. The Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2021 extended the WOTC until Dec. 31, 2025.