Below are additional policy options state legislatures have considered in recent years to address the needs of returning veterans and their families. Topics covered include employment, education, access to benefits, housing and mental health.
State legislatures have enacted a number of provisions to help returning veterans reintegrate into the civilian workforce over the past several years. This is a trend that follows reports of high unemployment among post-9/11 veterans. Veterans often experience long delays in obtaining civilian employment even when they have transferable skills gained through military education, training and experience.
Since 2010, all 50 states and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation assisting active duty service members and veterans in transferring and obtaining occupational licenses and certifications. Some laws apply only to specific professions while others are broader. Many states are now expanding on existing legislation to cover more professions and to address any barriers that may impede licensure. In addition, 49 states have enacted legislation to streamline the process for military spouses transferring a license or certification between states.
Examples of Enacted Legislation:
- Alaska (HB 46 – 2013): Waives the commercial motor vehicle driving skills test for certain drivers with military commercial motor vehicle experience.
Delaware (HB 296 – 2014): Allows professional licensing boards to recognize military education, training and experience when reviewing credentials and issuing licenses and aims to assist service personnel and their spouses in obtaining and renewing professional licenses when transitioning from active duty. The law also allows boards to issue temporary licenses based upon licensing in another state.
Michigan (HB 4605 – 2013): Authorizes the use of military experience as the basis for licensure as a medical first responder, emergency medical technician, emergency medical technician specialist, paramedic or emergency medical services instructor-coordinator.
North Carolina (SB 545 – 2015): Creates an occupational licensing board that issues licenses, certifications, or registrations to military‑trained applicants, allowing them to lawfully practice their occupation in the State if the applicant has been awarded a military occupational specialty equivalent to or exceeding the requirements for licensure.
Texas (SB 807 – 2015): Waives occupational licensing application and examination fees for military service members, veterans and spouses whose military service, training or education substantially meets all of the requirements for the license or who holds a current license issues by another state.
Employer Grants and Tax Credits
At least 19 states—Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin—provide grants or tax credits to encourage private employers to hire returning veterans. Employers can typically 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 $5,000 for each veteran hired.
Examples of Enacted Legislation:
- Alabama (HB 152 – 2012): The Heroes for Hire Act provides a $1,000 tax credit to employers who hire unemployed veterans who recently returned from active duty. It provides a $2,000 tax credit to recently discharged veterans who start their own business
- Delaware (HB 275 – 2012): Provides an employer tax credit up to $1,500 to spur the hiring of veterans who have served in overseas conflicts since 2001.
- Vermont (HB 275 – 2011): Provides a $2,000 tax credit to employers who hire recently discharged veterans
Providing grants to businesses also encourages the hiring of veterans and helps to defray the costs associated with retraining:
- Arkansas (SB 500 – 2015): Appropriates $300,000 for job counseling and workforce readiness training to veterans and other employment challenged persons.
- Connecticut (SB 927 – 2013): Provides grants to businesses to subsidize part of the cost of on-the-job training and compensation for newly hired veterans.
- Missouri (HB 1680 – 2012): The Show-Me-Heroes program offers on-the-job training for returning National Guard members, reservists and recent active duty service members. Employers are reimbursed for half of the participant's wages during the training period.
- Wisconsin (SB 419/AB 541 – 2016): Creates a veterans employment and entrepreneurship grant program; allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide up to $500,000 annually in grants to improve the employment outcomes for veterans in the state, assist veteran entrepreneurs, give employers incentives to hire veterans, and fund job training - especially for disabled veterans.
While all states grant some form of employment preference to veterans in the public sector, private employers had been hesitant to favor veterans because of provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit discrimination in hiring. An exception to the law, however, allows veterans preference if authorized under federal, state or local law.
Since 2011, 37 states (including 33 states in the past three years) have enacted legislation allowing private employers to give hiring preference to honorably discharged veterans: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Many of these laws also apply to spouses of disabled veterans and surviving spouses.
Job Placement Services
These programs facilitate the exchange of information between the state and employers with the goal of connecting returning veterans with businesses looking to hire. They may also help veterans prepare a resume and complete applications for employment.
Examples of Enacted Legislation:
- Arkansas (HB 1575 – 2013): Requires the Department of Workforce Services to maintain a registry of private employers and local government employers in Arkansas that have a voluntary veterans' preference employment policy.
- Colorado (HB 1030 – 2015): Establishes a pilot program to provide job retention services, mediation services, mentoring skills and guidance to veterans seeking civilian employment.
- Florida (HB 7015 – 2014): Creates the Veterans Employment and Training Services program to link veterans with businesses seeking to hire dedicated, well-trained workers. It directs program staff to offer skills assessments to veterans, share information on other state services and assist them in preparing applications for employment.
- Virginia (HB 971 – 2014): Requires the adjutant general to establish a program under which the Department of Military Affairs can share information with the Employment Commission on members of the National Guard undergoing discharge, separation or release.
Discrimination in Hiring
Many returning veterans face a subtle form of discrimination as they search for employment. Employers may wrongfully assume that a member of the National Guard or Reserves may be called to active duty shortly after beginning work. For other employers, fears regarding post-traumatic stress disorder are the primary concern. In 2014, legislators in Indiana (HB 1242) and Louisiana (SB 412) enacted legislation making it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a prospective employee based on the individual's status as a veteran or member of the National Guard or Reserves.