By The New York Times
“It’s time to focus on nation-building here at home,” Obama told 6,000 members of the country’s largest veterans group, who clapped politely. Obama singled out the “9/11 generation veterans,” who, he said, “have the skills and dedication to help lead the way.”
He praised “all who have worn the uniform in these wars” and said it was time, now, for the government to help these veterans find a place at home.
“Far too many of our veterans are unemployed,” the president said.
He said he had directed the federal government to hire 100,000 more veterans, but at a time of restricted budgets, overall government employment is constrained.
“As a nation, we’re facing some tough choices as we put our fiscal house in order, but I want to be clear,” Obama said. “As a nation, we cannot, we must not and we will not balance the budget on the backs of veterans.”
Obama has proposed a Returning Heroes Tax Credit for companies that hire unemployed veterans, and a Wounded Warrior Tax Credit for companies that hire unemployed veterans with a disability.
“When Congress returns from recess, this needs to be at the top of the agenda,” he said.
The administration has long championed employment for returning veterans; the jobless rate among those who joined the military after Sept. 11 was 13.3 percent in June.
The president will attend ceremonies next month in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, including a prayer service at the National Cathedral, for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. In his American Legion speech, he said it was imperative for the country to take care of its Sept. 11 veterans and all of its veterans “as well as you’ve taken care of us.”
The American Legion meeting in the Minneapolis Convention Center was filled with the veterans of Vietnam, Korea, the Persian Gulf War and the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Before Obama spoke, the group heard polka tunes and sang patriotic songs. Most of the men in the audience wore hats with their military ranks and badges.