ATLANTA — Three military veterans who now serve in the Georgia Senate say the state can do a better job helping younger, unemployed veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they're offering a range of proposals to assist with jobs and education.
They would offer tax incentives to employers and erase hurdles to college degrees.
They are asking fellow lawmakers to support measures that aim at a problem seen nationwide: Veterans who have served since 2001 face a higher jobless rate than Americans who never enlisted.
"We know there are issues with coming back into society," said Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, who spent seven years in the U.S. Navy. His stint included service during the first Gulf War in 1990. "We actually feel this legislation. We know we have to go out and help ... they would do it for us if they had this opportunity."
The three — Jackson, Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, and Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee — have filed or plan to submit bills that would:
— Offer a tax credit to businesses that hire veterans facing long-term unemployment and give preferential treatment to disabled veterans seeking certain state contracts;
— Allow those who are paying for college with VA benefits to pay tuition in installments, and give veterans academic credit or coursework exemptions for certain skills they learned in the military;
— Establish a Returning Veterans Task Force to investigate and recommend how the state can best help veterans returning from a combat zone within the most recent three years.
Harbison said, "If it's military, usually I get a bipartisan hand across the aisle," he said.