WASHINGTON – Today Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, released a statement in response to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report assessing federal employment programs for disabled veterans. The report, which found that the federal government still lacks a coordinated effort to help service disabled veterans reenter the workforce, comes during National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week. Kerry is leading efforts in the Senate to improve small business and entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans and reservists.

Following is Kerry’s statement:

“America’s brave veterans and reservists face new challenges today and this report highlights the fact that our government has not modernized and adapted to the changing needs of veterans returning home.

“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hire a service disabled veteran in my Boston office for six months through a federal program. After his rehabilitation, he needed a place to work where he could relearn skills and gain confidence. He worked very hard, was grateful for the opportunity and today is continuing his progress in the private workforce. Stories like this should not be the exception, but the rule all over the country.

“As Congress moves forward later this month to renew Department of Defense programs, we will have the opportunity to improve the resources available to our reservists and veterans to ensure they have successful transitions from business to battle field and back again. I will also continue to work with my colleagues to enact tax relief for our troops and tax incentives for employers of military reservists.

“It’s inadequate just to say thank you to our military, their families, and their communities who sacrifice so much for our country. We must show our thanks through better policies and follow through with our commitment.”

Kerry and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) have authored the bipartisan Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act (S. 1784) which increases funding for the Office of Veterans Business Development, creates a task force to coordinate veteran and reservist business development and assistance efforts of federal agencies, permanently establishes the Small Business Administration Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs, creates a National Reservist Enterprise Transition and Sustainability program to provide technical and financial assistance, and improves loan programs. The Kerry-Snowe legislation also requires the GAO to report on the types of assistance service disabled veterans need to pursue an entrepreneurship career path and the Department of Defense to conduct a study on options for promoting positive working relationships between employers and reservists.

In addition, Kerry secured provisions in the Defenders of Freedom Tax Relief Act (S. 1593) to provide a tax credit for small businesses who pay salary differential to employees that are called up for active duty; allow military death gratuities to be contributed to tax favored accounts such a Roth IRAs; permanently extend the election to include combat pay as earned income for purposes of calculating the earned income tax credit; and address differential pay tax issues. The bill, sponsored by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (D–Iowa), is awaiting action by the Finance Committee.

The GAO report can be viewed here.