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Vets Navigate Tough New Terrain _ The Job Market

Smith, who estimated the Navy spent more than $1 million to train him, described a desperate search to eke out a living, seeking out part-time jobs as a bartender and mail sorter, working as a day laborer, volunteering to be a test patient in drug studies.

He's now working on his EMT certification at a criminal justice academy in Virginia and has a job offer, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan vets' group.

Those kinds of stories have turned the spotlight on vets and accomplished something rare in Washington â¿¿ bipartisanship.

Last year, Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly supported a measure that President Barack Obama signed into law that provides tax credits to businesses hiring vets. It allows for up to $5,600 for each veteran unemployed longer than six months and as much as $9,600 for those with service-related disabilities out of work that same length of time.

First lady Michelle Obama, along with the vice president's wife, Jill Biden, recently marked the year anniversary of their own campaign, Joining Forces, to help vets and their spouses, especially with employment. Mrs. Obama also has made a new push for hiring in and around military bases; her program announced in April it has lined up commitments for more than 15,000 jobs in the coming years, most in telemarketing and customer support companies.

The private sector has stepped in, too.

Some are small ventures. For example, Ray Sizer, co-founder of National Energy Solutions in Levittown, Pa., an energy efficient lighting and electrical contractor, says hiring vets is a major priority and he hopes to add 10 or 15 for large projects now lined up.

Sizer, a second-generation Navy vet, points out Levittown, a planned suburban community about 20 miles from Philadelphia, "was built on (World War II) veterans returning home. They all had opportunity. Now they're coming home to what opportunity? There's hardly any."

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