Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., have introduced legislation that would expand an existing tax credit for hiring veterans to encourage further hiring while making it easier for business claim.

The Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2013 aims to combat unemployment among veterans by allowing employers to claim a $2,400 tax credit when hiring any recently discharged veteran and streamlining the certification process for both veterans and businesses.

“After defending our nation on the battlefield, all too many veterans are facing a new battle when they come home — the battle to find good paying jobs,” Baucus said in a statement.  “This bill will be a big boost for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, making it easier for business owners in Montana and across the country to fill job openings with hard-working vets.  Our veterans are intelligent, qualified and proven leaders, and this is our chance to fight for them on the home front.”

The national unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans was 10.8 percent in December – far higher than the overall rate of 7.8 percent.  In some states, such as Baucus’s home state of Montana, which has the second-highest population of veterans per capita of any state, the post-9/11 vet unemployment rate was as high as 17.5 percent.

The legislation Baucus introduced Friday, improves the existing Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employers by allowing them to claim a $2,400 credit when they hire any veteran discharged within the last five years.  The bill also makes the process for employers to qualify for the tax credit even simple. Veterans would only have to show their discharge papers to demonstrate they were discharged no more than five years before being hired.  Under the current rules, employers have to verify a set of criteria with their individual states’ employment agencies before they can claim the credit.

Baucus authored the original credit for hiring unemployed vets in early 2009, along with as its 2011 expansion and its extension earlier this year.  When the original tax credit was enacted, Baucus promised to continue working to cut red tape and make the process simpler, which the bill aims to do.

The bill would also help veterans earn certifications and licenses when they return home for skills they learned while serving in the military. The legislation calls for better coordination between the six different veteran unemployment programs in the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs and Labor, and it compels executive agencies to award contracts to small businesses owned by disabled veterans. Baucus’s fellow Montana Senator, Jon Tester, who is a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is co-sponsoring the bill.