HAMPTON, Va. -- Major U.S. manufacturers have pledged to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013, Michelle Obama said Wednesday.
The commitment by the companies -- including Tysons Foods, Coca-Cola, Unilever and ConAgra -- meets a quarter of President Barack Obama's challenge to the private sector to hire or train 100,000 post-9/11 veterans or spouses by the end of 2013.
"They want America's businesses to have the best, most-talented, hardworking employees around," said the first lady, who took the stage before her husband at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
Michelle Obama -- who, along with Jill Biden, has launched an effort called "Joining Forces" to support military families -- said the jobs commitment involves 270 companies and represents "the largest coordinated effort to hire vets that we've seen in years."
The president noted that nearly 3 million service members have transitioned back to civilian life in the past decade but that "there are far too many veterans ... and spouses who are having to struggle to find a job."
"That's not right," Obama said to applause. "It doesn't make sense for our veterans, it doesn't make sense for business, it doesn't make sense for families, and it doesn't make sense for America."
He continued his press for congressional action on his $447 billion jobs package, which he said includes incentives for hiring unemployed veterans, including a tax credit for hiring recently unemployed veterans and doubling an existing tax credit for hiring long-term unemployed veterans with service-related disabilities.
Under the "Returning Heroes" tax credit, employers who hire recently unemployed veterans could gain up to $2,400. They could gain up to $4,800 for hiring veterans who had been unemployed longer than six months.
A new "Wounded Warrior" tax credit would give a break of up to $9,600 to companies that hire veterans with disabilities who have been out of work for more than six months.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, more than 1 million service members are projected to leave the military. As of last summer, there were already 1 million veterans without jobs.
Obama has asked the departments of defense and veterans affairs to design a "reverse boot camp" of sorts, to prepare troops to leave the military, including "how they can translate their military training into an industry-accepted credential."