The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) monitors all legislation affecting veterans, alerts VFW membership to key legislation under consideration and actively lobbies Congress and the administration on veterans issues. With VFW’s own priority goals in mind, combined with the support of 2 million members of VFW and its auxiliaries, our voice on “the Hill” cannot be ignored!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

WATCH: House Discusses Veterans' Employment Initiatives

This morning the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hosted a hearing to discuss the current veterans' employment situation and ongoing federal government initiatives to address veteran unemployment.

Your VFW was on hand to hear witness testimony from VA Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity Curtis Coy and Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service Deputy Assistant Secretary John Moran, as well as veterans' employment advocates from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, or NASWA, and the Texas Veterans Commission.

To watch an archived webcast of the hearing, click here.

To view a full list of witnesses and to read their prepared remarks, click here.

During the opening statements, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., urged the Senate to take up and pass his education reform bill, H.R. 4057, a bill that was developed through the advocacy of the VFW and passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in July.

Much of the morning's discussion focused on persistent high unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans, the VA's implementation of the new Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP, and the Department of Labor's goal to refine the roles of Disabled Veteran Outreach Program specialists, or DVOPs, and Local Veterans Employment Representatives, or LVERs.

Veterans' advocates working at the state level had recently grown concerned over concepts VETS had floated to the veterans' community that would potentially reshape how employment services would be delivered to veterans through the career one-stop system.

Texas Veterans Commission, in particular, expressed a concern that LVERs, who cultivate employer relationships within the community, would no longer be allowed to directly interact with veterans, putting an additional strain on civilian staffers at Career One-Stop Centers, who may not be equipped to handle the unique employment concerns veterans face.

Moran responded to the concerns by assuring the committee that the concepts are only in the preliminary stages, and that VETS welcomes the discussion with state workforce development staff to ensure that any changes will only serve to improve the services to veterans.

Moran went on to acknowledge that the impetus to slightly shift policy is an effort to ensure that Career One-Stop Centers would be prepared for the expected influx of veterans, as the current conflicts wind down.

To learn more about Moran's outlook for VETS, click here.

During his remarks, Coy discussed VA's successful efforts to register 62,000 veterans as eligible to participate in VRAP, with VA expecting eligibility to cap at 99,000 veterans by February of 2013.

However, Coy also reported that only 17,000 veterans were currently enrolled in an educational program through VRAP, which raised concerns for the committee. Coy explained in his written remarks that VA was focused on reaching veterans that had not yet enrolled through a variety of media including television, radio, and direct email contact.

VRAP offers unemployed veterans between the ages of 35-60 an additional 12 months of Montgomery G.I. Bill-style education benefits to help develop new job skills. To learn more about the program, click here.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in October that unemployment among all veterans was 6.3 percent, lower than the national average. However, unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans continues to far outpace civilian unemployment at 10 percent.

Both the figures for total veteran unemployment and unemployment of our newest generation of veterans have significantly improved over the last year, but the VFW believes that more work must be done.

Your VFW will continue to talk to leaders in Washington about persistent veterans' unemployment issues and hold agencies accountable for the programs they have implemented to serve our nation's heroes. Check back regularly for updates.

(Image: The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hosted a hearing on veterans' employment this morning in the committee's chambers, room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building. Photo by Ryan Gallucci.)

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