Economic Opportunity Bill Hearing before HVAC
April 10, 2013
RYAN M. GALLUCCI
VETERANS OF FOREIGN
WARS OF THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF
WITH RESPECT TO
H.R. 357, H.R. 562, H.R. 631, H.R. 844, H.R.
1305, H.R. 1316, H.R. 1402, a draft bill entitled “Improving Job Opportunities
for Veterans Act of 2013”, and a draft bill entitled “To amend title 38, United
States Code, to extend the authority to provide work-study allowance for
certain activities by individuals receiving educational assistance by the
Secretary of Veterans Affairs”
WASHINGTON, D.C. APRIL 10, 2013
Flores, Ranking Member Takano and members of the Subcommittee, on behalf of the
nearly 2 million members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
(VFW) and our Auxiliaries, I want to thank you for the opportunity to present
the VFW’s stance on legislation pending before this Subcommittee.
the economy continues to slowly recover, unemployment among young veterans who
served after 9/11 continues to outpace unemployment among civilians. Over the
last few years, the VFW has prioritized veteran-hiring initiatives and
championed legislation before this committee in an effort to help our service
members and veterans secure meaningful careers after military service.
want to first thank the subcommittee for its hard work in the 112th
Congress, championing legislation like the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, the
Improving Transparency in Education for Veterans Act, and dozens of other
initiatives that have helped make today’s veterans more competitive during
difficult economic times.
with the war in Iraq over, drawdown in Afghanistan imminent, proposed
reductions in the active duty military and plans to rely heavily on the Guard
and Reserve for future missions, we must continue to do more. The bills we are
discussing today will help veterans of all eras remain competitive in the
workforce; improve transitional resources for separating service members;
foster rehabilitation among severely wounded veterans; and enhance services to
homeless and at-risk veterans.
H.R. 357, GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act
the last few years, the VFW, American Legion and Student Veterans of America
have worked closely to improve educational resources for veterans, ensuring potential
student-veterans are academically and financially prepared for the rigors of
college life. A major roadblock that prevents student-veterans from receiving a
quality, reasonably-priced education through the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the
inability to qualify as in-state residents for tuition purposes while attending
public colleges and universities. Specifically, recently-separated veterans who
may be legal residents of a particular state, but who have been stationed on a
military installation in another state, will not qualify as residents when they
seek to attend a public college or university because they have not been
physically present in the state long enough to qualify as a resident for
tuition purposes. As of 2011, Student Veterans of America reports that only one
out of every five veterans attending a public school is eligible to attend at
the in-state rate.
Post-9/11 GI Bill was intended to offer veterans a free, public education and a
modest living stipend, allowing veterans to treat college as a full-time job,
without worrying about financial stability. Current law only allows VA to reimburse
veterans attending public schools for the cost of an in-state education,
meaning veterans who cannot qualify for in-state tuition will only receive
meager reimbursement for college. This clerical oversight forces veterans to
find other ways to pay for college either through other federal aid programs,
finding full time employment or amassing student loan debt even when they make
a good faith effort to legally reside in a state and attend a public school.
easy solution to this issue would be for public colleges and universities to
allow Post-9/11 GI Bill-eligible veterans to attend at the in-state rate.
Service members already have similar protections when they use military Tuition
Assistance at public schools, with minimal impact on the ability of state
colleges and universities to deliver a quality, reasonably-priced education.
states already offer in-state tuition to veterans, eight states offer
conditional waivers for veterans in certain circumstances, and 16 states have
legislation pending. Of the states that have passed in-state tuition
initiatives for veterans, both Republican and Democrat state leaders have all
agreed that the financial benefits for the state far outweigh the illusory
financial burdens that some in higher education believe would be detrimental to
institutional budgets – particularly since graduates of public colleges and
universities traditionally pursue careers close to their alma mater.
Ohio passed its in-state tuition waiver in 2009, then- Gov. Ted Strickland said
of in-state tuition, “It delivers real support to veterans while helping
strengthen Ohio's strategic plan for higher education, which calls for
attracting and keeping talent in the state. Who better to have as part of
Ohio's colleges and universities, workforce and communities than the veterans
who have served, led, and protected our country?”
Virginia passed its law in 2011, Gov. Bob McDonnell said “These men and women
have served our country; it is essential that we continue to work to better
serve them. Veterans are the kind of citizens we want in the Commonwealth and
that we want as part of our workforce.”
Louisiana passed its law in 2012, Gov. Bobby Jindal said, “This new law
encourages members of the U.S. military – who are the best trained
professionals in the world – to pursue an education in our state, which will be
an economic boost, but most importantly, it’s yet another means for us to thank
these brave men and women for their service.”
Post-9/11 GI Bill is a federal program designed to help our nation’s heroes
acquire the skills necessary to build a successful career after military
service. Our veterans served the nation; not a particular state. They should
not be penalized for their honorable service when they cannot satisfy strict
residency requirements for tuition purposes. The VFW regularly hears from
student-veterans who confirm that financial uncertainty is the most significant
roadblock to persistence and graduation. To combat this, it only makes sense to
allow our student-veterans to attend college at a reasonable rate when seeking
to use their earned Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, and we hope the committee moves
quickly to pass this legislation.
H.R. 562, VRAP Extension Act of 2013:
VFW was proud to support the establishment of the Veterans Retraining
Assistance Program (VRAP) as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act on 2011. To
date, more than 93,000 veterans between the ages of 35-60 have certified
eligibility for the program. Unfortunately, fewer than 41,000 eligible veterans
have enrolled in an eligible program to date. The original VRAP program is set
to expire on March 31, 2014, meaning that veterans who did not enroll as of
April 1 will not be able to use all 12 months of eligibility for the program.
The VFW supports extending this deadline to June 30, 2014 to ensure that eligible
veterans can enroll in an academic program and use their full year of benefits.
the VFW echoes the concerns of this committee that enrollment remains too low.
We fully support a report to Congress on the outcomes of VRAP, but we also ask the
committee to consider two critical improvements to the program.
First, Congress should ease the restriction on institutional eligibility for
VRAP. The VFW understands that VRAP will only pay for programs no longer than
two years in duration. As a result, four-year institutions are ineligible to
participate. On the surface, this makes sense. Unfortunately, quality four-year
institutions that offer certificate and two-year programs are locked out of
VRAP, and veterans are told to enroll at community colleges or online schools.
not all communities offer community colleges. For example, in Erie,
Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State University Erie Campus serves as a de facto
community college, even though the school also offers four-year programs.
Veterans who wish to use their VRAP benefits will not find an eligible
community college nearby. They simply do not exist in Erie.
Congress must make it easier for VRAP benefits to cover remediation training.
Recently, the VFW heard from the Student Veterans Organization at the Community
College of Rhode Island, which boasts significant enrollment from VRAP-eligible
veterans. By the very nature of the program, many eligible veterans require
significant remediation in areas like math, composition and computer literacy.
Unfortunately, CCRI’s student-veterans report that these basic remedial skills
cannot be paid for through VRAP since they are not part of the core curriculum
for VRAP-approved programs. The VFW believes this sets up eligible veterans for
failure. Veterans must be able to use VRAP for basic remediation. Otherwise, we
cannot reasonably expect veterans to have the skills necessary to complete
their approved programs in a timely manner.
H.R. 631, Servicemembers’ Choice in Transition
Act of 2013:
VFW fully supports the redesign of the military’s transition assistance
programs (TAP), and we thank VA, Department of Labor, the Small Business
Administration, and Department of Defense for allowing VFW to audit and
evaluate pilot curricula for redesigned TAP and the new Transition GPS model.
we acknowledge that TAP has significantly improved through this latest
redesign, we have concerns that the program will still fail to adequately
prepare service members for civilian life, since participation in
individualized tracked curricula will not be mandatory.
than mandating participation in one of three new tracks focusing on education,
vocational/technical careers or entrepreneurship, DoD has instead decided that
service members will need to meet “career readiness standards” in the track of
their choice. To the VFW, this is not what we envisioned when we suggested that
DoD develop curricula from which a transitioning service member could choose
prior to separation.
the VFW envisioned a model similar to Marine Corps TAP, through which a service
member would attend service-specific training, the VA benefits briefings, then
choose from one of four tracks:
Employment, education, entrepreneurship, and vocational/technical. Chairman
Flores, your bill clarifies that the intent of the TAP redesign was to offer
this kind of transitional training, and we are proud to support it.
VFW supports DoD’s efforts to build a life cycle model for military
professional development, but we are concerned that the new model will still
fail to adequately prepare service members for civilian life. We prefer the
model set forth in H.R. 631, which allows service members to actively choose
their unique transition plan, but also acknowledges the finite time frame
services can dedicate to preparing separating service members for civilian
H.R. 844, VetSuccess Enhancement Act:
VFW has a long-standing resolution calling on VA to lift the delimiting date for
participation in the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR&E) program, and we are
proud to support H.R. 844, which extends the delimiting date by five years.
VFW has long held that if disabled veterans need additional skills to be
employable, then VA has a duty to offer these resources regardless of how long
a veteran has been separated from the military. Over time, service-connected
disabilities can limit veterans in their career choices. Veterans limited by their
disabilities may need VR&E services later in life to remain competitive in
an ever-changing workforce, and the VFW believes it is our obligation to offer
those resources without arbitrary time restrictions.
VA already has some regulatory flexibility in how it can administer VR&E
benefits, but the VFW prefers to see the delimiting date lifted in code.
H.R. 1305, To amend title 38, United
States Code, to provide clarification regarding eligibility for services under
the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program:
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) offers tremendous transitional
resources to homeless veterans seeking to reenter the workforce. Unfortunately,
due to the rigid definition of “homeless veteran,” many formerly homeless,
formerly incarcerated, or transitioning veterans who could benefit the most
from the program are ineligible. By expanding the definition to include these
categories of at-risk veterans, HVRP will offer more veterans the opportunity
to successfully reenter the workforce.
H.R. 1316, To amend title 38, United
States Code, to specify the responsibilities of the Directors and Assistant
Directors of Veterans’ Employment and Training:
VFW is proud to support H.R. 1316, which will finally codify the specific
responsibilities of Directors of Veterans Employment and Training (DVETS) and Assistant
Directors of Veterans Employment and Training (ADVETS) in state workforce
development agencies. The VFW understands that many DVETS and ADVETS already fulfill
these responsibilities, but we echo Department of Labor Veterans Employment and
Training Services that federally-funded directors responsible for managing
veterans’ employment resources on the state level must have consistency in
mission. The VFW is also concerned that DVETS and ADVETS must be protected
should the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803) gain momentum in Congress, transforming how state
workforce development programs are funded and structured. Our goal is to ensure
that veteran-specific resources continue to be available in every state and
that services are rendered consistently. In order to do this, the House
Veterans Affairs Committee must be able to provide direct funding and continue
to have direct oversight of DVETS and ADVETS.
H.R. 1402, To amend title 38, United
States Code, to extend the authorization of appropriations for the Secretary of
Veterans Affairs to pay a monthly assistance allowance to disabled veterans
training or competing for the Paralympic Team and the authorization of appropriations
for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide assistance to United States
VFW believes that rehabilitation through sports fosters healthy living,
physical fitness, and a competitive spirit for our disabled veterans, many of
whom have suffered catastrophic injuries in the line of duty. VFW Posts and Departments
around the country consistently support rehabilitative sports in their
communities, which is why we are proud to support extending VA’s collaboration
with United States Paralympics, Inc. through 2018.
supporting responsible rehabilitative sports initiatives like those provided by
the U.S. Paralympic Team, the VFW believes that combat-wounded veterans will
not simply overcome their injuries, but also discover new personal strengths
Draft bill, Improving Job Opportunities
for Veterans Act of 2013:
VFW believes that the intent of the GI Bill is to allow veterans to acquire the
necessary skills to compete in the civilian job market. For many veterans, the
simplest path to acquiring these skills is through higher education. However,
we must stress that college is not for everybody, which is why GI Bill-eligible
veterans can also acquire highly-marketable job skills through VA-approved
apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs (OJT).
National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA) consistently touts the
merits of approved OJT programs, but admittedly has trouble informing eligible
veterans that the programs exist.
Through this draft legislation, VA will be able to readily publicize the
availability of OJT and also make the program more attractive to potential
employers by offering greater flexibility in compensation for trainees. To take
this one step further, the VFW would suggest restoring outreach funding to
State Approving Agencies, which play a critical role in informing veterans of
The VFW would proudly support this initiative to increase the visibility and
viability of VA-approved OJT programs.
Draft bill, To amend title 38, United
States Code, to extend the authority to provide work-study allowance for
certain activities by individuals receiving educational assistance by the Secretary
of Veterans Affairs:
This draft bill is a simple extension of
VA’s authority to offer work-study allowances for student-veterans. The VFW has
long supported the VA work-study program and we would proudly support this
initiative to extend the program to 2018.
Chairman Flores, Ranking Member Takano,
and members of the Subcommittee, this concludes my testimony and I would be
happy to answer any questions you may have.
Information Required by Rule XI2(g)(4) of the
House of Representatives
Pursuant to Rule XI2(g)(4) of the House of
Representatives, VFW has not received any federal grants in Fiscal Year 2013,
nor has it received any federal grants in the two previous Fiscal Years.
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