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Hearing Transcript on Licensure and Certification of Transitioning Veterans.

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LICENSURE AND CERTIFICATION OF TRANSITIONING VETERANS

 



 HEARING

BEFORE  THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION


SEPTEMBER 20, 2007


SERIAL No. 110-44


Printed for the use of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

 

 

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WASHINGTON, DC:  2008


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COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS

BOB FILNER, California, Chairman

 

CORRINE BROWN, Florida
VIC SNYDER, Arkansas
MICHAEL H. MICHAUD, Maine
STEPHANIE HERSETH SANDLIN, South Dakota
HARRY E. MITCHELL, Arizona
JOHN J. HALL, New York
PHIL HARE, Illinois
MICHAEL F. DOYLE, Pennsylvania
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada
JOHN T. SALAZAR, Colorado
CIRO D. RODRIGUEZ, Texas
JOE DONNELLY, Indiana
JERRY MCNERNEY, California
ZACHARY T. SPACE, Ohio
TIMOTHY J. WALZ, Minnesota

STEVE BUYER,  Indiana, Ranking
CLIFF STEARNS, Florida
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
HENRY E. BROWN, JR., South Carolina
JEFF MILLER, Florida
JOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas
GINNY BROWN-WAITE, Florida
MICHAEL R. TURNER, Ohio
BRIAN P. BILBRAY, California
DOUG LAMBORN, Colorado
GUS M. BILIRAKIS, Florida
VERN BUCHANAN, Florida

 

 

 

Malcom A. Shorter, Staff Director


SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
STEPHANIE HERSETH SANDLIN, South Dakota, Chairwoman

JOE DONNELLY, Indiana
JERRY MCNERNEY, California
JOHN J. HALL, New York
JOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas, Ranking
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
JERRY MORAN, Kansas

Pursuant to clause 2(e)(4) of Rule XI of the Rules of the House, public hearing records of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs are also published in electronic form. The printed hearing record remains the official version. Because electronic submissions are used to prepare both printed and electronic versions of the hearing record, the process of converting between various electronic formats may introduce unintentional errors or omissions. Such occurrences are inherent in the current publication process and should diminish as the process is further refined.

 

       

C O N T E N T S
September 20, 2007


Licensure and Certification of Transitioning Veterans

OPENING STATEMENTS

Chairwoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
    Prepared statement of Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin
Hon. John Boozman, Ranking Republican Member
    Prepared statement of Congressman Boozman


 

WITNESSES

U.S. Department of Defense, Leslye A. Arsht, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy)
    Prepared statement of Ms. Arsht
U.S. Department of Labor, John M. McWilliam, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Veterans' Employment Training Service
    Prepared statement of Mr. McWilliam 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Keith M. Wilson, Director, Education Service, Veterans Benefits Administration
    Prepared statement of Mr. Wilson


American Legion, Ronald F. Chamrin, Assistant Director, Economic Commission
    Prepared statement of Mr. Chamrin
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Dennis M. Cullinan, Director, National Legislative Service
    Prepared statement of Mr. Cullinan
Vietnam Veterans of America, Richard F. Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs
    Prepared statement of Mr. Weidman


SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD

ASIS International, Alexandria, VA, statement
National Organization for Competency Assurance, James Kendzel, MPH, SPHR, Executive Director, statement


MATERIAL SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD

Post-Hearing Questions and Responses for the Record:

Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunities, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to Keith M. Wilson, Director, Education Service, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, letter dated October 30, 2007


LICENSURE AND CERTIFICATION OF TRANSITIONING VETERANS


Thursday, September 20, 2007
U. S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity,
Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
Washington, DC.

The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:17 p.m., in Room 334, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin [Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity] presiding.

Present: Representatives Herseth Sandlin, and Boozman.

OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRWOMAN HERSETH SANDLIN

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.  The Veterans’ Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Hearing on Licensure and Credentialing will come to order.

Before I begin with my opening statement, I would like to call attention to the fact that Mr. Michael Stack, Executive Director for ASIS International has asked to submit a written statement for the hearing record.  I ask unanimous consent that his statement be entered for the record.

Hearing no objection, so entered.

[The statement of ASIS International appears in the Appendix.]

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Over the past year, our Subcommittee has focused most of its energy on employment-related issues ranging from transition assistance to servicemembers, small business opportunities for veterans, and employment within the Federal Government.  In today’s hearing, we will continue to examine these issues and hear valuable insight as to how to better provide veterans and returning servicemembers with the resources to make the transition back to civilian life and receive the opportunities they deserve.

I look forward to hearing from veteran service organization (VSO) representatives on concerns their members have encountered when seeking certification or licensing in the civilian sector, to include enforcing laws to ensure those responsible are doing their job.

I also look forward to hearing about the possibilities of expanding existing laws to provide more opportunities and resources to our Nation’s veterans seeking ways to start new careers in the civilian sector. 

Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have been approached by several of my constituents to find ways to improve existing laws such as the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB).  It is my belief that this Subcommittee has the opportunity to work together on these issues with veteran service organizations, our colleagues in the Senate, and administration officials.

This Subcommittee and this Congress has a responsibility to help bridge the gap between military service and veteran status and assist these brave men and women as they transition back to the civilian sector to pursue new educational opportunities, start new careers, and establish themselves in the communities they help to protect.

With that I now recognize the distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Boozman for any opening remarks you may have.

[The statement of Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin appears in the Appendix.]

OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN BOOZMAN

Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you, Madam Chair.  And thank you also for highlighting the need to improve opportunities for veterans to have their military training and education counted towards qualifying for civilian occupations.

As you remember we authorized the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) to conduct a pilot licensing and certification project.  I am very eager to hear what progress VETS has made towards implementing that authority.

I am also a little bit concerned that the continuum of responsibility beginning with the military services to the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and any of the States has really never been solidified.  Without making the connections, veterans will continue to experience delays in qualifying for civilian occupations for which they have been trained during their military service.

Taxpayers will also see valuable training dollars and experience wasted.  States bear a measure of responsibility, too, by setting qualification standards for everything from commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to teachers and physicians.  States are the final arbiter of whether military training will count towards qualifications.

I am disappointed that the National Governors' Association was not able to be with us today and I hope that they will come to talk to us soon about their role in this issue.

Thank you, Madam Chair.  I yield back.

[The statement of Congressman Boozman appears in the Appendix.]

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you, Mr. Boozman.  I would now like to welcome our panelist testifying on the first panel before the Subcommittee today.  Joining us is Mr. Ron Chamrin, Assistant Director on Economic Commission for the American Legion; Mr. Dennis Cullinan, National Legislative Director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW); and Mr. Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs for the Vietnam Veterans of America.

I would like to remind our panelists that your complete written statements have been made part of the hearing record.  Please limit your remarks to five minutes so we may have sufficient time to follow up with questions once everyone has had the opportunity to provide their oral testimony.

Mr. Chamrin, lets begin with you .  You are now recognized for five minutes.

STATEMENTS OF RONALD F. CHAMRIN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, ECONOMIC COMMISSION, AMERICAN LEGION; DENNIS M. CULLINAN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES; AND RICHARD F. WEIDMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR POLICY AND GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA

STATEMENT OF RONALD F. CHAMRIN

Mr. CHAMRIN. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.  It is an honor to be back and it is good to see you and Ranking Member Boozman.  Once again, thank you for this opportunity to present the American Legion’s view of the licensure and credentialing of servicemembers and veterans to the Subcommittee today.

The American Legion asserts that veterans have been trained, educated, disciplined, and molded by the greatest military that the world has ever seen, yet a large number of these skills are deemed non-applicable in the civilian sector.

With all of these great skills and abilities, a casual observer would assume that veterans are easily employed and can transition their military experience to the private sector with ease.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The American Legion supports efforts to eliminate employment barriers that impede the transfer of military job skills to the civilian labor market and that the DoD take appropriate steps to insure that servicemembers be trained, tested, evaluated and issued any license or certification that may be required in the civilian workforce.

The American Legion supports making the GI Bill available to pay for all necessary civilian license and certification examination requirements, including necessary preparatory courses.  We also support efforts to increase the civilian labor markets acceptance of the occupational training provided by the military. 

Speaking of military training, the DoD provides some of the best vocational training in the Nation for it’s military personnel and establishes measures and evaluates performance standards for every occupation with the Armed Forces.  There are many occupational career fields in the Armed Forces that can easily translate to a civilian counterpart.  Additionally, there are many occupations in the civilian workforce that require a license or a certification.

Upon separation, many foreign military personnel certified as proficient in their military occupational career are not licensed or certified to perform the comparable job in the civilian workforce, thus hindering chances for immediate civilian employment and delaying career advancement.  This situation creates an artificial barrier to employment upon separation from military service.

The VA and their potential impact on licensure and credentialing. 

The American Legion applauds the fact that since January of 2006 all eligible veterans using the GI Bill programs can now receive reimbursement for licensing and certification test.  However, the government is paying twice and sometimes three or more times for training and licensing of the same task.  DoD also spends billions of American tax dollars each year training members of the military.  Some civilian skills are very similar in nature to those duties performed while in the military, yet taxpayers may be funding training twice for the same individual through the DoD and then the VA, through the GI Bill program.

This is financially irresponsible and counterproductive to individual veterans who must use their earned GI Bill benefits to take civilian proficiency tests.  The American Legion also notes that there have been veterans who are reservist called to active duty and are losing their earned education benefits once they complete their service contract.  Therefore, they must find alternative means for funding.

The most recent visible example of this unjust denial of benefits is the demobilization of 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard who has just performed the longest, continuous combat tour in Iraq of any military unit to date.  Mobilized for 22 months they are ineligible to enroll in the GI Bill active duty because they fall short of the required 24 month deadline by only two months.  If they wanted to use the GI Bill for licensing and certification after they are done with the National Guard and the Reserve Service they can’t, because they are no longer in the Reserves.

Military transcripts.  Military transcripts provided from each of the Armed Forces provide a very limited training education record and at times are incorrect, missing, or additional information is listed.  I myself have three military occupational specialties (MOSs) from the Army but it has five listed in my military transcript.  So I have to go through the steps to correct that and take off additional MOSs that I am not even qualified for.

Once again, highlighting the Guardsman in Minnesota many of them infantry, these servicemembers have enormous talents, skills, and attributes they have used while in theater.  However, because tasks they performed are so unique and difficult to succinctly describe, they are left with an empty shell of a resume. 

We observe that Transition Assistance Program (TAP) modules are excellent avenues for each individual U.S. State to access transitioning servicemembers.  When servicemembers are at these TAP sites around the country, each State workforce agency or credentialing board can provide important information.  Better coordination, communication and interaction of credentialing boards and the training commands of each of our Nation’s Armed Forces are needed.  Furthermore, military trainers, doctrine writers, and evaluation tests for military skills should coordinate with their civilian counterparts and attempt to synchronize military tests with their civilian counterparts.

My final point will be the National Association of Boards and the Counsel of Licensure Enforcement and Regulation that has a database of national approving boards.  Each TAP site should coordinate with boards to have a representative participate.  Additionally, each U.S. State regulatory board should also coordinate with TAP personnel and brief on transitioning servicemembers the unique relevant requirements needed for certification.

In conclusion, there have been estimates that approximately 60 percent of the workforce will retire by 2020 and competent, educated, and capable individuals must replace the workforce in order to assure the United States retains it’s competitive edge in the world.  The veterans of this Nation make up a well-qualified disciplined pool of applicants.  Increasing recognition of military training by integrating licensing and credentialing must be strengthened to assist our country's finest to achieve their professional goals.

Madam Chairwoman and Ranking Member Boozman, I appreciate the opportunity to present the American Legion’s views on these important issues.  I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

[The statement of Mr. Chamrin appears in the Appendix.]

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you very much for your testimony.  Mr. Cullinan, you are now recognized.

STATEMENT OF DENNIS M. CULLINAN

Mr. CULLINAN. Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman, Mr. Boozman.  On behalf of the men and women of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, I want to thank you for inviting us to testify at today’s important hearing.

As cited in the September 2005 study on coordination of job training standards with certification standards for military occupational specialties, our Nation needs an increasingly skilled workforce.  We would all agree that there is no more deserving or valuable a group of American workers than our Nation’s servicemembers and veterans.  Key to our facilitating a smooth and ready transition from the military to the private sector workplace is civilian credentialing. 

Civilian credentials maximize a servicemembers ability to demonstrate that the skills acquired in the military are on a par with their civilian counterparts.  This results in diminishing the periods of unemployment or under employment that might otherwise occur when moving into the civilian workforce.

The civilian workforce increasingly relies upon credentialing as a way to regulate entry into certain occupations and to promote accountability for performance and public safety.  Its value to the military is also being increasingly recognized.  Credentialing offers professional growth and development opportunities for individuals in the service and has been used by the military services for both recruiting and retention.

The gaps that exist between the requirements for civilian occupational credentials and the world class education, training, and experience provided by the military continue to make it difficult for transitioning military to make a smooth entry into the appropriate civilian sector employment.

Additional challenges to credentialing the servicemembers includes statutory of fiscal constraints, insufficient legal authority exists for the Armed Forces to expend appropriated funds for servicemembers to acquire civilian and or commercial occupational credentials.  For example, absent specific statutory authority appropriated funds they may not be generally be used to pay for commercial certifications, although appropriated funds may be used to pay for commercially contracting training courses that include an examination leading to credentials if the examination logically relates to the training and is part of a purchase price of a course package. Reserve forces face additional constraints.

Even with these constraints and challenges, the credentialing picture for our servicemembers transitioning into the civilian workforce has improved markedly with the current and continuing programs of each of the military services and the cooperative efforts between DoD and defense.  Excuse me.  The Department of Labor and Defense. 

It is clear, however, that much more needs to be done and done quickly.  The situation is especially urgent not only in the context of doing the right thing by our young men and women in uniform moving into civilian lives.  And considering that a high number of these important jobs are now being carried out by baby boomers.

Over the next ten years over half of this aging population will be retiring.  It is very much in our national interest to make sure we have the right people in place to assume these very important, highly demanding occupations.  This is a matter of our collective economic and governmental security.

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, Mr. Boozman, this concludes my testimony.  I would urge you to review the attached VFW resolution number 618 entitled, “Licensure and Certification,” which urges in part a standardized licensure and certification requirement be adopted by the appropriate Federal and State agencies.  And that recently separated servicemembers be afforded the opportunity to take licensing and certification exams based on existing skills while acquired while in the military.

Thank you very much.  I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

[The statement of Mr. Cullinan appears in the Appendix.]

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you very much for your testimony.  Mr. Weidman you are now recognized for five minutes.

STATEMENT OF RICHARD F. WEIDMAN

Mr. WEIDMAN. Madam Chairwoman, Mr. Boozman, thank you very much both of you for your continued bipartisan leadership on these vital issues of employment and training and economic opportunities for America’s veterans.

The subject this morning of licensure and certification to many seems a dry and arcane one, but it is by no means a dry and arcane one.  It is a significant barrier to employment and more importantly to utilizing the skills for which the taxpayers have spent billions of dollars.  The grand daddy of all training institutions is the United States military.  They do it well.  They do it extensively.  They leave no one behind.  And you have to get it right.  There is no do over when you are doing explosive ordinance disposal.  You either learn it and you learn it cold and you get it right coming out of school or you die.  It is as simple as that.  And that is just one example of many military occupations.

But the occupations to run the United States military and work the modern battlefield cover virtually every type of work that our society needs performed today in order to remain competitive in the world and get our gross domestic product up and to compete in the global markets.  Yet we are no certifying those acquired skills for which literally we have spent billions to teach people how to do this, to acquire this knowledge to acquire these extraordinary skills.  And for the lack of the civilian certification to be marketable in the job market once they come out of the military we are throwing all of those resources away that we can ill afford to let go.

We are very grateful to the Congress for all of the increases in the Montgomery GI Bill and our hope is that we will return to a World War II style GI Bill for people in the future, but that is more billions.  But in the meantime, lets capitalize off what we have already spent.  With some thought and with bringing stakeholders together we can in fact begin to move forward.

One of the most notable examples following the Vietnam War was the MEDEX Program and it began with one program called the MEDEX Program at the Dartmouth College it was then.  It is now Dartmouth University in Hanover, New Hampshire.  I was in Vermont and the Vermont State College System at that time and one of my other duties as assigned, if you will by my college president, was to help recruit medics and corpsmen for that first class in medics in Dartmouth, because I was in Northern Vermont.

The whole profession of physician assistants (PAs) really grew from that one program and from the desire to capitalize off that wealth of experience, knowledge, and skills that we brought home.  Many of us knew things far beyond what one would anticipate.  I could not even get a job on an ambulance if I wanted it because I was not a certified emergency medical technician (EMT).  However, in Vietnam, I delivered babies.  Not of GI’s but of Vietnamese nationals.  I did not just cryacheo tracheotomies but tracheotomies.  I could do cut downs.  I did inserted chest tubes.  And I could go on and on and on. 

The point about it is, and I was not unusual as a medic.  Many other people did the same thing and had those kinds of skills but there was no place to get them credentialed within our society.  I think many of us know, and certainly in South Dakota and Arkansas and other rural-area physician assistants, have become an absolutely indispensable part of the medical network for delivery of medical care.  This is just one example.  And we can do this right across the board with forethought and with relatively little expenditure of funds.

As part of Public Law 106-50, the Congress recognized that and created a credentialing element, if you will, but unfortunately put it in the Veterans Corporation.  And the Corporation was not even up and running.  It should of been at the Department of Labor all along.  It should be placed at the Department of Labor today.  And we should not just authorize it, but put some significant funds behind it.

And how to do that, if I may be so bold as to suggest, is not in a formal hearing, but a roundtable bringing stakeholders together from DoD, from VA, particularly from VA Voc Rehab, Department of Labor, the Veterans Service Organization since Shirley, but also others like business leaders.  I would call your attention to the fact that the business community is crying out for skilled workers and it is having a tough time recruiting.

One of the things that Vietnam Veterans of America does, and we are a full member of the United States Chamber of Commerce, is we are active on the Institute for a Competitive Workforce.  And big business and small businesses are deeply concerned about finding people who can perform the tasks that they need performed.

What we should be doing is credentialing those people coming out of the military so that they can get those jobs and help American business continue to grow our domestic product, gross domestic product.  We cannot have a strong defense if we can’t pay for it, so why in the world are we wasting the billions that we have used to train people who can help our economy strong, prosperous, and growing even more quickly than it is today.

Madam Chairwoman, that concludes my statement.  I would be happy to answer any questions that you or the Ranking Member may have.

Once again, thank you very much for the opportunity to join you here today.

[The statement of Mr. Weidman appears in the Appendix.]

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Well thank you.  I appreciate the testimony from all three of you and the insights you have provided.

Let me start with you, Mr. Chamrin.  You had stated that we are essentially funding the same training twice.  As my constituents in the audience leave to catch their flight back, this is an issue that is important.  I will let them go.  They are terrific folks with the American Legion from South Dakota.  Jean and Reed, we will see you back in the State.

As they are leaving, Reed brought up an issue to me that relates to this topic.  IN the Air National Guard, some of the mechanics trained to take care of the aircraft at Joe Foss Field, via a civilian Federal agency with the Federal Aviation Administration, mechanics must go through a different process by which to get the credentialing to work on planes on the other side of the runway.

When we talk about paying for the training twice, have you done any analysis of what skills we are talking about where this is most frequently taking place in terms of the training provided at DoD? Then how is that training getting duplicated unnecessarily, in your opinion and in your testimony, to meet certain certification requirements once there is a transition to the civilian sector utilizing VA benefits?

Have you done any kind of categorization or inventory of which skills sets were the most frequent?

Mr. CHAMRIN. Unfortunately, there are no studies, but I can provide you numerous letters from our constituents and our members to the American Legion.

I was primarily focusing on the testing and having to use the GI Bill to pay for these licensing and certification testing when, if the DoD could provide a license through DoD dollars rather than having the veteran use their GI Bill benefits for the licensing and certification.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Okay.  I appreciate that clarification.

On a similar line, I have a question for all three of you.  Has there been any analysis done and you stated this in your testimony Mr. Chamrin where you make reference to the President’s Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance?  Of the 105 military professions that require licensure and credentialing, which of the 105 are giving veterans the most difficulty when transitioning to the civilian sector?

Do we have any inventory or analysis there?

Mr. CHAMRIN. Thanks.  Rick alluded to that.  The medical fields are really difficult, because they are so precise and so technical. 

[To Rick Weidman.]  If you know the exact ones, I don’t know the exact ones.

But I know that if you were a GP in the military, it might be more easy to transfer that skill of general practitioner.  But if you were a cardiologist or a specific skill, it is going to be really hard to get the military training—the military certification over to the civilian, unless you take that State Board and then you are certified there.

I couldn’t talk about all 105, though. 

[To Rick Weidman.]  Maybe do you know?

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN.  Before you follow up on that, I think Mr. Cullinan and you had stated in the resolution that you referenced what VFW has proposed.  When you say if they have not taken a State Board, is the problem here the fact that there is DoD policy whereby funds don’t exist to pay while on active duty to meet State Board requirements or other certification requirements?

Mr. CULLINAN. Well there were a couple I think it was alluded to earlier.  You take the case of the Guard and Reserve, Ron, I think you mentioned that.  You leave the Guard and Reserve, you don’t have an educational benefit anymore so you are out of luck. 

The other issue that we are looking at as an organization, there are certain skills that are acquired while in the military, be that as it may, if you want to go into a given profession, say you know electronics, the healthcare field.  Oftentimes, the State will require you to go through a certain educational process before you can take the exam.

What we are saying is if the military standards are equivalent that individual should either be able to take the exam without any kind of educational or minimal or reduced requirement.  And that is our proposal.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you.  Mr. Weidman, did you have a follow up?

Mr. WEIDMAN. A lot of it is not money.  It is not going to cost you any money out of hand.  I will use the example of the EMT with the Army Medics.  One of the things that we started that with some other folks and it was actually started by a guy by the name of Doug Taylor who is tired of listening to me crab about it.  And who was the veterans representative on the Job Training Partnership Council for the State of New York.  And Doug took the lead and it was backed up by Jim Hartman who was a USD of well vets director for the State of New York.  And we got other folks, including the Governor, behind it.

And we were able to get the attention of the services and particularly of the Army at Fort Sam Houston where all Army Medics train.  So since that time, and I think it is still going on, when people graduate from Fort Sam, from the Medical Training Center, they have the option of taking an EMT exam.  What took three years was getting all 53 jurisdictions to agree to accept this one exam that was a combination of written, oral, and practical.  And they finally achieved that. 

And, therefore, you would have this credential even at the beginning of your Army career so when you came out you could always find a job.  EMT’s are always in demand, whether you are in an urban area or a rural area, and particularly if you have hands on experience, which obviously medics since the advent of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) have a great deal of hands on experience, more than enough to last seven lifetimes.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. I appreciate that.  Before I recognize the Ranking Member, let me comment that when you bring up EMTs as one example we have a number of National Guard and Reservist in South Dakota, and I am sure a lot of other States, that actually are EMTs in their communities.  In rural areas in particular.  Time and again, and particularly both trips that I have made to Iraq, the comments of the generals are, “Oh, with the National Guard and Reserve, they bring all of these other skills to the table,” from their civilian careers.

I would think that if we are transferring it more readily one way, then we should be able to transfer it more readily the other way.  Let me now recognize Mr. Boozman for his questions.

Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you very much.  I guess this is something that I have really been interested in and it just makes all the sense in the world, but it is difficult.  It seems like there is really a couple things going on.  You have the actual certification that you have got to do.  So if you are a truck driver, and I just came back from Kuwait and Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have a lot of National Guardsmen in Kuwait and that is the area where they are bringing all this stuff in and then they are trucking it over.  And in fact, they had an impromptu pinning of a couple of a guys with Purple Hearts that were truck drivers.  About one in ten of the convoys get hit.  And so these guys are driving these huge rigs that are up armored and stuff.  And those same guys when they come back to the States, if they are on an interstate and driving an Army truck, it is perfectly all right to do.

So the credentialing is a problem.  It seems like there should be some mechanism that those guys get their commercial drivers license by basis of their Army training.  That is one problem we have got and it does not matter the profession.

The other problem, though, is getting licensed in a State.  And that is not just an Army or not just a military problem.  I am an optometrist.  I am from Arkansas and if I decided that I wanted to go and practice in a sunny, nice retirement State, it would probably be very difficult for me to get a license there.  These licensures should be strictly just for competence but they are also designed to keep people out.

And that is just the way it is.  Now what has happened in the last several years that has been broken down to a large extent. When I started practice in Arkansas 30 years ago, you had to own property in Arkansas for a year before you could take the test.

So we have got these other problems.  And that has all gone away now, but it does—in most States now, have reciprocity where they work back and forth.  Not all of them, but most of them do.  So the other thing is figuring out how the military is almost like a State where it has got reciprocity like the rest of the States.

So I guess what I am saying is, is that this thing is it is something that we have got to get done.  It is a common sense thing, but there are some things out there that we have just got to work through.  And some of the problems that we are dealing with aren’t inherent just to the military.

The other problem, I think, is that again, if a guy has been in Iraq, say he has been in the military ten years and he has been a truck driver the whole time regardless of where he has been, he has run up and down the interstates, is getting credit for those tens years of and that I think is really one of the bigger deals of all this is when he hires on at a major trucking company or an independent, that it is recognized, and that he has got ten years behind the wheels and so many miles.  And many times, they don’t do that.  Okay?

So those are kind of the problems you can comment about those things if you would like.  I think the roundtable approach to some of these things might be a good idea because it is really difficult to kind of get to the roots of some of this stuff, unless you aren’t just kind of visiting back and forth and maybe have some of the head of the State Boards in different professions that can give us input.  And again, like I said in some cases, I think we will find that this is not just a military problem, it is just a problem in general.

Mr. CHAMRIN.   Madam Chair, may I say something?  Regarding the truck drivers, in the Army because I am still a reservist, there are badges for safe driving according to the number of miles.  I think it is 10,000 then 20,000.  I couldn’t tell you exactly, but there are badges. 

And we were talking about some skilled professions, doctors and PA’s, but just to transport ammunition you need a hazmat license and hazmat qualification.  So people in my reserve unit are going to Fort Meade, taking a class, getting a hazmat certification through the Army, transporting just M-16 rounds down to Fort A.P. Hill so we can fire them for a qualification.  But that is only within the military.  They can’t go to Virginia and drive hazardous materials through the State of Virginia.

And, if I may, really quickly, going back to the Minnesota National Guard, a lot of them are 11-Bravo, which is infantry men.  But many of us know that they have performed duties much, much more than infantry men such as like a chief advisor to a mayor, a facilitator of incubators, maintenance at a local hospital, and more specified individual task.  So if we can take those skills and also put it on the military transcript.

I can just speak for the Army Training Requirements and Resource System, they can put that in there.  Not just their 11-Bravo where they can shoot an M-16 and a 249and specific weapons, but what they actually did in Iraq and Afghanistan on there.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. I think there is some agreement here, that is a very good point.  Currently, what is the barrier to integrating that on the transcript?  As you described some of these other duties that folks serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are undertaking duties that are not specific to the particular mission of the National Guard or Reserve Unit that are really on Nation building responsibilities.

What is the current barrier to doing that?

Mr. CHAMRIN. I don’t know if there is a barrier, but there are not a lot of mechanisms in place already.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Okay.

Mr. CHAMRIN. Because I believe the representative for the DoD can better answer this, but I know that for non-commissioned officers you have your evaluation reports.  And that really contains what you do over the course of the year and that is also in your personnel records.  But if you were just going to look in your military transcript than those duties aren’t involved in your schooling and your education.

Mr. CULLINAN. And Madam Chairwoman, I would like to follow up on that, if I may?  Something else we were discussing back in the office in a similar vein.  Another obstacle to people in the military pursuing a civilian sector job, be it EMT, truck driver, avionic specialist, is there is so much uncertainty and differences from State to State as to what is required, what you have to do, what you have to do to get a license.  Do you need a license?  Is it simply a certification program?  What is the educational requirements?

And what occurs to us is that years ago there was a similar situation, about 40, 50 years ago when it comes to things like business law.  At one point, in time every State had it’s own business law practices.  At a certain point in time a group of lawyers and business professionals got together and came together with a solidified code of business law and ethics.  And it wasn’t imposed from the Federal Government on down.  It was simply made available for adoption.  And eventually that is what the States did.

And I think there is something similar to happen along with the construction code.  At one point every State had a different code, well engineering and other experts got together, came up with a code, presented it, made it available to the States for adoption.  That is eventually what they did.  And perhaps something along that line needs to be done with respect to credentialing and certification as well.

I realize it goes outside of the purview of this Committee.  It is a bigger issue at that.  But what we are talking about is addressing an issue that touches the military and the civilian sector.  We need some kind of unified code.  We need the experts to get together and devise it and hopefully the States would adopt it.

Mr. WEIDMAN. I think the major impediment is that nobody thinks it is their job.  Now the military’s prime job is defending a Nation.  And the job of the military is to kill people and destroy property.  That is what we do.  And at training and everything that contributes to forced readiness to be ready to be at optimum strength to defend the Nation is the job of the military.  But they don’t see it as their job about what happens when people separate.  But it needs to be defined as a national defense question.  If you can’t pay because our economy is faltering for that defense machine, then we are in deep, deep trouble.

So the question is, is it part of the job of the military to assist in an active way with the certification?  The answer is yes.  Is it—should it be them taking the lead?  If DoD does it, the people will start to listen.  I am going to suggest that Labor, that role needs to be defined and Labor needs to exercise some proactive leadership for a change.

And I would also suggest that the private business sector, and that is why I keep suggesting the Chamber, not just because I am very familiar with it, but when the U.S. Chamber speaks, people listen.  They represent the backbone of the engine of that creates jobs and creates wealth in this country.  And NFIB, National Federation of Independent Business, National Small Business United, they will all follow in the wake if in fact you get the Chamber moving.  And we would be glad to help facilitate meetings with key people at the Chamber beginning as early as next week at the Institute for Competitive Workforce.

But what the Congress can do is define it, and get DoD to accept it as a role that they need to follow through on to credential all those people on the way out the door or to assist.  And to achieve those many different agreements with the 53 jurisdictions for the certification and with the various professions that has to be the Department of Labor to take it’s job seriously, to remove what is now a barrier to employment and in the barrier to fullest possible employment of the skills that we have spent billions to impart to these young men and women separating from the military.

Mr. CHAMRIN.  And one thing that I think we forgot to add is, we are of the opinion that this will be a great recruitment and then retention tool.  You can recruit people into the military if you are able to get a license when you leave the military.  And then if you were to—if you chose to re-enlist, you know, it is usually senior NCOs and upper level captains or above who get the more technical certifications and skills sets.  So if they chose to remain in the military because they are able to get this stuff while in the military, you can aid in the retention of your total volunteer force.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN.  Along that line, let us take just recruitment and retention within the National Guard over the last few years.  Are any of you aware of any State governor that has looked into coordinating with his or her National Guard adjutant to do precisely that?

Mr. CHAMRIN. I don’t have any numbers.  It is not because they are not out there, I just haven’t researched it.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Okay.  I think it might be helpful that we all look into that issue.  Perhaps there is a model whereby  someone got creative on the State level with National Guard and Reservist in their recruitment goals to coordinate the licensing from State Boards with the training that is happening in a transportation company, for example.

Let me ask one other question.  Mr. Boozman, do you have a follow up question?  Okay.

Mr. Chamrin, you have recommended expanding Montgomery GI Bill benefits.  Have you approached the VA or other VSOs regarding this recommendation to expand the MGIB benefits to include the examinations and preparatory courses for licensing and certification requirements?

Mr. CHAMRIN. It is loosely.  We do have a resolution that says MGIB should be used for all education.  And then that covers all the licensing, certification, and tests associated with that.

But formally approaching the VA, we have not.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Okay.  Mr. Cullinan or Mr. Weidman, would your organizations—

Mr. CULLINAN. We have a similar resolution—

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Okay.

Mr. CULLINAN.  —calling for it to cover.  And we also support portability for the Guard and Reserve. 

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Yes.

Mr. CULLINAN. That is a key obstacle right now.  And for, as you know, that falls under Title 10.  So that is there is another problem.  There is legislation out there to address that issue but I will stop there.

Mr. WEIDMAN. VA is committed to getting Senator Webb’s bill passed on both sides of the Hill and fold the provisions of Senator Lincoln’s provisions in there for the Guard and Reserve and to expand the entrepreneurial training and vocational training and on-the-job training aspects of a brand-new GI Bill for the 21 century.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you.  Mr. Boozman?

Mr. BOOZMAN. No.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Okay.  We want to thank all of you for your testimony.

Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you.

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. We hope you will be able to stay and then we will perhaps have time to visit with you after the hearing to start coordinating some follow-up discussions on this issue.

I would now like to invite our witnesses on the second panel to the witness table.

Joining us on our second panel of witnesses are frequent visitors as well.  Ms. Leslye Arsht, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy in the U.S. Department of Defense; Mr. John McWilliam, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training Service in the U.S. Department of Labor; and Mr. Keith Wilson, Director of Education Service for the Veterans Benefits Administration in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Your complete written statement has been made part of the record.  Ms. Arsht, you are recognized for five minutes.

STATEMENTS OF LESLYE A. ARSHT, DEPUTY UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (MILITARY COMMUNITY AND FAMILY POLICY), U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE; JOHN M. MCWILLIAM, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, VETERANS' EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR; AND KEITH M. WILSON, DIRECTOR, EDUCATION SERVICE, VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

STATEMENT OF LESLYE ARSHT

Ms. ARSHT. Thank you.  Thank you Madam Chairwoman.  Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the progress that we have made, the Department of Defense, and the Military Services in providing information and assistance to servicemembers regarding licensure and credentialing.

Returning to private life after serving in the military is a very complex undertaking.  When separating, retiring, or being released from active duty, the transitory servicemembers most immediate goal is finding a job, accessing education to change careers, and ultimately improving his or her long-term economic quality of life.

The Department recognizes that the attainment of civilian credential is important to the servicemembers transition to comparable civilian employment.  Great progress has been made in providing transition assistance during the past year.  We have succeeded in providing licensing and credentialing information in a range of ways and in different formats in order to appeal to individual learning styles and ensure the widest possible dissemination.

The information is provided through classroom delivery from an instructor, by on-line interaction, and through one-on one-coaching so that servicemembers have the latest most accurate information about transition assistance benefits available at their fingertips in order to make informed decisions about their future.

An integral aspect of licensure and credentialing is it is being introduced to servicemembers early in their careers, not just at the time of separation.  But let me start with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  Transitioning servicemembers and demobilizing National Guard and Reserve personnel are provided information about licensure and certification through TAP, our traditional Transition Assistance Program.  Now that offering is greatly enhanced by Turbo TAP our newest transition portal developed in collaboration with the Department of Labor and the VA.

Turbo TAP’s pre-separation guide for active component servicemembers and transition guide for the Guard and Reserves provides a wealth of information about credentialing programs.  Through Turbo TAP’s employment hub, servicemembers can access a section entitled, “Translating your Military Skills.”  This hub also links to the military occupational classification skills translator which helps military personnel translate their military specialties to civilian occupations.

Because we recognize that young servicemembers today are very savvy when it comes to technology, we have made the site easy to navigate and have deliberately placed access to information in multiple locations on the site.  It is all there at their fingertips and accessible 24/7.  I think you will agree that the military services have significantly augmented their focus on licensure and credentialing as well.  The Army and Navy have conducted extensive research to link each of the military occupational specialties and Navy ratings to civilian jobs and applicable civilian licenses and certifications.

Through the Army and Navy credentialing opportunities on-line websites referred to as “COOL” soldiers and sailors are provided access to comprehensive information about certification and licensure.  These sites help them understand what it takes to obtain the corresponding credentials and identify resources that will help pay credentialing fees.

Air Force emphasis on licensure and certification is linked to associate degrees it provides in its enlisted force through the Community College of the Air Force.  The Air Force has structured these degree programs to replicate certification requirements for careers in the civilian sector. 

The Marine Corps uses a variety of existing public and private sector resources to assist servicemembers with licensure and credentialing and funds one accredited certification per marine for those who don’t have a college degree.  Marine Corps Transition Assistant Management Program personnel are certified workforce development professionals who counsel marines one on one, helping to translate their military experience and training into information relevant to corresponding civilian careers.

The Department has stepped forward to take this commitment yet a level higher.  As part of the commitment made in the task force report to the President on "Returning Global War on Terror Heroes" a special DoD-DoL credentialing working group is in the process of collecting and collating data on all occupational specialties by military service including National Guard and Reserves based on how many people are in each specialty.  The Department will use the outcome of this study to identify adjustments that can be taken within the relevant service schools to potentially generate certifications in corresponding private sector jobs.

We acknowledge the importance of providing servicemembers clear and definitive information on licensure and credentials at many points in their military careers.  Providing this information early on allows servicemembers to plan and seek out any additional requiring classes they need to complete and meet civilian occupational requirements and their goals..

Madam Chairwomen, on behalf of the men and women in the military today and their families, I thank you and the members of this Committee for your steadfast support during these challenging times.  Thank you.

[The statement of Ms. Arsht appears in the Appendix.]

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you very much.  Mr. McWilliam, you are recognized.

STATEMENT OF JOHN M. MCWILLIAM

Mr. McWILLIAM. Madam Chairwoman and Ranking Member Boozman, I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today about the role of the Department of Labor in helping transitioning servicemembers and veterans in obtaining the licenses and certifications required for civilian jobs.  Our Nation needs an increasingly skilled workforce.  We recognize that the skills obtained during an individual’s military service can meet the needs of the civilian workforce.

Since the start of the Global War on Terror, the Department of Labor has increased it’s focus on servicemembers transitioning from military to civilian employment.  Our strategy is three-pronged.  First, we work with the Department of Defense to get more troops to the Transition Assistance Program Employment Workshops.  TAP is our earliest opportunity to identify transition in servicemembers that might need help in obtaining licenses and certifications.  That is one of the topics covered during the workshops.

Secondly, we are educating servicemembers and employers on their rights and responsibilities under Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and vigorously investigating complaints under the law.

And finally we reach out to employers through our national “Hire Vets First” campaign which highlights the value veterans bring to the workforce. 

In April of 2006, a joint Departments of Defense and Labor credentialing work group was formed to coordinate our efforts on licensing and certification.  The work group has incorporated the guidance of Public Law 109-461.  The group is focusing on military occupations that comprise a high proportion of exiting servicemembers and they can be matched to high demand occupations in high growth industries.

The work group will assess the instruction used to train servicemembers and contrast it to the civilian training that leads to credentialing.  Working with the service schools and industries the group will determine what military training is relevant to certification for civilian occupations.  Since the enactment of Pubic Law 109-461, we have worked to identify funding to support the authorized demonstration.  We are currently developing a competitive solicitation for grants application using available program year 2007 funding that will support a demonstration program for one MOS.  The program will last for three years.  We intend to request additional funding in the future years that will allow this single demonstration program to expand to the authorized 10 MOSs.

In addition, we intend to include licensing and certification for transitioning servicemembers as part of VWIP, the Veterans Workforce Investment Program, funding for program year 2009.  Currently, many of our VWIP grantees include licensing and certification as part of their services, but they base that on the individual’s employment plan and military experience.  The new effort under VWIP will support the work group by focusing on the military occupational specialties rather than the individual veteran.

In addition, Department of Labor has worked with business groups and other organizations to acquaint them with military training and ease the transition to a civilian credential. 

Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my statement.  I will be pleased to respond to any questions.

[The statement of Mr. McWilliam appears in the Appendix.]

Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Mr. McWilliam, thank you.  Mr. Wilson you are recognized for five minutes.

STATEMENT OF KEITH M. WILSON

Mr. WILSON. Thank you.  Good afternoon Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin and Ranking Member Boozman.  I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss VA’s education benefits for licensing and certification testing.

My testimony will address the details and background of the program for beneficiaries of the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, Selected Reserve, Reserve Educational Assistance Program, and Dependents Education Assistance Program as they relate to licensing and certification exams.

While licensing and certification test reimbursements constitute a small portion of our overall payments, they nonetheless play a vital role in helping veterans and servicemembers make the transition from military to civilian life.  An individual eligible for MGIB-active duty or Dependents Educational Assistance Program benefits can receive reimbursements for licensing and certificatio