Hearing Transcript on Oversight of the U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans Employment Training Service (VETS), Disabled Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP) and Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) Program
OVERSIGHT OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR'S VETERANS EMPLOYMENT TRAINING SERVICE, DISABLED VETERAN OUTREACH PROGRAM AND LOCAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT REPRESENTATIVE PROGRAM
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
OCTOBER 25, 2007
SERIAL No. 110-58
Printed for the use of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
STEVE BUYER, Indiana, Ranking
Malcom A. Shorter, Staff Director
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
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
October 25, 2007
Oversight of the U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans Employment Training Service, Disabled Veteran Outreach Program and Local Veterans Employment Representative Program
American Legion, Ronald F. Chamrin, Assistant Director, Economic Commission
Prepared statement of Mr. Chamrin
Paralyzed Veterans of America, Richard Daley, Associate Legislation Director
Prepared statement of Mr. Daley
Vietnam Veterans of America, Richard F. Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs
Prepared statement of Mr. Weidman
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
National Association of State Workforce Agencies, Larry Temple, President, and Executive Director, Texas Workforce Commission, statement
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Justin Brown, Legislative Associate, 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 Ronald F. Chamrin, Assistance Director, National Economic Commission, American Legion, letter dated October 30, 2007, and response letter dated November 28, 2007
Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunities, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to Richard Daley, Associate Legislative Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America, letter dated October 30, 2007, and response letter dated November 16, 2007
Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunities, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy Government Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America, letter dated October 30, 2007 [NO RESPONSE WAS RECEIVED FROM MR. WEIDMAN.]
Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunities, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to Hon. Charles S. Ciccolella, Assistant Secretary, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department of Labor, letter dated October 30, 2007, and DoL responses
OVERSIGHT OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR'S VETERANS EMPLOYMENT TRAINING SERVICE, DISABLED VETERAN OUTREACH PROGRAM AND LOCAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT REPRESENTATIVE PROGRAM
Thursday, October 25, 2007
U. S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity,
Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to other business, at 2:39 p.m., in Room 334, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. Stephanie Herseth [Chairwoman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Herseth Sandlin, McNerney, Hall and Boozman.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing on Oversight of the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialists and Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVER) Program will come to order.
Like the states of many of my colleagues on the Subcommittee, the State of South Dakota has had servicemembers that have been activated in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including just this week the 147th Artillery National Guard Unit based out of Salem, South Dakota. Some of these brave men and women have returned injured and are currently in need of healthcare and employment services. They, like all disabled veterans from around the country, deserve our best efforts to provide a seamless and effective transition from military service to civilian life and the workforce.
Earlier this year, this Subcommittee held its first hearing that included the U.S. Department of Labor's (DoL) Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist and Local Veterans Employment Representative programs, which are primarily administered through State employment agencies. As our distinguished panelists know, the primary role of DVOP and LVER is to assist veterans to obtain employment and conduct employer outreach. Specifically, the implementation of DVOP was designed to meet the employment needs of disabled veterans. I applaud the sincere dedication of these professionals, but also believe further opportunities to enhance these programs still exist.
As I have traveled around my State meeting constituents, I have had the privilege to meet with servicemembers and veterans to discuss issues important to them and to their families. While healthcare, compensation and education benefits rank high among the issues raised, the need for employment opportunities has resonated clearly among the veteran community. Their ability to acquire proficient skill sets, obtain the needed assistance to successfully connect to an employer and apply those skills to the workforce are fundamental to their ability to succeed in today's workforce environment. This is especially true at a time when we can expect an increased level of retirements within the next five years. I truly believe the Department of Labor's DVOP and LVER programs have a critical role in assisting our veterans meet this need.
Today's hearing will follow up on at least three Subcommittee hearings held in the 109th Congress under Mr. Boozman's leadership and our first Subcommittee hearing held on March 7 of this year. In those hearings we had the opportunity to hear from veteran service organizations (VSOs) concerns on funding levels, DVOP and LVER training, accountability, and priority of service for our veterans.
Mr. Boozman, I look forward to working with you and all Members of the Subcommittee, the veteran service organizations, and the administration officials with whom we work frequently to address these concerns and ensure our Nation's veterans are provided the best services to succeed in life after their service to our country.
I now recognize our Ranking Member, Mr. Boozman, for his opening remarks.
[The statement of Ms. Herseth Sandlin appears in the Appendix.]
Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you, Madam Chair, and I appreciate your leadership in this area.
I would like to ask unanimous consent that the National Association of State Workforce Agencies' statement be placed in the record.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. So ordered.
[The statement of National Association of State Workforce Agencies appears in the Appendix.]
Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you.
Since its inception the mission of the DVOP/LVER program has been to place veterans, especially disabled veterans, in suitable employment. Recent changes in the law have refocused the duties of DVOPs and LVERs and added flexibility to the system by authorizing States to fill those positions with half-time employees. However, there continues to be controversy regarding the performance of the system.
We continue to hear that employment office managers divert veteran staff to serve other nonveteran clients. We also hear that competition would bring improved performance throughout the system.
Last year at the suggestion of the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), we removed language from what eventually became Public Law 109-461 that would have added specific data-reporting requirements so that VETS could implement the common measures. Now that a year or so has passed, it will be very interesting to hear whether common measures are providing a sufficiently robust picture of how we are doing in placing veterans compared to their nonveteran counterparts.
I am also open to any suggestions our witnesses may have to improve the system. It is vital that our employment programs enable veterans to find suitable employment that promotes their wellness and quality of life.
And, again, before we get started, I want to thank our panel. Under Ms. Herseth Sandlin's leadership last year or last Congress, on several occasions you all have always come and testified and done a tremendous job. And again, we appreciate your hard work for veterans. So I look forward to hearing your testimony today.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. I thank the distinguished Ranking Member.
Joining us on our first panel is Mr. Ronald Chamrin, Assistant Director of Economic Commission for the American Legion; Mr. Richard Daley, Associate Legislation Director for the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA); and Mr. Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
Gentlemen, welcome back to the Subcommittee. I would like to remind each of you that your complete written statements have been made part of the hearing record, so please limit your remarks to five minutes so we have opportunities to explore questions. I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to do so. No word yet on votes, so I think we are going to be good to go with your opening statements and our questions. Again, welcome today.
Mr. Chamrin, we will begin with you. You are recognized for five minutes.
STATEMENTS OF RONALD F. CHAMRIN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, ECONOMIC COMMISSION, AMERICAN LEGION; RICHARD DALEY, ASSOCIATE LEGISLATION DIRECTOR, PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA; AND RICHARD F. WEIDMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR POLICY AND GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
Mr. CHAMRIN. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Boozman, and Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to present the American Legion's view on the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service.
The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) reported in May 2007 that approximately 700,000 veterans are unemployed in any given month. Veterans returning from duty in support of the Global War on Terror are not always coming back to a hero's welcome, at least not from all employers. The American Legion notes that VETS reports an unemployment rate in 2006 of approximately 10 percent for veterans ages 20 to 24; improved in comparison to 2005, but it is still higher than the national average of nonveterans within the same age group and significantly higher than the general population as a whole.
This committee requested that we respond to four questions in addition to our concerns. Number one, is DoL properly implementing the DVOP/LVER programs within the States? The Jobs for Veterans Act, Public Law 107-288, has eliminated the requirement that VETS review all workforce centers annually, and this has minimalized Federal oversight of the programs. This law has removed the job descriptions of the DVOPs and LVERs from Title 38 and given the States the ability to establish the duties and responsibility, thus weakening the VETS programs across country by eliminating the language that required these staff positions provide services only to veterans.
Finally, the passage of Public Law 107-288 removed the Federally mandated naming formulas for assigning DVOPs and LVERs in each State. This action has allowed each State to determine the number of veterans employment personnel in each State based on budgetary limitations. States now have the discretion of assigning one half-time DVOP and/or LVER to an office while eliminating positions in offices that need veteran staff by virtue of veteran intake.
The American Legion supports the restoration of language of Chapter 41, Title 38, that requires that all half-time DVOP/LVER positions be assigned only after approval of the DVOP. And that the Secretary be required to monitor all career centers that have veteran staff assigned. The American Legion also supports legislation that restores the duties and responsibilities of DVOPs and LVERs to include case management, outreach to veterans and job development.
VETS provide staff to participate in a Transition Assistance Program (TAP) on military installations. Higher demands placed on LVERs to develop TAP modules in addition to their normal assistance programs has the potential for weakening their overall capability. In order to circumvent any gaps in providing services, additional funding to support an increased number of LVERs should occur.
The National Veterans' Employment and Training Service Institute (NVTI) provides training to Federal and State employment service providers in competency-based training courses. Public Law 109-461 stipulates that a newly hired DVOP or LVER must attend the NVTI to be trained for their position within 3 years of hiring. Unfortunately a newly hired individual can retain the position for 2-1/2 years before they are required to begin training to ensure that graduation is within the 3-year hiring period. Newly hired employment specialists without the benefit of NVTI training may be ill-prepared to properly assist veterans seeking meaningful employment or facing significant barriers to employment.
To close this loophole, the American Legion recommends that newly hired DVOPs and LVERs must be trained at NVTI within the first year of employment, and all untrained DVOP/LVER staff within 3 years of hiring at the time of enactment of any new legislation must be trained within 1 year.
Number two, under what circumstances should States lose funding for failing to meet their obligations? The American Legion does not have a position regarding this stipulation.
Number three, are part-time DVOPs and LVERs meeting the needs of rural and urban-area veterans? The American Legion has observed by virtue of our members who are employed as DVOPs and LVERs that due to the half-time status, these personnel are unable to travel to the locations where veterans tend to congregate. Their travel budgets have been slashed. Their half-time status prohibits periods of travel that will extend beyond half a day, and their other requirements force them to be able to assist nonveterans within their employment offices.
Number four, what is your organization's position on how DoL tracks its performance measures? Although Public Law 107-288 requires veterans' priority services in all DoL programs, the Employment and Training Administration has not monitored the performance, nor do they have a way of tracking the performance. The Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training (ASVET) cannot accurately capture local, statewide and national data to adequately assess performance outcomes or hold the various States accountable for providing priority services to veterans.
The American Legion supports that any agency providing Federal funding to provide veterans employment and training services must adhere to priority of service and develop reporting systems that track priority services to veterans as provided and outlined in Title 38.
The American Legion strongly supports improvements in the reporting programs available to and administered by VETS. The ASVET should be empowered to establish clear and up-to-date realtime performance standards and a means of collecting data to properly measure performance at the local, State and national level.
I see I am running out of time, so I will wrap up.
In conclusion, transition assistance, education and employment are each a pillar of financial stability. By placing veterans in suitable employment sooner, the country benefits from increased income tax revenue and reduced unemployment compensation payments, thus greatly offsetting the cost of TAP training.
Madam Chairwoman, thank you for the opportunity to present the American Legion's views. This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any question that you may have.
[The statement of Mr. Chamrin appears in the Appendix.]
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chamrin.
Mr. Daley, you are now recognized for five minutes.
Mr. DALEY. Thank you, Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman and members of the Subcommittee. Paralyzed Veterans of America would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service and programs under its jurisdiction.
The Federal Government can play an important role for veterans, and particularly disabled veterans that are leaving the military in large numbers. The Department of Labor Veterans' Employment and Training Service has created specific programs that provide help for veterans seeking employment. Most important of these services is the Veterans' Employment and Training Service and the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program coordinators, DVOPs, and the Local Veterans Employment Representatives, better known as LVERs. PVA, along with other veteran service organizations, have worked for years to have clear performance standards put on both the DVOPs and the LVERs staff. In 2002, Veterans' Employment and Training Service initiated limited performance measures based on the rates of employment and retention for veterans.
For disabled veterans to successfully enter the job market, they must first choose a career that most likely requires additional training or initial training for a new employment position. This is provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program. The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment counselors working with the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program coordinators and the Local Veterans Employment Representatives can improve the seamless transition from military to civilian employment.
Many veterans that are in what is known as service-connected fall into the larger category of 30 percent disabled. They may choose to stay in their career field that the military has trained them in. The Disabled Veterans Outreach Program and the Local Veterans Employment Representatives can play an important role in these situations because they have the knowledge of the employment opportunities in the areas, they have knowledge of the veteran's disability, and often they have built relationships with local employers if they have been out doing their job as full-time representatives would be.
PVA believes that the Department of Labor is doing a reasonably good job of implementing the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program and Local Veterans Employment Representative programs. Their primary responsibility is to refund and monitor these programs. Unfortunately, Congress has not increased the funding for these programs since 2003. Without adequate funding, these programs have struggled to manage an increasing workload and address the needs of the new veterans.
Along with inadequate program funding, the Department of Labor does not have discretionary funding for special projects. Discretionary funds could be used for new pilot programs. Recently last year, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, they had a plan to start a vocational employment counseling office down in the Richmond, Virginia, Veterans Affairs Hospital. That is one of the larger spinal cord units in the system, and they also have a trauma center there. They sent out grants to a lot of areas, and one of them was Department of Labor, to seek some funding. And the Department of Labor didn't have funding for extra programs like that. Eventually they did receive money from a private source, and they opened that office back in August, and they hope to open three more in the next 18 months depending on revenue available.
To address the needs of today's veterans, Congress might consider reimplementing a program similar to the Service Members Occupational Conversion and Training program (SMOCTA). Although this program was funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), it was administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Labor. This was considered one of the better programs to serve transitioning military personnel. SMOCTA was established during the downsizing of the military for veterans discharged after August 1st of 1990 and was intended to help the veterans that had limited transferable job skills. A similar program could be useful for the young men and women today transitioning from the military.
Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, Members of the Subcommittee, I would like to thank you again for an opportunity to express our concerns on this issue. I will be available to answer any questions you may have.
[The statement of Mr. Daley appears in the Appendix.]
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you for your testimony, Mr. Daley.
Mr. Weidman, welcome back. We look forward to your testimony. You are recognized for five minutes.
Mr. WEIDMAN. Madam Chairwoman, thank you very much for the opportunity for the Vietnam Veterans of America to present our views here today before you and Mr. Boozman and the full Subcommittee. I thank you also for your indulgence. I know that we submitted an extraordinarily long statement, but felt it was important to get on the record how did we get to where we are today, and unfortunately there aren't that many old guys like me who remember this stuff when it happened. And institutional memory is not being what it could be, you have to know how you got to where you are and where you are in order to figure out where do you need to go to accomplish your goal.
And the problem is that where we are today is not in a good place. Accountability is—while we would associate ourselves with the fine statements of the American Legion and Paralyzed Vets of America, we frankly believe that just more money is not the need here. The need is for more accountability. We provide $160 million to the State workforce development agencies every year, and we do not get half of that in terms of bang for the buck, in our view. Half-time LVERs, you are lucky if you get a day out of five. Half-time LVRs, the same thing is true. That is particularly true in the urban areas, less so in some States.
There is a handful of States where there is a corporate culture and strong political leadership that has been committed to veterans' employment both in the permanent bureaucracy and in the political leadership for a long time, so it works well. And there is veterans' priority service, even when it was formally not in the law for a period of about 5 years, and in States like South Dakota, in States like South Carolina, North Carolina and a number—a handful of other States, where the corporate culture moves us forward. However, as I get older, I believe less and less in the eleemysonary instinct and do think that veterans should be like Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire." It depends on the kindness of strangers.
Priority of service is, in fact, in law in the Job Veterans Act. There are no implementing regs, it is not enforced, and we don't have a good measure of how many people are actually getting jobs. What we are measuring now is obtained employments derived from the unemployment insurance tax rolls, so that if I register in order to get an unemployment check with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensure and Regulation, I have them automatically register with the so-called job service. And if I never walk into that office, and they never do a darn thing for me, when I get my job on my own, they count it as an obtained employment. And, in fact, what we are measuring now is the local labor, condition of the local labor market and the individual initiative of the veterans out there seeking work for themselves. In some cases, you have fine DVOPs, and in many cases fine DVOPs and LVERs who would do a terrific job if, in fact, they were supported in doing so.
We need to change this system to one that does hold those folks accountable and all the way. The appendix to my statement was a bill that was derived in 19—excuse me, actually it started in 1999—in 2000, in an unprecedented series of colloquia that took place in this room with all the players; the workforce development agencies, the veteran service organizations. Everybody that anybody could think of who felt they should be a player were included in those colloquia to arrive at a consensus bill to try and build some accountability into the system and make it work for today's veterans, and it was blown apart at the last minute because the workforce development agencies and then Assistant Secretary of Labor lobbied against it at the last minute, and so it was not enacted. That then led to the Jobs for Veterans Act in 2002, which we would maintain has still not been implemented.
So where does that leave us today? Where that leaves us today is with over a million and a half young men and women who have processed through Iraq alone, not counting Afghanistan, and National Guard and reservists, as well as Active Duty folks who are coming home.
I use the football analogy, borrowing heavily from Mr. Boozman, that you can rack up all the yards in the world and all the completed passes and long gains on the ground to get down in the Red Zone. We spend billions to help people get to the point where they are job-ready, and if we don't take that final step and punt it into the end zone of actually helping them get a job, then all of those yards gained and all of those billions spent is for naught because it is not going to finish the job that we should do for every single man and woman who has been lessened by virtue of military service, which is to help make them as whole again as possible.
I thank you very much for the opportunity to testify here today, and I would be happy to answer any questions, Madam Chairwoman.
[The statement of Mr. Weidman appears in the Appendix.]
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you, Mr. Weidman.
Let me start out with a question for all three of you. I think, Mr. Weidman, you addressed it to a degree. It relates to the relative effectiveness of the One-Stop Career Centers around the country. You identified some States, including my own. I would like to get Mr. Chamrin and Mr. Daley's opinions on the One-Stops across the country. How effective are they? Were there disparities of effectiveness? Have you identified factors that that may be attributable to? Not that North Carolina and South Carolina are as rural in most parts of their States as, say, South Dakota. I mean, are there some best practices that are being utilized by certain States or certain One-Stop Career Centers? Why aren't they being utilized across the country?
Mr. CHAMRIN. Thank you, Madam Chair.
I concur with what Mr. Weidman said in regards to the Tax Code and how they are tracked. One veteran can walk into one office and never talk to a DVOP/LVER or get any assistance and be credited as getting a job.
Now, some of the best practices that we find are in the full-time DVOPs and LVERs, not the half-time. And why is that? An LVER can concentrate solely on veterans. They can be more efficient, they can streamline their programs, they can create a flow chart, they are also veterans themselves. So an LVER knows the atmosphere of a transitioning veteran. They know what to expect, know the pitfalls of what is going to happen.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. May I interrupt?
Mr. CHAMRIN. Sure. Go right ahead.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Would it be fair to state that half-time DVOPs or LVERs are not effective across the board? Perhaps one of the things we need to be looking at is a restriction on how the money that is sent to the States to administer these grants is utilized and not allowing part-time DVOPs or LVERs?
Mr. CHAMRIN. If I can say what you said, yes. We find that the half-time DVOPs and LVERs, can't go out to a lot of the rural areas because some of them have to remain in their offices to ensure that any nonveteran who goes in during that other half-time status is taken care of. So if you have a half-time DVOP—I am making up an example, but some other States have told us this. Let us say you have a DVOP who from 8:00 to 12:00, is totally dedicated to veterans, and then from 12:00 to 4:00, nonveterans. If they need to travel 50 to 100 miles to where veterans congregate, and they are still required to be in an office the other half of the day, they are in trouble. So we feel that any half-time DVOP/LVER should only be approved by the State Director for Veterans’ Employment and Training (DVET) in very, very little situations.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Mr. Daley, did you have any further comments?
Mr. DALEY. About the half-time or the full-time, we would certainly prefer a full-time representative because they would have the time to work with the veterans and then also in the afternoon or the morning go out in the community with the businesses and look for those opportunities. But if the only choice is a half-time person, of course we would agree with a half-time. But certainly the job could be done much better with a full-time representative, and they are usually a veteran, and they care about veterans.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you.
The reporting system then, in terms of ensuring accountability. I have heard concerns about what data they are utilizing of reporting effectiveness rates. Do you have a suggested model, Mr. Chamrin, on a model that you have seen utilized elsewhere in tracking effectiveness either for other programs whereby veterans are the beneficiaries or other discussions you have had with your colleagues and other veteran service organizations? Or is it not so much a model, but really requiring some contact with the DVOP or LVER and not utilizing more general labor statistics?
Mr. CHAMRIN. We feel that all reporting should go back to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for VETS, and he should have all the numbers at his disposal to better equip him to make better decisions.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Mr. Boozman, I will turn it over to you now for your questions.
Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you, Madam Chair.
First of all, I enjoyed, Mr. Weidman, your written testimony since I think you really give a good history of how this program has progressed. I think that was valuable for me in the sense that I have been around this up to my eyebrows in it, for the last several years and feel that these things just take time to understand. But, again, I think that was very helpful. Members are busy. We have a lot of reading to do in regard to what we have going on here, and you can multiply that times all different things. But that is something I think that we might suggest that the Members take the time to read the stuff again. I felt like it was very helpful, so give yourself a pat.
Mike was a little concerned. We didn't really understand your Blanche DuBois. That was a little over the Arkansas head here.
Mr. WEIDMAN. I told Commander Brinck that I would be glad to give him a book on tape and spell out the big words for him, sir.
Mr. BOOZMAN. That would be much appreciated.
You suggest releasing veteran staff members from the yoke of local office managers. How would you have that happen? How specifically would you do this?
Mr. WEIDMAN. We are really up a point, at least it seems to us at VVA. There was a time where we were habituators, if you will, in Mr. Porter's office when he was Chair of the relevant Subcommittee on Appropriations for Labor. And after the 2000 agreement came unwound, we made the decision that we are no longer going to extend ourselves to fight for anything except NVTI, the Veterans' Workforce Investment Program (VWIP) and Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program (HVRP). And HVRP and VWIP, there is accountability in those programs. We are getting the bang for the buck. They work. They get people in jobs, and they go out and do job development.
The DVOP/LVER, we are not getting the bang for the buck, and there is administrative overhead. Indirect admin and direct admin runs as high as 37 percent in that program. So out of $160 million, just on the face of it you are already $50 million gone just in admin overhead.
So coming back to your point, what I am trying to say is that we are at a point where we either build some strict accountability and measures of performance that are meaningful in there and reward people with cash, American, because that is the coin of the realm in general, and it certainly is when it comes to the workforce development agencies, to effect behaviors, or we Federalize the system. It is as simple as that.
Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you.
Mr. Chamrin, I didn't quite understand. You suggested that the current funding formula for DVOPs and LVERs is based on the States' fiscal needs. Can you explain that?
Mr. CHAMRIN. The way we understand it, Department of Labor-VETS labels it as State grants. So the State derives their needs based upon their veterans and what their planning is in their management. So you can have a half-time DVOP next to a half-time LVER instead of one full-time LVER, and that is State-driven. I believe the Assistant Secretary could better answer that.
But if I may just follow up with this. The funding for the State grants has only increased 1.2 percent since 2002, and that is not in real support of the Global War on Terror since 9/11. So approximately 100 positions have been limited since 2002—I believe the Assistant Secretary can give you the official number—because the inflation rate is greater than the increase in the State grants.
Mr. BOOZMAN. Very good.
Mr. Daley, you mentioned half-timers versus full-timers. In the rural areas of the country, would that be a problem if we did it as you suggested and went to full-time positions; would that in the rural areas of America where you didn't have as much population, would that be a problem?
Mr. DALEY. Yes, sir, that is probably the area that we could accept the idea of a half-time person, such as part of your State or part of Virginia or something where you don't have the population. But if they could squeeze in the money for a full-time, they would perform for the veterans much better.
Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. Weidman.
Mr. WEIDMAN. At one point in my life, as you know, Mr. Boozman, I was a State veterans program administrator for New York, and everybody thinks of New York as the city, but, in fact, there are parts of New York that are highly rural. And one of the first things we did was when I got there is we stopped hiring any more half-time LVERs. We grandfathered in those who were already there, but then started measuring their performance with real measures, which indeed is possible, by the way, in terms of actual placements. And it is easily done today without any change, except it is all on what you pull out of the computer. And from that time on, when an LVER would leave, we would appoint a full-time LVER who would spend part of the week in one office and part of the week in another office.
But the point is they had full-time, and it was in many cases the same employers, even though there might be a distance between the two offices. It is getting out and getting the job.
We always approach it from the wrong ways. We try and say to the veteran, you need to deal with all this stuff that is getting in the way of your getting and keeping a job, and then we will look for a job. That is like saying, look, if you learn how to dance, clean up your act and learn how to talk right, we will search for a date and maybe find a dance. Well, that is not a very good incentive. You say, the dance is on a certain date, and we have got a date for you; now you need to do all this stuff to be able to take advantage of it. Then people will get their act together and do it.
So the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, bringing back—I hate the name SMOCTA, but the concept is based on the Veterans Job Training Act (VJTA) that began in your predecessor's committee, Subcommittee, back in 1982 to meet an immediate need of Vietnam veterans unemployment skyrocketing in the early 1980s. So if you have employer incentives, what we found under VJTA and even under SMOCTA at the practical level is it got the DVOP and LVER's foot in the door to develop a job around the veteran.
For disabled vets, in talking to DVOPs for 25 years now, they all tell me the same thing, is that for the disabled and particularly the profoundly disabled veteran, they developed a job around the person. So you have got to be able to have the contact with the employers, and it is—the certainty and the confidence that that employer in a local area, particularly in a rural area, has in the quality of the referral with that DVOP or LVER will make that they will say, okay, you will stand behind them, John, I will do it, and give this person a shot.
We found that many of them didn't go back and take the tax break or didn't apply for the payments because they were so pleased with the quality of the work that was done and the fact at their bottom line they had a great worker and they were making money.
Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you, Mr. Boozman.
Mr. McNerney, you are recognized.
Mr. MCNERNEY. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Weidman, I hadn't had the opportunity to read your testimony, but after the rave review, I will make an effort on the airplane to do that tonight.
One of the things that comes to mind is the State's performance with regard to DVOP and how to hold them accountable. And accountability is a theme that I hear pretty consistently across the board here. How would you recommend—I would like an answer from all three of you on this. How do you recommend that we hold States accountable, through sanctions or punishments, or what ideas are there on that specific topic?
Mr. CHAMRIN. As I said before, we don't think we should punish any DVOPs or LVERs who fail to have veterans get employed. We never want veteran funding to be lessened. But a way to track these veterans is to have a follow-up mechanism. It is not just getting employed, it is being gainfully employed and staying in that position and then progressing within that program. So, you can have a follow-up for this veteran, you can have a 6-month, 1-year, year-and-a-half, 2-year tracking of this veteran, if they become unemployed, they go back to their original LVER, and they are back in the system. Not just are they employed and they are off the radar screen.
Mr. DALEY. Definitely some type of follow-up program. I don't know how. Whether you would call that person periodically or send them a questionnaire through the mail, but a follow-up to see if they did receive help in getting the job, and if they are still employed 6 months or 9 months later, such as Mr. Weidman was referring to.
I had a friend just a year ago that got out of the Air Force with 22 years of experience, and his specialty was taking care of very high-tech medical equipment. Of course, he went through all the TAP programs, and he went to the State employment office and registered and did all that. So somewhere they have the record of a veteran coming in there seeking employment. But his contacts were through the major hospitals, and the major hospitals did call him, and he was, within a month, employed. So somewhere on the records it shows that he came to the State office, and now he is successfully employed. But the State office didn't really do anything to help the gentleman get his job, it was his own background.
Mr. MCNERNEY. What we would like to know is how the VA can hold the States accountable and make them perform these kind of necessary actions.
Mr. WEIDMAN. The only tool now that Labor has is what I call the nuclear option, where they can suspend all funding into the State. It has only ever happened once with the State of Maine, and it was only for 1 year that they did that because politically it is tough. Governors go crazy, et cetera. And what we had in the original bill, the bill that I attached as the appendix, what it did is over a 4-year period, pulls 2-1/2 percent each year out and hold that in reserve for incentive monies to give out to the States. Originally, in the original working draft of the bill, it was 10 percent each year.
I mentioned before the people spread, well, the organizations are trying to take DVOP's job away. In fact, at that time the attrition rate among LVERs nationwide in a given year was about 14 percent and of DVOP 17 percent. The reason for that is folks are disabled, and things happen, and they are no longer able to work. Incidentally, the attrition rate is about the same now.
So you can take 10 percent a year and start to set it aside by shifting monies between States and hold them harmless. What that would mean is if you were doing a good job, and not under the current specious way of measurement, but I am talking about in terms of placement, particularly for special disabled—disabled and special disabled veterans and for those most recently separated within the last four years, and for veterans at risk of becoming homeless, then you would get incentive dollars. And, in fact, if you broke it down in that original draft, you could—the State, the DVOP, would have the power to declare an SMSA, a standard metropolitan statistical area, or which in most cases is one job service or one One-Stop per SMSA—declare them out of compliance. If they were not meeting their goals, they weren't acting correctly, put them under a project improvement plan. If that doesn't work, pull the money. And then let the money—contract the money out with any public or private entity, profit or not-for-profit, because it is only the cash American that is going to cause people to respond on the agency level.
The DVOPs and LVERs, if supported, 85 percent of them will work their heart out. And many of them do great work no matter how much they are punished for doing it. And many of them do it after hours because they are not allowed to do it during office hours.
Mr. MCNERNEY. So you might need more flexibility then, give the administrators more flexibility?
Mr. WEIDMAN. Give the Federal folks more flexibility to measure real performance.
What happened in the actual JVA is it was a theoretical trade-off between giving more flexibility, slash, latitude to the State workforce development agencies in return for more accountability. Well, they got the latitude. And some of us said at the time, it is license, it is not really just latitude. And, in fact, there is less accountability today than there was prior to the passage of JVA in 2002.
If I may suggest back respectfully to the Subcommittee two things. One is that there needs to be an oversight hearing on JVA itself, Jobs for Veterans Act, and the implementation by the Department of Labor and Ms. Emily DeRocco, because the responsibility for implementing that was not given to Charles Ciccolella. We have an Assistant Secretary for Veterans 'Employment and Training who is fully capable and a fine leader, but he is not given the authority within Labor. It is the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration who has all the power. All assistant secretaries are equal, but some are more equal, to paraphrase George Orwell.
And the second thing. I mentioned in my written testimony two books. One was written in 1944 and one in 1945. And it was based on a veterans One-Stop center modeled and developed in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And by 1946, a majority of American cities had these. And the governing board was somebody from the clergy, somebody from retail, somebody from manufacturing, somebody from organized labor, somebody from every aspect of the community leaders to draw all services together to greet our young men and women coming home and make sure they got what they needed. And because it was the whole community involved and not somebody else's job, it worked.
And it strikes me that that is what we need again. And I would hope that—that is why I am suggesting a National Veterans Employment Conference or Convocation, or whatever you may call it, with the business community, the organized labor and everybody else, as well as the political leadership and the agency people.
Mr. MCNERNEY. Thanks for the latitude on that, Madam Chairwoman.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. That is no problem.
I have a couple follow-up questions and comments. Mr. Chamrin, you stated in your testimony that, currently, NVTI provides training to staff within three years of being hired, and the American Legion recommends that this training be provided within one year of being hired. Do you have numbers that demonstrate how many folks are not getting training within that first year, and are actually not getting that training from the institute until their second or third year of employment?
Mr. CHAMRIN. In meeting with the Advisory Committee and sitting on some of their meetings, they are saying that sending people to NVTI is derived from the States. So the State might not have the funding to send to NVTI, or it can only send one person at a time. I don't have the numbers on that, but I believe the Assistant Secretary could provide it for you. But it makes sense to make sure that everyone is trained to do their job as soon as possible and not have someone untrained for two and a half years trying to help out our veterans.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Thank you.
If the States are determining when people go for that training, is there any correlation between where we have seen the One-Stop Career Center servicing veterans, for example, Mr. Weidman, the States you identified? Do we know, one, are they getting to the training sooner; and, two, do they have any part-time DVOPs or LVERs?
Mr. WEIDMAN. I think that some of the States that I mentioned do have part-time DVOPs and LVERs. But there is such consistent corporate culture in some of the smaller States like South Dakota, like South Carolina, if you walk into a South Carolina job service office—and years ago Jack David, who is the director out there—you have here in the Committee office is a poster called When Johnny Comes Marching Home, which you have seen it, which has Norman Rockwell featured on it. Jack asked if we could get him 42 of those. And I said, yeah, what do you want? Because we produced them in New York when I was up there. And he said, I want to put one in every office. So I sent it to him. And I walked into a job service office in two different towns when I was down there on other business in South Carolina, and what Dr. David did was have those framed and put over the main reception desk. And there was a line for veterans and a line for everybody else.
So you didn't need a statute, and you didn't need the training because their acculturation would carry people. But it is also the same States who immediately try and get people into training so that they can do a better job. It is local leadership. And the problem with not having accountability is those States that are going to do the right thing because they want to are already doing it. It is the other States that aren't doing it; that people shouldn't be penalized for not being from the Carolinas or from South Dakota or from New Hampshire, which is another State that consistently does things.
Well, you asked about best practices. Do you want some of those? I didn't answer that question.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. I would appreciate if you would submit them to the Subcommittee for the record. I think that would be very helpful to have, in addition to some of the other recommendations that you have made on how to get at this issue more directly as it relates to the administration of the program at the Department of Labor. So, yes, I would be very interested. If you could submit those to us in writing, I would appreciate it, and we can follow up with you then.
[The information was not received from Mr. Weidman.]
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. I will be following up with our witness on the next panel as it relates to the timing of the training and seeing if we can get those numbers.
Mr. CHAMRIN. I do know that there is a yearly employment cycle that some of these offices have. And there is also a probationary period for newly hired DVOPs/LVERs where some of the States will not send them to training because they haven't completed their probationary period. It is kind of like protecting themselves. They don't want to send someone out to Colorado to get trained, then come back and leave. So they want to make sure that they are committed to that One-Stop center.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Just a final comment. I appreciated the line of questioning that Mr. Boozman pursued, and Mr. McNerney, on accountability. I appreciate the statements that have been made about how well South Dakota is working with its One-Stops. Sometimes when you say, part-time staff, if that is—what you don't want to give up entirely, and that is the best we can fund, especially for the rural areas because of less dense population. Yet on the other hand, because the outreach areas tend to be larger, it is almost as if you are compromising the work of the part-time staff more because their outreach territory is larger and perhaps at a higher level of veterans. That has been demonstrated per capita in terms of rural States, a larger percentage of veterans.
I want us to be careful as we pursue that issue more fully that we are again looking at. Let me just say that I don't want rural areas to get short-changed on this thinking that if you have adequate funding, maybe the part-time DVOP or LVER could address that, because there are other factors that come into play. We see this in other areas of Federal policy.
It looks like, Mr. Chamrin, you have a comment.
Mr. CHAMRIN. The easy solution to that is give the Assistant Secretary DoL-VETS discretionary funding over on top of what he already is funded. That allows the Assistant Secretary to make a program for outreach for these rural areas.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. I am glad you mentioned that because I was going to ask Mr. Daley about his proposal on offering some discretionary funding. I know you had mentioned a pilot project or special projects that you had been involved in where ultimately private funding came. I don't disagree with the suggestion, but, again, do you want discretionary funding for a particular purpose like outreach in rural areas? Do you want discretionary funding for more of a broad special project, as Mr. Daley addressed?
Mr. CHAMRIN. The American Legion can go on record that we support the Assistant Secretary of DoL-VETS, and we trust his judgment that he'll best use the discretionary funding to the best project that he sees fit.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Mr. Daley, did you have any final comments on that point?
Mr. DALEY. I agree with Ron. They understand the situation, and they know the problems out there among the States a lot better than we do here in Washington. So I believe that they would put the money or try a test program or a pilot program wherever they think they would get the most results from.
Mr. WEIDMAN. Unfortunately not every small State has an Ernie Fender for 30 years who just worked his heart out and knew everybody in the State, including both U.S. Senators long before they were in office.
So it was an extraordinary situation.
I will say, though, that the idea of incentive monies is—as you know, 9 percent of Workforce Investment Act (WIA) monies are held back by the Feds, and 9 percent are held back by the Governors to distribute to the local whips. The 9 percent that is held back nationally, the veterans organizations have repeatedly suggested to Labor that they hold back, take 1 percent of that, or even less, a half of 1 percent of that, and use it for incentive dollars for those States and/or local offices that are doing the best job for veterans, particularly for disabled vets.
In fact, no Secretary has ever done so. Our response to that from VVA is, don't tell me veterans are our priority when you can never use a doggone dime of your incentive dollars that you control in order to service this population.
Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. As we have stated in other Subcommittee hearings, we will work more closely with the Governors to get some of this as well. Mr. Chairman also commented on reporting directly to the Assistant Secretary to provide some information on how to best allocate discretionary dollars. Yet, we want to ensure that the money that is going through this program has accountability. It is for the benefit of the veterans, not just to allow Governors to have additional resources to support their staff that is also doing a whole host of other work. I appreciate the comments that you have made.
Mr. Chamrin, I noticed you might want to make one final comment, but I do want to move to the next panel. We could talk perhaps after the hearing, if that is okay. Thank you.
I thank all three of you, again, for your service to our Nation's veterans, and for your helpful testimony on these important programs. Thank you. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
I would like to invite our witness on our second and final panel to the witness table.
Joining us on the second panel is the Honorable Charles Ciccolella, Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training with the U.S. Department of Labor.
Secretary Ciccolella, thank you for being here. We look forward to your testimony and any responses to our questions and any comments that you also may have or would like to share based on what we have just heard from the first panel. Again, your entire written statement has been made a part of the record. We would now recognize you to summarize any opening remarks for five minutes.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES CICCOLELLA, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR VETERANS' EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR; ACCOMPANIED BY GAY GILBERT, ADMINISTRATOR, OFFICE OF WORKFORCE INVESTMENT, EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING ADMINISTRATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LA