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Opening Statement of Hon. Bill Flores, Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Good Morning everyone and the Subcommittee will come to order.

We have a total of nine bills before us, and a host of witnesses so I promise to keep my opening statement brief.  

Two of the nine bills before us today are bills that I introduced earlier this year. The first is H.R. 631 the “Servicemembers Choice in Transition Act of 2013” which I introduced with Ranking Member Takano.

 This bill is meant as a follow along to the VOW to Hire Heroes Act that would improve the transition assistance program, or TAP, for separating servicemembers.

The VOW Act made TAP mandatory for all but a very few servicemembers, and since the enactment of that bill the services and the administration have nearly completed an overhaul of the TAP program for the first time in decades. From what I have heard from veterans and my staff, the new curriculum is much improved but more can be done.

DoD has created several tracks or courses for servicemembers that focus on some of the most common transition paths that servicemembers take when separating.  These tracks focus on the following areas: education, voc-tech, employment, and entrepreneurship.  

These tracks are meant to provide in-depth knowledge on these topics and allow servicemembers the choice in picking training that best fits their transition goals.  Unfortunately, that option is not included in the mandatory portion of TAP.

For example, if a veteran was planning to go to college and use their Post 9/11 GI Bill the education track should help them decide whether they are ready for post-secondary education and if not, how to get ready, what should be their education or training goal, what schools would best meet their education or training goal, how to complete the admissions process, and finally, how to finance their education or training.

As you can see on the slide, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefit can provide over $270,000 over four years at one of the most expensive schools in the country, in this case Stanford University. If taxpayers are going to provide this generous benefit, it is our duty to ensure that they know how to make best use of this benefit.

As I said, from everything we have heard from DoD, and as they will shortly testify to as well, they will not require that these tracks not be part of the mandatory portion of TAP. As a non-mandatory option, Servicemembers could take the optional track only if their supervisor would allow them to miss more days of work or if they don’t meet the still undefined “career readiness standards.”  

Regarding those standards, how can we expect a Commanding Officer to reasonably determine whether a Servicemember’s Individual Transition Plan actually reflects attainable objectives given the infinite variations in a member’s life?

Therefore, I believe H.R. 631 would fill that gap by making the optional tracks part of the mandatory portion of TAP while giving the services flexibility to meet these requirements. The model I am proposing as you can see on the screen provides each servicemember with an executive summary of each track followed by time to take the track of their choice along with classes on VA benefits and service specific separation counseling. The model shows five days but it could be seven or eight days, whatever it takes to get the job done.

This model is based off a model that the Marines have been piloting with great success for some time.

My second bill, H.R. 1316, seeks to codify the roles and responsibilities of Directors of Veteran Employment and Training or DVETS (Dee-VETS).  DVETS are federal employees who represent the Veterans Employment and Training Service on the state level and whose primary responsibility is to oversee the DVOPS and LVERS who are funded by the Jobs for Veterans Sate Grant Program.  Curiously, Title 38 contains no specific responsibilities for the DVETS.  It only says there shall be DVETS and Assistant DVETS.

The performance of the DVOPS and LVERS continues to be topic of concern for this Committee and by codifying the responsibilities of DVETS we will strengthen their position with their state to improve the performance of the DVOPS and LVERS - something I am sure we can all agree must happen.

With that I happy to yield to the Ranking Member for any opening statement he may have.