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Opening Statement of Hon. Marlin Stutzman, Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Good Morning.  We are here today to begin this subcommittee’s review of the implementation of Public Law 112-56 the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.  This will be just the first in a series of oversight hearings we will hold through July of next year.

This bipartisan and bicameral legislation was signed into law by the President Obama in November and is the culmination of many months of work by this Committee to reduce unemployment among veterans.  These efforts began with oversight hearings by this Subcommittee last winter which led to the introduction and passage of H.R. 2433 the Veteran Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 earlier this fall.

The major provision of both H.R. 2433 and the VOW to Hire Heroes Act is the temporary extension of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to eligible veterans to receive up to one year of training at a community college or technical school for in-demand occupations. Eligible veterans would have to be between the age of 35 and 60, be unemployed, and not have eligibility for other VA education programs.

Latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there are an estimated 531,000 unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 64.  This represents about two thirds of all of unemployed veterans in this country. It is this population that this program is intended to help, and it is our obligation to ensure that VA and VETS meet the July 1, 2011 implementation deadline so this provision can help this group of aging veterans as quickly as possible.

While there are many other worthwhile provisions in the VOW Act, the implementation of this provision and the provision extending vocational rehabilitation benefits to veterans who have passed their delimiting date will be the Subcommittee’s focus.

While I am aware that the legislation was only signed into law a few weeks ago, I am anxious to hear about the progress VA and DOL have been making on implementation and their plans for future collaboration as required by law.

I can’t stress enough that the proper implementation of this law is extremely critical, and as such I want to put both agencies on notice that this will be this Subcommittee’s top priority in the next session of Congress and we need your help in identifying obstacles and problems as soon as possible so we can work them out and get this law implemented.

Together we can ensure that our veterans are not cheated out this wonderful benefit because of bureaucratic delays or hurdles. Our veterans deserve and will receive nothing less.

I thank our witness for being here today to inform us on the progress the departments have made, and I now yield to the distinguished Ranking Member from the great state of Iowa for any remarks he may have.