Opening Statement of Honorable Marlin Stutzman
Good morning. First, let me extend a sincere welcome back to the Members of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. All of our Members on both sides of the aisle won reelection, and I am glad our team will remain intact because, in my view, we have done good bipartisan work together and I want to express my special appreciation to our Ranking Member, Mr. Braley, in that regard. But, our work is not finished.
It is hard to pick up a newspaper or access a news website that does not have a story about the difficulties facing veterans who are returning to the civilian workforce.
As a result, even though the overall veteran unemployment rate is lower than the non-veteran rate, in some segments of the veteran workforce, younger veterans are having a more difficult time finding employment than non-veterans.
Unfortunately, most of the information we read or hear is anecdotal with little hard data to suggest ways Congress can lower those rates. For example, BLS staff will state that data on the rates for veterans in the 18-24 age group is soft because of a small sample size.
For example, in many states, a veteran attending school full time under the Post-9/11 GI Bill can also draw unemployment benefits and be counted as unemployed.
I am not suggesting that is inappropriate. Rather, noting that it is a factor in calculating unemployment rates.
I would say that the centerpiece of our work in the 112th Congress was passage of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. As of November 13, VA had received nearly 75,000 applications and approved 62,295. That is great progress towards filling all 99,000 slots provided in the legislation, but I am somewhat concerned about the slow enrollment rates and we will discuss that during questioning.
Let me also express my great appreciation to Curt Coy for the energy and professionalism he has displayed in implementing VRAP. I am told you were a bit under the weather for awhile and so I am doubly pleased to see you back.
Before I recognize the Ranking Member, I would like to emphasize that we rely on the Executive Branch for answers that will assist us in forming future legislation. To that end, in the invitations sent to VA and VETS, we have asked them to answer several questions in their testimony centering on the outcomes of those completing their vocational rehabilitation plan and the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program or VRAP.
With that in mind, I find the Department of Labor’s response, or should I say non-response to our request for their intentions regarding the utilization of the DVOPS and LVERs totally unhelpful and disappointing. What we have been told you are proposing are significant changes, and it is this subcommittee’s responsibility to ensure that the taxpayer resources are spent in accordance with the law.
I look forward to hearing the answers and I now recognize the distinguished Ranking Member.