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Opening Statement of Ranking Member Bruce L. Braley, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

The bills included in today’s hearing seek to provide and improve veterans’ benefits. These bills will increase access to education, provide employment protection for disabled veterans, extend vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits, and improve contracting procedures.

This Subcommittee has been committed to improving employment opportunities for our nation’s veterans. We’ve conducted oversight hearings and field hearings to examine the unemployment problems facing our nation’s veterans and passed legislation to try and mitigate these problems. Yet, few times have we discussed the unique needs of those with service-connected injuries.  That is why I am pleased to have introduced H.R. 3524, the Disabled Veterans Employment Protection Act, which seeks to provide service-connected disabled veterans with employment protections.

H.R. 3524 would protect service-connected disabled veterans against employer discrimination while they seek treatment for injuries they sustained while in service or aggravated due to their military service.  It would provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a calendar year.  Currently Public Law 110-181, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, provides caregivers with up to 26 work weeks of unpaid leave in a calendar year for up to five years to care for their spouse, parent, child or next of kin who is a service member and sustained an injury or illness during service.  While caregivers are given this much deserved protection, those that have been directly inflicted with an injury do not enjoy similar protections. It is time to remedy this inequity.

I am also interested in making sure our veterans have good information when deciding to go back to college. I appreciate that Chairman Stutzman has introduced legislation that would recognize educational institutions that provide superior service to veterans, as well as improve the TAP program to include information about post-secondary education.

I also appreciate Rep. Bilirakis’s legislation that would improve outreach and transparency for veterans regarding information about going back to school. I believe having clear and reliable information is essential in helping veterans make decisions about post-secondary education.

I look forward to working with Members of this Committee to make sure our veterans are receiving unbiased advice on the use of GI Bill benefits and adequate information about schools they may want to attend. They have served their country and deserve to have the best education possible, including ongoing support once they are enrolled.

Common sense legislation to provide employment protection for veterans who need medical treatment for their service-connected injuries or to provide complete information about educational opportunities is how we protect those who have volunteered to protect us.