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Opening Statement of Hon. Cliff Stearns, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Thank you Chairman Miller for having this hearing today.

Unemployment is at a record high today and unemployment in our veteran community is higher than at any time that I can remember.

 My bill, HR 169, would require that the Department of Veterans Affairs have a drop-down menu titled “Veterans Employment” on its homepage.  This drop menu would have links to VetSuccess, USA Jobs, Job Central and other appropriate employment websites.  It would also require the Secretary of VA to advertise and promote the VetSuccess website and require direct outreach to OIF and OEF veterans.

This bill comes out of discussions I had with the VA over the past couple of years and from constituents in my district returning from their service to our country. While the VA has addressed some of my concerns, they continue to miss the underlying reason for my bill: customer service and usability.  The VA should have a clear link that will take veterans to a listing of jobs based on zip code.

Today, if you are a veteran and are looking for a job whether in the private sector or within the government, it can be a daunting task.  For example, when you go to the VA homepage under quick links is “Federal Jobs for Veterans.”  After clicking on the link, you are taken to more barricades.  This link will take you to “FedsHireVets” (feds hire vets), which offers useful tips, but you still have to go through one more step to access government jobs within your area.    

To find private sector jobs, you have to click on the Veteran Service dropdown menu and navigate multiple links on the VA homepage.  There is no simple link for Veteran Employment or Veteran Jobs.  Instead you need to know that the VetSuccess program is what you’re looking for.  If you’re unfamiliar with veteran programs, you may not know that VetSuccess is the web portal for jobs.  The title isn’t clear.  VetSuccess might be the link for successful navigation of the VA bureaucracy.  The title should clearly and simply mention jobs or employment.

Then, once you get to the VetSuccess webpage you must register to look up jobs.  You can’t just type in your zip code and get a list of jobs in your local area.  My office had to fill out an excessively long form, and then monitor our spam filter to catch the verification e-mail, click the e-mail to prove we’re human and then we waited for a follow up e-mail to get our password to finally access the VetSuccess job portal.

This is too high a hurdle for something so simple as a job listing for veterans.  You should be able to go to this site, type your zip code and get the job listings.    When I go to Monster.com, I don’t need to register to do a quick lookup for the jobs listed within a specified proximity of my home in Ocala.  VetSuccess needs to have similar accessibility like Monster: immediate access to job listings by zip code without hiding behind vague titles in a crowded drop menu with excessive registration requirements.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for all veterans was 8.2%.  The purpose of my bill is to get the VA thinking about how they should properly address the needs of Veterans, provide good customer service and lower the barriers to information.  This type of employment information should be easily accessible in plan language on the VA’s homepage and the VetSuccess program should provide these job listings without making veterans jump through more hoops.  Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our safety and liberties.  I want to ensure our veterans a smooth transition into our workforce after their service.  Again, I appreciate Chairman Miller having this hearing today and I look forward to what we can accomplish and learn from the testimonies of our witnesses.