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Witness Testimony of Anthony Smithhart, Iowa State Director, Veterans' Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department of Labor

Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley, and members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Committee about the work we are doing at the Department of Labor (DOL or Department) to address the important issue of decreasing the unemployment rate for Veterans, National Guard, and Reservists.  We also appreciate the opportunity to discuss the work we are doing here in Iowa.  With over 240,000 veterans living in the state, it is critical that we provide them with the services and support they need to find and obtain good jobs. 

My name is Tony Smithhart, and as the Iowa State Director for the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), I am dedicated to helping our Veterans and returning Service Members achieve that goal.

VETS proudly serves Veterans and transitioning Service Members by providing resources and expertise to assist and prepare them to obtain meaningful careers, maximize their employment opportunities and protect their employment rights.  We do this through a variety of nationwide programs that are an integral part of Secretary Solis’s vision of “Good Jobs for Everyone.”

I would like to begin by briefly discussing some of those programs along with other initiatives that assist America’s Veterans in getting to or back to work and then focus specifically on information for Iowa you requested in your invitation.

Jobs for Veterans State Grants Program

The first program that I would like to highlight for you is the Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) Program.  Under this grant program, the Department offers employment and training services to eligible Veterans by allocating funds to State Workforce Agencies in direct proportion to the number of Veterans seeking employment within their state.  

The Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) program funds two occupations, the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program specialist (DVOP) and the Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVER). DVOP specialists provide outreach services, and intensive employment assistance to meet the employment needs of eligible Veterans.  LVER staff conducts outreach to employers and engages in advocacy efforts with hiring executives to increase employment opportunities for Veterans, encourages the hiring of disabled Veterans, and generally assists Veterans to gain and retain employment.  

Last year, the JVSG provided services to nearly 589,000 Veterans, and 201,000 Veterans found jobs.

Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program

To meet the needs of homeless Veterans and help reintegrate them into the workforce VETS administers the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP).  Through HRVP, the Department provides competitive grants to state and local workforce investment boards, state agencies, local public agencies, and private non-profit organizations, including faith-based organizations and neighborhood partnerships.  HVRP grantees provide an array of services utilizing a holistic case management approach that directly assists homeless Veterans and provides training services to help them to successfully transition into the labor force.  

In Program Year (PY) 2009, over 14,000 homeless Veterans participated in this program through 96 grants, and 8,470 were placed into employment.  Data for PY 2010 is not yet available, as figures for the 4th quarter are still being verified.  Here in Iowa, the HVRP has touched many lives and helped hundreds of homeless Veterans because of grants to programs such as the Goodwill Industries of the Heartland and Shelter House Community Shelter & Transition Services. 

Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program

Yet another way the Department is working to help Veterans get back to work is through the Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program (VWIP).  Through VWIP, the Department awards competitive grants geared toward focused training, re-training and employment opportunities for recently separated Veterans, Veterans with service-connected disabilities, Veterans with significant barriers to employment and Veterans who served on active duty during expeditions or campaigns for which specific badges were awarded.  These grants are awarded to meet the needs of employers for qualified workers in high demand industries, particularly those occupations requiring a license or certification.  These grants also promote the integration of public, private, and philanthropic organizations with the workforce system to create synergy and encourage innovative strategies to serve our Veterans better.

In FY 2009, VWIP was refocused to provide training and employment services in green energy occupations as envisioned in the Green Jobs Act of 2007.  There are currently 22 grants serving 4,600 Veterans.

Transition Assistance Program

Our primary program for assisting individuals with their transition from the military to the civilian workforce is the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  TAP is an interagency program delivered via a partnership involving the Department of Defense, DOL VETS, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Homeland Security.  VETS provides an employment workshop that is a comprehensive two and a half day program during which participants are provided relevant skills and information, such as job search techniques, career decision-making processes, and current labor market conditions. 

Currently, VETS uses a mix of contractors, VETS Federal staff, DVOPs, and LVERs as TAP facilitators. Starting in late 2012, VETS will transition to all skilled contract facilitators.

As you know, VETS is currently in the process of redesigning and transforming the TAP employment workshop.  We are creating experiential, effective, and enduring solutions for a successful transition from military to civilian life and employment.  The new TAP will be based on established best practices in career transition. 

Last year, nearly 130,000 transitioning Service Members and spouses attended a TAP employment workshop given at one of 272 locations world-wide.

Employer Partnerships

VETS is also implementing a new approach to employer outreach that involves pilot programs and partnerships with the private sector, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).  These partnerships are giving us much broader access to employers so that we can communicate the value of hiring a Veteran and how to access this extraordinary source of talent.  It also allows us to educate employers about the unique skills Veterans bring with them based on their military experience.  Connecting the talent pool with the many companies looking to hire Veterans allows for a more efficient hiring process for many Veterans and employers.

The Chamber is working to hold 100 hiring fairs exclusively for Veterans, transitioning Service Members and their spouses. In the partnership, the U.S. Chamber and its affiliates focus primarily on securing the participation of employers while the VETS team focuses on obtaining participation by Veterans, transitioning Service Members and their spouses.  

In fact, VETS is participating in our State-wide 2011 “Hiring Our Heroes” Job Fair in Des Moines, Iowa on November 8th, 2011.  The event will be held at the Hy-Vee Hall (Hall “C”), 730 Third Street, Des Moines, Iowa, 50309 from 10:00AM-4:00PM and is being put on by the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with the Iowa Works, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), Des Moines Area Community College, and the Military Services.

VETS is working with SHRM to identify opportunities for VETS state managers to meet with local SHRM chapters to connect Veterans seeking employment with companies who are hiring. For VETS this is an effective and efficient way to connect employers and Veterans. We are also working with SHRM in the development of an HR Toolkit that will provide employers with the methods and procedures to establish a Veteran hiring program and to hire Veterans.

Iowa Specific Information

In your letter of invitation, you requested certain information about Veterans in Iowa.   While some specific data is unavailable, we have nevertheless been certain to provide the most current information available.  As you know, Iowa operates a Public Labor Exchange primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to assist all job seekers with their employment needs.  While it is available to all populations, Veterans are given priority of service. In Iowa, the Public Labor Exchange is known as the Iowa Workforce Development (IWD).  The services and assistance offered at IWD range from employment preparation and comprehensive employment placement services, to intensive services through a case management approach for Veterans with special needs. 

Level of Education of Veterans Seeking Employment Assistance

Over the past year, 19,687 Veterans have received services through IWD.  Of the total population of Veterans served through the public labor exchange, 1074 or 5.5 percent reported less than a high school diploma while 9,000 or 45.7 percent have a high school degree or a GED.  The total number of Veterans reporting achievement of a post-high school degree or certification is 6144, or 31.2  percent.  (See table below.)

Data Element Iowa Percent
Total Number of Vets, Eligibles and Transitioning Servicemembers 19,687  
Total Number of Vets, Eligibles and Transitioning Servicemembers who were not HS Graduates 1,074 5.5%
Total Number of Vets Eligibles and Transitioning Servicemembers who had a HS degree or GED 9,000 46%
Total Number of Vets, Eligi8bles and Transitioning Servicemembers who had a Post-Secondary degree or are Certified 6,144 31%

Source: U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration Form ETA 9002 A: “Services to Participants” July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. U. S. Department of Labor, and Employment and Training Administration Form ETA 9002 D Services to Participants, April 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011.
Education level is not a required field when registering with the One-Stop Career Center system; therefore, the breakdown by education level does equal the total number of Veterans served.

Average Placement Salary by Level of Education for Veterans.

In Iowa, the six month Average Earnings for veterans are; $15, 346 or $30,692 per annum. The principle source of information for this data element is the U. S. Department of Labor’s, Employment and Training Administration from the ETA 9002, Services to Participants for Program Year Period July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.  While specific placement salary data by education level are not available, the ETA 9002, Performance Outcomes for Veterans, Eligible Persons and Transitioning Service Members does provide Average Earnings data.

Length of Unemployment for Veterans by Education Level

The Current Population Survey provides national data about the employment status of the civilian non-institutional population by educational attainment, age, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino and Non-Hispanic ethnicity.  The same source provides data for unemployed persons by duration of unemployment, educational attainment, sex, and age as an annual average for the general population.  However, data for length of unemployment by education level for Veterans as a separate population is not available.

Rate of Unemployment for Veterans by Education Level

In terms of unemployment rates for the general population, the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) reports a 6.1  percent rate for Iowa in 2010.  Comparatively, the Current Population Survey (CPS), collected by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that the unemployment rate for Veterans was 6.4 percent in Iowa in 2010. Unemployment rate data by education level by state is not available. (See table below.) 

Data Element Iowa
Unemployment Rates: 6.1%
Calendar Year 2010 (LAUS) General Population 6.1%
Calendar Year 2010 (CPS)-Veterans 6.4%

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Number of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) Complaints Filed

VETS is honored to serve our nation’s Veterans. One of the agency’s top priorities is to protect the employment rights of service members when called to serve on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.  The goal of the USERRA is to ensure that no member or prospective member of the U.S. Armed forces endures any disadvantage or discrimination in employment because of their affiliation with the military, and to secure the reemployment rights of members of the military after active duty service.

VETS works closely with DOD’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Reserve Affairs’ Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) to ensure that service members are informed on their USERRA rights before and after they are mobilized.  We conduct continuous USERRA outreach to educate and inform service members and employers of their rights and responsibilities under the law.

The use of the National Guard and Reserves has increased dramatically in recent years, with more called to active duty than any other time since the Korean War.  This has increased the complexity of issues resulting from the challenges faced by service members and their families due to lengthier and multiple deployments.  This is true for all service members but because many National Guard and Reserve Units, in particular, contend with civilian employment issues, the claims activity post 9-11 has increased dramatically nationwide. Employers face equal hardships in the reintegration of service members into the labor force as they deal with lengthy and multiple absences. 

Your invitation asked for the number of USERRA complaints filed in Iowa.  Below, is the breakdown of complaints filed within the last five years.  Despite the increase nationally, the number of complaints have decreased in Iowa over this time period.

Data Element Iowa
USERRA Complaints Filed:  
Federal Fiscal Year 2007 38
Federal Fiscal Year 2008 39
Federal Fiscal Year 2009 34
Federal Fiscal Year 2010 24
Federal Fiscal Year 2011 19

Source: USDOL/VETS Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act Information Management System

Conclusion:

Thank you again for allowing me to testify today and for your tireless support and commitment to our Nations Veterans.  DOL and VETS look forward to continuing to work with you and your staff on Veterans’ employment initiatives.  I look forward to responding to your questions.