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Submission For The Record of Richard F. Weidman, Vietnam Veterans of America, Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs

Good morning, Madam Chair, Ranking Member Boozman and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.  On behalf of VVA National President John Rowan and all of our officers and members we thank you for the opportunity for Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) to appear here today to share our views Federal Contractor Compliance.   I ask that you enter our full statement in the record, and I will briefly summarize the most important points of our statement.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) has long had the (justified) reputation of being a moribund agency within the Department of Labor who did little, if anything, to help anyone, much less veterans. Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and our colleagues at other veterans service organizations (VSO) have been told that the relatively new Director of OFCCP, the Honorable Patricia A. Shiu, is eager to take action to revitalize this entity and take serious, material steps to assist veterans, particularly wartime and disabled veterans, by enforcing both Section 503 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act (VEVRAA). We are given to understand that Director Shiu will be speaking with us as early as Thursday morning, September 30, 2010, at the Stakeholders meeting scheduled by the Honorable Raymond Jefferson, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment and Training, in the Secretary of Labor’s conference room. We are hopeful that this first meeting will in fact lead to substantive action at an early date.

Our comments below should therefore be seen in light of what has happened (and not happened) at OFCCP heretofore, and in light of promised change in the near future.

The Federal Contractor Veterans Employment Program- A Short History 

  • Executive Order 11598 initially established veterans’ links with federal contractors. Veterans hiring was further enhanced in 1973 with Executive Order 11701. Job openings went to LVERs in the local employment security offices. This was the case even when America’s Job Bank was in existence because most States had their own systems for taking job orders locally; maintaining the tight local employer relations link that benefits One Stops. Now, contractors are listing Internet openings without even talking to State staff where the opening is located let alone local One Stop LVERs.
  • OFFCP’s non-enforcement of federal contractors provisions has long drawn sharp complaint from VSOs as well as both State and local staff:

Most State workforce administrators surveyed reported that the new legislation has improved both the quality of services to veterans and their employment outcomes. They credited the greater availability of case management services under JVA for much of the improvement in employment. They cited lack of federal contractor compliance with the law’s provisions as most likely to have limited veterans’ employment opportunities. (GAO-06-17) December 2005 Page 1

For years, the department of Labor under t the previous Administration actively opposed the very existence of the program itself:

Labor has not updated regulations on federal contractors’ hiring and reporting practices because of a lack of consensus and coordination on how to implement and enforce this provision ... On the basis of their experience, VETS officials were concerned about the feasibility and usefulness of the contractor requirements. They said that there is no central repository of contractors to identify which ones are subject to the requirements, that the reporting requirements are burdensome for employers, and they are not relevant in evaluating the program’s effectiveness. (GAO-06-176) December 2005 Page 21 (In early 2003, just months after the passage of the Jobs For Veterans Act of 2002, DoL cut the contract that provided for a central repository of contractors maintained by the National Veterans Training Institute in Denver)

Veterans groups and the States strongly disagreed with DoL’s stance on the program’s potential:

Advocates from veterans’ service organizations believe that regulations are necessary to ensure federal contractor compliance, and State workforce administrators from 18 States agree—reporting that half or fewer local workforce offices had been able to increase the number of federal contractor jobs they could list and fill since JVA was enacted (GAO-06-176) December 2005 Page 21.

In 2005, GAO agreed with the veterans groups and States, recommending effective enforcement:

To achieve results from JVA’s provisions regarding veteran hiring practices of federal contractors, Labor should issue regulations as soon as possible and explore effective methods of enforcement. (GAO-06-176) December 2005 Page 37

In their response, dated December 20, 2005, DoL promised GAO they would improve coordination with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) to expedite the issuance of revised regulations for the Federal Contractor Program. . (GAO-06-176) December 2005 Page 54. The aforementioned OFCCP regulations on the Federal Contractor program were released some 21 months after DoL’s promise to expedite.

OFCCP’s 2007 Regulations On Employer’s Affirmative Action Responsibilities For Veterans 

In the Federal Register of August 8, 2007, OFCCP significantly expanded the responsibilities of federal contractors http://www.dol.gov/federalregister/PdfDisplay.aspx?DocId=13135

Most notable for purposes of veterans hiring are these two points:

Contractors are required to conduct active outreach to find veterans; going far beyond posting their Internet listings

(f) The contractor shall undertake appropriate outreach and positive recruitment activities:

(1) The contractor should enlist the assistance and support of the following persons and organizations in recruiting, and developing on-the-job training opportunities for, qualified disabled veterans, recently separated veterans, other protected veterans, and Armed Forces service medal veterans, to fulfill its commitment to provide meaningful employment opportunities to such veterans:

(i) The Local Veterans’ Employment Representative in the local employment service office nearest the contractor’s establishment;

(ii) The Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office nearest the contractor’s establishment;

(iii) The veterans’ counselors and coordinators (‘‘Vet-Reps’’) on college campuses;

(iv) The service officers of the national veterans’ groups active in the area of the contractor’s establishment; and

(v) Local veterans’ groups and veterans’ service centers near the contractors’ establishment

(2) Formal briefing sessions should be held, preferably on company premises, with representatives from recruiting sources. Plant tours, clear and concise explanations of current and future job openings, position descriptions, worker specifications, explanations of the company’s selection process, and recruiting literature should be an integral part of the briefing. Formal arrangements should be made for referral of applicants, follow up with sources, and feedback on disposition of applicants.

OFCCP requires a veterans’ affirmative action point person be appointed in every federal contractor with more than fifty employees

Since affirmative action for veterans is not only involved in hiring but in promotion, OFCCP requires companies with more than fifty employees to have an affirmative action officer appointed for veterans to maintain compliance with the company’s veterans affirmative action plan (Page 44408). This provides a direct contact for the five groups mentioned above in the outreach effort greatly strengthening the hand of the local veterans’ advocacy community inside and out of the public sector.

Federal Contractor Information For Local LVERs/DVOPs/DVETs For The Last Two Years

For the last two years, Hoover & Johnson, a small Vermont software company has provided all State veterans coordinators and DVETs with a free comprehensive list of federal contractors updated monthly with the names of new contractors as well as out-of-state contractors who perform federally funded work inside the State. Also included is a monthly list of major Pentagon awards of $5,000,000 or more with work being performed in the State.

This monthly list is used in many States for targeting LVER employer visitation, negotiating On-The-Job Training contracts, getting employers for veteran job fairs as well as job development on behalf of individual veterans.

The Value Of The Vets-100 Report To Those Working With Veterans

The Vets 100 form in its present State does nothing to allow the monitoring of compliance with the Jobs For Veterans Act (JVA) or the OFCCP’s 2007 Regulations on Affirmative Action responsibilities. It does not require an employer filing the form to speak to their job postings as the JVA requires. It does not require them to speak to outreach efforts to the local LVER as the 2007 regulations require.

An archive of Vets-100 forms is an archive of the past. The Vets 100 form doesn’t even include an end date for contract responsibilities making it impossible for those viewing the forms to ascertain whether or not the company submitting the form is even presently a business subject to the law.

Suggested Changes In The Vets-100

  • There is unanimous agreement among LVER/DVOPs who actually work with veterans in need of employment assistance that allowing businesses to submit their Vets 100 electronically undercuts the local employer relations efforts of LVERs that are specifically written into the JVA and undermines the One Stop system.
  • Recommended are three changes:
  • The Vets 100 should require a local LVER signature (or a designee where LVERs are not present) to be submitted. This would automatically meet the affirmative action outreach requirements of the 2007 OFCCP Regulations
  • When a company has more than 50 employees, the Vets 100 should have the signature, title and phone number of the designated Veterans Affirmative Action person that is required by the 2007 OFCCP regulations. This gives LVERs a specific contact person and is consistent with the spirit of the JVA
  • The Vets 100 should require proof that openings were posted including the position posted, where it was posted and when it was posted
  • Subcontractors with contracts of $100,000 and more are also subject to the provisions of the JVA. There is no mention of them in the Vets 100. Since there is no federal data source for subcontractors, the only way that they can be identified is to require contractors to provide their names and dates of subcontracting in the new Vets 100. DUNS numbers should be required so that they can be referenced in the Central Contract Registry (CCR). For every Boeing, there are literally thousands of subcontractors across the country in every Congressional District who fall under the provisions of the law and are currently beyond the reach of local LVERs. Local veterans who should have affirmative action in hiring and promotion in these unidentified businesses are the losers.

Making The List Of Federal Contractors Public

These companies are required by OFCCP regulation to make good faith efforts to find qualified veterans. Allowing veterans access to their names and addresses should make this task easier for companies.

Are Employers Listing Their Job Openings?

The Vets 100 is a yearly reporting requirement yet there is no yearly master list of federal contractors subject to the JVA maintained. The Veterans Employment and Training Service at DoL do not maintain such a list. OFCCP does not maintain such a list nor does Job Central where most businesses list their postings. The closest thing would be the list of federal contractors provided by Hoover & Johnson of Vermont, but it is a list that is updated monthly. It is not a yearly list. Without a yearly list serving as the denominator, there is no way to ascertain how accurate any percentage would be of postings actually done in accordance with the law. The initiative to create this belongs squarely with the Veterans Employment and Training Service working in conjunction with Job Central and Hoover & Johnson.

The Decision To Grant Access To The Monthly List Of Federal Contractors Provided By Hoover & Johnson To States

The monthly list is provided for free to States. How States choose to use it is a State decision. In many States, it is a local LVER/DVOP decision.

How The Lack Of Contract Compliance Effects Veterans

Technically, the Great Recession ended in June 2009. The National Bureau of Economic Research’s Business Cycle Dating Committee declared that to be the case on September 20, 2010. Tens of millions of unemployed and involuntarily under-employed Americans would dispute that claim. Things don’t look promising for the future either.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation And Development in their recently released 142 page report, US Economic Survey predicts that unemployment may stay above pre-crisis level until at least 2013 with projected growth of only 2.6% in 2010 and 2011. They predict a jobless rate of 9.0% in 2011. Economists Carmen and Vincent Reinhardt along with economist Kenneth Rogoth studied 15 severe financial crises since World War II as well as the worldwide economic contractions that followed the 1929 stock market crash, the 1973 oil shock and the 2007 implosion of the subprime mortgage market.  In the decade following the crises, growth rates were significantly lower and unemployment rates were significantly higher. Housing prices took years to recover, and it took about seven years on average for households and companies to reduce their debts and restore their balance sheets. America might be in for a Japan decade of little growth.

Affirmative action in hiring and promotion is working for veterans. It’s a very powerful tool for employment for veterans. Full compliance would have a great meaning in over 2,300 of the nation’s 3,000 plus counties/parishes/independent cities.

Access to the historical records of Vets 100s is of little practical use to the LVER/DVOP community in the local One Stop. The VETS 100 might serve a purpose in the Department of Labor in Washington DC, but it serves no purpose for veterans’ staff working in the local One Stop in Aberdeen, South Dakota or Fort Smith, Arkansas, Danville, Virginia, Marlton, New Jersey, Hays, Kansas, Plant City, Florida, Casa Grande, Arizona, or Hobbs, New Mexico.

With a few mandated changes, the VETS- 100 submission process could serve a very meaningful purpose for the veterans in these smaller cities and many, many others across the country. By far, the most helpful change would be a discontinuation of the practice of electronic employer submission of the VETS-100. Electronic submission of a local compliance form subverts the local nature of employment and training and severely undercuts the staff One Stops of Aberdeen, Fort Smith, Danville, Marlton, Hays, Plant City, Casa Grande and Hobbs who dearly desire direct employer contact. They want to get to know their local federal contractors who are supposed to offer affirmative action to their clients. Requiring an LVER signature on the Vets100 form would accomplish just that as well as satisfy the OFCCP affirmative action outreach requirements in the process. OFCCP also requires that every business of over fifty employees have an appointed veteran’s affirmative action person. Their name, signature and contact information should be required on the new VETS 100 form. This establishes a meaningful link between LVERs and each and ever federal contractor without having the LVER ever leave his/her One Stop. In the Jobs For Veterans Act, Congress gave the LVER mandated employer relations responsibilities. Requiring an LVER signature on the VETS-100 is the most cost effective way of interacting with local employers likely to hire veterans.

Subcontractors are also required abide by the terms of the Jobs For Veterans Act in terms of affirmative action in hiring and promotion. There currently is no way for LVERs/DVOPs to identify local subcontractors or out of area businesses doing subcontract work locally. These represent significant opportunities lost for local veterans in need. The only way to identify these subcontractors is to require contractors submitting the required VETS 100 to identify their subcontractors and where the work is being performed. Compliance with the terms of the Jobs For Veterans Act requires notifying subcontractors of their responsibilities under the act. Businesses know who their subcontractors are. It is not at all unreasonable to require businesses to prove they have complied with the terms of their contract by providing this information.

Local LVERS and DVOPs across the nation have access to job openings placed by federal contractors in Direct Employers’ Vets Central website. They have access to a monthly updated list of federal contractors provided by a small Vermont software company, Hoover & Johnson. What they lack is any connection between the two. The connection they need to ascertain whether or not businesses are complying with the law. The Veterans Employment and Training Service of DoL has been a sideline player. At the least, they should be coordinating the existing efforts of Vets Central and Hoover & Johnson. Their active cooperation would make it possible for both to connect with the Central Contract Registry so that every job listing and every new contractor name and address has a contract contact name with telephone number; only the Veterans Employment and Training Service can make this possible. Only they can actively support the hard working vet staff of South Dakota, Arkansas, Virginia New Jersey, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and every other State by providing the job development tools that local One Stop staff needs to put qualified veterans in contact with local businesses who have the obligation to provide affirmative action in hiring. The Veterans Employment and Training Service needs to step up to the plate.

The Office Of Federal Contract Compliance needs to do so as well. The message needs to get out that there are consequences to non-compliance. We realize that it is very difficult to adequately monitor 70,000 plus contractors across the country. It would certainly be far easier for OFCCP were each and every business involved required to actually meeting face to face with a local LVER to submit their required VETS 100 form. The local LVERs would be their eyes and ears on the ground. It all starts with the Veterans Employment and Training Service stepping up to the plate integrating and coordinating the existing efforts including the work of OFCCP, Hoover & Johnson and Vets Central and making the needed changes to the VETS 100. The pieces are there, they need to mesh for things to work. Local veterans across the country deserve to share the benefits of having a leg up in hiring and promotion in businesses that profit from government business. That only becomes a reality when the program that surrounds the listing is working in a cohesive manner

Thank you very much for offering me the opportunity to address you on behalf of America’s community of veterans.