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Witness Testimony of Keith M. Wilson, Veterans Benefits Administration, Director, Education Service, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Good afternoon Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, and members of the Subcommittee.  I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) education benefits for licensing and certification testing.  My testimony will address the details and background of the program for beneficiaries of the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD), Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR), Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) and Dependents Educational Assistance Program (DEA) as it relates to licensing and certification exams. 

Overview

While licensing and certification test reimbursements constitute a small portion of our overall payments, they nonetheless play a vital role in helping veterans and service members transition from military to civilian life.  An individual eligible for MGIB-AD or DEA benefits can receive reimbursement for licensing and certification tests taken on or after March 1, 2001.  Individuals eligible under the MGIB-SR or REAP can receive reimbursement for licensing or certification tests taken on or after January 6, 2006.  We do not consider military occupational specialties when determining who gets reimbursed for taking an exam.  However, since Department of Defense (DoD) programs, such as the Army’s Credentialing Opportunities On-Line and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, provide such a valuable service in helping individuals transition from the military to the civilian workforce, we offer links to those programs on our GI Bill website for interested individuals who may benefit from such assistance.  (We would defer to DoD as to which military occupational specialties pose the greatest challenge for veterans in transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce.  We also must defer to DoD as to how many veterans and servicemembers receive credentialing while in the military.) 

The maximum education benefit payment per approved test is $2,000.  There is no limitation to the number of tests that may be taken, except that an eligible individual may not exceed his or her maximum education benefit entitlement.  It is not uncommon for an individual to take a series of tests.  For instance, a veteran or service member may take a series of exams to certify programming skills in different types of computer language.  Currently, there are over 4,300 exams approved for reimbursement benefits.  Since the inception of the program, VA has made approximately 31,500 payments to 14,300 individuals with an average reimbursement of $408 per exam.

VA appointed an individual with expertise in matters relating to licensing and certification to serve as a member of the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education (VACOE).  This individual provides advice concerning licensing and certification and how these benefits assist in the transition from the military to the civilian workforce. 

We believe the continued provision of benefits for licensing and certification tests will play a valuable role in assisting eligible individuals with their readjustment to civilian life and prepare them for critical roles in a 21st century economy.

Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my statement.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or any of the other members of the Subcommittee may have.