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Witness Testimony of Mr. John K. Moran,Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations & Management, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department of Labor

Good Morning Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee.  Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today to discuss the Department of Labor’s (DOL or Department) views on pending legislation.  I commend you all for your tireless efforts to ensure that America fulfills its obligations to our returning Service Members, Veterans, and their families.

President Obama and Secretary Solis are committed to serving these brave men and women as well as they have served us.  In support of this goal, the Department of Labor is working to implement a series of new initiatives to train, transition and employ Veterans.  These initiatives are in addition to the core programs DOL has been administering for decades, providing Veterans, transitioning Service Members and their families with critical resources and expertise to assist and prepare them to obtain meaningful careers, maximize their employment opportunities, and protect their employment rights.

My name is John Moran and I am honored to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) at DOL.  I look forward to working with the Committee to ensure that these men and women have the employment support, assistance and opportunities they deserve to succeed in the civilian workforce. 

This hearing is focused on four bills before the Committee: H.R. 3860, H.R. 4115, H.R. 4740, and H.R. 5747.  However, I will limit my remarks to H.R. 3860, the “Help Veterans Return to Work Act” and H.R. 4115, the “Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment at Home Act,” both of which would have a direct impact on the programs administered by the Department of Labor.  DOL defers to the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), Justice (DOJ) and Defense (DoD) on the remaining pieces of legislation.

H.R. 3860 – Help Veterans Return to Work Act

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), prohibits discrimination against persons because of their past, present, or future military obligations.  In addition, USERRA generally provides for prompt reemployment and full restoration of benefits upon completion of protected service, unless the employer can demonstrate that such employment or reemployment would impose an undue hardship.  Under current law, any employer, regardless of size can raise the undue-hardship affirmative defense to reemploying certain Service Members.  H.R. 3860 would amend title 38 to limit the undue-hardship affirmative defense so that it could only be claimed by small businesses as defined under the Small Business Act.  

The Department believes that H.R. 3860 would help ensure that the undue-hardship exception is not used in ways that run counter to the law’s goals.   As such, the Department supports this legislation andlooks forward to working with the Committee to protect the employment and reemployment rights of individuals who are called to serve.

H.R. 4115 – Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to

Employment at Home Act

H.R. 4115 would require the Secretary of Labor to establish, as a condition of a grant or contract to carry out DVOP or LVER services, that when the State approves or denies an application from a Veteran to obtain: (1) a certification to be a State tested nursing assistant or a certified nursing assistant; (2) a certification to be a registered nurse; (3) a certification to be an emergency medical technician; or (4) a commercial driver’s license, the State takes into consideration any training received by the Veteran while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces. 

The Department supports the intent of this legislation and looks forward to working with the Committee to ensure that our Veterans and transitioning Service Members have every opportunity available to leverage their skills and training in pursuit of civilian careers. The Department of Labor recognizes that a more focused effort on credentialing can help lay the foundation necessary to support Veterans’ transition to civilian employment and meet the needs of growing sectors of the civilian economy.  As we invest in skills development, we will help job seekers, including recently returning Veterans, acquire the measurable and specific skills they need to move along directed career pathways, and give employers access to the skilled workers they need to compete globally.

This legislation proposes leveraging federal funding to incentivize states to facilitate Veterans qualifying for certain licenses and credentials.  The Department notes that to implement this legislation, States likely would require assistance in obtaining information on the skills possessed by Veterans separating from various military occupations in order to be able to effectively evaluate the equivalence of that training and experience against existing certification or licensing requirements.  In addition, the Department would need to evaluate the adequacy of each state’s effort in this area.  The Department also would also like to help ensure consistent measures across states’ efforts to ensure separating service members have a reasonable expectation of their ability to earn credentials independent of their state of residence upon transition.

This proposed legislation is a welcome addition to current initiatives to support credentialing and licensing for separating service members. The Department notes that the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, stood up by the President in August 2011 as part of his comprehensive plan to lower veteran unemployment and ensure that service members leave the military career-ready, has worked with manufacturing and credentialing agencies to expand certifications to military personnel with skills in the high-demand fields of engineering, logistics, machining, maintenance, and welding. Through these partnerships, service members will be able to test for and earn civilian credentials immediately upon completing their initial military training.

The Department is fully committed to providing a clear pathway for Veterans to transfer the significant experience they gain in the military towards good jobs in the civilian economy.  As a result, DOL will continue to work on initiatives to facilitate this transition through innovative programs, and collaborative engagement with public, private and nonprofit sector organizations that can accelerate the licensing and certification of our Nation's Veterans.

Conclusion

Every day, we are reminded of the tremendous sacrifices made by our service men and women, and by their families.  One way that we can honor those sacrifices is by providing them with the best possible services, protections and programs our Nation has to offer.

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Braley, Members of the Subcommittee, this concludes my statement.  Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have