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Witness Testimony of Mr. Ronald G. Young, Director, Family and Employer Program and Policy, U.S. Department of Defense

Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley, and members of the committee, thank you for your invitation to participate in this hearing. I have been invited in my capacity as the Executive Director of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). However, ESGR represents only one of three of my assignments as the Director, Family and Employer Programs and Policy (FEPP) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. FEPP aligns programs of support for our Guard and Reserve service members under one organization to more effectively and efficiently assist our service members via ESGR, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) and Individual & Family Support Policy (IFSP). I welcome this opportunity to provide you an overview of the support ESGR, in partnership with YRRP, is providing to our Reserve Component service members. My testimony will cover the following four areas:

- Latest statistics on the rate of unemployment among Reserve Component service members.

 

- The type of transition assistance provided to these service members.

 

- The efforts of ESGR to help educate both members of the Guard and Reserve and employers about the rights afforded to service members under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

 

- Initiatives taken by the Department of Defense to reduce unemployment rates among this population.

Latest statistics on the rate of unemployment among Reserve Component service members: In broad terms, for all Veterans (to include Guardsmen and Reservists), the current unemployment rate is 7.7% nationwide (as of December 2011, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-5). The unemployment rate among Gulf War-era II veterans (those serving since 9-11-2001) is 13.1%. For just Reservists and Guardsmen, the January 2011 Status of Forces Survey of Reserve Component Members shows that service members across six of the seven Reserve Components (Coast Guard Reserves not included) self-reported a 23% unemployment rate among junior enlisted troops in the rank of E1 - E4. We view civilian employment as an important piece of a Reserve Component service member’s readiness, and see this high unemployment rate as a clear threat to the readiness of our force.

The type of transition assistance provided to these service members: YRRP, a Congressionally initiated DoD-wide program, promotes the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. Through Yellow Ribbon, service members and loved ones connect with local resources before, during, and after deployments. Guard and Reserve reintegration is especially critical post-deployment, as these service members are often geographically separated from military installations and other members of their units. Commanders and leaders play an important role in ensuring that Reserve service members and their families attend Yellow Ribbon events, to gain access to information on health care, education/training opportunities, financial, and legal benefits. Yellow Ribbon works closely with other federal entities, including the Small Business Administration and Departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs , to provide up-to-date and relevant information to the all-volunteer force and their families. YRRP works in conjunction with SAMHSA in development of the State

Policy Academy program, to develop community resources to assist in reintegration of the Guard and Reserve component in 10 participating states. In addition, Yellow Ribbon provides employment services to service members during every post-deployment training and event.

The efforts of ESGR to help educate both members of the Guard and Reserve and employers about the rights afforded to service members under USERRA: ESGR’s core mission is to develop and promote employer support for Guard and Reserve service by advocating relevant initiatives, recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of applicable laws, and resolving conflict between employers and service members. For the past 40 years, ESGR has been the Department of Defense lead organization for service members and their civilian employers with respect to USERRA education. In FY 11, ESGR executed its core mission by leveraging a network of more than 4,800 volunteers nationwide, achieving significant results across multiple areas:

- Through our Employer Outreach, ESGR volunteers educated 153,062 employers regarding their rights and responsibilities in accordance with USERRA. Also, ESGR attained 45,140 Statements of Support. Employers signing a Statement of Support pledge support for their employees serving in the Guard and Reserve, while also focusing on opportunities to hire Guardsmen, Reservists, and Veterans.

- Through our Military Outreach efforts, ESGR volunteers educated 473,891 service members regarding their rights and responsibilities under USERRA. In turn, service members recognized supportive employers with 4,049 nominations for the FY 11 annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award and acknowledged 16,559 supervisors with ESGR’s Patriot Award.

- ESGR’s Ombudsman services are supported by over 600 trained USERRA experts spread across the country and by a national customer service call center operated from my headquarters at the Mark Center in Alexandria. Together, they fielded 29,727 USERRA inquiries and handled 2,884 cases. ESGR ombudsmen provided free, neutral mediation to resolve 79.8% of all cases, within an average of 8.77 calendar days.

For additional detail please see the following table pulled from ESGR’s FY 11 “Year In Review”:

 

Initiatives taken by the Department of Defense to reduce unemployment rates among this population: To address unemployment among the Guard and Reserve, YRRP partnered with ESGR to leverage the nationwide network of volunteers. The Employment Initiative Program (EIP) serves as YRRP’s umbrella program for addressing Guard and Reserve employment issues, in partnership with other Federal Agencies, with Hero 2 Hired serving as one of the key components of EIP. ESGR teamed with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Labor-VETS and the Small Business Administration to make resources and

valuable training available to service members. Additionally, ESGR and YRRP are coordinating with the White House and Joining Forces on service member and spouse employment initiatives.

Under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs (OASD (RA)), resources coalesce through programs such as ESGR and YRRP to address the unique unemployment needs of Reserve Component service members, a necessity when certain Reserve Component members are statutorily ineligible to receive services from DOL-VETS or the VA due to their lack of “Veteran” status. As you know, the definition of “veteran” takes on a more exclusive meaning when benefits are being applied. With regard to OASD (RA) programs, a more inclusive definition is used in order to support all service members, veterans and their families.

More specifically, in January 2011, ESGR State Committees across the country began a focused effort to help service members and their spouses find employment through various activities such as employment assistance workshops, job fairs, employment summits, and many other local community programs. ESGR conducted numerous workshops whereby service members were trained on how to create civilian resumes, undergo mock interviews, dress for success, and received career counseling.

ESGR volunteers assisted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in executing nearly 70 mega-hiring fairs around the country. At the onset of 2012, these hiring fairs had hosted more than 60,000 Veterans, Reserve Component members and military spouses, affording the opportunity to meet with over 2,500 different employers. As a result of the combined effort, more than 3,400 veterans, service members, military spouses and 50 wounded warriors have gained employment.

On December 16, 2011, OASD (RA) launched “Hero2Hired”, better known as H2H. H2H is a comprehensive, multi-faceted program targeted to support Reserve Component service members. Using lessons learned from its piloted use in the Army Reserve, H2H was developed to address the gap in employment assistance services and support for Reserve Component service members. H2H focuses on helping Reserve Component service members connect to and find jobs with military-friendly companies that seek employees with specific training and skills. H2H provides free, direct access to qualified candidates who already have background checks and security clearances, while simultaneously reducing recruiting and hiring costs for employers.

H2H is a powerful, comprehensive employment program with a powerful job search site (www.H2H.jobs) and online community that is 100% free for veterans, service members, and employers. It contains all the tools a job seeker needs to find a job: job listings, career exploration tools, education and training resources, advice and tips, hiring events, virtual career fairs, mobile phone app, and networking opportunities. The goal of H2H is to simplify the job search while reducing the number of unemployed Reserve Component service members. H2H.jobs also allows military-friendly companies to access the talented men and women who are still serving in the military, post job openings, search for candidates and invite them to apply, and participate in hiring events – all free of charge.

In 2012, H2H is sponsoring and participating with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 40 job fairs in high Reserve Component unemployment areas. H2H booths will be available and staffed by H2H Yellow Ribbon and ESGR State Committee volunteers.

H2H is well positioned to successfully assist unemployed Reserve Component service members receiving unemployment benefits with job placement. H2H also assists underemployed service members by providing access to jobs that match their skill levels and areas of expertise. Through an electronic job and career web platform, mobile applications and Facebook integration, virtual and physical career fairs, and a national marketing and management effort, H2H can reduce the DoD’s unemployment benefits cost as well as the stress and financial hardships faced by unemployed Reserve Component service members and their families. Please visit management effort, H2H can reduce the DoD’s unemployment benefits cost as well as the stress and financial hardships faced by unemployed Reserve Component service members and their families. Please visit management effort, H2H can reduce the DoD’s unemployment benefits cost as well as the stress and financial hardships faced by unemployed Reserve Component service members and their families. Please visit

Together, Yellow Ribbon and ESGR are delivering meaningful services to assist Reserve Component service members’ transition into the civilian workforce, providing full spectrum assistance by assisting with the employment search via H2H, and continuing the support by promoting positive employer relations through USERRA education. We should anticipate that both ESGR and Yellow Ribbon will continue to play a critical role with the enhanced access to Reserve Component service members as articulated in Title 10 USC Sec 12304. With the changes to the law in the last NDAA, we anticipate continued utilization of the Reserve Components and the need to continue providing support to service members, families and their civilian employers. In closing, thank you for this opportunity to testify on behalf of everyone that comprises the Family and Employer Programs and Policy Team and most of all, ESGR’s more than 4,800 volunteers located in all 50 States, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Once again, thank you for your invitation to participate in this hearing and your continued support to our Reserve Component service members. I look forward to your questions.