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Witness Testimony of Mr. Ryan M. Gallucci, Deputy Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

On behalf of the more than 2 million men and women of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) and our Auxiliaries, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify on today’s pending legislation. With the conflict in Iraq drawing to a close, withdrawal from Afghanistan on the horizon, and proposals to scale back our nation’s active duty military while continuing to lean on National Guard and Reserve personnel for future routine missions, the VFW believes discussing how to protect our service members and veterans within the workforce and streamlining processes through which veterans can secure meaningful employment must remain a national imperative. Despite continuing efforts within the federal government and across private industry, recent unemployment numbers for veterans of the current conflicts indicate that that we are not solving the problem. The VFW is encouraged to see that this committee continues to take this situation seriously, and we are honored to share our thoughts on today’s bills in an effort to protect our nation’s heroes and offer them the career opportunities for which their military training and experience logically prepared them.

H.R. 3860, Help Veterans Return to Work Act:

The VFW understands that the goal of this legislation is to ensure that large businesses can no longer claim “undue hardship” as a reason to shirk reemployment obligations under the Uniformed Servicemembers Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). However, the VFW must oppose this bill, which we believe would make members of the National Guard and Reserve unattractive employees to large companies. This issue is truly a double-edged sword. The VFW wholly supports strong legal protections for members of the Guard and Reserve, but we understand that the relationship between our Reserve Component and civilian employers must be equitable for both parties. We feel the current provisions through which large businesses can claim undue hardship offers both the service member and the employer reasonable due process in resolving reemployment disputes.

If we put so many legal constrictions on hiring members of the Reserve Component, our service members will be perceived as a legal liability to potential employers, large and small. A recent report from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) outlined the business case for hiring service members and veterans. In the report, CNAS also ranked employer concerns for hiring current or former military personnel. One of the major concerns for employers included potential deployments and USERRA compliance. To the VFW this implies that the perception of USERRA among employers may actually prevent service members and veterans from ever getting in the door.

In light of this bill and other concerns over USERRA, we invite the subcommittee to host a separate hearing or roundtable discussion on USERRA in the 21st Century to better understand how this law should be implemented and how we can best serve the interests of our Reserve Component service members and the companies that employ them.

H.R. 4115, HIRE at HOME Act:

The VFW fully supports the HIRE at HOME Act. Over the last few years, we have heard growing concerns that veterans who receive highly technical training in the military and amass years of practical work experience cannot receive state licenses and certifications without jumping through hoops when they return home. The VFW understands that states have a legal right to license professionals as they see fit within their borders. However, the VFW believes that states must have the ability to evaluate the training and experience of a veteran once they leave active duty. The HIRE at HOME Act will ensure that states critically evaluate military training when considering veterans for licensure in four key fields where we have seen high veteran unemployment: Certified nursing assistant, registered nurse, emergency medical technician, and truck driver.

The VFW successfully pushed for a companion to the HIRE at HOME Act in the Senate, with some minor changes, which we would like to see this subcommittee also include in markup. The changes simply outlines how states should report the ways in which they considered military training and experience toward state licensing requirements. Specifically, states would report to the Department of Labor at a minimum: The state standard for licensure in each field; the specific military training components evaluated for licensure; and any gaps in training that prohibit veterans from licensure. The Department of Labor would then establish protocols to share this information with the Department of Defense in an effort to close training gaps.

The VFW believes this bill is a responsible first step in ensuring veterans can transition seamlessly into careers that the military has diligently prepared them for, while preserving each state’s right to license professionals who choose to operate within their borders. Moving forward, this concept could prove helpful in closing the credentialing and licensing gap for other critical military occupational specialties (MOSs) without placing unnecessary burdens on states. We encourage the subcommittee to move quickly on this critical bill, passing a comprehensive piece of legislation that reflects the VFW’s recommendations and helps to close the military credentialing gap.

H.R. 4740, Fairness for Military Homeowners Act of 2012:

The VFW supports this bill and we believe it is a responsible course of action offering financial relief for military home owners who are forced to frequently change duty stations. Unlike traditional home owners, military home owners must regularly change duty stations. In the past, military home owners could easily sell or rent their properties whenever they needed to move. This all changed when the housing bubble burst in 2008. This bill would offer relief to military families by allowing military home owners to refinance the mortgage on homes at their old duty stations as if the home was still a primary residence. Home owners who seek to refinance will encounter higher interest rates if they do not actively live at the property. This bill would ensure that military home owners can still lock in reasonable interest rates when they are forced to leave a home at their old duty station. This is a common sense approach that will offer reasonable relief to military home owners who must balance family obligations with the rigors of military life.

H.R. 5747, Military Family Home Protection Act:

The VFW strongly supports this bill, which seeks to end predatory foreclosures on military families whose loved ones are deployed, permanent and total disabled, or who lost their lives in the line of duty. Over the last few years, we have heard horror stories about companies foreclosing on military home owners while service members are deployed overseas. This bill seeks to end this unconscionable practice by affording specific protections for deployed service members, disabled veterans, and surviving spouses. This bill even goes so far as to establish criminal penalties for persons who knowingly violate these new provisions under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA. Never again should a military family worry that the bank will seize their home while their loved one is serving overseas or after their loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice. Military home owners face unique circumstances, and deserve these kinds of reasonable accommodations. We hope the committee will move quickly on this bill.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. 

Information Required by Rule XI2(g)(4) of the House of Representatives

Pursuant to Rule XI2(g)(4) of the House of Representatives, VFW has not received any federal grants in Fiscal Year 2012, nor has it received any federal grants in the two previous Fiscal Years.