Font Size Down Font Size Up Reset Font Size

Sign Up for Committee Updates

 

Witness Testimony of Mr. Steve L. Gonzalez, Assistant Director, National Economic Commission, The American Legion

The American Legion supports H.R. 5747: Military Family Home Protection. The American Legion believes service members should not be distracted in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere by concerns over whether someone is seeking a default judgment against them back home, or evicting their spouse and children, or selling their house at an auction sale. This legislation would expand the statute covering service members that are part of a “contingency operation”, that is, anyone who is or could become involved in military actions, are called up to or retained in active-duty service.

The American Legion supports H.R. 3860, Help Veterans Return to Work Act. The American Legion believes current law, as set by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), is too lenient in allowing employers, regardless of size, to dismiss deployed service members. The Help Veterans Return to Work Act of 2012 would amend USERRA so that undue hardship protections would apply only to small businesses, eliminating the protections for large businesses.

The American Legion supports H.R. 4740, Fairness for Military Homeowners Act of 2012. The American Legion believes America’s service members should be able to expect equal treatment as any other American homeowner when refinancing their mortgages. H.R. 4740 ensures that service members are treated equal, as well as allow service members who are unable to reside in a residence where they are the mortgagor due to military service.  This legislation would allow them to apply for a mortgage refinance, regardless of their residency status.

The American Legion supports H.R. 4115, Helping Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment at Home Act. The American Legion believes service members and veterans have attended some of the finest technical and professional training schools in the world. Many of their skills require some type of license or certificate to find a career in the civilian workforce. In many cases, this license or certificate requires schooling which has already been completed by attendance at an armed forces training institution. Unfortunately, the agencies which issue the license or certificate do not recognize the training or experience already completed. H.R. 4115: Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment at Home Act, would establish as a condition for certain federal funds to be disbursed to states.  It would require that states take military training into consideration for certification or licensure for State tested nursing assistant or a certified nursing assistant, registered nurse, emergency medical technician and commercial driver's license. 

STATEMENT OF

STEVE GONZALEZ, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

ECONOMIC COMMISSION

THE AMERICAN LEGION

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS

UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ON

PENDING LEGISLATION:  H.R. 5747, H.R. 3860, H.R. 4740, AND H.R. 4115

 

JUNE 21, 2012

Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for this opportunity to present The American Legion’s views on the several pieces of legislation being considered by the Subcommittee today. The American Legion commends the Subcommittee for holding a hearing to discuss these very important and timely issues. 

Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:

On behalf of the 2.4 million members of The American Legion I thank you for this opportunity to submit The American Legion’s views on the legislation being considered by the Subcommittee today. We appreciate the efforts of this Subcommittee to address the different needs of the men and women who are currently serving and those who served during past conflicts.

H.R. 5747: Military Family Home Protection Act

Amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to improve the protections for servicemembers against mortgage foreclosures, and for other purposes.

While service members fight overseas, another war has been brewing back home: foreclosures. Since the 2006 collapse of the real estate market, tens of thousands of military service members have lost their homes to foreclosure. History has shown even those putting their lives on the line for their country may not be safe from foreclosure. America simply cannot afford to have our men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere distracted by concerns over whether someone is seeking a default judgment against them back home, or evicting their spouse and children, or selling their house at an auction sale.  H.R. 5747, Military Family Home Protection Act, would provide mortgage protection for members of the armed services, surviving spouses and certain veterans. This legislation would expand the statute covering service members that are part of a “contingency operation”, that is, anyone who is or could become involved in military actions, are called up to or retained in active-duty service.

Additionally, H.R. 5747 would expand SCRA to cover any veteran who is totally disabled, regardless of when his or her obligation arose, and surviving spouses of service members who died in service, regardless of obligation of service.  It would also expand the period covered to include any proceeding filed within 12 months of the service member’s military service, and apply protections for veterans and surviving spouses with regard to any action filed within 12 months of the service member’s retirement or death.

In the past, military service members and their families have been foreclosed upon illegally.  Whether or not this has been due to carelessness or callousness neither is acceptable. H.R. 5747, Military Family Home Protection Act, seeks to strengthen the law to ensure that America’s service members have ample time to handle financial matters, while transitioning from their active-duty service. 

The American Legion supports this bill.

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

Amends title 38, United States Code, to clarify the responsibilities of small businesses with respect to the employment and reemployment rights of veterans.

 

H.R. 3860 closes a loophole that allows larger corporations to refrain from rehiring National Guard and Reserve members who were sent into combat in service of our country.  Current law, as set by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), is too lenient in allowing employers, regardless of size, to dismiss deployed servicemembers. It is estimated that nearly half of unemployed veterans are National Guard and Reserve members. This bill would help ensure that those who leave behind jobs to defend our nation will be guaranteed those jobs when they return home.

Currently, an employer is excused from reemploying a returning veteran if the employer's circumstances have changed in a way that it is now impossible or unreasonable to do so, or imposes an "undue hardship." The Help Veterans Return to Work Act of 2012 would amend USERRA so that undue hardship protections would apply only to small businesses, eliminating the protections for large businesses.

The American Legion supports this bill.

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

Amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to ensure that relocation of a servicemember to serve on active duty away from the servicemembers’ principal residence does not prevent the servicemembers from refinancing a mortgage on that principal residence.

Military service often requires relocation due to the nature of the profession. America’s service members should be able to expect equal treatment as any other American homeowner when refinancing their mortgages.  Currently, active-duty military service members cannot refinance their homes if the home is not owner-occupied by the service member.

H.R. 4740, Fairness for Military Homeowners Act of 2012, would amend section 303, title 50, of the United States Code (USC) by adding section 303A, which would allow service members who are unable to reside in a residence where they are the mortgagor due to military service.  This legislation would allow them to apply for a mortgage refinance, regardless of their residency status. However, H.R. 4740, Fairness for Military Homeowners Act of 2012, does include provisions which limit the ability of a service member to refinance a mortgage if they have refinanced within the preceding 5 year period.

The American Legion supports this bill.

H.R. 4115: Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment at Home Act

Requires states to align their certification for nursing assistant, certified nursing assistant, registered nurse, or commercial driver’s license with military training standards.

In early 1996, The American Legion launched the first groundbreaking credentialing report to study those vocational skills for which the armed services provide training and for which a license of certificate is required to work in this field in the civilian economy. The education, training and experience obtained during an individual’s military service not only provides tangible benefits for the nation’s defense, but can also contribute significantly to a highly skilled civilian workforce.  The military invests millions of dollars training its uniformed personnel, providing a broad base of knowledge and experiences that can carry over to civilian occupations.  However, transitioning from military occupations to civilian jobs can present significant challenges for service members.

These service members and veterans have attended some of the finest technical and professional training schools in the world. These military men and women are graduates with experience in health care, electronics, computers, engineering, drafting, air traffic control, nuclear power plant operations, mechanics, carpentry, and many other fields. Many of their skills require some type of license or certificate to find a career in the civilian workforce. In many cases, this license or certificate requires schooling which has already been completed by attendance at an armed forces training institution. Unfortunately, the agencies which issue the license or certificate do not recognize the training or experience already completed. For example, a medic who treated gunshot wounds on the battlefields of Afghanistan will not be certified as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in our nation’s cities without additional redundant schooling.

When civilian credentialing boards, states, and employers fail to fully recognize military education, training and experience, both the service member and the nation are impaired. The veteran faces reduced chances of obtaining a job on par with his/her skills, and the civilian workforce cannot take full advantage of the extensive skills training in which our nation has invested.

H.R. 4115: Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment at Home Act, would establish as a condition for certain federal funds to be disbursed to states.  It would require that states take military training into consideration for certification or licensure for State tested nursing assistant or a certified nursing assistant, registered nurse, emergency medical technician and commercial driver's license. 

The American Legion applauds Representative Steve Stivers (OH) and Tim Walz (MN) for their leadership and efforts to tackle and address this issue. This committee should also be aware of additional legislation, as well as other actions members of Congress have undertaken which will help this problem. There are as follows:

·        Representatives Jeff Denham (CA) and Walz (MN)  H.R. 4155, Veteran Skills Work Act, which will streamline the credentialing access for service members and remove the bureaucracies from it, allowing relevant military training to become equivalent to federal licensing and certification requirements.

·        Representative Joe Walsh (IL) included an amendment to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Bill regarding credentialing. This amendment would modify the previous pilot program by striking more than five military occupational specialties (MOS); therefore, allowing the Department of Defense to expand the amount of MOS’s the pilot programs can study.

The American Legion will continue to lead on this front and will make every effort to assist and enhance them where possible.

The American Legion supports this bill.

The American Legion appreciates the opportunity to comment on the bills being considered by the Subcommittee.  I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.  Thank you.