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Witness Testimony of Richard F. Weidman, Vietnam Veterans of America, Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs

Good afternoon, Madame Chairwoman, Ranking Member Boozman, and distinguished Members of this panel.  On behalf of our National President, John Rowan, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) thanks you for the opportunity to appear here today to express our views on this vital veterans’ issue of how well the Local Veteran Employment Representative (LVER) program and the Disabled Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP) is working, particularly for disabled veterans, recently separated service members, and those veterans most at risk of becoming homeless. My name is Rick Weidman, and I currently serve as Executive Director for Policy & Government Affairs for VVA.

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) has repeatedly advocated the “wellness” model as the paradigm toward which all of the programs, benefits, and services for should be aimed. What this means is that it is the duty of the people of the United States, through our government institutions and with our community resources, to do everything possible to restore the men and women who have placed their lives on the line in the common defense to the highest degree of autonomy and functioning possible following that military service.

Said another way, all of us should be using a “holistic” view of the physiological, neuro-psychiatric, and psycho-social aspects of health of all returning veterans, but particularly disabled veterans. The ‘litmus test’ of achieving the highest degree of “wellness” possible for veterans of working age is the ability to obtain and sustain meaningful employment.

While VVA still believes that the Nation’s health care system for veterans is still under-funded, despite strong increases this year, and that the organizational capacity of the VHA is not yet adequate to meet the full range of legitimate needs of the eligible veterans’ population, the simple fact is that we as a Nation do spend billions every year on health care, readjustment counseling, vocational rehabilitation, educational benefits, PTSD treatment, substance abuse treatment, and numerous other programs designed to assist veterans.  However, if the veteran is not assisted to obtain and sustain meaningful employment, then there is no “payoff” for the individual or for the Nation. 

To use a football analogy (borrowed from Mr. Boozman!), without the ‘points on the board,’ it does not matter how many yards in offense one compiles. One can argue that we expend all of our energy in moving the ball eighty plus yards down the field, but have not concentrated enough on how to actually get the ball into the end zone to score.  Obtaining meaningful work at a living wage gets us into the end zone for that veteran or disabled veteran, and puts points on the board. So, securing a job is a key component (perhaps THE key component) of helping each veteran achieve the highest degree of autonomy and “wellness” possible, which is (or should be) the explicit goal of every program and service for veterans.

It is because of this centrality of obtaining and securing meaningful employment at a living wage is in the readjustment process, particularly of our newest veterans, that what this panel does is so key to a “pay-off” of all of the rest of the efforts extended by our nation.

History & Background

The Employment Service was created as a non-statutory entity in 1915, under President Wilson. The United States Employment Service (USES) was created as a statutorily mandated entity in 1933 as part of the Social Security Act, along with the legislation that established unemployment insurance. The Wagner-Peyser Act, as it is commonly known, established “priority of service” for veterans who sought assistance in finding employment. Employers made the argument to the Congress that if business was going to pay taxes to pay for unemployment checks to former workers, that there needed to be a strong effort to get them back to work, thereby reducing the UI tax rate for the employer.

From the outset of the reconstituted Employment Service, veterans were legally accorded “priority of service.” Veteran’s organizations made the argument that veterans should be first in line for any such assistance. As this was a mere two years following the World War I veterans’ march on Washington, and the spectacle of American troops firing on American veterans on the national Mall, Congress and the President agreed and saw fit to ensure that veterans, who had sacrificed the most, received priority in referral to job openings and for other services.

Creation of the LVER Program

Unfortunately, a mere decade later (and in the middle of World War II), “veterans priority of service” was not working very well at the local level, in many instances. Essentially the Congress found that there was no meaningful quality assurance system to ensure that veterans received their rights to priority. Therefore, in 1944, as part of the set of laws known as the GI Bill, “priority of service” was reiterated, and the Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) program grants to the states created, in order to help ensure that priority of service actually happened in each and every office. The theory was that all local employment service office managers were intent on obeying the law, and that where veterans did not receive “priority of service” the LVER would monitor all activity, make the office manager aware of any problems caused by a few “bad apples,” and the problem would be corrected. That is why the LVER, by law, was supposed to report directly to the local office manager. While this “fix” helped in many instances, it was still problematic and uneven in how well it functioned.

Also beginning in 1944 and 1945, many cities began to emulate the model first promulgated in Bridgeport Connecticut to establish veterans multi-service centers, with VA benefits counselors and other VA services providers, employment service representatives, unemployment claims examiners, and any other available public and private resources all existing under a single roof, in order to coordinate the response of the entire community to welcome home the returning veterans. Most of these had a governing board that were like a model Rotary club, with representatives of the various aspects of the business community, the clergy, political leaders, veterans organizations, civic organizations such as the Elks, labor unions, and other key elements of that particular community. In this way it really was a total response of each community to the returning veterans, and therefore an evolving strategy in each community.

Similarly, the GI Bill provided for farm training, vocational training, and other skills training as well as attending college (which for many was training that led to a better job than they could have ever dreamed of before their service in the war). In fact, more than 51% of the GI Bill usage was for training other than accredited four-year colleges. Many veterans were able to attend college because of the educational benefits and the “52-50” club which allowed them to have $50 unemployment payments (what we today call UCX) for a full year to get themselves settled and to find a college to attend or a program to pursue.

Self Employment & Small Business as a Means to Employment

For many, the VA also administered a program to help veterans establish small business concerns that included direct loans to start their business. This resulted in countless very small businesses, as well as many firms that grew into medium and large companies, all because it was part of a true nation strategy to assist returning veterans to develop a way to earn a living, either by working for someone else, or by starting his or her own small business. Among many other symbols of this highly successful program was the ubiquitous “Veterans Taxi” found in cities and towns all across America.

In response to continuing problems, a system of “Director, Veterans Employment Services” was created with a Director in each state, who was a Federal employee. One of the problems from the outset was that there was inexact control at the state and local level as to the actual performance of the service delivery staff because all of the employees were state workers who although they were funded by Federal funding were not subject to direct Federal control or accountability. Some of these Directors were very good, while others were not so good. Frankly, the most effective state DVETs were the ones who brought outside political clout to their job that helped them ensure that the state employees at the local Job Service offices did the right thing for veterans. While they were all ostensibly civil servants, the selection process was (and still largely is) highly political. In many states the employment service was not responsive to the needs of Vietnam veterans.

Veteran Community Based Programs

The League of Cities/Conference of Mayors created a network of community based organizations (CBO) in 1974-5 to attempt to deal with this problem in medium sized cities. Some of those, such as the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester, New York and the Rhode Island Veterans Assistance Center in Providence, RI still exist. Other CBOs came into being because they need was great and Vietnam veterans stepped forward to organize and find funding sources to meet the need. Many of the CBOs who are providers of multiple services to homeless veterans and other very low income veterans came into existence this way. These include Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, Vietnam Veterans of California (formerly Flower of the Dragon), and others. In fact, the community based model works very well to deal with the multiple barriers that many veterans face and must surmount in their quest to obtain and sustain meaningful employment at a living wage.

There were several other efforts to assist returning Vietnam veterans, including the National Alliance of Business (NAB) initiative for veterans using a good deal of Federal money, which had mixed results at best in terms of actually placing veterans, particularly disabled veterans and veterans with barriers to employment into jobs.

Creation of the DASVE Position at Labor

In 1976, Congress statutorily created the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment, in an effort to try and bring some cohesion and accountability to an employment service system that was clearly not working for veterans. Similarly, the Comprehensive Employment & Training Act (CETA) was problematic in regard to any of the funds going to programs to assist veterans. CETA had succeeded the Manpower Development Training Act (MDTA), which in turn had succeeded the Office of Employment Opportunity (OEO). These entities were created to make available cognitive and skill training funds, as well as funds for paying participants while they were being trained in public service jobs. An additional goal of these programs was to circumvent what was perceived as sexist and racist bias in some of the state employment service agencies. However, these entities in many states were not any more open to meeting the needs of Vietnam veterans than the employment services. In response, the Congress enacted what was known as Title II – D of CETA that could only be used for Vietnam veterans. Many states and sub-state entities returned these funds unused rather than let them be utilized for the intended use of assisting younger veterans with problems to surmount their difficulties and secure decent jobs with a future.

(The CETA system itself was replaced by the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) in 1982. Despite efforts by the veterans’ service organizations, the author, who was then Senator Dan Quayle, refused to include any special provision for veterans.)

Creation of the DVOP Program

As the problems remained with the employment service agencies themselves, the Disabled Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP) was created in 1977 by administrative/Executive action, and was later enacted into law in 1979. The program was created large as “political cover” for other actions then President Carter wanted to take, but also it was in response to the state employment services (now called workforce development agencies) testifying to Senator Cranston’s Committee that they were not placing many Vietnam or disabled veterans because they “could not find them.”

In 1981 the Employment & Training Administration (ETA) at the Department of Labor was still ignoring the problems of veterans in securing proper services and job referral and placement  in many states, despite there now being a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor who was supposed to be able to focus attention of ETA and the U.S. Employment Service on the needs of veterans. Therefore, Senator Strom Thurmond, with the close cooperation of the Honorable G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery took steps to secure an additional modification in the law that created the post of Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment & Training. It also established the Veterans Employment & Training Service (VETS) as an entity that is separate from the Employment & Training Administration. Theoretically, the Assistant Secretary for VETS and the Assistant Secretary for ETA are equals. The reality, particularly in the wake of WIA wiping out the legal requirement on the states for “priority of service” to veterans, and the fact that ETA has many Billions in comparison to the millions that VETS is allocated, and the dismantling of many of the accountability mechanisms that had existed prior to WIA and the advent of the One Stops all have contributed to the diminishment of the ASVET and the ascendancy of the Assistant Secretary for Employment & Training.

Enhancements and additional provisions were added to Chapter 41 of Title 38, United States Code almost every year during the 1980s and 1990s to try and get the State employment services to consistently, in each state, accord proper treatment and services to veterans, particularly disabled veterans.

NVTI

The most important of these enhancements was the creation and funding of the National Veterans Employment & Training Institute (NVTI), currently operated by the University of Colorado at Denver. The VSOs had been pushing hard for this move, as there was little or no substantive training for DVOPs, LVERs, and others within the system, and no place to get such quality training that would improve performance. Creation of NVTI and its utilization had more positive impact than any other step taken during this period. NVTI training remains first rate, and for those who use it, the NVTI Resource Center is just extraordinary.

Passage of WIA

In 1998 the Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) that replaced the JTPA as well as most of the Wagner-Peyser Act. WIA was designed to promote, if indeed not force, the creation of the “One Stop Centers” at the service delivery level where all of the workforce development funds and programs, both public and some private, could be found at one central location. Much of the thought and philosophy that drove the various provisions of WIA came directly from GAO reports that were principally the work of Mr. Sigurd R. Nilsen, who was also the leader of the team that performed the work on report, GAO-06-176, “Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Labor Actions Needed to Improve Accountability and Help States Implement Reforms to Veterans’ Employment Services.” (December 30, 2005)

The primary idea behind the One Stop centers that Mr. Nilsen has been promoting for almost 20 years is that if we just eliminate all of the fetters regarding “special programs” we will eliminate duplicative services, and be able to have more than enough resources to provide better services to all sub-sets of the population. VVA doubts that this is the case in general, and we are absolutely certain, based on much hard evidence, that it certainly is not true for veterans, particularly disabled veterans and other veterans with w2ho require significant assistance. VVA notes that despite the best efforts of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, the amendment he attempted to insert into the WIA bill that would have preserved “priority of service” for veterans, and which contained at least some provisions that would promote accountability, was brushed aside in the rush to eliminate all fetters. With Senator Thurmond’s help, we were able to fend off efforts to lift all restrictions in how LVERs and DVOPs could be used by the states.

By 1998 it was clear that “prescriptive” and “proscriptive” solutions would simply not work, for all of the reasons noted above. An extraordinary series of roundtables and semi-formal sessions were held on the other side of the Hill, but with at least some staff participation from this Committee, with all stake holders to try and achieve a results based model that would focus on outcomes, and not on activities that may or may net help a veteran get or keep a job. That legislation would have rewarded real performance with additional funds, but it was ultimately stymied in September of 2000 by the inappropriate lobbying activities of the then Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment and Training. His activities were so beyond the pale that a strong bi-partisan demand was sent to then Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman demanding that he be fired.

 I have attached a copy of the final legislative proposal (H.R. 4765) as an appendix to this statement, as much of that bill is worth re-visiting if we are ever to have a viable system for assisting veterans, particularly disabled veterans, with employment at the Department of Labor.

As VVA testified regarding HR 4765 at the time (2000):

The DVOP and LVER programs operate at the state level through federal grants from VETS.  For far too long, VVA has observed a significant disparity in the levels of performance between the varying states.  Some states, such as South Carolina, do a great job.  Others do not perform as well, and some might appear not to care whether they do a good job or not.

VVA believes that a system of rewards and sanctions is necessary to ensure that all states effectively and appropriately use these federal grants, and that the DVOP and LVER programs achieve maximum results.

Section 3 requires a performance accountability system to be implemented by September 30, 2001, to “measure the performance of the States, political subdivisions of States, regions, and individuals providing veterans’ employment and training services.”  This system will be implemented in a fair manner, and will take into account such factors as the prevailing economic conditions in a state, and will use a “weighted” job placement system that gives credit to DVOPs and LVERs for placing severely disabled veterans into jobs, as well as other veterans with significant barriers to employment.  VVA looks forward to the Demonstration Program, effective October 1, 2001 that will develop and implement this system. 

Inherent in this “demonstration program” is a system of rewards and punishment.   Each state shall submit a five-year strategic plan to the Secretary of Labor, defining how they intend to render services to veterans.  Each state will be subject to an annual review by DOL.  We firmly believe that the Annual Incentive Grants will be a necessary component of the demonstration program.  These grants will be administered based on a state’s performance.  States that meet minimal performance standards are guaranteed to receive 100% of the annual base DVOP/LVER funding.  The incentive grants will be reserved for those states that perform above and beyond the minimum standards. 

Section 3 also provides for a limited number of pilot programs for states to contract out veterans employment services for a specified “labor market area.”  Applicants will be solicited through a competitive process, and all entities awarded such contracts will be held to the same performance and results related measures and incentives as the states.  VVA eagerly awaits the implementation of this competitive process, as well as the entire Demonstration Program.  In some instances, it is the community-based organizations that can most effectively and efficiently deliver effective assistance to veterans most in need. Furthermore, VVA applauds section 3 for mandating that a State must hold administrative overhead costs to 20 percent.

Jobs for Veterans Act

The Jobs for Veterans Act was passed in response to problems with properly serving returning service members, and in response to the call of VSOs to take steps to restore “priority of service,” but to do so to ALL programs funded by or through the Department of Labor, reflecting a much changed reality from the situation in 1933. To some degree, the model was the “Veterans Bill of Rights for Employment Services” which was propagated as an Executive Order in 1988 in New York, and subsequently codified as Chapter 554 of New York State law. The problem with both the JVA and the New York law is that there are no sanctions for ignoring the law. Frankly, money needs to go to those doing a good job, and less to those who do not do a good job.

Please let me note that I cannot emphasize too much that nothing in this statement should be taken as a criticism of DVOPs and LVERs. Some of the finest and most dedicated veterans’ advocates (and finest people, period) I have ever had the pleasure and honor of knowing are DVOPs or LVERs. These folks are eclectic, as any large group would be, and some are more skilled and effective than others. However, as a group, I am always impressed by these fine Americans who do often do great work, no matter what they have to do to accomplish the mission, and no matter how much they may be punished for trying to do their job correctly, and despite how poorly they are paid in some states.

Just as there are many individual veteran staff who are doing a great job, there are some states, like South Carolina, North Carolina, South Dakota, North Dakota, and others who have always done a great job for veterans because it is ingrained in their corporate culture by consistently having fine state leadership that is committed to veterans over a long period of time. There are also individual office managers who fully support services to veterans, and who go out of their way to support the DVOPs and LVERs in their area, as well as using other resources to help get the job done.

GAO Report 06-176 had some severe methodological faults, and therefore draws conclusions based on suspect information. VVA points out that GAO sent out questionnaires to the DVETS and to the Administrators of each of the Workforce Development Agencies, after verifying the instrument. However, they made no attempt to verify any of the information provided. Therefore, their conclusion that the JVA had generally improved services to veterans by the end of 2005 is based on nothing that could be considered rational, substantiated data. Frankly, much of the so-called “data” was merely self justificatory comments. This was, and still is, just silliness.

Similarly, the 2006 GAO report notes that a veteran can receive services from a non-DVOP or non-LVER if they are considered job ready.  VVA agrees that this should be the case, given that “priority of service” has been re-established as the law. However, there are so few what is called “Wagner-Peyser” staff left out there, in many instances all veterans are sent to the veteran’s staff.

The system is actually even more “broken” today than it was before the passage of the Jobs for Veterans Act in 2002, with even more financial and operational problems. It is still not performance and results oriented in any meaningful way, nor is it meeting the needs of veterans in need of the services it ostensibly provides. The current measure of “placements” is intellectually dishonest, and a preposterous example of the “post hoc, ergo proper hoc” logical fallacy. Service disabled veterans, particularly those coming home from today’s wars, and veterans with significant barriers to employment are even more short-changed today than they were in 2002. VVA urges you to take corrective action now to save the good, but to un-do the damage done by JVA, particularly eliminate part-time positions foe DVOPs and sharply limit the number of half-time LVERs. Frankly, if the equivalent of one day a week is actually spent strictly on veterans by these part-timers in some offices it is a lot. Further, the power of the DVETs and their budgets (especially for travel to service delivery sites) need to be restored to the equivalent FTEE level and an amount for travel today that would be equivalent to FY2000.

Part of the issue of the failure of the JVA can be laid squarely at the foot of the current leadership of DOL. The Secretary of Labor put the Assistant Secretary of Labor for ETA in charge of implementing the Jobs for Veterans Act.  Given the history of ETA, it should come as no surprise that they are continuing to be derelict in regard to promulgation of regulations implementing the all aspects of the law, particularly the sections having to do with increased accountability. Because the local entities under the WIA set up are primarily controlled by former JTPA entities, who never had any “priority of service” in their programs before, it is the view of VVA that without regulations there is not even a chance of proper and accountable implementation.

Challenges? Accountability Provisions Are Not Implemented

Similarly, the December, 2005 report notes in very large type, “Most JVA Provisions Have Been Carried Out, but not without some Challenges.” In fact, ETA and US DOL only implemented the aspects of JVA that reduce oversight and provide greater “flexibility” (e.g., only one on site inspection every five years, new and more general job duties for veterans staff. Some would maintain that this is license to break the law, and not “flexibility.”)), while NONE of the provisions that accord veterans “priority of service,” improve states accountability for increasing veterans’ employment in their state, or even having a plan to make a plan as to how to gather data to monitor what is happening to veterans in a given state. The report does note that 21 states did not have ANY data available more than three years after enactment of JVA, but considers that one of the “some challenges” remaining.

In fact the Department of labor has moved on all of the provisions that the Workforce Development Agencies wanted, and none of those that those entities did not want in the JVA (but that the VSOs argued hard to include). This should perhaps not be surprising, as there was extensive contact between the Assistant Secretary for ETA and the representatives of those agencies and virtually no contact with the veterans’ service organizations.

Disabled Veterans Employment: Additional Planning, Monitoring, and Data Collection Efforts Would Improve Assistance” Report: GAO-07-1020

The report noted above, issued in September 2007 by the General Accountability Office (GAO), focuses on coordination of services between the Vocational Rehabilitation Service at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Veterans Employment & Training Service (VETS) at Department of Labor regarding the delivery of services to disabled veterans. What the GAO found was that the Memorandum of Agreement MOA) between DOL and VA, as vague as it is, was not even being implemented in full. The GAO recommended that a comprehensive, and specific, plan be developed that has long term, as well as short term goals, and benchmarks at every point along the way. There are other recommendations of this GAO report that are well thought out and that VVA would generally endorse.

The most glaring omission in the recent GAO report is that there is no discussion that VETS has very little impact on the behavior of the staff of the state workforce development agency beyond moral suasion and the individual commitment of state officials who run those state agencies and the local one-stop centers.

Further, letting VA now start to use the same specious system of measuring success by checking wage unemployment insurance data files against their participant files is further compounding a terrible problem of dishonesty that Labor is propagating by involving VA in their shenanigans. The current measure of comparing the VETS data base to the reports of wage UI data only measures the individual ingenuity of veterans and the general unemployment vs. employment climate of a given area, not the performance of state workforce development agency staff, whether DVOP, LVER, or other staff to assist people in securing employment.

What Is Needed Now

First and foremost, we need a true national strategy to deal properly with the returning service members. The Employer’s Committee, which was touted as the President’s plan, was simply inadequate in concept. It is time for a National Veterans Employment Conference, to assemble the key players and produce a plan that is funded and backed by the Administration as well as this body. (The last truly national veterans’ employment conference was held in Buffalo, New York in May, 1991.)

Further, what is needed today is a system that focuses on placement (real placements, not the dishonest nonsense that Labor is currently using) of the highest priority veterans, who are special disabled veterans (especially catastrophically disabled veterans), recently separated veterans and recently de-mobilized members of the National Guard and Reserve, and on veterans who are homeless or “at risk.”

We must move to a system that has additional monetary rewards for placements and strong measurable results for veterans, particularly disabled veterans, as opposed to just putting out the same amount of funds whether a state does a good job or a poor job. The entire system be placed on a system of money rewards following performance

We must get away from the notion that this is a “cheap” process, and focus on quality placements for those most in need. The veterans’ staff members need to be unleashed from the yoke of the local office managers who in some cases hold them back.  As with their agency, they too must be held accountable for measurable performance. The state work force development agencies at the state and local level should have first bid on the funds available, but if the performance is not there then state directors for US DOL, VETS should be free to contract with other public or private entities that will get the job done.

VVA encourages you to follow up on the GAO Report 05-167, which was requested by Lane Evans, and which found two years ago that there was inadequate coordination between DOD and VA in regard to all aspects of care for seriously disabled returning veterans, but particularly with regard to VA Vocational Rehabilitation. The third player in that mix is clearly the VETS, and it would be fruitful for the Committee to discover whether all of the recommendations of that report have implemented, and how that coordination affects the VA/DOL relationship. VVA would suggest that the Committee take steps to verify any quick answers you receive from DOD or VA regarding these recommendations.

The ASVET has a great concept in the “Disabled Veteran Lifeline Program.” The concept is so good that it is worth doing right by authorizing legislation and proper appropriations to fund at least two placement/vocational counselors at every military hospital (perhaps more at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Hospital, and other facilities with large census of returning wounded veterans. This program needs to be done right, with Federal staff or contract so that there is clear accountability and quality control. As we are speaking of 50 to 60 FTEE, and the payoff is so potentially great, this is a very inexpensive program.

We must insist on real collaboration and cooperation between DOL-VETS and VA, to include both VA Voc Rehab and the Readjustment Counseling Service (VET Centers) at both the national as well as the state/local level. This written comprehensive plan of action, as recommended by GAO, must be specific, be able to be measured, and have a mechanism for managers to be held accountable for actual improvements in performance.

Further, there must be all out resistance and rejection of the ill-conceived and cynical “WIA-Plus” efforts that surfaced in the last Congress to use veteran program dollars for other purposes.

If the states were going to pay attention to the special needs of veterans without continuous careful monitoring and tightly written veteran specific grants, with repercussions for non-compliance, then they would have already done it. (Most states have not.)

The VETS must be restored to the staffing (FTEE) level of at least FY 2000, and their travel budget increased so that every service delivery point can be visited with an on-site visit at least once per year.

Additionally, we need additional employer incentives similar to the veterans’ job training act of the early 1980s and the successor SMOCTA program that worked so well as a marketing tool for DVOPs and LVERs in the period 1988 to roughly 1991.

As was pointed out last week, there is a significant need for statute changes to provide further latitude in the Montgomery GI Bill that will allow more focus on vocational and apprentice training as well as entrepreneurial training in the formats that adults learn today.

And most importantly, there simply must be a viable national strategy developed to deal with the returning service members from the Global War on Terrorism.

More than one and one half million service members have already rotated through Iraq alone, many of them two or three times. If the Administration will not move to fashion such a results oriented plan, then we call on you, Madame Chairwoman, and your colleagues on both sides of the aisle and both sides of Capitol Hill, to reach out and call a convocation of public and private entities to put together a real action plan to make a difference, as was done after World War II. 

I have here two books that describe what was done at the local level in the majority of American cities that fashioned such results focused efforts after that war, and made a positive difference in the lives of the majority of veterans returning home. One is The New Veteran, by Charles G. Bolte
1945, Reynal & Hitchcock, New York; and, the other one is The Veteran Comes Back, by Willard Waller, 1944, The Dryden Press, New York. These books describe a community model that was implemented in the majority of big cities as well as small cities and large towns by the end of 1945, modeled on what was apparently first done in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

 Perhaps what is needed is a “back to the future” scenario where Veterans one-stop centers are established across the country, with community resources, private resources, and state resources as well as Federal resources focused on the employment needs and elimination of barriers to meaningful employment that each veteran may have.

We must think anew, and then act swiftly, in order not to fail the brave young men and women defending us in military service today, and those who are still recuperating from their wounds who are already home.

Madame Chairwoman, on behalf of all of us at VVA, I thank you and your distinguished colleagues for the opportunity to present our views here today. We would be pleased to answer any questions.

Appendix

HR 4765 IH    106th CONGRESS       2d Session

H. R. 4765

To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve employment and training services provided to veterans and disabled veterans by requiring the use of measurable performance outcomes in an era of electronic-based self services and one-stop career service centers.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 27, 2000

Mr. QUINN (for himself, Mr. FILNER, Mr. STUMP, and Mr. EVANS) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs


A BILL

To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve employment and training services provided to veterans and disabled veterans by requiring the use of measurable performance outcomes in an era of electronic-based self services and one-stop career service centers.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS; REFERENCES TO TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE.

(a) SHORT TITLE- This Act may be cited as the `21st Century Veterans Employment and Training Act'.

(b) TABLE OF CONTENTS- The table of contents of this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents; references to title 38, United States Code.

Sec. 2. Priority of service for veterans in Federal employment and training programs.

Sec. 3. Modernization of veterans employment and training services.

Sec. 4. Committee to raise employer awareness of skills of veterans and benefits of hiring veterans.

Sec. 5. Sense of Congress commending veterans service organizations.

Sec. 6. Study on economic benefits to the United States of long-term sustained employment of veterans.

(c) REFERENCES TO TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE- Except as otherwise expressly provided, whenever in this Act an amendment or repeal is expressed in terms of an amendment to, or repeal of, a section or other provision, the reference shall be considered to be made to a section or other provision of title 38, United States Code.

SEC. 2. PRIORITY OF SERVICE FOR VETERANS IN FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING PROGRAMS.

(a) VETERANS' EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING ASSISTANCE-

(1) IN GENERAL- Chapter 42 is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

`Sec. 4215. Priority of service for veterans in Federal employment and training programs

`(a) ENTITLEMENT TO PRIORITY OF SERVICE- A covered person is entitled to priority of service under any qualified employment training program if the person otherwise meets the eligibility requirements for participation in such program.

`(b) ADMINISTRATION OF PROGRAMS AT STATE AND LOCAL LEVELS- (1) An entity of a State or a political subdivision of the State that administers or delivers services under a qualified employment training program shall--

`(A) provide information and effective referral assistance to covered persons regarding benefits and services that may be obtained through other entities or service providers; and

`(B) ensure that each covered person who applies to or who is assisted by such a program is informed of the employment-related rights and benefits to which the person is entitled under this section.

`(2) Each council, board, or advisory body of a State or a political subdivision of the State that is established in support of a qualified employment training program shall include representation from the veterans community, particularly from veterans service organizations.

`(c) ANNUAL REPORT- By not later than December 31, 2001, and each December 31 thereafter, the Secretary of Labor, following review and comment by the Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment and Training, shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives and Senate a report. The report shall evaluate whether covered persons are receiving priority of service and are being fully served by qualified employment training programs, and whether the levels of service of such programs are in proportion to the incidence of representation of veterans in the labor market, including within groups targeted by such programs, if any.

`(d) DEFINITIONS- As used in this section:

`(1) The term `covered person' means any of the following individuals:

`(A) A veteran who has a service-connected disability.

`(B) A veteran who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized.

`(C) The spouse of any of the following persons:

`(i) Any person who died of a service-connected disability.

`(ii) Any member of the Armed Forces serving on active duty who, at the time of application for assistance under this section, is listed, pursuant to section 556 of title 37 and regulations issued thereunder, by the Secretary concerned in one or more of the following categories and has been so listed for a total of more than 90 days: (I) missing in action, (II) captured in line of duty by a hostile force, or (III) forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.

`(iii) Any person who has a total disability permanent in nature resulting from a service-connected disability.

`(iv) A veteran who died while a disability so evaluated was in existence.

`(2) The term `qualified employment training program' means any work force preparation, development, or delivery program or service that receives federal funding, and includes the following:

`(A) Any such program or service that uses technology to assist individuals to access work force development programs (such as job and training opportunities, labor market information, career assessment tools, and related support services).

`(B) Any such program or service under the public employment service system, one-stop career centers, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, a demonstration or other temporary program, and those programs implemented by States or local service providers based on Federal block grants.

`(C) Any such program or service that is a work force development program targeted to specific groups.

`(3) The term `priority of service' means, with respect to any qualified employment training program, that a covered veteran shall be given priority over nonveterans of the employment and training services provided under that program notwithstanding any priority list, directive, rule, regulation, or other order from any Department or agency of the United States.'.

(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 42 is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 4214 the following new item:

`4215. Priority of service for veterans in Federal employment and training programs.'.

(b) Employment of Veterans With Respect to Federal Contracts-

(1) IN GENERAL- Section 4212(a) is amended to read as follows:

`(a)(1) Any contract in the amount of $25,000 or more entered into by any department or agency of the United States for the procurement of personal property and nonpersonal services (including construction) for the United States, shall contain a provision requiring that the party contracting with the United States take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified covered veterans. This section applies to any subcontract entered into by a prime contractor in carrying out any such contract.

`(2) In addition to requiring affirmative action to employ such qualified covered veterans under such contracts and subcontracts and in order to promote the implementation of such requirement, the Secretary of Labor shall prescribe regulations requiring that--

`(A) each such contractor undertake in each such contract to list all of its employment openings immediately with the appropriate employment service delivery system (as defined in section 4101(7) of this title), including local employment service offices, one-stop career centers under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, other appropriate service delivery points, or America's Job Bank (or any additional or subsequent national computerized job bank established by the Department of Labor), except that the contractor may exclude openings for positions which are to be filled from within the contractor's organization and positions lasting three days or less;

`(B) each such employment service delivery system shall give such qualified covered veterans priority in referral to such employment openings; and

`(C) each such employment service delivery system shall provide a list of such employment openings to private entities or organizations under contract with the Secretary under section 4103(e) of this title, and to States, political subdivisions of States, or qualified organizations or entities competing under section 4103(d)(5) of this title to furnish employment and training services under this chapter.

`(3) As used in this section:

`(A) The term `covered veteran' means any of the following veterans:

`(i) Disabled veterans.

`(ii) Veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized.

`(iii) Veterans who, while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces, participated in a United States military operation for which an Armed Forces service medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985 (61 Fed. Reg. 1209).

`(B) The term `qualified', with respect to an employment position, means having the ability to perform the essential functions of the position with reasonable accommodation.'.

(2) CONFORMING AND TECHNICAL AMENDMENTS- Section 4212 is amended--

(A) by striking subsection (b) and redesignating subsections (c) and (d) as subsections (b) and (c), respectively;

(B) in subsection (b), as so redesignated--

(i) by striking `filed pursuant to subsection (b) of this section' and inserting `relating to this section filed pursuant to section 4216 of this title';

(ii) by striking `suitable'; and

(iii) by striking `subsection (a)(2) of this section' and inserting `subsection (a)(2)(B)'; and

(C)(i) in paragraph (1) of subsection (c), as so redesignated--

(I) in the matter preceding subparagraph (A), by striking `subsection (a) of this section' and inserting `subsection (a)'; and

(II) by amending subparagraphs (A) and (B) to read as follows:

`(A) the number of employees in the work force of such contractor, by job category and hiring location, and the number of such employees, by job category and hiring location, who are qualified covered veterans;

`(B) the total number of new employees hired by the contractor during the period covered by the report and the number of such employees who are qualified covered veterans; and'; and

(ii) in paragraph (2) of such subsection, by striking `paragraph (1) of this subsection' and inserting `paragraph (1)'.

(3) EFFECTIVE DATE- The amendments made by this subsection shall apply with respect to contracts entered into on or after the date that is 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(c) Employment Within the Federal Government-

(1) IN GENERAL- The second sentence of section 4214(a) is amended--

(A) by inserting `, competent' after `effective'; and

(B) by striking `major' and inserting `uniquely qualified'.

(2) TECHNICAL AMENDMENTS- (A) Section 4214(b)(1) is amended by striking `readjustment' and inserting `recruitment'.

(B) Section 4214(g) is amended by striking `qualified' the first place it occurs and all that follows through `era' and inserting `qualified covered veterans (as described in section 4212(a) of this title)'.

(d) Enforcement of Veterans' Employment Rights and Benefits-

(1) IN GENERAL- Chapter 42 as amended by subsection (a)(1), is further amended by adding at the end the following new section:

`Sec. 4216. Enforcement of veterans' employment rights and benefits

`(a) ASSISTANCE OF SECRETARY OF LABOR- The Secretary of Labor (through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training) shall provide assistance to any person or entity with respect to the requirements of sections 4212 (relating to United States contracts) and 4215 (relating to federally funded work force programs and services) of this title.

`(b) COMPLAINT- (1) An individual described in section 4212(a) or in section 4215(a) of this title may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor if the individual believes that--

`(A) the individual is entitled to rights or benefits under section 4212 or 4215; and

`(B) an entity with obligations under either of such sections has failed to comply or refuses to comply with the provisions of such sections.

`(2) Such complaint shall be in writing, be in such form as the Secretary of Labor may prescribe, include the name and address of the party against whom the complaint is filed, and contain a summary of the allegations that form the basis for the complaint.

`(3) A complaint may only be filed under paragraph (1) within 90 days after the date of a failure or refusal described in paragraph (1)(B).

`(c) INVESTIGATION OF COMPLAINT- (1) The Secretary of Labor shall promptly investigate the complaint filed under subsection (b). If the Secretary of Labor determines as a result of the investigation that the action alleged in such complaint occurred, that Secretary shall attempt to resolve the complaint by making reasonable efforts to ensure that the party named in the complaint complies with the provisions of section 4212 or 4215, as appropriate.

`(2) If, within 90 days after the date on which the complaint is filed, the efforts to resolve the complaint are unsuccessful, the Secretary of Labor shall notify the individual who submitted the complaint of--

`(A) the results of the investigation; and

`(B) the individual's rights.

`(d) ACTION FOR RELIEF- (1) An individual who receives from the Secretary of Labor a notification under subsection (c) relating to a complaint may request that Secretary to refer the complaint to the Attorney General of the United States. If the Attorney General is reasonably satisfied that the person on whose behalf the complaint is referred is entitled to the rights or benefits sought, the Attorney General may appear on behalf of, and act as attorney for, the person on whose behalf the complaint is submitted and commence an action for relief for such person in any United States district court.

`(2) An individual may commence an action for relief with respect to a complaint if that individual--

`(A) has chosen not to file a complaint under subsection (b);

`(B) has chosen not to request that the Secretary of Labor refer the complaint to the Attorney General under paragraph (1); or

`(C) has been refused representation by the Attorney General with respect to the complaint under such paragraph.

`(e) REMEDIES- (1) In any action under this section, the court may award relief as follows:

`(A) The court may require the entity to comply with the provisions of section 4212 or 4215 of this title, as appropriate.

`(B) The court may require the entity to compensate the individual for any loss of wages or benefits suffered by reason of such entity's failure to comply with the such provisions.

`(C) The court may require the entity to pay the individual an amount equal to the amount referred to in clause (ii) as liquidated damages, if the court determines that the entity's failure to comply with the provisions of such section was willful.

`(2) Any compensation under subparagraph (B) or (C) of paragraph (1) shall be in addition to, and shall not diminish, any of the other rights and benefits provided for in such section.

`(3) The United States and a State shall be subject to the same remedies, including prejudgment interest, as may be imposed upon any private entity under this section.

`(f) FEES- In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of section 4212 or 4215 of this title by an individual under subsection (d)(2) who obtained private counsel for such action or proceeding, the court may award any such individual who prevails in such action or proceeding reasonable attorney fees, expert witness fees, and other litigation expenses.

`(g) EQUITY POWERS- The court may use its full equity powers, including temporary or permanent injunctions, temporary restraining orders, and contempt orders, to vindicate fully the rights or benefits of individuals pursuant to this section.

`(h) STANDING- An action under this section may be initiated only by an individual claiming rights or benefits under section 4212 or 4215 of this title, not by any other entity with obligations under such section.

`(i) RESPONDENT- In any such action, only an entity with obligations under section 4212 or 4215, as the case may be, shall be a necessary party respondent.

`(j) INAPPLICABILITY OF STATE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS- No State statute of limitations shall apply to any proceeding pursuant to this section.'.

(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 42, as amended by subsection (a)(2), is further amended by inserting after the item relating to section 4215 the following new item:

`4216. Enforcement of veterans' employment rights and benefits.'.

(3) EFFECTIVE DATE- The amendments made by this subsection shall apply with respect to complaints filed on or after the date that is 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(e) ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL- The Secretary of Labor is authorized to allocate an additional 10 full-time equivalent positions from the Employment and Training Administration to the Veterans' Employment and Training Service to carry out chapter 42 of title 38, United States Code, as amended by this Act.

SEC. 3. MODERNIZATION OF VETERANS EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING SERVICES.

(a) DEMONSTRATION PROGRAM TO MODERNIZE EMPLOYMENT, TRAINING, AND PLACEMENT SERVICES-

(1) IN GENERAL- Chapter 41 is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

`Sec. 4112. Demonstration program to modernize veterans employment, training, and placement services

`(a) ESTABLISHMENT OF 5-YEAR DEMONSTRATION PROGRAM- (1) During the five-fiscal-year period beginning fiscal year 2002, the Secretary shall carry out the provisions of this chapter under the demonstration program established under this section to improve and modernize employment, training, and placement services under this chapter. The Secretary shall carry out the demonstration project through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training.

`(2) Sums authorized to be appropriated to carry out this chapter under section 4106 of this title shall, for such five-fiscal-year period, be made available only to carry out the demonstration program under this section. In no case may the aggregate amount of funds made available to the Secretary under subsections (a) though (d) of section 4106 of this title for fiscal year 2001 and each succeeding fiscal year be less than the sum of--

`(A) such aggregate amount made available to the Secretary for fiscal year 2000, and

`(B) amounts that, by reason of law or regulation, are attributable to the increases in salaries of individuals providing employment and training services under such chapters from fiscal year 2000 up to the fiscal year involved.

`(3)(A) The Secretary shall establish a panel within the Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment and Training under section 4110 of this title comprised of State public employment service officials, including disabled veterans' outreach program specialists and local veterans' employment representatives. Such officials shall advise the Secretary on the development and implementation of the demonstration program under this section with respect to matters arising under the program at local delivery points in the employment service delivery system.

`(B) Representation on the panel of State public employment service officials shall consist of 7 members appointed from among disabled veterans' outreach program specialists, local veterans' employment representatives, State employment service agencies, and other officials that the Secretary determines to be appropriate.

`(b) ESTABLISHMENT OF PERFORMANCE STANDARDS AND OUTCOMES MEASURES- (1) By not later than September 30, 2001, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training shall establish and implement a comprehensive performance accountability system to measure the performance of veterans employment and training staff (as defined in paragraph (3)) to provide accountability of such staff to the Secretary for purposes of subsection (c), and to determine compliance by State public employment service agencies with the provisions of this chapter and chapter 42 of this title.

`(2) Such standards and measures shall--

`(A) be consistent with State performance measures applicable under section 136(b) of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998;

`(B) include the core indicators of performance described in subclauses (I) through (III) of section 136(b)(2)(A)(i) of that Act; and

`(C) be appropriately weighted to provide special consideration for placement of (i) veterans with barriers to employment, such as special disabled veterans, and disabled veterans, and (ii) veterans who enroll in readjustment counseling under section 1712A of this title.

`(3) In this section, the term `veterans employment and training staff' means an individual providing services required under this chapter who is an employee of a State, a political subdivision of a State, in a region, of the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, or an individual under a contract to provide those services.

`(c) GRANT PROGRAMS- Under the demonstration program, the Secretary shall make grants to States as follows:

`(1)(A) From the applicable percentage (described in subparagraph (C)) of the aggregate amount of sums appropriated under subsection (a)(2) for a fiscal year, the Secretary shall make grants to States to provide veterans employment, training, and placement programs and services through employment service delivery systems in the State. Such grants shall include sums for the reasonable expenses of individuals providing such services for training, travel, supplies, and costs of attendance at the National Veterans' Employment and Training Services Institute established under section 4109 of this title. A grant under this paragraph is hereinafter in this section referred to as a `base grant'.

`(B) The Secretary shall determine the amount of the base grant to a State based on (i) the funding requirements for veterans employment, training, and placement services demonstrated by the State on the application submitted under subsection (d), and (ii) the amount of funds made available to the State under section 4102A(b) to the State in years preceding the demonstration program.

`(C) The applicable percentage referred to in subparagraph (A) is--

`(i) for fiscal year 2002, 95 percent,

`(ii) for fiscal year 2003, 92.5 percent, and

`(iii) for each of fiscal years 2004 through 2006, 90 percent.

`(2)(A) For each fiscal year under the demonstration program, from amounts remaining in the aggregate amount of sums appropriated under subsection (a)(2) after the application of paragraph (1), the Secretary shall make grants to a State, political subdivisions of the State, or qualified organizations or entities to enter into contracts with the Secretary to carry out employment, training, and placement services. A grant under this paragraph is hereinafter in this section referred to as an `incentive grant'.

`(B)(i) The amount of a incentive grant made under subparagraph (A) shall be determined by the Secretary based on the measures of performance under subsection (b) of employment, training, and placement services furnished in each State. An incentive grant may only be made to a State that the Secretary determines has met a minimum standard of performance (established by the Secretary) under such measures.

`(ii) Subject to clause (iii), in determining the amount of an incentive grant to a State, the Secretary shall (I) provide greater sums to those States which the Secretary determines furnished, during the preceding fiscal year, the highest quality employment, training, and placement services based on measures of performance, and (II) consider factors such as prevailing economic and unemployment conditions that affect performance of individuals providing employment, training, and placement services in the State.

`(iii) In no case may the amount of an incentive grant under this paragraph be less than the difference between the amount of a State's base grant as calculated in accordance with paragraph (1)(C) and the amount of the State's base grant as would be calculated without regard to that paragraph.

`(C) In addition to amounts authorized to be appropriated to carry out this chapter, there are authorized to be appropriated annually to the Secretary $10,000,000 to make incentive grants under this paragraph.

`(d) APPLICATION- (1) A State shall prepare and submit to the Secretary an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such assurances and information as the Secretary may require, including in the application for fiscal year 2002 a proposal for a 5-year plan that describes the manner in which the State shall furnish employment, training, and placement services under the demonstration program.

`(2)(A) Subject to subparagraphs (B) and (C), a State may include in its application under paragraph (1) for a base grant for a fiscal year a proposal to establish within the State a pilot program under which the State may enter into a contract with organizations or entities to carry out employment, training, and placement services within a designated labor market area of the State in that fiscal year.

`(B) A proposal under subparagraph (A) shall include a description of the organization or entity, the number (if any) of qualified disabled veterans and qualified veterans employed by the organization or entity, and proposals (if any) to employ such veterans to provide employment, training, and placement services under the contract.

`(C)(i) A State may not submit more than three proposals described in subparagraph (A).

`(ii) The Secretary may not approve proposals submitted by more than 10 States.

`(3) The Secretary shall approve an application submitted under this subsection that contains the assurances and information that the Secretary requires.

`(e) TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF GRANTS- (1) The distribution and use of funds under a grant under subsection (c)--

`(A) shall be subject to such terms and conditions as the Secretary may establish,

`(B) shall be subject to the continuing supervision and monitoring of the Secretary, and

`(C) shall not be governed by the provisions of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the Wagner-Peyser Act, or any other law, or any regulations prescribed thereunder, that are inconsistent with this se