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Witness Testimony of Ronald F. Chamrin, American Legion, Assistant Director, Economic Commission

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for this opportunity to present The American Legion’s view on the licensure and credentialing of servicemembers and veterans to the Subcommittee today.

The American Legion asserts that veterans have been trained, educated, disciplined, and molded by the greatest military the world has ever seen and yet a large number of these skills are deemed non-applicable in the civilian sector.  The Department of Labor’s Hire Vets First lists attributes that make veterans marketable to the civilian section.  The American Legion strongly agrees that veterans have attributes to make them extremely productive in the civilian sector.  These attributes include an accelerated learning curve, leadership, teamwork, diversity and inclusion in action, efficient performance under pressure, respect for procedures, technology and globalization, integrity, conscious of health and safety standards, and the ability to triumph over adversity.

With all of these abilities, a casual observer would assume that veterans are easily employed and can transition their military experience to the private sector with ease.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The American Legion supports efforts to eliminate employment barriers that impede the transfer of military job skills to the civilian labor market and that the Department of Defense take appropriate steps to ensure that servicemembers be trained, tested, evaluated and issued any licensure or certification that may be required in the civilian workforce. 

The American Legion supports making the Montgomery GI Bill eligibility available to pay for all necessary civilian license and certification examination requirements, including necessary preparatory courses. We also support efforts to increase the civilian labor market’s acceptance of the occupational training provided by the military.

MILITARY TRAINING

The Department of Defense (DoD) provides some of the best vocational training in the nation for its military personnel and establishes, measures and evaluates performance standards for every occupation with the armed forces.  There are many occupational career fields in the armed forces that can easily translate to a civilian counterpart; additionally, there are many occupations in the civilian workforce that require a license or certification. 

In the armed forces, these unique occupations are performed to approved military standards that may meet or exceed the civilian license or certification criteria. Upon separation, many former military personnel, certified as proficient in their military occupational career, are not licensed or certified to perform the comparable job in the civilian workforce, thus hindering chances for immediate civilian employment and delaying career advancement.  This situation creates an artificial barrier to employment upon separation from military service. 

A study by the Presidential Commission on Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Transition Assistance identified a total of 105 military professions where civilian credentialing is required. 

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS IMPACT IN LICENSURE AND CREDENTIALING

The American Legion applauds the fact that since January 6, 2006, all eligible veterans using the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD, Title 38 Chapter 30), Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR, Title 10, Chapter 1606), Veterans Education Assistance (VEAP, Title 38, Chapter 32), Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA, Title 38, Chapter 35) and the Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP, Title 10, Chapter 1607) can now receive reimbursement for licensing and certification tests. 

However, the government is paying twice and sometimes three or more times for training and licensing for the same task.  DoD spends billions of American tax dollars each year training members of the military.  Some civilian skills are very similar in nature to those duties performed while in the military, yet taxpayers may be funding training twice for the same individual through DoD and then the VA.  This is financially irresponsible and counterproductive to individual veterans who must use their earned MGIB education benefits to take civilian proficiency tests.

Most licenses or certifications have fees associated with them that are charged by the credentialing board. Some of the typical fees paid directly to a credentialing board include

  • Application Fees – from $20 to $200
  • Exam Fees – from $20 to $200
  • Renewal Fees – from $10 to $150 (typically renewed every 1 to 3 years)

The American Legion also notes that those veterans who have been reservists called to active duty are losing their earned education benefits once they complete their service contract, therefore, they must find alternative means for funding.

90,000 members of the Reserve component are entering the civilian sector each year.  The most visible example of this unjust denial of benefits is the demobilization of 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard who has just performed the longest continuous combat tour in Iraq of any military unit to date.  Mobilized for 22 months, they are ineligible to enroll in MGIB-AD because they fall short of the required 24-month deadline by 2 months.  This travesty is not unique to these guardsmen and passing of the Total Force GI Bill would at least allow members of the Reserve components to apply their earned benefits towards licensing and certification exams.

MILITARY TRANSCRIPTS

Military transcripts provided from each of the Armed Forces provide a very limited training and education record and at times incorrect, missing, or additional information is listed.  The Army Training Requirements and Resource System (ATRRS), Navy’s Sailor Marine American Council of Education (ACE) Registry Transcript (SMART), and the Air Force Institute of Advanced Distributed Learning (AFIADL) are all accepted by the American Council on Education.

Once again highlighting the Guardsmen of Minnesota, (many of them infantry), these servicemembers have enormous talents, skills, and attributes that they have used while in theater. However, because the tasks they performed are so unique and difficult to succinctly describe, they are left with an empty shell of a resume. 

When transitioning military careers to civilian careers, many servicemembers can only list 11 B, Infantryman.  It would be more advantageous if they can write 11 B, Infantryman, chief advisor to mayor of Iraqi town, facilitator of incubator maintenance at local hospital, and more specified individual tasks.   They, along with hundreds of thousands of OIF and OEF veterans, have performed duties that could fall in line with many civilian professions.  If a system is devised that can translate to the full nature of a servicemember’s skills and abilities (as opposed to only listing a military occupation code) individual veterans would be positively affected.

ONLINE ASSISTANCE

There are so many websites for servicemembers and veterans to visit that it can become extremely confusing and complex.  The Army and Navy COOL (Credentialing Opportunities Online) websites are excellent tools for potential recruits, current service members, and transitioning veterans to use.  The Air Force Personnel Center is also a useful tool.  The Career One Stop and the Operational Information Network Online, or O*Net, both operated by the Department of Labor, are more helpful tools.

These sites should be made easily accessible at all recruitment and transitioning stations.  However, for those individuals who are constrained for time, have limited web access, are deployed overseas, and those with poor internet savvy, these websites are just not enough.  The American Legion recommends more access of licensing and credentialing services at TAP sites.

ACCESS AT TRANSITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FACILITIES

The American Legion observes that transition assistance modules are excellent avenues for each individual U.S. state to access transitioning servicemembers.  The American Legion supports mandatory TAP for transition servicemembers at least 180 days prior to the end of their contractual obligation.  When servicemembers are at these TAP sites around the country, each state work force agency or credentialing board can provide important information.

Better coordination, communication and interaction of credentialing boards and the training commands of each of our nations armed forces are needed.  Furthermore, military trainers, doctrine writers, and evaluation tests for military skills should coordinate with their civilian counterparts and attempt to synchronize military tests with their civilian counterparts. 

The majority of the onus and responsibility is on the veteran to contact authorization boards to ascertain what they will require to be successful in the profession that they choose.  However, these boards should have two-way communication so that the onus is not completely on the veteran, especially in a time of war when they are focusing on their immediate tasks. 

The Council of Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation has a database of national approving boards.  Listed below are selected members of this national database.  Each TAP site should coordinate with at least the following boards to have a representative participate.  Additionally, each U.S. state regulatory board should also coordinate with TAP personnel and brief on transitioning servicemembers the unique relevant requirements needed for certification.

  • National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)
  • National Council for Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB)
  • The Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB)
  • National Association of State Contractor Licensing Agencies (NASCLA)
  • American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB)
  • National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)
  • National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
  • International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards
  • National Association of Insurance Commissioners
  • Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards
  • National Association of Boards of Examiners of Long Term Care Administrators
  • Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards
  • The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB)
  • National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN)
  • Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO)
  • National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)
  • The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)
  • Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards
  • The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO)
  • Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
  • American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB)

Websites and online interaction are great tools but nothing can replace personal interaction.  Personal visits by representatives of national and state boards at TAP sites and training commands can assist the transfer of military licensing and certification.  At a minimum, these boards can provide a pamphlet or information sheet to put into a veteran’s hand.

CONCLUSION

There have been estimates that approximately 60% of the workforce will retire by 2020 and competent, educated, and capable individuals must replace the workforce in order to assure the United States retains its competitive edge in the world.  The veterans of this nation make up a well-qualified disciplined pool of applicants.  Increasing recognition of military training by integrating licensing and credentialing must be strengthened to assist our country’s finest to achieve their professional goals.

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, this concludes my testimony.  I appreciate the opportunity to present The American Legion’s views on these important issues.