Witness Testimony of The Honorable John Delaney (MD-06)
Chairman Flores and Ranking Member Takano, thank you for the opportunity to address the Subcommittee this afternoon. As I begin my remarks I would also like to thank my colleague Congressman Jim Renacci for his strong support of this bill and our veterans.
I am proud to be here to discuss the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education Reauthorization Act of 2013. This important piece of legislation will help amplify the voices of our veterans on issues of job training and education and help improve existing benefit programs. By increasing collaboration and communication between the Department of Veterans Affairs and our veterans on issues of education and training, we can ensure that the brave men and women of our armed services are equipped to compete in the 21st century economy.
The Veterans Advisory Committee on Education helps advise the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on how best to improve and coordinate our veterans education and job training programs. The Committee is composed of veterans and experts in the fields of education, labor, and management, and includes veterans’ representatives from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the post-911 conflicts. Versions of the committee have existed since 1972, and without Congressional action, the Committee will sunset at the end of this year.
Since 1944, the VA has been providing critical veterans educational assistance benefits through the GI bills and associated programs, such as the Transition Assistance Program, the Reserves Educational Assistance Program, and the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. These are critical programs, but clearly, no program is perfect, and therefore, we should make sure that the VA adapts to changing times and new trends.
In past years, the Veterans Advisory Committee has provided invaluable aid to the VA's efforts in administering the education programs, including significant input on the post-9/11 GI Bill and the Principles of Excellence Program, which provides guidelines for educational institutions receiving federal funding. Of the 57 recommendations submitted by the committee between FY2003 and FY2012 over 40% have been or will be implemented.
Still there is much work to be done. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served after September 2001 is 10.2%, which of course, is much higher than the unemployment rate for nonveterans during the same time period. This is simply unacceptable. We must do more for our veterans who are returning from recent conflicts so that they can compete and thrive in the 21st century economy.
By reauthorizing the Veterans Advisory Committee, we can provide a much needed post-9/11 perspective on matters of education with a renewed energy and focus, so that we can ensure our veterans’ education programs are responsive, accountable, and effective.
We have an obligation to stand with our veterans and help ease their transition to civilian life. This is not just a matter of economics; it is a matter of dignity. Veterans deserve the dignity of gainful employment that provides a standard of living befitting their service to our country. One simple way to do this is by ensuring that they receive the education and job training they need.
I thank the Committee members for their time this afternoon. I look forward to collaborating with you on this bipartisan legislation that will provide for smarter government and better educational outcomes for our veterans.