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Economic Opportunity Chairman Van Orden Discusses 9 Bills at Legislative Hearing, Including Bill to Improve Transition Assistance Program

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.), the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the start of the subcommittee’s legislative hearing on 9 bills that would improve veteran education programs and ensure the responsible use of GI Bill funds:


Good morning,

The Subcommittee will come to order.

I welcome the witnesses and Subcommittee Members to today’s hearing.

As I have often said in this Subcommittee, we operate in a nonpartisan way with the ultimate goal of serving those who have served our country.

This legislative hearing continues in that spirit.

We have nine important legislative proposals to consider here today. It is important to note that not all of the proposals will move forward in the process.

The purpose of this hearing is to hear from individuals with expertise on the various legislative proposals so that we can make informed decisions about whether to move these bills forward.

The valuable insight provided by these stakeholders and agencies is essential to the work of this Subcommittee.

I look forward to hearing our witness’ thoughts on these bills today.

A number of these proposals seek to improve education programs for America’s veterans and ensure that GI bill dollars are being used responsibly.

One of the bills being proposed by the Chairman of the Committee would expand the existing authorities of the VA Secretary to disapprove schools that are guilty of fraud or misrepresentation.

This expanded authority would allow the Secretary to restore benefits and recoup costs for veterans who are defrauded.

We have considered other proposals to restore benefits in situations where there are allegations of fraud; however, this is the first proposal that is rooted in VA authority and includes the necessary due process for schools. 

I specifically want to highlight two bills that I am offering for consideration as well.

One bill would allow individuals using Montgomery GI Bill gained through serving in the Selected Reserve to utilize the in-state tuition waiver for attending schools in neighboring states. As of now, they are not part of the waiver in the statute. I think this is a logical expansion of existing authority that allows reciprocity between states.

My other bill up for discussion today makes improvements to the Transition Assistance Program for servicemembers leaving the military. This legislation would require data collection on the experience of transitioning servicemembers. We need to have a better understanding of how we are preparing our military members and their families for civilian life. 

Certain military branches are doing TAP better than others, and those doing it well are setting their members up for success. Servicemembers leaving these successful branches will show others the value of military service. They are the best tool we have for recruitment.

At this hearing, we will also explore legislation that would encourage VA to create a call-back system instead of putting callers on hold. This type of technology is widely available in the private sector, and there is no reason VA shouldn’t start offering similar services.

I have reservations about some of the proposals on the agenda today. The witness testimony and questions Members of this Subcommittee will ask today will hopefully address some of these issues so Members can make informed decisions about the bills.

We look forward to hearing from the Members who have introduced these proposals, as well as our witnesses, on how we can continue to improve these bills and create more economic opportunities for veterans.

I now yield to the Ranking Member for five minutes for his opening remarks.
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