Hon. Raymond M. Jefferson, Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department of Labor
Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Filner, and distinguished Members of the Committee, I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss legislation pending in this Committee aimed at helping our returning servicemember transition back to civilian life.
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) proudly serves Veterans and transitioning servicemember by providing resources and expertise to assist and prepare them to obtain meaningful careers, maximize their employment opportunities and protect their employment rights.
Secretary Solis has been an incredible source of guidance and support, and has made Veterans and VETS one of her top priorities. Our programs are an integral part of Secretary Solis’s vision of “Good Jobs for Everyone” and her unwavering commitment to help Veterans and their families get into the middle class and maintain financial stability. We strive to achieve this vision through four main programs:
- Jobs for Veterans State Grants;
- Transition Assistance Program Employment Workshops;
- Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Programs; and
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
Your letter of invitation seeks input on three bills: 1) H.R. 169, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to include on the main page of the Internet website of the Department of Veterans Affairs a hyperlink to the VetSuccess Internet website and to publicize such Internet website; 2) H.R. 1941, the “Hiring Heroes Act of 2011”; and 3) H.R. 2433, the ‘‘Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011’’. I will limit my remarks to those provisions of H.R. 1941 that would have a direct impact on VETS and the Department of Labor.
As for the remaining legislation, H.R. 169 would be administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) and we defer to VA on that bill. H.R. 2433 was recently introduced on July 7, 2011, and we have not had an opportunity to thoroughly review and formulate the Department’s views on the legislation in time for this hearing. We will, however, provide the Committee with our views in a follow-up Statement for the Record.
H.R. 1941: “Hiring Heroes Act of 2011”
Section 6: This section would require the mandatory participation of members of the Armed Forces in the Department of Labor’s Employment Workshop component of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
We believe that all transitioning servicemember who plan to enter civilian employment would benefit from attending the Employment Workshop, but defer to the Department of Defense (DoD) as to whether it should be a mandatory component for all transitioning servicemember.
Section 7: This section would require DOL to follow-up on the employment status of members of the Armed Forces who recently participated in TAP. In particular, it would require that DOL contact each participating Veteran no later than six months after his or her completion of the program, and at least once every 90 days thereafter over the next six months in order to ascertain the Veteran’s employment status.
DOL supports the concept of the TAP follow-up, but believes that the metrics of our redesigned Employment Workshop would properly satisfy this requirement. As you may recall, we recently testified on our current initiative to redesign and transform the Employment Workshop. As part of the redesign, which is already underway, a comprehensive follow-up program will be implemented to track participants’ success entering the civilian workforce. In particular, participants will receive customized coaching by phone or online for 60 days after they attend the workshop. This will be “live” person-to-person contact and will focus primarily on assisting participants with implementing, “pressure-testing” (i.e., comparing the written plan with the participants’ actual desires), and revising their Individual Transition Plans. The follow-up component will also incorporate peer support techniques. DOL believes that this program may provide the information that the Committee desires, and we would like to work with the Committee to provide additional information on this initiative.
Section 8: Among other things, this section would: 1) establish a competitive grant program for nonprofit organizations that provide mentoring and training to Veterans; 2) require DOL and nonprofit organizations to collaborate in order to facilitate the placement of Veterans in jobs that lead to economic self-sufficiency; 3) require DOL to conduct an assessment of grant performance no later than 18 months after enactment; and 4) authorize appropriations of $4.5 million for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013.
DOL believes that it currently satisfies the intent of this section. We note that this section seems to closely follow the parameters of the existing Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program (VWIP) established under section 168 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The VWIP provides employment and training support, through grants and contracts to service providers, to provide eligible veterans with additional assistance to transition to meaningful employment within the civilian labor force. It is unclear whether the intent of this section differs from the intent of the VWIP. Therefore, we would like to work with the Committee to discuss the potential overlap between this section and the VWIP.
Section 9: Among other things, this section would require DOL, DoD, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct a joint study to identify any equivalences between the skills developed by members of the Armed Forces through various military occupational specialties (MOS) and the qualifications required for various positions of civilian employment in the private sector.
Section 9 seems to duplicate existing processes that provide the capability to crosswalk Service member skills to equivalent civilian occupations. We note that there are several tools that meet the need for skill equivalencies for separating servicemember, such as the Department’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) and DoD’s Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL). In addition, the TAP redesign will include practical exercises to help participants in translate their skills, abilities, experience, and training on to a resume, as well as create an Individual Transition Plan. We would like to work with the Committee to explore ways to strengthen these resources and improve the transition of Veterans into civilian employment.
Section 11: This section would require the Department to conduct outreach and employment assistance to recently-separated Veterans who receive unemployment compensation for more than 105 days.
The Department supports this section, but requests that the time period be changed from 105 days to 15 weeks to coincide with the end of a benefit week for purposes of Unemployment Compensation.
Section 13: This section would reauthorize and modify the demonstration program for credentialing and licensing of Veterans contained in 38 U.S.C. 4114.
DOL supports the concept of this section and believes that credentialing and licensing Veterans will help in transition successfully into the civilian sector. This provision does, however, raise serious implementation issues.
Licensing and credentialing are functions performed most often by individual States, which means that the demonstration project would require DoD to align its military training and assessments to more closely match States’ civilian licensing requirements. We would like to work with the Committee to help resolve these issues so that the credentialing and licensing of Veterans can be more successfully implemented.
We are reminded every day of the tremendous sacrifices made by our Veterans, Servicemembers and their families. Secretary Solis and the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service believe that America must honor those sacrifices by providing the nation’s bravest with the best possible programs and services that we have to offer. We look forward to continuing our work with this Committee to do just that.
I again thank this Committee for its commitment to our nation’s Veterans and for providing the opportunity to testify before you. We would be happy to work with your staffs to provide technical assistance on any of these or future bills, and I would be happy to respond to any questions.