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Tom Tarantino, Senior Legislative Associate, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Mister Chairman, Ranking Member, and members of the committee, on behalf of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s 200,000 Member Veterans and supporters, thank you for allowing me to submit testimony sharing our members’ views of on these important issues. 

My name is Tom Tarantino and I am the Senior Legislative Associate with IAVA.  I proudly served 10 years in the Army beginning my career as an enlisted Reservist, and leaving service as an Active-Duty Cavalry Officer.  Throughout these 10 years, my single most important duty was to take care of other soldiers.  In the military they teach us to have each other’s backs.  And although my uniform is now a suit and tie, I am proud to work with this Congress to continue to have the backs of America’s service members and veterans.

IAVA would like to thank this committee for its work on veteran unemployment, and would like to offer our comments on several of the bills that the Committee is currently considering.

Bill #




H.R. 2433

Veterans Opportunity to Work Act



H.R. 1941

Hiring Heroes Act of 2011



H.R. 169

Publicizing VetSuccess Program



H.R. 2433

IAVA is proud to endorse H.R. 2433. The most pressing concern for new veterans in 2011 is unemployment. With 13.3  percent unemployment for veterans in June 2011 and a rate of 12.3  percent for the year overall, unemployment is one of the single greatest challenges faced by veterans. Even though employment is a concern for every American in the current economic environment, the average unemployment rate for veterans is 25 percent higher than the rate for civilians. IAVA supports H.R. 2433, the Veteran Opportunity to Work Act of 2011, because of the significant steps it takes to help increase veteran employment.

The first step towards a successful transition to the civilian work force is a successful Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  Building on the reforms underway at the Department of Labor (DoL), H.R. 2433 makes TAP mandatory for all separating service members. Additionally, this bill wisely requires that DoL collect metrics on the effectiveness of the program.

Additionally, in order to help a veteran transition from the military to the civilian workforce, we must know how their skills translate in to the civilian market. H.R. 2433 addresses this head on by studying how 10 high density Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) can translate into licenses and certifications in the civilian market.  Requiring the DoL to contract with an organization of State Governors as well as private industry leaders to conduct this study will put decision makers and experts in front of this problem and promises to yield results where we have failed in the past. Hopefully, this effort will be the beginning of programs that allow military veterans to use the skills, training, and experience acquired through military service in civilian certification processes.

Throughout H.R. 2433, there are provisions that also collect metrics and enhance performance standards.  This is a necessary component to establish not just historical perspective or current performance of any program, but to determine the most effective course of action in the future.

IAVA is pleased to support this bill.  We thank Chairman Miller for his leadership and applaud the work of the committee and their staff as a whole to address the problem of veteran unemployment in strong and creative ways.

H.R. 1941 Hiring Heroes Act of 2011

IAVA is pleased to support H.R. 1941, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011. H.R. 1941 is a robust bill that contains provisions that utilize the combined resources of the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Labor (DoL) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to combat this problem.

An essential first step is ensuring that all transitioning servicemembers attend a Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Nearly 20  percent of all separating service members fail to attend a TAP class. TAP classes provide important information of job search skills and strategies as well as veteran benefits. Requiring TAP for all separating service members will mean that veterans are made aware of VA programs for educational assistance or vocational training as well as transitional medical benefits that will help ease their transition to the civilian world. While requiring TAP attendance will not be the panacea to veteran unemployment, it will provide a baseline of knowledge for separating service members and guarantee that they have at least a general exposure to the full range of benefits to which they are entitled. It is a low cost and effective first step toward a solution.

Understanding how military jobs, billets, and certifications translate into the civilian market and then directly translating military credentials and licenses into those used by civilian employers are necessary steps in reducing veteran unemployment. Military skills and experience in skilled occupations from air traffic controller to operating room specialist to jet pilot are often lost when service members become civilians. Because military training and experience is not necessarily recognized for civilian licensure, barriers to entry into analogous civilian jobs in the form of costs for required (often duplicative) education and time to achieve requirements are high and those skills are lost. H.R. 1941 recognizes this loss to society and our economy and seeks to prevent it by establishing civilian equivalency for military jobs. This is a wise and frugal investment; the expense to train has already been borne by the military. It is a far costlier choice to allow service members’ skills to disappear.

Other aspects of H.R. 1941 are important in easing the transition from military to civilian employment and will, we believe, lessen the staggering 13.3  percent veteran unemployment rate posted for June of 2011. The ability to allow direct appointments into civil service jobs and establishing a pilot program to allow the DoD to place service members 180 days from discharge into DoD civilian jobs or jobs with DoD contractors while on terminal leave are two forward thinking ideas that represent “out of the box” solutions that will help ease veteran unemployment at low-to-no extra cost to the taxpayer.

H.R. 169 Publicizing VetSuccess

IAVA supports H.R. 169. The VetSuccess Program is an excellent resource that offers a centralized location to find answers to common questions about VA resources for employment, education, healthcare and more. However, no matter how well resourced or executed a program is, if the population it serves is unaware that it exists, the program will not be successful. One of the most common criticisms of benefits programs is that veterans do not know the benefits exist. If we are to ensure that the VetSuccess program is successful, the least we can do is to prominently display it on the VA website (where many veterans initially begin searching).

For example, one of the most valuable steps a veteran can take to be successful in the job market is to earn a college degree. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has already opened the doors to success for thousands of veterans across the country that would have otherwise been out of reach. VetSuccess on Campus, the VA program that places VA personnel dedicated to educational benefit counseling on college campuses and helps mitigate the challenges faced by transitioning veterans, could play a crucial role in ensuring that student veterans receive their benefits in a timely and uncomplicated fashion without their academic success being jeopardized by benefit complications. It could also ensure that educational institutions are informed and educated on the procedures and terms of the GI Bill, and that the VA is not burdened with erroneous or unnecessary certifications and paperwork. However, we have found that many veterans do not know that the resources exist to help them navigate the labyrinthine processes they encounter.

This is a perfect example of the benefit of H.R. 169. Publicizing the resources available before a veteran begins the journey through the bureaucratic maze will help ensure faster access to benefits for the veteran and less extra, and often unnecessary, work for program administrators. H.R. 169 will help ensure the success of VetSuccess by the simplest of means.