Christina M. Roof, National Acting Legislative Director, American Veterans (AMVETS)
Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley and distinguished Members of the subcommittee, on behalf of AMVETS, I would like to extend our gratitude for being given the opportunity to share with you our views and recommendations regarding the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2012 regarding veterans employment and training services.
AMVETS feels privileged in having been a leader, since 1944, in helping to preserve the freedoms secured by America’s Armed Forces. Today our organization prides itself on the continuation of this tradition, as well as our undaunted dedication to ensuring that every past and present member of the Armed Forces receives all of their due entitlements. These individuals, who have devoted their entire lives to upholding our values and freedoms, deserve nothing less.
By way of background, the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) offers employment and training services to eligible veterans through a non-competitive Jobs for Veterans State Grants Program. Under this grant program, funds are allocated to State Workforce Agencies in direct proportion to the number of veterans seeking employment within their State. These grants support two primary programs and positions, the Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) and the Local Veterans' Employment Representatives (LVER).
The original intent of the DVOP and the DVOP Specialists was to provide intensive services to meet the employment needs of disabled veterans and other eligible veterans, with the maximum emphasis directed toward serving those who are economically or educationally disadvantaged, including homeless veterans, and veterans with barriers to employment. Furthermore, DVOP specialists are required to actively be involved in outreach efforts to increase program participation among veterans with the greatest barriers to employment which may include but should not be limited to: outplacement in Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program offices; VA Medical Centers; routine site visits to Veterans' Service Organization meetings; Native American Trust Territories; Military installations; and, other areas of known concentrations of veterans or transitioning service members. Along this same premise the LVER’s were founded on the principles of having nationwide local representatives conduct outreach to employers and engage in advocacy efforts with hiring executives to increase employment opportunities for disabled veterans and to assist veterans in gaining and retaining employment.
Currently, the law states any contract in the amount of $100,000 or more entered into by any federal department or agency for the procurement of personal property and non-personal services, including construction for the United States government, contains a provision requiring that the party contracting with the United States take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified disabled veterans, veterans who served during an action for which a Campaign Badge was authorized, veterans who received armed Force Service Medal and recently separated veterans. This also applies to any subcontract entered into by a prime contractor in carrying out any contract for the procurement of personal property and non-personal services, including construction for the United States government. Each contractor holding such federal contracts is required to list all of their suitable job openings with the appropriate local service delivery site, such as DVOPS and LVERS, however this does not apply to federal grants or other monies received not as the result of a federal contract. These requirements pertain to job openings that exist at the time of the execution of the contract and those that occur during the performance of the contract.
Furthermore, The Federal Contractor Job Listing Program (FCJLP) requires the listing of job openings with local service delivery sites and consideration of employment service referrals at least concurrently with the use of any other recruitment source, including the employer's own applicant files, and involves the normal obligations which attach to the placing of a bona fide job order, including the acceptance of referrals of veterans and non-veterans. The listing of the opening does not require the hiring of any particular job applicant or any particular group of job applicants. It is the policy of the Employment Security Department (ESD) to develop job opportunities for Veterans and “Other Eligible Persons” through the utilization of the FCJLP. However, due to the lack of oversight and auditing for compliance by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance and Procurement (OFCCP), the ESD is failing to get the DVOP and LVERs the most updated listings of local federal contracts, and thus veterans are missing out on employment opportunities. AMVETS believes the OFCCP needs to be playing a more active role in the oversight of federally awarded contracts to ensure the contractors are actually employing the required number of veterans.
Now, if the DVOP and LVER specialists do receive the FCJLP listings, this is when they are supposed to act. Upon notification of the initial contract award, the LVER or DVOP specialist staff should be immediately scheduling a visit with the employer to explain the veterans’ preference laws, ESD's referral services and to emphasize ESD's willingness to assist them with their efforts. Employer records are set up for each federal contractor upon notification of the contract award. All initial contacts should be recorded on the employer record with the following notation: "Discussed FCJLP." Sadly this is not occurring at the majority of DVOP and LVERs. Problems such as ESD not being able to reliably gain the labor market information to share with the DVOP and LVERs, the inabilities to ESD and the DVOPs and LVERs to access what federal contracts have been awarded in their local areas and the inability to gain access to the VETS-100 listings are proving to be a huge hurdle in finding gainful employment for their veteran clients. It is the belief of AMVETS that the DVOP and LVER specialists have moved from their intended roles of employment specialist to that of simply “people processors” who rarely leave their offices.
The last stage of the specialist in aiding veterans in gaining employment is to make subsequent contacts on an annual basis, at minimum, as long as the employer has a federal contract, either by a personal visit, telephone call or letter. It is the responsibility of each LVER to ensure an accurate and up-to-date master listing of federal contractors is constantly updated, maintained and used by all staff with order-taking responsibilities. AMVETS again questions if this is actually occurring at every DVOP and LVER.
LVER and DVOP funding under 38 U.S.C. Section 4102 (A), Subsection (B) states that the Secretary of Labor shall make available to each State with an application approved by the Secretary an amount of funding in proportion to the number of veterans seeking employment using such criteria as the Secretary may establish in regulation, including civilian labor force and unemployment data, for the State on an annual basis. The proportion of State LVER funding will reflect the ratio of:
- The total numbers of veterans residing in the State that are seeking employment; to
- The total number of veterans seeking employment in all States.
Paragraph 5 of the aforementioned law also calls for the continued monitoring and supervising of the distribution and use of funds provided for use by the States. AMVETS believes that this is not occurring, due to the lack of control DOL VETS is afforded on the federal level.
Furthermore, AMVETS believes that the current metrics used to measure the success and thus the data used to review which locations are meeting their goals are ineffective and misleading.
For example, AMVETS strongly believes the following measurement tools to actually be more detrimental to veterans than they are helpful to identifying successful practices with DVOPs and LVERs:
- Any veteran who simply enters into a DVOP or LVER either for assistance or just information is recorded as a “veteran having received counseling.”
- Any veteran who finds employment without any assistance from the DVOP or LVER is considered a successful placement and is thus reported by the DVOP or LVER as a positive termination.
To stay compliant with the Government Performance and Results Act, DOL VETS must implement stronger oversight and tracking of funds. AMVETS believes that due to the current state of the entire DVOP and LVER system this must occur through the federalization of the programs. Furthermore, AMVETS strongly believes the current DOL Assistant Secretary of the Veteran Employment Training (VETS) program, Mr. Raymond Jefferson, displays the attributes needed to lead this program on the federal level. He displays all of the necessary knowledge, true understanding and drive to see all veterans succeed. However, the VETS Assistant Secretary is currently restricted by current laws and regulations in the amount of oversight they may have and what consequences for non-compliance they can enforce. This is why we believe the federalization of the DVOPs and LVERs is also necessary.
AMVETS strongly believes that as we go into our 10th year of fighting wars on multiple fronts it is of the utmost importance to afford our nation’s returning war fighters every opportunity to receive training and assistance in gaining and sustaining quality employment.
And, while AMVETS applauds the initial and intended functions of both the DVOPs and LVERs, we believe the programs to currently be lacking in oversight and effectiveness. While the mission of VETS is to provide veterans and transitioning servicemembers the resources and services needed to succeed in the workforce and to sustain gainful employment, AMVETS believes that somewhere along the way the programs under VETS have gone astray from their intended purposes. AMVETS is not necessarily placing blame on the entire VETS program and leadership, however someone must be held accountable to protecting the integrity and intended purpose of the DVOP and LVER programs. AMVETS believes if the government continues to provide federal funding there must be centralized federal oversight of the entire DVOP and LVER program on the federal level under DOL VETS. We must start tracking funds and goals in a manner that will provide the most functional way of eliminating waste and improve short falls.
AMVETS makes the following recommendations to the subcommittee in an effort to restore the DVOP and LVER programs to their originally intended and necessary purpose:
- Due to the fact veterans are not currently getting the help we are paying for in the DVOP/LVER program, AMVETS recommends the federalization of the DVOP and LVER requiring all DVOP and LVER personnel be federal employees under the oversight and direct management of the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment & Training. This will provide stronger oversight of performance and distributed/awarded grant money.
- Redefine Entered Employment Rate (EER) and Employment Retention Rate (ERR) for all veterans and have systems in place that will provide the strictest of oversight of the new definitions.
- Funding and grant money should be based on performance. Through this you will reward the program sites meeting the goals and indirectly make the lower performing program locations and specialist work harder in order to meet goals and receive federal funding.
- Higher and measurable performance metrics must be set which will quantify the effectiveness of services provided to veterans by the complement of Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists and Local Veterans’ Employment Representative (LVER) staff in each State and such funding should be based around these measurable performance levels.
- Strict enforcement of mandated performance standards as set forth by 38 U.S.C., § 4102A, as well as regular unscheduled visits and program audits to determine the strengths and weaknesses at every location. AMVETS believes this will ensure equal access to quality programs and staff, regardless of where they reside within the United States. Furthermore, we believe these type of internal and external review audits will prove to be the most fiscally responsible way of eliminating waste, identifying duplication of effort and identify personnel not performing their job as mandated by the programs. But more importantly, these easily achievable and functional reviews will identify what is working and what is producing the most successful results. This is what we are striving for, identifying best practices that are providing measurable results and improving the quality of life of all the veterans they serve.
- DVOPs and LVERs should be federalized, even if only temporarily, to provide the much needed oversight required to identify weaknesses, strengths, waste and duplications of efforts.
In closing, I want to make it clear that AMVETS is in no way recommending that the DVOP and LVER funding or grants be cut, rather we believe a more fiscally responsible program should be based on performance and meeting the goals outlined by DOL VETS. AMVETS believes this will motivate individual DVOPs and LVERs to work harder in meeting the needs of any veteran reaching out to them for help and guidance. We must work together in developing a new centralized federal oversight office, such as DOL VETS Raymond Jefferson, to be able to track every dollar of every grant awarded to ensure the money is in fact being used only on staff and programs directly relating to a functioning DVOP or LVER. AMVETS is not questioning any of the States ethics on how the awarded funds were spent, however we believe in order to bring the DVOP and LVER programs back up to par we need a dedicated location and staff to the oversight of not only the correct use of funds, but more importantly, that every veteran reaching out for assistance to a DVOP or LVER is receiving nothing but the best services and training we have to offer them.
Chairman Stutzman and distinguished members of the subcommittee, this concludes my testimony and I will address any questions you may have for me. Thank you.
SAMPLE LVER REPORT TO ADMINISTRATOR
LOCAL VETERANS’ EMPLOYMENT REPRESENTATIVE’S
REPORT TO THE ADMINISTRATOR
Service Delivery Site: ____________________________
Date Submitted: ________________________________
Quarterly Report: _______________________________
The following report is submitted on a fiscal year quarterly basis as required by the DOL Funding Agreement for the Local Veterans' Employment Representative (LVER) regarding compliance with Veterans’ Performance Standards, Prototype Standards, and Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) activities.
Veterans’ Performance Standards
- Problem Areas:
- Corrective Action
- Problem Areas:
- Corrective Action
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) (Note: All data provided must reflect current Fiscal Year (FY) quarterly, cumulative activities).
Referred from VA VR&E: Those VR&E clients determined to be job ready and referred each quarter by VA VR&E for registration with the local service delivery site for placement purposes: _________ (Data Source: VA VR&E).
Registered: The number of job ready VR&E clients referred from VA VR&E and registered each quarter with the local service delivery site for placement purposes: _________ (Data Source: local service delivery sites.
Registered carry-over from previous FY: Registered VR&E clients being case managed who are "carried over" from the previous FY. (First quarter entry only): __________.
NOTE: The following report categories are based on the VR&E clients being registered with the local service delivery sites for employment services.
Entered Employment: The number of above VR&E clients who have registered with the local service delivery site and entered employment each quarter through job placement or obtained employment _____________ (Data Source: local service delivery sites).
Discontinued: (For the purpose of this report) identifies those referred and registered VR&E clients who are no longer actively seeking employment through the local service delivery site __________ (Data Source: VA VR&E).
NOTE: Status Determination is made by the local VR&E officer after notification from the local service delivery site of those veterans who have registered with the site, but are no longer seeking employment services.
Average Entry Hourly Wage: Of the total number of VR&E clients who entered employment during the current Quarter: $__________ per __________ (Data Source: local service delivery site)
NOTE: Average entry wage information is being compiled as baseline data for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS’) strategic planning purposes and to demonstrate program effectiveness in accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1994.
Additional Comments or Success Stories:
LVER Signature: _______________________________