NASWA welcomes the opportunity to submit testimony regarding performance of employment and training services for veterans. Our underlying goals for veterans’ services at NASWA are to work to improve program performance by: building on our partnership with USDOL-VETS; improving the productivity of state’s DVOP and LVER staff; promoting flexible service delivery options for states; and seeking appropriations needed to serve veterans from ongoing conflicts. We respectfully submit the following statement regarding services for this most deserving population.
Summary of NASWA Views
NASWA and USDOL-VETS Partnership
- NASWA and USDOL-VETS continue a strong partnership to improve service for veterans and most recently collaborated on an annual conference focused on service for veterans. NASWA and the National Governors’ Association (NGA) are honored to serve as members of the Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach working with USDOL-VETS on improving services.
Performance in Serving Veterans
- Established performance standards for veterans’ employment services have been met and continue to improve. NASWA supports highly productive DVOP and LVER staff and the training they receive at National Veterans Training Institute.
Part-Time DVOPs and LVERs Work for Veterans
- The ability to hire or assign part-time DVOPs (per P.L. 107-288) has greatly benefited veterans by allowing states to stretch their limited budgets to more offices, covering larger areas and ultimately serving more veterans. The authority to hire half-time DVOPs or LVERS is especially important in serving veterans in small population, large geographical states.
Appropriations for VETS’ Programs Should Reflect Demand
- Congress should appropriate an additional amount for the DVOP and LVER programs proportionate to the increase in the number of veterans requiring service upon return from ongoing conflicts and to adjust for inflationary pressures.
Chairman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, and Members of the Subcommittee, on behalf of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA), I thank you for the opportunity to share states’ perspectives on the value of employment and training services for our nation’s veterans. Our foremost goal is to serve and help veterans. To achieve this, we continue to: build on our partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS); improve the productivity of our Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) and the Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVER) staff; promote flexible service delivery options for states; and seek appropriations needed to serve veterans returning from ongoing conflicts.
The members of our Association constitute the state leaders of the publicly-funded workforce investment system vital to meeting the employment needs of veterans through the DVOP and LVER programs. The mission of NASWA is to serve as an advocate for state workforce programs and policies, a liaison to federal workforce system partners, and a forum for the exchange of information and practices. Since 1973, NASWA has been a private, non-profit corporation, financed by annual dues from member state agencies.
Our members are committed to providing the highest quality of service to our nation’s veterans, National Guard members and Reservists. We are focused on our highest priority, serving recently separated veterans and disabled veterans. With the ongoing war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a critical time to ensure high quality workforce services are available for those who served our country in time of war.
NASWA and USDOL-VETS Partnership
NASWA and the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) have built a strong partnership founded on the common goal of improving services for veterans. Most recently, NASWA worked with USDOL-VETS to focus its annual conference on service to veterans including workshops on priority of service for veterans, assisting veterans’ transition to civilian employment and partnering with veterans service organizations. NASWA is looking forward to working with USDOL-VETS in the development of regulations to clarify implementation of veterans’ priority of service in the workforce system. NASWA and the National Governors’ Association (NGA) are honored to serve as members of the Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach working with USDOL-VETS on improving services.
For the latest available data on performance covering Program Year 2005 (July 1, 2005-June 30, 2006), each target was reached and in most cases exceeded. The percent of veteran job seekers employed in the first or second quarter following registration increased by two percentage points to 62 percent in program year 2005, exceeding the target by three percentage points. The percent of veteran job seekers still employed two quarters after initial entry into employment with a new employer remained steady at 81 percent, matching the established target. The percent of disabled veteran job seekers employed in the first or second quarter following registration increased by one percentage point to 57 percent, two percentage points above the target. The percent of disabled veteran job seekers still employed two quarters after initial entry into employment with a new employer increased to 80 percent, up one percentage point from program year 2004 and the program year 2005 target.
NASWA is committed to improving service for veterans by strengthening the productivity of DVOP and LVER staff. The Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-461) directs the Secretary of Labor to establish and maintain guidelines for use by states in establishing the professional qualifications for the DVOP and LVER positions. NASWA supports this approach to give states the latitude under guidelines to establish their own qualifications and hiring standards. The establishment of guidelines would ensure states’ DVOP and LVER representatives are properly skilled while enabling them to function within each state’s structure.
NASWA supports the recently approved requirement that all DVOPs and LVERs attend training at the National Veterans Training Institute (NVTI) within three years of being designated as a DVOP or LVER. NVTI is an invaluable resource to provide such professional development for DVOPs and LVERs. NVTI estimates an additional $1 million per year is required to fulfill the requirement to train all DVOPs and LVERs in the core courses as required. NASWA supports additional appropriation at a level sufficient for NVTI training to meet the requirements to provide training for all DVOPs and LVERs as soon as possible after their hire date.
Part-Time DVOPs and LVERs Work for Veterans
The Jobs for Veterans Act (P.L. 107-288) provides greater flexibility for the VETS, states, and the DVOP and LVER staff in serving veterans. The ability to hire or assign part-time DVOPs has greatly benefited states by allowing them to stretch their limited resources to more offices, covering larger areas and ultimately serving more veterans. The clarification of the definition of part-time DVOPs and LVERs with enactment of the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 to ensure they serve veterans no less than half-time is beneficial in ensuring veterans are the top priority.
Flexibility in assigning DVOP and LVER staff allows states to tailor programs to meet the unique needs in each state and local area, while instituting standards to ensure consistently high quality programs are available to veterans across the nation. The ability to hire or assign DVOP or LVER staff for half-time positions is especially valuable in small population, large geographic states. This allows veteran specialists to be assigned to more offices and reduces the amount of time required for travel in covering a large geographic area.
NASWA recommends that any future legislation preserve the states’ flexibility, as provided under JVA, to determine how best to integrate LVER and DVOP programs into state employment service delivery systems.
VETS’ Program Appropriations
States believe a reduction to the annual grant for any reason will impact the level of quality service for veterans negatively. Annual appropriation levels for the DVOP and LVER programs are inadequate. The DVOP and LVER programs should be authorized to spend annual grants for multiple years rather than a single year to allow long-term planning for managing and staffing the programs. The funding cycle should be changed to a program year to enable continuity in planning services for veterans and to be consistent with other workforce development programs, including the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
Maintaining high levels of performance in serving our veterans is a shared function of states and USDOL-VETS. States and USDOL-VETS negotiate performance standards and work together to meet them. A judgment made to reduce funding as a result of performance would make the states’ goal of improving performance more challenging and penalize the veteran population. Should a state be in danger of not meeting performance measures, technical assistance should be provided by VETS to assist in correcting any deficiencies. Maintaining high levels of performance is the top priority of every state.
State allocations under the DVOP and LVER programs have increased by approximately $3.9 million in eight years. This amount represents on average only about a one year’s increase due to inflation. Congress should appropriate an additional amount for the DVOP and LVER programs proportionate to the increase in the number of veterans requiring service upon return from ongoing conflicts and to inflation every year. Further, the veteran’s workforce investment program (VWIP), the program dedicated to training for veterans, has been flat-funded for over 5 years. Last year’s VWIP appropriation of only $7.5 million serves limited areas in only 12 states.
State allocations are based on the state’s population of veterans seeking employment in the state. Though small state veterans populations may not be as large as large population states, small states must make the same accommodations to serve veterans throughout a large and diverse area. Inevitably small population states require additional funds throughout the year to maintain the service levels established in their annual plans. NASWA appreciates the availability of contingency funding, including exigency and 5th quarter funding, but believe veterans would be better served if adequate allocations are provided at the beginning of a funding cycle. NASWA recognizes the large number of veterans in heavily populated states requires a commensurate number of workforce system staff to provide high quality services. NASWA supports minimum funding levels adequate for small states to ensure they can maintain high quality services too. Ultimately, an increase in Congressional appropriation for the DVOP and LVER programs would help to alleviate this issue.
The Jobs for Veterans Act (JVA) requires states to submit to the Secretary of Labor, “a plan that describes the manner in which states shall furnish employment, training, and placement services required under this chapter for the program year.” NASWA members believe the annual plan required by the Jobs for Veterans Act will be greatly improved by moving the funding for these programs from a fiscal year to a program year funding cycle.
By transitioning funding to a program year (July 1 to June 30) and aligning it with most other employment and training programs, the plans state workforce agencies submit to USDOL Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) will reflect future program year services based on actual outlays. Funding on a program year supports integrating VETS-funded programs into WIA one-stop career center systems and planning and performing on the same cycle as other one-stop partners.
Thank you for the opportunity to address these important issues.