Good Afternoon, Madam Chair, Ranking Member Boozman, and other members of the subcommittee. As many of you know, my time of service was many years ago, as a Vietnam Era veteran of the US Air Force with the 66th Strategic Missile Squadron. I still have very vivid memories of that military experience. Over the past 20 years, I have served veterans in a number of capacities: I’m a lifetime member and Legislative Representative of the National Association for Black Veterans, Senior Advisor to the Vietnam Veterans of America, President of the Veterans Enterprise Training & Services Group (VETS Group) and Treasurer for the Veterans Entrepreneurship Task Force (VET-Force).
The Veterans Entrepreneurship Task Force (VET-Force), which is composed of over 200 organizations and affiliates representing thousands of veterans throughout the United States; a high percentage of which, are small businesses; who have made it their mission to monitor the implementation of the programs, agencies, and organizations referenced under the law and to present a strong unified veterans’ voice for virtually all of the major veterans groups, as well as, veteran entrepreneurs; and to advocate for opportunities for veterans, particularly disabled veterans, seeking assistance to succeed in small business and self-employment.
On behalf of the Veterans Entrepreneurship Task Force (VET-Force) and all of our officers and members we thank you for the opportunity to appear here today to share our views on the status of ”Federal Contractor Compliance.” I ask that you enter our full statement in the record, and I will briefly summarize the most important points of our statement.
This topic of Federal Contractor Compliance is of extreme importance today and for the foreseeable future because it has to do with good paying jobs for returning veterans as well as mid-life veterans who are displaced and in need of new employment opportunities. America’s veterans are eternally grateful to the United States Congress for providing veterans affirmative action in hiring and promotion with Federal contractors with significant Federal contracts. In the forty years that this measure has been in existence, hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families from Maine to Hawaii have maintained solid middle class livings because of the jobs they found through this provision.
For years, the Veterans Service Organization (VSO) community has maintained a very close working relationship with the Local Veteran Employment Representatives and Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialists of the local One Stops or as we refer to them LVERs and DVOPs. We stay in close contact and on the local and state levels count ourselves as their strongest supporters. We have been for years and we will be forever. These men and women have a dedication to veterans that is admirable. They are on the front line and we listen carefully to what local LVERs and DVOPs have to say.
The loudest complaints we have heard over the years from LVERs and DVOPs in every part of the country are in regards to the Federal contractor program. For years, they have complained that businesses that are not in compliance do not receive sanctions. The VSO community has long stood together in seeking severe consequence for businesses that are out of Federal contract compliance and the terms of the Jobs for Veterans Act that are in every Federal contract issued. The LVERs and DVOPs complained quite loudly when the Veterans Employment and Training Service cut off LVER/DVOP access to the names of new Federal contractors in early 2003; six months after the passage of the Jobs for Veterans Act of 2002.
Access to the historical records of the Vets-100 is a far cry from knowing when a local business has been awarded a contract and is ready to hire. They are of little practical use to the LVER/DVOP community in the local One Stop. The VETS 100 might serve a purpose in the Department of Labor in Washington DC, but it serves no purpose for veteran’s staff working in the local One Stop in Aberdeen, South Dakota or Fort Smith, Arkansas, Danville, Virginia, Marlton, New Jersey, Hays, Kansas, Plant City, Florida, Casa Grande, Arizona, or Hobbs, New Mexico.
With a few mandated changes, the VETS- 100 submission process could serve a very meaningful purpose for the veterans in these smaller cities and many, many others across the country. By far, the most helpful change would be a discontinuation of the practice of employers simply electronically submitting the VETS-100 form. Electronic submission of a local compliance form that does not contain enough useful information subverts the local nature of employment and training and severely undercuts the staff One Stops of Aberdeen, Fort Smith, Danville, Marlton, Hays, Plant City, Casa Grande and Hobbs who dearly desire direct employer contact.
They want to get to know their local Federal contractors who are supposed to offer affirmative action to their clients. Requiring a LVER signature on the Vets100 form would accomplish just that as well as satisfy the OFCCP affirmative action outreach requirements in the process.
OFCCP also requires that every business of over fifty employees have an appointed veteran’s affirmative action person. Their name, signature and contact information should be required on the new VETS 100 form. This establishes a meaningful link between LVERs and each and every Federal contractor without having the LVER ever leave his/her One Stop. In the Jobs for Veterans Act, Congress gave the LVER mandated employer relations responsibilities. Requiring a LVER signature on the VETS-100 is the most cost effective way of interacting with local employers likely to hire veterans.
Subcontractors are also required to abide by the terms of the Jobs for Veterans Act in terms of affirmative action in hiring and promotion. There currently is no way for LVERs/DVOPs to identify local subcontractors or out of area businesses doing subcontract work locally. These represent significant opportunities lost for local veterans in need. The only way to identify these subcontractors is to require contractors submitting the required VETS 100 to identify their subcontractors and where the work is being performed. Compliance with the terms of the Jobs for Veterans Act requires notifying subcontractors of their responsibilities under the act. Businesses know who their subcontractors are. It is not at all unreasonable to require businesses to prove they have complied with the terms of their contract by providing this information.
Local LVERS and DVOPs across the nation have access to job openings placed by Federal contractors in Direct Employers’ Vets Central website. They have access to a monthly updated list of Federal contractors provided by a small Vermont software company, Hoover & Johnson. What they lack is any connection between the two. The connection they need to ascertain whether or not businesses are complying with the law.
The Veterans Employment and Training Service of DOL has been a sideline player. At the least, they should be coordinating the existing efforts of Vets Central and Hoover & Johnson. Their active cooperation would make it possible for both to connect with the Central Contract Registry (CCR) so that every job listing and every new contractor name and address has a contract contact name with telephone number.
Only the Veterans Employment and Training Service can make this possible. Only they can actively support the hard working vet staff of South Dakota, Arkansas, Virginia New Jersey, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and every other state by providing the job development tools that local One Stop staffs need to put qualified veterans in contact with local businesses who have the obligation to provide affirmative action in hiring. The Veterans Employment and Training Service needs to step up to the plate.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance needs to do so as well. The message needs to get out that there are consequences to non-compliance. We realize that it is very difficult to adequately monitor 70,000 plus contractors across the country. It would certainly be far easier for OFCCP were each and every business involved required to actually meet face to face with a local LVER to submit their required VETS 100 form. The local LVERs would be their eyes and ears on the ground.
The Director of OFCCP should require that each Federal Contractor’s Veteran’s Affirmative Action Person make a monthly contact with the LVER providing updated information on employment positions open within their company and with any of their qualified subcontractors. The LVER should in turn be required to ensure that such information is forwarded to any Local Veterans Groups or Veteran Service Centers that are actively engaged in assisting veterans with employment; particularly those groups who have received DOL grants under the VWIP, HVRP, Women Veterans, and Incarcerated Veterans Programs.
It all starts with the Veterans Employment and Training Service stepping up to the plate integrating and coordinating the existing efforts including the work of OFCCP, Hoover & Johnson and Vets Central and making the needed changes to the VETS 100. The pieces are there, they need to mesh for things to work. Local veterans across the country deserve to share the benefits of having a leg up in hiring and promotion in businesses that profit from government business. That only becomes a reality when the program that surrounds the listing is working in a cohesive manner
Thank you very much for offering me the opportunity to address you on behalf of America’s community of veterans.
This concludes my statement.