On June 26, 2013, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing to review new legislation. Representative Bill Flores (R-TX) Chairs the Subcommittee and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) serves as Ranking Minority Member.
Chairman Flores sponsored one bill that was considered in the hearing. His bill, H.R. 2481, is intended to address a problem veterans have had when applying for educational benefits. Chairman Flores explained that he introduced this bill in response to suggestions from the VA’s Atlanta Regional Procession Office staff. They noted that mistakes on the application for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits cause significant delays in processing original claims. He said that some veterans are applying for programs that they are not entitled to, or they choose older programs instead of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. His bill would have VA review an application and if it is obvious the veteran made what appears to be a bad choice, the VA would choose the best program and contact the veteran to explain their choice. The veteran would ultimately have the opportunity to reject VA’s recommendation.
The first panel to testify included various House members that have introduced legislation to address veterans’ education or employment issues. The panel consisted of Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). Also attending the hearing was full House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) who was called upon first to discuss the bill that he introduced, H.R. 2327, the “Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration Act of 2013.” His bill would elevate the responsibility for veteran economic success in VA to the level of a presidentially-appointed VA Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity. This new position would be equal in scope of responsibility to the current Under Secretary for Veterans Benefits. This concept is similar to a recommendation from The Independent Budget for FY 2014 that would combine all employment and education programs, including the Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) into a new program. Unfortunately, this legislation does not include moving the VETS program into the VA.
The Subcommittee also considered H.R. 1796, “The Troop Talent Act of 2013,” sponsored by Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Representative Duckworth is a War-on-Terror veteran and a double amputee that previously served as an Assistant Secretary in the VA. Her bill would help veterans and servicemembers alike in their private-sector job searches. The bill would help them obtain civilian licenses and certifications from training and experience received in the military. In the past, the barrier for this process has been standards of recognition in a career field that are administered at the state level which does not understand military skills. Through the “Troop Talent Act,” more military personnel will have access to civilian credentialing opportunities while on active duty. It allows service members to use educational assistance benefits to pursue civilian licenses and credentials from the jurisdiction or state of their choice.
Of the numerous bills discussed at the hearing, Paralyzed Veterans of America does not oppose any of the bills that were considered. Paralyzed Veterans continues to support the efforts of this subcommittee as they try to help those that have served in the military make the difficult adjustment back to civilian life. Chairman Flores indicated that he hopes to have each of these bills scheduled for a mark-up before the summer recess in August.
Learn more about the work of Paralyzed Veterans of America on Capitol Hill