On September 12, 2013, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing to review the current status of two major programs meant to assist veterans gain employment. The Subcommittee discussed the performance of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP). Witnesses invited to testify included Curtis Coy, Deputy Secretary for Economic Opportunity, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Keith Kelly, Assistant Secretary of Veterans Employment and Training (VETS) at the Department of Labor (DOL).
Both witnesses gave a summary of their implementation of the Veterans’ Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) which became law in November 2011. This program provides retraining assistance targeted at veterans age 35 to 60 years old. Statistics show this group has an unemployment rate much higher than average. The program provides up to 24 months of training for qualified veterans to be used at a two-year college or a community college. Congress originally provided funding for 100,000 veterans to use the program. At this time, a total of 138,000 veterans have applied for the program with 64,000 receiving training. Others are waiting for the application process or have received a certificate of eligibility and have not used the program. The goal was to provide job retraining in a new employment field with future demand.
Chairman Bill Flores (R-TX) asked both agencies to explain any positive results they have observed from this program. Congress is currently considering extending the time frame of the program and having positive results would increase the likelihood of receiving an extension. Unfortunately, neither agency could provide numbers to quantify success from the program at this time. VETS is currently working on the IT programs to implement that could follow up with the veterans that have completed a training program. By the end of this year, they expect to have results to report back to Congress.
The other program discussed was the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program which is administered by VETS. The HVRP provides employment-focused and support services to assist homeless veterans attain meaningful employment. VETS reported that from July 2011 to March 2013 the HVRP program enrolled 16,412 participants and 10,744 were placed into employment (66 percent). All of the assistance from this program is administered through grants. These grants are awarded through a bid process with local government agencies, non-profit agencies, for-profit agencies, and community-based agencies applying to participate. The HVRP is the only nationwide federal program that exclusively focuses on helping homeless veterans to reintegrate into the workplace. Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists and Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVERs) also support the grantee with employment assistance and follow up with the newly employed veteran. PVA has argued in the past that the HVRP is one of the most cost-effective, cost-efficient programs in the federal government given the number of veterans it serves and the very limited budget it receives.
Members of the Subcommittee seemed to be satisfied that positive outcomes have been achieved as a result of these programs. The Subcommittee will continue to track the progress and success of these two programs.
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