STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON BENEFITS
September 27, 2000
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, we appreciate the opportunity to submit our views for the record on the joint efforts of government, business, industry and private entities to assist service members and veterans in the military skills documentation and civilian conversion process. In particular, we will outline the ongoing efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs Education Service and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service to prepare veterans for certification and licensure necessary for entrance into a skilled occupation.
Assistance Under the Montgomery G.I. Bill
As we indicated in our previous testimony on this subject in September of 1999, one of the three principal forms of credentialing as indicated in the Report of the Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance is through apprenticeship and other on-job training (OJT). Veterans can use the Montgomery G.I. Bill to achieve either apprenticeship or OJT credentialing. We are partnering with the Veterans Employment and Training Service within the Department of Labor (DOL) to set up a joint working group to cooperate more closely at the State level. Although now in the planning stage, when established, the working group will be composed of VA, DOL, and State Approving Agency (SAA) employees. Its purpose will be to foster closer cooperation among the three agencies in the establishment of on-job training and apprenticeship programs at the local level. We believe a much more streamlined approval process will result.
We have approved Federal, State and local apprenticeship/OJT programs for VA training. For example, we have been working recently with the Bureau of Prisons, within the Department of Justice, to set up an on-job training program for the position of federal corrections officer which can be applied to all of these positions in the Federal Prisons system. While this type of position has been approved before, it has always been on a prison-by-prison basis. Once we have produced a standardized approval for the entire country, a considerable amount of time will be save in the approval process.
Progress is being made in increasing the number of veterans who are approved for OJT and apprenticeship programs. There were 10,810 veterans in apprenticeship/OJT programs under the MGIB and the Post-Vietnam Era Veterans' Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) in Fiscal Year 1998. In FY 1999 the number grew to 12,118 -- an increase of 12.1 percent. In large part, we credit the efforts of the SAAs for this increase. They have worked closely with private industry and state and local governments to encourage placement of veterans in apprenticeship and on-job training programs. Many of the positions at the local government level are in law enforcement and safety.
We note that Section 7 of S. 1402, the Veterans and Dependents Millennium Education Act, as passed by the House of Representatives, would allow benefits under the Montgomery G.I. Bill, VEAP, and the Dependents Educational Assistance program to be used to pay for licensing or certification tests, up to $2,000. This legislation would broaden the scope of our activities in the area of certification and licensure and would ease the transition of service members from the military to the civilian workforce. The Administration's MGIB bill, "the enhanced veterans' education benefits act of 2000," contains a similar proposal.
Assistance Under the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program
For service-disabled veterans who participate in VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program under chapter 31 of Title 38, United States Code, placement in an OJT or apprenticeship program often is a training option. VR&E evaluates each veteran entering its program and determines whether the veteran is a viable candidate for placement in an OJT or apprenticeship program, based on the veteran's interests, aptitude, and residual capacity. During this period, 275 veterans participated in OJT and 95 veterans were enrolled in an apprenticeship. VR&E continues with its efforts to publicize its mission to employers with the intention that more employers will want to partner with us in offering more disabled veterans opportunities in employment.
On June 21, 2000, members of our Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, Education Service, and Veterans Health Service actively participated on a panel for the conference Transition Assistance: The Role of Certification. We are confident that by participation in similar conferences and workshops which bring together representatives from a wide variety of organizations interested in veterans' employment and credentialing, we can jointly facilitate veterans' entrance into the workforce and employment success.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes our testimony for the record.