HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
JULY 29, 2010
STATEMENT OF MARGARITA COCKER
DEPUTY DIRECTOR, VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION AND EMPLOYMENT SERVICE,
VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
July 29, 2010
Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Boozman, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss how VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program helps Servicemembers apply their Military Occupational Specialties to employment in the civilian sector. VR&E strives to insure a seamless transition for Servicemembers and Veterans through outreach and early intervention. VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and Employment Coordinators leverage Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ transferrable skills whenever possible, while keeping the focus on individuals’ current level of abilities and aptitudes, as well as their future career potential. VA greatly appreciates the opportunity to discuss this important topic.
Overview of Veterans Employment Services
VR&E’s primary mission is to assist Servicemembers and Veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, and obtain, meaningful and sustainable employment through the provision of robust services individually tailored to each individual’s needs. Services are provided at our 57 Regional Office locations and over 100 out-based VR&E locations. VR&E services begin with comprehensive evaluations to help Servicemembers and Veterans understand their interests, aptitudes, and transferable skills. Next, our vocational exploration phase focuses their potential career goals based on labor-market demands and market requirements. This process helps each Veteran or Servicemember make informed choices and participate in the development of a rehabilitation plan that, to the maximum extent possible, builds upon his or her transferable skills toward an ultimate career goal. To help these individuals achieve their rehabilitation goals, VR&E may provide a broad range of employment services such as:
Translation of military experience to civilian skill sets using industry standard Transferrable Skills Assessments (TSA);
Short-term training geared to augment existing skills that increase employability, such as certification preparation tests and sponsorship of certification;
Long-term training, including on-the-job training, apprenticeship training, and college-level training, or services that support self-employment; and
Direct job-placement services, including resume development, job–seeking-skills training, and post-placement follow-up services.
Licensing and Credentialing
Licensing and credentialing assistance is provided, as needed, to facilitate employment in the particular individual’s specific occupation. For example, many information-technology jobs require certification, while nursing and mental-health counseling fields require licensure. For Veterans and Servicemembers with more severe injuries and barriers to employment, additional leading-edge certifications can also be provided to make them more competitive. The goal of each VR&E rehabilitation plan is to maximize the individual’s transferable skills; match his or her interests and skill sets with labor-market demands; ensure compatibility of the job with existing disability issues, using adaptive technology whenever possible; and help the Veteran or Servicemember enter the job market at a level on par with his or her peer group and into a career position in which he or she can thrive - even if his or her disability should worsen.
I would like to emphasize the importance of transferable-skills assessments and corresponding licensure or credentialing. During the vocational exploration phase, VR&E counselors identify Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ military and civilian transferrable skills and discuss these skills with them. The VR&E program conducts thorough assessments of Veterans’ interests, aptitudes, and abilities, and then provides necessary services to ensure that exiting Servicemembers and Veterans are able to compete for and achieve the highest level of civilian employment for which they qualify. VR&E counselors help individuals capitalize on their transferrable skills when developing plans for future civilian career goals, while also insuring that interests, abilities, and aptitudes are matched up to these goals. Once Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ career goals are identified, VR&E tailors individualized and comprehensive services to ensure employability in their chosen career fields, including proper credentialing, education, and licensing. This focus on basing the next career step on transferable skills enables these individuals to maximize their existing skills and ultimately obtain careers at a more advanced level.
The challenges our disabled Servicemembers and Veterans face while in transition are an urgent priority for VR&E and VA. Building upon the excellent skills obtained in the military makes these individuals more marketable, and assists them in qualifying for more technical and advanced career opportunities. VR&E focuses on enhancing preexisting certifiable and or licensed skills attained during Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ military experience, thus maximizing the investment in training they have made during their service on active duty.
Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other Members of the Subcommittee may have.