A bill aimed “to get more of our veterans back to work” has been identified to reverse veteran unemployment trends.
Two proposals to improve veteran unemployment are currently in discussion within the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The first would radically transition resources from the Department of Labor. The second is geared to provide civilian services for transitioning military members in states with veteran employment problems.
One key lawmaker supports removing Labor Department’s role in veteran employment and rehabilitation. The bill will “increase coordination between the various education, rehabilitation and employment programs whose goals are to enable veterans to compete in the workforce,” according to Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller.
By eliminating VETS, the Labor Department program, the House Committee would consolidate funds and resources under the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). Currently, the program has an annual budget of $261 million and employs about 250 federal workers. The proposed change has no budgetary impact since the money and employees would merely move under the DVA.
While this seems like a common sense approach, passage of the bill is doubtful since there is no sister legislation currently proposed in the Senate. The hearing on the bill, HR 4072, is scheduled on March 8 before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman is also supporting more minor changes to legislation aimed at military transitions. Military transitions have long been the source of negative press for the DOD with veterans citing that the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) inadequately prepares servicemembers for employment as civilians.
Congressman Stutzman’s proposal would remove transition assistance from the traditional DOD template to an off-base solution in some states. His proposal would grant a temporary contract to private companies that would provide transition assistance in states with higher than average veteran unemployment.
Government Coordination is Usually Good
Historically, even within the DVA, the right hand never knows what the left hand is doing. Regardless, by moving the VETS program under the DVA umbrella, the government will eventually realize savings and obtain increases in efficiency. However, at first, this move could create yet another layer of bureaucracy that could increase difficulties in benefits delivery, at least in the short term.
Congressman Miller and Congressman Stutzman are correct in looking to provide common sense solutions to problems of benefits delivery. With adequate coordination, both proposals could benefit veterans by combating veteran unemployment.