House Veteran Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity Hearing on Securing High-Demand Jobs for Veterans
By: Jordan Kolb, Legislative Intern
On February 2nd, 2022, the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing to discuss the issue of securing high-demand jobs for Veterans of the U.S. Military. Subcommittee Chairman Mike Levin’s opening remarks outlined the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) program which is a 5 year pilot program that pairs participating Veterans and eligible Service Members with industry-leading training providers to help participants acquire new skills to enter the job market. Chairman Levin also outlined the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP) which offers education (associate degrees, non-college degrees) and training (certification programs) for high-demand jobs to Veterans who are unemployed on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since its inception in 2019, over 5,000 Veterans have used VET TEC to train for jobs for fields such as computer software, information science, media application and data processing. Average employment of VET TEC participants post program is 72% while taking an average salary of $60,000. Annual funding for VET TEC is $45 million dollars a year and this allocation is routinely outstripped by the demand of Veterans seeking enrollment. In contrast, the annual funding for VRRAP is $386 million a year accepting a max of 17,250 participants with any unused funding by December 11th, 2022 to be returned to the treasury. VRRAP was enacted on March 11, 2021 and as of last month only 26% of funding had been allocated by the VA with fewer than 4,000 of 10,000 eligible (certification received) Veterans enrolled. Furthermore, only 679 Veterans have graduated from a VRRAP program and a mere 100 have been employed as a result of their participation. To incentivize the effectiveness of programs by training providers, the VA withholds 50% of VET TEC tuition payment and 25% of VRRAP tuition unless the student finds meaningful vocational job placement within 180 days of program completion.
Ricardo De Silva (Program Integration Officer for Education Services in the VA) assured the subcommittee that the main concern for low VRRAP participation is outreach and measures are being taken to improve appropriate efforts. It was stated that some universities and certificate programs were erroneously telling Veterans that they could not be employed in any capacity while completing their training. Mr. De Silva calmed these concerns asserting that notification has been sent to all VRRAP students that they could be employed during training and that the VA will be using office hours at schools next week to make sure schools understand the same. Universities claimed to be concerned that Veterans themselves didn't understand that current employment in a field outside of the vocation in which they were training, wouldn't qualify the university for full reimbursement. In any case, it was not clear as to why this would affect the Veteran in the long run based on the broader program agreement.
Alicia Boddy of Code Platoon (a code writing bootcamp for Veterans) praised the communication and cooperation of the VET TEC program staff while voicing concerns over the communication of the VRRAP program citing only ever receiving inquiry responses that don't provide reply links. Ms. Boddy went further to suggest that 45 million dollars be moved from VRRAP to VET TEC while VRRAP is in the process of being improved. Both Ms. Boddy and Bill Blackstone of Galvanized (another Code writing Bootcamp for Veterans) hailed the high entrance salaries of participants of code schools as well as the effectiveness of job security for Veterans that have completed their programs. Programs such as code schools are also covered under VRRAP and could be utilized with increased capabilities in communication with training providers and effective outreach. Additional suggested improvements for the VRRAP were provided by Joseph Sharp (Director of National Veterans Employment and Education at the American Legion), who advocated for diversity equity inclusion metrics for applicants outside of the category of age, elimination of the age cutoff of 66, as well as expansion of the VRRAP to any veteran who is unemployed or underemployed.
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