The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) hosted U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) on May 14 in front of the Whitman School of Management as they announced bipartisan legislation to help provide enhanced education benefits and job training for the nation’s veterans and streamlined certification processes during the post-service transition to civilian jobs. The senators’ plan seeks to ensure that government does not turn its back on young veterans when they return from war.
“It is the service and sacrifice of many military generations that have brought us to this day. We embrace that service and sacrifice as a national resource,” said IVMF executive director and founder Mike Haynie, as he introduced the senators during the event. Haynie, a U.S. Air Force veteran, founded the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) at Syracuse University, now a national program offered at schools across the country. Christine Gentry, an 2011 EBV-SU program graduate, Air Force veteran, military spouse, small-business owner and current student veteran at SUNY-ESF, spoke about the three pieces of legislation from a veteran’s perspective.
“We must provide veterans with access to the necessary resources, which allow them to get the education, job training and appropriate licensing that will ease their transition from military life to the civilian work force,” said Gillibrand. “Our veterans have earned this and it’s the least we can do to give them the appropriate tools needed to be successful in their life after the military.”
“As tens of thousands of veterans return to Central New York from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is critical that the No. 1 priority is finding those heroes a good-paying job,” said Sen. Schumer. “This multi-pronged proposal will play an important role in connecting returning veterans with local employers and job training, and will ensure that the thousands of veterans in Central New York, who have sacrificed so much for our country, are not left behind.”
The three pieces of legislation announced by the senators include:
- Making TAP training accessible for veterans and military families: The TAP Modernization Act would make improvements to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), made mandatory for all departing service members with the VOW To Hire Heroes Act. TAP gives veterans an opportunity to gain job training, understand their benefits and practice skills like resume writing and interviewing. Many veterans never had the opportunity to take the program, or want the ability to receive additional training. The legislation proposes offering classes for veterans and their spouses at convenient, off-base locations. In addition, it would require the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) to integrate job search experts to teach classes. The bill also authorizes a temporary extension of TAP benefits for three years through a pilot program in three to five states with the highest veteran unemployment.
- Protecting veteran access to education and job opportunities: The Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act strengthens the Post-9/11 GI Bill by ensuring that educational institutions receiving assistance through the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense (DOD) meet commonsense requirements, including providing critical information to potential students. This legislation would ensure that only accredited universities can offer higher education to veterans, and that they do not take advantage of GI Bill benefits at the expense of the student. Additionally, the bill calls on state agencies to conduct greater outreach activities to veterans to assist veterans in making informed decisions on their education. The legislation would also streamline the complaint process for veterans who want to report instances of fraud, waste and abuse within educational institutions to the VA and DOD. Implementing a centralized process will increase coordination between the VA, DOD and the Department of Education, which will be required to share information across agencies.
- Easing the hiring process for veterans: The Veteran Skills to Jobs Act proposed to speed up the credentialing process and place veterans in the civilian workforce sooner. Currently, the bureaucratic red tape of the federal certification process prevents veterans from immediately applying for jobs for which they are qualified. The bill would require agencies to recognize relevant military training and skills when certifying veterans for federal occupational licenses. Under this proposal, a returning veteran who drove an armored vehicle while in combat would not be required to fulfill a federal certification process in order to get a job as a truck driver once they returned home. Instead of spending time retraining, veterans would be able to receive a federal license if it is determined that their military experience is enough to fulfill requirements.