VETERANS SMALL BUSINESS AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS ACT OF 2006
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Mr. BRADLEY of New Hampshire. Madam Speaker, I start out again by thanking my friend from Colorado for his work on this bill.
Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 3082, as amended, the Veterans Small Business and Memorial Affairs Act of 2006.
Title I of this bill improves the status of veteran and disabled veteran small businesses when competing for contracts at the Department of Veterans Affairs. It would be a reasonable expectation, Madam Speaker, that of all the Federal Government's agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs would be a leader in achieving the President's goal for annual procurement from at least 3 percent disabled veteran-owned businesses. Sadly, not. Our most recent data from fiscal year 2005 indicates that VA did barely over half of what the President asked and public law required.
Deficient as it is, VA's record beats many other agencies, including the Department of Defense. According to the Small Business Administration, only three of 81 Federal agencies met the President's 3 percent goal.
H.R. 3082, as amended, would require the VA Secretary to establish annual contracting goals for small businesses owned and controlled by veterans and service-disabled veterans. The goal for service-disabled veterans shall not be less than 3 percent.
The Department of Veterans Affairs would also be required under title I to maintain and validate a database of small businesses owned by veterans and disabled veterans.
The bill would clarify veterans small business competition rules for contracts worth less than $5 million.
Veteran and service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses would be given priority in VA contracting, as well as priority among other set-aside groups eligible for preferential treatment under the Small Business Act.
Title I of the bill would allow a business' status as a veteran or disabled veteran-owned small business to continue for a period of 10 years following the death of the veteran owner if the surviving spouse owns the business.
Under title II of the bill, tribal governments would be allowed to participate in VA's State Cemetery Grants Program. This program, which dates back to 1978, complements the Department's national cemetery system. Tribal governments, however, are not eligible to participate. This bill would correct that deficiency and help recognize the unexcelled service of Native Americans in our Nation's Armed Forces by facilitating the establishment of veterans' cemeteries on trust land.
Title II contains a provision that would permanently authorize the VA Secretary to provide the family of a veteran interred in a private cemetery with a government marker in addition to any headstone the family may have provided.
Congress had given the Secretary a 5-year authority effective for deaths that occurred as of September 11, 2001. This bill would also expand the benefit to include veterans who died between November 1, 1990, and September 10, 2001. This provision would also permit the Secretary to offer a headstone in lieu of a marker, if the family so requests.
The simple elegance of the veteran's marker, used since just after our Civil War in American cemeteries from Arlington to Normandy, holds a sacred place in the hearts of many veterans and families.
On behalf of Chairman Buyer, I want to thank a tireless supporter of our veterans--Representative NANCY JOHNSON of Connecticut--for her perseverance and leadership in working to ensure families the availability of this unique symbol of service to our country.
Title III of this bill contains provisions affecting the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service.
Title III would require the Veterans Employment Training Service, otherwise known as VETS, to establish nonmandatory guidelines for disabled veterans outreach program specialists and local veterans employment representatives qualifications.
The bill would clarify that part-time employment of DVOPS and LVERs is half-time employment and require that DVOPS and LVERs hired after date of enactment to successfully complete training by the National Veterans Training Institute within 3 years of appointment. States would be required to develop a licensing and certification program for veterans within 2 years of enactment under title III of the bill.
A 5-year demonstration project would be authorized to allow Department of Labor VETS to enter into contracts with nongovernmental entities to carry out employment services in high unemployment areas using unobligated funds and require GAO to report on the demonstration project.
Finally, title III would establish a 3-year demonstration project to identify not less than 10 military occupational specialties that would lead to State licensing and authorize $1 million for the fiscal years 2007 through 2009.
The final title of the bill would make modification to the veterans' education programs.
Title IV would clarify pro rata refund policy for nonaccredited educational institutions; extend authorization for work-study positions located at veterans cemeteries, State veterans homes, and State approving agencies through June 30, 2007. It would further require the VA to report on methods to improve and streamline the administrative processes and procedures of education programs in chapters 30 through 36, and restore lost entitlement for certain chapter 35 education beneficiaries forced to discontinue a course of education due to being called to full-time National Guard duty.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
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