Senate Passes Burns-Pryor Job Training Measure for Veterans
The Senate passed a veterans benefit package Thursday night that incorporates legislation championed by Senator Mark Pryor and Conrad Burns (R-MT) to expand job training opportunities for veterans in high-growth industries, such as trucking, construction, hospitality and energy.
When testifying on the importance of his Veterans Education and Training Act during a Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on June 8th, Pryor said new job training opportunities are necessary to help turn around the dismal unemployment rate for young veterans. He stated that unemployment among veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 years old is over 15 percentnearly double the unemployment for non-veterans in the same age group. The Committee folded the Burns-Pryor VET Act into the broader veteran's legislation that passed the Senate, which must now be reconciled with similar legislation passed by the House of Representatives.
"We can do better for soldiers returning from combat who are having a hard time finding work," Pryor said. "My measure opens up new training opportunities for veterans who want to fill quality, well-paying jobs in high growth industries. At the same time, it helps employers fill new positions with skilled employees. It's simply a win-win for veterans, businesses and the economy."
Pryor said the Veterans Administration offers a number of programs to help active duty troops make the transition back into the work force as part of the G.I. Bill. One of those programs is the Accelerated Payment Program, which provides lump-sum education payments for one term, quarter, or semester at a time to veterans who enroll in high-tech training programs, instead of the smaller monthly stipend for veterans who participate in all other educational opportunities. Pryor's measure will expand the number of job training programs eligible for the Accelerated Payment Program to include the trucking, construction, hospitality and energy industries, which the Department of Labor has identified to add large numbers of jobs to the economy in the coming years.
Pryor said many training programs for high-growth career fields are short-term and high-cost in nature. For example, he said truck driver training courses typically last 4 to 6 weeks, but cost $4,000 to $6,000. At most, G.I. bill benefits offset only about $1,000 to $1,500 of the tuition, discouraging veterans from using their G.I. bill benefits for these kinds of training programs. Accelerated benefits, as proposed by Pryor and Burns, will cover 60% of the cost of such programs ($3,600 in the case of truck driver training) and the benefits can be paid as a lump-sum rather than on a monthly basis.