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Public Statements

Veterans Benefits And Economic Welfare Improvement Act Of 2010

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Veterans Benefits And Economic Welfare Improvement Act Of 2010

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Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 6132, the Veterans Benefits and Economic Welfare Improvement Act of 2010, which the Veterans Affairs Committee approved with bipartisan support on September 15th.

I would like to thank Veterans Affairs Chairman FILNER for his leadership in introducing H.R. 6132, as well as the support and leadership of Ranking Member BUYER.

I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation, which contains a number of important provisions that will directly improve the lives of veterans and the services available to those veterans and their families. Included among these provisions are four bills that I originally introduced. All four of these bills--H.R. 1088, H.R. 1089, H.R. 2461, and H.R. 1037--have previously passed the House, and I am pleased they have been included in this legislation.

H.R. 1089, the Veterans Employment Rights Realignment Act, originally passed the House without opposition by a vote of 423 to 0 on May 19, 2009. The provisions before us today create a three-year demonstration project to move the enforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protections of veterans and members of the Armed Services employed by Federal executive agencies to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

Under a previous demonstration project established by Public Law 108-454, OSC investigated some federal sector USERRA claims from 2004 to 2007. This demonstration project showed that the OSC had the expertise and ability to quickly obtain corrective action for federally employed veterans, and that success warranted a further continuation of this study.

H.R. 1088, the Mandatory Veteran Specialist Training Act, originally passed the House by voice vote on May 19, 2009. The provisions before us today take an important step toward providing better employment assistance to those who have bravely served their country.

These provisions reduce from 3 years to 18 months the period during which Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists or Local Veterans' Employment Representatives (LVER) with the Department of Labor (DOL) must complete the specialized veterans employment training program provided by the National Veterans' Training Institute (NVTI).

Through several Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearings I chaired during the 110th Congress, I learned it was taking, on average, 2.5 years before DOL veterans employment specialists were completing the NVTI program. This leaves untrained specialists who don't have the necessary skills trying to help veterans with their employment needs, and this bill helps correct that situation.

H.R. 2461, the Veterans Small Business Verification Act, passed the House as part of H.R. 3949 with overwhelming bipartisan support on November 3, 2009. The provisions before us today clarify the responsibility of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to verify the veteran status of owners of small businesses listed in the VetBiz Vendor Information Pages database. Furthermore, it requires that the VA notify small businesses already listed in the database of the need to verify their status.

The Economic Opportunity Subcommittee learned through hearings, and meetings with VA staff and the veterans community that the database contained firms that didn't qualify because the verification process was voluntary. Since firms registered in the database can qualify to receive set-aside or sole-source awards, this new legislation will help ensure our veterans are afforded the small business opportunities they are due.

H.R. 1037, the Pilot College Work Study Programs for Veterans Act of 2009, originally passed the House on July 14, 2009 without opposition by a vote of 422 to 0. The provisions before us today improve the educational benefits available to our country's veterans by expanding the scope of work-study activities available to veterans receiving educational benefits through the VA.

Currently, eligible student veterans enrolled in college degree programs, vocational programs or professional programs are eligible to participate in the work-study allowance program. However, they are limited to positions involving VA related work, such as processing VA paperwork, performing outreach services, and assisting staff at medical facilities or the offices of the National Cemetery Administration.

This legislation both reauthorizes the work-study program for 3 additional years and expands the list of qualifying work-study activities to include positions with State veterans agencies, Centers for Excellence for Veterans Student Success and other veterans-related positions at institutions of higher learning.

Given the wide variety of tasks our men and women in uniform perform while serving their country, our Nation should be capitalizing on the unique training and skill sets that veterans who are pursuing their degrees bring to their educational institutions.

In conclusion, H.R. 6132 takes a number of important steps toward helping veterans who have bravely served their country. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 6132.

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