THE HONORABLE CHARLES S. CICCOLELLA
VETERANS' EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING SERVICE
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
UNITED STATES SENATE
June 13, 2007
Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Craig and distinguished members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss transition and employment issues of returning veterans, service members, reservists, and members of the National Guard.
The state of employment for our returning veterans is strong. Our economy continues to grow and it continues to produce new job opportunities. Employers are looking for quality workers, and the service members who are leaving the military today bring the technical and leadership skills employers need.
The Department of Labor (DOL) is working in close partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to enhance employment opportunities for our separating military members by better preparing them for the civilian workforce as they transition, by protecting their employment rights while they serve, and by providing employment assistance to our veterans whenever it is requested or needed.
I am pleased to be a member of today's panel because the efforts of DoD, the VA, and DOL in the area of employment are complementary and supportive. We participate on many joint committees, including the recent Presidential Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes (Task Force), in an effort to constantly review and improve services for veterans and help make their transition to employment as seamless as possible.
My testimony today discusses three major areas.
First, you asked that I address the cooperation and collaboration on employment issues by DOL, DoD and VA, particularly in the context of the important employment-related recommendations of the Task Force. Since the Task Force focused to a large degree on improving transition services, I will elaborate on how DOL is implementing the recommendations by expanding or enhancing initiatives that directly assist the smooth transition of service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve and wounded and injured military members.
Second, I will discuss the ongoing collaborative efforts underway for the past several years to help service members who need help the most -- those who are wounded and injured, including those who are disabled as a result of military service -- and our continuing efforts to reduce unemployment among young veterans.
Finally, I will discuss the Department's extensive efforts to reach out to employers to help them find and hire veterans.
Collaboration between DOL, DoD and the VA; and DOL's Role in Task Force Recommendations
First, I would like to discuss the extensive cooperation and collaboration between our departments. As the Committee has recognized, the most recent example of our collaboration with VA and DoD is on the Task Force. Chaired by Secretary Nicholson, both Secretary Gates and Secretary Chao were members of the Task Force. The Task Force report contains important recommendations that are already in progress and it illustrates the high level of coordination and collaboration that goes on among DOL, VA, and DoD, as well as with other federal departments and agencies.
DOL was tasked with the lead on four of the report's recommendations. Those are to integrate our HireVetsFirst Campaign into career fairs; train active duty, Guard and Reserve members regarding their rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA); develop a financial aid education module; and develop a wounded veterans intern program. I would like to describe our efforts in each of these areas.
We collaborate closely with the DoD National Committee on Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) to develop better understanding and application of the law in order to improve the USERRA training, technical assistance, and dispute resolution services that are provided to service members. DOL has developed a comprehensive pocket guide and interactive programs on USERRA for use by service members, veterans, employers, ESGR caseworkers and mediators as well as by our own USERRA investigators. We have improved training for our USERRA investigators and VETS has established a corps of senior USERRA investigators as part of its efforts to better advise service members of their USERRA rights, and to insure prompt and accurate handling of USERRA cases.
DOL has a full-time employee based at the MSIC who leads our role in OWF. We work directly with federal agencies to develop intern opportunities for interested service members, and hold regular meetings for potential OWF participants at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where federal agencies discuss their internship opportunities. We then work closely to match wounded or injured service members with appropriate internships. To date, over 200 service members have participated in OWF, and over 50 have gone on to be hired into permanent Federal jobs.
In addition to leading these important initiatives recommended by the Task Force, DOL plays a pivotal role in several other Task Force recommendations.
To smooth the return of activated National Guard and Reserve troops, in FY 2005 DOL began offering TAP Employment Workshops to members of the Reserve and National Guard returning from active duty. Recognizing the special needs of these returning units and their members, we developed a TAP instructional program specifically tailored for them. VETS State Directors coordinate closely with state workforce agencies to ensure veteran employment staff or contract facilitators are available to provide TAP employment workshops for the Guard and Reserve. The State Directors work directly with officials of the State Adjutant General offices and local Reserve Unit Commanders to stress the importance of TAP and to schedule the workshops. Spouses are also encouraged to attend.
Finally, DOL has assisted DoD with the development of "TURBO TAP", which DoD will discuss during this hearing. This innovative, on-line resource will dramatically enhance transition.
In addition to increasing participation in the TAP employment workshop, DOL is working with DoD to improve the quality of the workshop. The improved TAP workshops will include resume development so that service members leave TAP with a draft resume; "mock" interviews so they gain experience in job interviews; and job search sessions so participants have conducted a personal job search on their state workforce system job board.
Further, DOL has issued over 300,000 Keys to Career Success cards, which provide transitioning service members with information on how to locate the One Stop Career Center in their hometown, and we will continue to provide the cards in the TAP resource packets.
Ongoing Programs for Service Members and Veterans who need help the most.
Now I would like to take this opportunity to share the ongoing collaborative programs that target service members who need help the most, and to smooth the transition of our youngest veterans.
Over 2,200 service members, spouses or veterans have received employment assistance since the beginning of the program. We are now exploring ideas for on-site training at medical treatment facilities. For example, at Balboa Naval Medical Center, Cisco Systems has agreed to establish a Technical Training Academy that will certify participants for careers in information technology.
Last September, we hosted the first National Summit on Recovery, Rehabilitation and Employment for Wounded & Injured Service Members in Alabama under the REALifelines banner. The summit fostered collaboration and highlighted successful efforts to assure the successful return and reintegration of returning wounded and injured service members and their families.
DOL and VA strengthened our partnership through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in 2005. Under the new MOA, joint working groups meet and report on ways to increase collaboration, to improve data collection and reporting, and, in general, to improve employment opportunities for disabled veterans. VA also uses the DOL-funded National Veterans Training Institute to develop training courses for VR&E staff.
Any young veteran who is unemployed is a serious concern to DOL, as we are researching this subject to better understand the path young veterans take as they transition from military to civilian occupations. We are also collaborating with VA and DoD on similar research efforts. We are working to increase service member participation in TAP, to make the TAP employment workshop more meaningful to them, and to encourage these young service members to use the services of their local One Stop Career Centers.
DoD Special Working Group on Transition to Civilian Employment
DoD ESGR Freedom Awards National Selection Board
DoD/DOL Task Force on Licensing and Certification
VA Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans (ex-officio)
VA Advisory Committee on Rehabilitation (ex-officio)
VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans (ex-officio)
VA Advisory Committee on Education (ex-officio)
VA Advisory Committee on OIF/OEF (observer)
Support from America's Employers
Finally, I want to take a moment to discuss two important outreach activities we believe are helping veterans find good jobs and employers find veterans.
HireVetsFirst Campaign: The HireVetsFirst Campaign was established under the President's National Hire Veterans Committee in 2004 to reach out to employers to help them find and hire veterans. The Campaign centers on helping employers develop veteran hiring strategies, use One Stop Career Centers to find veterans, and participate in activities such as the many veteran job fairs. States and governors also sponsor HireVetsFirst activities focused on hiring veterans in their states. We are particularly proud that 48 of 52 governors have issued proclamations (highlighting or emphasizing) veterans' employment to their respective business communities.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear today before the Committee. This concludes my remarks, and I would be happy to respond to any questions.
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