Good morning, Madam Chairman. Welcome to you and welcome to the witnesses. Thank you all for your willingness to share your insights on how we, as a nation, can help veterans succeed in the civilian job market.
As we’ll discuss today, a wide range of efforts are underway – by both the private sector and the government – to help veterans find good jobs. There are employment workshops for servicemembers getting ready to leave the military; web-sites where veterans can post resumes, search for job openings, and learn tips for job searches; personnel at One-Stop Career Centers around the country dedicated to serving veterans; and much more.
Despite those efforts, the unemployment rate for young veterans reached over 27% in February 2011, much higher than non-veterans of that age, and veterans overall had a 9% unemployment rate. These troubling statistics suggest that many veterans may not be receiving the information, services, and support they need to find meaningful jobs after leaving military service.
That’s why, last month, Members of this Committee, in a bipartisan letter, questioned the effectiveness of employment programs for veterans and committed to looking at whether any changes are needed. In my view, two recent reports from the Government Accountability Office provide a good starting point for those efforts. Here’s what GAO found.
In fiscal year 2009, the federal government spent about $18 billion on 47 separate employment and training programs run by nine different agencies. All but three of those programs overlapped with at least one other program, and five programs that specifically targeted veterans provided seven similar types of services. GAO noted that overlap among programs might interfere with individuals seeking services and frustrate employers.
On top of that, GAO found a lack of information about the effectiveness of the programs. Most – including those serving veterans -- had not completed studies to see whether positive employment outcomes result from their services, rather than from other factors. And three programs -- including the Transition Assistance Program -- didn’t track any outcome measures.
Madam Chairman, all of this suggests that, in trying to improve employment assistance for veterans, we should start by figuring out which programs are working well and which are not. Also, we need to look at whether reducing overlap could make these services more effective and efficient. These common-sense steps could save taxpayers’ money and, more importantly, make long-term improvements in services for our nation’s veterans.
In the near-term, we should take other steps to bring down the staggering unemployment rate among some groups veterans. That’s why I joined several colleagues in introducing the Veterans Employment Transition Act of 2011, which would provide tax incentives to employers to hire veterans who have recently separated from the military. This should provide another reason for employers to take advantage of the valuable skills veterans develop while serving our nation.
Also, more should be done so those skills can be easily translated to civilian occupations. As we’ll hear today, the men and women of our military can spend years honing their skills in a particular trade, only to find that they have to start over – with training, testing, or certifications -- because the civilian labor market does not recognize that experience. Improving this situation should be a priority.
Finally, I want to acknowledge that many employers in North Carolina and around the nation are doing their part by actively recruiting veterans into their organizations. These efforts play a key role in helping our nation’s heroes smoothly transition back to civilian life, and I encourage more employers to follow that lead.
Madam Chairman, thank you for calling a hearing on this very important topic. I look forward to working with you to make sure veterans will not struggle to find good jobs as they return to civilian life.
I thank the Chair.