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Statement of Espiridion "Al" Borrego Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training



BEFORE THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION
COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 23, 2000


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

I appreciate the opportunity to submit for the record the Fiscal Year 2001 (FY 2001) Department of Labor budget request for veterans' employment and training programs.

The Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) delivers employment services to veterans in partnership with State Employment Security Agencies (SESAs). The system, with annual appropriations of more than one billion dollars, provides services to all employers and individuals seeking employment. This system is largely funded by employers through their Federal Unemployment Tax payments. Our key responsibility is to provide priority of service for veterans, within the system, with the highest priority given to special disabled veterans.

The role of the public employment service system today is affected heavily by changes in technology, the marketplace, and employer needs. VETS now promotes the use of technology through electronic information and self-service options such as the Veterans' Preference Advisor and the credentials and certification gap analysis web site, thereby freeing some time for the public employment service staff to concentrate on those veterans who need special assistance. Additionally, the system will change as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is implemented on July 1, 2000. VETS, as a required partner of WIA, has worked hard to ensure that veterans are considered in the development of new One-Stop Services under the Workforce Investment Act.

Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Request

The Agency's FY 2001 request is designed to promote the maximum employment training opportunities for veterans, particularly those in veteran subgroups who suffer higher than average unemployment rates or face significant barriers to employment-special disabled and disabled veterans, minority, female, young and recently separated veterans-within Government-wide resource constraints. To do this, VETS has been streamlining and shifting resources to where they will do the most good, and promoting the use of electronic tools to better serve our customers.

The Agency's request is divided into five activities: (1) State Grants, which are further divided between the DVOP and the LVER programs; (2) Administration, which includes funding for the TAP for separating service members; the investigation and resolution of USERRA claims from veterans, Reservists and National Guard members; investigation of complaints filed by veterans who believe they were denied the requisite veterans' preference in applying for Federal jobs; and funding for VETS' grant administration operations; (3) NVTI, which provides training to Federal and State employees and managers involved in delivery of services to veterans; (4) Veterans Workforce Investment Program, and (5) the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.

VETS' Grants to States provide staffing funds for the Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) and Local Veterans' Employment Representatives (LVERs). DVOPs are State-employed, Federally-funded program specialists who provide intensive employment and employability development services to disabled veterans and to economically disadvantaged veterans. In the program year that ended June 30, 1999, of the almost 42,000 disabled veterans that registered and entered employment through public employment service system assistance, DVOP and LVER staff helped more than two-thirds of those get jobs. The number of disabled and special disabled that were helped into jobs remained about the same although the funds provided, due to inflation, supported close to 4% fewer staff.

LVERs supervise the provision of services to veterans in local One-Stop Career Centers and in State Employment Service Offices, maintain contact with local community leaders, provide labor exchange information to veterans, promote and monitor participation of veterans in Federally-funded employment and training programs, and monitor the listing of jobs from, and referrals to, Federal contractors and subcontractors. This year, full-time Local Veterans' Employment Representatives will cover 48 percent of major One-Stop Center locations. Case Management services provided to disabled veterans almost doubled during the year and the public employment service system took greater responsibility in ensuring veterans knew about the services available, and received all of the services, including the priority for services to which they are entitled.

For program year 1998 (PY 1998), which ended on June 30, 1999, SESAs reported helping more than 479,000 veterans (284,000 were reported by DVOPs and LVERs) into jobs from the 1.8 million veterans that registered for assistance. Of those reported as registered that were helped into jobs, the rate was 29.8% for special disabled veterans, and 31.2% for disabled veterans.

It is important to note that of the veteran populations served, many experience barriers to employment: 79% were unemployed; 30% of the veterans that registered for services were minority veterans; and 10% were economically disadvantaged. Veterans receiving public assistance numbered more than 33,000, and veterans who are dislocated workers comprised 124,000 of the total. Some veterans are in several subgroups with barriers to employment.

For FY 2001 the Agency requests a total of $158,868,000 for these grants-to-States, an increase of $1.4 million over the funding provided in FY 2000. The increase will be used to support an enhanced licenses and certification effort on behalf of separating service members through pilot projects in the States. These pilots are designed to simplify the system by which skilled military personnel may obtain State certifications or licenses for the civilian counterpart occupations. In addition, the request supports the creation of an Internet database that will be a one-stop source of information for Federal, State, and private sector licensing and certifications.

VETS programs will be incorporated into the States' strategic plans for the Workforce Investment System, and will be included, as required partners, in the one-stop systems that will be implemented in every local area. The FY 2001 funding request for the LVER program is $77,253,000, which we project will support about 1,222 positions, resulting in about 140,000 veterans being helped into jobs. Of these, more than 5,000 will be special disabled veterans. The funding request for the DVOP is $81,615,000, which will support about 1,361 positions and will result in another 143,000 veterans, including more than 5,000 special disabled veterans, receiving employment assistance.

Both DVOP and LVER staff will work to ensure delivery of services to those needing intensive help, with a primary focus being VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program participants, using a case management approach to services. They will also devote more time and effort to help veterans with employability barriers or those who cannot otherwise successfully compete in the civilian labor market. They will also continue to assist veterans who are better prepared to compete successfully for jobs by helping them access and use the electronic tools available, such as America's Job Bank and Talent Bank, and by establishing direct links with both labor unions and private sector employers and private industry groups, as well as other resources or services available at the local One-Stop centers.

A total of $27,045,000, an increase of $2,172,000 over funding provided in FY 2000, is requested for the administration of the Veterans' Employment and Training Service. This funding level is sufficient to support about 255 employees. VETS employees provide oversight for the DVOP and LVER, HVRP and WIA Sec. 168 (previously JTPA IV-C) grants and investigate complaints covered by USERRA. Under USERRA, VETS staff provide assistance directly to veterans, Reservists, and National Guard members to protect their employment and reemployment rights, including anti-discrimination, seniority, and pension rights. In addition, under the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act, enacted in the fall of 1998, VETS is now responsible for investigating complaints from veterans that a Federal agency violated veterans preference provisions in hiring or retention activities. VETS administers the Job Listing component of the Federal Contractor Program (FCP), under 38 U.S.C. Section 4212, which requires Federal contractors to list their openings with SESAs and to submit annual employment reports on special disabled and campaign veterans.

VETS also administers the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) workshops at military installations in 45 States, providing labor market information and job search skills training to separating service members and their spouses. More than 124,000 service members and their spouses participated in TAP workshops in the last fiscal year. This request also includes $500,000 for a pilot to provide TAP workshops overseas.

VETS, in coordination with the employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Department of the Army, is especially eager to fully develop and implement an Internet-based vehicle to provide information on worker credentials, licensing or other skill or training requirements targeted at veterans. The goal is to facilitate service members' efforts to identify whether the skills, training and experience gained in military service can be put to use in the private sector and if gaps exist, learn how to fill them. In other words, if the service member needs to acquire additional training or experience, this tool will let them know exactly what education or training they need to be able to qualify for a particular work credential. VETS is positive that this will provide an effective and efficient tool for veterans and that it will likewise benefit employers in need of qualified employees.

In addition, VETS collects and summarizes information, as required by law, concerning the quantity and quality of services provided to veterans by DOL and DOL-funded programs, and provides this information to the Congress. In view of the changing workforce development systems environment and changes brought by the Workforce Investment Act, VETS is requesting $500,000 to develop new information-gathering approaches and performance measures that will enable the Secretary and this Committee to determine the effectiveness of the Department in the delivery of services to veterans.

The National Veterans' Training Institute (NVTI) trained 2,135 veteran service providers and SESA management staff during FY 1999. NVTI continued to place emphasis on training DVOP and LVER staff on case management, provided TAP training to Department of Defense participants under a reimbursement agreement with the DOL, and continued to offer a Veterans Program Orientation (VPO) course for One-Stop Career Centers staff. The VPO was designed to be delivered in conjunction with One-Stop-States' conferences or training sessions, to orient One-Stop employees on veterans' priority of services and the roles of DVOP and LVER staff in the new environment. This course is offered off-site in the individual States, enabling VETS to reach a wide audience effectively. NVTI also developed a new Labor Exchange Specialist course, using both long-distance and classroom components as the core training for DVOP and LVER staff.

A total of $2 million is requested for NVTI to provide training to Federal and State employees and managers involved in delivery of services to veterans. The funding will support more than 70 classes and train more than 1,500 service providers, regularly using long distance learning techniques and off-site training to keep the training activity within this level of funding.

Funds provided for the Veterans Workforce Investment Program (VWIP) (formerly JTPA IV-C) are will enable grantees to provide training opportunities for veterans under the Workforce Investment Act. The Workforce Investment Act expanded the authority of these grants to include veterans with significant employment barriers, and campaign veterans. About $5.8 million of the FY 2000 funds are being provided to grantees based on proposals submitted in a competitive process. The remainder of the funds are used to provide specialized services, and for research and demonstration projects. These discretionary projects also support employment and training services, including support for employer directed projects or projects related to new technologies or communications. These funds enable initiatives designed to assist recently separated veterans overcome credential, license and certification barriers often encountered by recent veterans in using their military-acquired training and experience in a civilian job.

The Department is requesting $7.3 million for the new Veterans Workforce Investment Program (VWIP) for employment and training services to veterans, particularly service connected disabled, campaign veterans and other veterans with significant barriers to employment. This program was funded in the ETA Training and Employment Services account through FY 2000. It is anticipated that $6 million of these funds will be awarded through a competitive process to State entities through each State's Governor's office. The remainder of the funds will be used to provide specialized and targeted services, as well as research and demonstration projects. The funding for these services can go to States, localities, non-profits and private entities. Overall, VETS will process, award and monitor up to 25 grants to various service providers, resulting in about 2,200 eligible veterans getting jobs after training.

The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) is a competitive grant program that enjoys broad support from local community groups and Veterans Service Organizations. HVRP grantees form partnerships with local agencies, Federal and State partners, and non-profit groups to ensure that homeless veterans receive the housing assistance, medical support, job training and placement, mental health services and substance abuse treatment they need to obtain and retain employment. Due to past support from Congress and the homeless veteran community, the FY 2000 grant program is funded at its full authorized level. We estimate that at least 6,000 homeless veterans will receive services through this year's funds and that 4,000 of them will be placed in jobs.

This year's request includes a total of $15 million for HVRP. This increased funding will enable VETS to compete funds with fewer limitations, such as the maximum size of the grant or the number of grants funded, while simultaneously increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the HVRP. At this funding level we estimate that 17,400 homeless veterans would be enrolled in HVRP programs and that 8,700 of them would be placed in jobs.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of this Committee and other in Congress to support the veterans who are homeless with additional resources and to ensure that veterans continue to receive world class services from the Department of Labor and its Veterans' Employment and Training Service and our Federal and State agencies, as well as private sector partners.

I appreciate this opportunity to provide some highlights of the FY 2001 budget request for the Veterans' Employment and Training Service. I look forward to working closely with the Committee on behalf of our Nation's veterans.


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