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Congressional Testimony

Testimony OF
John M. McWilliam
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Veterans' Employment and Training SERVICE
U.S. Department of Labor

BEFORE THE

Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity
Committee on veterans affairs
u.s. house of representatives

April 2, 2009

Madam Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, and members of the Subcommittee:

I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the collaborative efforts and the partnership between the Department of Labor's (DOL) Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Service, and our joint efforts to serve our nation's disabled veterans in need of VR&E services that lead to employment.

In 2005 senior leadership from VETS and VR&E, including the Assistant Secretary for VETS and the Director for VR&E, met with the Subcommittee staff to discuss how the two agencies could better collaborate. As a result of that meeting, a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between DOL and VA was executed and three work groups were established. Those three work groups have now been combined into a Joint Working Group (JWG).

I am pleased to report that there is strong and continuing close collaboration between our two agencies. In FY 2008, we initiated monthly meetings with senior staff from both agencies. In addition, the JWG meets periodically and the most recent meeting was March 16 – 19, 2009.

During FY 2008, VETS continued to focus on serving those disabled veterans who participate in the VR&E program, which is administered by the VA. The ultimate goal in this partnership is successful job placement and adjustment to employment for disabled veterans without duplication, fragmentation, or delay in the services provided.

Interagency initiatives to increase the employment opportunities and placements for service-connected disabled veterans who participate in VR&E continue to improve. DOL/VETS and VA/VR&E have been implementing the updated MOA outlining the process – and responsibility – to work together to maximize the services both agencies provide on behalf of disabled veterans.

Much of VETS' interface with the VR&E program is through the workforce investment system. Accordingly, VETS continues to work in partnership with its Jobs for Veterans State Grant (JVSG) recipients on behalf of VR&E job-ready veterans who are referred to and registered with the state workforce agencies (SWA) for intensive employment services.

Current status of DOL support to the VR&E program

VETS is working toward ensuring a veterans' employment representative is outstationed at each of the 57 VR&E Regional Offices. Preferably, these offices will have a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP) specialist or a Local Veterans' Employment Representative (LVER) outstationed at least half time. As identified in the following chart, there is currently either a DVOP specialist or LVER outstationed at least half time in 49 of their Regional Offices and 19 satellite offices. This equates to 52 FTE DVOP and 7.5 FTE LVER for a total FTE of 59.5 as shown in the following chart.

Our standard is for one DVOP at every VR&E office. The State's JVSG Five Year Strategic Plan (FY 2010-2015) will require the states to outstation a DVOP specialist at each VR&E Regional Office. These individuals will assume the new title of Intensive Service Coordinators (ISC) to differentiate between the duties and responsibilities at a One Stop Career Center (DVOP/LVER) and a VR&E location (ISC). The table below shows the number of DVOPS/LVERS outstationed at VR&E sites.

National Roll-up
DVOP & LVER Staff Outstationed at VR&E Locations
(As of March 26, 2009)

DVOP

LVER

State

# of FT Pos @ VR&E RO

# of HT Pos @ VR&E RO

# of FT Pos @ Satellite or Sub-Office

# of HT Pos @ Satellite or Sub-Office

# of FT Pos @ VR&E RO

# of HT Pos @ VR&E RO

# of FT Pos @ Satellite or Sub-Office

# of HT Pos @ Satellite or Sub-Office

NAT
TOTAL

37

8

10

2

1

1

5

2

Total
FTE

52

7.5

59.5

The following table displays program results for FY's 2007 and 2008. It compares the levels of referral, registration, and entry into employment for FY 2006, FY 2007, and FY 2008 for disabled veterans who have completed VR&E and have been referred to the State Workforce Agency for intensive employment services. Retention data has not been collected in the past. However, as a result of the pilot project retention is now being collected and will be available this year. These results indicate that from FY 2007 to FY 2008 that the number of veterans referred by VA increased by eight percent and the number registered by the SWAs increased by nine percent. We are pleased to report there was an increase of 18 percent in the average entry hourly wage.

Key Measures of VR&E Performance for FY 2007 and FY 2008

Fiscal Year

Veterans Referred from VA to SWA

Veterans Registered by SWA

Veterans Entered Employment

Average Entry Wage*

2006

6,658

5,801

3,189

$14.91 per hour

2007

6,520

5,549

3,662

$13.64 per hour

2008

7,060

6,068

3,516

$16.16 per hour

The VA/DOL Joint Working Group

As mentioned earlier the Joint Working Group evolved from the three work groups that were charted in the 2005 MOA. The goal of the JWG is to improve the quality of employment services and job placements for veterans enrolled in VR&E programs.

DOL and VA leadership have taken an active role with the JWG. I have taken a personal interest in this issue and have been involved in meetings with the joint work groups. I take this cooperative effort very seriously.

The three work groups were established to execute the requirements of the MOA. VETS' participants have included one individual from each of our six regions and at least three individuals from the national office. The three work groups are organized to deal with the following subjects:

  • Performance Measures for Assessment of Partnership Program Results;
  • Curriculum Design; and
  • Joint Data Collection, Analysis, and Reports.

These groups have made significant accomplishments; they have:

  • Facilitated a pilot program to identify and catalogue best practices from existing sites. This was a one-year pilot that involved eight locations.
  • Developed roles and responsibilities for the major agencies involved in the VR&E process.
  • Identified the major data collection issues to provide shared data collection between the VA and DOL.
  • Identified the joint training requirements needed for this program.
  • Published joint VA/DOL guidance. This technical assistance guidance document was published by both the VA and DOL in December 2008.

As a result of the initiative to clearly identify roles and responsibilities, we have designated the outstationed DVOP position as an Intensive Service Coordinator. This designation, with new duty requirements, clearly differentiates the work required at VR&E sites from the roles of the DVOP at a One Stop Career Center.

In December 2008, the end of the pilot program was marked by a webcast to all VR&E locations that initiated the implementation phase of this project.

The next steps for the working group include:

  • Development of joint training for all agencies. This is expected to be completed within 12 months.
  • Conduct technical assistance visits to field locations to ensure the consistency of application of the new procedures.
  • Resolve the shared data collection issues.

Moving forward, the work groups will continue to monitor information, such as that presented above, and on the new data collection tool, and provides much needed technical assistance in order to increase entered employment rates.

We are proud of our collaboration with the VA to increase employment opportunities for service-disabled veterans. That positive working relationship has also carried over into other initiatives and strengthened cooperation and coordination between VETS and our state workforce partners.

Participation on Joint Committees and Task Forces

In addition to implementing the MOA, VETS works with VR&E and VA in other ways:

  • A VETS' staff person is a member of the Veterans Advisory Committee on Rehabilitation (VACOR). This committee reviews and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on all rehabilitation issues including those affecting policies and programs administered by VR&E.
  • A staff member represents VETS on the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. This committee reviews and makes recommendations on issues specifically related to women veterans.
  • A staff member represents VETS on the VA Advisory Committee on Education. This committee makes recommendations on issues related to education and training issues including the GI Bill.
  • A staff member represents VETS on the VA Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans. This committee makes recommendations on issues related to homeless veterans.
  • The VA's Undersecretary for Benefits represents VA on DOL's Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach.
  • VETS works closely with VR&E, as well as the Department of Defense, on issues involving transition of active duty service members. VETS chairs a Transition Assistance Program Steering Committee with the Department of Defense, on which VR&E and other VA interests are represented.
  • VETS also participated on the VR&E Task Force on Vocational Rehabilitation. This group developed the Five Track System currently being implemented at all VA Regional Offices.

Other collaborative efforts

VETS senior staff participated in VR&E's last four national training conferences. A VETS' staff member also presented VETS' programs at the VA Employment Coordinator conference in September 2008. VR&E staff also frequently participates in LVER and DVOP state training conferences. I have met with the VA's Under Secretary for Benefits, and can tell you that we share a commitment to improving employment outcomes for VR&E participants. In addition, VETS' senior staff now have a standing schedule for regular monthly meeting with the VR&E to discuss current issues of mutual concern and to enhance our joint partnership.

While not specifically a VR&E or VETS initiative, staff from both agencies participated in the 34th Institute on Rehabilitation Issues (IRI) sponsored by the George Washington University Center for Rehabilitation Counseling Research and Education (CRCRE). The report When Johnny (or Jeannie) Comes Marching Home . . . and Back to Work was recently released and is available at http://www.gwu.edu/~iri/publications.htm. This monograph discusses linking Veterans Affairs and State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services for service men and women. The role played by VETS is also well delineated.

This concludes my statement and I would be happy to respond to any questions.