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Congressional Testimony

STATEMENT 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

MAY 21, 2009

Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, and members of the

Subcommittee:

Thank you for inviting us today to testify on several bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives and referred to this Subcommittee.

In the letter of invitation you asked us to address the following bills: H.R. 1037; H.R. 1098; H.R. 1168; H.R. 1172; H.R. 1821; H.R. 1879; and H.R. 2180. Of those, only H.R. 1168 and H.R. 1879 pertain to the Department of Labor and I will restrict my remarks to those two bills. We defer to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on the remaining bills.

H.R. 1879 - To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for employment and reemployment rights for certain individuals ordered to full-time National Guard duty.

The purpose and sense of Congress in enacting the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) was to "encourage non-career service in the uniformed services" (38 U.S.C. § 4301). To further this purpose, Congress limited to 5 years the cumulative time that an employer is required to support a service member's military absences. H.R. 1879 would amend USERRA to exempt from the 5-year limitation the service of National Guard members who are ordered to full-time duty pursuant to 32 U.S.C. § 502(f), and that the Secretary of Defense designates as being exempt from the 5-year limitation under USERRA. To accomplish this, the bill would add a new subparagraph (F) to the other 5-year limitation exemptions listed in 38 U.S.C. § 4312(c)(4). The Department is confident that the Secretary of Defense is sensitive to the balance civilian employers face in supporting their employees who serve in the National Guard and also succeeding in their businesses, and therefore we have no objection to this provision. However, the bill should clarify that a particular 502(f) assignment is exempt from the 5-year USERRA limitation of 4312(c)(4)(F) only if the Secretary of Defense expressly designates in writing on the orders to duty that such duty qualifies under 38 U.S.C. § 4312(c)(12)(F).

H.R. 1168 - To amend chapter 42 of title 38, United States Code, to provide certain veterans with employment training assistance.

H.R. 1168 would direct the Secretary of Labor to provide covered veterans a monthly training assistance allowance for each of 6 months in which they are enrolled in an employment and training program that teaches a skill in demand. Covered veterans would include those who: do not qualify for VA's educational and training assistance under Title 38, have been unemployed for 4 consecutive months, and can complete the training program. The amount of the assistance would be tied to the basic allowance for housing for an E-5 payable in the ZIP code area in which the veteran resides. The veteran would also be eligible for a $5,000 moving stipend

The Department notes that H.R. 1168 appears to establish an entitlement to this assistance, which is a concern in light of the long-term financial challenges the Nation faces. The assistance would be available without regard to the financial need of the veteran or the need for training to enhance his or her employment prospects.

The Department also notes that veterans receive priority of service within the wide array of training programs currently available through the DOL-funded American Job Centers system. Moreover, Pell Grants and other financial assistance may also be available for unemployed veterans. As unemployed workers, these veterans may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits as well.

The Department, however, would like to offer some thoughts on this pending legislation. In the event this legislation is enacted and appropriations are provided, there are several issues that we will have to address prior to its implementation. For instance, the Department will need to develop a system of certification and payment. In addition, the Department will need to explore various options to include the possibility of veteran certification being done by veterans' employment specialists in American Job Centers. If the veteran is or has been in receipt of unemployment insurance or unemployment compensation for ex-service members, then verification could be made from those respective records.

The Department would need to work to develop a payment system, which would include collaborating with the Department of Defense to ascertain payment amounts under section 403 of title 37, United States Code.

The Department believes this program's highest priority should be those eligible veterans who without this benefit would be unable to obtain the training necessary to find a good job.

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