Veterans’ Legislation Advances

Legislation to improve employment and training programs for veterans is among a package of bills passed by the House of Representatives. The Veterans Opportunity to Work Act (H.R. 2433), introduced by Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), was approved on a 418-6 vote.

The $1.5 billion job-training measure would provide retraining for veterans 35 to 60 years old who have been out of work for at least 26 weeks and would improve transition assistance, job placement and professional licensing and certification for veterans seeking jobs related to their military occupational specialty.

“This legislation responds to one of DAV’s legislative priorities,” said National Legislative Director Joseph A. Violante. “Our membership is on record in support of efforts to eliminate employment barriers that impede the transfer of military job skills to the civilian labor market and increase the civilian labor market’s acceptance of the occupational training provided by the military.”

“When our brave men and women return from military service, it is vital that they have every opportunity to obtain gainful employment,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski.

Job figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that nearly one million veterans are currently unemployed. In addition to the employment measure, the House passed: H.R. 2349, which would create a pilot program to test the skills and performance of VA claims processors and provide remedial training for deficiencies. Those whose performances are still unsatisfactory after two remedial training opportunities could face disciplinary action.

Another provision in the bill would exempt insurance settlements from being considered as income when determining eligibility for means-tested veterans pensions. It would also authorize the use of electronic communications to provide notice to claimants for benefits.

H.R. 2074 would require improvements in reporting and tracking sexual assault on VA property. The Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act is a result of a June Government Accountability Office report which found that lack of reporting, security measures and accountability lead to hundreds of patients and VA employees being left vulnerable to sexual assault.

Another provision would order the VA to allow service dogs on all its properties and create a test program to determine whether veterans with service-connected mental health or stress disorders would benefit from working as service dog trainers.

H.R. 2646, a $1.3 billion veterans’ health care facilities construction bill would fund earthquake-related projects in Seattle and Los Angeles. It also would fund other major projects in Fayetteville, Ark.; Orlando, Fla.; Palo Alto, Calif.; St. Louis; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

H.R. 2302 would require quarterly reports from the VA detailing the costs for conferences it sponsors.

H.R. 1263 would extend protections against home foreclosures to surviving spouses of troops who die while in the military or after they leave the military of a serviceconnected disability. The bill also would require companies lending money to service members to have compliance offices.