Reps. Wenstrup, Levin, Sens. Rubio, Hassan Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prioritize Veterans’ Employment, Transition
Washington, April 14, 2021
WASHINGTON — This week, Representatives Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Mike Levin (D-Cali.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, and Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) introduced H.R. 2494, the Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan (VET OPP) Act of 2021.
Currently, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is responsible for all Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits provided to veterans outside of healthcare and cemetery services. While there are many different benefits that VBA provides, the bulk of staffing and resources have been directed towards the administration of disability compensation and pension claims. This has resulted in a lack of attention on the administration of other VBA benefits, such as the Forever GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation, Home Loan benefits, and VA’s portion of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
Without adding any additional bureaucracy or personnel, the VET OPP Act would address this issue by realigning transition, education, and employment programs at VA under a new administration, the Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration. This new administration would be accountable to a presidentially appointed undersecretary.
“The men and women I served with in Iraq were incredibly skilled and experienced. Some of them, however, struggled to fully utilize their talents when transitioning back to civilian life,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup. “We’ve made great strides in improving veteran care by cutting through red tape with strong, bipartisan laws, like the VA MISSION Act. Now, we must continue addressing our veterans’ needs by aligning transition, education, and employment programs in a Fourth Administration within the VA to help streamline organization and better serve those who served us in uniform. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan, bicameral effort, and thank Rep. Levin and Senators Rubio and Hassan for joining me in introducing this important legislation.”
“We have a responsibility to provide America’s servicemembers with high quality services to ease their transition back to civilian life, but many veterans aren’t receiving the services they deserve due to red tape at the VA,” said Rep. Levin. “Education, job training, and transition assistance programs are critical to veterans’ economic success, and this bipartisan bill will allow us to deliver those resources more effectively by creating a new Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration at the VA and bringing more oversight to economic programs for veterans. As Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, I’ll continue to advance measures ensuring that military families like those around Camp Pendleton have the economic support they need.”
“Our service men and women did not hesitate to answer the call to protect our great nation, and they deserve a VA system that is fully equipped to help them lead economically prosperous lives post-service,” Rubio said. “The VET OPP Act would help to modernize the outdated structure of the VA, making transition programs more accessible to our veterans. I urge my Senate colleagues to swiftly pass this legislation.”
“Veterans have a wealth of experience that can be invaluable to helping businesses, communities, and our economy thrive. But veterans don’t always have the support that they need to find jobs and successfully transition into civilian life,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan legislation would strengthen efforts to connect veterans to employment and education opportunities, and I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis to build support for this bill and pass it into law.”
“Many economic opportunity programs fall under VBA to administer veterans benefits. VBA currently houses Compensation and Pension, along with GI Bill, VR&E, Home Loan, and other important benefits. The VFW believes VBA’s organizational structure needs updating. The VFW supports creating a fourth administration under VA with its own undersecretary whose sole responsibility is the economic opportunity programs. We would like to thank Congressmen Wenstrup and Levin for making this a priority,” said Pat Murray, Director VFW’s National Legislative Service.
"Student Veterans of America strongly supports the VET OPP Act, which creates the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration," said Lauren Augustine, Student Veterans of America's (SVA) Vice President of Government Affairs. "The intent of programs such as the GI Bill, VA home loan guarantee, and transition assistance programs are truly unique and separate from the larger disability compensation operations managed by the Veterans Benefits Administration. Separating the appointed management of these programs honors that difference, creates greater accountability, attention, and leadership over some of the most successful and empowering programs and benefits currently administered by VA."
"PVA is pleased to support Rep. Wenstrup's legislation to establish the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration. In addition to giving important benefit programs the time and attention they deserve, the new administration will allow for focused collaboration with other agencies and programs, like the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which also serves veterans, increasing program efficiencies," said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director for Government Relations.
The following veterans organizations support the VET OPP Act:
· Paralyzed Veterans of America
Congressman Wenstrup serves as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. He served a tour in Iraq from 2005-2006 as a combat surgeon and was awarded a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge for his service.