Ranking Member Reyes, and other distinguished
members of the subcommittee, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is pleased to
have this opportunity to provide our views regarding the status of the
Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS).
As you may know, Mr.
Chairman, VVA has long had serious reservations and deep concern about the
generally not very effective national effort to assist veterans, especially
disabled veterans and veterans at high risk to obtain and sustain meaningful
employment. Ever year since VVA was founded in 1978, VVA has brought serious
concerns to the Congress when it became clear that the Department of Labor (DoL)
would not meaningfully address these concerns. There was a time when we thought
that the problem was one of poor leadership at the Department of Labor, a
flaccid bureaucracy, a lack of adequate resources, and perhaps the arrogant and
anti-veteran corporate culture at the Employment and Training Administration of
the US Department of Labor and their state partners. VVA has come to the
conclusion that while all of the above was (and largely still is) true, the real
problem was structure and philosophy.
The VVA National
Convention in 1997 scrapped all of the many resolutions that we put on the books
to try and provide remedy to the myriad problems of this so-called employment
system, and particularly the veteran’s portion of these services. One thing was
abundantly clear: the average veteran, particularly disabled veterans and others
most in need of assistance, simply were not receiving meaningful help in the
most populous parts of our Nation. Like our distinguished colleagues at the
other veterans’ organizations, we had been trying to add proscriptive solutions
to real problems by seeking additional black letter law. We were wrong to think
that these solutions could ever work.
The people who run what
used to be called the Job Service and now the Work Force Development Agencies,
take money very, very seriously. It is virtually the only thing that gets and
holds their attention. What is wrong with the current structure is that there is
no reward for excellent performance, nor any sanctions for terrible performance
and behavior. There is no way to get, much less hold the attention of management
at every level in these agencies. Therefore, VVA has called for major changes in
veterans’ employment and training system since that time, and strengthened that
call in 1997, calling for meaningful standards, better monitoring and analysis,
and for private sector principles to be applied to any entity that purports to
meet the employment needs of veterans, particularly disabled veterans and other
veterans in greatest need.
The United States is a
democratic republic. The United States is also a mercantile country, relying on
a variation of market forces (i.e., cash) driven forces to make our economy work
well, Our economy generally does work well. Applying a variation of the free
market system and our democracy is why veterans served and fought. A carefully
structured new system can make this system work.
In its September 2001
report on the status of VETS (GAO–01-928), the General Accounting Office (GAO)
raised a number of concerns about the effectiveness of the VETS program in
relation to the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). A core concept behind
WIA was the centralization of workforce-related services in “one-stop” centers.
VETS participates in these centers through its Disabled Veterans’ Outreach
Program (DVOP) and Local Veterans’ Employment Representative (LVER) programs.
When it examined the
effectiveness of these centers and their utilization of DVOP & LVER services,
GAO found that VETS was not collecting the data necessary to determine how
effective these services were, particularly subsequent job retention and wages
earned by program participants. At present, the only outcome data VETS collects
is on the percentage of veterans served who gain employment. However, because
each state uses different methods for verifying and measuring employment rates,
the data submitted to VETS by the states represents a variable patchwork of
dissimilar data, making any type of meaningful outcome measurement impossible.
VVA does not understand why VETS has failed to negotiate effective agreements
with state workforce agencies to develop a common standard for measuring
outcomes in this area. This failure by DOL/VETS management has clearly
compromised program effectiveness and is, bluntly stated, inexcusable. VVA has
been urging a strengthening and simplification of this data gathering for some
time, focusing on job placement. (The problem with “obtained employment”, and
checking wage records is that the Work Force Development Agency (WFDA) may not
have provided any real help to the veteran at all in his or her job search.)
Also inexcusable is the
failure of VETS’ management to provide proper oversight of DVOP and LVER grants.
We concur with GAO’s assessment that after so many years in existence, VETS
still does not have effective performance management systems for monitoring
compliance with program objectives. Part of the difficulty is that there are so
few tools that the VETS staff has in the field. VETS can declare a state out of
compliance and seize the grant funds, or move to recapture funds when the WFDA
is caught red handed blatantly breaking the law. Otherwise their only tools are
encouragement and moral suasion, or strong letters and potential political
embarrassment of the agency. This is the fault not of the agency, but of the top
political and permanent leadership of the United States Department of Labor, who
have never strongly supported VETS pushing for performance in the field. It is
also the fault of the Congress for not changing Federal law, to give the VETS
staff in the field more control over rewards and sanctions. In other words,
there must be real money tools for them to be effective.
Beyond the management
oversight problems outlined above, GAO claims that the VETS program suffers from
a “lack of flexibility” driven largely by its original authorizing legislation.
As GAO noted in its report, existing law does not provide DVOP and LVER
programs with the flexibility they need to move staff around within a state to
match changing employment and residency patterns. The original law authorizing
VETS was written under “Old Economy” conditions. Congress must modernize the
VETS statute to bring the program into line with the “New Economy” and rapidly
evolving job market.
Mr. Chairman, all of
the preceding paragraph and “finding” is just plain eyewash. When the states’
WFDAs ask for “flexibility” what they really mean is license for doing whatever
they want with the money. There is virtually no proven record of performance on
the part of most states that would lead any reasonable person to say yes when
they say “Trust us.”
The assumption of the
GAO that the “new” one stop centers created by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
are working well to help citizens find jobs is just plain wrong. There is no
reasonable basis on which to say this. It is worth noting that the same people
who wrote this report also wrote the reports ten years ago that led to the
eventual enactment of the WIA. It is worth noting that while the GAO spent much
time in person with the state WDTA and others, but only limited phone interviews
were used to seek input of the veterans organizations. It is also worth noting
that the one stop centers say that they are in the “information sharing”
business, rather than job placement. This stated mission is virtually
impossible to measure in terms of real and material usefulness in the employment
search. Therefore there is no way to hold the WFDAs accountable for how well
they are doing in regard to assisting Americans to find meaningful work at a
Mr. Chairman, there are
quite a number of factual mistakes and erroneous assumptions in this report. VVA
would be pleased to detail all of these in a report to this distinguished
Committee, if you so desire. Let it suffice to say that the GAO is correct that
rewards and sanctions are the minimum that needs to be done. GAO is wrong in
their assumption of good will and a real desire to do a great job for veterans
on the part of the WFDA officials in every state. Some are very good, and very
committed to the mission. Many, particularly in our most populous states are
not committed or only offer lip service.
Vietnam Veterans of
America sincerely appreciates the opportunity to present our views on these
extremely important issues, and we look forward to working with you, Mr.
Chairman, and your distinguished colleagues on this Committee to address and
resolve these and other important matters of concern to our nation’s veterans.
VETERANS OF AMERICA
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is a national non-profit
veterans membership organization registered as a 501(c)(19) with the Internal
Revenue Service. VVA is also appropriately registered with the Secretary of the
Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives in compliance with the
Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.
VVA is not currently in receipt of any federal grant or
contract, other than the routine allocation of office space and associated
resources in VA Regional Offices for outreach and direct services through its
Veterans Benefits Program (Service Representatives). This is also true of the
previous two fiscal years.
Director of Government Relations
Vietnam Veterans of America
(301) 585-4000, extension 127
Calvin P. Gross
Employment, Training, and Business Opportunities Committee
VVA National Board of Directors
Calvin P. Gross is founder and CEO of Gross Enterprises,
Inc., a technology firm marketing unique, secure, and custom communications
equipment. Mr. Gross has 24 years of experience in sales, marketing and
training, including 17 years as a senior marketing, product, and sales manager
for AT&T/Lucent Technologies at their world headquarters in Basking Ridge, New
Mr. Gross served in the United States Army from 1966 to
1968, with tours in Germany and Vietnam. Throughout his long involvement with
VVA, Calvin has served in multiple leadership positions within the organization
at the local, state, and national level. He currently serves as chairman of
VVA’s National Employment, Training, and Business Opportunities Committee, which
works to foster greater employment and self-employment opportunities for
veterans through a variety of initiatives. He is also a member of VVA’s Board of
Calvin has served on the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s advisory
board, as well as on the Board of the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home. Calvin
and his wife of 27 years have two children.
Director, Government Relations
Richard Weidman serves as
Director of Government Relations on the National Staff of Vietnam Veterans of
America (VVA). He served as a medic during the Vietnam War, including service
with Company C, 23rd Med, Americal Division, located in I Corps of
Vietnam, in 1969.
Mr. Weidman was a volunteer with VVA in 1978 and then
part of the staff of VVA from 1979 to 1987, serving variously as Membership
Service Director, Agency Liaison, and Director of Government Relations. He left
VVA to serve in the Administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo (NY) as Director
of Veterans Employment & Training for the New York State Department of Labor.
He has served as Consultant on Legislative Affairs to
the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, and served at various times on
the VA Readjustment Advisory Committee, the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory
Committee on Veterans Employment & Training, the President’s Committee on
Employment of Persons with Disabilities, the Advisory Committee on veterans’
entrepreneurship of the Small Business Administration, and numerous other
advocacy posts in veteran affairs.
Mr. Weidman was an instructor and administrator at
Johnson State College (Vermont) in the 1970s, where he was also active in
community and veteran affairs. He attended Colgate University, (B.A.-1967), and
did graduate study at the University of Vermont.
He is married and has four children.
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