VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
Richard F. Weidman,
Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
United States House of Representatives
Accelerated Education Benefits for Veterans
May 3, 2007
Chairwoman Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, and members of the Subcommittee
on Economic Opportunity, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) thanks
you for the opportunity to testify here today. And on behalf
of our officers, our Board of Directors, our members and their families,
we thank you, too, for the important work you are doing, and the
initiatives you are taking, on behalf of our nation’s veterans.
Not everyone will need medical care or other services, but everyone
(including disabled veterans) will need a job and/or assistance and
training that will help lead to gainful employment, and their fullest
possible reintegration into the life of our country.
We would like to focus our comments this morning on just a narrow
issue of non credit training, particularly entrepreneurial training
for those who wish to go into small business or self employment.
It has been said so often that by now it is almost a truism to say
that self employment is many times not only the best avenue for disabled
veterans (particularly profoundly disabled veterans) to secure gainful
employment worthy of their talents where they live, but it may be
the only way. That may be particularly true in rural areas like most
of South Dakota and northwest Arkansas, and many other parts of the
country. It is worth bearing in mind that apparently more than half
of those deployed overseas come from towns of 25,000 or less, where
job opportunities are much more truncated than is the case in more
highly urbanized areas of the United States. This makes the work
of this Subcommittee all the more important.
VVA strongly favored the extension of the Montgomery GI Bill Benefits
to pay for special vocational programs in the past few years, including
the initiative for non-credit courses for those who need additional
training in order to succeed at the business they are already working,
or to be prepared to more successfully launch a business on which
they are embarking.
It has become clear that the rules for approving some of these courses
are so stringent as to discourage many of the Small Business Development
Centers (SBDC) from even trying to have their courses approved. It
is a matter of striking a reasonable balance between quality and
accessibility, between the hours spent in the classroom and the way
adults actually do most learning today in this digital day of almost
universal access to the Internet and computers. VVA would suggest
that this is particularly for those who are in business or about
to launch their own business. Their time for studying and processing
the material is often whenever they can fit it in, which is often
an hour here and an hour there during the work day (which is often
12 or more hours), and that often will not conform to the needs of
a more traditional classroom model.
I must caution that VVA has always, and continues to have the highest
respect for the way in which most of the State Approving Agency people
do their job of protecting veterans from unscrupulous operators of “fly–by–night” businesses
that masquerade as legitimate training academies of one sort or another.
However, the Nation’s system of more than one thousand Small
Business Development Centers (SBDC) are NOT unscrupulous operators,
but well respected and sought after resources, that are often the
genesis of as well as one of the engines of prosperity for economic
development within an area. As you know, there is at least one SBDC
in each of the 435 Congressional Districts in the country, because
everybody wanted one!
Most of their offerings are paid for straight out of the pocket
of the entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs and small business
owners. They pay for these courses and training regimen because they
believe that this knowledge and training will help them have a better
chance of succeeding at their small business. Overall experience
in the small business community indicates that they are correct that
their chances of success are greatly enhanced by purchasing such
It is clear that the SAA continue to uphold what they see as the
clear legal standards set in law and regulation for traditional training,
and do a fine job of it. The problem is that many of the veterans
who are in small business want and need training that is not offered
in these traditional formats from the SBDC. Congress enacted changes
in the GI Bill in order to help these veteran business owners and
entrepreneurs to be able to receive assistance to pay for these courses.
However, nothing was done to change the format of the standards and
bench marks that the SAA must adhere to in upholding quality standards
to reflect that these are often not traditional classroom training.
It is clear that the Congress must now work with the Association
of Small Business Development Centers and others to develop language
in the law that both protects the veteran and yet makes it possible
for approval of the many fine offerings of the SBDC needed by veteran
owned businesses. Given that the very nature of the delivery system
for adult learning in America continues to evolve, it is hardly likely
that this problem is limited to just the entrepreneurial courses
offered by the SBDC. Therefore an initiative that offers a new legal
paradigm is needed in Title 38 to accommodate this vital vocational
Further, VVA supports an initiative which would extend and improve
certain authorities of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs related
to providing State Approving Agencies (SAAs) with funding necessary
to fulfill their statutory responsibilities and more importantly,
provide veterans with services that are vital to the success of the
various educational assistance programs. Simply said – State
Approving Agencies are the face of the GI Bill at the state level,
and need more funds to properly do their job.
In this same vein, VVA supports extending the current rates of payment
for veterans who are enrolled in an apprenticeship or other on-the-job
training program. We believe that this provision will allow
more veterans who cannot or choose not to enroll in an institutional
program to pursue training for an occupation or profession leading
more directly to gainful employment, which not only helps retuning
veterans and demobilized National Guard and Reserve members to better
readjust to civilian life, but it also helps them to help America
be more competitive in the world economy.
This concludes our testimony. Again, VVA is appreciative of
having been afforded the opportunity to testify and offer our views
here today. I would be pleased to respond to any of your questions.
VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
May 3, 2007
The national organization
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is a 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.
For Further Information, Contact:
Executive Director of Policy
and Government Affairs
Vietnam Veterans of America
(301) 585-4000, extension
Richard F. Weidman
Richard F. “Rick” Weidman is Executive Director for Policy
and Government Affairs on the National Staff of Vietnam Veterans
of America. As such, he is the primary spokesperson for VVA in Washington.
He served as a 1-A-O Army Medical Corpsman during the Vietnam War,
including service with Company C, 23rd Med, AMERICAL Division, located
in I Corps of Vietnam in 1969.
Mr. Weidman was 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 as statewide director of veterans’ employment & training
(State Veterans Programs Administrator) for the New York State Department
He has served as Consultant on Legislative Affairs to the National
Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), 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 - Subcommittee
on Disabled Veterans, Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Entrepreneurship
at the Small Business Administration, and numerous other advocacy
posts. He currently serves as Chairman of the Task Force for Veterans’ Entrepreneurship,
which has become the principal collective voice for veteran and disabled
veteran small-business owners.
Mr. Weidman was an instructor and administrator at Johnson State
College (Vermont) in the 1970s, where he was also active in community
and veterans affairs. He attended Colgate University (B.A., 1967),
and did graduate study at the University of Vermont.
He is married and has four children.