Vietnam Veterans of America
Licensure & Certification
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity
September 20, 2007
Good afternoon, Madame Chairwoman, Ranking Member Boozman and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for giving Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) the opportunity to offer our comments regarding licensure and certification activities that could, if put in place, materially enhance the lives of the men and women retuning to civilian lives from today’s wars.
The United States military is still the largest and arguably the most effective training institution in America. Skills are taught ranging from computer programming to meteorology to flying to allied health care professions to language proficiency to public relations to virtually anything that one can think of as a type of work or skill that would be required in any facet of our society. They do what they do very well indeed. Service members are able to acquire extraordinary proficiencies and skills even in a short military career. The one thing that is generally lacking, however, are “civilian paper credentials” that document what they know and can do in a manner that is transferable and accepted in the civilian economy and the civilian job marketplace. This lack often means that extraordinary skill and well grounded subject knowledge is often lost to the individual as a credential that can be marketed in the civilian world, and thus often very expensive training paid for by the American taxpayer becomes an economic opportunity loss to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It means jobs not filled, leadership potential and skills not put to productive use, and a general loss to our overall economic growth. Frankly, this is an intolerable situation that the nation can no longer tolerate.
The need for formal credentialing of skills, knowledge, and training
acquired in the military in a way that will be accepted in the civilian
world has been apparent to many for at least thirty five years. One of
the major successes in capitalizing on experience and training began
with the MEDEX program at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire
to train former Navy Corpsmen and Army Medics as Physician Assistants
or “P.A.s” that began in 1971. The entire profession in medicine
now known as Physician Assistants really began with that one program,
Physician Assistants are now widely accepted in civilian medical settings,
and in the military itself, where there are even P.A.s serving as Commanding
Officers of Medical Companies. In fact, Physician Assistants are highly
respected and have a broad range of practice almost everywhere in U.S.
medicine, except the Veterans Health Administration of the Department
of Veterans Affairs.
The Congress recognized that there was still a large unfilled need when it passed the legislation that became Public Law 106-50, in 1999. One provision created a mechanism for pursuing many additional fields where service members could obtain civilian recognized certification that would enable them to market their skills and expertise acquired during military service in the civilian job market. Unfortunately this function was located in the National Veterans Business Development Corporation (AKA – The Veterans Corporation) which was yet to get organized, and which had more than enough of a challenge just getting organized to try and meet their primary mandate.
Frankly, the function should be formally moved to the Department of Labor, and impetus from the Congress marshaled to ensure that Labor actually moves forward, in cooperation with the accrediting bodies for the professions and skill trades in the states, to create smooth transition for those separating today and in the future, especially disabled veterans.
The best work we know of being done anywhere today is the National Organization of Competency Assurance (NOCA). They were most interested in the area following the enactment of Public Law 106-50, but became disillusioned over time as there was no real movement toward getting military cooperation and all parties moving to come to workable solutions. It became clear early on the Veterans Corporation was not able to handle this task, nor did they want it. While there was some activity after the actual function, if not the legal responsibility, was moved over to the Veterans Employment & Training Service at USDOL, there has not been any major progress to our knowledge. They are having a major conference on the rapidly changing field of skill certification in San Antonio in November, which will be attended by employers as well as certifying entities and professionals in this field.
There are some tools and information available on the VETS web site regarding certification and credentialing, but actual certification agreement and arrangements for military occupations does not appear to be something that is being pursued. Frankly, there needs to be clarification of responsibilities and accountability for pursuing this effort, and funding provided if there is to be any serious effort to capitalize on the considerable investment the nation has already made in the training and education of separating service members.
The nation’s business community is very concerned with finding skilled workers who are disciplined and ready, willing, and eager to work. In fact VVA is a member of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and active in the activities of the US Chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce, which is having a major conference here in Washington, D.C. next week. I have made details of this event available to your staff. VVA is pursuing a number of private efforts with business and privately owned military job boards because we are getting more return for our efforts per hour invested than with the Federal entities that should be in the forefront of this effort.
The point is that businesses large and small are scrambling to locate and hire good, trained workers at a time when military separatees do not know where to turn, or do not have the civilian certification of the actual skills they possess. This matter of skill certification and proper matching of veterans with jobs is matter that directly and materially affects the ability of the younger veterans in being able to quickly enter the civilian labor force at a level which will maximize their competence.
May I be so bold as to suggest that it would be fruitful for this Subcommittee to hold a semi-formal/informal “roundtable” in the next few months that would involve members, business leaders, VETS/USDOL, VA Vocational Rehabilitation & Education, DOD, veterans and military organizations, , representatives from the Institute for a Competitive Workforce and similar entities, representatives from NOCA and similar entities, as well as other stakeholders as determined by you to try and articulate the needs, and “brainstorm” what might be a productive course of action to meet the needs of both the returning veterans and of American business in the second session of the 110th Congress.
Madame Chairwoman and distinguished Members of this subcommittee that concludes VVA’s formal statement. I welcome your comments, and will be pleased to answer any questions you may have. Again, on behalf of VVA National President John Rowan, the VVA National Board of Directors, and our membership, thank you for allowing VVA to appear here today to share our views.
VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
September 20, 2007
The national organization Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is a non-profit veteran’s 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:
RICHARD “Rick” WEIDMAN
Richard F. “Rick” Weidman serves as Executive Director for Policy & 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 Services Director, Agency Liaison, and Director of Government Relations. Rick left VVA staff in 1987 to serve in the Administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo (NY) as statewide director of veterans’ employment & training (State Veterans Programs Administrator) for the New York State Department of Labor. From 1995 to 1997 he served as Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee of the New York State Assembly. He returned to the VVA staff in 1998.
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 in veteran affairs. He is currently Chairman of the for Veterans Entrepreneurship Task Force (VET-Force), which is the consortium of all major veterans groups and veteran and service disabled veteran small business owners regarding expanding opportunities for veterans, particularly disabled veterans, to own and successfully operate their own small business, to include Federal procurement policies and practices.
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.
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