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March/april 2010

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Economic Opportunities


The overarching themes of our 2009 Resolutions dealing with employment, training, and business opportunities are: 1) Organizational cultural resistance to compliance with federal laws, regulations, and policies; 2) Congressional unwillingness to insist, through oversight and programmatic annual reporting, on compliance (not measuring effort but actual success); and 3) A general unwillingness by Congress and administrative management to provide institutionalized mechanisms for redress, incentives, and sanctions.

How do you get the person on the ground to do what you want? This is not a new problem. First, you must have the legal tools to enable senior management to hold junior managers to task. For the most part, they are not in place at either the federal or state levels. Second, you must have competent managers who are held to performance measures and willing to do their jobs.

Third, you must have members of Congress, especially committee chairs who understand the problem, who are willing to spend the time working it, and who, without partisan motivation, hold cabinet and sub-cabinet officials accountable.

The number of times we find federal agencies refusing to comply with the law is shocking. Not because they can’t, but because they choose not to.

E-1-07 Jobs in the Public Sector: Veteran preference remains a founding issue of VVA. We have made some progress at the federal level, but it is inconsistent and we have yet to achieve any real mechanisms that allow a veteran any redress. 

The committee is working with members of Congress to craft legislation that will provide for an effective and clear redress mechanism for veterans who believe their earned rights to veterans’ preference have been violated. We can change the laws; however, if an administration is unwilling to require compliance and if Congress is unwilling to monitor compliance, there is little hope for change.

Many states have implemented veterans preference laws in hiring and promotion. We ask State Council Presidents to provide the committee with copies of their state laws affecting veteran preference.

E-2-95 Job Training and Other Services: The most successful Vet Centers are those with a strong employment-placement component in their mix of services. We’d like to find Vet Centers that successfully do job training and employment placement, then show them to Congress and ask that these proven concepts be pushed forward.

Committee staff are reviewing federal statutes to ensure that sufficient services to meet the special needs of veterans are in all programs and governing statutes. We also want to ensure that there is appropriate reporting, accountability mechanisms, and essential oversight.

E-3-03 Veterans in Business: Veterans often give up or delay for years the opportunities to start a business. They don’t have the time to develop the relationships so essential in the start up of a business. Veterans often bring unique and honed skills to new business concepts or approaches, but they have, in fact, been disadvantaged by their military service.

That is why we have laws that offer veterans—especially disabled veterans—a hand up in their efforts to get started. Even though the Small Business Administration is inconsistent in its veterans efforts, it is still the best friend a new business has. SBA has enormous resources and knowledge to help any new business. The SBA should be your partner at least for the first five years of your new business.

We have new legislation in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee that will greatly improve the VA’s compliance with existing laws. We will change the 3 percent set-aside from a discretionary choice by procurement officers to a mandated measure of performance. 

But too many new veteran-owned businesses sit back and wait for federal or state agencies to call them about opportunities. If you want work, you need to visit and get to know every procurement officer. If you don’t, they won’t call on you. We can provide the opportunity, but you have to make them aware you are there, you can do the job, and do it well. You want to become an asset to them.

E-18-07 A Comprehensive Employment Resource Development Program: In this economy, Vietnam veterans are very vulnerable to layoffs, early retirements, and business closings. Getting back in the queue and finding a new job often will require retraining. The best places to start are your Vet Center and your state employment service. But you may find them not equipped to help you: Most are now focused on the new veterans. 

These changes often trigger late-onset PTSD and other complications. We are discovering that many Vietnam veterans used their work to manage their PTSD. Now that work is gone, that old PTSD is coming forward. We need to craft a more comprehensive employment resource development program that keys into the specific needs, skills, and talents of vets, regardless of age. This is a challenge that we are struggling with.

One idea is the creation of a new Economic Opportunities Office within the VA. We understand the challenges, but it looks like this is the appropriate way to go. We have legislation in Congress to do this and are working with the sponsors and committee staff to make this something new, different, and practical for veterans, regardless of age or disability. We will keep you posted.

E-19-07 A Meaningful Job at a Living Wage: We have lots of federal laws and programs in place to make a difference. Agencies and their managers must be held accountable for the full implementation of all laws, regulations, and policies that affect veteran employment and wages. Congress, with help from the GAO, needs to ensure that these laws are being fully implemented.

The committee will soon post on its web page several additional resources for our members. These include: VVA Guide to Veterans Employment, VVA Guide to Veterans Preference, VVA Guide to Vocational Rehabilitation, VVA Guide to Veterans Entrepreneurship, VVA Guide to PTSD, and papers on homelessness and women in service.

If you know a useful guide or report that we should include, please let the committee know. If we can get permission, we will post it on our web page.

E-20-07 30th Anniversary of the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program: This resolution needs to be retired; the 30th anniversary was in November

The Economic Opportunities Committee: Ric Davidge, Chair.  Members: Bob Caswell, Ken Holybee, Joe Jennings, Daniel Johnston, Jim Shott, and Patrick Welch. Special Advisors: Darrell Mond, Robert Saunderson, and Tim Wheeler. Staff Coordinator: Rick Weidman.



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