April 14, 2021

Senators Hassan, Rubio Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prioritize Veterans' Employment, Transition, Education Benefits at the VA

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) reintroduced the bipartisan Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan (VET OPP) Act to prioritize veterans’ employment, transition, and education benefits at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Representatives Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

“Veterans have a wealth of experience that can be invaluable to helping businesses, communities, and our economy thrive,” Senator Hassan said. “But veterans don’t always have the support that they need to find jobs and successfully transition into civilian life. This 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.” 

 

“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,” Senator 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 “The VET OPP Act would help to modernize the outdated structure of the VA, making transition programs more accessible to our veterans.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.” 

 

“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,” Pat Murray, Director VFW’s National Legislative Service, said. “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.” 

 

"Student Veterans of America strongly supports the VET OPP Act, which creates the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration," Lauren Augustine, Student Veterans of America's (SVA) Vice President of Government Affairs, said. "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."

 

Last Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed companion legislation to Senator Hassan and Rubio’s VET OPP Act. Senators Hassan and Rubio first introduced the legislation in April 2018.

 

Currently, the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) is responsible for all VA benefits provided to veterans outside of health care and cemetery services. While VBA is tasked with implementing many different programs related to veterans education and employment, the majority of staff and resources are dedicated to the administration of disability compensation and pension claims. This has resulted in a lack of attention on the administration of other critical VBA benefits, such as the Forever GI Bill, Veteran Readiness and Employment Services, Home Loan benefits, and VA’s portion of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).

 

The VET OPP Act would address this issue by moving VA transition, education, and employment programs under a new, separate administration – the Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration. This fourth VA administration would be led by a new undersecretary and created using existing resources to avoid additional bureaucracy.

  

The VET OPP Act is supported by:

 

  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Student Veterans of America
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
  • Vietnam Veterans of America

 

Senator Hassan is working to ensure that veterans in New Hampshire and across the country have access to the resources and services that they need and have earned. The American Rescue Plan that Senator Hassan helped pass into law will strengthen veterans’ health care services, including to support mental health and telehealth, and also includes significant funding for job training to help veterans get good-paying jobs. Additionally, last month, President Biden signed into law bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Hassan and her colleagues that will expand COVID-19 vaccine access to all veterans, their spouses, and their caregivers through the VA. Senator Hassan also introduced a bipartisan bill to fundamentally reform and improve how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the VA. In addition, Senator Hassan recently led a successful bipartisan push to return the POW/MIA flag above the White House.

 

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