WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a bipartisan companion bill to legislation introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to prioritize veterans’ employment, transition, and education benefits at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). The bipartisan Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan (VET OPP) Act of 2019 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Mike Levin (D-Cali.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.
Currently, the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) is responsible for all Department of Veterans Affairs (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, Vocational Rehabilitation, 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.
“Realigning the VA structure to have a dedicated administration to handle educational and employment services will help ensure that our veterans have the resources and support that they need to thrive in civilian life,” Senator Hassan said. “I applaud the House of Representatives for passing this bipartisan legislation, and I urge my Senate colleagues to follow their lead without delay.”
“Now that the House has passed the VET OPP Act that I introduced with Senator Hassan, I urge my Senate colleagues to take action on this important, bipartisan legislation to modernize the outdated structure of the VA,” Senator Rubio said. “Our service men and women deserve a VA system that is fully equipped to help them lead economically prosperous lives post-service. The VET OPP Act will ensure the VA is adapting to the 21st century needs of our veterans.”