WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the bipartisan Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan (VET OPP) Act of 2018.
The current Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is divided into three Administrations: Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemetery Administration. VBA is responsible for all benefits, including disability compensation, pension claims, and economic opportunity. Unfortunately, VBA efforts to administer important educational and employment benefits, like the GI Bill or the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, are often overshadowed by VBA’s other missions. Under the bill, the VA would be required to create a new administration within existing resources, while capping the number of full-time employees available, to avoid growing government and adding new bureaucracy at VA.
The VET OPP Act of 2018 would allow the VA to reemphasize and prioritize programs that empower veterans in their civilian lives and enhance their economic opportunity by creating a Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration, led by a new Under Secretary of Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition. This new administration would be responsible for overseeing all transition, education, and employment programs, including: vocational rehabilitation and employment programs; educational assistance programs; veterans’ housing loans; verification of small businesses under the Vets First Program; and, the VA portion of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
Upon introduction, the Representatives and Senators released the following statements:
“It’s critical that our servicemembers have access to resources that assist them with finding jobs or educational opportunities as they make the transition to civilian life. By placing educational, employment, training, and transition programs together in a Fourth Administration within the VA, we will bring more transparency and oversight to these programs, while also placing greater priority on opportunity-based programs within the VA. This is consistent with our effort to invest in our troops from the day they take their oath of service to when they begin their civilian careers,” said Congressman Wenstrup.
“Job training, educational opportunities, transition assistance programs, and other basic forms of support are often as important to a veteran’s quality of life than other veterans’ services that receive far more attention and oversight,” said Congressman Takano. “This legislation reflects the importance of providing returning service members with a clear path to a rewarding and successful civilian life. The most meaningful way to honor our veterans’ service and sacrifice is by ensuring they have the tools and support they need to live with dignity in the country they fought to protect.”
“For far too long, the outdated structure of the VA has allowed economic opportunity and transition programs for our veterans to fall to the wayside,” said Senator Rubio. “By creating a Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Assistance Administration, this legislation would provide more direct oversight and accountability over existing programs aimed at helping our veterans lead economically prosperous lives post-service. Our veterans did not hesitate to answer the call to protect our great nation and we must do everything we can to ensure the VA is adapting to the 21st century needs of our veterans.”
“We must do more to ensure that our brave veterans in New Hampshire and across America have the support and resources they need to smoothly transition into our civilian workforce,” Senator Hassan said. “By establishing a new Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration at the VA, this bipartisan bill will help prioritize the education, housing, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and military-to-civilian transition services that are critical to helping our veterans succeed in the 21st century innovation economy. I will continue working across the aisle to ensure that all of our service members and veterans have the support that they deserve.”
Organizations in Support:
The American Enterprise Institute recently published a paper advocating for the creation of a fourth VA Administration. Click here to read the paper.
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