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NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 9 November 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Real estate and rental and leasing; and professional, scientific, and technical services were the leading contributors to the increase in U.S. economic growth in the second quarter of 2018. According to the gross domestic product (GDP) by industry statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, 16 of 22 industry groups contributed to the overall 4.2 percent increase in real GDP in the second quarter. For the information services industry group, real value added—a measure of an industry's contribution to GDP—increased 13.4 percent in the second quarter, after rising 4.3 percent in the first quarter. The second quarter growth primarily reflected an increase in data processing, internet publishing, and other information services.
 
Real estate and rental and leasing increased 5.3 percent, after rising 2.7 percent. The second quarter growth primarily reflected increases to other real estates, which includes offices of real estate agents and brokers, as well as housing. Professional, scientific, and technical services increased 9.3 percent, after rising 6.0 percent. The second quarter growth primarily reflected an increase in miscellaneous professional, scientific, and technical services, which includes advertising and research and development services.
 
Real GDP growth accelerated to 4.2 percent in the second quarter, up from 2.2 percent in the first quarter. Mining was the leading contributor to the acceleration in real GDP growth in the second quarter. Real value added for the industry group increased 11.7 percent, after decreasing 18.0 percent in the first quarter. Health care and social assistance increased 4.7 percent, after rising 4.6 percent, primarily reflecting an increase in ambulatory health care services. Durable goods manufacturing increased by 7.3 percent, after rising 4.7 percent. The second quarter increase was primarily attributed to motor vehicles, bodies and trailers, and parts manufacturing.
 
Economy-wide, real gross output—principally a measure of an industry's sales or receipts, which includes sales to final users in the economy (GDP) and sales to other industries (intermediate inputs)—increased 4.0 percent in the second quarter. It reflected an increase of 3.6 percent for the private goods-producing sector, 4.6 percent for the private services-producing sector, and 1.5 percent for the government sector. Overall, 21 of 22 industry groups contributed to the increase in real gross output. Real gross output for mining increased 33.2 percent in the second quarter, after rising 13.2 percent in the first quarter. It was the most significant increase since the first quarter of 2017 and primarily attributed to oil and gas extraction.
 
Information increased 8.9 percent, after rising 9.2 percent, primarily reflecting increases in data processing, internet publishing, and other information services, as well as motion picture and sound recording industries. Health care and social assistance increased 4.5 percent, after rising 2.9 percent. This industry has increased for four consecutive quarters.
 
 HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
Oct 2017
Oct 2018
Oct 2017
Oct 2018
Oct 2017
Oct 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
 
 
Unemployed
120
105
104
91
16
14
Unemployment rate
3.6
3.1
3.7
3.2
3.3
2.7
 
National unemployment rate is 3.7 percent (October 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.1 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.7 percent (down from 6 percent in September).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, November 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Natalie Cooper, Project Coordinator Tradesmen International. We discussed employment opportunities for veterans. Tradesmen International is looking to start a veterans program and would like The American Legion to assist in locating veterans to fill their vacancies.
 
On Tuesday, November 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will meet with the VA’s Homeless Veterans Program Office to discuss the new homeless veterans numbers, programs and services, and the crisis of affordable housing.
 
On Tuesday, November 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Michael Stoddard, Senior Enlisted Fellow, Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment & Training Services.  We discussed the opportunities for conducting career fairs at several military installations (Fort Hood, Fort Bliss, Fort Bragg, and Camp Pendleton).
 
On Tuesday, November 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Career Fair hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Hiring Our Heroes at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB).
 
On Wednesday November 7, the Veterans Employment and Education Division attended the 2018 Navy Safe Harbor Foundation Veterans Day Luncheon. The event highlights the stories of Navy, Coast Guard and Marines who have been injured in service and have benefited from NWW-SH programs. The Foundation also recognized the 2018 Sailor of the year.
 
On Thursday November 8, Veterans Employment and Education Division participated in the CVOB Partner Meeting and NJVCC Procurement Event. The CVOB partners meeting was held in conjunction with the NJ Veterans Chamber of Commerce’s launch.
 
On Thursday, November 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will meet with MAZON (a nonprofit that focuses on ending hunger) to discuss food insecurity for servicemembers and veterans to include homelessness issues.
 
On Thursday, November 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting hosted by CMSgt Amanda Bertrand, USAF Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Director Defense Personnel and Family Support Center.  Discussed different opportunities for collaboration in assisting servicemembers with their transition from military life to civilian life.  Discussed the various programs and services that The American Legion provides to them, as well as their family members.
 
On Thursday, November 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Reception to Celebrate Our Life-Changing Accomplishments in 2018.  Hosted by Easterseals.
 
On Friday, November 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 3rd annual American University Veterans Day Ceremony at their Tenley town campus. VE&E staff spoke about The American Legion’s involvement in passing the original GI Bill as well as the Post-9/11 GI Bill as well as the benefits of becoming a member of The American Legion.
 
On Saturday, November 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Syracuse CNY Veterans Parade and Expo to present “The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Centennial Salute to the GI Bill” Exhibit on the expo grounds. VE&E staff spoke on the impact of the GI Bill in the 20th century and the future of veterans education benefits.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ANNOUNCES 2018 HIRE VETS MEDALLION PROGRAM DEMONSTRATION AWARD, RECIPIENTS
 
The U.S. Department of Labor today announced recipients of the 2018 HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration Award, recognizing job creators for their leadership in recruiting, employing, and retaining America's veterans. Honorees include small businesses, community-based nonprofits, and national companies.
 
In 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) American Military Veterans Act, creating the HIRE Vets Medallion Program. In issuing a Final Rule last year establishing criteria and processes for the program, the Department announced that 2018 would be a demonstration of the program before full implementation in 2019.
 
"America's veterans are proven leaders who bring skills, dedication, and determination to our nation's workforce," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. "To earn a HIRE Vets Medallion Award, job creators must demonstrate a solid commitment to providing veterans with the opportunity to build a meaningful career. This program recognizes a standard for excellence in veterans hiring, and helps veterans identify employers who are committed to advancing veterans in the workplace."
 
Recipients of the 2018 HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration Award were evaluated based on a range of criteria, including:
 
  • Veteran hiring and retention
  • Availability of veteran-specific resources
  • Leadership programming for veterans
  • Dedicated human resources
  • Compensation and tuition assistance programs for veterans
     
    List of all 239 recipients can be found at https://www.hirevets.gov/about/award-recipients
     
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
While San Antonio is known as Military City USA, a recent ranking suggests that it is becoming less attractive to veterans while Austin is ranked No. 1 for the second consecutive year. San Antonio is No. 28 among 100 cities on Wallethub's 2018 list of Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live, down from No. 18 last year. This year, San Antonio was ranked No. 14 for its economy, taking into account affordable housing, the average increase of veteran incomes, how many veterans live below the poverty level, access to colleges and volume of homeless veterans. Last year, the city ranked No. 7 for its economy.
 
San Antonio was ranked No. 27 concerning overall quality of life for veterans. That category measured how many veterans are part of the total population, projected veteran population growth and evaluated the degree of its family- and retiree-friendly atmosphere. San Antonio was No. 53 for access to health care for veterans, which focused on the volume and quality of Veterans Affairs health care facilities nearby. WalletHub used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Council for Community and Economic Research, Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. News & World Report and RecruitMilitary, a veterans job database. The median income for veterans was higher in San Antonio than in Austin - $47,318 to $44,023 - without adjusting for the cost of living.
 
San Antonio has fewer veterans living below the poverty level and fewer homeless veterans per 1,000 veteran residents than Austin does, according to WalletHub's data. In San Antonio, 65 percent of its population are military veterans, compared to 38 percent in Austin. The veteran unemployment rate was higher in San Antonio at 4.9 percent compared to 3.5 percent in Austin.  The starkest difference between Austin and San Antonio was in educational opportunities. That metric stemmed from U.S. News & World Report's list of Best Colleges for Veterans. The University of Texas at Austin is No. 29 on that ranking.
 
San Antonio has long been recognized as a favorite city for military veterans to retire, and active duty servicemembers saw across the city. There are also efforts to retain military veterans in the region, such as a new center launched by Bexar County that is under construction just outside Fort Sam Houston’s gates. The city of San Antonio plans to bolster the military medicine connection to foster more companies created in biotechnology. There will likely be more servicemembers and potentially more veterans in Austin soon, as it was tapped as the home of the U.S. Army Futures Command, in part because it didn't already have a U.S. Army base within its city limits and for its access to technology companies.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Carlisle (PA), Colorado Springs, Fredericksburg (VA), Fort Buchanan (PR), Herndon (VA), Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (DC), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lexington Park (MD), and Uncasville (CT).
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
For years, U.S. military veterans were more likely than other Americans to be self-employed. But that trend has reversed over the last generation and on Thursday a report by the Federal Reserve suggested one reason is that they are less likely to get the financing they need.
 
The report's authors said the data for the first time provided "substantial evidence" of something veterans and others have suspected: that their businesses, which usually have smaller sales and fewer employees, face greater difficulty than others in accessing credit from lenders. Veterans were more likely in 2017 to say they get less funding than sought, including lower approval rates at popular lenders. Over time, they have also seen slower relative growth in government-guaranteed loans, according to the study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
 
The report was based on a survey last year of 6,922 eligible employer firms across the United States, of which 696 were owned by veterans. The authors, who noted that demand for financing among veteran-owned businesses was similar to that of other businesses, said discrepancies could be explained by three things: vets generally sought smaller loan amounts, had higher credit risk, and lacked information on how to go about it.
 
Twenty years ago some 16 percent of veterans were self-employed, compared to 12 percent of other Americans, according to the U.S. Census. Since then, the percentage for vets has dropped below that of others as their self-employment rate fell. That has left a generational gap, with Americans who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars more likely to own businesses than those who served in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere so far this century.
 
Some 60 percent of veteran-owned businesses experienced a "financing shortfall" last year, compared to 52 percent for nonveterans, the report found. The approval rate for vets seeking loans, credit lines, and cash advances was about 10 percent lower than for other business owners. Since 2010, SBA-backed loans rose only 48 percent for veteran borrowers, compared to an 82 percent rise for other borrowers.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
The United States Marine Corps is amid a large-scale modernization of its enlisted professional military education to prepare its noncommissioned officers for a future fight. Upcoming changes include the renaming of the Enlisted Professional Military Education Directorate to the College of Enlisted Military Education, adding a week to the resident Sergeants School, and streamlining curriculum to ease accreditation at civilian universities. The driving principle of these efforts, according to Col. Christopher Williams, the director of the College of Enlisted Military Education at Marine Corps University, is that “a smarter Corps is a more lethal Corps.”
 
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller’s vision of a future force that is capable of confronting near-peer rivals calls for smarter sergeants and staff sergeants capable of assuming command positions on the battlefield. COL Williams explained that, historically that has been the case for the Corps, and that the education modernization effort was just merely "long overdue." At the battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, it was "sergeants on the tops of those hills," not officers, Williams said. Moreover, the same could be said of the Corps' infamous battle of Hue City during the Vietnam War. It was Marine NCOs who cleared Hue City because most of the officers had already been killed, Williams explained. However, the attrition style warfare that engulfed the Corps during and following World War II is a grim reality Marines might once again face as the Corps faces down aggressive rivals on the European continent and in the Pacific theater.
 
The task of commanding small, decentralized fighting forces of Marines disbursed on small island chains or floating barge bases across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean is likely to fall on the shoulders of the Corps’ NCOs. To outthink sophisticated rivals on this future battlefield, the Marines will need to become skilled thinkers and problem solvers. Moreover, it is not just in command roles that future Marine NCOs will bear a more substantial burden of responsibility in a future conflict. New tech like drones, tablets and electronic warfare sensors being pushed down to grunts means the average infantry Marine will be forced to hone new skills that were once the purview of supporting elements. “The question is: What will an infantryman look like in the future?” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green said in April at the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition near Washington, D.C. "In the future, they may have to have multiple MOSs, because now they have drones in their backpacks."
 
The task to modernize the Corps’ enlisted military education then boiled down to how the Corps can make Marines smarter, Williams told Marine Corps Times in an interview. The Enlisted College came up with three things Marines needed to become better thinkers on the battlefield: think critically, solve problems creatively and communicate effectively, he said. Also, now, the Corps is rolling out some of its changes to the enlisted education program. Starting this October, Marines will be able to attend a resident Sergeants School that has been lengthened from four weeks to five. It also includes a new streamlined curriculum that is more palatable to civilian colleges and universities, Williams said. The new format and lessons taught at the school will be recorded in semester hours, not training hours, and will also include a new naming convention for courses to help civilian colleges and universities better award credit at their schools. However, this is not about helping Marines get college degrees, Williams said. The goal is to make a more lethal Corps.
 
So while the new Sergeants School is being expanded, no new curriculum is being added to the program, Williams said. The school is taking stuff out because "we need more time to do less," Williams added. "Our sergeants are getting so much information that they do not have time to reflect." Marines have long complained of information overload and difficulties retaining information from the sergeant's course. Some of the changes already being instated by the Enlisted College may bleed over to other advanced schools and courses.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  11/9/18

 


 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 28 September 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Throughout the summer, mortgage rates would shift higher then start to drop back to lower levels. Rates were essentially the same for weeks. However, that trend could be over. Over the past week, mortgage rates increased to 4.72%, the highest level that rates have hit since early 2011. Week after week, rates increased by seven basis points (0.07%), a sizeable jump considering how stagnant rates have been lately.
 
Any home buyers who have been waiting for mortgage rates to drop back below the four percent level are likely out of luck. Rates are trending in the opposite direction, and they’ll probably continue to move higher through the rest of 2018. While higher mortgage rates are tough for home buyers to swallow, they’ve been increasing for good reasons. The economy is growing at a good pace, and confidence in the market is soaring. Despite rising rates, home buyers are still interested in purchasing houses. Purchase applications have been increasing each week, a positive sign for the housing market.
 
The biggest issue that should concern home buyers is the shortage of housing. The low supply of available homes has been pushing home prices up and lengthening some home searches. At some point, housing supply will have to match housing demand. The only problem is that there’s no telling when that will happen. Until then, mortgage rate shoppers should be aware that rates could keep increasing every day. Each week, Freddie Mac surveys over 100 lenders across the nation to determine a rate average. Because their reported rate is an average, rates that are available to you may end up being lower than those reported.
 
Over the past week, Freddie Mac reported that the 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased to 4.72%, the highest it has been since April, 2011. The seven basis point jump is significant, and the odds of seeing rates drop over the coming days are fairly slim. Home shoppers will want to keep track of rates over the coming weeks. Along with the 30-year fixed rate mortgage, Freddie Mac reports on the 15-year fixed rate mortgage and the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). Freddie Mac reported that the 15-year fixed rate also increased this past week. Currently, the 15-year fixed rate mortgage averages 4.16%, up five basis points from the week before. The five-year ARM also increased over the past week, also by five basis points. Freddie Mac reports it averaged 3.97%, just shy of the four percent threshold. Rates are increasing across the board, and that’s typically a sign that rates will only continue to increase.
 
Rates may seem high, but, historically speaking, they’re closer to their normal levels than any rates that were available over the past few years. Higher rates are something that all home buyers will have to deal with moving forward. It does make affordability more of an issue, but plenty of home buyers are still finding ways to purchase homes. Generally speaking, the housing market starts to slow down around this time of year, and winter tends to be one of the slowest times for the housing market. Many home buyers aren’t interested in moving during the holiday season. As other buyers leave the market, it could end up being a good time to lock in on rates and buy a home. Also, if rates do drop in the future, homeowners can always choose to get a refinance to lower their rates.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
AUG 2017
AUG 2018
AUG 2017
AUG 2018
AUG 2017
AUG 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
139
130
99
106
40
24
Unemployment rate
4.6
3.0
4.8
3.1
3.6
2.4
 
National unemployment rate is 3.9 percent (August 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 4.4 percent (up from 2.4 percent in July).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday September 24 the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke at the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business’ (CVOB) quarterly meeting. The CVOB was a collaboration between First Data, IVMF and several fortune 500 businesses looking to diversify their small business procurement. The CVOB membership continues to grow; they are up to 900 veteran small businesses now. CVOB and partners will be presenting at the JP Morgan & Chase 500,000 Jobs Mission in October and shared preliminary data from their studies. They continue to recruit companies that fit small business buying needs and assist large businesses source veteran-owned-business suppliers.
 
On Monday, September 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Fatima Aguilar, Program Development Specialist Vets4Warriors. We discussed the opportunity for The American Legion (TAL) to partner with Vets4Warriors at their locations in an effort to introduced veterans to the multiple programs and services offered by TAL.
 
On Tuesday, September 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Cindy Stinson, Mission 22 Ambassador Program Director. We discussed different opportunities for collaboration by assisting veterans in a twelve month program with the goal to eliminate or reduce the symptoms of trauma that will allow those veterans to seek employment.
 
On Wednesday September 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the HillVets Rooftop reception welcoming the new class of veteran fellows into the program. Secretary of VA, Robert Wilke and former Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel presided over the ceremony.
 
On Wednesday September 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a seminar discussing Marketing for Government Relations & Advocacy. The seminar was hosted by congressional Quarterly and teaches advocates how to sell their message, issue, or policy suggestion to advocates or lawmakers. The course discussed the basics of digital marketing, which includes: SEO basics so that interested parties discover your content and educational materials online; How to utilize Facebook/LinkedIn advertising; and Best practices for email marketing, including subject lines, good open and conversion rates.
 
On Wednesday, September 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with AGS’s Vice President of Human Resources, Kim Nasuta. We discussed their veteran hiring initiative at all three locations (Las Vegas, NV; Duluth, GA; and Oklahoma City, OK).
 
On Thursday, September 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Maria Morales,  Director of Human Resources at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. Mrs. Morales was ecstatic to learn that the Warrior Training Advancement Course (WARTAC) program was being brought back to Puerto Rico in FY 19. Originally the program was ended in Puerto Rico, The American Legion included in its May 23, 2018 testimony the importance of the program and strongly opposed the cessation of the program. Mrs. Morales expressed her gratitude to The American Legion for all its efforts in keeping the program going.
 
On Friday, September 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the monthly Veterans Service Organization meeting with the Department of Labor – Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS).  We discussed The American Legion’s position regarding veterans employment and the Transition Assistance Program.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Taking off the uniform of the U.S. armed forces for the last time is one of life’s significant events. Whether leaving military service eagerly or reluctantly, there’s a sense of momentous changes. Changes in work, changes for family, changes in lifestyle in terms of moves, deployments and  family separations. Taken collectively, these changes can range from delightful to debilitating. For those who have worn the uniform for 20+ years, the transition is a big deal, to say the least.
 
Fortunately, there is a broad effort across government and industry to help veterans make the various transitions associated with taking off the uniform for good. That’s not to say it’s become easy. The stressors are numerous and any given veteran’s ability to handle those stressors varies. I’d like to offer a few thoughts to industry employers seeking to potentially hire veterans and to veterans themselves.
 
If you’re an employer, you fully appreciate today’s competitive hiring environment. Certain skills are in high demand and in many cases don’t come cheaply. If you’re in an industry requiring employees with security clearances, it gets even harder. As you search for those with the right skills and attributes for your firm, I offer a few suggestions regarding veterans.
 
First and most important, while we all wear the veteran label proudly, please don’t put us in a single category. Our backgrounds, education, values and work experience can be as varied as the rest of the population. In short, making assumptions about veterans can be hazardous. But I will offer one broad generalization that might be helpful to employers. When you meet a veteran who has retired after 20+ years of active service, you’ve just met a problem solver.
 
Their individual work experiences may be quite varied, but in a career spanning 20 or more years, such individuals have risen to a rank (enlisted or officer) where their real benefit to any organization (military or civilian) is the ability to break down and solve complex problems. They have moved through multiple organizations and units, sometimes with dramatically different missions and have, over time, developed a capacity learn, absorb, understand and adapt.
 
I submit those are just the kind of people you’re probably looking for beyond a narrowly defined skill set. Will they understand your organization on day one? Nope. Not only won’t they understand, they might even feel a little disoriented. That’s OK, because they’ve been there before. Give them their parameters and a bit of time and space and they’ll adapt just as they’ve adapted over an entire career.
 
If you’re one of these long-serving military members I’ve just described, thank you for your service. Just as important, please thank your family for their service; there’s a strong chance they’ve played a role in your decision to make this transition. As you start down a new path, don’t just look at yourself in terms of your specialty code; consider yourself the problem solver I’ve described. You’re far more than your AFSC, MOS or any other skill identifier.
 
With that in mind, consider continuing to solve problems in support of our nation. One obvious avenue is to become a civil servant and do work similar to what you’ve been doing, without the long deployments, extended TDY’s and multiple moves. You can have some life stability as you continue to serve.
 
The other option you may not have considered is in the consulting field as a professional problem solver. You might find your experience and skills in the military can help solve problems in another agency serving to leverage the best practices and ideas across government. The consulting profession is different than the military, to be sure. You’ll be in the commercial world, where revenue and profits matter. You’ll be in a field with pretty intense competition. You’ll be expected to perform and deliver.  Should that intimidate you? Not at all. You’re stepping away from a career where lives are at risk, the nation’s security is at stake and you’ve performed well for years.
 
Unlike civil service, in consulting you’ll likely work a variety of problem sets, seeing different agencies with different missions and cultures and their own unique challenges – which helps keep you fresh. You’ll be joining a diverse group of talented, motivated and hardworking co-workers. They’ll know more about consulting than you, but you’ll bring relevant experiences that many of them have never had and likely never will. Together you can make a pretty dynamic team.
 
In short, if you’re looking to hire veterans and you run across one retiring after a couple of decades or more of service, you’re looking at a problem solver. Don’t pass them up lightly.  If you’re one of those with long service, think about continuing to solve problems for your country either in the civil service or the consulting profession. They’re different lines of work, but both solve problems in service of our nation, something you already know how to do.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
The self-proclaimed "hobo king" of Warrensburg, who prefers to be known only as "D," is using his experience, money and whatever means he can to help homeless people who wind up in his homeless camp. As the hobo king, "D" said he networks with social service agencies, businesses, the police and other organizations in town to get assistance for the homeless. "I will do what it takes to get people out of my camp," he said. "I coordinate homeless intake and progression and give them a place to be (until they can find other accommodations)."
 
D said he was an educated public servant for several years and served in the U.S. Navy for 16  1/2  years. "When I retired, I decided to do something similar, but different, and use my knowledge to help people," he said. A denizen of the camp, "D" said he cannot live indoors. "If I live indoors, I become depressed and violent, the same as a lot of Vietnam veterans," he said. "D" is reluctant to reveal much of his background. "As long as I remain anonymous, I can do my job," he said.
 
The outdoor camp, now located on private property, is modeled after a pilot program for long-term homelessness in Pennsylvania, "D" said. "I brought the idea here," he said. At one point, he said there were six homeless camps around the university, which provided access to showers and other services. But it became an image issue, he said, and he moved the camp to the current location. "The owner knows we're there," he said. "As long as there's no criminal activity, it's OK (with the owner). ... I want to teach (the camp inhabitants) to live as productive citizens." He provides counseling, which he said is part of his mysterious past. The occupants now live in tents, but "D" said if he had the materials, he has a design for a hooch that could support 12 people. Hooches provide a more stable, insulated shelter that is safe from animal attacks, he said. "D" said he has a small stove in his tent that keeps the temperature about 70 degrees in the winter, with the summer temperature averaging about 79 degrees. Camp inhabitants use the Community Center to shower, he said, and they wash their clothing in a bucket, with water heated on a small propane stove, which gets extremely expensive if used much. Some of the nine people currently living in the camp have jobs, he said, adding five are over the age of 50 and three have medical and/or mental issues. Some 38 homeless are scattered around the city and living on the street, "D" said, with about 161 total homeless in the city.
 
Someone from Kansas City is bringing in two or three homeless people per week and dropping them at Walmart, "D" said. Many of them move on, he said, but five in the last month have stayed at the camp, including two who have "a criminal element." No one under 17 can live in the camp, "D" said, and those 18 to 25 are accepted if they are not drug addicts or dealers or alcoholics or criminals. "If it affects the camp, I can't allow them," he said. "I do cooperate with the local police. I don't report, but I do answer questions. I offer sanctuary, but I don't offer amnesty to anyone." With winter approaching, "D" said money, blankets, winter sleeping bags and tents are needed. "D" said he will accept up to $100 in cash donations, but said he prefers that donations go to social service agencies, such as the Salvation Army, and earmarked for the homeless.
 
He also is available near the Salvation Army store Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and at the social services center at the corner of Holden and Culton Streets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. During the winter, he said, he is at Wendy's during the lunch hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. "If you know someone in need, get in touch as soon as possible (so help can be provided)," he said.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Arlington (TX), Aurora (CO), Camp LeJeune (NC), Cherry Point (NC), Fayetteville (NC), Fort Belvoir (VA), Fort Lee (VA), Hampton (GA), Herndon (VA), Honolulu, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, King George (VA), Oak Harbor (WA), Philadelphia, San Antonio, Schofield Barracks (HI), Shaw AFB (SC).
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
About six years ago, entrepreneur Taylor McLemore, Congressman Jared Polis and Techstars’ co-founder David Cohen launched a mini-startup accelerator program for military members, veterans and their spouses. Called Patriot Boot Camp, the three-day crash course, aimed at immersing participants in the basics of entrepreneurship and modeled on the 12-week Techstars program, is now held twice a year in Texas and Colorado.
 
But, while focused on startups, the program encompasses founders at different stages, from pre-revenue to someone looking, say, for a second round of financing. For that reason, Josh Carter, interim CEO of Patriot Bootcamp, and his colleagues started thinking recently about adding more-structured programming for specific phases of growth. “If you’re talking about term sheets, for the entrepreneur who just has a concept, that’s off-putting, while, for the person who’s on their next funding round, it’s unnecessary,” says Carter.
 
With that in mind, they just announced the Veteran Founder Initiative, a joint program run with The Founder Institute, a pre-seed startup accelerator. The aim is to build 100 successful veteran-led tech companies a year.
U.S. veterans or servicemembers who want to found a tech startup can apply to any of the more than 20 U.S. Founder Institute chapters for free. Then, if they’re selected, they receive a Patriot Boot Camp fellowship to participate in the Founder Institute’s program, again for free.
Plus, veterans who are alumni of either the Founder Institute or Patriot Boot Camp program will be able to tap both program’s networks. For example, Founder Institute graduates can participate in Patriot Boot Camp programs, while Patriot Boot Camp alums can receive fellowships to Founder Institute's Founder Lab, which offers intensive lessons in fundraising tactics.
 
In April, Patriot introduced its first session of VetHack, a 48-hour coding event, in Washington, DC. In October, another is planned to take place in Seattle in conjunction with Techstars' Startup Week Seattle. Each team has to include a veteran or military spouse. “By creating these events, we hope to create a better funnel,” says Carter.
 
Carter, in fact,  is a veteran-turned-entrepreneur. After three years in the navy in the mid-90’s, he joined Twilio as an early employee. Then in 2015 he tried to start a tech company, called Brightwork, taking part in Techstars and Patriot Boot Camp programs. The startup didn’t work out, but Carter ended up at Patriot, eventually becoming interim CEO.
 
About 2.5 million veterans own businesses, according to the Small Business Administration. And, military veteran entrepreneurs and their spouses are twice as likely as civilians to be operating their startups after five years.
 
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
A federal judge sent the right message last week when he blocked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s suspension of an Obama-era rule that allows students defrauded by for-profit colleges to have some or all of their federal student loans forgiven.
 
This was his second ruling in a suit filed by attorneys general from 19 states who argued that Ms. DeVos had broken the law by delaying the rule from taking effect, and they demanded that it be immediately reinstated. The judge, Randolph Moss of Federal District Court in Washington, had earlier found that Ms. DeVos had broken the law, and last week he invalidated Ms. DeVos’s attempt to dismantle the rule, but stayed his ruling for 30 days to give the Education Department time to respond. The next step should be to order the department to grant debt relief to the thousands of student borrowers who have applied and are clearly eligible under the original rule.
The rule, known as “borrowers defense,” is rooted in a provision of the Higher Education Act of 1965 intended to lift the debt burdens of students who were misled by their schools. The rule was designed to compel schools to offer a fair education and to refrain from predatory practices — like lying about career opportunities or steering students into ruinously priced loans — that have been well documented over the last decade.
 
Ms. DeVos has essentially made the Education Department a subsidiary of the for-profit college industry. Republicans in Congress who wish to hide from this issue are being peppered with complaints from constituents victimized by the for-profit schools — particularly veterans, who have been targeted by companies that covet their G.I. benefits.
 
Ms. DeVos has already proposed tightening loan forgiveness rules to make it virtually impossible for those defrauded by predatory schools to get relief. She has also proposed rescinding the “gainful employment” rule, which enforces a longstanding Higher Education Act requirement that career education programs “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”
 
The Education Department wants to replace this important rule with additional disclosure requirements — covering debt, expected earnings, completion rates and other measures — that would apply to all colleges. This disregards the breathtaking fraud that has been documented specifically at for-profits — and the fact that their students take on greater debt and are more likely to default on loans.
 
The department has defended the decision to jettison the employment rule by describing it as a burden to institutions of higher learning. But in a letter this month, the American Council on Education, which represents about 1,700 colleges, argued persuasively that rescinding the rule, instead of perhaps modifying it, would damage the interests of students, colleges and the public. Still others have portended another round of lawsuits by arguing that the decision to rescind is itself unlawful because the Education Department has not disclosed the factual basis of its decision.
 
Ms. DeVos and her cronies in the for-profit industry seem to think that they can plow ahead with these and other damaging proposals regardless of opposition. But it will not take long before the wider public focuses on the fact that the Education Department is undermining higher education to line the pockets of an industry where schools can get up to 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid. That position will be difficult to defend at election time.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  9/28/18

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 10 August 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Mortgage rates retreated this week after weaker-than-expected employment data. According to the latest data released Thursday, August 9, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.59 percent with an average 0.5 point (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 4.6 percent a week ago and 3.9 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average fell to 4.05 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 4.08 percent a week ago and 3.90 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average dropped to 3.9 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.93 percent a week ago and 3.14 percent a year ago.
 
The U.S economy added 157,000 jobs in July, which was slightly below the expectations of many economists. A slowing job rate can indicate the economy is ebbing. That concern was enough to push mortgage rates down a bit. This week should be fairly quiet in bond markets, except potentially for Friday’s release of inflation data. A strong inflation report could put upward pressures on rates.
 
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that more than half the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Meanwhile, mortgage applications were down, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 3 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 5 percent, while the purchase index dropped 2 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 36.6 percent of all applications.
 
Despite recent data indicating a strong U.S. economy and job market, including signs of wage growth, overall mortgage applications fell for the third straight week as housing continues to be hampered by the lack of homes for sale and crimped affordability. The Market Index, which measures both purchase and refinance applications, was decreased to its lowest level since January 2016. Both purchase and refinance indexes decreased as well this week, with the refinance index staying close to its lowest level since December 2000.
 
The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) this week that showed credit availability increased in July. The MCAI rose 1.7 percent to 184.1 last month. An increase in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are loosening, while a decline signals that they are tightening. Credit availability continued to expand, driven by an increase in conventional credit supply. More than half of the programs added were for jumbo loans, pushing the jumbo index to its fourth straight increase, and to its highest level since we started collecting these data. There was also continued growth in the conforming non-jumbo space, which reached its highest level since October 2013.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JULY 2017
JULY 2018
JULY 2017
JULY 2018
JULY 2017
JULY 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
153
99
134
86
19
12
Unemployment rate
4.6
3.0
4.8
3.1
3.6
2.4
 
National unemployment rate is 3.9 percent (July 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.0 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.4 percent (up from 2.1 percent in June).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Tuesday, August 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the DC Coalition for the Homeless to discuss housing vacancies and other related issues for homeless individuals, to include veterans. Also, discussed was emergency shelters and transitional housing and how to explore opportunities for homeless veterans to end up with meaningful employment and permanent housing.
 
On Tuesday, August 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Laureen DuPree, Employment and Volunteer Program Manager for Fort Belvoir Army Community Service (ACS). We discussed issues regarding the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) conducted by Soldier for Life (SFL). Mrs. DuPree expressed her concerns about the level of quality of TAP, because soldiers regularly visit her seeking assistance with their resumes or employment questions after they attend TAP. Also, the Legion is concerned about the Army thinking about discontinuing programs that are helpful for soldiers and their families.  
 
On Tuesday, August 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with aboutgiving.org, the nonprofit organization that administers the VA Accelerator for Chapter 31 vocational rehabilitation benefits. The parties discussed their current digital capabilities and possibilities of VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Employment (VR&E) Program and the Legion working closer together in the future.
 
On Tuesday, August 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a follow up meeting with VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization regarding outreach for Legion small business events in the future and their participation in the Legion’s 100th Anniversary Convention. 
 
On Tuesday, August 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division convened a stakeholder meeting with VSO and MSOs to discuss recent changes to the Department of Education, Department of Defense, and Veterans Benefits Administration. Specifically, the Department of Education Gainful Employment and Borrower Defense rules, the DOD changes to GI Bill transferability, and the Veterans Benefits Administration organizational realignment were briefed and discussed. 18 organizations attended.
 
On Wednesday, August 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) about their briefing and site visit for our commission members that will take place during the National Convention in Minneapolis. MACV is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has been serving veterans and their families who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless across the state of Minnesota for over 25 years.
On Wednesday, August 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Michael Dovilla, Chief of Staff, Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  We discussed the potential break-up of OPM in order to stream line its functions and better serve its clients, and employees. The current proposal would do the following: (1) Move the Healthcare and Retirement services to General Services Administration (GSA) and renaming it Government Services Agency; (2) Security Clearances will be moved to the Department of Defense, and; (3) Federal Personnel workforce policy and Human Resources will become a new office under the Executive Office of the President (EOP).
 
On Wednesday, August 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Tyra Nelson, Yellow Ribbon Reintegrated Program (YRRP) Manager for the 99th Regional Command Center (RSC). The 99th RSC would like The American Legion to moderate their employer panel during their YRRP event. They are expecting a total of 600 Soldiers to attend the Yellow Ribbon Program.
 
On Thursday, August 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Veterans Employment Trajectory (VET) Initiative Networking Reception. This reception was organized to celebrate the 23 veteran participants in The Washington Center's VET Initiative program, which included VE&E volunteer Ashley Gorbulja and National Security volunteer Eric Tsai.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
There are 18.5 million veterans living in the United States today, making up 7.4 percent of the population. They are predominantly male (91.9 percent of all veterans), though the number of female veterans has been increasing since the 1980s. Veterans tend to be older than nonveterans: 67 percent are 55 or older, compared with 34 percent of nonveterans. Roughly one-third of veterans today served during the first Gulf War era (August 1990 through August 2001) or in military engagements since the September 11, 2001 attacks. These veterans are more diverse in terms of gender, race and ethnicity than those who served in prior wars. Nearly 18 percent of veterans who enlisted since September 2001 are women. They are also more likely to identify as African-American (15.9 percent) or Latino (13.7 percent) than past generations of veterans.
 
Almost all veterans 25 years and older graduated from high school, and more than one-third completed at least some college or received an associate degree. A slightly smaller share of veterans than nonveterans held a bachelor’s degree or higher. The rate peaked in 2010 at 9.4 percent, up to 12 percent for Post-9/11 veterans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in 2017, lower than the general population unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. But at 4.5 percent, unemployment for Post-9/11 veterans remains higher, and highest among female veterans at 5.5 percent. The largest difference between veterans and nonveterans is among those between 25 to 34 years of age. Male veterans in this age range have an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent, compared to 4.5 percent for male nonveterans. Female veterans between the ages of 25 and 34 have an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent compared to 4.5 percent for their nonveteran counterparts. Veteran unemployment rates also vary by state. Those who live in Maine and Vermont have the lowest unemployment rate (1.7 percent) in 2017, and veterans living in Rhode Island have the highest (7.3 percent).
 
Veterans are employed in a variety of fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 22 percent of veterans work for federal, state or local government, almost double that of nonveterans. Among male veterans, management, transportation and sales are the most common occupations. Female veterans are concentrated in office and administrative support, healthcare, and management occupations. With unemployment rates decreasing, there are rising concerns about underemployment of veterans.
 
Military Spouses
There are 478,963 individuals who are married to active-duty enlisted military personnel. Over half of all these military spouses are 30 years of age or younger. Overall, 66 percent of military spouses are in the labor force, including 41 percent in the civilian labor force, 13 percent in the Armed Forces, and 12 percent currently unemployed and seeking work.
 
Research shows that military spouses are diverse, entrepreneurial, adaptable, educated, team-oriented and civically engaged. Eighty-four percent have some college education or higher. Twenty-five percent have a bachelor’s degree and 10 percent have an advanced degree. Despite being highly educated, nearly one-third of military spouses are underemployed and roughly 38 percent earn less than their civilian counterparts.
 
Research completed for Blue Star Families estimates the societal cost of unemployment and underemployment of military spouses to be between $710 million to $1.07 billion per year (this estimate includes lost income tax, unemployment benefits paid and healthcare benefits paid). Research shows that employment of military spouses plays a significant role in the decision of the military member to leave or remain in the service. Strengthening opportunities for spouses could contribute to retaining valuable servicemembers. When surveyed, military spouses with higher education levels were less likely to agree that the military lifestyle supports career opportunities for both spouses.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
A Guam veteran who himself dealt with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and homelessness, and who struggled to assimilate back into civilian life, is now helping fellow veterans. Raymond Shinohara is a Marine. He was an infantry unit leader, serving and served in Iraq from 2003 to 2007 and in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2013. Last year, he became a peer support certified counselor through Veterans Affairs. And, after volunteering at the University of Guam, he started New and Veteran Farming Program and then Green Valor, both programs that help veterans. The New and Veteran Farming Program focused on veterans, teaching them about farming, and allowing the exchange of food, resources and information.
 
After the program, Shinohara began Green Valor, in which he uses gardening, or horticulture, therapy and group therapy to help veterans who have mental or physical disabilities. He visited homeless veterans in Tamuning and Hagåtña, to spread the word. Shinohara said horticulture therapy is therapeutic to veterans because it gives them a sense of purpose by growing a plant and bearing the rewards and fruits from it. While he focuses on edibles, if a request for an ornamental plant comes in, Shinohara does what it takes.  Shinohara also is involved with Barbers & Brown Bag, an event sponsored by Latte Stoned Wellness Center and Xokiahi Cares Inc. It provides the island's homeless and veterans with free meals, free haircuts and free clothes.
 
Shinohara's next project is a needed one - getting more Guam veterans to register for veteran status. There is a huge disparity between the reported number of veterans on Guam and those who are registered as veterans. The more who are registered, the better it is for all veterans because it could increase or improve aid, family counseling, housing and other benefits. "Because there is no number, there's a lot of nonprofits that won't commit to coming here to Guam even though we have the highest veteran capita in the United States," Shinohara said.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Aurora (CO), Camp Pendleton (CA), Charlotte, Fort Belvoir (VA), Fort Bragg, Fort Lee (VA), Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), McLean (VA), Minneapolis, Naval Air Station Jacksonville (FL), Oak Harbor (WA), San Diego, Travis Air Force Base (CA), and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
The American Legion announced a one-day entrepreneurial course, called “Celebrating Women on the Rise: Women-Owned Small Business Conference,” to be held in conjunction with its 100th National Convention at the Hilton Minneapolis, and is specifically designed, free of charge, for women veterans and spouses. The one-day intensive entrepreneurship course is hosted by the Legion in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Foresight CFO and the U.S. Small Business Administration.  After completing this free course, participants will have the tools and knowledge they need to identify a business opportunity and launch or grow their enterprise. “IVMF is committed to help military connected women entrepreneurs succeed.  We know that more than 180,000 military service members transition out of active duty each year and that women are outpacing men with respect to starting new businesses, in fact women veteran startups have increased nearly 300% since 2007” said Misty Stutsman Director of Entrepreneurship and Small Business at the Institute for Veteran And Military Families.  “We provide these aspiring entrepreneurs tools, resources and connection to launch their business or think more entrepreneurially within their companies and that’s why we’re partnering with The American Legion to put together this one-day conference.”
The curriculum includes an introduction to entrepreneurship and skills training, plus detailed information on resources and support programs designed specifically to aid businesses navigate private and federal government entrepreneurship resources. The breakout sessions will assist Businesses with conceptualization, financial planning, start-up funding, branding and most importantly – effective networking. “Veterans have a deep entrepreneurial spirit and are willing to take the risks,” says Diane Duscheck, National President of The American Legion Auxiliary. “According to the SBA, there are nearly four million veteran owned small businesses, but less than 10 percent are owned by women. The entrepreneurial interests of women veterans and spouses have been neglected. That is why this women specific small business conference will be so valuable for our community.”
 
Participants who complete this course will also be provided access to an eight-week online Foundations of Entrepreneurship course offered by IVMF. Completion of the 8-week online course will require approximately 10-hours of study each week and walk participants through the fundamentals of developing a business plan. Women veterans interested in enrolling in the free entrepreneurship training program can register HERE or by contacting Jasmine Davis at 202-263-5771 or jdavis@legion.org.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
On Wednesday, August 8, Attorney General Maura Healey announced a settlement with an online for-profit school over allegations that the school violated Massachusetts law by failing to make mandated disclosures to prospective students about job placement rates, violating requirements that the school provide important information about loan repayment and graduation rates to prospective students 72 hours before enrollment, and engaging in predatory enrollment tactics, including making excessive recruitment calls. The assurance of discontinuance, filed Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court against American Public University System, which runs American Military University (AMU), alleges that it violated the state’s for-profit and occupational school regulations aimed at protecting Massachusetts students from the deceptive and unfair practices of for-profit schools. 
 
According to the AG’s Office, American Military University’s students are primarily veterans or serve in the military. The school’s name and other visual images suggest it is part of the United States Armed Services, but the company in fact is not part of the U.S. Military and is not affiliated with it. “Online, for-profit schools that mislead veterans and military families are not welcome in Massachusetts,” said AG Healey. “This settlement will provide money back to students who didn’t get crucial information about the American Military University. We will be closely monitoring this school in the future.” 
 
The regulations, the first of their kind in the United States, protect students from the unsubstantiated claims made by many for-profit schools of high earnings and exciting job opportunities, often included as part of luring students into expensive, low-quality educational programs. State Attorneys General and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have documented widespread abuse of veterans and military families by for-profit schools, which have focused on enrolling students with access to G.I. Bill grants. The investigation into AMU’s recruitment practices revealed that the school violated state regulations by failing to make important employment disclosures to prospective students and failing to provide certain other disclosures in advance of enrollment. The AG’s regulations require for-profit schools offering Massachusetts programs to provide certain disclosures to prospective students 72 hours in advance of enrollment, including the cost of a program, the program’s graduation rate, and the percentage of students who are not paying their loans. Many for-profit schools are also required to list the percentage of students who obtained full-time permanent employment within their field of study.
 
The AG’s Office also alleges that AMU engaged in high pressure enrollment tactics, including excessive telephone calling, which is a well-documented tactic that is specifically barred by state law. Under the terms of this settlement, the American Public University System will pay a total of $270,000 to the AG’s Office to provide relief to eligible AMU students, and has agreed to change its disclosures to prospective students. This investigation was handled by Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Nsahlai, as well as David Lim, Legal Analyst, of the Attorney General’s Insurance and Financial Services Division.  AG Healey’s Office works in a number of other ways to help the veteran community, including raising awareness of the high rate of suicide among veterans, ensuring inclusion in the military, awarding grant funding to provide legal assistance, and protecting veterans from predatory lending practices. Most recently in July, the AG’s Office announced a settlement with a veteran’s charity that misled donors.
 
In November, AG Healey announced a new Veterans Affairs Coordinator within her office to assist Massachusetts veterans, servicemembers and their families, and enhance efforts across the office to provide services to veterans in need. The AG’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division also works closely with the state’s Department of Veterans Services and with the Massachusetts Veterans Services Officer Association to support the organizations in their efforts to support veterans who have concerns around their economic stability. Veterans looking for more information or assistance with their student loans should visit the AG’s Student Lending Assistance page or call the Student Loan Assistance Unit Hotline at 1-888-830-6277. Consumers with other questions or concerns can call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint with the office.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 3 August 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Like weather forecasters predicting sunny skies in Southern California, economists have watched the labor market produce consistent monthly increases in hiring recently. “I’ve never seen such a steady stream of gains — there’s no volatility in the numbers,” said Ellen Zentner, chief United States economist at Morgan Stanley.  Although the overall gain for July came in slightly below expectations, figures for payroll increases in May and June were revised substantially higher. The Labor Department said the economy added 268,000 jobs in May, up from an initial estimate of 244,000, while the June gain was revised upward to 248,000 from 213,000.
 
Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at Indeed.com, noted before Friday’s report that in the first half of 2018, the average monthly increase in jobs had even exceeded those in the comparable periods of 2015 and 2016. (With revisions, it was 224,000, compared with 184,000 in the same period last year and 181,000 in 2016.) “It is amazing that at this point in a recovery you are seeing growth that is on average faster than the previous two years,” she said.
 
The manufacturing sector has been strong recently and gained another 37,000 jobs in July. “We’re not seeing any impact from trade tensions, as it’s too early,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. Makers of machinery, fabricated metals and electrical equipment have been among the most aggressive in hiring.  Steel Ceilings in Johnstown, Ohio, hired two hourly workers last month and will hire another two this month if it can find appropriate candidates, said Rick Sandor, the company’s president. That’s not easy these days — shifts run from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., and temporary workers start at $14 per hour. So as the labor market has tightened, Mr. Sandor has eased up on the requirements for new hires.  In the past, he insisted on a couple of years’ experience in metal fabrication, but now settles for candidates who show mechanical skills, like carpentry or heating and cooling repair. Mr. Sandor is willing to waive the requirement for a high school diploma as well and has even hired applicants with what he terms “minor” prison sentences.  “If a person was truly trying to get their life back together, we thought it would be helpful to offer them a job,” Mr. Sandor said.  The Federal Reserve upgraded its view of the economy this week, substituting “strong" for “solid” in the statement that policymakers released after their latest meeting. The consensus on Wall Street calls for the central bank to raise rates twice more this year, in September and December.
 
Friday’s report confirms that trajectory, which would bring the benchmark rate to 2.25 to 2.5 percent by the end of the year. Although even that level is low by historical standards, the Fed’s slow but steady campaign to normalize interest rates after years near the zero bound is beginning to be felt.  Home buyers are encountering higher mortgage rates, one reason that the housing market has been faltering lately even as other economic indicators like hiring have remained strong, as evidenced by the upward revisions for May and June.  “We got enough upward revisions to offset the slight disappointment on the July number,” said Simona Mocuta, senior economist with State Street Global Advisors.  Ms. Mocuta added that the dip in the unemployment rate without any corresponding upward pressure on wages suggested more slack in the labor market than the unemployment rate might otherwise suggest.  “We are bringing unemployment way below 4.5 percent, which the Fed considers full employment,” she said. “But we are getting very modest wage inflation. This is an issue not just for the U.S., but in every other developed market.”
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JULY 2017
JULY 2018
JULY 2017
JULY 2018
JULY 2017
JULY 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
153
99
134
86
19
12
Unemployment rate
4.6
3.0
4.8
3.1
3.6
2.4
 
National unemployment rate is 4.0 percent (July 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.0 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.4 percent (up from 1.7 percent in May).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, July 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division conducted a video interview with Military Times about the changes to Post-9/11 GI Bill transferability.
 
On Tuesday July 31, the National veterans Employment & Education Division had a follow-up meeting with VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization regarding the recent roll out of the VEMS platform and overall divisional goals as the new Secretary is on-board. The parties also discussed partnering in future outreach events.
 
On Tuesday July 31, the National veterans Employment & Education Division actively participated in the Department of Labor’s July 2018 Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach (ACVETEO) meeting.  We discussed issues relating to “Significant Barriers to Employment”, “Transitioning and Training”, and “Direct Services.”
 
On Wednesday August 1, the National veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with James​ Simpson, Manager Military Talent Acquisition; Pike Enterprise, LLC. We discussed different employment opportunities across the nation. Pike Enterprise is looking to increase their veteran employee staff and is looking for new ways to reach veterans.
 
On Wednesday August 1, the National veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Navy League to discuss ways in which we can partner on future events to increase membership and increase military spouse involvement in both organizations.
 
On Wednesday August 1, the National veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families to discuss paid advertisements and social media outreach for RISE, the Women Small Business Conference being hosted by The American Legion at the 100th annual National Convention.
 
On Friday, August 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a VSO & MSO call on Department of Education rule changes concerning gainful employment. VE&E staff was part of the Department of Education Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on the rule, however our recommendations for the rule were not adapted.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
The Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training, and Training Employer Outreach (ACVETEO) Minutes
 
Ms. Cross opened by reminding the participants that since the Board is structured off of its three subcommittees, the report recommendations were broken out according to those three subcommittees. She also reiterated that the Board would be covering who on the VETS staff will become the participants’ primary liaisons for working with them to make sure that issues are addressed and questions are answered.
 
BARRIERS TO EMPLOYMENT SUBCOMMITTEE DISCUSSIONS ON FISCAL YEAR 2017 REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS
 
First, the Committee recommended that Congress should take legislative action amendment Title 38 to include paragraph (b) of Section 103 of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as it pertains to the definition of homeless veteran to include domestic violence and other life-threatening conditions. This recommendation was completed because the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016 was passed and amended the definition of homeless veterans.  Second, the Committee recommended the Department of Labor should expand its outreach and education of those eligible for priority services to include active duty and reserve military spouses to address the staggering disparity in unemployment rates.
 
Mr. Sam Shellenberger, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations, Department of Labor VETS, highlighted how he is collaborating with DoD and the Secretary’s office to make available information ways that military spouses and others who move across state lines are able to access flexibilities on licensing and credentialing. Mr. Ivan Denton, Director of National Programs, and Mr. Mike Miller, Department of Defense, also commented that there are a couple of bills being introduced to support military spouses, such as a bill introduced by Senator McCain. This bill would primarily set up a separate category for a separate TAP program for military spouses, which means military spouses are eligible to attend TAP on a space-available basis.  Third, the Committee made a recommendation that the Department should take action to expand the Jobs for Veterans State Grant (JVSG) program outreach/facilitation to include out-reach to community-based organizations that provide the type of employment supports identified for veterans, women veterans, military spouses and caregivers, such as mental and physical health care, shelter, childcare and transportation. This is still an on-going process. DOL had incorporated the JVSG program information in VETS’ blog posts to ensure VETS’ stakeholders better understand JVSG programs.
 
Fourth, the Committee recommended that the Department should research opportunities to implement a methodology to identify and share lessons learned and effective practices between American Job Centers with consideration to women veterans, veterans with disabilities and Native American Veterans. This is still an on-going process in which DOL is adding requirements to the FY18 solicitation language and requirements to ensure the National Veterans Technical Assistance Center (NVTAC) and the National Veterans Training Institute (NVTI) will collect and repurpose success stories and share via social media in coordination with DOL-VETS communications team. Mr. Denton highlighted that by working with NVTI and Mr. Shellenberger, they were trying to implement Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVER) and/or Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) tool kits to the public.  Last, the Committee recommended that the Department should re-evaluate its definition of special veteran populations annually to ensure that the designation encompasses all appropriate veteran populations. This is still an ongoing process and this recommendation has been refined in the 2017 recommendations.
 
TRANSITION ASSISTANCE AND TRAINING SUPPORT SUBCOMMITTEE DISCUSSIONS ON FISCAL YEAR 2017 REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS
 
Ms. Cross reminded the members that Chair Gallucci could not attend the meeting due to personal matters, but she relays that some items that he wants the committee to consider in the coming year would be licensing and credentialing, apprenticeships, the effectiveness of the HIRE Vets Act program, how to determine that, and military spouse-specific issues such as credentialing, TAP, and hiring. Mr. Gallucci also recommended that the committee takes a deeper dive into TAP now that the career technical track is under VETS’ purview. He felt the CTTT complemented the higher education track; it would also supplement the DOL EW track; and questioned the requirement of the DOL EW being three days. Mr. Tony Lowe, ACVETEO, agreed that the committee should take a deeper dive into the three-day recommendation.
 
First, the Committee recommended that the Department of Labor (DOL) should continue to ensure Veteran Service Organizations, employers, and other stakeholders to participate in DOL’s Employment Workshop curriculum review scheduled for Fiscal Year 2017. This is still an on-going process. DOL is in the process of the curriculum review and intends to implement the revised Employment Workshop in early 2018.  Second, the Committee recommended veterans service organizations (VSOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) should review the existing Career Technical Training Track (CTTT) curriculum that will be administered and taught by Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) in January 2017. The process is still on-going. DOL is in the process of a robust curriculum rewrite and intends to implement the revised ACVETEO Summary Minutes rack in early 2018.  Third, the Committee made a recommendation that DOL should, in collaboration with its partner agencies, make recommendations on the functionality of a “TAP APP.” The process is still on-going. VETS, in collaboration with ETA, has begun work on the development of the TAP mobile app through ETA’s CareerOneStop cooperative agreement.  Lastly, the Committee recommended that the Department, in collaboration with the Small Business Administration (SBA), should investigate ways to improve how information is provided to small businesses about federal and state funding programs to include tax incentives available for them when they hire veterans.
 
DIRECT SERVICES SUBCOMMITTEE DISCUSSIONS ON FISCAL YEAR 2017 REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS
 
First, the Committee recommended the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) should jointly explore and pursue staff skills training for the non-Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) funded workforce system staff. Training will focus on the unique recruiting, hiring, and retention issues facing the workforce system’s veteran customers receiving priority of service.   Second, the Committee recommended VETS should facilitate positive outreach activities with the federal contractor community at the state and national levels. This should involve ensuring state workforce agencies are aware of and have access to lists of federal contractors with VEVRAA job listing obligations, as well as facilitating and leading DOL’s and other federal agencies’ in positive outreach to the federal contractor community. The Committee wrote that it believes that VETS and OFCCP have not further engaged for the purposes of practically outreaching the federal contractor community. The Committee also recommends the secretary making this a priority to ensure that federal contractors have the resources to meet their veteran hiring objectives.
 
Third, the Committee recommended improving veterans’ employment outcomes by increasing the number of job opportunities available to veterans and eligible spouses on state job banks and USDOL’s veterans.gov. This is an on-going process and remains an objective of VETS. While the system is nowhere near perfect, VETS should be applauded for moving deliberately to promote the state jobs banks and the resources included on veterans.gov. Ms. Cross also mentioned how the Committee is also looking to partner with the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s National Resource Directory in order to provide further access through its wounded and wounded care program as well.  Lastly, the Committee recommended improving coordination and visibility of Department of Labor-funded direct services for veterans by consistently engaging with four key stakeholder groups to drive veterans and employers to utilize such services. These stakeholder groups include: Department of Labor internal organizations like Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) and the Employment Training Administration (ETA); federal agency partners like the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense; state workforce agencies; and community partners like Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and Military Service Organizations (MSOs). This stage has been marked as complete. VETS moved deliberately to execute this recommendation in FY2017 by routinely convening stakeholder groups to share messaging and resources. There is room for improvement in this area, but it must come from community stakeholders. VETS has executed this recommendation and should continue to push this as a priority.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
The lack of affordable housing is at the forefront of the homeless crisis in Los Angeles County. But the city's annual point-in-time homeless count, released on June 1, showed that the veteran homeless population had declined 18 percent.  On this particular morning, Jesse Henderson is canvasing Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. He's quick to point out this is not the stretch of the boulevard popular with tourists. Far from it. There's a certain vigilance and purpose in his stride. Understandable when you learn that the 39-year-old Army veteran did two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
 
"Our basic job was to look for IEDs," he says and, when on patrol they had a saying, "Sometimes we'll find them, sometimes they'll find us."  Today, Henderson has found a new mission: from searching out improvised explosive devices to searching for homeless veterans on the streets of Los Angeles. He looks for clues; a tent that's off by itself, a military blanket from the VA.  "Veterans usually have their stuff more in order," he says.  As an outreach worker for U.S. Vets, his job is to try and connect homeless veterans with support resources, including transitional housing, offered by the nonprofit. He wears a camouflage backpack filled with bottles of water, hygiene items, gift cards, and a pack of cigarettes.  Henderson approaches a row of low-slung tents. A homeless man tells him there's a veteran living in the brown tent at the end of the street. Henderson peeks through the mesh screen and introduces himself. The voice inside the tent is hardly audible, but politely answers, "No, I'm not a veteran."  Henderson smiles and says, "OK, sorry to bother you brother."
It's not an uncommon response, some veterans don't want to be found. Maybe they've had a bad experience with the military or just a hard re-entry into civilian life.
 
It's all about gaining trust Henderson says. And he's been there.  "There was a point where I didn't have anything and someone helped me with my needs," he says.  Another homeless man leaning up against a wall overhears the conversation and asks Henderson if he's a veteran.  "Seven years Army," Henderson replies. The man smiles and nods his head.  Navigating streets, alleys and underpasses three times a week, Henderson hears a lot of stories. And recently, more veterans speak of losing their housing.  "They've been living there for four or five years," he says. "They get a new owner. The new owner comes in, everyone's gone and they turn it into an Airbnb. I call it the Airbnb effect."  Still, this year's annual count of the homeless showed a significant decline in the numbers of veterans on the street.
 
"This year's point in time count and the decrease really spoke to the hard work that was being done," said Heidi Marston, the director of Community Engagement and Reintegration at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.  Although the previous year's veteran homeless count turned out to be not as high as initially reported, it did serve as a call to action for the VA.  "To kind of streamline our processes to get folks who are under the bridges and on the streets into housing," Marston explained.  The VA also increased funding for a program that provides 90-day emergency housing for veterans like Air Force combat veteran Christopher Underwood. He suffers from PTSD and was facing imminent homelessness on the street. Underwood's now staying at a U.S. Vets facility in Inglewood.  "And I'm thankful. Without this I'd probably be in a situation where you know... a little more desolate," Underwood said.
 
Steve Peck, president of U.S. Vets says the VA's outreach and services accomplished a great deal, but he cautions that veteran homelessness is an ever-changing dynamic.  "There were more first-time homeless than ever before,he saysadding that he's seeing an increasing number of post-Sept 11 veterans seeking help.  "They're hopping from bed to bed, relative to relative, they're living in their cars," he says. "Some of them don't even consider themselves homeless because they're not sleeping literally on the sidewalk. But they are ...and they're suffering."
 
Across town, on the sprawling campus of the West LA Veterans Affairs, it's early evening. Under flickering floodlights 63-year-old Marine veteran Robert Louis and his wife Gail are getting ready to bed down for the night in their car.  "It's really rough as you can see it's not a big car," he said with a laugh. "There's not a lot of room to sleep in."  The VA recently partnered with the nonprofit Safe Parking L.A. to provide 10 parking spaces for homeless veterans. There's a wash station and a portable bathroom. They have to leave in the morning. He turns and looks at his wife sitting next to him.  "But we make the best of it," he said, as if reassuring her.
 
The story of how they got here can be summed up to a few wrong decisions and Gail's diagnosis of cancer. Gail is wearing a blue sweatshirt and her hair in a loose upsweep.  "It's been extremely depressing but I'm alive to experience it so I am forever grateful," she said.  One of the things they are grateful for is they still have their car. They drive by the homeless on the streets of L.A. every day. Robert slowly shakes his head.  "They have tents or are just huddled up in doorways, “he said. "We're just thankful and we say a prayer for them, too."  The parking spaces are starting to fill up. There are new faces here every night. They all look out for each other they say. By 9:30 p.m. the homeless veterans have retired to their cars for the night, the sounds of the city muffled in the distance.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Arlington (TX), Camp Pendleton (CA), Fort Belvoir (VA), Fort Bragg, Fort Lee (VA), Herndon (VA), Holloman AFB (NM), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Lexington Park (MD), McLean (VA), Minneapolis, National Harbor (MD), Naval Air Station Jacksonville (FL), San Diego, Shaw AFB (SC), Travis Air Force Base (CA), and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
The small business world is fraught with uncertainty and rumors. Two of the biggest misconceptions are that the federal government provides grants to new entrepreneurs, and that you can work whenever you want when you have your own business (we'll debunk these later). If you think you're ready to start your own small business and keep it afloat you need to separate fact from fiction. Here are five more small business myths that have been debunked by AOL.com's business writer Patricia Simone.
 
Myth No.1: The government provides grants for startups.
 
The federal government does not have a grant that gives money directly to small businesses. However, there are several low-interest loans and venture capital financing programs available to help veterans start a business.  The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two loan programs to veterans — the Patriot Express Loan Initiative and the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
 
The Patriot Express loan provides loans to veterans who want to establish or expand their businesses. The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program helps small businesses meet operating expenses because of the deployment of an employee.
 
Myth No. 2: You'll have more time to spend with friends and family.
 
Starting your own business is a major time commitment. Being your own boss doesn't always mean that you can make your own hours. Many entrepreneurs eat, sleep and ultimately live for their business. Running your own business is a lifestyle and you must prepare for the demise of your time.
 
Myth No.3: You can write all of your expenses off.
 
Don't try to write off personal purchases as business expenses. This will get you audited by Uncle Sam. All of your business expenses should be directly related to your business.
 
Myth No. 4: You can pay yourself whenever you want.
 
By taking the majority of the money that you make from your business, you will have nothing left to pay expenses. Make an effort to pay for marketing, operational expenses and overhead first. What's more, you should expect to not take any money from your business for at least two years.
 
Myth No.5: You're business should be profitable in six months.
 
Even if you're the best in the business, you shouldn't expect your business to be profitable right away. Most new businesses don't see a profit for two years. It takes time and a lot of reinvestment into your company before the start-up is successful, reports AOL.com.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to eliminate regulations that forced for-profit colleges to prove that they provide gainful employment to the students they enroll, in what would be the most drastic in a series of moves that she has made to free the for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era.
 
The so-called gainful employment regulations put into force by the Obama administration cut off federally guaranteed student loans to colleges if their graduates did not earn enough money to pay them off. That sent many for-profit colleges and universities into an economic tailspin because so many of their alumni were failing to find decent jobs.
 
The Obama regulations — years in the making and the subject of a bitter fight that pulled in heavy hitters from both parties who backed the for-profit schools — also required such schools to advertise whether or not they met federal standards for job placement in promotional materials and to prospective students.
 
Now, a draft regulation, obtained by The New York Times, indicates that the Education Department plans to scuttle the regulations altogether, not simply modify them, as Ms. DeVos did Wednesday with new regulations that scaled back an Obama-era debt relief plan for student borrowers who felt duped by the unrealistic appeals of for-profit colleges.
 
The move would punctuate a series of decisions to freeze, modify and now eliminate safeguards put in place after hundreds of for-profit colleges were accused of widespread fraud and subsequently collapsed, leaving their enrolled students with huge debts and no degrees. The failure of two mammoth chains, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes, capped years of complaints that some career-training colleges took advantage of veterans and other nontraditional students, using deceptive marketing and illegal recruitment practices.
The draft “gainful employment” rule obtained by The Times is the most recent iteration of a proposal more than a year in the making from the Education Department, which as recently as last week had considered preserving at least some of the provisions in the Obama-era regulations, according to officials familiar with the department’s plans. A final rule could look different, and the department plans to solicit public comment on the proposal.
 
In the draft rule, the department proposes to hold institutions accountable by publishing information on a new federal database, or an existing government website called the College Scorecard. The sites would list student debt burdens, federal loan repayment rates, degree completion rates and the average post-college earnings of alumni, which the College Scorecard already does.
 
The existing database, created under the Obama administration, includes such data for more than 7,000 institutions, but it does not include program-by-program success rates for such certificates as nursing assistance, cosmetology or auto maintenance, nor does it contain the detailed employment statistics that the gainful employment regulations targeted.
The Education Department wrote in the draft rule that it planned to update the scorecard with information about specific programs for all colleges and universities that are eligible for federal financial aid, “thus improving transparency and providing information to students to inform their enrollment decisions through a market-based accountability system.”
 
But it would eliminate the powerful threat to withhold access to guaranteed student loans from colleges whose graduates cannot find the work to pay them back. Few higher-education institutions could survive without federal student aid.
 
The DeVos approach would undo nearly a decade of efforts to create a tough accountability system for the largely unregulated and scandal-riddled for-profit sector of higher education. In recent years, large for-profit chains have collapsed under mountains of complaints and lawsuits for employing misleading and deceptive practices. The most high-profile chains, ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, generated tens of thousands of complaints from student borrowers who said they were left with worthless degrees. The Obama administration forgave at least $450 million in taxpayer-funded student debt.
 
The Obama administration began drafting the regulations when the for-profit college sector was booming, with large chains enrolling 500,000 students at a time.
 
That prompted intensive campaigns by the for-profit sector to kill the rule, dozens of hearings, more than 90,000 public comments and lawsuits. House Republicans targeted the regulation for elimination in their reauthorization of a new higher-education bill. And Republican Senate leaders — including Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the education committee — have said that they believe that accountability measures should be applied to all schools, not just one sector.
 
Ms. DeVos has tended to agree with critics and industry leaders who say that the Obama rules unfairly targeted for-profits. In statements, officials have maintained that Ms. DeVos is committed to “weeding out bad actors and doing what’s best for students, not capriciously targeting schools based on their tax status.”
 
Ms. DeVos has also stacked her top ranks with advisers from the sector, including Diane Auer Jones, a senior adviser on postsecondary education, whose ethics filings show that she lobbied against funding the rule while working for an operator of for-profit schools, Career Education Corporation.
 
Ms. Jones has not recused herself from advising on the gainful employment rule or on any matters involving career education.  In an April letter, 10 congressional Democrats wrote to Ms. DeVos asking her to address Ms. Jones’s apparent conflicts of interest.
 
Ethics watchdogs have called also raised alarms about Ms. Jones’s previous roles at for-profits, including the legal watchdog Democracy Forward, which revealed her lobbying activities to The Times. The Education Department has defended Ms. Jones’s record, which includes working at community colleges and public universities.
 
One of Ms. DeVos’s first acts as secretary was delaying the main provisions of the Obama-era for-profit rules. In March 2017, she announced that colleges would have three more months to appeal gainful employment data that was released at the end of the Obama administration. She delayed the rules a second time, in June last year, about a month after announcing that she would renegotiate the gainful employment regulations. She delayed the disclosure provision again last month, giving institutions until July 2019 to comply.
 
For-profit school leaders have praised the delays, as they have argued the rules were meant to put them out of business at the expense of students who enrolled in career education schools. When Ms. DeVos announced the first delay of the Obama rules last spring, Steve Gunderson, the president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, praised the decision. He said the group, which represents more than 1,000 for-profit schools, would present evidence to the department that the rules “treats identical programs differently.”
 
Last year, Ms. DeVos pointed to a court ruling in favor of scaling back after the American Association of Cosmetology Schools won a lawsuit against the Education Department. The association said the gainful employment rule unfairly penalized its members because the department’s data did not capture all of their graduates’ income, such as tips, that would skew earnings data.
 
“We need to get this right for our students, and we need to get this right for our institutions of higher education,” Ms. DeVos said at the time. “Once fully implemented, the current rules would unfairly and arbitrarily limit students’ ability to pursue certain types of higher-education and career-training programs.”
 
In 2014, employment rules, it estimated that about 1,400 programs serving 840,000 students — of which 99 percent were at for-profit institutions — would not pass its new accountability standards. In January 2017, the department announced that about 800 programs, or 10 percent of those examined, had failed to meet the requirements; 98 percent of those were for-profits.
 
An analysis of the programs, conducted by New America, shows that hundreds of programs that failed the federal test went on to shut their doors shortly after. Consumer protection advocates said that there is enough evidence to show that the gainful employment rule is meeting its goal of weeding out the poorest performers.
 
“It took nearly a decade of rulemaking, litigation and public debate to write a gainful employment rule that protects hundreds of thousands of students from unaffordable debt,” said James Kvaal, the president of the Institute for College Access & Success, who helped draft the rules as an Obama administration official. “Now the Trump administration may just scrap these essential student protections. The evidence is in, and the gainful employment rule has helped students find better choices and forced colleges to improve the value of their career education programs.”
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  8/3/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 27 July 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Despite facing challenges at the domestic level along with a rapidly transforming global landscape, the U.S. economy is still the largest and most important in the world. The U.S. economy represents about 20 percent of total global output, and is still larger than that of China. Moreover, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the U.S. has the sixth highest per capita gross domestic product (GDP). The U.S. economy features a highly-developed and technologically-advanced services sector, which accounts for about 80 percent of its output. The U.S. economy is dominated by services-oriented companies in areas such as technology, financial services, healthcare and retail. Large U.S. corporations also play a major role on the global stage, with more than a fifth of companies on the Fortune Global 500 coming from the United States.

Even though the services sector is the main engine of the economy, the U.S. also has an important manufacturing base, which represents roughly 15 percent of output. The U.S. is the second largest manufacturer in the world and a leader in higher-value industries such as automobiles, aerospace, machinery, telecommunications and chemicals. Meanwhile, agriculture represents less than 2 percent of output. However, large amounts of arable land, advanced farming technology and generous government subsidies make the U.S. a net exporter of food and the largest agricultural exporting country in the world. 

The U.S. economy maintains its powerhouse status through a combination of characteristics. The country has access to abundant natural resources and a sophisticated physical infrastructure. It also has a large, well-educated and productive workforce. Moreover, the physical and human capital is fully leveraged in a free-market and business-oriented environment. The government and the people of the United States both contribute to this unique economic environment. The government provides political stability, a functional legal system, and a regulatory structure that allow the economy to flourish. The general population, including a diversity of immigrants, brings a solid work ethic, as well as a sense of entrepreneurship and risk taking to the mix. Economic growth in the United States is constantly being driven forward by ongoing innovation, research and development as well as capital investment. 

The U.S. economy is currently emerging from a period of considerable turmoil. A mix of factors, including low interest rates, widespread mortgage lending, excessive risk taking in the financial sector, high consumer indebtedness and lax government regulation, led to a major recession that began in 2008. The housing market and several major banks collapsed and the U.S. economy proceeded to contract until the third quarter of 2009 in what was the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. The U.S. government intervened by using $700 billion to purchase troubled mortgage-related assets and propping up large floundering corporations in order to stabilize the financial system. It also introduced a stimulus package worth $831 billion to be spent across the following 10 years to boost the economy. 

The economy has been recovering slowly yet unevenly since the depths of the recession in 2009. The economy has received further support through expansionary monetary policies. This includes not only holding interest rates at the lower bound, but also the unconventional practice of the government buying large amounts of financial assets to increase the money supply and hold down long term interest rates - a practice known as “quantitative easing”. 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
172
124
129
113
43
11
Unemployment rate
5.1
3.7
4.5
4.0
8.5
2.1
 
National unemployment rate is 4.0 percent (June 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.1 percent (up from 1.7 percent in May).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, July 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the National Advocacy Day celebration and reception held by CQ, The Hill and the Grassroots Professional Network.
 
On Monday, July 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with representatives from the United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) to discuss plans they’re developing for a presentation on how consumers can protect their data security & privacy. USPIRG is offering this training to congressional constituent offices, and is seeking American Legion feedback on how they can reach veterans in local communities.
 
On Tuesday, July 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the staff from Partnership for Public Service. We discussed different opportunities for collaboration to assist veterans. Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC whose mission is to inspire a new generation of civil servants and transform the way government works.
 
On Tuesday, July 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff about drafting a rule to implement a requirement that the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) provide free electronic credit monitoring to active-duty military members. Public Law 115-174 Section 302(d)(2) requires nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to provide a free electronic monitoring service that notifies a consumer of material additions or modifications to the file of the consumer, if the consumer provides the CRA with appropriate proof that the consumer is an active-duty military consumer. The FTC is seeking quality control suggestions to determine what constitutes “appropriate proof” of active-duty service, and is seeking American Legion input.
 
On Tuesday, July 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Bethany Carter, Legislative Aide, Office of U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (ID), to discuss several Transition Assistance Program (TAP) concerns and ways to improve TAP.
 
On Wednesday, July 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with U.S.VETS and the PenFed Foundation to discuss their programs and how they can collaborate in assisting at-risk veterans with financial assistance and other related issues. The PenFed Foundation creates a pathway for our nation’s defenders to secure a strong future through financial education, credit-building, home ownership, and short-term assistance. All of PenFed’s programs include an element of financial education. U.S.VETS is a private nonprofit organization providing housing, employment and counseling services to at-risk and homeless veterans.
 
On Wednesday, July 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Richard Waller, Ret. 1stSgt USMC, Career Services Analyst/ Employment Resource Manager, Marine for Life, to discuss his participation in the federal resume workshop and The American Legion Employment Innovation Taskforce meeting during our 100th National Convention in Minneapolis.
 
On Wednesday, July 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended Edelman Public Relation’s 2018 Veterans’ Wellbeing Survey Launch and Panel Discussion at the Army Navy Club. Edelman Public Relations firm conducts surveys each year to inform stakeholders about post-service employment and other issues facing veterans. This year, the survey tracked and explored perceptions of veterans’ mental, physical and economic well-being, educational opportunities, employment qualifications and military spouse employment.  
 
On Thursday, July 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce event Stand to II as part of the Education Task Force. Stand to II brought together senior government officials with leaders from business, higher education, philanthropy, and nonprofits to address key priorities and to lay out a framework for a way forward to improve veteran transition outcomes in three critical areas: health and wellbeing; employment; and education. The Education Task Force focused on issues developing with a Veterans Benefits Administration’s restructuring, GI Bill transferability, and Department of Education rule changes to Borrower Defense and Gainful Employment.
 
On Thursday, July 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations regarding the proposed move of veteran small business verification from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs over to the Small Business Administration. The American Legion testified in support of the Trump Administration’s proposal for the move last week in a joint hearing between the House Veterans Affairs and Small Business committees.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
More than half of veterans struggle to find work in their desired fields after leaving the military because civilian employers want experienced and educated candidates - and often don’t realize veterans qualify, a new survey finds. Only 17 percent of employers say veterans are viewed as strategic assets in the workplace, according to the survey, released this week by the marketing firm Edelman. And despite the large majority of veteran respondents saying they have education beyond a high school diploma, 46 percent of employers believe veterans do not pursue a college degree or vocational training. “I think, ‘You need more education’ is code for: ‘We don’t understand you,’” said Eric Eversole, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative. Eversole led a panel discussion on the survey’s findings in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, July 25.  He told Military Times that many companies have started to prioritize veteran recruitment, but there are still challenges at the hiring-manager level. It can be easier for employers to say, “You’re not quite the right fit,” rather than to try to understand how time and tasks done in service measure up to the job requirements. Edelman researchers surveyed close to 5,000 servicemembers, military spouses, veterans, nonveterans, educators and employers for the study, the group’s third annual assessment of veterans’ well-being.
 
Compared to last year, veterans offered better self-assessments about their employment, and employers’ perceptions of veterans’ overall well-being also improved. People make decisions based on perceptions all the time. What the survey found out was: What they think is not very often based on fact. For example, 53 percent of employers surveyed said veterans do not have successful careers after the military. Yet federal employment figures show veterans reached a record-low unemployment rate in 2017 - 3.7 percent, compared to 4.2 percent for nonveterans - and other statistics show veterans have higher salaries and advance more quickly in their jobs. If a company insists on candidates having a certain type of background or education, they should make that clearer to veteran applicants. Let them know what major and GPA is required, as well as which schools the companies recruit from, so that the veteran better understands what it takes to get that type of job. 
 
Military spouses also encountered challenges and wished the government would do more to advocate for them, according to the study. 68 percent of employers said they did not offer options for flexible schedules or remote work that military spouses could benefit from, and many admitted their companies do not understand the value that military spouses have to offer in the workforce. The study found one way to bridge the civilian-military divide in the workforce could be through internship and apprenticeship programs, particularly in the information technology and trades fields. Both employers and veterans see this as an opportunity for veterans to gain the technical and soft skills that employers want.  These types of opportunities also give veterans a chance to get their foot in the door and show the employer what they can do, while simultaneously testing out whether the company is a good fit.  But ultimately, it takes work to chip away at the stigmas.  Elizabeth Lynch, director of external programs in the office of military and veterans affairs at JP Morgan Chase & Co., told the panel, “We know that if we’re going to be successful as a firm at retaining the veteran talent we’re bringing in, we have to spend as much energy educating our nonveterans at the firm as we do in supporting veterans at the firm.”
 
In the survey, many employers said veterans are perceived as heroes and not necessarily as assets to the company - a part of the study that jumped out to Lynch. She said veteran experiences are sometimes idealized and put on a pedestal. That makes it hard for veterans to be perceived normally. “We do a disservice if we continue to sort of generalize this labor market of veteran talent,” she said. “They’re not all heroes. They’re not all great leaders.” While many places call themselves “military friendly,” that doesn’t mean as much as being “veteran inclusive.”
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
On July 10, the U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced the award of 163 Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program (HVRP) grants totaling $47,600,000. This funding will provide workforce reintegration services to more than 18,000 homeless veterans. "While serving in the military, veterans learn many skills desired in today's workforce," said Secretary Acosta. "These grants will help thousands of homeless veterans reintegrate themselves into society and secure good jobs." Funds are being awarded on a competitive basis to: state and local workforce investment boards; local public agencies and nonprofit organizations; tribal governments; and faith-based and community organizations.
 
Homeless veterans may receive occupational skills training, apprenticeship opportunities, and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance. This year's HVRP awards provide 40 first-year grants totaling nearly $13,000,000. Previous awardees will receive first and second option year grants totaling $34,600,000. Grantees under the HVRP program will coordinate their efforts with other federal programs, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) program.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Arlington (TX), Camp Pendleton (CA), Fort Belvoir (VA), Fort Bragg, Fort Lee (VA), Herndon (VA), Holloman AFB (NM), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Lexington Park (MD), McLean (VA), Minneapolis, National Harbor (MD), Naval Air Station Jacksonville (FL), San Diego, Shaw AFB (SC), Travis Air Force Base (CA), and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
The American Legion announced a one-day entrepreneurial course, called “Celebrating Women on the Rise: Women-Owned Small Business Conference,” to be held in conjunction with its 100th National Convention at the Hilton Minneapolis, and is specifically designed, free of charge, for women veterans and spouses. The one-day intensive entrepreneurship course is hosted by the Legion in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Foresight CFO and the Small Business Administration. After completing this free course, participants will have the tools and knowledge they need to identify a business opportunity and launch or grow their enterprise. “IVMF is committed to help military connected women entrepreneurs succeed. We know that more than 180,000 military servicemembers transition out of active-duty each year and that women are outpacing men with respect to starting new businesses, in fact women veteran startups have increased nearly 300 percent since 2007,” said Misty Stutsman, Director of Entrepreneurship and Small Business at the Institute for Veteran and Military Families. “We provide these aspiring entrepreneurs tools, resources and connection to launch their business or think more entrepreneurially within their companies and that’s why we’re partnering with The American Legion to put together this one-day conference.”
 
The curriculum includes an introduction to entrepreneurship and skills training, plus detailed information on resources and support programs designed specifically to aid businesses in navigating private and federal government entrepreneurship resources. The breakout sessions will assist businesses with conceptualization, financial planning, start-up funding, branding and most importantly - effective networking. “Veterans have a deep entrepreneurial spirit and are willing to take the risks,” says Diane Duscheck, National President of The American Legion Auxiliary. “According to the SBA, there are nearly four million veteran-owned small businesses, but less than 10 percent are owned by women. The entrepreneurial interests of women veterans and spouses have been neglected. That is why this women specific small business conference will be so valuable for our community.” Participants who complete this course will also be provided access to an eight-week online Foundations of Entrepreneurship course offered by IVMF.  Completion of the 8-week online course will require approximately 10-hours of study each week and walk participants through the fundamentals of developing a business plan. 
 
Women veterans interested in enrolling in the free entrepreneurship training program can register HERE or by contacting Jasmine Davis at 202-263-5771 or jdavis@legion.org.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
While the majority of this update will focus on passage of H.R.5644, a new development occurred today in the National Veterans Employment & Education Division’s investigation into the GI Bill transferability cutbacks. As discussed in previous updates, a compelling explanation for the cut to GI Bill transferability is that DOD believes that recruitment age dependents would be more susceptible to enlistment or ROTC if not for the access to college that transferability affords them. There are statistics that show family history of enlisting is an important factor to enlisting or joining ROTC, and that it may be decreasing due to eligible prospective recruits opting for GIB transfer rather than enlisting for the college money themselves.
 
Earlier today, our division received an internal email from a Military Support Organization that corroborates this theory:
 
From: ###
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2018 11:37 AM
To: ###
Subject: GI Bill Transferability Option
 
Sir/All,
 
Just back from teaching Post 9/11 GIB at Fort Belvoir and heard this tidbit from an Army O6 who works at Manpower HQ.  He’s says that the Army failed to meet their accession requirements in all areas.  They believe a significant cause for this is that military children, who would have joined the service to receive the education benefits, are using transferred GIB benefits and foregoing service.
 
He told me that the Army is making a proposal to DOD to withdraw the transferability option and we should officially see the announcement, if approved, within the next couple of weeks.
 
The investigation into this issue continues.
 
On a separate note, House lawmakers on Monday, July 23, passed H.R.5644, the Veterans' Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan Act of 2018. This bill would create a new branch of Veterans Affairs operations focused on economic opportunity, a move that many say could better highlight employment and education programs at the department. The VFW, DAV, PVA and SVA have pushed for the new economic opportunity administration in recent months amid concerns that the benefits administration is too overwhelmed with disability compensation and pension claims to focus on education programs, post-military jobs efforts and a host of other resources. A resolution on this subject is expected to be discussed by the National Veterans Employment & Education Commission during National Convention. The new agency would be stood up beside the department’s three existing administrations - the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration - and led by an undersecretary “charged with administering the many benefits available to veterans beyond disability claims and pensions.”
 
“The fourth administration is not more bureaucracy, but a focus on the education benefits and transition as veterans,” House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (TN) said before Monday’s vote. “I think it's one of the most critical things we do. A seamless transition from active-duty to an active job will help reduce veteran depression, suicide, dependence, among other things.”
 
The proposal - attached to new rules on veterans medical foster homes - passed through the House on a voice vote, without opposition. The legislation caps the total number of full-time employees for the new administration at current VBA staffing levels, with the goal of pulling those existing roles within that agency into a different management structure to highlight their work. To pay for costs of the new administration stand up, the legislation authorizes a temporary fee on refinancing VA home loans. Along with the fourth administration legislation, the House this week sent eight other veterans and military measures to the Senate for consideration.
 
No timetable has been set for when any of the measures may be considered in the Senate. House lawmakers are wrapping up their summer session this week, but Senate officials are expected to work through most of August, mainly on confirmation of White House agency nominees.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 20 Jul 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an occupational outlook each decade. It goes into great detail about each industry and occupation. Overall, the BLS expects total employment to increase by 20.5 million jobs from 2010 to 2020. While 88 percent of all occupations will experience growth, the fastest growth will occur in healthcare, personal care and social assistance, and construction. Furthermore, jobs requiring a master’s degree will grow the fastest while those that only need a high school diploma will grow the slowest.
 
The BLS assumes that the economy will fully recover from the recession by 2020 and that the labor force will return to full employment or an unemployment rate of 4 to 5 percent. The most significant growth, forecasted at 5.7 million jobs, will occur in healthcare and other forms of social assistance as the American population ages.
 
The next most substantial increase, 2.1 million jobs, will occur in professional and technical occupations. Most of this is in computer systems design, especially mobile technologies and management, scientific, and technical consulting. Businesses will need advice on planning and logistics; implementing new technologies; and complying with workplace safety, environmental, and employment regulations.
 
Other substantial increases will occur in education, predicted to be 1.8 million jobs; retail, 1.7 million jobs; and hotel/restaurants, 1 million jobs. Another area is miscellaneous services at 1.6 million jobs. That includes human resources, seasonal and temporary workers, and waste collection. As housing recovers, construction will add 1.8 million jobs while other areas of manufacturing will lose jobs due to technology and outsourcing. 
 
2018 will be a prosperous year as we continue to say goodbye to the effects of the financial crisis. Be on the lookout for a bubble in the stock market. That signals the peak of the business cycle. Another recession is probably two to three years out. It all depends on whether President Trump's tax cuts will create the jobs he promised.
 
Therefore, the best thing to do is to stay relentlessly focused on your financial well-being. Continue to improve your skills and chart a clear course for your career. If you've invested in the stock market, be calm during any pull-back. Plummeting commodity prices, including gold, oil, and coffee, will return to the mean. All in all, an excellent time to reduce debt, build up your savings, and increase your wealth.
 
U.S. GDP growth will rise to 2.8 percent in 2018, 2.4 percent in 2019, and 2.0 percent in 2020. That's according to the most recent forecast released at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on June 13, 2018. This estimate takes into account Trump's economic policies.
 
U.S. manufacturing is forecast to increase faster than the general economy. Production will grow 2.8 percent in 2018. Growth will slow to 2.6 percent in 2019 and 2 percent in 2020. 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
172
124
129
113
43
11
Unemployment rate
5.1
3.7
4.5
4.0
8.5
2.1
 
National unemployment rate is 4.0 percent (June 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.1 percent (down from 1.7 percent in May).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, July 16, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Bill Ashton, Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison, Office of Partnerships & Public Engagement, Department of Agriculture. We discussed the different opportunities for collaboration between both organizations in an effort to reduce the veterans unemployment rate.
 
On Tuesday, July 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division wrote testimony on several pending legislative bills and one draft bill.  All bills are geared toward improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
 
On Tuesday, July 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Representative Beto O’Rourke’s (TX) office about a drafted bill relating to HUD-VASH. We’re reviewing the bill to see if we support.
 
On Tuesday July  17, the Veterans Employment & Education Division testified in a joint hearing between the House Small Business Committee and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on the future of veterans small business certification. The Trump Administration has proposed the consolidation of small business certifications to the SBA as a one-stop-shop. The hearing was to determine the capacity and readiness of the SBA to accept the responsibilities of veteran small business certification.
 
On Tuesday, July 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with David Urbanowicz, Director, External Affairs & Strategic Partnerships Internet Essentials, Comcast Corporation.  We discussed the different opportunities relating to low-income veterans. Understanding that today’s age is about technology and having access to the internet, which is  why veterans who attend a career fair are always encouraged to “Apply Online”, which is fine if you have internet access. Veterans who may have limited or no access to the internet may find it challenging when attempting to create/update their resumes or apply for employment. We discussed the different criteria needed in order to qualify for “Internet Essentials”. Scheduled follow up call for next week.
 
On Wednesday, July 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation-Hiring Our Heroes, where they would like The American Legion to participate in their upcoming Transition Summit at Holloman Air Force Base and at the Washington Nationals Stadium for a Hiring Expo.
 
On Thursday, July 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the National State Workforce Association (NASWA) conference held in DC. The meeting of the profession convened more than 2,000 state level social workers, non-profits, and thought leaders for four days of unparalleled opportunities for professional development, continuing education, networking, and thought-provoking conversations tackling the most pressing issues facing the social work profession.
 
On Thursday, July 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Representative Chris Smith’s (NJ) office to discuss a drafted bill regarding homeless veterans’ benefits to include dental care.
 
On Thursday, July 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division confirming attendance for The American Legion’s Employment Innovation Taskforce meeting scheduled during the National Convention.
 
On Thursday, July 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will participate in a conference call with the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation – Hiring Our Heroes. We discussed the Career Fair during the National Convention.  We went over the employer list as well as the different workshops being conducted.
 
On Thursday, July 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Bethany Carter,  Legislative Aide, Office of U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).  We discussed the upcoming draft bill pertaining to Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Survivor’s Benefits Program (SBP). The Senator is looking for guidance from The American Legion and other Veterans Service Organizations with regards to innovative ways to deliver TAP.  A follow up call was scheduled for Tuesday, July 24.
  
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
The number of people fired at the Department of Veterans Affairs increased by more than 500 during President Donald Trump's first year in office in a reform move that Democrats charged is unfairly targeting low-wage workers. The VA said a total of 2,537 people from a workforce of more than 360,000 were fired in 2017, including 1,443 removals and another 1,094 probationary removals during training periods.
 
That was an increase of 536 firings over the previous year. In addition, the VA reported another 1,096 people were fired in the first five months of 2018.  In 2016, the VA fired 2,001 people, including 983 removals and 1,018 probationary removals, according to VA data.  The firings were the subject of a House hearing Tuesday on the first year since the enactment in June 2017 of the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which Trump signed to fulfill a campaign pledge to reform the VA and weed out poor performers who mistreat veterans.  At the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, VA officials defended their expanded firing authorities under the Accountability Act against charges that low-level workers are being targeted while management is getting a pass.
 
Democratic lawmakers and the VA's union cited VA data showing that only 15 supervisors were among the 1,096 VA employees who were fired in the first five months of 2018.  Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, said most of those fired from January through May were on the low-wage custodial, laundry and food service staff.  However, Acting VA Secretary Peter O'Rourke said the VA's firing rate for low-level employees has not changed compared to previous years.  "It's in the data. When we look back to 2014 and forward, you don't see a significant difference from year to year in unrealistic firings or removals of any category of employee," including the so-called "housekeeping" workers.  Takano said most of those workers were veterans themselves. Veterans make up about one-third of the VA's workforce. "I think people on both sides of the aisle are gravely concerned about this," he said. "I am very troubled by how I am seeing the implementation of this. It is not possible to fire your way to excellence."
 
Nathan Maenle, principal deputy assistant secretary for VA's Office of Human Resources and Administration, said the data did not represent "a significant change in the past three fiscal years in the number of actions that were taken" against custodial, laundry and food service workers.
He said the VA has seen "less than one percent increase in terminations at that level of employee" since the Accountability Act was passed, adding that the firing rate at the VA "compares similarly to the private sector."
 
FIRINGS VS. TURNOVER RATES
O'Rourke also cited the high turnover rate among low-wage employees in both the civil service and the private sector.  Takano said the issue is firings, not turnover rates.  "That is our highest turnover area," O'Rourke said of low-wage VA workers, but "our turnover rates are much lower than the private sector."  When counting firings, "if you go back to 2015, you're going to see the same amount of removals even before the accountability law" on the low-wage level, he said.  In his opening remarks, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the committee chairman, called the Accountability Act "one of the most consequential reforms to the federal civil service system in decades" but said he is concerned about how the VA is putting it into effect.
 
"I also want to make it clear that while this law made it easier to discipline poor employees, it did not give VA the license to use this authority to target employees, no matter their position or grade, or to retaliate against whistleblowers," he said.  Since the law was enacted, the VA's Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) has received about 170 whistleblower complaints per month, O'Rourke said.
From June 2017 to June 2018, the VA received a total of about 2,000 submissions from whistleblowers, and those complaints resulted in recommendations of disciplinary actions against 54 senior-level staff, he said.  O'Rourke said retaliation against whistleblowers is still a concern and is "absolutely unacceptable. I will not tolerate it."  OAWP now puts a hold on any administrative actions against whistleblowers while the complaint is investigated, he added. In many cases, the complaints are unfounded or the result of poor communication, he said.
 
"Lots of times, what we found was two sides not talking to each other," O'Rourke said.  The poor communication is indicative of the need for a "change of culture" at the VA, he said, but that will take "time, persistence and patience. We must change the VA's culture from within.  Right now, we're dealing with the first year of implementation," he said. "New rules -- everyone's trying to figure that part of it out."
 
ENDING A FEUD
Roe questioned the lack of written procedures for OAWP, staff shortages, and O'Rourke's recent refusal to share data on whistleblower complaints with the VA's Office of Inspector General, led by Michael Missal.  In a report to Congress in June, the VA said OAWP was authorized for 102 full-time employees but had 73 on staff as of June 1. Additional hires were pending, the VA said.
Takano pressed O'Rourke on whether he had ended his feud with Missal over access to whistleblower data that surfaced in an angry exchange of letters last month.  Missal charged that O'Rourke could be in violation of the law.
 
"You are reminded that [OIG] is loosely tethered to VA and in your specific case as the VA inspector general," O’Rourke wrote back. "I am your immediate supervisor. You are directed to act accordingly."  At the hearing, O'Rourke said the dispute with Missal was "unfortunate," but he maintained that Missal's "access to OAWP [data] has been unfettered since day one. My commitment remains the same."  Takano pressed again, asking whether O'Rourke would work with Missal.  "Yes," O'Rourke replied.  In his State of the Union address in January, Trump claimed that 1,500 VA employees had been fired since he signed the Accountability Act in June 2017.
 
"Since its passage, my administration has already removed more than 1,500 VA employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve," he said. "And we are hiring talented people who love our vets as much as we do. I will not stop until our veterans are properly taken care of, which has been my promise to them from the very beginning of this great journey." 
 
INVESTIGATING ALLEGATIONS
In a June letter to the VA's Office of Inspector General, four Democratic senators asked Missal to investigate allegations that VA managers are using the Accountability Act to go after employees for spurious reasons, such as moving too slowly after a workplace injury.  "We have had numerous VA employees and their representatives contact our offices about the law's implementation, indicating that the authorities provided by the law are being used in an inconsistent and inappropriate manner," the senators said.  "Unfortunately, VA still has not been able to provide us with data that would alleviate our concerns or demonstrate in any way that application of these authorities has been consistent, fair and appropriate," said the letter signed by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Montana; Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
 
At the hearing Tuesday, Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pennsylvania, cited the example of the VA Medical Center in Pittsburgh. He said 46 housekeeping staff had been fired this year, while at the same time the center had 300 job vacancies.  "From a housekeeper's vantage point, they've seen 46 of their colleagues punished in the last year," Lamb said. "They see 300 of them missing. Their work is additional every single day, and very few, if any, managers have been dismissed at that time."  Roe interjected in support of Lamb. "If you're short of personnel, you don't fire adequately performing employees," he said.  "You reward those people to stay there. If I were a manager at Pittsburgh and I was having to get rid of somebody and I was already short of personnel, they'd have to do something pretty egregious for me to get rid of them," Roe said.
 
'CLIMATE OF FEAR'
In his testimony at the hearing, J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents about 240,000 workers at the VA, said the Accountability Act is creating a "climate of fear" in the VA workforce that is impacting veterans' care.  "There is fear; there is a lot of fear," Cox said. "The Accountability Act has proven to be one of the most misguided and counterproductive VA laws ever enacted. I think it creates fear and, when you have fear in an organization, you never have the best performance."  O'Rourke asked the committee for patience in oversight on the implementation of the bill.
 
When asked what he would do immediately if he could, he gave a lengthy response:  "We have a lot of times where we don't work together on problems. We try to work on them either individually or we just try to not think about them too much," he said.  He said success would involve "breaking down those barriers, whether it's between IT and VHA [the Veterans Health Administration] or whether it's between VHA and VBA [Veterans Benefits Administration]."  O'Rourke said he wants to see the VA "working problems collaboratively with the veteran's outcome in mind" rather than at cross purposes. "That's what I would change immediately if I could. That involves personalities. People have been doing things their whole careers."
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Green Zone Housing's Co-Founder Mark Cook has teamed up with TQS, Inc. President JR Harris to launch a new shipping container home builders business in Willis (TX) that helps fund a vision for military veterans who are homeless. Now the business partners are interested in starting a dialogue with community leaders to help stem the tide of homelessness. "The average person thinks that homelessness and homeless veterans is a complex problem, and when you break it down to the layers of it-it isn't that complex," Harris said. "But everybody looks at the whole picture, like 'oh, well if you get them off the streets then you have to feed them, manage them, clothe them and do all of these things-in an emergency you've got shelter. That is the simplest part of what you can make a complex from." Sparked by an idea on a Louisiana road trip to use the shipping containers to build recyclable mini barns for FFA students, the two friends launched the business, TQS Container Home Builders, about seven months ago. The business falls under the umbrella of the Houston-based TQS Metal Testing Lab. About 5 percent of the profits from the sales goes toward supporting Green Zone Housing, which Cook co-founded with U.S. veteran Dave Nash to serve homeless and distressed veterans with a mission to provide permanent housing, job training and a community in which at-risk veterans who are homeless can thrive.
 
The veterans must graduate from a program like Camp Hope in Houston that provides interim housing and peer support for veterans learning to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Then, Green Zone Housing provides the option for the veteran to become a project manager learning trade skills while transforming a shipping container into a permanent home of their own earned through sweat equity. While Green Zone Housing gained momentum since starting in 2017, the nonprofit has been unable to fulfill a need to purchase about 2.5 to 5 acres of land for the community, Cook and Harris said. "As Green Zone Housing struggled to move forward raising cash we started TQS Container Homes so that number one, I didn't have to draw a salary from my old company, but also number two, so that we could raise money for Green Zone and help move our projects forward," said Harris, who is also a U.S. Army veteran that serves on the Green Zone Housing Board. The TQS team of two constructs custom-made shipping container homes, deer camps, and more. The project’s cost about $25,000 but prices vary depending on the request and it takes the duo about 2.5 weeks to transform. Cook said they have had about four projects so far with an interest in getting more builds to be able to employ veterans to help transform the homes. "The larger we get, we will start hiring people," Cook said. "It's not economically sound for us to hire people right now. We don't have the money and profit margins, we are trying to make these affordable, and our profit margins are so short we can't include other labor in it. But if we had three or four units going out at a time, then we could hire."
 
Two shipping containers sat under construction at the business property located off of Texas 75 with American flags flying on the fence about a mile down the road from the Fish Pond Restaurant. Next to them sat one simple, finished unit that included four 9.7 feet by 7.8 feet individual rooms with small air conditioning units inside. The business partners are interested in working with community leaders to not only help veterans but to get people off the streets, whether or not they served in the military, by offering options like the four-bedroom unit as temporary shelters. For example, Cook said the simple four-bedroom unit is normally about $25,000, but TQS Home Builders would be willing to cut a deal with a city for about $20,000 to provide the unit that he estimates could sleep about 16 people with bunk beds and be an investment that could last about 20 years. "It's the safest place to sleep," Cook said. "If a tree falls on that-- it breaks the tree. It's better than a tent, you can lock the door. All your nonprofits, all your temporary shelters, the cities, Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County whoever, there are (a number) of homeless people on the streets in Houston right now. We can make a dent in it, safely." According to a Point-In-Time Count conducted from January 24-26, provided by the Coalition for the Homeless, Montgomery County had 44 unsheltered and 149 sheltered people, Harris County had 1,078 unsheltered and 2,287 sheltered people, Fort Bend County had 6 unsheltered and 41 sheltered people for a total of 3,605. Harris and Cook suggested the containers could be placed on land owned by the city with options to enhance the appearance of the exterior and the containers could also be utilized for disaster relief including for FEMA workers. The business is willing to start a partnership to adopt a concept similar to Green Zone Housing where the homeless could get a job working on the container homes and learn trade skills.
 
Last year, the city of Conroe banned shipping container homes on residential properties with concerns about the appearance. Director of Community Development Nancy Mikeska said she was aware of Green Zone Housing, TQS Container Home Builders, and renovated container homes. However, she said based on the limited information that a lot of factors would need to be considered and a lot more information would be needed, including regarding the safety, cost, quality of living, building code compliance, deterioration, maintenance, who would be responsible, where the containers would be placed, and how to keep the funding stream going. "We are always open to any type of discussion," Mikeska said. For more information, search for TQS Container Home Builders on Facebook or call 713-703-6403. mellsworth@hcnonline.com
acceptable,'" she said.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Baltimore, Camp Pendleton (CA), Eglin AFB (FL), Fort Dix (NJ), Fort Lee (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), Herndon (VA), Holloman AFB (NM), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Lexington Park (MD), McLean (VA), Minneapolis, National Harbor (MD), San Diego, Travis Air Force Base (CA) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
Veterans and spouses looking to fund your small business, you can take advantage of a few different favorable loan options geared towards veterans.
 
VA loans, or SBA 7(a), SBA Express and Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster (MREIDL) Loans, are actually loan guarantees made available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to veterans or soldiers or their wives or widows who are going off to serve in the military or who have returned from their military service.
 
These loans do not actually originate from the VA or Veterans Administration. The Small Business Administration has an Office of Veterans Affairs that oversees business loans to veterans. These funds are not provided as grants. They are standard loans that require repayment, with an interest rate attached. 
 
Types of VA Business Loans
The SBA provides three types of VA loans. First, there is the SBA Express Loan Initiative for veterans.  This program is also open to non-veterans, but the SBA has a Veteran's Advantage program that waives all upfront loan guaranty fees for veterans who qualify for this loan. Veterans can borrow up to $350,000. 
 
Second, the SBA's 7(a) loan program provides up to $5 million in funding, again for both veterans and non-veterans. However, the Veteran's Advantage program applies to this loan as well, providing upfront guaranty fees of zero for loans of $125,000 or less, and a 50 percent reduction of guaranty fees for vets that borrow amounts greater than $125,000. The SBA also provides counseling and training to go along with its loans and the programs have been very successful.
 
The third type of business loan is the MREIDL or Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan. This loan provides working capital to businesses that could have met their obligations and continued to meet their obligations had their principal owner not been called up for military service.
 
Who is Eligible for These VA Loans?
All active military personnel, veterans, service-disabled veterans and their current spouses or widows are eligible for these loans. Veterans who received a dishonorable discharge are not eligible for the loan programs. If you are active duty personnel within 12 months of separation or a retiree within 24 months of retirement, you can qualify for the SBA Express Loan Program. Reservists and National Guard are also eligible as well.
 
What Types of Businesses are Eligible for These Loans?
The business must be at least 51 percent owned by a qualified veteran according to the definition above. Most businesses meet the eligibility requirements, as long as the company is not a pyramid scheme, gambling business or lending business. Also, the business must be a for-profit business. Non-profits are not eligible.
 
What Can the Loan Proceeds Cover?
The proceeds of an SBA Express or 7(a) loan can be used for most business purposes. For example, you can add working capital into your business, cover start-up costs for a new business, purchase equipment, buy real estate for your business to occupy, inventory to sell, hire business management, expand your business, set up to sell goods and services to the government (contracting), set up your business for the possibility of your deployment, and recover from declared disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.
 
How Much Money Can I Borrow?
The amount of money you can borrow depends, to some extent, on the lending institution you go through. You may qualify for a larger loan, but the SBA will only provide a guaranty up to certain loan limits. The SBA 7(a) program provides a guaranty of 85 percent of the amount borrowed up to $150,000, and 75 percent of the amount borrowed between $151,000 and up to $3.75 million. SBA Express loans receive a 50 percent guaranty.
 
How the Guaranty Program Works
The Small Business Administration does not actually loan the money to veterans. Lending institutions like banks or credit unions make the loans. The federal government guarantees your loan. If your loan is less than $25,000, you do not have to have collateral. If it is between $25,000 and $350,000, the lending institution may apply its existing collateral policy.
 
Your interest rates will usually range from 2.25% to 4.75% over the current prime interest rate. You can always try to negotiate a lower interest rate with your specific lender.
 
If you need help finding a lender, the Small Business Administration has local offices in every state that can help you, or you can check list of their local offices.
 
Deployment and the MREIDL Loan
When an "essential employee" is called up for active duty in the military, a business becomes eligible for an MREIDL loan.
 
The purpose of this loan is to provide for the business's necessary expenses that cannot be provided for because the essential employee is not present in the business. The purpose of this loan is not to replace lost profits. The purpose is just to pay obligations and replace working capital so the business can survive.
 
Before an MREIDL loan is granted by the Small Business Administration, federal law requires that they investigate whether or not the business has the resources to recover on their own after the essential employee returns. If not, then the business is eligible for the loan. The SBA has determined that about 90 percent of the businesses applying for this loan cannot recover on their own.
 
Loan Details
The interest rate on the MREIDL loan is 4 percent. The maximum term of the loan is 30 years, though that depends on individual circumstances as does the amount of the loan. The MREIDL loan usually has a maximum amount of $2 million, but exceptions may apply depending on the amount of economic injury to the business due to the call-up of the "essential employee." Collateral is required if available as well as good credit. Business insurance, including flood insurance if indicated, is required for the life of the loan.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
Outrage continues to develop over the Pentagon’s new policy change on GI Bill transferability – including an op-ed from the Wall Street Journal, and the Department of the Navy has taken additional steps to accelerate its enactment.
 
The overall DoD policy gives troops a year from the date of July 12 to make the change before the new rule kicks in. However the Navy announced the change in an administrative message this week, blocking sailors who cannot extend their service because of time in grade or who are in the midst of a medical retirement from completing the transfer for education benefit (TEB).
 
"Effective immediately, all members requesting to transfer unused education benefits to eligible dependents must meet eligibility requirements to serve four additional years on active duty or in the Selected Reserve from the date of election," the Navy administrative message states. "Former exceptions that permitted individuals with at least 10 years of service to obligate less than 4 years of service if precluded by statute or standard policy (DoD or Service) in return for TEB are canceled."
 
The Army, Air Force and Marine Corps have not yet made such an announcement but must enforce the same policy, according to Pentagon officials. The message notes that the new DoD rule blocking those with 16 years or more in service from making the transfer will not be enforced until next July.
 
Those who made the transfer before the July 12 Defense Department change will be permitted to keep it. Both Pentagon and Navy officials noted that the ability to transfer the benefit is designed by law to be used as a retention tool, not an earned benefit or an entitlement.
 
"The Department of Defense (DoD) has updated reference to reinforce TEB as a retention incentive that requires members to be eligible for and agree to serve four additional years of service on active duty or in the Selected Reserve beyond the date they elect to transfer their benefits," the Navy announcement says.
 
The mystery continues as to identifying the source and rationale behind this policy change. A meeting that DoD convened with VSO stakeholders, attending by The American Legion did little to assuage concerns. DoD continued to stick to the talking point that transferability was designed by law to be used as a ‘retention tool, not an earned benefit or entitlement’. This is not a coherent explanation for how blocking transferability for servicemembers after 16 years helps retention. When pressed on this, DoD officials murmured that it was also about “saving taxpayer money”. There is some skepticism as to the sincerity of this, due to the taxpayer money being saved from VA budget outlays, not DoD. While it is altruistic for DoD to be concerned about the VA’s budget, when asked whether this move had been done in consultation with VA no answer was given.
 
The circumstantial evidence and responses that have developed over the past week continue to indicate that a strong push for accountability of DoD’s actions must be made by the VSO community.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION

Week Ending 13 July 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The median family cannot afford the median home in several expensive markets, like the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Also, Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratios on new mortgages are high and rising, raising the risk that many borrowers will not be able to pay back their loans if the economy slows. New buyers will be unable to buy homes at current prices when interest rates rise, which will create another fall in housing prices. Since December 2017, the end of this dataset, median sales prices in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Seattle metro areas have continued to rise at a breakneck pace of over 15 percent per year. Other markets such as Las Vegas and Miami aren’t far behind in appreciation.
While a meltdown on the same scale as 2007-2009 is unlikely, it is abundantly clear that when the median family cannot afford the median home, a correction will happen sooner or later. Take the San Francisco Bay Area, for example: the median income in the Bay Area is up roughly 20 percent since 2011, and housing prices are up more than 80 percent. The median income for the Bay Area is roughly $90,000, but the median home is over $900,000 in value and rising fast. Compare this to Dallas Fort Worth, with a median household income of $60,000 and a median home price of $230,000. It’s equally clear that the median family in Dallas can afford their home and the median family in the Bay Area cannot. This can be proven with a simple online mortgage calculator. This will not end well. The same story of a housing crash is likely to repeat when interest rates normalize. The only rational thing for any given housing market is for the median family to be able to afford the median home with a 30-year mortgage and 20 percent down.
 
Inflation is likely to rise due to low unemployment and the double whammy of tax cuts and a boost in fiscal spending at the same time. While this is great for growth in the short term, stronger inflation is likely to follow as the unemployment rate continues to fall. The Federal Reserve is tasked with the dual mandate of keeping unemployment and inflation at roughly a 2 percent target. In order to do this, they are likely to need to raise interest rates by 150-200 basis points over the next two years to control inflation. American consumers are highly leveraged. DTI ratios on new mortgages have been rising so much so that Fannie Mae raised the maximum allowable DTI on conforming loans from 45 to 50 percent in July 2017, under the reasoning that it would give disadvantaged people better chances at buying a house. By February 2018, over 20 percent of Fannie Mae purchased loans had over a 45 percent DTI, pouring gasoline on the fire of rising home prices.
 
Meanwhile, the median income of American families barely budged. Some mortgage companies revolted, protesting that these loans are going to default at a high rate. But as long as Fannie Mae guarantees them, then there will be some portion of lenders who will produce tons of them. If inflation hits 3 percent, which is a reasonable assumption given the tax cuts and increased spending from Washington, then the Federal Reserve is likely to raise rates by 200 basis points to pull a little of the excess out of the economy, placing the short-term rate at 4 percent. The 10-year Treasury yield should move to its long-term average of 1.5+ percent above the short-term rate, and mortgage rates should follow roughly 1.5 percent above Treasuries. This gets you a mortgage rate of 7 percent, roughly 2.3-2.5 points higher than currently. This will be enough to drop housing prices by 15 percent across the board and 25 percent in unsound markets like San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
JUN 2017
JUN 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
172
124
129
113
43
11
Unemployment rate
5.1
3.7
4.5
4.0
8.5
2.1
 
National unemployment rate is 4.0 percent (June 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.1 percent (down from 1.7 percent in May).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, July 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Bre’ Cameron, Veterans Employment Program Manager for Amgen Pharmaceutical, to discuss various employment opportunities for veterans across the nation, to include Puerto Rico. Amgen is an American multinational biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California. In 2013, the company's largest selling product lines were Neulasta/Neupogen, two closely related drugs used to prevent infections in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy; and Enbrel, a tumor necrosis factor blocker used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
On Tuesday, July 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Military Pathways Summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Summit was organized by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness) to discuss how federal agencies, private sector companies, nonprofits, and unions are working in a variety of ways to support career pathways and employment transitions for service men and women, veterans, and their spouses.
On Wednesday, July 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Dress for Success event organized by the Tragedy Assistance Program of Survivors for high school age children of fallen military servicemembers. VE&E staff discussed preparing for college and establishing habits to succeed in academia. 
On Wednesday, July 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Mina Threat, Transition and Career Resource Manager for Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego to discuss their Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and any follow-on training or resources they provide to servicemembers. In addition, we spoke about the frequency of the TAP to include the average size of the class. 
 
On Friday, July 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Matthew Scott, Senior Legislative Assistant, Representative Lee Zeldin’s (NY) office to discuss issues surrounding the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and veterans’ mortgage lending. Rep. Zeldin’s office is considering drafting some bills in those areas; consequently, they’re looking to receive feedback from the Legion.
 
On Friday, July 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with U.S.VETS to discuss their housing capacity and new initiatives regarding the programs/services they provide for at-risk and homeless veterans. U.S.VETS mission is the successful transition of veterans and their families through the provision of housing, counseling, career development and comprehensive support.  
 
 
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
As part of its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment Jobs Program, Walmart will expand its original projection of hiring 100,000 veterans by 2018 to hire a total 250,000 recently discharged veterans by the end of 2020. Most of these jobs will be in Walmart stores and clubs and some will be in distribution centers and the home office. Walmart's Welcome Home Commitment originally launched on Memorial Day 2013, and since, the retailer has hired more than 92,000 veterans and nearly 8,000 have been promoted to jobs with higher pay and greater responsibility. “We’ve experienced a tremendous response to the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment in our first two years, and as more servicemembers transition out of active duty, we know we can do more,” said retired Brigadier General Gary Profit, Walmart’s senior director of military programs, in a press release. “We believe veterans represent the largest, diverse, talent-rich pool in the world and are an essential segment of the next generation at Walmart.”
 
In 2011, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation committed $20 million by 2015 to support veterans and their families with assistance from programs that provide job training, transition help and education. After delivering on this commitment in 2014, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation renewed their commitment, announcing an additional $20 million through 2019 to support veteran job training, education and innovative public/private community-based initiatives that address the challenges many veterans face when returning to the civilian workforce and their communities. Veterans can also explore career options with the company at www.walmartcareerswithamission.com, an innovative resource that helps transitioning military and veterans match their skills to Walmart careers, or they can browse Walmart jobs available on Monster and apply directly.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Representative Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), told a roomful of veterans Thursday it "makes no sense" that Pinal County doesn't have housing vouchers for homeless veterans. While the congresswoman visited Helping/ Honoring/Hiring Our Heroes (HOHP), she heard about struggles local veterans have living in Pinal County. One issue, according to Kim Rodriguez, chair of the Casa Grande nonprofit, is the lack of housing vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness. Ms. Rodriguez said Pinal County has none of a special type of voucher from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helps pay the rent of veterans by partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to HUD, the agency awarded 25 vouchers to Arizona this year, but these vouchers only went to housing authorities located in Mohave and Maricopa counties.
Kentucky, which reportedly has fewer military veterans than Arizona, received 50 housing vouchers, according to HUD. The government disperses vouchers based, in part, on data collected from the number of homeless veterans located across the country. Sinema, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year, contended these housing vouchers can be hard to get but insisted that a large county like Pinal should be able to get some. Sinema further pledged her support to a new project HOHP is undertaking to try and establish a homeless shelter for veterans near Casa Grande. Rodriguez said her organization has found a building on McCartney Road and is hoping to obtain a federal grant to get the project moving.
There's at least 15 local veterans that could be placed in a shelter like that today, Rodriguez said, but instead they have to travel to Phoenix or Tucson for that type of service. Despite her congressional district not encompassing Pinal County, Sinema said her office could write letters of support in applying for those grants. Veterans experiencing homelessness shouldn't have to travel so far to get help, the congresswoman said. "The best way to help those veterans overcome that challenge is to keep them rooted in their current community," she said. Improvements have been made in providing healthcare for veterans, Sinema added, but she encouraged veterans to let their representatives know about long wait times or barriers to care. One local veteran informed Sinema of having been told to reapply for a medical referral after already waiting a month for it, which Sinema found to be ridiculous. "We are going to intervene in this and say 'that's not acceptable,'" she said.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Baltimore, Camp Pendleton (CA), Eglin AFB (FL), Fort Dix (NJ), Fort Lee (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), Herndon (VA), Holloman AFB (NM), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Lexington Park (MD), McLean (VA), Minneapolis, National Harbor (MD), San Diego, Travis Air Force Base (CA) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
The American Legion announced a one-day entrepreneurial course, called “Celebrating Women on the Rise: Women-Owned Small Business Conference,” to be held in conjunction with its 100th National Convention at the Hilton Minneapolis. This event is specifically designed, free of charge, for women veterans and spouses. The one-day intensive entrepreneurship course is hosted by the Legion in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Foresight CFO and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). After completing this free course, participants will have the tools and knowledge they need to identify a business opportunity and launch or grow their enterprise.  
 
“IVMF is committed to help military connected women entrepreneurs succeed. We know that more than 180,000 military servicemembers transition out of active-duty each year and that women are outpacing men with respect to starting new businesses, in fact women veteran startups have increased nearly 300% since 2007” said Misty Stutsman Director of Entrepreneurship and Small Business at the Institute for Veteran And Military Families.  “We provide these aspiring entrepreneurs tools, resources and connection to launch their business or think more entrepreneurially within their companies and that’s why we’re partnering with The American Legion to put together this one-day conference.”
 
The curriculum includes an introduction to entrepreneurship and skills training, plus detailed information on resources and support programs designed specifically to aid businesses navigate private and federal government entrepreneurship resources. The breakout sessions will assist Businesses with conceptualization, financial planning, start-up funding, branding and most importantly – effective networking. “Veterans have a deep entrepreneurial spirit and are willing to take the risks,” says Diane Duscheck, National President of The American Legion Auxiliary. “According to the SBA, there are nearly four million veteran-owned small businesses, but less than 10 percent are owned by women. The entrepreneurial interests of women veterans and spouses have been neglected. That is why this women specific small business conference will be so valuable for our community.”
 
Participants who complete this course will also be provided access to an eight-week online Foundations of Entrepreneurship course offered by IVMF. Completion of the 8-week online course will require approximately 10-hours of study each week and walk participants through the fundamentals of developing a business plan. 
 
Women veterans interested in enrolling in the free entrepreneurship training program can register at www.legion.org or by contacting Jasmine Davis at 202-263-5771 or jdavis@legion.org.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
On Thursday, July 12, the Department of Defense (DOD) unveiled new changes to the Forever GI Bill, requiring servicemembers to meet stricter requirements if they wish to transfer education benefits to a dependent - including a cap on how long you can wait to pass on those benefits.
 
Here are some key takeaways about the new guidance:
 
To transfer their GI Bill benefits to a dependent, servicemembers must be eligible to serve four more years after the transfer; if they can’t meet the four-year requirement for whatever reason, they can’t shift those benefits. Those “reasons could include a mandatory retirement date, high-year tenure, retention control point, and those who are not medically qualified,” according to the DOD’s announcement. Previously, any servicemember with 10 years under their belt could transfer their GI Bill benefits without serving the additional four years, if a policy or member status - such as a medical condition or injury - previously prevented them from doing so. That option is no longer on the table, the Pentagon says: “Now such members must be eligible to serve an additional four years when they elect to transfer educational benefits.”
 
In the case of involuntary separation due to a “force shaping” event - for example, officers being passed over for promotion twice or enlisted personnel failing “to meet the minimum retention standards, such as high-year tenure” - members remain eligible to transfer education benefits, even if they haven’t completed their service obligations. The policy change - which will be implemented over the next few months by individual services - is expected to impact roughly 9 percent of servicemembers. The updated policy still requires that you serve at least six years before you can apply to transfer benefits - at which point you must sign on for an additional four years.
 
Beginning July 12, 2019, only those with less than 16 years of total service will be eligible to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a dependent. Once you’ve passed the 16-year point, it’s too late. If you’re on limited duty or involved in a medical, physical or disability evaluation process, you have to complete that process before you can apply to transfer your benefits. Those who applied to transfer their benefits but were denied for medical, physical, or disability reasons, can request to transfer their benefits again - so long as they also commit to the additional four years of service.
 
The changes announced on Thursday make it harder for servicemembers to transfer their unused education benefits to their family members. This was quite puzzling when it first came out and was announced because no VSO or other stakeholders were consulted. Senior enlisted servicemembers and officers will no longer be able to transfer those benefits if they get married or have children in their 17th year of service or later. Servicemembers will also no longer be able to transfer the benefits if a medical retirement or high-year tenure prevents them from serving four more years.
 
The main outrage and befuddlement over this policy revision is because it prohibits servicemembers who’ve served from longer than 16 years from applying for TEB - regardless of how many more years they commit to serving. It’s difficult to articulate a rational case for how prohibiting servicemembers from applying for TEB "preserves transferability as a retention incentive" - there’s no cost concern to DOD since VA foots the bill. A compelling explanation for this identified by senior Legion leadership is a central DOD complaint is that the age group identified is transferring their benefits to recruitment aged dependents, who DOD believes would have otherwise enlisted had it not been for affordable access to college. 
 
While this explanation would not be well received by our military, it is the most logical rationale yet presented. While benefits for military dependents is not a primary objective of The American Legion, it should nevertheless be concerned with the cavalier lack of explanation that DOD has provided, leaving servicemembers and Veterans Service Organizations and other stakeholders left to speculate on why this strange decision was made. The American Legion strongly opposes “the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits.” We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the use of this earned benefit. VE&E will continue to investigate the issue for a more coherent official explanation. 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  7/13/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 22 June 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
With the drumbeat of a trade war growing louder, the uncertainties facing agriculture seem to grow daily. Given this rapidly evolving situation, we thought it would be helpful to review what exactly tariffs are, how they work, and what it might mean for U.S. agriculture.
 
Tariffs:  A tariff is a tax placed on goods traded with other countries. In the context of the current trade environment, tariffs have been levied on an imported good. For example, the U.S. has placed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. This tariff tax would be paid, by the one importing the good, to the local government.  Beyond tariffs, other means for enacting trade barriers exist. In the 1970s, the U.S. issued an embargo – or ban – on soybean exports. Countries can also issue a quota or set a maximum limit on the quantity of a good that can be imported. Another tool that could be deployed is a tariff quota. This is a tariff that goes into effect after a quota threshold is exceeded. In short, there are several means to discourage the inflow – or outflow – of traded goods. To date, the focus has been on tariffs, but quotas have also been discussed.
 
Supply:  A person can sum up the supply-side implications of a tariff quite concisely: Tariffs from one country encourage production in other parts of the world. The White House has stated that steel and aluminum tariffs are needed to protect – for reasons of national security – the U.S. steel and aluminum industry. The goal of the 25% tax on steel and 10% tax on aluminum would be to raise the prices U.S. manufacturers can receive for their goods and encourage production in the U.S.  The 25% tariff China has proposed on U.S. soybeans would be a steep tax on soybeans imported from the U.S. and, in turn, discourage Chinese buyers of soybeans from buying U.S. soybeans. Looking for soybeans cheaper than the tariff-burdened U.S. soybeans, Chinese buyers would turn to other trade partners to fill their orders. In some cases, they may outbid other countries for South American soybeans. Another country, say Spain, would then turn to the U.S. suppliers without facing the tariff. In the long run, however, this outbidding activity would encourage soybean production in other parts of the world, particularly South America and China itself.
 
Demand:  The often overlooked impact of trade barriers – be it tariffs, quotas, tariff quotas, or embargoes – is the price effect borne by consumers. Any trade barrier enacted will increase the price of that good. All else the same, the higher prices will result in a decrease in the quantity of the good demanded.  Ultimately, the impact on quantity demanded depends on two factors. First, how large is the price impact? If China can limit the number of tariff-bearing U.S. soybeans it has to buy, the net impact price effect will be smaller. Beyond the tariff itself, China could face premiums to buy South American soybeans or additional transportation costs for soybeans sourced from less-feasible locations.
 
The second factor is how sensitive users are to price changes. This is the elasticity of demand, or the slope of the demand curve. For goods that are inelastic – food is often cited as being inelastic – the quantity impacts can be quite small. For extremely price-sensitive products, the change in quantity demanded can be very large.  But What’s the Impact?  Colleagues at Purdue University recently completed a study for the U.S. Soybean Export Council. In this, they considered a few scenarios in which China imposed tariffs on U.S. soybeans. This work discussed the possible impacts on U.S. and global agriculture. It is important to note their method, which included the use of a general-equilibrium model, measures conditions after the dust has settled. This is to say the model does not provide insights into how the commodity markets might respond over the next few months. Rather, the model attempts to understand what the average prices farmers receive might be in a few years after global production and demand have had a chance to respond. Second, this model considers the impact of changing prices from both production and supply responses.
 
Price impacts: “Restriction on China’s import from the U.S. drops the price of soybeans across the world, except in China. This causes an increase in consumption of soybean across the world, again, except for China.”  Perhaps the most obvious point is that the impacts on trade are substantial and far-reaching. In many cases, the indirect impacts are just as important – if not more than – the direct impacts. That said, the consistent results of 1) a decline in U.S. soybean exports and 2) a reduction in global soybean imports are perhaps the most important big-picture results to keep in mind.  Of course, in the short term, other things can happen, but over the long term, the tariffs are detrimental to both U.S. farmers and soybean users in China.
 
In the March 2018 WASDE report, the USDA projected U.S. soybean exports at 2.065 billion bushels. In our mind, a very relevant question to consider is “What is the probability of U.S. soybean exports for the 2018/2019 marketing year being less than 1.86 billion bushels?” This would be a 10% decline in exports during the next marketing year, compared with the March estimate of the current marketing year.  Those with a more optimistic outlook will place this probability rather low, while those with significant concerns will place the probability very high. Ultimately, this will be a key metric to monitor and consider as conditions in the farm economy unfold over the next few years.
 
The bottom line of any trade analysis is that the impact of tariffs, or any other trade barrier for that matter, is to decrease the incentives to trade. The U.S. agricultural sector depends heavily on international trade, and increases in barriers to trade are discouraging. From the perspective of the U.S. agricultural sector trying to work its way out of a protracted economic slump, the impact is undoubtedly negative.  One of the most positive stories for U.S. agriculture over the last several decades has been Chinese consumption of agricultural products, especially soybeans. In fact, growth in U.S. soybean exports to China was a major contributor to the earlier farm economy boom. Furthermore, continued strong exports help cushion the farm economy slowdown. Moving forward, one has to wonder about this trend over the next few years.
 
Finally, we encourage readers to consider the questions about soybean exports in 2018/2019. Write down forecasts of the probability – or likelihood – of exports falling below 1.86 billion bushels and update this over time. This will be helpful in sorting through the noise and confusion. For producers and Ag lenders, a significant decline in exports could dramatically change the soybean market outlook. For retails and Ag manufacturers, a significant drop in exports could result in a contraction in soybean production – especially in areas that have recently expanded acreage.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, June 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with American Freedom Fund and the Bramer Group to discuss their national veterans programs and the possibility of working with them in the future. 
 
On Tuesday, June 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the National Guard Bureau (NGB) and Enlisted Association of the National Guard to discuss GI Bill eligibility for National Guard orders. NGB disclosed that there is currently no IT infrastructure to provide guard members with the capability to determine their GI Bill eligibility, and that additional funding was needed to facilitate.
On Wednesday, June 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the retirement ceremony of the outgoing president of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. Floyd Mori is an Army veteran and has worked hard during his tenure to outreach and inclusion of veterans to their programs.
 
On Wednesday, June 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting between the National Commander and the Secretary of Labor, Honorable R. Alexander Acosta.  We focused on Family, Transition Assistant Program (TAP), and Licensing & Credentialing. The Secretary would like to work much closer with The American Legion in the areas of Licensing & Credentialing and TAP.
 
On Wednesday, June 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division helped the Legislative Division in organizing and running its Legislative Reception. Focused on passage of “National GI Bill Commemoration Week”, the Employment and Education Division assisted by providing background on the GI Bill and informational displays for the event.
 
On Wednesday, June 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Marine For Life networking event.  We met with several employers, in particular the Internal Revenue Service who announced “Direct Hiring Authority” for positions across the nation.
 
On Thursday, June 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Virginia Post 114 and the Phase II Inc. to discuss their proposal of developing the ‘Manassas Community and Workforce Development Center for Veterans’ on the 1.5 acres currently belonging to the post. 
 
On Thursday, June 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the hearing on VA Hiring Authorities-Recruiting-Retention (House Veterans' Affairs Committee - Subcommittee on Health).  In the latest GAO report (GAO-18-632T), which highlighted concerns regarding VA Staffing with nearly 38,000 vacant position.  Within nonclinical occupations, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that human resources management and police occupations were among the most often cited as shortages. It was noted that these shortages were a result of VHA utilizing OPM’s criteria for supporting evidence that must be submitted to claim a “severe shortage of candidates” in generating its Mission Critical Occupation Report.
 
On Thursday, June 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a public commenting session hosted by OMB and GSA. They conducted their second public meeting in furtherance of the Commercial e-Commercial Portal initiative which has been markedly rejected by the small business community. The commercial ecommerce for government procurement initiative and subsequent proposals harm small business and has the potential to displace many veteran owned distributors and resellers.
 
On Thursday, June 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 99th Regional Support Command, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, and participated on their employment panel in front of 267 Soldiers.
 
On Friday, June 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the leadership of Operation Code, a non-profit whose mission is to aid military, vets and their families learn coding and web technologies. The subject of implementation of the Forever GI Bill was discussed, including specific provisions on high technology.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
In what it described as an attempt to elevate the status of the federal workforce, the Trump administration on Thursday proposed a massive reorganization of the Office of Personnel Management.  The White House released its long-awaited reorganization report, which follows the executive order the president signed last spring and subsequent agency guidance from the Office of Management and Budget. It proposes a wide variety of moves, transfers and consolidations of departments, agencies and subcomponents across government.  Perhaps most notably for federal employees, the administration proposes a significant shift of OPM’s existing functions to other agencies in government, as Federal News Radio previously reported.
 
In its reorganization report, the administration painted OPM as an organization comprised of a chaotic array of functions — and as an agency that’s been distracted by a series of high-profile data breaches and investigative backlogs.  Currently, more than 80 percent of the OPM workforce and funding is dedicated to processing federal employee health and retirement benefits, security clearances and managing USAJOBS.gov.  These jobs are important, the Office of Management and Budget said, but “distract the agency leadership’s attention from strategic human capital management and stewardship of an efficient civil service structure.”   “The people who focus on the merit systems principles and on the workforce needs of the federal government and how they need to evolve to meet the mission, that’s frankly the part of OPM’s mission that’s gotten lost under the burden of all these transaction processes, most of which are very paper intensive,” Margaret Weichert, OMB’s deputy director for management, told reporters Thursday. “We’re really trying to get back to the core of the merit system principles.”
 
Specifically, the reorganization report suggests moving OPM’s current “employee services” offices, which include employee relations, merit system accountability and compliance, hiring and other human capital functions. They would move to a new entity within the Executive Office of the President.  This office would develop specific workforce policies, procedures and incentives across government, while modernizing the current approach to human resources policy, senior talent and leadership development and “total compensation and employee performance,” the report said.  “Once complete a transition into the EOP could create a more streamlined personnel management unit that is less expensive to operate,” the administration wrote. “Such a unit would also support centralized coordination of all personnel policies for federal employees, eliminating the confusing matrix of who does what today, as well as several key gaps in policy that are inhibiting the streamlining of mission support services.”
 
The new EOP office would centralize human resources policy for the entire federal workforce, while focusing on the administration’s efforts to modernize the current civil service.  The Senior Executives Association praised the idea, likening the office to an executive-level human capital function within a major corporation.  “The added emphasis on OPM’s core functions of providing human capital policy and oversight solve many problems that have for nearly two decades plagued federal human capital processes and practices,” SEA President Bill Valdez said in a statement.  But the American Federation of Government Employees called the move of OPM’s policy offices to the White House “a straightforward attempt to politicize the civil service.”
 
Federal employee health and retirement:  The administration also proposes moving OPM’s current retirement services and health care and insurance offices to the General Services Administration, which would be renamed the “Government Services Agency.”  The Government Services Agency would maintain GSA’s existing functions and absorb OPM’s current transactional, service-based services, like retirement and health care.  “With end-to-end services around the federal employee lifecycle maintained in one place, considerable operational efficiencies should be attained,” the administration wrote. “Currently, these services are stove-piped, forcing burdensome processes on managers and employees.”  OPM  currently administers health and retirement benefits to more than 2.7 million active employees and nearly 2.6 million annuitants, survivors and their family members through the Earned Benefits Trust Funds, which have close to $1 trillion in combined assets.
 
Security clearances, HR Solutions:  HR Solutions, which currently offers products and services to help agencies with their human resources needs, would also move from OPM to the newly renamed GSA.  In addition, the administration proposes a transfer of the entire government wide security clearance portfolio, currently housed within OPM’s National Background and Investigations Bureau (NBIB), to the Pentagon.  The Trump administration has long considered this transfer, particularly after Congress authorized the Defense Department to begin a three-year plan to resume responsibility for all defense-related investigative work.  DoD  would serve as the primary government wide security clearance provider, a responsibility OPM held since the Pentagon first gave up the program in 2005.
 
OPM currently charges agencies fees to conduct background investigations and provide HR services, such as staffing and hiring assistance. But the Trump administration sees these business operations as a conflict of interest.  “There is no significant benefit obtained from having these operational fee-based functions housed within the same agency that oversees the overarching policies,” the administration wrote. “Further, it is in no way apparent that OPM has a comparative advantage relative to other federal entities in the management of information technology or contractual services. Also, in selling human resources and IT products to those agencies whose personnel practices it monitors, OPM is in a position that can lend the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
 
In addition, finalizing these moves would require both congressional action and administrative actions, the report acknowledged. Congress authorized OPM as an independent agency in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.  The 2018 omnibus, which Congress passed in March, appears to complicate the Trump administration’s reorganization initiatives by prohibiting agencies from cutting or eliminating specific programs or offices without approval from lawmakers.  At the same time, Weichert described the proposal to elevate OPM’s human resources functions and transfer the security clearance program as moves the administration could do today.
 
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has a hearing scheduled on the administration’s reorganization report for next week.  The president’s reorganization proposals so far have earned mixed reviews from Congress.  “The vast majority of people I ask believe the federal government is badly broken,” Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “This is why I am so pleased to see this administration thinking big and ‘outside of the box’ to bring effective reform and reorganization to a government structure developed for the previous century.”
 
But Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Oversight government Operations Subcommittee, slammed the administration’s proposal. He specifically criticized the recommendation to move federal employee health and retirement benefits out of OPM, adding the moves would “at precisely the wrong time.”  “There are ways to improve efficiency and modernize the federal government,” he said in a statement. “This isn’t it.”
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
The road in front of 69 Grove Street, Worcester, Massachusetts was shut down Friday to allow Veterans Inc. to hold its 13th annual Stand Down. The event brings together vendors from throughout the region to help veterans with health care, housing, clothing and even haircuts. "We expect to serve 800 to 1,000 veterans today, and with approximately 80 vendors and service providers, providing employment opportunities, legal services, Registry of Motor Vehicles services and a myriad of other services," said Vincent J. Perrone, president and chief executive officer of Veterans Inc.
 
Mr. Perrone said the event is held annually as a thank-you to veterans and their family members for all they have done for the country. He urged veterans attending to stop at every booth and take advantage of the information and services offered by the various organizations.  "Your visit today will help you in the next six months to a year," he said. "Get some things done you have been trying to get done."  Several hospitals were represented, along with organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Worcester County Sheriff's Department, Worcester County District Attorney's Office and several state departments, as well as private companies such as National Grid and Vibram shoe sole manufacturers from North Brookfield.
 
The veterans were also treated to haircuts by five barbers and stylists, food and music. A separate room was set off for female veterans and female members of veteran families who were able to get makeup done, purchase clothing and many other items.  Former United States Marine Jim Cornwell gives orders as the Veterans Inc. honor guard practices for the Stand Down opening ceremony on Friday.   Army veteran Russell Dallair of Shrewsbury gets an eye exam from Katie Adkins, a fourth-year optometry student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  A line of military veterans and family members waited to enter the Stand Down on Friday. 
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Dix (NJ), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Lee (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), Herndon (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Lexington Park (MD), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, San Diego, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, Springfield (VA) and Travis Air Force Base (CA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
Small Business Association’s New Rules to Cut Down on False Certifications of Women-owned or Veteran-owned Businesses and Lead to More Bid Protests  In today’s marketplace, designations like “women-owned” or “veteran-owned” can make a difference as consumers want to shop at businesses with characteristics they support.  These certifications help businesses to further their goals, reach their target audience easily, and receive additional funding from government sources and agencies. Recently, numerous false self-certification of woman-owned small businesses (WOSB), veteran-owned small (VOSB), and service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) allegations have led to new rules being implemented by the Small Business Administration to reduce the number of businesses inaccurately earning these certifications and to ensure the designations are reserved for businesses that embody the stated characteristics.  As a result of the new rules, businesses can no longer self-certify for WOSB VA procurement; VOSB and SDVOSBs are also required to go through more stringent certification processes for Veterans Affairs and other government procurement funding agencies.
Providing insight into these new regulations is C. Kelly Kroll, a government contracts attorney with Morris, Manning, & Martin. She serves as counsel for the firm’s Washington D.C offices, and practices in corporate litigation, and government contracts & grants law. She has represented federal, state, and local government contract claims, and assists clients through all phases of the government procurement process. She specializes in bid protests, negotiated solicitations, contract claims, and audit defenses and her experience makes her a good person to speak with to help understand these new regulations.  She was willing to speak on the new parameters and the reasons behind them, and the new regulations implemented by the SBA as well as the bid protest rule requirements.
 
SBA’s New Parameters & Restrictions: Cutting Back on Self-Certification & New Certification Process Kroll says, “Previously, these small businesses could go through a self-certification process. However, because of the high number of false self-certification filings new systems are being effectuated to avoid future occurrences. Kroll explains, as an example, that it was easy for a man to sell 51% of his company to his wife and claim it was woman-owned. “There were never any questions asked,” added Kroll. SBA’s certification process will hold companies to a more stringent vetting process.  Kroll detailed the additional measures which are being implemented, to make WOSB, VOSB, and SDVOSB more difficult for companies to obtain. She outlines the steps being taken, saying: “Now SBA and the VA are requiring companies claiming special status to submit documentation demonstrating ownership, control and day-to-day management of the firm by the individual or individuals upon whom the certification is based.”  Applicants seeking funding for their small business must meet credentials to qualify in that small business category. For WOSB submission, applicants must qualify as a small business, and be at least 51% owned and controlled by a woman. Women should manage day-to-day operations, and make long-term decisions for the company.
 
In order to qualify as a VOSB an eligible individual is one who is a service-disabled veteran, or the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran. The veteran or surviving spouse must own 50% or more of the business assets, trusts, total stocks, or estates of the business, in order to qualify as a VOSB applicant.  Applicants who wish to apply for SBA certification as a SDVOSB the service disabled veteran (SDV) applying for certification must have a service-connected disability, which is determined by the DoD or VA offices. One or more SDVs must own 51% or more of the business, control management of the business, and must be in charge of daily decision making and long-term decision making for the business.  Once eligibility of one of the three groups is met, the certification application is completed online by applicants. Depending upon the certification sought additional documentation may be requested of applicants, to further demonstrate the characteristic being sought after, such as the Veteran-family background. These documents might include disability ratings, ownership of, or control of the firm and management process within the company by the veteran who is applying for certification.
 
Document requirements will differ based upon the type of entity which is applying for certification. Applications are then further reviewed by the CVE which may also be followed up by requests for additional documentation by applicants.  Companies will be required to obtain approval from the Small Business Administration (SBA) or third-party certifiers for WOSBs, or VA, for VOSBs and SDVOSBs. In addition to the SBA, Kroll also indicated additional third-party certifiers companies can go through for approval including the:
 
  • El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
  • National Women Business Owners Corporation.
  • U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
  • Women’s Business Enterprise Counsel.
     
    Kroll also indicated additional barriers which are being implemented in the bidding and procurement process to obtain VA certification which include:   For VA procurements that are set-aside for SDVOSBs or VOSBs, to bid, the entity must first be verified by the VA’s Center for Verification and Evaluation (“CVE”) and listed on the VA’s Vendor Information Pages (“VIP”). The intent is to make it more difficult for businesses to improperly claim WOSB, VOSB, and SDVOSB status, and to therefore, make those statuses more meaningful.  The Bid Protest Process - Currently, there are limited systems in place to correct certifications that are inaccurate.  Kroll elaborates: “False certification can be identified in a variety of ways, but generally comes to light through allegations by a competitor with knowledge of the company’s operations or a disgruntled employee with an ax to grind.”
     
    To this end, the SBA has also implemented new rules that will allow individuals to file protests with the SBA against VOSB and SDVOSB businesses if they suspect they are falsely certified.  Kroll indicated that “these procedures relate to the award of a VA contract and that non-VA procurement related size protests and SDVOSB status protests continue to be subject to other similar SBA protest rules.”
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
On Wednesday June 20, U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) introduced a bipartisan resolution recognizing the week of June 18-22 as National G.I. Bill Commemoration Week. This week marks the 74th anniversary of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill, landmark legislation that provided educational assistance to service members, veterans and their families. A companion resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. 
 
The G.I. Bill sent nearly 8 million returning WWII veterans to college and vocational schools. Veterans today are taking advantage of a similar benefit in the Post 9/11-G.I. Bill.  
 
“The G.I. Bill changed the course of history. Millions of returning WWII veterans enrolled in higher education and job training programs and helped usher in an era of broad economic growth in the United States. The G.I. Bill changed my life, too,” said Senator Carper, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves. “When I returned from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War, I used the G.I. Bill to enroll at the University of Delaware and pursue a master’s degree. Today's veterans and their families have earned incredible G.I. Bill benefits through their sacrifice for our country. I'm proud to introduce a bipartisan resolution celebrating FDR signing the original G.I. Bill and renewing our commitment to making sure every veteran gets the most out of their hard-earned G.I. Bill benefits.”
 
“The G.I. Bill has been one of our country’s great successes, and I am pleased to honor its long history, from the original G.I. Bill of 1944 to the Forever G.I. Bill of today,” said Isakson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The G.I. Bill doesn’t just honor and reward a veteran’s service—it builds on values and skills gained by each veteran through their service and provides a transformative opportunity for them to continue serving their community and their country through education. Our veterans are critical to the future leadership of our nation, and the investments we place in them during their service and through the G.I. Bill help ensure a strong future for our country.”
 
“Investing in a quality education for servicemembers today will pay dividends well into the future,” said Senator Tester. “During G.I. Bill Week, we honor our veterans and recommit ourselves to ensure they can put their unique skillset and experience to use long after they hang up their uniforms.”
 
“The G.I. Bill represents only one of the many promises made by a grateful nation to assist our service members in their transition back into civilian life. It is a significant piece of legislation, one that has empowered generations – in every facet of the country – to succeed in the workforce and in their communities. As Senate co-chair of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus and as a Marine, I was honored to collaborate with my colleagues to recognize the G.I. Bill’s history as a powerful tool that has served our nation’s servicemembers, veterans and their families,” said Senator Sullivan.
 
The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division helped draft the language for this bill, and mirrored it with an American Legion resolution enacted by the National Executive Committee. “Since the original G.I. Bill was introduced in 1944, millions of veterans have used these benefits to improve their lives and build their futures. The American Legion helped draft the original 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (G.I. Bill of Rights) that fueled the Eisenhower-era post-war boom and the expansion of higher education and the middle class within American society. This is why The American Legion, many congressional leaders, and those who have benefitted from the G.I. Bill often refer to it as America’s ‘greatest legislation,’” said National Commander Denise Rohan “The American Legion continues to work diligently to ensure the G.I. Bill remains relevant to today’s generation of veterans.  We thank Senator Carper for his leadership in introducing legislation creating a National G.I. Bill Week.” 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  6/22/18

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 15 June 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Retail sales rose 0.8% in May, the government reported Thursday — much better than expected. Spending was up 5.9% from a year ago, and the gains were broad: Spending surged at clothing stores, at restaurants and at home-improvement stores such as Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW).  In fact, the jump in spending at physical stores in May outpaced what the government calls non-store retailers, a category that includes Amazon (AMZN) and other online retailers. (It also includes catalog retailers, vending machines and even newspaper delivery. How quaint!)  American shoppers are feeling more confident because of a strong economy and job market. The unemployment rate is the lowest since 2000. And most people have some extra money from the tax cuts enacted late last year.
 
Retail sales have been improving after a tough start to the year.  A harsh winter may have been partly to blame for weak spending in January and February. Economists also speculated that Americans were waiting to see what would happen with tax laws. Once the tax cuts passed, it was an all-clear to start shopping.  All that spending should boost economic growth.
 
Economists at Barclays raised their forecast Thursday in light of the strong retail sales figures. They now think the economy will expand at an annual rate of 3.5% in 2018, up from their earlier estimate of 3%.  Americans may not be able to keep spending at this pace indefinitely.  The savings rate dipped to 2.8% in April as the rate of consumer spending outpaced the increase in personal income.  The savings rate has only been below 3% three times since the 2008 financial crisis. It was also lower than 3% last November and December, but it rebounded after the holiday shopping season.  So shoppers may be close to tapped out, and may have to start saving more and spending less — especially because the Federal Reserve is expected to keep raising interest rates this year and next year.
 
Tony Bedikian, head of global markets at Citizens Bank, said rate hikes are a risk but that shoppers may not pull back "as long as the Fed doesn't raise rates too quickly." Bedikian argues that people will keep spending "as long as they have jobs and wages are rising."  Bedikian says the biggest risk to spending is the threat of more tariffs and escalating trade disputes with China, Canada, Mexico and Europe.  Other analysts say additional US tariffs on imported goods could hurt spending as well. That's why Paul Ashworth, chief US economist with Capital Economics, said in a report that the tax cuts will "provide only a temporary boost" to spending.
 
Ashworth worries that consumer spending will slow, particularly for cars and trucks, because of the Trump administration's threatened tariffs on cars from Europe and Japan.  Auto sales are still rising, up 4% from a year ago despite a big surge in the price of gas. In fact, sales at gas stations rose 2% from April to May alone because of higher prices. Gas station sales are up 17.7% from a year ago.  But the potential for even higher prices at the pump, coupled with a slowdown in auto sales, could be a one-two punch that hurts consumer spending for the next few months.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAY 2017
MAY 2018
MAY 2017
MAY 2018
MAY 2017
MAY 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
151
138
132
113
19
25
Unemployment rate
4.6
4.2
4.8
4.0
3.5
5.0
 
National unemployment rate is 3.8 percent (May 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.0 percent (up from 1.7 percent in April).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, June 11 – Tuesday, June 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) overview for Military and Veteran Service Organizations and Post-9/11 groups. The session was sponsored by the Departments of Labor, VA, Education and Homeland Security, along with SBA and OPM.
 
On Monday, June 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Mark Toal, Program Manager, Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS). We discussed the upcoming trip to Puerto Rico. Currently we have meetings set up with two American Job Centers (AJC’S), Garrison Commander and the Transition Assistance Program Manager.
 
On Tuesday, June 12, the Veterans Employment & Education Division was live on Connecting Vets radio. The purpose of the interview was to discuss the current state of the Vets First contracting program at VA and review the economic  impact VA’s proposal to streamline their procurement of medical and surgical equipment will have on small business.
 
On Tuesday, June 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Transition Assistance Program Overview tailored to Veteran Service Officers (VSO’s) and Military Service Officers (MSO’s).  We discussed a whole host of topics ranging from the Veterans Affairs briefing to the new Career Exploration & Planning Track (CEPT).
 
On Wednesday, June 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division provided public comment to the White House Office of Management and Budget concerning the writing of the Department of Education Gainful Employment rule. VE&E staff has previously served as a negotiated rulemaker for veterans and military families during the rulemaking process, and followed up with OMB sharing concerns about veteran and servicemember protections that the gainful employment rule must protect.
 
On Wednesday, June 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Linda Rix-Brooks, CEO, AVUE Technologies. We reviewed and finalized the questions for the Transition Assistance Program survey. The survey will go live Monday, June 18, 2018.
 
On Thursday, June 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will meet with the National Alliance to End Homelessness to discuss HUD-VASH, policy around this program, and its effect on homeless veterans and their families.
 
On Thursday, June 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended breakfast with Colorado State University President Dr. Becky Takeda. VE&E staff shared The American Legion’s upcoming plans for a national credentialing summit, credentialing task force, and upcoming education awareness initiatives for the GI Bill anniversary.
 
On Thursday, June 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with LTC. Derwin Brown, Program Manager, Southeast Region Soldier For Life.  We discussed the agenda for the upcoming Puerto Rico trip.
 
On Thursday, June 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Hiring Our Heroes.  We discussed the participation of The American Legion in their upcoming career fairs at Fort Jackson, SC and Fort Gordon, GA
 
On Friday, June 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a meeting with IVMF and Foresight CFO to discuss the small business conference we will host in conjunction with The American Legion’s 100th National Convention in Minneapolis.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Former military members often face a difficult transition to civilian life. Companies seeking to hire veterans struggle with identifying skills and integrating veteran employees into the workforce. But with a little understanding and mentoring, both sides can benefit, speakers at HIREconf NYC, a recruiting conference, said recently.
 
HR professionals who want to launch a veteran hiring program should find an executive sponsor deeply committed to veteran hiring, said Eddie Dunn, director of military and veterans affairs at professional services firm Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. Enlist a core team of veterans to create an awareness campaign that relies on storytelling because executives "love the story of the veteran," added Dunn, who is an 82nd Airborne U.S. Army veteran now working in organizational development.
 
Why hire a veteran? The military instills traits such as being punctual; taking direction; and being values-driven, loyal, hardworking and natural leaders with team-building skills.
 
"They bring a lot of great qualities that are exactly what you are looking for in a candidate," said Jo Weech, who helps transitioning military service members find jobs in her role as chief people officer for Anthem Engineering, a Washington, D.C.-area software engineering firm.
Evan Guzman, head of military programs and veteran affairs for Verizon, advised HR launching new programs to make a strong business case about how increasing the number of veteran employees can result in increased quality of hire, which can save money and even boost brand loyalty.
 
He noted that a 2015 survey from marketing firm For Momentum reported that 88 percent of consumers surveyed said they believe organizations should support military causes, and 87 percent said they would support brands that support military causes. Michele Egan Sterne, vice president of For Momentum, said the statistics were derived from a national public opinion survey with 1,000 respondents.
 
Today, Verizon's engagement with veterans has spilled over into marketing and business engagement "in ways I didn't even think possible," Guzman added. While Guzman himself isn't a veteran, his team comprises veterans who represent every major branch of service.  It's critical that recruiters and HR professionals understand military skill sets and how these skills translate to the industry they are working in. At Verizon, about 85 percent of military job specialty codes have been converted to a similar or direct civilian counterpart so hiring managers can have a better understanding of a veteran's skills and work history.
 
Verizon has 16 recruiters who focus solely on military hiring 50 percent to 100 percent of the time and more than 450 total recruiters across the company, according to Eric Wilkens, a company spokesman.  Over the years, both Verizon and Marsh & McLennan have won numerous accolades for their veteran hiring initiatives.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Sky-high housing costs are a significant factor behind California's homeless crisis, according to a new analysis from UCLA.  In a study contained in the latest UCLA Anderson Forecast, released Wednesday, UCLA found that higher median rent and home prices are strongly correlated with more people living on the streets or in shelters. The research backs other studies that have found a similar relationship.
 
Last year, Zillow released a study that showed that a 5% rent hike in L.A. County -- where more than 50,000 are estimated to be homeless -- would cause 2,000 additional people to lose their homes.  In April, according to Zillow, the median rent for a vacant apartment in the county was $2,462, up 1.9% from the previous year. In 2017, rents climbed an average of 4.3% and in 2016, 6.5%. The median home price in April was $608,800, up 9% from a year earlier.  "If we can improve the affordability and the availability of the general housing market ... I think it will help in reducing the homeless problem," said William Yu, the UCLA economist who conducted the research.
 
In the study, Yu compared homeless rates and housing costs in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. The percentage of homeless individuals, compared with total population, was highest in the nation's capital, followed by Hawaii, New York and California.  The percentage of unsheltered homeless people was highest in Hawaii, California, Oregon and Nevada.  Of those states, Nevada is relatively affordable. In general, though, Yu found that the higher the housing costs, the higher the homeless rate. The report also found that states with higher incomes, denser neighborhoods and lots of home building tend to have lower rates of homelessness.
 
"The possible explanation is that a state with more housing supply will have more housing units available for those who might be at risk of being homeless," Yu wrote.  Yu noted that other factors contribute to homelessness. He cited 2017 data showing 26% of California homeless individuals are severely mentally ill, 18% chronically abuse drugs, 9% are veterans and 24% are victims of domestic abuse.  "These individual at-risk factors interacting with the less affordable housing markets cause the rise of homelessness," Yu wrote.
 
The economist also found warmer winters are correlated with higher rates of unsheltered homeless individuals, those spending the night on the streets rather than in shelters. Yu theorized that people might be more likely to seek out a shelter when snow is on the ground, or that maybe governments in warmer areas invest less in shelters because they aren't as worried people will freeze to death.  However, he cautioned that UCLA did not look at how homeless policies differ across states and he noted he did not find a direct correlation between warmer weather and the overall rate of homelessness.  Contrary to a belief among some that many homeless people move here from colder climates, 75% of L.A. County residents living on the streets had a home here before they lost it, according to the latest data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. And 65% of unsheltered homeless people have lived in the county for more than 20 years.
 
Los Angeles has struggled with a persistent shortage of shelter beds, though L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti this year proposed a $20-million plan to open new shelters across the city.  Legislators in Sacramento took steps last year to increase home building, passing laws that eased development restrictions and offering funding for below-market homes. Those reforms were considered modest, and lawmakers have sought to do more this year.  One controversial bill that would have sharply up zoned neighborhoods near transit stops failed, partly over fears it would have led to the demolition of existing, relatively cheaper housing. Los Angeles city and county residents have also voted for taxes to pay for homeless housing and services.  Authorities cited increased funding as one reason homelessness in the city and county fell in 2018, after surging in recent years.  The UCLA Anderson Forecast said there is no sign of a correction in home prices around the corner. The report forecasts job growth of 2.2% this year, 1.7% in 2019 and 0.8% in 2020.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Dix (NJ), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Lee (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), Herndon (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Lexington Park (MD), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, San Diego, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, Springfield (VA) and Travis Air Force Base (CA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
Bank of America has launched a $20 million Veteran Entrepreneur Lending Program to connect U.S. military-veteran business owners with affordable capital to help kick-start and grow their businesses. Four organizations will administer the programs in six other states, including California, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
The bank’s new Veteran Entrepreneur Lending Program, announced last week, connects U.S. veterans with affordable capital to help start and grow their businesses. This will, in turn, allow veterans to drive local economies and create jobs within their communities.   
 
Loans will be administered through participating community-development financial institutions (CDFI)-nonprofit institutions with expertise in lending to small businesses and an understanding of local circumstances, including economic-development and job-creation opportunities. In addition to deploying capital, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation is providing $1.3 million in grants over two years to help the lending organizations manage operating costs.
 
More than 200,000 U.S. servicemembers return to civilian life annually, including 10 percent with a desire to own a business, according to Bank of America. Additionally, there are more than 2.5 million businesses in the U.S. that are majority-owned by veterans.
 
Prior to receiving a loan, borrowers will participate in a two-month training program that will offer technical assistance and other resources needed for the growth and success of a business. Training programs will be led by Bank of America learning partners IVMF at Syracuse University, the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program at Oklahoma State University and VETToCEO by Veterans for Veterans. 
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
House leaders were mum on plans for the PROSPER Act after reportedly taking the temperature on members’ support for the bill earlier this week.
 
College groups, student organizations and veterans' representatives meanwhile renewed pressure on lawmakers to withhold support for the GOP plan to overhaul the Higher Education Act.
 
No observers were ready to officially declare the bill dead without details from Republican leaders on support within the caucus. But as Congress enters the summer months without any sign of a floor vote, the chances of the legislation moving forward this year appear increasingly unlikely.
 
Politico reported this week that the office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, would conduct a whip check to determine if the bill had the support to move forward. There hasn’t been any movement on PROSPER since December, when the Education Committee advanced the bill on a party-line vote. A spokesman for Scalise’s office said Wednesday that it doesn’t comment on whip counts.
 
Representative Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the House Education committee, continues to have “positive conversations with other members about the bill,” said Marty Boughton, a committee spokeswoman.
 
But the committee deferred questions about support for the bill and a vote schedule to offices of Scalise and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
 
The American Legion meanwhile sent out a legislative alert on Tuesday urging all members of Congress to oppose the PROSPER Act. 
 
Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said it’s relatively unusual for a committee to report out a major piece of legislation and not bring it to the floor for six months. But with Democrats, who were shut out of the drafting of the bill, withholding support, Foxx has had to secure at least 218 GOP votes.
 
“I think that’s the issue at this point,” Hartle said. “When they’re sure they have the votes, they’ll go to the floor, but not before.”
 
While Republican leaders gauged support for the bill this week, vocal opposition to PROSPER heated up once again as critics sought to dissuade members of both parties from backing the bill.
 
Groups like ACE and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities called on members to register their opposition with lawmakers. And on Monday, California’s top public higher Ed officials in a joint letter said the legislation undermined efforts in the state to make college more affordable and accessible for students.
 
“HEA reauthorization provides an opportunity to develop federal education policies that promote these goals,” they wrote in a letter to members of Congress. “Unfortunately, we have significant concerns with many of the changes proposed in the PROSPER Act, which we believe would undermine our efforts and increase college costs for California’s students and families.”
 
The next day, the student body presidents of the Big Ten universities wrote to House leaders to say the legislation would be detrimental to prospective and current undergraduates. Like the California higher Ed leaders, the group pointed to the proposed elimination of subsidized student loans, Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grants and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
 
A coalition of veterans' groups, meanwhile, met individually with lawmakers this week to outline their opposition to the bill. Those groups have focused in particular on PROSPER’s elimination of PSLF and the removal of consumer protection rules.
 
Foxx and supporters are looking to cobble together support for the legislation after Republican leaders in the House saw an embarrassing failure for the farm bill after bringing it up for a vote last month.
 
Senate leaders have indicated there likely won’t be Higher Ed Legislation coming out of that chamber this year. Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said last month that he doesn’t expect the committee to craft a proposal for HEA reauthorization. Earlier this year, he had said he wanted to mark up a bill by April -- a timeline that observers said was extremely ambitious even then.
 
Hartle said Alexander’s statement may further complicate the work of Foxx to win additional support.  “Right now, you would be voting on PROSPER knowing it’s not going to go anywhere,” he said.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 8 Jun 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Mortgage rates moved lower again this week, only the second time this year that rates have fallen in back-to-back weeks. According to the latest data released Thursday, June 7, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.54 percent with an average 0.5 point (points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 4.56 percent a week ago and 3.89 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average fell to 4.01 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 4.06 percent a week ago and 3.16 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average dropped to 3.74 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.80 percent a week ago and 3.11 percent a year ago.
 
The hangover from global events surrounding Spain and Italy lingered into this week, which moderated mortgage rates. But the pause seems short-lived, indications are that rates will resume their upward march, particularly after the Federal Reserve meets next week when the central bank is widely expected to raise its benchmark rate. Long-term bond yields have begun to rise again. The yield on the 10-year Treasury – one of the most closely watched indicators for mortgage rates – rebounded to 2.97 percent Wednesday. It had sunk to 2.77 percent on May 29 after rising to a high of 3.11 percent on May 17. When yields go up, home loan rates also tend to rise.
 
Mortgage rates rose late last week as political uncertainty around elections in Italy and Spain waned. With no major announcements or economic data releases this week, financial markets will likely focus on global political news and trade tensions following the recently announced U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that nearly two-thirds of the experts it surveyed say rates will rise in the coming week. The European Central Bank has sparked some bearish concern with their inflation expectations and we are seeing that play out in the U.S. bond market. Mortgage bonds have fallen below support levels and we could see some additional price volatility leading into next week’s Fed meeting and expected rate hike.
 
Meanwhile, last week’s brief dip in rates caused mortgage applications to rise for the first time in more than a month, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – increased 4.1 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index rose 4 percent, while the purchase index also grew 4 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 35.6 percent of all applications.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAY 2017
MAY 2018
MAY 2017
MAY 2018
MAY 2017
MAY 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
151
138
132
113
19
25
Unemployment rate
4.6
4.2
4.8
4.0
3.5
5.0
 
National unemployment rate is 3.8 percent (May 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.0 percent (up from 1.7 percent in April).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, June 4, the National Veteran Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Tyra Nelson, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) Coordinator for the 99th Regional Support Command (RSC). Ms. Nelson requested The American Legion to participate as moderator of an employer panel in their upcoming YRRP, June 22–23. 
 
On Monday, June 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with VETCON conference planners about American Legion participation in the agenda. VETCON is a veteran entrepreneur conference held in San Francisco focused on innovation and angel investors in the high technology space planned for October 2-4.
 
On Tuesday, June 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the DC Coalition for the Homeless to discuss housing availability, approved DC budget and a new constructed shelter that’s estimated completion is in 2020. The Coalition for the Homeless is a non-profit organization in the District of Columbia that provides shelter and supportive services to more than 500 homeless individuals and families who are residents in the District of Columbia. The Coalition is always working on activities and solutions in the community to help eliminate homelessness.
 
On Tuesday, June 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Miguel Gonzales, Director, Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We discussed the upcoming Career/Benefits Fair during the Department of Puerto Rico’s Convention. Additionally, our division has scheduled three meetings with the American Job Centers, Mayor of San Juan, and Garrison Commander for Fort Buchanan.
 
On Tuesday, June 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Scarlet Doyle, Legislative Assistant, Office of Senator Dean Heller (NV). We discussed the impact of an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge from the military as it relates to employment. The Senator feels that an OTH contributes to the unemployment rate for veterans and that most offenses are minor and should not be held against the veteran when seeking employment. We scheduled a meeting for next week to discuss this further.
 
On Wednesday, June 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Monshi R. Ramdass, Veterans Employment Program Officer, U.S. Department of Agriculture. We discussed the renewal of the current MOU between the Legion and USDA. The agency has new leadership and would like to collaborate with The American Legion in order to reignite their veteran hiring initiative.
 
On Wednesday, June 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Department of New Jersey about ideas for state education programs the Legion can scale. Topics included the creation of a veterans education advisory committee, state education fairs and spotlighting college posts.
 
On Thursday, June 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division testified in front of the House Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigation and Regulation. The purpose of the hearing is to discuss the current state of the Vets First contracting program at VA and review the economic impact VA’s proposal to streamline their procurement of medical and surgical equipment will have on small business.
 
On Thursday, June 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Michael Koprowski, National Campaign Director, Opportunity Starts at Home, to discuss their new initiative to house low-income people. Opportunity Starts at Home is a long-term, multi-sector campaign to meet the rental housing needs of the nation’s lowest income people.
 
On Thursday, June 7, the National Veteran Employment & Education Division participated in the planning process with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Hiring Our Heroes for their upcoming Transition Summit at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida on July 11.
 
On Friday, June 8, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division participated in the monthly VSO meeting at the Department of Labor headquarters office in Washington, DC. Discussion points will primarily be focused on military spouses and disabled veterans in the workforce.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Army Mulls Longer Assignments to Encourage Employers to Hire Spouses
Top U.S. Army leaders assured lawmakers Tuesday that the service is taking steps to help spouses gain employment, to include extending some soldier assignments to more than three years.  Lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee wanted to know what the service is doing about the challenges many Army spouses face while seeking employment.  Employers are often reluctant to hire spouses because frequent assignment changes mean military families cannot stay in one place for long. Some spouses avoid mentioning that they are married to a servicemember in an attempt to get employers to consider them for jobs, lawmakers said.  Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, asked Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley what the service is doing "to assist military spouses with professional development seeking employment." Esper said the issue is "top priority for me, something I discuss with spouses at nearly every post I visit."
 
"This issue comes up over and over again, and I will tell you personally, when I was on active duty, my wife was discriminated against for work because they knew I was rotating," he said. Currently, it takes an average of 140 days for the Army to hire spouses, or civilians, for on-base jobs, "which is unacceptable. So I am taking a number of initiatives at my level to reduce that," Esper said.  A large part of the problem is the vetting process the Office of Personnel Management oversees for civilian employment on base, he added. "The OPM process is clunky and inefficient ... if we could either reform that or move it to [the Defense Department] or let the Army hire direct, it would really give us a greater advantage of reducing that 140-day average down to about 30 days," Esper said. "What happens is spouses become frustrated, and they give up searching for a job." President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on May 9 ordering federal agencies to more aggressively utilize a personnel rule that speeds the hiring of military spouses to certain positions. That personnel rule was originally issued by President George W. Bush in late 2008.
 
Another hurdle facing spouses looking for employment is the lack of "long-term stabilization of assignments," Milley said. "That is probably the biggest impediment to stabilizing the spousal employment in a local area -- the constant churn of two- [to] three-year assignments works against spouse employment."  The Army is examining a plan for longer assignments, but the change would not be for everyone, he said.  For enlisted soldiers, "we think we can probably achieve longer than three-year assignments," Milley said. "For the officers, it is significantly more of a challenge because of career development opportunities that we want for our officers."
Milley gave no timeline of when longer assignments might become a reality.  Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, pointed out that there are not enough jobs on base to solve the spouse employment problem.  "It's not just a DoD issue," she said. "We need the communities and the private sector to really step up and meet their part of this obligation. I am looking at ways we can engage the private sector to help them become more responsible citizens."
 
Murray said that one spouse told her, "She sent a number of resumes and didn't hear anything back. She sent them [again] to the same people and didn't put her military spouse affiliation on her resume and heard back.  "I think we really need to look at the private sector too," she said. "The opportunities for military spouses are often rare ... and I don't think we should ever be in a position where military spouses can't find work."
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Representative Andy Harris (MD) held a roundtable discussion with American Legion Post 18 members in Centreville Friday, June 1, to discuss a host of issues facing veterans of every stripe. Among the topics were veteran homelessness, alarming veteran suicide rates, inconsistencies in care at VA hospitals and pathways to citizenship for documented immigrants who join the armed forces. This was part of regular meetings Harris has with area constituents throughout the year to keep his legislative agenda focused. "All veterans should take an active part in making sure their fellow veterans are taken care of," said Harris. "This is about seeing if the government is fulfilling its promise to veterans. I know the Chairman of the VA Committee very well and we're going to discuss the issues from this meeting. The President is fully committed to this and we have a Congress willing to [find solutions] as well."
Among the top issues was the increasing rate of suicide among veterans both in Maryland and nationwide. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 7,388 veterans committed suicide nationally in 2014 with 89 taking place in the state. To date, Maryland has a rate of 23.1 percent, which is lower than the national percentage of 38.4 percent. With much of the focus on treatment of issues like PTSD, drug or alcohol addiction and depression, identifying those at risk still relies heavily on individuals seeking help within the VA hospital system. For the Eastern Shore, that includes thousands of potential patients looking for traditional doctor's care as well as the mental health visits.
The 2016 Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) Annual Report estimated 1,850 veterans in Kent County, 4,549 in Queen Ann's County and 3,738 in Talbot County. Veteran outreach by the MDVA is a two-pronged approach with traditional forums in communities and a recently emphasized effort to include desktop and mobile devices. "We hear from our fellow veterans every day about issues they face," said Vince Higgins, Centreville American Legion Post 18 commander. "So when we can gather them and talk to our elected officials, it definitely helps. We're primarily in a rural area on the Eastern Shore so you hear about these issues in more populated areas. But our resources here are more spread out and less than those other areas."
Veteran homelessness in Maryland is not limited to major city centers like Baltimore as the Maryland Interagency Council on Homelessness reported in 2017. The state currently has an estimated 2,165 homeless veterans annually with 445 in shelters and another 91 unsheltered. Efforts by the state to end homelessness across the board were initially stepped up with Senate Bill 796 during the 2014 session of the General Assembly to examine statewide initiatives aimed at ending homelessness. The legislation outlined the membership of the council, which includes representatives from 13 state agencies, three representatives from local Continuums of Care and nine advocates from throughout the state as well as a community member who has experienced homelessness.
Veterans in attendance also voiced their concern over a seemingly revolving door of both doctors and nurse practitioners at area VA hospitals precipitating redundant visits to simply establish the patient's history. "They have trouble in Cambridge keeping [primary medical staff] so they bring in people temporarily for six months or a year because they can't fill the slots. So we have asked about what's going on with the primary care physicians," concluded Harris.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Dix (NJ), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Lee (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), Herndon (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Lexington Park (MD), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, San Diego, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, Springfield (VA) and Travis Air Force Base (CA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 24, 2018, contains a little-noted provision that would eliminate long-standing provisions of law which protect the ability of service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and veteran-owned small business (VOSB) to sell products and services to federal government customers.  It would do so by changing the existing contracting processes of the General Services Administration (GSA) Schedules Program for the purchase of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products and services. 
 
This provision was passed by the House on May 24 without any Congressional hearings or debate, and accelerates and expands a pilot program provision enacted into law by the House last year as Section 846 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018. The House provision this year has been termed the “Amazon bill” in the media because it is structured to replace the GSA Schedules program with an e-commerce portal program designed to be operated by one or more companies like Amazon under the company’s existing standards of commercial terms and practices. The Amazon provision also would have the practical effect of eliminating established GSA Schedules programs for non-veteran small businesses, woman and minority-owned businesses, and SBA certified disadvantaged businesses.  The NDAA is now being considered by the U.S. Senate which may or may not include a similar provision in its version of the NDAA before the legislation goes to a conference committee.
 
One provision of the House Amazon bill would raise the “micro-purchase threshold” level for individual government purchase orders from the $10,000 level established last year to a new level of $25,000. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of all GSA Schedule products have the potential to be classified as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) purchases, and virtually all of the Schedule orders for those purchases are below $25,000.  Accordingly, some 80 to 90 percent of the annual $50 billion stated in the NDAA language could shift to the private e-commerce system without provisions for SDVOSB, VOSB and non-veteran small businesses, woman and minority-owned businesses, and SBA certified disadvantaged businesses.  
 
Government purchases under the House bill would also be exempt from programs such as the Buy American Act, from protections against counterfeit products, and from provisions of the Trade Adjustment Act (TAA).  The TAA, among other provisions, provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased foreign imports. It is estimated that by eliminating the Buy American Act for COTS, pricing would dictate that the majority of products purchased by federal government customers would come from China or other overseas producers. Approximately 80 percent of all GSA Schedules contractors are small businesses.  In FY 2017, some $12 billion of the more than $50 billion COTS sales were awarded to small businesses under the provisions for SDVOSB, VOSB, and non-veteran small businesses, woman and minority-owned businesses and SBA certified disadvantaged businesses.  The new House language would represent the most significant change in GSA purchasing systems in decades, would give unprecedented discretionary authority to GSA to select e-commerce portal provider winners or losers, and all this would have been done without a single public hearing in the House or Senate.
 
Per the current statute, the GSA program is now in the Phase II analytical stage of determining if e-commerce marketplace portals best suit the procurement of COTS items, not just for DOD but throughout all federal agencies. The analysis was to have examined the impacts of the plan on the existing GSA Schedules program including the current technology purchasing platforms such as GSA Advantage and the Department of Defense (DOD) FedMall platform. A GSA forum on these issues earlier this year generated many comments and questions from the private sector which were in large measure not subsequently addressed by GSA. 
 
Last year’s House bill also called for an analysis to done by GSA on the impact of the e-commerce portal system on small businesses and other socio-economic contractors including veterans.  However, this study was to be done after three years of implementation.  By then, damage to GSA small business schedule holders selling COTS would have been done.  Instead, the e-commerce portal impact on all small businesses should be conducted prior to portal implementation.  
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
Squeeze Every Dime From MyCAA
If you have been a military spouse for more than a year, you have probably heard a lot of complaints about MyCAA, the Defense Department’s tuition assistance tool for military spouses.  The complaints are all true -- MyCAA offers less money than it used to. The limited rank availability can make starting and finishing your degree (while balancing the financial needs of your household) while you’re still eligible a little tricky. Also, if you want to qualify, you’re going to have to narrow your academic preference to something a little more specialized than “general studies.” Yet even with these complaints, MyCAA is still an incredible resource -- think of it as $2,000 a year more for school than you have right now! Do You Know The Basics?  MyCAA is a tuition assistance tool that covers job-related training, education and licensing for spouses of active-duty servicemembers. Your sponsor needs to be within ranks E1-E5, W1-W2, and O1-O2, including National Guard and Reserve spouses whose sponsors are on Title 10 orders.  On the money end, MyCAA provides a maximum benefit of $4,000 with an annual fiscal cap of $2,000 that you can use toward an associate’s degree (with a career-focused major) or professional licensing and certification from an approved program.
 
 
Use It Or Lose It
 
It’s a benefit that you should make use of while you still have it. Contrary to any negative opinions you might hear, the people who use it are glad they did. Natalie, a Marine Corps wife in North Carolina, couldn’t be happier.  Natalie started her studies at a local community college near Camp Lejeune when she was 20. “When I decided to go back to school,” she said, “I didn’t really know anything about MyCAA, so I paid the first semester myself. But as soon as I found out about it, I applied.”  And she’s so glad she did.  “Signing up was easy,” Natalie said. The MyCAA web portal allows you to apply online, where she entered her basic information, her sponsor’s information (“I had to put in his info to prove he was a Marine,” she explained), and the information for the program she wanted to attend.
 
In case she had any questions, her school, like many others that accept MyCAA, also has staff on hand to help spouses navigate the MyCAA application process. It wasn’t tricky. “The only thing I had an issue with was that they make you put down a career ambition, and if your ambition doesn’t match your major, they won’t send the money.” Fearing her application might be rejected, she applied as a hopeful teacher. Now, that’s looking like a likely career.
 
Persnickety About Their Rules
 
MyCAA won’t help you on every potential career path. You can’t use this to get a Montessori teaching certificate, for example, or to take the GRE. But you can use MyCAA to get your teacher’s license renewed in your new state, take (and pass!) the Bar exam, or get trained in a number of high-demand, hiring fields. A little schooling can go a long way, and that’s just what MyCAA is here for. If you’re starting to think about an associate’s degree, and you aren’t sure what programs will position you for the most in-demand jobs, you’re covered. These jobs are the most in-demand nationwide and these jobs are ones we’ve looked at and vetted as really great for military spouses.
 
Making use of MyCAA while you still have the benefit opens up a world of doors. Not only will it add that awesome degree line to your resume (and involve a graduation with a cap and gown you can be proud of), but it opens you up to a world of jobs that you can take with you wherever you go, providing more for your family and yourself.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  6/8/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 1 June 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The U.S. economy added 223,000 job in May as U.S. companies continued their hiring spree, according to the Labor Department's monthly jobs report released Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, the lowest since 2000.
 
In a highly unusual move, President Trump tweeted early Friday morning that he was "looking forward to seeing the employment numbers." Trump's tweet moved markets as many on Wall Street thought the president was signaling that job gains would be far higher than the 200,000 that had been expected.  Many economists predict the unemployment rate will fall even further this year, potentially dropping to 3.5 percent, which would be the lowest rate since 1969. Wage growth ticked up slightly to 2.7 percent over the past year, but is still sluggish.  "The labor market is continuing its longest streak of job growth on record," said Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at jobs site Indeed.com. "This recovery is showing no sign of slowing down."  Presidents have typically received an advance look at the jobs report, but they refrain from commenting until after it releases because they don't want to be seen as influencing the markets. A long-standing federal rule forbids government employees from commenting on the jobs numbers until an hour after the release, but Trump has ignored that rule before.
 
Hiring was strong across the board with retail and health care leading the surge in May. Blue-collar jobs have also picked up in the past year as rising oil prices and the global economic rebound are driving more demand for construction and manufacturing workers.  The United States has gained 95,000 manufacturing jobs and 110,000 construction jobs from the start of the year through May. Hiring in manufacturing is off to the best start this year since 2011.  There was celebrating in Granite City, Ill., in May as about 500 jobs came back when the U.S. Steel Granite City Works reopened. The company says it brought the workers back because Trump's steel tariffs helped bump up demand for domestic steel.  "We’re finally seeing steady growth in blue collar work, but the problem is it’s not accompanied by strong wage growth," said Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute and a former chief economist at the Labor Department.
 
Executives at many companies complain they can't find enough workers. But the pickup in hiring this year suggests they are still adding to their head count and more people are reentering the job market after taking time off for health reasons, taking care of family or just because they didn't think there were enough opportunities for them.  Job gains have averaged 207,000 a month this year, a faster pace than last year or the year before.  While American companies remain on a hiring spree, they continue to be reluctant to raise wages. The annual pace of wage growth in May was just 2.7 percent, which is barely above inflation.  Economists have been predicting that wages would start to shoot up as companies found it harder to find workers to fill openings and tried to keep star employees from leaving for other firms. While there have been occasional reports of wage increases such as a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Sacramento hiking pay from $13 to $18 an hour, the national data are still not showing much of a widespread increase in pay.  “Small and medium-sized businesses don't have the capacity to raise wages that fast,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.
 
This economic expansion is now the second longest in modern American history, behind only the 1990s tech boom that saw widespread job and wage gains for people across the income and skills spectrum. Unemployment for African Americans has fallen to the lowest level on record, dropping below 6 percent for the first time ever.  The Hispanic rate is also close to its lowest level since the Labor Department began tracking the unemployment rates for minority groups in the early 1970s. However, the rates remain above the unemployment rate of whites.  The strong jobs report is expect to keep the Federal Reserve on track to hike interest rates at their next meeting in mid-June.
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
129
163
104
147
25
16
Unemployment rate
3.9
4.9
3.8
5.2
5.0
3.2
 
National unemployment rate is 3.9 percent (April 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.2 percent (up from 1.7 percent in March).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Wednesday, May 30 – Friday, June 1, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division will be participating in the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans annual conference in Washington, DC. The conference is focusing on the progress of VA’s goal of eliminating homelessness and the challenges that remain in assisting homeless veterans and their families in obtaining safe and affordable housing.
 
On Wednesday, May 30, the Veterans Employment and Education Division met with Hakeem Basheerud-Deen, Director, Veterans Employment Services, Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  We discussed a huge concern TAL has regarding Veterans’ Preference and the new Director of OPM’s vision.  We discussed the lack of support from TAL to OPM if they attempt to limit the use of Veterans’ Preference to a one time use and/or limiting its use to a particular grouping of positions.  This will consequently have a negative effect on veterans by limiting them to positions OPM sees fitting for veterans.
 
On Wednesday, May 30, the Veterans Employment and Education Division participated in the Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS) Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training and Employer Outreach (ACVETEO) Committee meeting.  We discussed a whole host of topics ranging from the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to Apprenticeships.  One concern was the revamping of the two day optional class and its implementation, which is scheduled to go live July 2018.  The concern lies with DOL-VETS,  that had not locked in a contractor who will be instructing the class.
 
On Thursday, May 31, the Veterans Employment and Education Division was invited to a roundtable discussion hosted by The HUBZone Contractors National Council and Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.  The discussion was centered around category management and its potential impacts on the small business community. As the federal government moves toward implementation of this buying strategy, association leaders and small business advocates should be informed and prepared to take action. The discussion was  moderated by Ann Sullivan, Madison Services Group.
 
On Thursday, May 31, the Veteran Employment and Education Division participated in a “Everything You Want to Know About Registered Apprenticeship………but Don’t Know Who To Ask!!!“ meeting hosted by DeVry University.  The meeting focused on the Apprenticeship Program geared toward employers who want to hire veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the benefits are good for business, too – companies that offer apprenticeship programs have a chance to diversify their workforce, improve productivity, standardize training, reduce turnover, and potentially receive tax credits.
 
On Thursday, May 31, the Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Bob Langol,  Sr. Director, Military & Veteran Affairs, Comcast NBCUniversal. We discussed the upcoming hiring initiative that Comcast is preparing to launch nationwide, participation on The American Legion’s Employment Innovation Taskforce, and different opportunities that TAL and Comcast can collaborate to better assist our veterans in obtaining gainful employment.
 
On Friday, June 1, the Veterans Employment and Education Division met with Hurt Norton PLLC.  Hurt Norton represents the interests of office supply retail stores. They are interested in working with the Legion with regards to GSA’s implementation of the ecommerce platform for federal procurement. GSA was charged to study, propose and create an aggregated online retail platform that will allow federal agencies to purchase products as one would when buying from Amazon.com.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
DOL TAP Information – May 2018
TAP, as codified under 10 U.S.C. 1144, is a collaborative effort of the Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education, and Homeland Security (DHS), the Office of Personnel Management, and the Small Business Administration.  TAP provides separating service members and their spouses with the training and support they need to transition successfully to the civilian workforce.  Through TAP, DOL uses its extensive expertise in employment services to provide a comprehensive three-day Workshop at U.S. military installations around the world.
 
In 2011, the Veterans Employment Initiative (VEI) Task Force was established to ensure the career readiness of transitioning servicemembers.  The Task Force consists of joint representation from DOL, DoD, VA, DHS (U.S. Coast Guard), the Department of Education, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Personnel Management.  The Task Force designed a plan to strengthen and build upon the existing TAP curriculum, which is now known as Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success).  To continue this important collaboration, the TAP Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) provides an interagency governance framework.  There are five interagency working groups (transition assistance, curriculum, IT/data sharing, performance management, and strategic communications) that report to the Senior Steering Group (SSG).  The SSG meets monthly to ensure the program is operating as intended by statute.  The SSG reports to the Executive Council (EC), which meets quarterly.  The EC, SSG, and all of the working groups are represented by each interagency partner.  The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), DOL, and VA serve as co-chairs of each of the groups—with the lead chair rotating annually.
 
During FY 2017, the TAP Interagency Curriculum Working Group conducted an in-depth review of all the curricula modules, including the DOL EW and CTTT.  As part of the in-depth review process, DOL distributed the DOL EW and CTTT curricula materials to over 40 internal and external stakeholders providing them an opportunity to review the material and respond with input.  The stakeholder group included the TAP Interagency partners, employers, VSOs, the US Chamber of Commerce, Society of Human Resource Managers, and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.  Based on feedback received, DOL has updated the DOL EW curriculum to improve organization, remove some outdated practices, improve the LinkedIn Profile section, and to emphasize the importance of taking advantage of the additional Transition GPS tracks – Accessing Higher Education, Entrepreneurship track, and CTTT.  The Department’s intent is to highlight how it is in the interest of the transitioning servicemember to take a career approach by obtaining a degree, industry recognized credential(s), or an apprenticeship.
 
The 3-day DOL EW is standardized so that all attending service members and their spouses receive the same high level of instruction.  The course consists of three days of classroom instruction that is tightly focused on four basic principles:
 
  • Think like an employer. You must think like an employer and understand the factors that make employers and their organizations successful.
     
  • Identify your skills. You will need to identify your skills that can contribute to the success of both the business you are targeting and the individual hiring decision makers who determine if it makes sense to offer you a job.
     
  • Discover, research and connect. You will need to discover, research, and connect with networking contacts and employment opportunities that are a good match for your skills and interests.
     
  • Develop and deliver self-marketing messages. You will need to develop and deliver effective, targeted, self-marketing messages that will convince civilian hiring decision makers that they should hire you.
     
    In April 2017, the Department assumed responsibility for the TAP CTTT.  This is aligned with the Secretary’s emphasis on apprenticeship, and the President’s recent Executive Order 13801, Expanding Apprenticeships in America.  In conjunction with the DOL EW, the Department conducted a comprehensive review of the CTTT curriculum, including input from employers, industry associations, and other stakeholders.  Based on this review, DOL  has made significant improvements to the 2-day curriculum.  During the review process we realized the course needed a title change to better align with the content.  With the rollout of the new curriculum the course title will change to Career Exploration and Planning Track (CEPT).  
     
    TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
    Non-profit using ‘tiny houses’ trend to help homeless veterans
    O’FALLON, Ill. – Tiny homes are all the rage. Now, they are coming to the St. Louis area to help homeless veterans.
 
A non-profit group called the Veterans Community Project is building a village of about 50 tiny homes for homeless vets in Kansas City. It costs an estimated $15,000 to house each veteran, with 100 percent of the money coming from donations. Vets moved into the first 13 homes in January.
 
Of about 500 cities wanting to be part of this program, Fox 2/KPLR 11 learned that O’Fallon, Illinois, is near the top of the list.
 
The group’s co-founder, Brian Meyer, said he has no doubt it will happen in the St. Louis area, with the possible locations now narrowed down to two; both on the Illinois side of the river.
“Walking into that house, something they can call their own, starts to bring back that self-pride,” said O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach. “Restoring that pride is one of the big things, which will help them lift themselves up and get moving forward.”
 
There is strong support for the O’Fallon location: a five-acre section of land near St. Ellen Park.
“The vets would love it. It’s a new concept I see around the country. It would be cool to help out the vets with tiny homes that they can afford,” said O’Fallon resident and U.S. Army Veteran Mike Hill.
 
The program makes tiny homes available to vets. It also surrounds them with services needed to escape the cycle of homelessness and ultimately get places of their own.
 
“If there’s anybody we need to try to give a second hand to, it’s definitely our veterans who went out there and have given us the freedoms we all appreciate,” Roach said.
 
There’s no formal timeline but the first veterans are expected to be moving into their homes within a year.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
The U.S. Small Business Administration announced today that the federal government reached its small business federal contracting goal for the fourth consecutive year, awarding 24.34 percent in federal contract dollars to small businesses totaling $99.96 billion, an increase of over $9 billion from the previous year.
In FY 2016, the federal government also exceeded the Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) goal and had its highest achievement ever for percentage of contract dollars awarded to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned (SDVO) small businesses.  Prime contract dollars in all categories increased.  The prime contract goal achievements by dollars and percentages for all categories are as follows:
Categories
Goal
2016
%
2016
$
2015
%
2015
$
2014
%
2014
$
2013
%
2013
$
Small Business
23.00%
24.34%
99.96B
25.75%
90.7B
24.99%
$91.7B
23.39%
$83.1B
Small Disadvantaged Business
5.00%
9.52%
39.13B
10.06%
35.43B
9.46%
$34.7B
8.61%
 
$30.6B
 
Service Disabled
Veteran Owned Small Business
3.00%
3.98%
16.34B
3.93%
13.83B
3.68%
$13.5B
3.38%
 
$12.02B
 
Women Owned Small Business
5.00%
4.79%
19.67B
5.05%
17.81B
4.68%
$17.2B
4.32%
$15.3B
HUBZone
3.00%
1.67%
6.86B
1.81%
6.42B
1.82%
$6.97B
1.76%
$6.2B
 
The federal government also exceeded its subcontract goals for awards to women-owned and small disadvantaged businesses.
SBA has worked with federal agencies to expand opportunities for small businesses to compete for and win federal contracts.  The FY 2016 Small Business Procurement Scorecard that SBA uses to grade agencies in terms of prime contracting and subcontracting performance, as well as other factors, resulted in overall grade of “A “ for the federal government.  Seven agencies received A+, 11 received a grade of A, four received a grade of B and one agency received a grade of C.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
Amid new efforts to reinvigorate lethargic federal investigations of for-profit colleges, some academics who study higher education see the issue as a harbinger of wider conflict and change.
 
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal revived the discussion last week by sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with a specific request: either renew downsized investigations into fraud at for-profit schools and allow cooperation by states, or turn the probes over to the states.  Grewal – who took office in January along with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who appointed him – appears to be the first state attorney general to issue such a call to the federal government during this time of reckoning for for-profit colleges. His action comes two years after the Obama administration created a special team in the Department of Education to investigate abuses by for-profit post-secondary education providers in the wake of numerous scandals, including the bankruptcy of for-profit behemoth Corinthian Colleges.
 
Students who attended for-profit schools tend to default on student loans at higher rates, complete degree programs at lower rates and earn lower wages if they do finish. Veterans and servicemembers, racial minorities, low-income students and other underrepresented groups have been impacted disproportionately because they are a disproportionate share of the student population at for-profit schools.  Observers note that the DOE’s investigations have slowed down, shrunken and in some cases stopped since the Trump administration took over in January 2017, as the department under DeVos has appeared less inclined to go full-throttle after for-profit schools accused of predatory and fraudulent activities. The team of investigators and lawyers is now significantly smaller and with a narrower scope – basically “processing student loan forgiveness applications and looking at smaller compliance cases,” the New York Times reported May 13.
 
Grewal, who said the department is no longer cooperating with or responding to New Jersey’s requests to address for-profit college fraud, voices the frustration of many who demand to see for-profit schools that have behaved improperly held fully accountable. He questioned, for example, the status of investigations into various for-profit schools such as DeVry Education Group, which in 2016 settled for $100 million a lawsuit that alleged misleading advertising.  Dr. Robert Palmer, an associate professor in Howard University’s School of Education, said turning the investigations over to the states may not be a good move.
 
“Obviously, we have a secretary of education who tends to favor for-profit institutions,” he said. “But the investigation should remain under the purview of the Department of Education. Some states may agree with DeVos’ approach, so turning it over to the states probably would be a disservice to students, particularly low-income and minority students, who attend for-profit schools at higher rates.”  Grewal’s stance may foreshadow a rise in consumer protection at the state level, which could lead to tension between the federal and state governments, said Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law in Florida.  “Then you would have a federalism issue about how far [states] can go,” said Lake.
 
Public interest in consumer protection surrounding transparency and potential fraud grew during the administrations of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and were central in Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy in 2016, particularly among young voters disgruntled about crippling student loan debt, Lake said.  Then along came DeVos, a champion of school choice with business-friendly policies in other areas of education who has drawn heavy criticism from some quarters. Although she seems to run “one of the least drama-filled” Education Department compared to some of her predecessors, Lake contended, “her political foes sense that she is vulnerable.”
 
“There was a lot of concern that the DeVos administration would take the foot off the gas in consumer protection, particularly with for-profit business,” Lake said. “Not a lot has changed in a way that’s permanent, but there’s been a change in the wind with enforcement effort.”  Angst and activism are likely to increase as the hot-button issues of college affordability, accountability and safety converge in the public arena – with ramifications for all colleges, not just the nonprofits, Lake predicted.  “Who’s in charge? How are they setting policies? And how transparent and accountable are they to consumers about their product?” asked Lake. “We’re seeing an uptick in consumer power. Consumers feel part of the narrative and they want to chime in. Politicians will start posturing around the issue, and it has a lot of legs politically and legally. One way or another, for-profit and nonprofit education will be held accountable by consumer interests.”
 
Those interests, increasingly, are being driven by the needs of adult learners who work, who have families, who want time-flexible and cost-friendly alternatives to the traditional college experience – the enticements that have drawn many to distance learning at for-profit schools.
 
“Colleges are now thinking more about how they provide access to students,” said Palmer. “There’s distance learning and accelerated programs, sometimes in a hybrid nature so students can still get a quality education at an affordable cost that meets the needs of their lifestyle.”
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  6/01/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 25 May 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Today's homebuyers don't need another headwind. They're already facing one of the tightest, most competitive housing markets in history, with home prices rising far faster than incomes, mortgage rates climbing and the supply of homes for sale continuing to shrink.  Now add higher gas prices to the toxic mix.  The average price for a gallon of regular gas is up 60 cents compared with a year ago, according to AAA.
 
While there is no specific data on how they correlate specifically to home sales or prices, gas prices definitely play into consumer confidence about personal finances — both going up and coming down. When prices fell heading into 2015, some claimed that was a boost to the housing market.  At the time, analysts at Deutsche Bank estimated that the 23 percent decline in gas prices added about $100 in monthly income for the average American. That, in turn, translated to an 11 percent boost in purchasing power on a starter home.  On the flip side, higher gas prices take away from both real and emotional purchasing power. Paying more at the pump makes people feel like they have less money in their pockets overall, and home buying is an incredibly emotional enterprise to begin with.
 
Mortgage rates are also at the highest level in seven years and are clearly on an upward trajectory. That makes it more difficult for first-time buyers on the margins to both afford and qualify for a home.  "Anecdotally, I can tell you that it does become a reason not to buy a new home in what we affectionately call the 'drive till you qualify' areas," said John Burns, CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting.  While most studies show that millennials have a propensity for urban living, more have been looking to the suburbs recently, where prices are lower and inventory more plentiful. They are also looking for more space, as they age into their parenting years. That is where higher gas prices could take their real toll.
 
"With gasoline prices rising, mortgage rates rising, it is burdening the housing costs for people who are looking far away from job centers and downtown areas," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.  "The cost of gas in DC makes you want to move elsewhere," said Eric Braxton, who is in the process of moving to Delaware. "The gas is probably a little cheaper there."  Of course, as with everything in real estate, location is key. States like California and Texas, where commutes are often farther and residents are more dependent on their cars, will see housing affordability hit harder.
 
"Properties closer to cities hold their values better," according to Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, adding, "When gas prices have gone up, home sales have tended to go down, but it's not a strong correlation."  Not everyone believes gas price spikes are a factor in home sales these days. They say the correlation may actually be getting weaker, since the introduction of hybrid vehicles and ride-hailing companies.
 
"I have heard much less of this [gas prices] as an excuse for slow sales, even when prices spiked in the 2000s. I think the emergence of hybrids had a lot to do with that. Long distance commuters tend to get the appropriate car for the commute," added Burns.
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
129
163
104
147
25
16
Unemployment rate
3.9
4.9
3.8
5.2
5.0
3.2
 
National unemployment rate is 3.9 percent (April 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.2 percent (up from 1.7 percent in March).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Tuesday, May 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Military Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) regarding our briefing and site visit for National Convention. MACV is a nonprofit organizations that has been serving veterans and their families who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless across the state of Minnesota for over 25 years.
 
On Tuesday, May 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a reception hosted by the Young Democrats’ Veterans and Foreign Affairs Caucus and Mission 22, a nonprofit focused on preventing veteran suicides.
 
On Wednesday, May 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will be talking with NCHV about our participation in their annual conference starting next Wednesday.
 
On Wednesday, May 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Legion’s Small Business Taskforce Chairman to discuss programs and services we will provide during the National Convention.
 
On Thursday, May 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 2018 Interagency Memorial Day Ceremony hosted by Interagency Veterans Advisory Council (IVAC), Interagency (Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Department of Education (DOE), and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
 
On Thursday, May 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with IVMF and Foresight CFO regarding the possibility of hosting a Business Conference as an add on to The American Legion's National Convention. The program would focus on assisting veteran owned small businesses start and grow their sales capacity. 
 
On Thursday, May 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a board of advisors meeting for About Giving Inc. Center For Business Acceleration. The Center for Business Acceleration is the only VA Chapter 31 program administrator that is actively seeking ANSI certification.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
As the nation honors its veterans on Memorial Day, a new survey exposes the challenges veterans face in transitioning from military service to the civilian work world.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 21 million U.S. veterans in 2014. Additionally, every year 240,000 to 360,000 soldiers leave military service.
 
In 2014, the unemployment rate for veterans was 25 percent higher than the nonveteran rate. Servicemembers often struggle to correlate military experience with civilian job descriptions and sometimes must deal with negative perceptions about their abilities and mental health.  Yet despite all the national attention the topic receives, 80 percent of the 700 employers surveyed by Futurestep, a Korn Ferry company specializing in talent solutions, do not have veteran-specific recruiting initiatives. Further, 71 percent said their organizations do not provide training to hiring managers or recruiters on veteran hiring, and more than half (52 percent) do not provide onboarding or transition support to veteran hires.
 
“Transitioning military members bring with them invaluable skills, experiences and traits, such as precise communication, individual accountability, impeccable execution and natural leadership,” said Bill Sebra, president, Futurestep North America. “Military recruiting is much more than corporate social responsibility … It’s a smart business decision that harnesses the amazing skills and talents of veterans to create successful outcomes for the company and the individual.”  When asked what military skill set translates most directly to a management role, 47 percent of respondents chose leadership, followed by 20 percent who said team mentality and 13 percent who cited goal focus.
 
In 2012, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Families published a list of skills and attributes that many veterans have. The skills included high need for achievement, high level of trust in leadership, comfort with autonomy, adeptness at skills transfer across tasks, advanced technical training, resiliency, team-building skills, organizational commitment, and comfort in dynamic and uncertain situations.  “Central to the business case for hiring veterans is that these individuals make up a skilled workforce that has been found to be 4 percent more productive and 3 percent less likely to turn over than the overall civilian workforce,” said Robin Erickson, Ph.D., vice president of talent acquisition research for Bersin by Deloitte. Veterans have much more to offer companies than fulfilling diversity and inclusion initiatives, she said.
 
Organizations that are committed to helping veterans find civilian jobs view supporting veteran hiring initiatives as an important part of their employment brand, Erickson said. The companies set veteran hiring targets, launch internal initiatives to educate veterans in business skills, create military-friendly careers websites and participate in military jobs fairs.  Hiring managers need help understanding the traits and experiences veterans bring to the table, said Sebra. “On the surface, military titles and experiences may not translate well to corporate positions, however science has proven that military professionals have certain competencies that cut across many career paths. Encourage hiring managers to dig deeper in the interview process to find leadership traits and experiences, such as leading through stressful situations, which would be a boon for a civilian employer,” he said.
 
Veteran candidates also need help in learning how to talk about their skills and experiences in such a way that they are valued in the civilian workplace, he added.  Another way employers can help veterans successfully transition to a civilian career includes inviting them to online talent communities where they can ask questions and share information about themselves. In addition, current employees who have successfully made the transition can be showcased, said Sebra.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Keep focused on San Diego's homelessness
Politicians are prone to hyperbole, so when Mayor Kevin Faulconer calls what has been done since September to help San Diego's homeless population "the largest expansion of homeless services in our city's history," it's tempting to be skeptical.  But he's probably right. Quite a bit has been done for the city's less fortunate. The real question is what has been accomplished since the city opened a temporary campground outside the Downtown area for 200 people, set aside parking lots as safe places for people to sleep in their vehicles without being harassed or cited, set up three giant tents with beds and services, agreed to open both a storage facility for homeless people's belongings and a one-stop homeless services center, and dedicated a new neighborhood policing division to homeless outreach and other quality of life issues.  What effect has all this had? It's a mixed bag.
 
After a concerted effort by Faulconer to house 1,000 homeless veterans, last week's annual homeless count found a surprising 24 percent increase in that population year over year and a 45 percent increase among unsheltered veterans - even as the county's overall homeless population dipped. And while the three giant tents have housed and helped hundreds of homeless people since they opened in San Diego this past winter, only 10 percent - 94 out of 946 - have found permanent housing upon leaving. That's not even close to the 65 percent target set for the contractors operating the shelters.
 
In November, The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board praised Councilman Chris Ward for pushing for such "enforceable metrics" and gave credit to other city leaders for agreeing to them. We also wrote, "Of course, setting goals and meeting them are two different things," and added, "What's next will require even more cooperation."
 
Easing this brutal situation will take the kind of cooperation on display in court the other day when city officials and a lawyer representing homeless residents came to an agreement to reduce from three days to three hours the notification that the city must provide before it can legally clear homeless people's tents and property from city streets.
 
A judge approved that massive change Friday because the city has agreed to open its new storage facility for homeless people's possessions. Despite some community opposition, the facility may be the clearest sign yet that a collaborative approach can make this persistent problem better. The three-hour restriction should lead to less cluttered streets by day as it will only be enforced from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. when there is adequate space in city storage centers.
 
It took the death of 20 people, many of them homeless, during last year's hepatitis A outbreak to get city and county leaders more focused on homelessness. Without those deaths, it's obvious that homelessness wouldn't be near the priority it is now or remain a high priority in the future.
 
Approved after a request from Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, a state audit of the city and county response to the hepatitis A outbreak should be completed within five months. County officials have already released a report of their own, and city government is preparing one, too, but the state's investigation will be an independent probe with what Gloria called "heightened credibility."
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
Overall, the government met and even exceeded its goal for small business prime contracts last fiscal year, the $100 billion mark for the first time. But agencies fell short of their overall subcontracting goal.  During fiscal year 2017, agencies bought $105.7 billion in goods and services from small businesses, which captured 23.9 percent of prime contract dollars. That proportion was slightly below fiscal 2016 when they captured 24.34 percent. Those numbers do not include subcontract dollars. But the total dollars -- prime and subcontracted -- are higher with $105.7 billion in fiscal 2017, compared to $99.1 billion in 2016.
 
The Small Business Administration gave “A” grades to 20 agencies. Nine of those got an "A-plus" and 11 with an "A" grade. Two agencies received a "B" grade and one received "a" C grade -- the U.S. Agency for International Development. While the overall goal of 23 percent was surpassed, two specific small business categories fell short of their goals. Women-owned small businesses have a goal of 5 percent but the government only spent 4.71 percent or $20.8 billion with these businesses. The fiscal 2017 percentage also is slightly below 2016 when women-owned small businesses picked up 4.79 percent of prime contract spending.
 
Results for Historically Underutilized Business Zone companies fell short. HUBzone firms won just 1.65 percent, or $7.3 billion, against the 3 percent goal. This also was a drop from fiscal 2016 when these businesses captured 1.67 percent of prime contract dollars. Small disadvantaged businesses won 9.1 percent of the prime contracts, worth $40.2 billion in fiscal 2017. In fiscal 2016, they won 9.53 percent, a slight drop. The goal is 5 percent.
 
Only service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses saw their percentage increase in fiscal 2017. They won 4.05 percent of prime contract dollars or $17.9 billion, compared to the 3.98 percent they won in 2016. The goal is 3 percent.  The overall subcontracting goal of 31.95 percent was not achieved. Small businesses won 31.4 percent of subcontract dollars.
 
Only women-owned and small disadvantaged businesses surpassed their 5 percent goals. Women-owned captured 6.2 percent of subcontract dollars, and small disadvantage captured 5.3 percent.  Service-disabled, veteran-owned business won 1.9 percent of subcontract dollars and HUBZone captured 1.3 percent. Both have a 3 percent subcontracting goal.
 
Agencies receiving A-plus:
 
Commerce Department
Education Department
Homeland Security Department
Housing and Urban Development Department
Labor Department
Interior Department
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Office of Personnel Management
Small Business Administration
 
Agencies getting an A:
 
State Department
Transportation Department
Treasury Department
Agriculture Department
Environment Protection Agency
Defense Department
General Services Administration
Energy Department
National Science Foundation
Justice Department
Social Security Administration
NASA
 
Agencies getting a B:
 
Health and Human Services Department
Veterans Affairs Department
 
Agency with a C:
 
U.S. Agency for International Development
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
GI Bill late fees could become a thing of the past
When Kaanan Fugler transferred to a new college last year, she didn’t expect to rack up $6,000 in student loans for tuition costs she thought would be fully paid for.  But when her education benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department weren’t paid to her new school before the semester started, the Army widow and mother of five said the university’s financial aid office told her she had to foot the bill — or risk being dropped from her courses.  “We get penalized because it’s not set in stone that (schools) have to allow us to go to school while they wait for that money,” Fugler said in a recent interview.  Some lawmakers want to change that.
 
 “It is not the fault of the veteran,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., speaking to fellow members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at a recent hearing on Capitol Hill. “They don’t need that extra stress.”  The congressman recently introduced a bill, dubbed the SIT-REP Act, that would require schools to adopt a policy stating they will not deny access to classes or facilities, impose late fees, or make students pay out-of-pocket because of an unpaid balance ― if a student has provided a certificate of eligibility for VA benefits. The legislation would apply to VA benefits paid directly to the school, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Fry Scholarship for surviving dependents, such as Fugler, who used the benefit before she remarried last fall.
 
Barring a waiver from the VA secretary, schools that don’t adopt this policy would be ineligible to enroll students using such benefits.  The legislation, which Bilirakis called a “common sense” measure, has garnered the support of House representatives from both parties and veteran service organizations, including The American Legion, Student Veterans of America and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Though SIT-REP currently has no Senate companion, many view the legislation as an easy sell, as there are no associated costs.  VA also supports protecting GI Bill users from late fees.  “We agree with Congressman Bilirakis that veterans don’t need that kind of treatment, especially when they know the VA is going to pay,” said retired Maj. Gen. Robert Worley, VA director of education service.
 
Payment deadlines differ by school, and many institutions don’t certify GI Bill payments until after the drop-add period — an approach the VA supports because it cuts down on the number of corrective payments the department would have to make if a student’s course load changes, Worley said.  “But, (if) the school is going to then impose penalties and things like that on individuals, obviously that’s not a good thing,” he said. “Those are school policies. We don’t control the schools.”  VA education benefit claims are categorized as either original claims, requested by a student for the first time, or supplemental claims, which are for continuing benefit usage after the approval of an original claim.  According to a VA spokesperson, the department processed more than 340,000 original claims and over 3 million supplemental claims for GI Bill benefits last year. The initial claims took an average of 25.76 days to process, and supplemental claims took an average of 9.38 days — both lower than the VA’s goals of 28 days for initial claims and 14 days for supplemental claims for fiscal 2018.
 
It’s difficult to determine just how common it is for schools to penalize students whose VA payments don’t come in by their deadline. According to a recent Military Times survey of more than 600 colleges and universities, a large majority of respondents said they have policies for students whose VA or Defense Department education benefits are delayed, protecting these students from late fees or dropped classes for an unpaid balance.
 
Ashlynne Haycock, deputy director of policy and legislation at TAPS, the organization leading advocacy efforts in favor of SIT-REP, said in some cases, penalizing GI Bill students is a one-off. But at other campuses, it’s a systemic issue.  In her testimony to Congress, Haycock gave multiple examples of students her organization has helped after their schools told them to take out student loans, sign up for payment plans or pay late fees while waiting on their benefits to come in.  “These students did everything by the book,” she said. “They applied for and received a certificate of eligibility (COE). They provided that COE to the school certifying official with proof of enrollment on time, yet they were still penalized because of unfair institutional policies.”
 
And this could get worse come August if VA payments are delayed as the department rolls out several changes to the GI Bill going into effect this fall, she said.  Fugler said her daughter, also a Fry Scholarship recipient, was removed from classes she had already registered for when her benefits did not arrive until after the semester started. She had to start on an accelerated schedule in February after her balance was paid.  The widow’s new husband, a disabled veteran, also had to take out student loans to cover the cost of his schooling before his GI Bill benefits were paid to his school, she said. Now the family is worried about the interest that will accrue on those loans before they can be repaid.
 
“These benefits are supposed to be our guarantee to not have to deal with all the student loans and nonsense that goes along with them, yet every single person in my household has had to take out student loans while using these benefits,” Fugler said.  Haycock told Military Times, “Sometimes I think it’s the smaller schools that don’t necessarily know the VA policies well enough to feel comfortable waiting for the money, and so having something in statute that says that money is coming and something for us to refer back to would make it a lot easier for our families.” 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  5/25/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 18 May 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Lenders that make loans to servicemembers should pay careful attention to the latest developments in this area.  Back in 2007, Congress first passed the federal Military Lending Act (MLA) to address alleged predatory lending practices directed toward members of the military and their families. The original law was largely limited to certain types of short-term lending. But as a result of legislation in 2013, the Department of Defense (DoD), in July 2015, promulgated rules that greatly expanded the MLA to include myriad forms of consumer credit, including (for the first time) credit cards. Noncompliance with the MLA regulations could result in draconian remedies. (For a closer look at the MLA and a related statute, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, see the Military Lending Act chapter in PLI’s Consumer Financial Services Answer Book, edited by the author of this update.)
 
In the MLA interpretative rules, as amended in December 2017, the DoD addressed the MLA rule’s exemptions for credit transactions where intended to finance motor vehicle or personal property purchases when such purchases are used as collateral. The question posed was whether credit in such circumstances “fall[s] within the exception to ‘consumer credit’ under 32 CFR 232.3(f)(2)(ii) or (iii) where the creditor simultaneously extends credit in an amount greater than the purchase price of the motor vehicle or personal property.” DoD answered that the “answer will depend on what the credit beyond the purchase price of the motor vehicle or personal property is used to finance. Generally, financing costs related to the object securing the credit will not disqualify the transaction from the exceptions, but financing credit-related costs will disqualify the transaction from the exceptions.” As an example, DoD cited specifically to gap insurance, a form of auto insurance that protects against further liabilities where the recovery received for the total loss of a vehicle is insufficient to cover amounts owed under a lease or financing.
 
In response to this guidance, several trade groups (including the American Bankers Assn., the American Financial Services Assn., the National Automotive Dealers Assn. and three groups that represent military-focused credit unions) have written to the DoD, asking it to rescind or withdraw that guidance. These groups argue that failing to exempt such transactions would prevent MLA-covered borrowers from access to this important form of insurance. In the meantime, auto dealers have largely halted gap insurance sales to covered MLA borrowers, leaving these groups largely unprotected from total collision liabilities early in the lease or finance term.
 
Now, a prominent auto blog suggests that the DoD may be changing its tune. In a March 28, 2018, post, Finance & Insurance beat writer Hannah Lutz suggests that the DoD is reconsidering the interpretive guidance. Lutz reports that “word has spread across the finance industry that the Defense Department will withdraw the interpretation in May.” This would be an important development for covered lenders and their affected borrowers.  If your company or MLA-covered clients have stopped selling gap insurance to borrowers subject to the MLA, stay tuned. If these same entities are selling it now, DoD current guidance makes those sales highly problematic. Manatt’s consumer finance team is advising clients in this area and is available to assist.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
129
163
104
147
25
16
Unemployment rate
3.9
4.9
3.8
5.2
5.0
3.2
 
National unemployment rate is 3.9 percent (April 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.2 percent (up from 1.7 percent in March).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, May 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with LTC. Derwin Brown, Soldier For Life (SFL), Regional Program Manager. We discussed the opportunity for SFL to collaborate with The American Legion during the Department of Puerto Rico’s Career Fair.
 
On Monday, May 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Monshi Ramdass, United States Department of Agriculture,  Military Veterans to Agricultural Liaison Program Manager (MVALPM).  We discussed the 2014 Farm Bill that added “Veterans” in the language in hopes to increase veteran participation.  Mr. Ramdass informed me that the Secretary of Agriculture created the Office of Military/Veteran Agriculture Liaison which encompasses employment, education, and entrepreneurship.
 
On Monday, May 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Military Family Research Institute’s “Measuring Communities” report release. The event featured a panel highlighting the Measuring Communities tool, which provides data about military-connected people following transition, allowing for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of each community's needs.
 
On Tuesday, May 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the American Enterprise Institute’s “Reforming the VA by empowering veterans: A conversation with Rep. Brad Wenstrup” event. The event spotlighted Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and his vision for elevating and empowering veterans through the creation of a 4th administration, the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration (VEOTA) within VA. His remarks were followed by a panel featuring SVA, PVA and reporter Phillip Carter.
 
On Tuesday, May 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with U.S.VETS to discuss housing vouchers and collaboration with other service providers and agencies in the DC area.
On Wednesday, May 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division hosted a conference call with the American Legion’s Employment Innovation Task Force to review and finalize the questions for The American Legion (TAL) Transition Assistance Program (TAP) survey.  The result will assist TAL with identifying concerns and recommendations for legislative action.
 
On Wednesday, May 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Jeffery Pon, Director, Office of Personnel Management.  We discussed the downgrading of Veterans Affairs (VA) low level positions, in particular medical housekeeping and police officers; these positions are vital to the VA, as they provide a clean sterile environment for veteran patients, and safe working environment. We also discussed veterans’ preference and its current use.  Director Pon would like to limit the use of veterans’ preference – initial entry in the federal workforce, and blocked positions. With reference to block positions, he would like to conduct a survey to see what types of “Jobs” veterans transitioning out of the military are looking for.  This is highly problematic and a position TAL cannot support.
 
On Wednesday, May 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Monshi Ramdass, USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison Program Manager (MVALPM).  We discussed the new Agriculture Commodity Food Grader, apprenticeship program that was approved by the Department of Labor. There is a high demand in that field of work, particularly in rural areas.  This would be ideal for those transitioning servicemembers and veterans returning to those areas.
 
On Wednesday, May 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division took part in a closed roundtable convened by Cisco on the technological developments of FUTURES Inc., a tool to assist veterans’ transition and employment. The roundtable was attended by representatives from Cisco, VFW, SVA, Wounded Warrior Project, and the White House.
 
On Wednesday, May 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a Congressional and Veteran Round Table on May 16th concerning Veteran Entrepreneurship and Veteran Legislation. The event was taped live on Sirius XM Radio.
 
On Wednesday, May 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a celebration of Asian and Pacific Islanders and their history in the government. The event was held by the members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus along with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer, who made remarks regarding the late Senators Akaka and Inouye, both Asian American Veterans who fought in the Second World War.
 
On Thursday, May 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting convened by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the Department of Education’s Borrower Defense rule, which is currently being rewritten. The American Legion’s resolution on Borrower Defense was shared, and though OMB is prohibited from discussing details of its new regulation The American Legion’s concerns were put on the record.
 
On Thursday, May 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended The 5th Annual Military Leadership Luncheon, dedicated to promoting leadership diversity representation in our troops. Active members and veterans of our Armed Forces have the opportunity to learn how to utilize skills and prior leadership experiences to contribute to personal and professional development in the future.
 
On Friday, May 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will be having conference call with NCHV to discuss participation in two panels during their annual conference.  In addition, TAL will be talking with Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) to plan a briefing and site visit during National Convention. MACV provides assistance throughout Minnesota to positively motivated veterans and their families who are homeless or experiencing other life crises.
 
On Friday, May 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division conducted a meeting with Rob Worley, Director of Education Services for VA about updates on the GI Bill. Subjects included implementation of the Forever GI Bill, contracting disputes with state approving agencies, and revisions to BAH payments based on campus locations instead of school certifying sites.
 
On Friday, May 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with IVMF and Foresight CFO regarding the possibility of hosting a Business Conference as an add on to The American Legion's National Convention. The program would focus on assisting veteran owned small businesses start and grow their sales capacity.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Overhaul Coming to DoD's Spouse Employment Preference Program
 
A big change is coming soon to the Defense Department's military spouse federal hiring preference, officials confirmed to Military.com last week.
 
The Priority Placement Program for Spouses, known as PPP-S, allows military spouses to receive hiring preference for Defense Department jobs after a permanent change-of-station (PCS) move. Spouses currently must register for the program at each new duty station.
 
But PPP-S has long been a source of frustration for military spouses. Accepting a job out of desperation to use the preference is counterproductive if the job is a bad fit, some say. Others say base hiring managers are poorly trained and don't understand the program or the separate executive order that allows direct hiring authority for qualified military spouse applicants.
 
The change, Pentagon officials said, will streamline the program to give spouses more flexibility and clarity in landing a DoD job. The new system will bring the program in line with other hiring preferences managed through the government's job site, USAJOBS.
 
"Spouses will be transitioned out of the PPP to application-based procedures established for all applicants applying through USAJOBS," said Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokesperson. "This change will empower military spouses to choose which jobs they want to exercise their military spouse preference."
 
PPP-S has remained largely unchanged since its 1989 inception, with one major exception: A measure in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act ordered officials to remove a time cap on the program that required spouses to use it within two years of their PCS move. Spouses had complained that two years was not long enough to utilize the benefit and unnecessarily locked out many potential applicants.
 
But the law, signed in late 2016, did not specify whether the cap removal was retroactive. That left some hiring managers allowing spouses whose two years had ended prior to the new law back into the program, while others said it could not be used in that way and barred re-entry.
 
The Defense Department ruled in September that the law is not retroactive. Officials said only spouses whose preference had not expired before the measure was signed by President Barack Obama in late December 2016 could operate under the new, time-cap-free standard.
 
Pentagon officials did not give a timeline for the upcoming PPP change. They said base hiring managers will be trained on the new rule before it takes effect.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Female Veterans Are Fastest Growing Segment of Homeless Veteran Population
 
The image of a homeless veteran does not immediately bring to mind that of a female homeless veteran. But, the VA says that women comprise the fastest-growing segment of the homeless veteran population.
 
In its 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that just over 40,000 veterans were homeless on a single night in January of that year. Of those, about 9 percent were women. From 2016 to 2017, the number of homeless female veterans increased by 7 percent, compared with 1 percent for their male counterparts.
 
In a 2016 report, the VA-funded National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans said the number of women identified by the program as homeless, or who accessed VA programs to end homelessness tripled to 36,443 in a five-year period ending in 2015. That figure, according to the center, is projected to rise by about 9 percent to nearly 40,000 by 2025.
 
Many homeless women veterans were victims of military sexual trauma and feel resentment towards the military and the VA, and as a result do not identify themselves as being a veteran. They tend to stay away from the organizations wishing to help them because they feel they were betrayed by that organization in the past.
 
According to VA’s National Center for PTSD, data from VA’s military sexual trauma screening program show that about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men respond "yes," that they experienced sexual trauma or assault while in the military.
 
Also, homeless women veterans don't fit the stereotype of your normal homeless person living on the streets. Female homeless veterans often have children and tend to temporarily stay with family or friends.
 
Just as homeless male veterans often don't seek help because they were instilled with a sense of self-reliance and pride while in the military, female homeless veterans are also often caregivers for their children and have a very hard time asking for help.
 
On the campus of the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in Leeds, MA the VA is taking a holistic approach to helping female veterans get back on their feet.  Nearly all of the residents at the center have experienced early childhood trauma, and more than 80 percent have encountered military sexual trauma.
 
Treating the entire person in the form of mind, body, and spirit helps female veterans regain their sense of self-worth and dignity, allowing them to transition back into the community.  The facility’s holistic program focuses on six dimensions of wellness: physical, social, emotional, occupational, spiritual, and intellectual.  The residents have access to activities that provide peer-to-peer support: yoga, workout, and art therapy classes, walking clubs, and sessions on spirituality, goal setting, and financial aid.  Social health is more important to a woman's healing process than it is to a man's. The VA is realizing that and tailoring treatments as necessary.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
The U.S. Small Business Administration has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, through its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. The partnership will give veterans access to self-employment assistance from the SBA, its resource partners, and U.S. Export Assistance Centers.
 
The VA and SBA will work together to prepare veterans, service-disabled veterans, and service members for self-employment. Through the partnership, veterans and servicemembers will have access to networking events, job seeking skills, coaching, and entrepreneurship training.
 
Both SBA and VA provide important resources for veterans and servicemembers to take on the next step in their career – and their civilian lives. Together, the agencies can set them up for success should they decide self-employment is next for them.
 
VA and SBA will train local staff on services available through partnering agencies, and also facilitate appropriate referrals and on national, regional, and local levels.
 
To learn more about the resources offered by SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development and the Veterans Administration’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, visit sba.gov/ovbd or benefits.va.gov/vocrehab.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
The American Legion along with other VSOs is continuing its fight against the PROSPER Act, a bill  that would sunset a student loan forgiveness benefit for public-sector employees, including servicemembers, hoping combined efforts — and the Pentagon’s opposition — can keep it from ever getting to a vote.
 
“It’s a national security issue at this point, and that’s highly concerning to us,” said Tanya Ang, policy and outreach director for Veterans Education Success.
 
The nonprofit is one of many veteran service organizations that have opposed the legislation since it was first introduced by Republican House lawmakers late last year. Among chief concerns with the PROSPER Act is its proposal to eliminate the public service loan forgiveness program for nonprofit workers and employees of local, state and federal agencies, including the military.
 
Despite the opposition, the bill’s proponents see PROSPER as a way to curb rising college costs and enable students to pursue careers without demonstrable student loan debt. A spokesman for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce told Military Times, “We have heard from many groups on provisions within the PROSPER Act, and believe the bill will provide veterans and active duty military the best opportunity to achieve a postsecondary education that they rightly deserve.”
 
A Defense Department document released earlier this year states the loan forgiveness program, available to eligible borrowers after 10 years of qualifying student loan payments, is an “important recruitment and retention tool for the military to compete with the civilian sector,” particularly in specialty fields. The Navy has also raised concerns for the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, which leans on this program as an incentive for new recruits.  The House committee spokesman did not comment directly on the Pentagon’s position.
 
A House committee spokesman in March stated that borrowers currently using federal direct student loans would be grandfathered into the legislation and would not be affected if the program is cut. According to the DoD document, approximately 6,800 servicemembers are anticipating having their student loan debt written off through the loan forgiveness program, created in 2007.
 
Though there’s been no movement on the bill since February, the Education committee spokesman said staff are working with House leadership to get it to the floor.
But the clock is ticking.
 
Sources with close knowledge of the legislative agenda have told Military Times PROSPER has a lot of must-pass legislation to compete with, and the partisan nature of the bill may make it a tough sell in an already-contentious election cycle.  “There are a lot of concerns from both sides of the aisle on it,” said Lauren Augustine, policy director for Student Veterans of America.
 
And with August recess just two and a half months away, “it’s less likely to have floor time as the floor time dwindles,” Augustine said, though she’s not ruling it out. She and Ang said it’s clear the bill’s Republican proponents, led by House Education and the Workforce Committee chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., are committed to moving forward with the legislation as soon as possible.
 
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be ultimately deciding whether to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. But even if it does make it to the floor, PROSPER is unlikely to get a fast-track through Congress, as the Senate has made no moves to introduce companion legislation.
 
A representative for Senate Education committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., shared earlier this year that the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions planned to unveil a bipartisan higher education bill by the spring, though it would not necessarily mirror the PROSPER Act. However, a committee spokeswoman said last week that timeline is now “probably not likely.”
 
She said that while the committee is ready and willing to work on legislation, there’s a lot more that needs to be done before they’re ready to introduce a bill.  “There are a lot of problems that we agree on and … a lot of things where we differ, and we have to get in the room and figure out what works for a compromise,” she said.
 
Alexander has been critical of loan forgiveness programs in the past, but the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., supports public service loan forgiveness.  “I think the PROSPER Act is a partisan bill proposed by the Republicans in the House and was jammed through committee at the objection of the committee Democrats,” the committee spokeswoman said. “Sen. Murray and Sen. Alexander have a good reputation of working together on bipartisan (bills).”
 
If PROSPER passes and the public service loan forgiveness program ends, the Defense Department has recommended increasing military funding to develop alternative recruitment and retention incentives to offset its loss.
 
CONSUMER PROTECTIONS
 
While veterans groups have provided a strong bulwark on consumer protections for payday loan practices in an era of regulatory rollbacks, a new threat has emerged against a fundamental security of veteran and military families: their retirement savings. In recent months, regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have publicly considered scrapping long-standing policies that protect the savings of servicemembers and veterans, as well as every American with an IRA or 401(k).
 
For decades, if a big corporation misled or deceived investors, those harmed by this fraud could band together to hold them accountable in public court. These actions have recovered billions of dollars for cheated investors, ranging from large pension funds for retired or disabled veterans to active-duty servicemembers with individual retirement accounts. With military retirement funds increasingly invested in our securities markets, a dramatic policy reversal at the SEC could rob veterans and servicemembers of their hard-fought savings.
 
In an April letter to members of the House Financial Services Committee, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton broke with every previous SEC head — Republican and Democrat — when he refused to stand against letting corporations include arbitration clauses in their bylaws or offering documents. Instead, he stressed that he had “not formed a definitive view” on whether corporations should be able to force investors to give up their right to participate in class actions as the price of owning their stock.
 
On May 1, 133 organizations that work on behalf of middle-income, working Americans sent a letter urging Clayton to reaffirm the SEC’s longstanding position on this issue. We at The American Legion consider any such policy reversal to be an urgent threat to active-duty servicemembers and veterans as well.
 
Due to recent changes to the military retirement system, everyone who enlists after January 2018 receives some retirement benefits, whether they serve the 20 years required for full benefits or not. New servicemembers are automatically enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan, a federal 401(k) that allows members to grow their savings in the stock market — so servicemembers and veterans have much at stake if the SEC removes investors’ best tool to enforce their rights. The TSP is an excellent retirement plan that offers high-quality investment options, but even the best plan cannot protect its members from the harmful effects of financial fraud.
 
When Bernie Madoff’s $20 billion Ponzi scheme made national headlines in 2008, Navy veteran Michael De Vita quickly became the public face of thousands of investors who lost everything. He worked as a naval electrician, fixing planes at his local base. After losing decades of savings and the high returns he was told he had earned, Michael had to scrap his plan to retire at 60. His 80-year-old mother Emma had also invested in Madoff’s fund, losing her late husband’s $1 million nest egg in the scam. She is now living on just half the monthly retirement stipend she had planned.
 
In the years since Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison, private attorneys have worked to return $11 billion to defrauded investors, including Michael and other veterans — filing more than 120 class actions related to Madoff. Investors also recovered $218 million in a class action against JP Morgan, which helped cover up the scheme. While Madoff’s scheme was not conducted through a publicly traded company, Michael’s story illustrates how investors benefit when they band together in complex fraud cases — an option that would be foreclosed if the SEC permits forced arbitration.
 
As the Department of Defense concluded regarding financial scams, servicemembers and veterans need and deserve full legal recourse against “unscrupulous” actors — including the right to hold them accountable in class actions. To ensure American investors can keep their hard-earned savings secure, the SEC must protect the longstanding class action rights of all investors.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  5/18/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 11 May 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The U.S. economy is like a car in the left lane on a partly crowded highway. Sometimes it has to slow down, but it’s still driving above the speed limit.  So it was in the first three months of 2018. The economy likely decelerated to a growth rate of about 2% from a more robust pace of 2.9%, 3.2% and 3.1% in the prior three quarters, according to a Market Watch survey.  The expected slowdown is not a shocker. For one thing, it’s happened repeatedly over the past decade and a half. Growth starts out slow and then speeds up during the rest of the year.
 
“It’s become an annual tradition for the U.S. economy to start the year on its heels and this year was no different,” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri, who pointed out first-quarter growth has averaged 1% since 2003 compared to 2% for the rest of the year.  After all, Americans spent a carload of money toward the end of 2017 in what was the best holiday shopping season since 2010. Consumer spending leaped 4% in the fourth quarter to mark the biggest advance in three years.  Back-to-back 4% increases in consumer spending are quite unusual, though. The last time it happened was in 2003.
 
In the early stages of 2018, Americans cut back to rebuild their bank accounts after the savings rate fell to a 12-year low. As a result, the increase in consumer spending in the first quarter could drop to as low as 1%.  That’s a big deal since consumers account for almost 70% of gross domestic product. As they go, so does the U.S. economy.  What also dampened first-quarter growth was a wider U.S. trade deficit and less spending on new home construction. The first-quarter report will be issued Friday morning.  The first-quarter numbers are a look in the rear-view mirror, however. The road ahead looks more open.
 
The first hint came last week in a pickup in retail sales in March that broke a string of three straight declines. Reports on consumer spending and consumer sentiment this week, meanwhile, are expected to show that Americans remain very optimistic about the economy.  No wonder. The unemployment rate sits at a 17-year low. Job openings are  near record high. Recent tax cuts and federal tax refunds are putting more money in people’s pockets.  Even a recent rise in interest rates, stock market volatility and fresh worries about a potential trade war probably aren’t enough to keep the U.S. economy operating at a lower speed. Economists predict GDP will snap back with a 3.2% gain in the spring.  “It is unlikely that a disappointing first-quarter print would signify a worrisome slowdown, and we would expect a rebound in the second quarter,” economists at Morgan Stanley wrote.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
129
163
104
147
25
16
Unemployment rate
3.9
4.9
3.8
5.2
5.0
3.2
 
National unemployment rate is 3.9 percent (April 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.2 percent (up from 1.7 percent in March).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, May 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division convened a brownbag lunch of military and veteran groups to discuss consumer protections. The special guests for the event were former CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman and Consumer Federation of America Director of Financial Services Christopher Peterson. 31 guests attended the event
 
On Wednesday, May 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Kayce Eckel, Recruiting Project Specialist, Gigafactory 1 Recruiting; We discussed the potential opportunities for Tesla to attend both Career Fairs during the National Convention and Department of Puerto Rico’s convention. We discussed Tesla’s willingness to join The American Legion’s Employment Innovation Taskforce.
 
On Wednesday, May 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with James C. Tharpe, Army Readiness Specialist: MD, DC Private Public Partnership (P3).  We discussed the opportunity for collaboration on future Transition events and meetings.  The American Legion was invited to participate in a meeting next week at Fort Meade, Maryland on Transitioning Service Members and their families.
 
On Wednesday, May 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division convened a Credentialing Roundtable to discuss aggregating military primary educations into a centralized certification repository. The event featured Department of Defense Deputy Undersecretary (Force Readiness) Fred Drummond as the keynote speaker, and was attended by 52 stakeholders.
 
On Wednesday, May 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with the U. S. Chamber of Commerce – Hiring Our Heroes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce requested that The American Legion participate in the planning of their upcoming career fairs – Seattle, Washington State, and Texas.
 
On Thursday, May 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a DC Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs Roundtable regarding small business growth in the city and entrepreneurship programs. 
 
On Thursday, May 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with IVMF and Foresight CFO regarding the possibility of hosting a Business Conference as an add on to The American Legion's National Convention. The program would focus on assisting veteran owned small businesses start and grow their sales capacity. 
 
On Thursday, May 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will be participating in a meeting with DOD concerning transition and employment issues.
 
On Thursday, May 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will be meeting with DC’s housing authority regarding vouchers for homeless veterans.
 
On Friday, May 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a VocRehab working group hosted at the Wounded Warrior Project. VE&E staff shared some of the details of our written testimony for the record for the HVAC Voc Rehab hearing on May 17, and learned about other organization proposals for reforming the program.
 
On Friday, May 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a fund raiser held in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month; This special intimate show will be supporting the World War II Filipino-American veterans who have yet to receive their Congressional Gold Medal of Honor as a prelude to May 26th Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for FilVetREP and NaFFAA Region 2.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Veteran is Firmly Planted in the Working World Again
 
Sean McMillen has taken an unorthodox path in the professional world, with stopovers as a soldier in the U.S. Army, an egg inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and an independent nursery owner. Now – thanks to support from a disabled veterans assistance program – he’s enjoying his most satisfying career yet, working as a grain inspector for a company in Oregon.
 
A self-described city kid, Sean discovered a passion for gardening in his early twenties when a friend gave him an orchid. After a stint in the Army, Sean decided to open his own farm and nursery outside of Portland, Oregon, where he still lives.
 
Unfortunately, when business took a downturn, Sean had to close his nursery and seek a new career path. By his estimate, he was about six months away from homelessness, with no viable job prospects in sight. He also suffered from the effects of a back injury he incurred during an Army exercise.
 
That’s when he reached out to a program in Portland, supported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, that helps disabled veterans reintegrate into the civilian workforce. He credits the staff with helping him tighten up his resume, navigate the job search process, and, perhaps most importantly, “get motivated again.”
 
Within a few months, a large company that was opening its first office in his area offered Sean a position as a certified grain inspector, and he accepted. On any given day at his new job, he travels around the Pacific Northwest to collect samples for certification from a grain silo in Yakima, Washington, or even a tanker in Seattle Harbor with a load of wheat bound for international markets.  He regularly refers other veterans to the program that helped him get back on his feet. “I don’t think a lot of people know these programs are out there,” Sean said.
 
Veterans can visit veterans.gov or call 1-877-872-5627 to learn about the employment services available near them, including one-on-one assistance at an American Job Center.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Number of local homeless drops; By Beth Reese Cravey
 
The number of homeless veterans identified in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties (FL) dropped about 81 percent from 2009 to 2018, following targeted housing and services initiatives by nonprofits, government and communities.  The area's overall homeless population also dropped, about 27 percent, during the same time period, according to Changing Homelessness, the lead homelessness prevention agency for three counties.  "Our job is to build a system so that anyone experiencing homelessness can be identified and assisted in 30 days or less," said Dawn Gilman, CEO of the nonprofit that provides   leadership, advocacy, support, standards and funding. "For veterans we have reached that point. ... If we can do that for veterans, I firmly believe we can do it for the entire homeless population."
 
At a Tuesday breakfast, Gilman released the results of the 2018 Point-in-Time Count conducted in January. Staff and volunteers from Changing Homelessness and other nonprofits fanned out to areas where homeless people congregate, identified them and their needs.  This year 1,794 people were counted, compared to 1,869 last year and 2,442 in 2009.  About 19 percent of them were chronically homeless, compared to 31 percent in 2009. The percentage of homeless veterans who were chronically homeless dropped from 27 percent to 8 percent.  "This is what we focused on as a community for the last three years," Gilman said. As lead homeless prevention agency, Changing Homelessness disperses local, state and federal money to various partner agencies that provide direct services and monitors their results.
 
Among the local nonprofits directly working with veterans is Clara White Mission, which last year opened its long-planned Beaver Street Veterans Villas in a renovated, century-old building. The $3.8 million project has 16 apartments for veterans.  "We want to make sure our men and women veterans are taken care of," said Ju'Coby Pittman, the downtown mission's CEO and president. "I am proud to say that we have been able to have some traction. It's not enough, especially for women veterans."  The drive to "close the gap" will continue, with partner agencies working together to provide not only housing but supportive services for homeless veterans and the overall homeless population, she said.
 
Gilman said the next target group will be the 429 people identified in the latest homeless count as living on the streets -- mostly in downtown Jacksonville -- rather than in a shelter or transitional housing.  Her goal is cutting that number in half in two years. To do so the barriers that face homeless people, such as employment and physical or mental health issues, have to be removed.
She said she is starting with an "experiment" downtown. On May 22 at Hemming Plaza, Changing Homelessness will begin monthly counts of homeless people to find out who they are, where specifically they are and what they need.  Such targeted initiatives at the local level are key to ending homelessness, which is a "Herculean task," said Erik Braun, executive director of the Florida Department of Children and Families' Office on Homelessness, who spoke at the breakfast.
 
"We're here to ... create a system where the most appropriate intervention meets the most acute need," he said. "To see what the local communities are doing is amazing." Braun talked about the first time he participated in a Point-in-Time Count when he met a homeless man after following an extension cord from a service station to his camp in the woods.  "I realized we were walking into this person's front door. He was very gracious. He had been there for six years," Braun said. The man was a veteran who had substance abuse and mental health issues, lost his wife and had no idea where his daughter was. "We were all crying, he was crying. ... We are dealing with the fine china of peoples' lives, it's a privilege," he said.
 
Homeless people, whatever their circumstances, deserve respect, said Point-in-Time volunteer Catherine Phillmon, who is also a community employment coordinator at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Jacksonville.  "These are just people experiencing some tough times," she said. "You meet them under bridges, in tents ... in alleyways, places no human is meant to reside."
Such volunteers are a critical part of the drive to end homelessness, said Changing Homelessness board member Coretta Hill, vice president of volunteer and community engagement for the United Way of Northeast Florida. She remembered one of her first stabs at helping someone in need, when she was about 14 and gave her peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a needy schoolmate in tattered clothes who had no lunch.  "Fulfillment comes when we live our lives on purpose," she said. "We all stand for something. ... It definitely takes a village."
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
The U.S. Small Business Administration this week announced the awarding of $6.6 million in funding to 22 organizations to provide training and counseling to current and aspiring veteran small business owners as a Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC).
The funding opportunity, offered by SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development, is a one-year initial award with up to four additional one-year option periods, subject to the availability of funds.
Each VBOC provides entrepreneurship training to military servicemembers and military spouses through the Boots to Business Entrepreneurship Training Program, the business training track under the Department of Defense's Transition Assistance Program.
In addition to transitioning servicemembers and veteran small business owners, VBOCs also serve other members of the military entrepreneurship community, including active duty service members, veterans of all eras, National Guard and Reserve component members, and military spouses who aspire to be or are existing business owners.
In 2017, VBOCs provided training and counseling to more than 48,000 clients. The addition of two new VBOCs, in conjunction with full geographic coverage, enables the SBA to achieve more for veteran and military entrepreneurs.
The award expands the existing VBOC network from 20 to 22 centers nationwide. Each of the awardees display proven commitment and continued excellence in providing wide-ranging entrepreneurial resources to the veteran and military community.  Meanwhile, five new VBOCs will join the network:
  • A New Leaf, Inc., through the Arizona Women's Education and Entrepreneur Center (AWEEc) – Phoenix, Ariz. – coverage area: Arizona.  AWEEc has extensive entrepreneurial training experience and created innovative programs that include the DreamBuilder Academy, which offers instruction around the DreamBuilder online platform developed by the Thunderbird School of Global Management to teach basic concepts critical for starting a business.
  • Southeast Community Capitol Corporation, DLB Pathway Lending – Nashville, Tenn. – coverage area: Tennessee and Kentucky. In 2017, Pathway Lending provided 8,152 hours of individual and classroom training to 883 clients, held 175 training events, and originated 142 loans totaling $40.27 million.
  • Central Georgia Technical College-Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource (VECTR) Center – Warner Robbins, Ga. – coverage area: Georgia and South Carolina. VECTR Center is a one-stop shop hosting partners from Georgia Department of Veterans Services, Georgia Department of Labor, the local Workforce Board, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the United Way/Mission United to collaboratively meet the needs of military, veterans and their families.
  • University of North Dakota (UND) College of Business and Public Administration – Grand Forks, N.D. – coverage area: North and South Dakota. UND's College of Business & Public Administration is home to the School of Entrepreneurship, and the Department of Military Sciences - Army Reserve Officers Training Corps program.
  • WWBIC (Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation) – Racine, Wis. – coverage area: Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.  During the past 30 years, WWBIC has assisted 60,145 individuals, loaned $60 million to small business borrowers, helped create and retain 10,725 jobs through business education, technical assistance, revolving loan funds, and SBA Loans.  
    To learn more about the new VBOC network, and to see the full listing of VBOC locations, please see: www.sba.gov/vboc.  For more information on SBA veterans programs, visit: www.sba.gov/vets.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
A new study analyzing administrative U.S. Army data not available to the public discovered that post-9/11 military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have generated "substantial economic costs" for combat veterans.
 
San Diego State University economics professor Joseph J. Sabia and U.S. Military Academy economics professor William Skimmyhorn found that today's combat veterans rely more heavily on disability compensation and are far less likely to pursue a college degree than comparable soldiers not assigned to combat.
 
Sabia and Skimmyhorn's findings, detailed in "War! What Is It Good For? The Effects of Combat Service on Economic Transitions of Veterans," will be published in the forthcoming issue of the Economic Self-Sufficiency Policy Research Institute Working Paper Series.
 
This is the first known study to use U.S. Army administrative data to examine the economic impacts of combat exposure in the Global War on Terrorism.
 
The researchers sought to fill a gap in the existing literature about how post-9/11 warfare is impacting the economic transitions of new veterans. Sabia and Skimmyhorn researched how unit-level combat exposure affected the ease with which veterans could reconnect with civilian life through participation in the workforce and pursuit of college and university degrees.
 
Focusing on a dataset consisting of veterans who separated from the U.S. Army between 2001 and 2016, Sabia and Skimmyhorn analyzed the socioeconomic well-being of roughly one million soldiers, including their use of veteran disability compensation benefits, unemployment insurance, educational benefits under the post-9/11 GI Bill and educational attainment.
 
"Uncovering the labor market effects of Global War On Terrorism-era combat service is critical, not only to better assess the full social cost of recent conflicts, but also to inform policymakers as they design effective transition assistance programs for separating service members," Sabia said.
 
Sabia and Skimmyhorn found that combat service generates adverse socioeconomic consequences for veterans, such as increased reliance on unemployment insurance and disability compensation, which often generate disincentives for economically self-sufficient transition. Moreover, the adverse physical and psychological effects of combat may also impede successful transitions, they explained.
 
Combat deployments substantially increase veterans' reliance on disability compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). These impacts are exacerbated by soldiers' exposure to injuries and deaths among members of their units, according to the researchers.
 
"The magnitudes of these effects are large and, coupled with the lifetime cost of treating PTSD and TBI, create substantial additional medical costs for taxpayers. Back-of-the-envelope estimates suggest the additional costs of PTSD and TBI to be almost $40 billion and $20 billion, respectively," Sabia said.  In addition, combat deployments result in important adverse schooling effects.
 
Those assigned to combat for 18 months or longer are 20-35 percent less likely to pursue a post-secondary degree during their enlistment and 4-10 percent less likely to obtain a four-year college degree following separation, the researchers found.
 
Sabia and Skimmyhorn noted that the unemployment and disability rates of veterans of recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, who are entering the civilian labor force at a steady rate, exceed those for veterans of all wars.
 
Sabia explained that the first year after discharge, separation, or retirement from the military is especially crucial to help remedy some of the challenges servicemembers face.
 
"Identifying at-risk veterans is critical for the successful implementation of Executive Order 13822," Sabia said, referencing the mandate issued by U.S. President Donald Trump designed to improve mental health services provided to new veterans.
 
"The results of our study suggest that it may be important to enable specialized training for those exposed to combat and better tailor services offered to those in warrior transition units," Sabia said. Examples include providing specialized and tailored psychological support services, interview preparation and career-building support.
 
"Finally, our findings could suggest additional services and remediation efforts while individuals are still in service. They also may provide a rationale for additional compensation for combat veterans," Sabia said.​
 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  5/11/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 4 May 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Despite facing challenges at the domestic level along with a rapidly transforming global landscape, the U.S. economy is still the largest and most important in the world. The U.S. economy represents about 20% of total global output, and is still larger than that of China. Moreover, according to the IMF, the U.S. has the sixth highest per capita GDP (PPP). The U.S. economy features a highly-developed and technologically-advanced services sector, which accounts for about 80% of its output. The U.S. economy is dominated by services-oriented companies in areas such as technology, financial services, healthcare and retail. Large U.S. corporations also play a major role on the global stage, with more than a fifth of companies on the
Fortune Global 500 coming from the United States.
 
Even though the services sector is the main engine of the economy, the U.S. also has an important manufacturing base, which represents roughly 15% of output. The U.S. is the second largest manufacturer in the world and a leader in higher-value industries such as automobiles, aerospace, machinery, telecommunications and chemicals. Meanwhile, agriculture represents less than 2% of output. However, large amounts of arable land, advanced farming technology and generous government subsidies make the U.S. a net exporter of food and the largest agricultural exporting country in the world.

The U.S. economy maintains its powerhouse status through a combination of characteristics. The country has access to abundant natural resources and a sophisticated physical infrastructure. It also has a large, well-educated and productive workforce. Moreover, the physical and human capital is fully leveraged in a free-market and business-oriented environment. The government and the people of the United States both contribute to this unique economic environment. The government provides political stability, a functional legal system, and a regulatory structure that allow the economy to flourish. The general population, including a diversity of immigrants, brings a solid work ethic, as well as a sense of entrepreneurship and risk taking to the mix. Economic growth in the United States is constantly being driven forward by ongoing innovation, research and development as well as capital investment. 
 
The economy has been recovering slowly yet unevenly since the depths of the recession in 2009. The economy has received further support through expansionary monetary policies. This includes not only holding interest rates at the lower bound, but also the unconventional practice of the government buying large amounts of financial assets to increase the money supply and hold down long term interest rates—a practice known as “quantitative easing”.
 
While the labor market has recovered significantly and employment has returned to pre-crisis levels, there is still widespread debate regarding the health of the U.S. economy. In addition, even though the worst effects of the recession are now fading, the economy still faces a variety of significant challenges going forward. Deteriorating infrastructure, wage stagnation, rising income inequality, elevated pension and medical costs, as well as large current account and government budget deficits, are all issues facing the US economy. 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
APR 2017
APR 2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
129
163
104
147
25
16
Unemployment rate
3.9
4.9
3.8
5.2
5.0
3.2
 
National unemployment rate is 3.9 percent (April 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.2 percent (up from 1.7 percent in March).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, April   30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Dennis Fulton, Client Relation Representative, KForce Staffing and Solutions, and discussed an array of possibilities with assisting veterans in finding employment.  Their “NICHE” is finding temporary positon that lead to full-time permanent employment.  They have a variety of clients that are looking to hire veterans.
 
On Tuesday, May   1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division reviewed the new Transition Assistance Program (TAP) bill that was introduced April 27, 2018 by the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity Chairman.  Chairman Arrington’s bill address several issues and concerns that resulted from previous hearings and roundtables.
 
On Tuesday, May   1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Office of Congressman John Rutherford (R-FL). Rep Rutherford would like to see private organizations assist with employment counseling consisting of interviewing techniques, resume preparation, and job searches are just a few areas that would be part of the counseling.  These organizations would assist veterans and their spouses who have already transitioned out of the military.
 
On Tuesday, May 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with representatives from the National Military Family Association and the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) to discuss HR 5199, the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act of 2018. The Military Coalition and NAFIS strongly oppose the bill for concerns it would cut funding to federally impacted schools serving military students. The National Veterans Employment & Education Division is researching the issue.
 
On Tuesday, May 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Executive Director of the Credential Engine to finalize details for the May 9th credentialing roundtable. Speakers were identified and confirmed from the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Business Roundtable.
 
On Tuesday, May 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with a sales representative from Marriott to discuss requirements for The American Legion National Credentialing Summit planned for October 2018. The Washington DC Marriott Marquis has emerged as the front runner for a potential summit location; information was shared with the Marketing Division for further review.
 
On Tuesday, May 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with IVMF regarding the possibility of hosting a Women in Business conference as an added event to The American Legion's National Convention. The program would focus on assisting women veteran owned small businesses start and grow their sales capacity
 
On Tuesday, May 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a board of advisors meeting for About Giving Inc. Center for Business Acceleration. The Center for Business Acceleration is the only VA Chapter 31 program administrator that is actively seeking ANSI certification.
 
On Wednesday, May 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Office of Congressman John Rutherford (R-FL). We discussed the new Transition Assistance Program (TAP) bill that was introduced on April 27th, regarding the off-base TAP and how it will benefit veterans who have left the military for more than a year.  Today’s transitioning servicemembers are considered “Digital Warriors “ and that perhaps a digital TAP would be more advantageous.
 
On Wednesday, May 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Office of Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzales-Colon (R-PR). We discussed the dire situation in Puerto Rico, a new report released by Soldier For Life (SFL) showed that the current unemployment rate for veterans on the island is 19.9 percent (ages 19-34).  This was extremely concerning to the Congresswoman who would like to work with The American Legion, in order to reduce the unemployment rate.
 
On Wednesday, May 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Kate Tillotson, a Voc Rehab beneficiary to discuss problems she has witnessed while utilizing the voc rehab program. Kate’s experiences will inform congressional testimony prepared for a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee oversight hearing on Voc Rehab.
 
On Wednesday, May 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Cassie Vangellow, a lawyer who has compiled research on longitudinal trends of the Voc Rehab program. Cassie’s research will inform congressional testimony prepared for a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee oversight hearing on Voc Rehab.
 
On Wednesday, May 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the House Small Business Committee regarding veteran small business concerns in federal contracting and federal entrepreneurial programs.
 
On Thursday, May 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke to staff from Senator Tom Carper’s (DE) office on upcoming plans to introduce a joint resolution commemorating the anniversary of the GI Bill. The National Veterans Employment & Education Division has worked with the Media & Communication Division over plans to bring “The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Salute to the GI Bill” exhibit to DC for a reception commemorating passage of the resolution.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
After GI Bill victory, VSOs turn to reforming the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
 
Veterans service organizations banded together in Washington last summer to convince Congress that it was time to expand education benefits.  Now, on the tails of that victory, sealed into law as the Forever GI Bill, many of those same organizations are throwing their weight behind a new cause: changing the way servicemembers are prepared for life after the military.  “I believe it will be the next big thing,” said Ariel De Jesus Jr., Assistant Director of the Veterans Employment and Education Division at American Legion.  For months, the Legion and other VSOs have participated in roundtable discussions with government agencies and lawmakers, strategizing ways to reform the military’s Transition Assistance Program, or TAP.  “The whole thing behind it is getting these servicemembers ready for their next step in life or their next career after the military,” De Jesus said.
 
The issue has been gaining steam on Capitol Hill in recent months, with legislation to make TAP’s elective tracks mandatory or require servicemembers to start TAP earlier. On Friday, Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, introduced the House’s most comprehensive plan for TAP reform, combining many of the ideas from other bills, outside research and feedback from VSOs.  Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Arrington’s bipartisan bill — named The Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Bill” Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act of 2018, after a friend of the congressman who committed suicide — would make several changes to TAP. Among them, the legislation would require servicemembers to go through personalized pre-separation counseling one year before getting out of the military.  It would also restructure the five days of TAP to devote one day for service-specific training, another for employment preparation, two for the servicemember’s track of choice — either employment, higher education, career and technical training, or entrepreneurship — and the last for a briefing on Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. Additionally, service members would be required to start TAP at least 180 days before separating, a change from the 90-day requirement under current Defense Department policy. And servicemembers could choose to attend classes earlier in their military careers.
 
“Our government spends billions of dollars preparing citizens to be warriors, but invests only a fraction of that helping those soldiers transition to civilian life,” Arrington said in a statement to Military Times. “If we do a better job equipping our servicemen and women on the front end of their transition, we can reduce the number of veterans who struggle with unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of intervention.”
His bill also calls for a third-party review to examine the curriculum being used in TAP and its effectiveness.
 
Representatives from Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Military Order of the Purple Heart told Military Times that their organizations support the bill — and some said this will likely be the one to stick. De Jesus of American Legion said he had not yet read the bill and could not comment on it in particular.  “That bill is the bill moving forward, assuredly,” said Will Hubbard, SVA vice president of government affairs. “Largely, it’s the most representative bill. It’s the bill that incorporates all the feedback from across the board.”
 
The Defense Department did not comment on the proposed changes to TAP in Arrington’s bill by press time but has told Military Times previously that transition assistance is embedded into servicemembers’ military lifecycle.  “That means at key touch points throughout the military member’s career such as their first permanent duty station, when they get promoted or when they re-enlist or deploy, we give them a refresher on financial management and planning so they have the resources they need to manage those events successfully,” Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a DoD spokeswoman, said in an email last month. “Career preparation to leave the military has to start early-on without impacting their military mission and we work to make that transition as successful as possible.”
 
But some VSOs feel DoD isn’t doing enough to prepare their people for life after service, though it would be in the department’s best interest.  In order to keep the all-volunteer force going, “we can’t just be all looking like slobs when we get out,” said Patrick Murray, associate director of national legislative service at VFW. “If we don’t have people wanting to sign up anymore, we’re in trouble.”  DoD is trying to do a good job with TAP, Murray said, but ultimately, it’s just not their specialty.  “I find it difficult to believe that someone on active duty can set their service member up for a successful transition and a successful civilian life because they’ve never done it,” he said. He likes that Arrington’s bill does more to connect soon-to-be civilians with community organizations that specialize in helping veterans.
 
While TAP reform may just be making its way into the spotlight, several organizations have been working behind the scenes on the issue for much longer. For SVA, it’s been a few years; at The American Legion, transition assistance has been a priority since the very beginning of the 99-year-old organization, and while it’s not necessarily the No. 1 priority for VSOs — many of which are also focusing resources on tackling veterans’ healthcare issues — it’s “definitely a hot topic,” SVA’s Hubbard said. “We’ve been bringing it up in literally every conversation we have with everybody.” Even Vietnam Veterans of America, whose members would not be directly impacted by TAP changes, has rallied behind the issue, as it did the Forever GI Bill.
 
The organization’s “founding principle of ‘Never again will one generation abandon another’ is something that strikes deeply into the heart of Vietnam veterans, and it’s why they offer the full support of the organization to push forward much-needed reforms,” Kristofer Goldsmith, VVA assistant director for policy and government affairs, said in an email.  As the Forever GI Bill experience taught veterans service organizations, their voices are stronger together.  “After the GI Bill, everybody took a deep breath and all right, we have all these other things we need to work on,” Murray said. “It’s not mission accomplished, let’s all go home. It was wow, this is a great step. Let’s keep it going.”
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Fort Myers man helps homeless U.S. military veterans in Puerto Rico find jobs, homes.
As Puerto Rico continues recovering from Hurricane Maria, a Fort Myers native prepares to help U.S. military veterans on the island.  Ron Lillard, a 1987 North Fort Myers High School graduate and a U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq War, leaves Friday for Puerto Rico.  As the lead case manager at Tampa Crossroads in Tampa, Lillard helps find homeless veterans homes through an annual $1 million government grant in Hillsborough County. He also helps find them jobs.  Lillard is traveling to the U.S. Commonwealth on his own time and dime in order to spread the word about a $50,000 program run by the VA that will help military veterans in Puerto Rico relocate to the mainland United States.
 
Once these veterans relocate, they can be placed in their respective county’s program for additional assistance. In Hillsborough County, it’s called Tampa Crossroads; in Lee County, the program for veterans is run by Jewish Family Services.  “This is a program that operates in every county throughout the nation,” Lillard said. “The problem is getting the word out.”  In Tampa, Lillard often patrols city parks, looking for veterans living on park benches. Although he has lived in Tampa since 2013, his plea for help on Facebook resonated in his hometown.  Lillard’s GoFundMe.com/veterans-and-family-relocation page prompted dozens of friends from Lee County and elsewhere in Southwest Florida to donate money to his cause. Lillard, so far, has raised $2,520 of his $3,000 goal.  “I probably spent eight hours on Facebook reaching out to people,” Lillard said. “It makes me tear up to be honest. One lady is the landlord who I work with in Tampa. I’ve never met her face to face, and she gave me $600.”  One man, a former colleague who turned his life around with Lillard’s help in 2007, donated $1,000 to Lillard’s cause.  Micky Franklin, who coached Lillard in football years ago, donated $100.  “This really touched me,” Lillard said. “I’m willing to turn over every stone that I can to help veterans who are struggling.  It’s like finding veterans homes. I might go to 25 places to find a veteran a home. What’s their incentive to take somebody in? I have to turn over lots and lots of stones to get somebody in there.
 
Lillard, 46, said his experiences roughing it in the Army will come in handy in Puerto Rico. He plans on sleeping in a tent.  “We’re going to be staying wherever we can find a safe place,” Lillard said. “You can’t even get a hotel now.”  There are about 75,000 U.S. military veterans in Puerto Rico, according to USA Today. Many of them are homeless or living in shelters after Hurricane Maria.  “Our goal down there is to try and identify families who were impacted by hurricane,” Lillard said. “We want to notify families and get them off the street. The goal when we go down to Puerto Rico is to identify families who want to leave Puerto Rico.  “I’m doing this out of my own pocket. The more money I raise, the more things we can do.”  Lillard, a longtime youth and high school football coach, turned to his friend, Hector Avila, for advice and connections in Puerto Rico.  Avila, now the junior varsity football coach at South Fort Myers High, was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.  “It’s awesome what he’s doing,” Avila said of Lillard. “I hope he can grab a bunch of the veterans down there and get them up here or to Tampa and get them some place to live and get them some help.”
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
This week, the PenFed Foundation announced $1 million in initial funding for its newly launched Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program (VEIP). At the 14th Annual PenFed Foundation Night of Heroes Gala, Allied Solutions' CEO Pete Hilger and his wife Debbie pledged to donate $500,000 on behalf of Allied Solutions to the VEIP. PenFed Credit Union President and CEO James Schenck announced that PenFed will match Allied Solutions' donation with an additional $500,000. The donations will provide seed capital for veteran-owned business startups.
 
The Hilgers made their surprise announcement at the gala on May 2 where they received the Corporate Hero Award for their support of military servicemembers and their families through the PenFed Foundation. 
 
The VEIP marks a significant new area of focus for the PenFed Foundation. The program will: provide veteran-owned start-ups with seed capital to build and grow their businesses, create a robust network for veteran-owned businesses to succeed and enable the PenFed Foundation to perpetually re-invest returns in future veteran-owned businesses.
 
The VEIP will be funded by outside donors with PenFed Credit Union matching up to $1 million in contributions in 2018 to the PenFed Foundation in order to launch this program. The PenFed Foundation plans to invest in three to five selected businesses a year. Returns on all investments will go back into the VEIP to support future veteran-owned business ventures.
 
In addition to providing capital, the program leverages the power of PenFed and the PenFed Foundation's network of more than 1,700 business partners and its respective internal human capital to provide professional advice for strategic/business planning, HR and sales expertise, marketing opportunities and other support as needed. 
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
As part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the “Forever GI Bill (FGIB),” signed into law by President Trump last year has multiple provisions that will roll out in 2018. Section 107 of the law requires VA to calculate monthly housing payments based on the location of the campus where a student attends the majority of their classes. If you are a student Veteran, please keep in mind your campus’s zip code may affect your payment amount.
 
A “campus” may include internships, externships, training, practicums, etc. VA is working with your School Certifying Officials to implement this change and ensure you receive your monthly housing payment. Students can expect to see changes in their monthly housing allowance after August 1, 2018.
 
Changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill for Purple Heart recipients, reservists and dependents — all of which start in August.  Post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients will be eligible to receive 100 percent of GI Bill benefits regardless of how long they served. This includes coverage of tuition at a public school’s in-state rate for 36 months, and books and housing stipends.  There will also be scholarship funds available on a first-come, first-serve basis for GI Bill users who need a fifth year of school to complete science, technology, engineering or math programs.
If a dependent who received transferred benefits dies before using all of the benefits, the Forever GI Bill gives the servicemember or veteran the ability to transfer remaining benefits to another dependent. This provision will apply to all deaths since 2009.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  5/4/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 27 April 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Long-term U.S. mortgage rates continued to climb this week, reaching their highest level in more than four years and denting prospective home purchasers’ prospects amid the spring buying season. It was the third straight week of increases for long-term mortgage rates. On Thursday, April 26, Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages jumped to 4.58 percent from 4.47 percent last week. By contrast, the benchmark rate averaged 4.03 percent a year ago. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans rose to 4.02 percent from 3.94 percent last week. Spiking interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds, driven by rising commodity prices that boosted inflation expectations, helped lift long-term mortgage rates to their highest level since August 2013.
 
The interest paid by the government on its debt has been rising. The yield on the key 10-year Treasury note reached its highest level since January 2014 this week, blowing past 3 percent to 3.03 percent. In addition to influencing home borrowing costs, the 10-year rate also is tied to auto loans and other consumer credit, and the breach of the significant 3 percent level sent shock waves through financial markets. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 424 points, or 1.7 percent, on Tuesday to 24,024. It was down as much as 619 points earlier. The yield on the 10-year note fell back to 2.99 percent on Thursday. People shopping for homes are dealing with higher mortgage costs and fewer properties for sale. Rising rates could further erode inventories as existing homeowners renovate homes rather than put them up for sale to avoid a more expensive mortgage that would come with a new house. If higher loan rates lead to fewer homes on the market, it could push prices higher and further squeeze would-be homebuyers.
 
Despite the increase in mortgage rates, homebuyers have snapped up newly built houses as the economic outlook has continued to improve in recent months. Sales on new U.S. homes jumped 4 percent in March, propelled by a surge of buying in the West, the government reported Tuesday. Sales last month showed a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 694,000. For the first three months of 2018, sales ran 10.3 percent higher than a year earlier. Still, the solid sales growth for new homes also shows that many would-be buyers can’t find existing homes that are available to purchase. Listings for existing homes sank to the lowest levels on record for March, the National Association of Realtors reported on Monday.
 
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac survey lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. The fees on 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages were unchanged from last week at 0.5 point and 0.4 point, respectively. The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages jumped to 3.74 percent from 3.67 percent last week. The fee remained at 0.3 percent.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
160
166
126
158
35
8
Unemployment rate
5.0
5.0
4.6
5.5
7.9
1.7
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (March 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.0 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 1.7 percent (down from 5.2 percent in February).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, April 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with both the House and Senate Small Business Committees to discuss The American Legion’s priorities for veteran entrepreneurs in 2018.
 
On Monday, April 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Eunice Ikene, Labor Policy Advisor and Katherine Valle, Senior Education Policy Advisor for the Committee on Education and the Workforce (minority side), to discuss several issues pertaining to veterans’ education and employment. According to Eunice, the committee is reviewing ways to consolidate or end certain training programs that are determined to be redundant or ineffective; consequently, moving funds to proven programs. Ms. Valle discussed the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act and other programs such as apprenticeships or certifications.
 
On Tuesday, April 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with AARP to discuss their new veteran initiative and how the Legion could potentially be involved. AARP, Inc. (formerly American Association of Retired Persons) is a U.S.-based interest group that focuses on the elderly, especially on how they can continue to live well after retirement. In 2016, it had a membership of over 37 million people.
 
On Tuesday, April 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Community Solutions to discuss their efforts to combat veteran homelessness and upcoming Conference in Detroit. Community Solutions deploys the best problem-solving tools from multiple sectors to help communities end homelessness and the conditions that create it.
 
On Tuesday, April 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the American Freedom Fund to discuss possible Legion participation in future programs and events. The mission of the American Freedom Fund is to empower veterans through their educational, athletic and advocacy programs in Washington, DC and across the United States.
On Tuesday, April 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with James Todd, Program Manager, Marine for Life (M4L), to discuss the different opportunities for collaboration between The American Legion and M4L. Additionally, staff met with Deidra Johnson, Director, Career Resource Management Center, at MCB Quantico. Ms. Johnson is open to the idea of allowing The American Legion time to address transitioning servicemembers.
 
On Wednesday April 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Courtney Webb, Legislative Assistant, Representative Chris Smith’s (NJ) office to discuss veteran homelessness and other related issues.
 
On Wednesday, April 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a meeting with LifeFlip Media a veteran-owned full service Public Relations company who has done a lot of work to highlight the success of veteran entrepreneurs. We hope to enter into a media and content sharing agreement that is mutually beneficial.
 
On Wednesday, April 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Mika Cross, Office of Strategic Outreach, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), U.S. Department of Labor, regarding the displaying of The American Legion’s G.I. Bill exhibit.  Additionally, staff had a conference call with Cara Cooke, Program Manager, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation - Hiring Our Heroes, concerning an upcoming Seattle Mariners Hiring Expo on July 15th. An invite to the event was given.
 
On Thursday, April 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with George H. Laws Garcia, Deputy Director, Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, to discuss the report compiled by Soldier For Life (SFL) which identified some areas of concern. It was noted that 5 out of 18 American Job Centers (AJC’s) does not have veteran representation. This is a major issue because the unemployment rate for veterans ages 18-34 is at 19 percent and ages 18-64 is at 11.6 percent. Mr. Garcia also expressed concerns regarding the veteran cemetery and the Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) throughout the island.
 
On Friday, April 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had an interview with Natalie Gross, Military Times Reporter, to discuss Representative Jodey Arrington’s (TX) Transition Assistance Program (TAP) bill. The draft bill contains several changes to TAP, which includes but not limited to accountability, different pathways and criteria of which veterans should begin their transition counseling in preparation for transitioning out of the military “regardless of character of discharge.”
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday, April 25, defended the Trump administration’s plan to freeze all federal civilian employee pay in 2019 and more broadly reduce the frequency of step increases moving forward in favor of performance-based pay. In testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Mulvaney, who splits time between OMB and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the General Schedule pay scale is outdated and in need of reform. “The proposal is rooted in data that we had - from analysis of the way we paid federal workers, and it seemed to indicate that we over-pay at the lower levels and under-pay at the upper levels,” he said. “Keep in mind that the General Schedule system was created in 1949, and hasn’t really been dramatically overhauled since then.”
 
The White House’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal freezes all civilian federal employees’ pay in 2019 and in part replaces the across-the-board pay increase with a $1 billion interagency fund for cash bonuses and performance-based pay pilot programs. But while the Trump administration proposed that the money in the fund be appropriated in fiscal 2018, it was omitted from the omnibus spending package enacted last month. Mulvaney did not address the fact that Congress has not committed to providing money to reward high performers in lieu of step increases. But he argued it would be better than the current system at providing positive performance management incentives. “What the proposal would say is: Look, we’re going to freeze everybody, and then put a bunch of money in this pot to try and give us the flexibility necessary to reward the people who are really performing well,” he said. “Again, I hope we can all agree that with 2 million non-defense federal workers, some might be really good at their jobs and some might not be, yet we come very close to paying them the same.”
 
Representative Sanford Bishop (GA) pushed back on that idea, arguing that removing step increases could effectively reduce workers’ motivation to excel and dissuade people outside of government from joining the federal workforce. “It seems to me that what you do when you put the [pay] freeze there and remove step increases, you remove incentives to get people to work for the federal government who are highly skilled, who have hopes of a good career that will be remunerative to them,” he said. “It makes it less competitive with the private sector.” Mulvaney countered that poor performers already have no incentive to improve, in part because managers are hamstrung in the degree to which they can increase employees’ pay. “If you and I go to work at the Department of Commerce and we come in on the exact same day with the exact same background, and let’s say you do a great job and I do it, the tools available to our managers to differentiate between our pay are extremely limited," he said. "We’re trying to fix that, so that we do reward folks like you in that circumstance who do good work, and then make it easier to pay me less or get rid of me if I’m performing poorly.”
 
In a statement on Wednesday, National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon again decried the White House’s plan to freeze employees’ pay in 2019 and called on Congress to enact a 3 percent across the board raise for feds. “If the federal government is to have the ability to compete with the private sector in recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce, it is essential that the federal government provide its workers a pay increase,” he wrote. Mulvaney also gave an update on the status of various agencies’ reorganization plans, which have been under wraps as “predecisional” since departments first submitted them last summer. He said much of the focus of the plans, which he anticipates will be released in May, is on eliminating duplicative services. “I think we have 46 different federal workforce training programs across 16 different agencies, and that doesn’t make much sense,” Mulvaney said. “That probably opens the question as to whether or not there’s a duplication of services that could be more efficiently provided. We have data on some of them that actually work . . . but most don’t have that type of results-driven data. So we’ll try to redirect attention to programs that work, and then consolidate programs that don’t.”
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Vietnam War veteran Jim Chancellor and North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan are trying to tackle homelessness in Northwest Indiana - one veteran at a time. "Any hurdle they throw up, we can take down," said Chancellor, of the nonprofit, American Veterans Collection Inc. A modest red brick home in East Chicago, recently donated by the local housing authority, is the latest effort to provide wraparound services to Lake County veterans and their families, Mrvan said. Chancellor and other volunteers were onsite recently to tear out old plumbing and start rehabbing the rest of the home. Mrvan hopes to have a veteran - and his or her family - in the home by Memorial Day. "Ultimately, our goal is to have someone in the home and self-sufficient," Mrvan said.
 
Homelessness in Indiana has declined in recent years, thanks to the influx of transitional housing programs, but hundreds remain jobless or underemployed, in shelters or without a roof of their heads. Mrvan said he wants to address the root causes of veteran homelessness in Lake County by assisting whomever is selected to live at the Narva Place home with employment assistance, credit counseling, service-connected disability and mental health services for post-traumatic stress disorder, and financial or legal help. The single-family atmosphere would be unique from other veteran housing and shelters in Lake County because this allows veterans to remain with their families, he said. Over a family's 12-to-24 month stay, rent will be subsidized by the North Township Trustee's office on an income-based sliding scale. "Lake County's shelters are set up where men can go to one, and women and children go to another. So we don't really have a family shelter in all of Lake County," Mrvan said. "No one wants to see parents and children separated unnecessarily," he added. "That obviously puts emotional stress on the kids, who are going to school and have to perform well knowing dad is in a shelter or mom is somewhere else."
 
Last month, Chancellor and the North Township Trustee's office began work on the East Chicago housing project, thanks to a core group of volunteers and organizations donating time, money and tools. The home needs new drywall, doors, plumbing, electrical work, upstairs windows, and a fresh coat of paint, said Brett Birman, Wicker Memorial Park superintendent. It's being converted from a two-unit duplex rental into a three-bedroom single-family home with a backyard and patio deck. Once the home is occupied, Birman said Wicker Park will help maintain the building. "We cleaned it out. Went through two dumpsters of stuff. Our goal is to get the basement lower level done by the end of next week, and then we'll move upstairs," Birman said.
If it were not for volunteers, this rehab would cost upwards of $30,000, he said. Home Depot, which has pledged to donate $250 million to veteran-related causes by 2020, provided $9,000 grant to offset the cost of supplies, Chancellor said. "Without Home Depot's help, we couldn't have done this," he said. Tommy Pimentel, assistant store manager for Home Depot in Schererville, was on-site recently helping out at the East Chicago home. He said Home Depot is also carrying out various remodeling projects for individual veterans in Northwest Indiana as part of that pledge. "It's our way of giving back to veterans who served
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Lewis-McChord (WA), Palo Alto (CA), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, Scott AFB (IL), Shaw AFB (SC), Seattle, and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
For veterans that want to explore the entrepreneurial landscape, but aren’t sure where to turn to first for support or assistance, we’ve done the legwork on finding some of the best resources available that cover everything from mentorship to angel investments for making small business dreams a reality.
 
1. American Corporate Partners (ACP): A nonprofit organization, ACP’s mission is to ease the transition from the military to the civilian workforce. ACP offers a yearlong mentoring program where veterans are connected to hand-picked mentors that provide assistance with small business development, networking, and work-life balance strategies.
 
2. Boots to Business | Reboot: Veterans of all eras are eligible to enroll in this education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Unlike the ACP which helps ease the transition to civilian life, Boots to Business | Reboot picks up after the transition has been made. The curriculum takes entrepreneurs a step further with lessons provided on business concepts, drafting business plans, and accessing capital.
 
3. Bunker Labs: This not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization was built by veterans for veterans to empower them in the field of entrepreneurship. Each chapter across the United States provides veteran entrepreneurs with the resources and people necessary to grow and be successful in business.
 
4. Hivers and Strivers: Young veterans, especially those that recently graduated from the U.S. Military Academies, can always use a little extra capital boost for their startups. Enter the angel investment group Hivers and Strivers which provides early stage investments to support what is considered to be one of the underfunded groups in the country.
 
5. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): The ultimate go-to resource for starting and growing a business, the SBA also offers veteran support via funding programs, training, and federal contracting opportunities. One of their initiatives, the Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD), is entirely veteran-based with the Veterans Business Outreach Program overseeing Veterans Business Outreach Centers across America. At each of these outreach centers, eligible veterans will find training, mentorship, business plan workshops, and much more.
 
6. SCORE: This nonprofit goes the extra mile for veterans with their Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, a program that combines free software and services with SCORE’s mentoring program. This combination accelerates the ability of veterans and allows them to get a head start at success as small business owners.
 
7. StreetShares Foundation: With a mission to inspire, educate, and support veteran small business owners, StreetShares Foundation has created the Veteran Small Business Award for extraordinary business owners. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards are given to finalists that meet five criteria including business idea, use of award funds and potential impact, product-market fit, team and company history, and influence of the business on the military and veterans’ community.
 
8. V-WISE | Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship: An initiative from Syracuse University, V-WISE is women-specific for veterans looking to increase their business savvy and turn ideas into growing companies. The program comes in three phases including Phase I (a 15-day online course), Phase II (a 3-day entrepreneurship training event), and Phase III (ongoing mentorship, training, and support opportunities for graduates launching or growing their business).
 
9. VetBiz | Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization: One of the smartest things any veteran new to entrepreneurship can do is register to become a certified veteran-owned small business on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. Doing so allows you to be officially verified by the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization and listed in the VetBiz directory where you may be eligible for financing programs and government contracts.
 
10. VetFran: We wrap this section up with small business opportunities for veterans that come in franchise form. VetFran works to provide veterans and their spouses’ access to franchises with a tool kit that includes an assessment tool on the franchisee’s personality type, the basics of owning and operating a franchise, tips for shopping around for one, and many more valuable resources.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
When Kaanan Fugler transferred to a new college last year, she didn’t expect to rack up $6,000 in student loans for tuition costs she thought would be fully paid for. But when her education benefits from the VA weren’t paid to her new school before the semester started, the Army widow and mother of five said the university’s financial aid office told her she had to foot the bill - or risk being dropped from her courses. “We get penalized because it’s not set in stone that (schools) have to allow us to go to school while they wait for that money,” Fugler said in a recent interview. Some lawmakers want to change that. “It is not the fault of the veteran,” said Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL) speaking to fellow members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at a recent hearing on Capitol Hill. “They don’t need that extra stress.”
 
The congressman recently introduced a bill, dubbed the SIT-REP Act that would require schools to adopt a policy stating they will not deny access to classes or facilities, impose late fees, or make students pay out-of-pocket because of an unpaid balance - if a student has provided a certificate of eligibility for VA benefits. The legislation would apply to VA benefits paid directly to the school, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Fry Scholarship for surviving dependents, such as Fugler, who used the benefit before she remarried last fall. Barring a waiver from the VA secretary, schools that don’t adopt this policy would be ineligible to enroll students using such benefits.
 
The legislation, which Bilirakis called a “common sense” measure, has garnered the support of House representatives from both parties and veteran service organizations, including The American Legion, Student Veterans of America and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Though SIT-REP currently has no Senate companion, many view the legislation as an easy sell, as there are no associated costs. VA also supports protecting GI Bill users from late fees. “We agree with Congressman Bilirakis that veterans don’t need that kind of treatment, especially when they know the VA is going to pay,” said retired Maj. Gen. Robert Worley, VA director of education service. Payment deadlines differ by school, and many institutions don’t certify GI Bill payments until after the drop-add period - an approach the VA supports because it cuts down on the number of corrective payments the department would have to make if a student’s course load changes, Worley said. “But, (if) the school is going to then impose penalties and things like that on individuals, obviously that’s not a good thing,” he said. “Those are school policies. We don’t control the schools.”
 
VA education benefit claims are categorized as either original claims, requested by a student for the first time, or supplemental claims, which are for continuing benefit usage after the approval of an original claim. According to a VA spokesperson, the department processed more than 340,000 original claims and over 3 million supplemental claims for GI Bill benefits last year. The initial claims took an average of 25.76 days to process, and supplemental claims took an average of 9.38 days - both lower than the VA’s goals of 28 days for initial claims and 14 days for supplemental claims for fiscal 2018. It’s difficult to determine just how common it is for schools to penalize students whose VA payments don’t come in by their deadline. According to a recent Military Times survey of more than 600 colleges and universities, a large majority of respondents said they have policies for students whose VA or Defense Department education benefits are delayed, protecting these students for late fees or dropped classes for an unpaid balance.
 
Fugler said her daughter, also a Fry Scholarship recipient, was removed from classes she had already registered for when her benefits did not arrive until after the semester started. She had to start on an accelerated schedule in February after her balance was paid. The widow’s new husband, a disabled veteran, also had to take out student loans to cover the cost of his schooling before his GI Bill benefits were paid to his school, she said. Now the family is worried about the interest that will accrue on those loans before they can be repaid. “These benefits are supposed to be our guarantee to not have to deal with all the student loans and nonsense that goes along with them, yet every single person in my household has had to take out student loans while using these benefits,” Fugler said.
 
The SIT-REP legislation is awaiting approval from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, as well as the full House and Senate. As of Monday, a date for further committee action on the bill had not yet been set, according to a committee spokeswoman. But Bilirakis’ message to his colleagues at the hearing was urgent: “Let’s take care of this as soon as possible.”
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  4/27/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 20 APR 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The March employment numbers were a disappointment, but only relative to extremely optimistic expectations. The basic story of a robust United States job market remains very much intact — though with an important asterisk.  Sure, the United States added only 103,000 jobs in March, down from the blockbuster 326,000 in February. Yes, the unemployment rate was unchanged rather than declining further as forecasters had expected. Did the size of the labor force shrink by 158,000, partly reversing a sharp February rise? You bet it did.  But the weak job creation number surely reflects some reversion to the mean after that extraordinary February number. The United States has added an average of 202,000 jobs a month in the first three months of 2018, which probably reflects the true underlying trend better than either February or March in isolation.  Weather may be a factor — a mild February may have goosed that month’s numbers while a more dismal (or even just normal) March depressed the most recent reading.
 
The unemployment rate may not have fallen further, but 4.1 percent is a comfortably low level, and it may well be that future improvement in the job market will show up in the form of a rising labor force rather than shrinking unemployment. One plausible path for the job market would be for the jobless rate to stay roughly where it is while people who previously weren’t even looking for a job decide to seek work — and find it quickly.  And speaking of the labor force, the good news is that most of the extraordinary improvement in February was maintained. There was a gain of 806,000 Americans either working or looking for work in February; the March number gave back less than one-fifth of that.  Relatedly, the ratio of the adult population that was employed soared from 60.1 percent in January to 60.4 percent in February, then held that level in March.  So taken together, these numbers are fully consistent with the view that the United States labor market — and economy as a whole — are in sound shape, expanding steadily and putting more people to work despite an expansion nearing its nine-year anniversary.
 
With average hourly earnings rising only 2.7 percent over the last year, there is not much evidence of the kind of inflationary pressure that might make the Federal Reserve more inclined to tap on the brakes. There is nothing in the March job numbers that is likely to make the Fed rethink its direction one way or the other.  Which brings us to the asterisk.  This report wasn’t as bad as the headline numbers might suggest, but it does take a bit of the shine off the idea that the economy in 2018 is in some period of extraordinary growth. The soft numbers are evidence that the United States is not in some radically different economic position than it has been for the last several years.  Rather, there has been gradual improvement underway for many years that continues apace.
 
In a few weeks, the Commerce Department will release its first estimate of first-quarter growth in gross domestic product, and analysts are expecting it to be nothing special. Macroeconomic Advisers’ most recent tracking estimate was 1.5 percent growth; the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s “GDPNow” forecasting model has it at 2.3 percent. Either of those numbers would look more like the expansion Americans have grown to know these last nine years than some new economic world.  If job numbers like February’s had become the norm, it would have had major political implications, in making the tax law passed at the end of 2017 look like an economic boon and suggesting the United States economy was in a boom that could enable it to weather whatever damage a trade war might incur. The March numbers are a reminder that while the economy is sound, this is hardly some unprecedented run of economic greatness. If nothing else, the new numbers are a reminder that no one involved in America’s trade diplomacy should negotiate with a belief in the nation’s economic invincibility.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
160
166
126
158
35
8
Unemployment rate
5.0
5.0
4.6
5.5
7.9
1.7
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (March 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.0 percent.[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 1.7 percent (down from 5.2 percent in February).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, April 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Adam Cyr, Private and Public Engagement Specialist, Contractor Site Lead, DoD, Transition to Veterans Program Office.  We discussed their role with the DoD Office that handles everything around the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) in Puerto Rico, which mandates all servicemembers to attend before they separate from the military.  Also discussed was the upcoming Career Fair in Puerto Rico; Mr. Cyr would like to assist with the Career Fair in any way possible.
 
On Tuesday, April 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the VA’s Homeless Veterans Program Office to discuss their initiatives, objectives and new program director.
 
On Tuesday, April 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with First Command Financial to discuss employment opportunities for transitioning servicemembers and veterans within the company.
 
On Tuesday, April 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Linda Brooks-Rix, CEO of AVUE Technologies and Taskforce Leader for The American Legion’s Employment Innovation Taskforce.  We discussed the creation of a survey that will address the efficacy and efficiency for delivering “for life” support to veterans and transitioning servicemembers in the digital era.
 
On Wednesday, April 18, the Veterans Employment and Education Division met with the House and Senate Small Business Committees to discuss Legion priorities for 2018.
 
On Wednesday, April 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Amy Jones, Director for Education and Human Services Policy, Committee on Education & Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives.  We discussed the Providing Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, that a quality education for all learners, no matter their age or stage in life, is the tool that keeps the American Dream alive.
 
On Thursday, April 19, the Veterans Employment and Education Division attended the toast to our Troops Reception hosted by the Code of Support Foundation.
 
On Thursday, April 19, the Veterans Employment and Education Division was on a Senate Panel looking at how veterans benefit from career technical training programs.  The event was hosted by Senators Tim Kaine and Todd Young at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
 
On Friday, April 20, the Veterans Employment and Education Division had a meeting with Foresight CFO and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families to review the gap analysis of shortfalls in veteran small business programing and to discuss how we can work together to pilot a program to fill the gap.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
T-Mobile’s Biggest Hiring Commitment Ever
 
Veterans and military spouses face significant employment challenges. While overall veteran unemployment rates now hover around the national average, nearly 53% of U.S. military members experience some period of unemployment within 15 months after leaving the service, according to analysis by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Military spouses have an even harder time landing jobs and growing careers when they may need to pull up and move with a new military deployment. That’s partly why the unemployment rate for spouses of active-duty military is at least 4x the national average. And many military spouses who are employed have jobs that don’t match their higher skill, education or prior salary levels.
 
That’s why T-Mobile is pledging to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses in the next five years, expanding the Un-carrier’s prior 2016 commitment as part of the Joining Forces Initiative to hire 5,000 more of our nation’s veterans and their spouses by 2021.  “At T-Mobile, we don’t just see the uniform…we see the family behind the uniform,” said Legere. “I was shocked when I learned that over half of servicemembers experience some unemployment after leaving the military and active-duty spouses have a 4x higher unemployment rate than the national average. Our country can do better! So we’re stepping up with our biggest hiring commitment ever and a new partnership with FourBlock.”
 
T-Mobile is providing funding and support to expand the FourBlock Career Readiness Program to 20 total cities and launch online this fall, so that ALL members of the US military, veterans and their families anywhere on the globe can enroll for free.  FourBlock created the FourBlock Career Readiness Program in 2013, in partnership with Columbia University Center for Veteran Transition and Integration, to help military transition to civilian careers. To date, the program has delivered impressive results, helping more than a thousand alumni land fulfilling, long-term careers. 94% of alumni feel FourBlock improved their transition from military to corporate life. 80% say they were inspired to pursue more challenging careers, and 87% say FourBlock opened up new career paths.
 
“Thanks to T-Mobile, we are drastically scaling our resident Career Readiness Program and bringing it online to reach a nearly infinite number of transitioning veterans,” said Lauren Schulz, executive director of FourBlock. “Veterans develop valuable skills during their service and our curriculum teaches them how to market their talents towards civilian careers.”
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
What Can Be Done to Prevent Veteran Homelessness
 
Currently, up to 80 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These veterans require and deserve housing first or service delivery in order to return to civilian-life and become self-sufficient.  An insufficient number of obtainable housing options for veterans, in addition to other common issues many veterans face -- such as difficulty renting due to lack of rental history, difficulties finding employment or having poor credit -- leaves many veterans at high risk of becoming homeless.  To solve this issue, there must also be a new set of services designed for the growing number of veterans who are discharged every day for whom homelessness can be prevented.  Despite the great strides made to fund homeless programs to incentivize counties as well as cities and developers to build affordable housing, the number of homeless veterans continues to grow.  The number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles, the city with the highest number of homeless veterans, grew from 44,359 in 2015 to 57,794 in 2017.
 
This begs us to ask: What can be done to prevent veteran homelessness? To solve this national problem, an action plan is needed that, firstly, distinguishes chronic and situationally homeless veterans; secondly, requires service providers to investigate whether their programs work by conducting outcome research; and finally, increases funds for affordable housing and offers services that promote self-sufficiency and economic growth.
 
STRATEGY 1: DISTINGUISH BETWEEN CHRONIC AND SITUATIONAL HOMELESSNESS
 
Chronic homelessness occurs when an individual is living on the street for a long period of time with few or no resources at their disposal to modify their situation. Often, these people won't have the ability to modify their situation without the support of others.  It is very rare that someone will be homeless all of his or her life on a voluntary basis. Situational homelessness is used to describe when someone is forced into homelessness because of uncontrollable circumstances such as losing a job, suffering from important material loss or the loss of a main breadwinner.  According to USC's Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families, at least 40 percent of veterans separating from the service leave the military without identifying permanent housing.  This means that at a critical transition point in their lives, when many veterans are struggling to acclimate to a new everyday lifestyle that is vastly different from their days in the military, they are also juggling living in substandard housing conditions -- whether it be couch surfing, entire families living in one bedroom or sleeping in cars. Looking at it from a different angle, the Affairs observed that "about half of the new episodes of [veteran] homelessness occurred three years after discharge from active duty. This suggests a window of opportunity for preventing veterans from becoming homeless after discharge."  These veterans are situationally homeless, and not chronically homeless, and thus need a different set of services.  By finding out who and where these veterans are, we can take the veterans capable of independent living, higher education, a career, socioeconomic growth and a mortgage, and move them up and out of the cycle of homelessness.  By separating this group and giving them relevant services, traditional homeless services can be earmarked for the population that benefits most.
 
STRATEGY 2. REQUIRE SERVICE PROVIDERS TO PRODUCE MEANINGFUL OUTCOMES
 
Without requiring service providers to research and prove the efficacy of their own programs, veterans served by these providers can fall back into homelessness.  In this scenario, the service provider's resources will be spent providing ineffective or inefficient care to the same veterans, producing chronic homelessness through a lack of assistance or simply creating a revolving door for chronic homelessness. Efforts are needed to recognize clear outcomes that demonstrate housing and services that help all groups access life-enhancing, wellbeing-focused interventions that serve their distinct needs.  This includes serving the chronically homeless in a manner that provides health care, nutrition and services that best address their long-term safety and honors their veteran independence.
 
STRATEGY 3. GROW FUNDS FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND SERVICES
 
Affordable housing should be provided in supportive environments that encourage community reintegration and growth.  By using non-profit building models paired with wraparound services, creating affordable housing options for veterans is achievable by providing homeownership in an affordable manner.  With low- or zero-interest mortgages, veterans can begin to stabilize and earn equity. Affordable homeownership programs with self-sufficiency training also protect veterans from rising housing costs while teaching them the imperative life skills to maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as financial literacy, health and nutrition, how to navigate benefits systems, trauma care, child development and more.  This ensures veterans can leverage their education and community support to have a bright future. If we implement the non-profit building models, we can produce affordable housing to veterans in a supportive neighborhood of peers with bountiful opportunities and prevent veteran homelessness.  By implementing these three strategies, I believe that homeless prevention funds will be used more efficiently and in ways that have long-term, multi-generational effects on our nation's heroes.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Atlantic City, Boston, Dayton (OH), Elgin AFB (FL), Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Leonard Wood (MO), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lexington Park (MD), Naval Air Station Jacksonville (FL), Naval Air Station Pensacola (FL), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, Scott AFB (IL), and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS  
The StreetShares Foundation and Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream program announced the Military Entrepreneur Challenge. The challenge allows military veteran entrepreneurs to compete for public votes in order to have their branch declared the military branch with the best entrepreneurs.
 
Applications from military veteran entrepreneurs were accepted through April 7th. The best applications are selected to represent their branch of service: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.  The public now has the opportunity to vote for the branch they believe have the best military veteran entrepreneurs. Voting is open until April 30th at http://go.streetshares.com/streetshares-foundation-veteran-small-business-award-vote-form.
 
Entrepreneurs from the top two branches will move forward in the competition, competing individually for votes. The three entrepreneurs with the highest vote count will receive capital to grow their small business. The StreetShares Foundation and Brewing the American Dream will award a total of $25,000 to these three veteran entrepreneurs. The finalists have submitted their video pitches, now it is up to the public to decide which military branch has the best entrepreneurs.
 
 
For more information, please visit http://www.brewingtheamericandream.com.
.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act as passed by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will help more Americans earn a lifetime of success by:
• Promoting innovation, access, and completion;
• Simplifying and improving student aid;
• Empowering students and families to make informed decisions; and
• Ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role.
 
Promoting Innovation, Access, and Completion
• Strengthens Workforce Development: The bill expands opportunities for students to participate in industry-led earn-and-learn programs that lead to high-wage, high-skill, and high demand careers by supporting partnerships between industry and institutions to develop these programs. It also allows students to use Pell Grants for shorter-term programs that will assist them in entering the workforce more quickly. Additionally, the legislation focuses additional resources on the Federal Work-Study program, while eliminating the arbitrary cap that prevents more than 25 percent of an institution’s Work-Study funding from flowing to students working at private-sector companies. The bill also allows institutions to use more resources to locate and develop work-based learning jobs, including apprenticeships, for students that align with the students’ career goals. The bill allows institutions to use institutional aid to develop and implement career-specific programs. It also requires accrediting agencies to have at least one representative from the business community on the agency’s board.
 
• Encourages Innovative Learning: The bill repeals the outdated and rigid definition of distance education, making it possible for institutions to develop more innovative methods of delivering postsecondary education. It also encourages competency-based education by creating a clear pathway for such programs to be eligible for federal student aid to help students attain a less costly degree based on their own learning schedule. The bill also allows new providers of higher education to collaborate with traditional colleges and universities to offer educational programs to student that are eligible for student aid.
 
• Emphasizes Access and Completion: The bill encourages Pell-eligible students to complete on time and with less debt by offering a $300 Pell Grant bonus to students who take 15 credits per semester in an award year. The legislation also reforms the TRIO programs to more easily allow first-time applicants the opportunity to compete for a grant, increasing access to the programs for more students by requiring a 20 percent non-federal match, and encouraging evidence based programs focused on increasing college access and completion by setting aside at least 10 percent of grant funds for this purpose.
 
Simplifying and Improving Student Aid
• Further Simplifies the FAFSA: The bill aligns the maximum income threshold required to qualify for the simplified version of FAFSA, known as the simplified needs test, with the simplified tax forms so more middle class families will be able to easily and quickly complete the form. The bill also ensures students are allowed to continue to apply for federal student aid with income data from two years prior to the date of application. It also makes the FAFSA available on a mobile app and requires both the app and the online form to be consumer-tested so it is clear and easy to use.
 
• Streamlines Student Aid: The bill streamlines student aid programs into one grant program, one loan program, and one work-study program to ease confusion for students who are deciding the best options available to responsibly pay for their college education.
 
  • One Grant: The bill reauthorizes the Pell Grant program through fiscal year 2024 and requires institutions to disburse the grants to students on a weekly or monthly basis, similar to a paycheck. It also directs the Secretary to annually provide an individualized Pell Grant status report to each grant recipient so students are aware of how much of the grant they have used and how much is left. Further, the bill includes a provision to prevent fraud in the Pell Grant program by prohibiting students who have received a grant for three award years but did not earn any academic credit from receiving additional Pell Grants. The bill also provides the Secretary additional discretion to stop payments to students with unusual enrollment histories.
  • One Loan: The bill streamlines the six loans currently available into the new Federal ONE Loan Program with one unsubsidized loan per category of borrower: an undergraduate loan, a graduate loan, and a parent loan. The program offers reasonable annual and aggregate limits on undergraduate, graduate, and parent borrowing and allows financial aid administrators to develop lower loan limits for certain categories of borrowers to ensure responsible lending. Like the reform in the Pell Grant program, institutions are required to disburse loans to students on a weekly or monthly basis, similar to a paycheck. The bill eliminates the origination fees borrowers are currently charged for each loan disbursed and maintains the market-driven interest rates set in current law.  
  • One Work-Study: The bill reforms the outdated Federal Work-Study program allocation formula by equitably distributing work-study dollars based on Pell Grant dollars and undergraduate student need. It creates a new set aside of up to $150 million for institutions that have strong Pell Grant recipient completion rates or have significant improvement of the rate from the preceding fiscal year. The bill also focuses the limited funding in this program for students pursuing an undergraduate degree.
 
Simplifies Repayment: The bill pares down the maze of loan repayment options to one standard 10-year repayment plan and one income-based repayment (IBR) plan. Borrowers in the IBR plan are required to repay only the principal and interest they would have paid under a standard 10- year plan, as calculated when they entered repayment.
 
Empowering Students and Families to Make Informed Decisions
 
Improves Early Awareness: The bill requires the Secretary, in consultation with states, institutions of higher education, secondary schools, and college access programs, to notify secondary school students no later than the students’ sophomore year of the availability of federal financial aid and the difference between federal grants and loans. It also encourages states, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders to share best practices on disseminating information about financial assistance to these students. Additionally, the bill directs the Secretary to maintain a consumer-tested early estimator tool, available online and through a mobile app, which will give students and parents an estimate of a student’s potential federal aid eligibility.
 
• Increases Transparency: The bill requires the Secretary to create a consumer-tested College Dashboard that displays key information about colleges and universities, including enrollment, completion, cost, and financial aid. The Dashboard will include aggregated information on the average debt of borrowers at graduation and the average salary of students who received federal financial aid both five and 10 years after graduation for each program at an institution of higher education that participates in a student aid program under Title IV. The Secretary is also required to provide students a link to the College Dashboard page of each institution listed on the student’s FAFSA to make sure students know this information is available.
 
• Enhances Financial Aid Counseling: The bill requires all recipients of federal student aid to undergo enhanced financial aid counseling, including, for the first time, Pell Grant recipients and parent borrowers. The bill requires loan counseling to be tailored to a borrower’s individual situation as well as improves the timing and frequency by requiring annual loan counseling before an individual signs on the dotted line so the borrower, both students and parents, have the most up-to-date information. Exit counseling is bolstered to include information on the borrower’s outstanding loan balance and anticipated monthly payments and contact information for the borrower’s loan servicer. Annual Pell Grant counseling is also required for all Pell recipients.
 
Ensuring Strong Accountability and a Limited Federal Role
• Strengthens Accountability through Accreditation: To streamline federal requirements placed on accreditors and focus accreditors on reviewing student outcomes, the bill replaces the current 10 statutory accreditation standards with a requirement that accreditors have standards that assess the institution’s success in relation to the institution’s mission with respect to student learning and educational outcomes. The bill also increases institutional accountability, without involvement by the Secretary, by requiring accreditors to have a system in place where they annually identify institutions or programs accredited by the agency that may be experiencing difficulties accomplishing their missions with respect to their established student learning and educational outcome goals.
 
• Increases Institutional Risk-Sharing: The bill reforms the return to Title IV process to reduce burden and increase institutional risk-sharing tied to student completion. To push institutions to focus on student completion and require institutions to share in the risk of non-completion, the burden of repaying unearned aid when a student withdraws from an institution is shifted on to the institution. Further, the bill creates a program-level loan repayment rate tied to program eligibility that replaces the institutional-level cohort default rate which will target federal student aid to only those programs where graduates have the ability to repay their student loans.
 
• Eliminates burdensome federal regulations and unnecessary reporting requirements: The bill eliminates burdensome federal regulations that put Washington in the middle of issues that are the responsibility of institutions or states, limit student choice, and stifle innovative practices by institutions. The bill also repeals or streamlines reporting requirements that fail to provide useful information to students, families, and policymakers, and exacerbate rising college costs.
 
• Reduces the Secretary’s Authority: The bill places strong prohibitions on the Secretary by explicitly prohibiting her from exceeding her authority, defining any terms inconsistent with the Higher Education Act, or adding any requirements on institutions and states that are not explicitly authorized in the law.
 
• Repeals Unfunded Programs. The bill repeals all unfunded programs ensuring congressional priorities are maintained in the future.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  4/20/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 13 April 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Mortgage rates have settled in, undeterred by conflicting economic data, global political and economic concerns, and recent Federal Reserve signals. According to the latest data released Thursday, April 12, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average ticked up to 4.42 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 4.40 percent a week ago and 4.08 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average remained the same as it was a week ago, holding steady at 3.87 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.34 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable-rate average slipped to 3.61 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.62 percent a week ago and 3.18 percent a year ago.
 
After steadily rising the first part of the year, the 30-year fixed rate has been stuck in a narrow band between 4.40 percent and 4.46 percent the past two months. The 15-year fixed and five-year ARM have also barely budged. Experts have been surprised by their stubbornness. Mortgage rates have been flat over the past seven days despite escalating trade tensions between the United States and China, a mixed March employment record, and comments from several Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) members hinting at a slower path of interest rate hikes. Given the scale of geopolitical risk and equity market volatility, it is surprising that mortgage rates were so steady, and suggests that long-term lending markets are – at least for the moment – writing off the headline as transitory. Markets are keeping an eye on inflation and federal spending data this week, as well as several speeches by key FOMC officials early next week.
 
Beyond the standard economic calendar, rates could rise if trade tensions escalate or if military action in the Middle East looks likely. Leadership changes in Congress could also point to slightly tighter fiscal policy which would ease recent upward pressure on rates. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that an overwhelming majority of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Treasury yields and mortgage rates seem to be running into resistance, as they are at the lower end of the range they have been in for the last couple months. It’s going to take some kind of shock, like heightened concerns in Syria or a trade war escalation, for them to rally or drop from their current levels. But there is also some concern that economic momentum is slowing down a bit, so I don’t see rates rising either. I suspect that rates will be level in the coming week.
 
Meanwhile, mortgage applications declined again last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 1.9 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 2 percent, while the purchase index also dropped 2 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 38.4 percent of all applications. Application volume was weak coming out of the Easter holiday, particularly for conventional purchase volume, which fell below last year’s level at this time. With mortgage rates little changed, the refinance share fell again to its lowest level in a decade.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
160
166
126
158
35
8
Unemployment rate
5.0
5.0
4.6
5.5
7.9
1.7
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (March 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.0 percent[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 1.7 percent (down from 5.2 percent in February).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, April 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the American Freedom Fund to continue discussions of partnering in events that are focused on engaging younger veterans and content sharing. American Freedom Fund’s mission is to empower veterans through their athletic, educational and advocacy programs in Washington, DC and across the country.
 
On Monday, April 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Hakeem Basheerud-Deen, Director of Veterans Services and Employment, Office of Personnel Management (OPM). We discussed an issue with the way OPM rates veterans’ preference and some of the agencies with Excepted Service work with openings and Veteran's Special Hiring Authority.
 
On Monday, April 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Soldier for Life (SFL) to discuss quarterly updates and initiatives. An official invitation was sent to SFL to participate in the May 9th Credentialing Transparency Roundtable. We were briefed on SFL’s work to scale the Army credentialing program to mirror Army Tuition Assistance, with a projected launch date of September. Further discussions were scheduled to plan for a SFL Facebook live event to be held at Legion Headquarters for them to promote the work that the Legion does.
 
On Tuesday, April 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with First Data Corp to discuss continued partnerships regarding veteran small business and employment programs. First Data is a global leader in commerce-enabling technology headquartered in Atlanta that helps simplify commerce for consumers, merchants, financial institutions, governments and employers in more than 100 countries around the world.
 
On Tuesday, April 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Code of Support Foundation to discuss the launch of their PATRIOTlink resource portal for service providers and media/outreach strategy. Also, we discussed how the Legion could potentially assist in their endeavors. The Code of Support Foundation provides essential and critical one-on-one assistance to struggling servicemembers, veterans and their families with the most complex needs.
 
On Tuesday, April 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with LTC. Ramit Ring from Soldier For Life (SFL) to discuss the opportunities for SFL to take a more active role with The American Legion activities -- in particular with Puerto Rico and our Career Fair and other employment related events. LTC. Darwin Brown from SFL is checking to see if he can attend the Career Fair during the Department of Puerto Rico’s state convention on June 29th.
 
On Tuesday, April 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 5th Annual Veterans and Military Families Resource Fair. James Marchinke, Commander, Department of Maryland, kicked off the event with his opening remarks. Our division met with several organizations and companies with hiring initiatives as well as nonprofit organizations that provide emergency services and relief to veterans.
 
On Tuesday, April 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) Majority staff to discuss Senate priorities and opinions on proposed House legislation. Specifically the concept of a 4th administration within VA was discussed, with staff expressing a willingness to consider but a necessity for a Senate member to champion the legislation.
 
On Tuesday, April 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Representative Chris Smith’s (NJ) staff to discuss homeless veterans’ issues and our agenda in assisting homeless veterans and their families. Representative Smith’s staff requested a follow-up meeting to discuss further issues and solutions for homelessness within New Jersey.
 
On Wednesday, April 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Armed Services Member Day on Capitol Hill. The program and reception highlighted the achievements veteran Members of Congress have accomplished.
 
On Wednesday, April 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a reception hosted by The American Legion, VFW and DAV, to honor the good works of departing VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. The former Secretary accomplished many things in his short time in office, while standing against efforts to privatize VAMCs.
 
On Wednesday, April 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a meeting with Foresight CFO and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University to review the gap analysis of shortfalls in veteran small business programing and to discuss how we can work together to pilot a program to fill the gap.
 
On Wednesday, April 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Student Veterans of America (SVA) staff to discuss shared goals and objectives. Strategies for the 4th administration were discussed, as well as plans to introduce a joint Senate resolution to create a “GI Bill Commencement Day” on June 22nd.
 
On Wednesday, April 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with staff from Senator Tom Carper’s (DE) office to discuss plans for a “GI Bill Commencement Day” resolution. The objective is to pass a resolution no later than early June, in time for its June 22nd commemoration – the date that the first GI Bill was signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1944.
 
On Wednesday, April 11 – Thursday, April 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the VA’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans meetings. The discussion centers on VA’s homeless programs and the progress and challenges that remain in eliminating veteran homelessness all across America.
 
On Thursday, April 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with senior staff from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs to discuss the CFPB’s payday lending rule, which Congress is considering eliminating through the Congressional Review Act. While the rule does not directly affect the Military Lending Act (MLA), it was drafted to bolster MLA protections, and is seen as a critical protection for veterans and National Guard and Reservists, who are not covered by MLA.
 
On Thursday, April 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting with Veterans Education Success staff to discuss developments in VA education services concerning implementation of Public Law 115-48 Section 107, CALCULATION OF MONTHLY HOUSING STIPEND UNDER POST-9/11 EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM BASED ON LOCATION OF CAMPUS WHERE CLASSES ARE ATTENDED. Numerous concerns were raised by schools about the definition of campus, and how the VA can update internal systems to calibrate to more locations without delaying payments.
 
On Friday, April 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a closed-holds briefing with the Chief for Department of Defense Voluntary Education, OASD Readiness on implementation of the DOD Tuition Assistance institutional compliance program (ICP). The ICP was contracted out to Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2016, and began rolling out in January 2018. The initial cohort had nearly a 100 percent fail rate amongst participating schools, suggesting that drastic changes need to be made to ICP’s algorithms.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Advocates (to include The American Legion) are pushing for a new senior administrator focused on economic opportunity at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), arguing the current bureaucratic setup doesn’t do enough to highlight those critical transition and employment issues. The new office - the Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration - would be headed by an Under Secretary reporting directly to the VA Secretary. The new division would oversee issues such as housing loans, education assistance and employment programs. These issues are core to VA’s mission, but are currently buried within the larger Veterans Benefits Administration instead of being highlighted on their own. VA currently has three Under Secretaries who report directly to the department’s top official: one in charge of benefits, one in charge of health issues, and one in charge of cemetery and memorial issues.
 
The Health Under Secretary post has been filled by acting officials since David Shulkin left the job to assume the VA Secretary position. The benefits Under Secretary has been open even longer, for nearly 29 months. In December, VA Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity Curt Coy retired from that job after more than six years overseeing those issues. The new proposal would lift his old post to a fourth major priority for VA, while capping the staffing at the agency to near current levels. This move would keep costs of the change minimal while still elevating the programs and issues to a higher profile. This is about flattening the bureaucracy and cutting red tape.
 
In a report released this morning, Rebecca Burgess - head of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship said the move to create a new undersecretary position would fit well with recent White House initiatives to work on improving veterans’ transitions and mental health care. “By placing only these programs under the purview of a designated senior-level leader, VA would officially recognize and provide accountability for the legitimate role that economic opportunity plays in the whole-health model commitment of care it has made to veterans,” she stated. “While mental health resources for veterans are essential, they represent only one element of a whole-health model of care … Naturally clustered around education benefits, economic opportunity programs signal post-service personal growth and economic and social wellness.” Lawmakers have been open to the idea so far – hopefully the new focused push on this issue will gain even more support.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
The Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) announced April 6th the availability of approximately $12 million in Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program (HVRP) grants to provide veterans with training to help them successfully transition from homelessness to sustainable housing and good civilian jobs. HVRP grants are given to eligible organizations that can provide homeless veterans with occupational, classroom, and on-the-job training; job search and placement assistance; and follow-up services. Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, tribal governments, and faith-based and community organizations.
 
Additionally, Vallejo, Vacaville, Solano County and the City of Napa are among a slew of California entities getting thousands of dollars in veteran's housing vouchers from the federal government, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials announced on April 10th. The Vallejo Housing Authority is getting 15 vouchers worth $132,309, while the Vacaville Housing Authority will receive 10 vouchers worth $84,123 and 15 vouchers worth $115,566 are earmarked for the Solano County Housing Authority, according to the announcement. The Housing Authority of the City of Napa will get five vouchers worth $39,396, it says. A total of 2,198 vouchers worth about $23.2 million, are coming to California, the announcement says.
"Rental assistance is good news," Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan said. "The 40 vouchers we're getting county-wide is great. It adds to what we have. Any additional assistance paid by the federal government is appreciated." The issue of homelessness among veterans is a concern locally, she said. "We know that a large percentage of our homeless population is veterans, and if we can get them into stable housing situations, that's how we're going to end the homelessness crisis," Hannigan said. The awards are part of the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which combines HUD rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Atlantic City, Boston, Dayton (OH), Elgin AFB (FL), Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Leonard Wood (MO), Hurlburt Field (FL), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lexington Park (MD), Naval Air Station Jacksonville (FL), Naval Air Station Pensacola (FL), Peterson AFB (CO), San Antonio, Scott AFB (IL), and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS  
The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and resource partner referrals to transitioning servicemembers, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has 20 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as VBOCs.  Listed below are VBOCs services to assist veteran entrepreneurs.
 
Pre-Business Plan Workshops
VBOCs conduct entrepreneurial development workshops dealing specifically with the major issues of self-employment. An important segment of these workshops entails the usage of the Internet as a tool for developing and expanding businesses. Each client is afforded the opportunity to work directly with a business counselor.
 
Concept Assessments
VBOCs assist clients in assessing their entrepreneurial needs and requirements.
 
Business Plan Preparations
VBOCs assist clients in developing and maintaining a five-year business plan. The business plan includes such elements as the legal form of the business, equipment requirements and cost, organizational structure, a strategic plan, market analysis, and a financial plan. Financial plans include financial projections, budget projections, and funding requirements.
 
Comprehensive Feasibility Analysis
VBOCs provide assistance in identifying and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the business plan to increase the probability of success. The results of the analysis are utilized to revise the strategic planning portion of the business plan.
 
Entrepreneurial Training and Counseling
VBOCs, working with other SBA resource partners, target entrepreneurial training projects and counseling sessions tailored specifically to address the needs and concerns of the service-disabled veteran entrepreneur.
 
Mentorship
VBOCs conduct, as appropriate, on-site visits with clients to ensure adherence to their business plans. Additionally, VBOCs review monthly financial statements to determine whether a revision of the business plan is warranted or that desired results are being attained.
 
Other Business Developmental Related Services
VBOCs also provide assistance and training in such areas as international trade, franchising, Internet marketing, accounting, and more.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
A coalition of more than 25 organizations representing more than 5.5 million active and former members of the U.S. military just told Congress it opposes legislation backed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that would allow military families to use public money for private-school vouchers. The Military Coalition sent a letter (see text below) to House leaders saying that H.R. 5199, called the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act, would divert critical revenue that goes to school districts. The letter said it would be “financially devastating for many school districts, critically compromising the quality of the education they could provide to military children and their civilian classmates.”
 
DeVos has been advocating for military school vouchers, including during a visit in April 2017 to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. She has long been a proponent of alternatives to traditional public schools, and has said her chief priority as education secretary is to expand them. Critics say public money should not be used for private and religious school tuition, as DeVos advocates, and that she is seeking to privatize public education. She denies it.
 
There are nearly 600,000 school-age military children, and more than 80 percent attend public schools in their local communities. More than 72,000 students attend 166 public Defense Department schools in 11 foreign countries, seven U.S. states, Guam and Puerto Rico, according to the Department of Defense Education Activity, an agency that runs pre-K through 12th-grade educational programs for stationed military families. The legislation at issue would divert what is known as Impact Aid, which is a revenue source for many schools serving military families. The aid helps districts offset property tax revenue that is lost because of nontaxable federal land, such as a military base. Impact Aid is already funded at less than 60 percent of what it should be to cover district needs as set in the law.
 
DeVos has faced resistance to her push for vouchers for military families, including during her Fort Bragg visit and now by the Military Coalition. The coalition includes groups such as the Air Force Association, the Association of the United States Army, the Association of the United States Navy, the Military Officers Association of America and the National Military Family Association.
 
In a letter to House leaders, the coalition said:
 
Additionally, we note that relatively few military families would be eligible for an ESA [Education Savings Accounts] under the legislation — and among those that would be eligible, the majority would receive ESA’s of only $2,500. No children of service members in the National Guard or Reserves would be eligible. It is counterproductive to defund Impact Aid, a successful program that has long enjoyed bipartisan support, in order to provide a benefit of questionable value to a minority of military students.
 
The letter was sent to Representative Virginia Foxx (NC), chair of the House Education Committee; Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, the leading Democrat on the House Education Committee; Representative Mac Thornberry (TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and Representative Adam Smith of Washington State, the leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
 
Our division is analyzing the bill, and initial indications suggest that the topic is more complex than what the Military Coalition indicates. In bases located in economically depressed areas, active-duty children are required to attend sometimes failing institutions due to the lack of choice. This legislation would ostensibly empower military families to choose better schools, but the question remains as to how ubiquitous the problem of public school education is for active-duty children.
 
Furthermore, opposition to this bill is centered on an age-old theme: opposition to privatization of public services with clear parallels to the VA. Unlike other areas though that remain divided on partisan lines, the question of school choice over the past 20 years has thrown both sides in a blender. Areas as liberal as New York City have adapted school choice provisions, while many staunchly conservative districts have excellent public school systems with no need for choice. In summary, the needs for school choice are based on the operating environment.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  4/13/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 6 April 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs in March, maintaining a steady track of growth, but wages barely budged, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, April 6. The jobless rate stayed at 4.1 percent, while average hourly pay grew just 2.7 percent from March 2017. These numbers reflect a healthy long-term trend – companies have hired an average of 200,000 workers each month this year – but flat wages may be of concern as the country hits 90 straight months of employment gains. In previous expansions, wages were growing by 4 percent annualized. America is in pay cut territory right now.
 
Still, analysts say jobseekers – the unemployed, the underpaid, those who desire a change – are in great shape. There is now a position open for every unemployed person in the country, and the share of the labor force – Americans who are working or job hunting – has crept up this year, too. That’s good news to economists, who want to see the labor force participation rate return to pre-recession levels of about 66 percent. It stood at 62.9 percent in March, slightly higher than January’s 62.7 percent. The economy isn’t likely to keep churning out 300,000-plus jobs each month as the labor market keeps tightening. For the last six months, the jobless rate has stayed at 4.1 percent, a 17-year low.
 
But some companies have expressed concern about rising trade tensions. President Trump announced last month that he planned to slap tariffs on $50 billion in imported Chinese goods, prompting the Asian giant to respond Wednesday with levies on U.S. soybeans, pork and cars, among other products. On Thursday, Trump ordered his chief trade negotiator to consider imposing tariffs on an additional $100 billion of Chinese products. Two employer surveys released this week by the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group in Arizona, found uncertainty around trade is already rattling businesses. Respondents in the construction industry told the ISM that “accurate, long-term planning has become incredibly difficult, as distributors that historically held costs for at least 30 days are now, in some cases, committing to only seven days, as prices can change drastically in that time.”
 
Manufacturers, meanwhile, reported that the tariffs Trump imposed last month on steel and aluminum imports have raised prices, caused “panic buying” and led to “inventory shortage.” Manufacturing maintained its hiring streak in March, adding 22,000 jobs, with the bulk coming from the making of durable goods, such as washers, dryers and cars (the sector overall has grown by 232,000 positions over the past year). Healthcare jobs, meanwhile, increased by 22,000, keeping pace with its monthly growth average, while mining expanded by 9,000 positions. Construction, however, lost 15,000 jobs – a seasonal dip, thanks to the unusually cold weather, analysts said. Worries about tariffs haven’t dampened the need for workers, but it could be keeping pay down. Uncertainty is delaying some investment.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
MAR
2017
MAR
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
160
166
126
158
35
8
Unemployment rate
5.0
5.0
4.6
5.5
7.9
1.7
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (March 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.0 percent[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 1.7 percent (down from 5.2 percent in February).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, April 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with First Data Corp to discuss continued partnerships regarding veteran small business and employment programs.
 
On Tuesday, April 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Tim Green, Director, Office of Strategic Outreach, Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (DOL-VETS) regarding the planning and coordination trip to Puerto Rico. Matt Miller, Acting Assistant Secretary of DOL-VETS, would like to accompany the Legion to Puerto Rico and render any assistance needed to better access the situation-pertaining to unemployment and under employment of our veterans. The discussion also centered on meeting and speaking with the Program Manager for the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) at Fort Buchanan.
 
On Tuesday, April 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended an evening reception hosted by the partners at Venable LLP. In honor of women veterans’ month the women attorneys at Venable hosted this event to highlight the work Major Jas Boothe has done on behalf of homeless women veterans through her organization Final Salute.
 
On Tuesday, April 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with conference planners from Moore Holdings to discuss an implementation course of action for the upcoming National Credentialing Summit. An initial budget estimate was developed, along with a target Summit date of mid-October.
 
On Tuesday, April 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Education and Training), and confirmed his participation in the Credentialing Roundtable scheduled for May 9.
 
On Tuesday, April 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with a consultant from “Shift.org” about their work on engaging the Department of Defense and industry over SkillBridge Authority implementation. Shift.org works exclusively online, but leverages data and assessment tools that allows it to accelerate servicemember engagement in SkillBridge with appropriate industry partners.
 
On Tuesday, April 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with NCHV to discuss housing policy and VA grants that assist homeless veterans and their families. We also discussed NCHV’s annual conference in May. This year’s conference will feature new learning formats and opportunities to network with colleagues from around the country as well as popular favorites: (1) Keynote and Plenary Sessions – featuring thought leaders from the public and private sector; (2) Learning Institutes (new) – designed to allow attendees to dig deeper into a topic; (3) Incubator Workshops (new) – led by an expert facilitator, attendees will discuss ongoing challenges with a focus on innovations and solutions; and, (4) Listening Sessions with Federal Agency staff – offers a unique opportunity to share ideas and ask questions of key federal staff.
 
On Tuesday, April 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a meeting with the DC Coalition for Homeless to discuss housing occupancies in the District and how mainstream services assist homeless veterans.
 
On Wednesday, April 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the DC veterans' hiring event. The event offer veterans, veterans’ spouses, and transitioning military members the opportunity to participate in professional development workshops and connect with District, state and federal agencies, private-sector companies, and service organizations. 
 
On Thursday, April 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Ali Bokhari, Managing Director at Accenture, to discuss different opportunities for collaboration with The American Legion. The objective is to better educate our veterans when it comes to seeking gainful employment.
 
On Friday, April 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with HillVets to discuss programmatic development and collaboration on future events.  HillVets is a bipartisan group of veterans, servicemembers, and supporters focused on empowerment through networking, community involvement, and education.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT (Excerpts from Interview)
Write a good resume. Go to Job Fairs. Network. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before, right? Well did you know how interviewing is like poker? How Google and Facebook can be critical aids – or, in some cases, obstacles – to landing that great civilian job after you transition out of the military? We asked veteran employment experts to share some job search advice that you might not have already heard more times than you can count. Representatives from the Department of Labor, The American Legion, Hire Our Heroes and Veterans of Foreign Wars weighed in. Here’s what they told us. Know what you’re good at – and where you could improve.
 
“There are employers out there looking for people like you, so do not hide your talents,” Anthony Lowe, VFW Associate Director for Economic Opportunity and Transition Policy, said in an email. “The majority (of servicemembers) are humble creatures, so it’s often uncomfortable to repeat those same glowing words in your evaluation. This is totally opposite in the civilian workforce, so get accustomed to it.” Dan Caporale, Founder of Hire Our Heroes, said veterans should come up with a personal brand and be able to sell themselves to a company in a way that rises above the competition. “Don’t just put together a resume. Think about why you’re better than the next guy” for the specific company you want to work for, whether it be Coca-Cola, Budweiser or Starbucks, he said. Joe Plenzler, Director of Media Relations for American Legion, put it this way: “Figure out where your superpowers and life goals intersect. It helps to list out the things you are good at, and then get down to three things you are great at.” Next, he recommends figuring out what your long-term goals are and whittling down that list to three top goals. “You should search for your post-military Career 2.0 where those superpowers and goals overlap,” he said in an email.
 
Job searching is also a good time for soul searching. In addition to your strengths, you should be able to identify your weaknesses, Lowe said. “Be humble and ready to correct them. Build a plan to remedy those shortcomings, and if it means getting additional mentoring, training, certification and education to reach your goals, then develop your plan and execute,” he said.
 
Check your Facebook feed. Then check it again. The stupid things you did in your wilder days may have been funny at the time – but if there are videos or pictures of your drunken stupors online, they could come back to bite you when you’re looking for a job. “Recruiters will … look at your social media sites to make sure that you are a good fit for their organizations, so try to keep (your) social media clean,” said Ariel De Jesus, Assistant Director of American Legion’s National Veterans Employment & Education Division. This includes Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, he said. Lowe said your social media presence, in addition to materials like your resume and business cards, can help your job search go smoothly. And you can also use it to your advantage, as some of your virtual friends and followers may be able to help make the right connections.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Joe Manchin (WV), members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Tuesday, April 3rd, announced $66,371 in funding for West Virginia through the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH). The funding will be used for vouchers to help homeless veterans and their families obtain affordable, safe housing and supportive services, such as mental health treatment.
"Our veterans have risked so much to protect American lives and defend our democratic principles. That's why it's so important that we work to ensure they and their families are taken care of," Senator Capito said. "These vouchers help West Virginia veterans and their families find safe, well-kept homes in their communities. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to advocate for resources that help ensure our veterans are cared for."
"In West Virginia we are always willing to help our neighbors in their time of need and this is especially true for our Veterans. This funding will support housing initiatives for Veterans and their families in Clarksburg, Delbarton and Beckley promoting safer and healthier communities. Ensuring those who may be struggling have a roof over their heads is at the core of our values in West Virginia and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee I will continue to advocate for these resources for our communities," Senator Manchin said.
Individual awards are listed below:
* $24,263 to the Raleigh County Housing Authority.
* $22,462 to the Clarksburg-Harrison Regional Housing Authority.
* $19,646 to the Housing Authority of Mingo County.
In addition, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, announced today that Maine has received $116,456 to address homelessness among veterans across the state. "Maine is home to more than 116,000 veterans who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms, and we have an obligation to provide these courageous men and women with the most comprehensive and accessible assistance programs available," said Senator Collins. "The funding announced today will make a significant contribution to that effort and help homeless and at-risk veterans in Maine improve the stability of their living situation."
This funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program and will go towards targeted vouchers that offer permanent supportive housing opportunities to veterans experiencing homelessness. The announcement on April 3rd, was part of joint HUD-VASH Voucher awards to Public Housing Authorities across the country. Each of these housing authorities has also partnered with the VA Maine Health Care System.
The funding is distributed as follows:
* Augusta Housing Authority will receive $20,757 supporting five vouchers
* Bangor Housing Authority will receive $25,325 supporting five vouchers
* Maine State Housing Authority will receive $37,406 supporting seven vouchers
* Westbrook Housing Authority will receive $32,968 supporting five vouchers
As Chairman of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins has fought to ensure continued funding for the HUD-VASH program, which provides thousands of new housing vouchers to veterans each year. Since 2008, more than 90,000 VASH vouchers have been awarded, including 238 vouchers in Maine. As a result of Senator Collins' efforts, homelessness among veterans has declined 47 percent since 2010.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Atlantic City, Boston, Camden (NJ), Camp Pendleton, Carlisle (PA), Charlottesville (VA), Chicago, Dayton (OH), Dover AFB (DE), Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Leonard Wood (MO), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lexington Park (MD), Naval Air Station Jacksonville (FL), Peterson AFB (CO), Scott AFB (IL), and Washington, DC.
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS  
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is committing $100,000 to Combined Arms, which will build a 14-week program to coach, incubate and accelerate veteran-owned businesses. Roughly 3,000 military veterans move to Houston each year, making it the second-largest city for veterans to start, manage and grow small businesses. Many need help translating their military skills into the marketplace. Combined Arms, a Houston support organization for military veterans, is partnering with Bunker Labs to build the 14-week program. Bunker Labs provides educational programming, access to resources and networking opportunities to help military veterans start and grow their businesses. JPMorgan Chase's investment was announced this week at the Veteran's Business Owner Symposia on Tuesday afternoon.
Combined Arms mission is to unite the community to accelerate the impact of veterans on Houston. In order for them to achieve its mission, they focus on three strategic objectives:
  • Establish and nurture a system of organizations focused on supporting organizations that provide military transition and community reintegration services.
  • Reduce program redundancies and costs.
  • Increase collaboration among programs within the system.
     
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
The U.S. Department of Education said earlier this week that the American Council of Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), the controversial accreditor which had lost its federal recognition in 2016, would again be eligible to serve as a gatekeeper of financial aid. The department restored the recognition of ACICS, which oversees primarily for-profit career colleges. That means that more than 100 colleges still accredited by the council will remain eligible to receive federal student aid, for now. It also means that the council will not have to face a federal advisory panel in May as part of the process to regain recognition. The department’s announcement is a response to a federal-court ruling, issued in late March, that concluded the department had used a flawed process in removing the accreditor’s recognition. The accreditor sued the department after its recognition was removed, starting an 18-month countdown in which all of the colleges that it had accredited would have to find a new accreditor by June or lose access to federal student aid.
 
The judge’s decision did not overturn the department’s earlier action. But it did require the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to reconsider whether ACICS should remain recognized, after she reviews some 36,000 pages of material that the accreditor submitted to the department nearly two years ago. Although the material had been requested by the department, the court found that it had not been reviewed by department officials in revoking the council’s status. "As the court ordered, we will fairly consider all of the facts presented and make an appropriate determination" on the accreditor’s recognition, DeVos said in a news release. The department’s announcement does not necessarily mean she will reverse the decision made under the Obama administration. But she will consider more options than just the binary choice of either renewing or denying the council’s recognition. And the council will have new opportunities to prove itself to the department.
 
If a return to full recognition is not appropriate, DeVos said in the order, instead of denying the council’s bid for recognition she would give it an additional 12 months to come into compliance with any remaining regulatory deficiencies. And DeVos said she not only would consider the 2016 material but also would allow the council to submit additional information to show that it could come into compliance. What’s less clear is whether DeVos, and other department officials who advise her, will give any weight to the previous determinations by her predecessor, John B. King Jr., and the federal advisory panel, which voted to recommend that the council lose its recognition.
 
The members of that panel, called the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, voted 10 to 3 in 2016 to remove the council’s recognition, following a similar recommendation by the department’s staff. The recommendation was later adopted by King. Department staff members had also prepared a recommendation for the council’s hearing at the May meeting of the advisory panel. That analysis, in draft form, has not been publicly released. Before the department’s announcement on Tuesday, April 3rd, Steve Gunderson, president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the main lobbying group for for-profit colleges, said his association had advocated just such an approach, including restoring the council’s recognition and removing the June deadline for the colleges still accredited by the council to find new accreditors. He called the judge’s ruling good news that would keep students in colleges that might otherwise have been forced to close down in a few months. "We were dealing with crisis decision-making," he said.
 
Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, criticized the department’s announcement. The center has been a harsh critic of the council as taking a lax approach to troubled colleges. "Yet again," Miller said, "Betsy DeVos shows her only concern is to do everything in her power to put students at risk of attending lousy schools."
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  4/6/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 23 March 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Mortgage rates renewed their ascent this week. According to the latest data released Thursday, March 22, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average inched up to 4.45 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 4.4 percent a week ago and 4.23 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average ticked up to 3.91 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.90 percent a week ago and 3.44 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average edged up to 3.68 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.67 percent a week ago and 3.24 percent a year ago.
 
As expected, the Federal Reserve increased its benchmark rate Wednesday, March 21, raising it to 1.75 percent, the highest level in a decade. The central bank doesn’t set mortgage rates, but its decisions influence them. The hike came too late in the week to be factored into Freddie Mac’s survey. The government-backed mortgage-backer aggregates current rates weekly from 125 lenders from across the country to come up with national average mortgage rates. But the Fed’s confidence in the U.S. economy is driving bond yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury hovered around 2.89 percent the past two days. When yields go up, home loan rates tend to follow. Although rising rates could put a damper on the spring home-buying season, they can also spur buyers into action. Because buyers worry that the latest increase will be the first of many, they become more desperate to buy a home right away.
 
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that a majority of experts it surveyed say rates will continue to rise in the coming week. The Fed is confident about the economy and the expectations of faster growth, and an uptick in inflation will push bond yields and mortgage rates higher. Meanwhile, mortgage applications were flat again last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 1.1 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 5 percent, while the purchase index ticked up 1 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 38.5 percent of all applications.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
154
110
132
86
22
24
Unemployment rate
4.6
3.3
4.6
3.0
5.0
5.2
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (February 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent[i] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.2 percent (up from 2.6 percent in January).
 
 
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, March 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Dwayne King, Program Recruitment Specialist, Goodwill of Greater Washington, to discuss their next class on Energy and Construction Class, which begins on Wednesday, May 2nd. Goodwill is requesting that the Legion be a part of their outreach to inform potential veteran candidates of this opportunity.
 
On Tuesday, March 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division testified at a legislative hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity regarding eight bills focusing on education, home loans, homelessness, small business and the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Notably, the oral testimony affirmed The American Legion’s position on creating a 4th administration within the VA focused exclusively on economic opportunity.
 
On Wednesday, March 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Code of Support Foundation to discuss the launch of their employment resource portal, media and outreach strategy and how the Legion can assist.
 
On Wednesday, March 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) to discuss the transition of incarcerated veterans and the resources that are available to them on reentry back into mainstream society.
 
On Wednesday, March 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with leadership from SBA’s Office of Veteran Business Development to discuss proposed changes that will affect veterans businesses in the CFR and upcoming administrative efforts to reorganize the SBA.
 
On Thursday, March 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Shift.org known for their Military Fellowship, Tech internship, Apprenticeships, DOD Skillbridge programs. We discussed upcoming events that would be of mutual interest and their participation in VEED programing at the National Convention.
 
On Thursday, March 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Thinking Ahead Military Symposium at the National Museum of the United States Navy at Navy Yards. Dr. Jack London, former CEO and now Executive Chairman of CACI spoke about the current leadership trends in the military and how that transfers into success in the private sector.
 
On Thursday, March 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Veteran/Military Spouses Empowerment & Resource Dinner in Washington, DC. The event was hosted by WJLA (local channel) Sports Anchor Erin Hawksworth. Key Note speakers included Major Jas Boothe from Final Salute and Redskins Charitable Foundation Executive Director Jane Rodgers. The event was a networking forum for veteran and military spouses to have access to prominent community and business leaders to provide personal and professional development resources.
 
On Thursday, March 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Mark Toal, Regional Manager, Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) regarding an upcoming trip to Puerto Rico. A meeting is scheduled for Puerto Rico’s Director for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DVET), Miquel Gonzalez and other DOL personnel to include the Department of Puerto Rico in order to discuss details about the event.
 
On Thursday, March 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division conducted a planning call with SOLID Design and the Credential Engine over a May 1st credentialing roundtable. The group came to a consensus on the title of the roundtable, Advancing Credential Transparency for Recruitment, Readiness and Retention, and will focus on combining military credentialing initiatives into an optimal database that aligns with industry recognition.
 
On Friday, March 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with staff from the office of Senator Thomas Carper (DE) to discuss a proposal to craft a bipartisan resolution commemorating the GI Bill on the anniversary of the original GI Bill being signed into law (June 22nd). This has the potential to be done perennially, and incorporate potential events and educational campaigns surrounding The American Legion’s role in drafting the historic legislation.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Experts have declared the Veterans Employment Initiative a success in terms of bringing veterans into federal employment. But now the program is stalling, and those experts say it’s time to shift focus away from broad hiring initiatives, and toward more concentrated efforts to boost their distribution through more diverse agencies, and increase retention and engagement. That’s why the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reached out to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University about a year and a half ago to do a study and make some recommendations on how to move forward. “If you look at the numbers and the federal government as a whole, it’s done phenomenally well in terms of bringing veterans into federal sector jobs from the launch of the initiative in 2009 all the way up through the latest data we had run, for FY2015,” said Nick Armstrong, the Institute’s senior director for research and evaluation.
Since the program’s launch, veterans have accounted for more than 30 percent of new hires in the federal workforce, and their numbers have risen until they now make up roughly one-third of federal employees. But Armstrong said when you dig into those numbers more deeply, you begin to see variations, and places where the program could benefit from more targeted efforts. For example, researchers found that veterans were mostly concentrated in larger agencies, especially those with a military-related culture or mission, like the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. “That’s what we wanted to try to get into, was how does this vary across the federal government?” Armstrong said. “What had been done in some agencies, and what more could be done going forward?”
It’s easy to assume that the nature of the mission attracted so many veterans to these agencies, but Armstrong said it’s actually more complicated than that. First, larger agencies with better staffed and funded HR departments were able to set up veteran employment resource offices completely devoted to that mission. Other, smaller agencies only had veteran employment resource officers who sometimes wore multiple hats, forced to divide their attention between multiple hiring initiatives. There can also be cultural differences inhibiting agencies from understanding veterans’ skills. While DOD, VA and DHS might align more closely with tasks a veteran performed in the military, and may draw on a veteran’s experience in that realm, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what a veteran wants to do after their military service. And it certainly doesn’t mean that’s all they’re capable of doing. “It’s a little bit more nuanced than just trying to plug-and-play or trying to automatically assume that what a servicemember did in the military is what they want to do or what they can only do in the civilian sector. Part of that is about not necessarily full awareness or appreciation of the full diversity of different skills and occupations that military members fill across the military,” Armstrong said.
For example, the GI Bill is a major enticement to many service members to join the military. But focus on veteran status and the nature of their military service can obscure other training acquired during or after that service, like higher education through the GI Bill. And that’s a problem when, as Armstrong said, about half of veterans don’t want to do the same job they did during their military service. But that lack of visibility when it comes to federal jobs veterans can perform can go both ways. Veterans aren’t always aware of the existence of smaller agencies whose missions don’t align more closely to the military, much less their hiring status. OPM has already made moves to rectify that situation. It created FedsHireVets.gov to act as a resource to connect veterans to the full range of federal jobs. But veterans remain concentrated in certain agencies. “There’s clearly more opportunity for agencies to be able to communicate the types of opportunities that veterans may, or transitioning service members even may find interesting,” Armstrong said. “And also opportunities to help educate and inform transitioning service members about what those opportunities are beyond the traditional federal agencies where veterans tend to find themselves.”
Armstrong said agencies with lower number of veterans and jobs that don’t align with military skills or experience could also look into workforce development or training programs to entice veterans to expand their professional skill sets. As the study continues Armstrong said he wants to look beyond hiring and basic retention metrics and start looking at the veteran experience in the federal workforce more holistically. “This is an opportunity to look into the initiative and to pick out things of what can be done now to sustain the success and move the initiative forward, particularly on issues beyond just hiring,” he said.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Charlotte's (NC) best-known homeless shelter will temporarily closed in April as part of a $5.7 million renovation to make the site on North Tryon Street "more habitable." The work will take four months, but shelter officials say they will continue to serve 350 men a night through beds at satellite locations, including an existing shelter campus on Statesville Avenue. The locations of other facilities have not been disclosed. The shelter intends to prevent homeless men from taking to streets and wooded areas to find a place to sleep, which is a major concern for residents of the uptown area. On average, 200 men a night stay at the Men's Shelter, which is in the heart of an area being targeted for redevelopment, including more housing and businesses hoping to take advantage of the light rail's northern expansion.
Shelter officials hope the planned improvements and new facade will help the site better fit in with the changes going on around it. The renovation comes at a time when shelters in Charlotte are offering more than a bed for the night. When completed this summer, the new site will enable hundreds of homeless men to connect with programs and services that help them find jobs, get needed healthcare and qualify for permanent housing. All three efforts are part of a broader plan to lower the city's homeless population, which includes disabled people and veterans. Work is starting in April because the weather is milder in the spring and demand for beds is at its lowest point in the year. The work will be completed in July. "Anyone who walked through could immediately see the need for restoration of the facility," said Ed Rose, president of Shelco, which donated general contracting services for the renovation.
The shelter has so far raised $5.4 million for the project. The money came via donations, ranging from $50 to $1 million. Donors included individuals, foundations, corporations, government and faith communities. To help, visit www.mensshelterofcharlotte.org/donate and earmark dollars for the renovation campaign. The Men's Shelter of Charlotte's board raised more than $750,000 for the renovation from current and former board members. Built as a warehouse, the 1210 N. Tryon Street building became the shelter in 1985 and has greatly deteriorated over time, officials said.
Critical repairs include replacing the roof, pipes, and several kitchen equipment, as well as installing a new HVAC system. The work will also create more privacy in the sleeping and bathroom facilities, and add more windows. On average, 2,000 men a year will spend at least one night a year in the facility, and half of them struggle with disabling conditions. Last year, the average stay in the shelter was 104 days, officials said. Because the shelter's only kitchen will be out of commission because of the renovation, the shelter is inviting the community for help with meals, either by providing bagged lunches or donating a dinner. Further information is available at www.MensShelterofCharlotte.org.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Atlantic City, Camden (NJ), Camp Pendleton, Carlisle (PA), Charlottesville (VA), Chicago, Dover AFB (DE), Fort Irvin (CA), Joint Base Andrews (MD), King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), McLean (VA), Millville (NJ), Nellis AFB (NV), Patrick AFB (FL), and Washington, DC.
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS  
On March 22, 2018, The U.S. Small Business Administration's partner, National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) held a graduation ceremony in Potomac, Maryland, for 51 veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and also celebrated the achievement of training 1,000 veteran entrepreneurs over the past nine years. An educational program for owners, principals and executives of veteran-owned businesses, VIP trains service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and veteran-owned small businesses to compete for federal procurement opportunities. The three-day certification program's curriculum is designed for veteran businesses to increase their ability to succeed by establishing effective business practices. 
VIP is comprised of three training programs:
  • VIP START is for companies wanting to enter the federal market and become procurement ready.
  • VIP GROW is the core curriculum which assists companies in developing strategies to expand and operate within the federal marketplace.
  • VIP INTERNATIONAL is for companies that want to enter or expand their federal and commercial contracting opportunities overseas.

Starting out in 2009 and training veteran-owned businesses in the Washington, D.C. metro area, VIP has expanded and now offers the entrepreneurship curriculum nationwide, as well as in the U.S. territories Guam and Puerto Rico. In addition to connecting with local resource networks, participants also have an opportunity to take advantage of the counseling and training offered by SBA's resource partner network, which includes Veterans Business Outreach Centers, Women's Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers, and SCORE. Each year, SBA helps more than 200,000 veterans, service-disabled veterans, members of the National Guard and Reserve, and military spouses start and grow their small businesses.

TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
The American Legion and Student Veterans of America (SVA) presented oral cases on the Hill on Tuesday, March 20, to urge the creation of a new division within the Department of Veterans Affairs dedicated to veterans’ education and employment, along with a new senior administration official to lead it. The Legion and SVA argued that VA economic opportunity programs, such as home loan guaranty and education assistance, are buried in the agency’s bureaucracy. A separate division would give the initiatives more prominence and potentially help ease stress of transitioning from the military. “A tragically elastic narrative exists around veterans as either broken or damaged. In reality, the vast majority of veterans are like many other Americans -- hard-working, community-oriented neighbors who want the best for their children,” said Will Hubbard from SVA. The new VA division could “empower veterans to be successful as they transition, through improved education programs, better employment opportunities.”
 
The VA comprises three administrations – benefits, health and cemeteries – each with its own undersecretary. Education, employment, transition and home ownership programs are now part of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). SVA proposes separating those responsibilities into a new Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration and creating a new undersecretary position, which would have to be filled with someone nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Hubbard proposed the idea Tuesday afternoon to a subcommittee hearing of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. At the hearing, two other large veterans organizations -- the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and The American Legion – gave their support to the idea. “As the demands of the veteran population changes, so must the agency that helps ensures their success,” said John Kamin, a member of The American Legion. “The American Legion believes the time is right to consolidate the VA’s economic opportunity programs under an undersecretary for veterans’ economic opportunity.”
 
This proposal was also validated by a report released Tuesday from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. The report states that procuring employment and education after military service creates stress for veterans, and it supports the idea that a new VA division would help “raise the profile” of available assistance. Economic opportunity programs have been “neglected” and “smothered” by more pressing issues within the Veterans Benefits Administration, which is dealing with a large backlog of veterans’ claims for disability benefits, the report states. “So long as there remains a claims backlog, [economic opportunity] programs will always compete for relevance and funding,” Kamin told lawmakers.
 
The benefits administration has faced a lapse in leadership, which has also affected economic opportunity programs, AEI argued. It’s been without a permanent leader since October 2015. Trump announced plans late last month to nominate longtime management consultant Paul Lawrence to the position. “Establishing the [Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration] would streamline and energize existing VA programs with a documented history of successful outcomes,” wrote Rebecca Burgess, the report’s author. “It is not an excuse to grow government bureaucracy. It is a practical solution to the VA’s structural difficulties in delivering promised benefits to veterans.” SVA has reported some people within the VA have opposed the idea.
 
Though multiple veterans groups now support the idea, it’s uncertain whether Congress would approve it. Tuesday’s hearing lasted less than an hour and lawmakers didn’t offer comment on the proposal. Together The American Legion, SVA, and TAPS, along with other organizations, have successfully pushed for major VA reform previously. Last year, the groups shepherded through Congress the largest expansion of veterans education benefits in the past decade.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  3/23/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 16 March 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
Fixed mortgage rates moved lower for first time in 2018. According to the latest data released Thursday, March 15 by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.44 percent with an average 0.5 point (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 4.46 percent a week ago and 4.3 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average fell to 3.9 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.94 percent a week ago and 3.5 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average rose to 3.67 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.63 percent a week ago and 3.28 percent a year ago.
 
Also, U.S. stocks plunged anew on Thursday in another trading session with big swings as equities remained in a tug-of war with bond yields, volatility remained high, and investors failed to see a bottom of the market ahead. The benchmark S&P 50 and the Dow industrials confirmed they were in correction territory, both falling more than 10 percent from their January 26 record highs. The S&P 500 slumped 3.8 percent on Thursday, while the Dow dropped 4.2 percent as losses accelerated late in the trading day. Thursday marked another day of sharp swings in recent sessions including the S&P 500’s biggest drop in more than six days that pulled equities away from record highs.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
154
110
132
86
22
24
Unemployment rate
4.6
3.3
4.6
3.0
5.0
5.2
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (February 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.2 percent (up from 2.6 percent in January).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Tuesday, March 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division hosted a VET Force Meeting with Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) and members from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss issues that face veteran-owned small businesses. 
 
On Tuesday, March 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Blue Star Families Neighbors Award Ceremony recognizing local community heroes that support the military family. This event was held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
 
On Tuesday, March 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated on the Department of Labor’s - Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach (ACVETEO). Three areas of concerns were discussed: 1) Significant Barriers to Employment; 2) Transition Assistance & Training Support; and 3) Direct Services. The Committee’s assesses the employment and training needs of veterans by evaluating the effectiveness with which DOL’s programs are delivered and make recommendations for improvement.
 
On Wednesday, March 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations to discuss proposed legislation that would affect the enforcement of the Kingdomware decision at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
 
On Wednesday, March 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Office of Representative Rob Bishop (UT) regarding the 2020 Census.  The discussion centered on ensuring that more veteran questions are included in the 2020 Census -- giving a more accurate number of veterans that reside in those areas, which will go toward providing more programs supporting these veterans.
On Wednesday, March 14 – Thursday, March 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division dispatched a staff member to serve as a negotiator representing veteran and military families for the Department of Education’s final Negotiated Rulemaking Session on the Gainful Employment Rule. As a condition of receiving federal student aid, the Higher Education Act (HEA) requires that programs at nonprofit or public institution lead to a degree, and that career education programs “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” However, lawmakers did not define “gainful employment.” The Obama Administration attempted to write regulations for the law twice; the first was overturned by a federal judge in 2012 and the second was suspended by Department of Education Secretary DeVos in 2017. This negotiated rulemaking session was convened to rewrite the rule.
On Thursday, March 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation - Hiring Our Heroes. The Foundation requested the Legion to participate in their upcoming Hiring EXPO in Chicago and a Transition Summit at Wright Patterson AFB in Fairborn, Ohio.
 
On Thursday, March 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Code of Support Foundation to discuss the launch of their veteran resource portal, media and outreach strategy and how the Legion could assist. The Foundation provides essential and critical one-on-one assistance to struggling service members, veterans and their families with the most complex needs.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT – SERVICE MEMBERS VISIT TRANSITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TAP) OFFICE
Whether you are thinking about getting out or have already started the process, there are hundreds of things to consider when preparing for the transition back into civilian life. Thankfully there are trained professionals and other resources that can guide you through the process. The idea of returning to civilian life can be exciting and overwhelming -- the transition process is complex. So where should you start?
 
Step One: One of the first things you must do, if you haven’t already, is to make an appointment to meet with your installation's transition assistance staff. These dedicated professionals are available to assist you with special transition benefits information, employment workshops, automated employment job-hunting tools and job banks, veteran benefits information, disabled veterans benefits information and many other types of transition and other related information is available to you. And it’s all free. Take full advantage of TAP and all it has to offer. Remember though, you have many steps to take, and many questions to get answered, only you and your family can make the critical decisions that must be made.
 
You can start the transition process as early as 12 months prior to separation or 24 months prior to retirement. The sooner you start the better. There is a lot of information to absorb and you need time to plan and decide what is in the best interest for yourself and your family. If you are uncertain about your future plans, now is the time to get the assistance and information you need. Professional guidance and counseling are available at your TAP Office, as are workshops, publications, information resources, automated resources, and government programs. Take advantage of each one that pertains to your unique situation. In those cases where the Transition Counselor cannot answer your questions, you will be referred to subject matter experts that can give you the information that you need.
 
Your TAP counselor will give you a checklist to get you started. This "Pre-Separation Counseling Checklist" (DD Form 2648) is where it all starts, it will help you to identify the benefits, counseling, and services that can help you prepare your personalized Individual Transition Plan.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Directors and producers of a Christmas film aimed at bringing attention to the homeless veteran issue in the country plan to use Cherokee County locations for much of the movie. Local moviemaker Sue Anne Taylor has lived in Canton for more than two decades and said she couldn't think of a better place to film her new movie, "Charlie's Christmas Wish," than Cherokee County. She said filming is planned for locations in Canton, Woodstock, Ball Ground, Jasper and Newnan. "At 63 years old, I have wanted to be a screen writer my entire life. I've written hundreds of TV shows -- never written a full, feature-length screenplay. I love this story, and I'm very, very proud of it," Taylor said in an interview on Thursday.
She said the movie, written with help from cast member and co-writer Toni Hudson, is a children's and family Christmas movie with a unique cross of serious and light-hearted themes. "When we sell movies, we come up with comparables to get a vision in people's heads ... The idea comparable for me is 'Home Alone' meets 'Miracle on 34th Street,'" Taylor said. "I wanted a movie that all military would feel comfortable going to ... (and) I worked hard to weave all these important things into the movie in a way that a 12-year-old would understand them." Movie-goers will likely recognize several Cherokee landmarks when the film reaches theaters later this year, she said. The Canton Theater, Veterans Park light show and local American Legion Posts will be featured, as well as an upcoming veterans benefit concert in Woodstock, scheduled for April 7.
Taylor said the inspiration for the movie came from hearing her husband, Roy Taylor, and Jim Lindenmayer (Legionnaire), director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program, talk about building shelters for the homeless veteran population of Cherokee. There are currently no homeless shelters in the county. "Since Roy's a retired architect here in the county, he and I have been working on designs for a veterans' shelter, and we've been looking at designs like tiny home and barracks-style," Lindenmayer said in an interview on Tuesday. "It's going to be a design that can fit on the land that we hopefully can get access to." Lindenmayer said he and Roy Taylor are in early talks with an organization in Woodstock, which may allow the shelters to be built on land it currently owns. A piece of that land would be provided to veterans organizations at no cost to build the shelters, and if all goes according to plan, they hope to be able to build in 2020, he said. Two houses will be constructed and donated to organizations that assist local homeless veterans during the filming process, Taylor said.
While the movie is family-friendly, its overarching purpose is larger than a Christmas-themed family outing, and if it's received the way she hopes it will be by the younger generation, it could make some real difference, she said. "I'm so enthusiastic about what's happening in Florida as a reaction to this shooting. If these young kids took the helm of this (movie), and said, 'No homeless vets in our area,' across the country, that would be incredible. That's the movement I'm hoping happens," Taylor said. "If we can make this the table conversation on Veterans Day, we will have won."
Other potential cast members could include Rob Riggle and NBA star Dwight Howard, pending contractual obligations or other conflicts, according to film crew documents. Guest stars being asked to make special appearances include Tim McGraw, Katy Perry and Michael Tyler, Taylor said. The movie premiere is scheduled for Veterans Day, November 11. Taylor said she and her crew are still scouting for a small home in downtown Canton to use as a filming site.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Albuquerque, Camden (NJ), Camp Pendleton, Carlisle (PA), Chicago, Fort Bliss (TX), Fort Irvin (CA), King George (VA), McLean (VA), Millville (NJ), Nellis AFB (NV), Patrick AFB (FL), and Washington, DC.
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS  
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University provides nine national programs in career preparation and employment, entrepreneurship and small business training and community engagement. And with support from companies like JP Morgan Chase, Accenture, and Walmart, the Institute is able to provide these programs free of charge to veterans and eligible family members. Small business ventures and entrepreneurial opportunities are becoming a more common way of life for veterans transitioning into the civilian sector. Taking skills from military service for 5, 10, 20 or even 30 years can become very hard to translate into resume terminology, and the flexibility for family life adds to the desire to control their own destiny. Let's look at a few of the programs which are helping veterans succeed:
 
Entrepreneurship for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV). Service and war cause damage. Many service members have to adapt due to the severity of their injuries, visible or not. One of the first significant partnerships of American schools and colleges of business since WWII was founded at Syracuse University and is now offered at ten universities around the country. EBV helps bridge the distance between what a veteran can currently do due to their disabilities and how to be successful. The bootcamp-style program leverages the skills and resources of the schools to offer experiential training to post-9/11 veterans and their family members. Seventy-two percent of EBV graduates have started and continue to grow their own businesses.
 
V-Wise Women Veterans. Women veterans have been paving the way for longer than many can remember or in some cases acknowledge. V-Wise: Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, focuses solely on women veterans, spouses or partners. And the power is in the connection. With roughly 200 women coming together for three days to brainstorm, share stories and make connections. There is a unique bond for females when they can come together in a safe environment. Immediately the need to prove they are "good enough" is removed because everyone around them understands the stereotypes which may exist. V-Wise empowers women veterans and military spouses/partners to find their passion and learn the business-savvy skills necessary to turn an idea or startup into a growing venture. In fact, 65% of V-Wise graduates have started and continued to grow their own businesses.
 
Onward to Opportunity--Veterans Career Transition Program (O2O-VCTP). If there is one thing veterans and family members are frightened of on the other side of military life, it is the concern of not having employment at all. Many technical trades are acquired by the service member overtime, and many spouses do things like volunteer and go without work for extended lengths of time. O2O-VCTP is an on-installation or virtual program for helping to lessen the fear of the unknown. Across 14 bases, and hopefully 18 by the end of the year, over 14,000 veterans and spouses have earned certifications making them more marketable for civilian careers. The program provides training in 30 different professional certification programs including direct-employment connections to over 500 companies.
 
America Serves. One last program which was very unique in regard to what IVFM is doing is America Serves. This particular service allows a community to give back to the military. This specific application allows the community to select the Institute. The America Serves initiative, using a national technology platform from Unite Us, enables communities to communicate with one another all over the country. They bring together all the resources they have to service veterans and their families better and faster instead of having them go to multiple organizations. It's about working together more efficiently. With this responsibility, the community can benefit long-term. It becomes a full circle of reward. And it ultimately gives what most veterans and their families are often looking for in the civilian sector: a sense of community and assistance.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
A benefit that lets service members and other government workers write off student loan debt would vanish under a new proposal in Congress. Republican-backed legislation would eliminate a program that allows borrowers in full-time public service jobs to have their student loans forgiven after making payments for 10 years - a move that military and veterans groups say would hurt their members. “Our concern with public service loan forgiveness being eliminated is that it is a recruiting and retention tool for the services themselves,” said Aniela Szymanski, government relations director for Military Officers Association of America. “That gives us concern about who are we going to get to join the military, how are they going to be able to maintain a career in the military and possibly public service thereafter.”
 
But supporters say the measure is necessary to keep rising college costs in check. “Unlimited borrowing combined with unlimited forgiveness enables institutions to increase college costs, pocket the extra money, and ignore the needs and reality of students and families who struggle with increasing loan balances,” said Michael Woeste, a spokesman for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Representative Virginia Foxx (NC) “We don’t want our veterans to struggle with growing debt burdens, and these reforms will enable students to pursue their chosen career path without worrying about ever-rising loan balances.”
 
Plans to scrap public service loan forgiveness for future borrowers are part of a package of changes to higher education rules proposed in the PROSPER Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in December. Foxx’s committee last made changes to the bill in February, and staff members are working to get the legislation to the House floor as soon as possible, Woeste said in an email. Currently, employees of local, state and federal government agencies, as well as nonprofits, can qualify for loan forgiveness after making qualifying payments for 120 months. These payments, though not required to be consecutive, must have been made after Oct. 1, 2007. Service members and other borrowers currently using federal direct student loans would be grandfathered into the legislation and would not be affected if the program is cut.
 
In addition to overhauling student loan forgiveness, the PROSPER Act would roll back rules cracking down on for-profit colleges, including a requirement applied primarily to for-profit schools requiring them to demonstrate that their graduates get jobs. It would also eliminate a requirement that for-profit colleges get at least 10 percent of their funds from sources other than federal financial aid. Veterans groups not only support keeping that so-called 90-10 rule in place, they also have long pushed for stricter versions of it. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is working on comparable legislation to the PROSPER Act that lawmakers hope to push out this spring with bipartisan support, a spokesman for committee chairman Senator Lamar Alexander (TN), told Military Times. He did not say whether the Senate bill will also propose an end to public service loan forgiveness, as it has not yet been finalized.
 
Alexander has been vocal about the high cost of loan forgiveness programs in the past, however. He wrote in a recent white paper, “A basic assumption in any loan program is that the amount borrowed will ultimately be repaid with interest. That is not the case in higher education.” On the House side, PROSPER Act proponents “believe America’s veterans and active duty military will have greater access to postsecondary education through the reforms within the PROSPER Act, while also placing market pressure on institutions to lower costs,” Woeste said. According to a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analysis, more than 200,000 service members have student loan debt. Leaders of 17 military-oriented organizations, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans Education Success, pointed to this statistic in a recent letter to Foxx and Alexander.
“Student loan debt is of special interest and importance to veterans, who are often older than other college graduates and have family responsibilities that make their student debt burdens particularly onerous,” the letter said. VSO representatives worry that doing away with public service loan forgiveness could steer veterans and their family members away from the military and nonprofit work they may otherwise have considered. “We know that this generation of veterans prioritizes service to their country and community,” said Will Hubbard, vice president of government affairs for Student Veterans of America, another organization that has raised concerns about the legislation in its current form.
 
The promise of loan forgiveness not only incentivizes veterans to work in public service careers, but also makes it a realistic option, Hubbard said. Some VSOs have singled out the Veterans Affairs Department, which has thousands of open jobs. “One of the few recruiting tools VA has is public service loan forgiveness,” said Ashlynne Haycock, senior coordinator for education support services for the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Haycock said she has worked with many veterans and surviving family members who want to give back by working in mental health or other positions at the VA for which they need advanced degrees. “Public service loan forgiveness is one of the things that they were counting on in that plan,” she said. “Cutting that is really a huge blow to veterans, survivors and military-connected students.”   
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  3/16/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 9 March 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The U.S. economic outlook is healthy according to the key economic indicators. The most critical indicator is the gross domestic product, which measures the nation's production output. The GDP growth rate is expected to remain between the 2 percent to 3 percent ideal range. Unemployment is forecast to continue at the natural rate. There isn't too much inflation or deflation. That's a Goldilocks economy.
 
President Trump promised to increase economic growth to 4 percent. That's faster than is healthy. Growth at that pace leads to an overconfident irrational exuberance. That creates a boom that leads to a damaging bust.  Find out what causes these changes in the business cycle.
 
U.S. GDP growth will rise to 2.5 percent in 2018. It's the same as in 2017, but better than the 2.1 percent growth in 2016. The GDP growth rate will be 2.1 percent in 2019 and 2.0 percent in 2020. That's according to the most recent forecast released at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on December 13, 2017.  This estimate takes into account Trump's policies.
 
The unemployment rate will drop to 3.9 percent in 2018 and 2019 but rise to 4.0 percent in 2020. That's better than the 4.1 percent rate in 2017, and the 4.7 percent rate in 2016. It's also better than the Fed's 6.7 percent target. But Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen admits a lot of workers are part-time and would prefer full-time work.
 
Also, most job growth is in low-paying retail and food service industries. Some people have been out of work for so long that they'll never be able to return to the high-paying jobs they used to have. That means structural unemployment has increased. These traits are unique to this recovery. They also make the unemployment rate seem low. Yellen considers the real unemployment rate to be more accurate. It's double the widely-reported rate.
 
Inflation will be 1.9 percent in 2018, 2.0 percent in 2019 and beyond. It was 1.7 percent in 2017. They are lower than the 2.1 percent rate in 2016, and the 0.7 percent inflation experienced in 2015. The low rates in those years were caused by declining oil prices. The core inflation rate strips out those volatile gas and food prices. The Fed prefers to use that rate when setting monetary policy. The core inflation rate will be 1.9 percent in 2018, 2.0 percent in 2019 and 2020. (It's unusual that the core rate is that similar to the regular inflation rate.) Fortunately, the core rate is close to the Fed's 2.0 percent target inflation rate. That gives the Fed room to raise rates to a more normal level. Here's more on the U.S. Inflation Rate History and Forecast.
 
U.S. manufacturing is forecast to increase faster than the general economy. Production will grow 2.8 percent in 2018. Growth will slow to 2.6 percent in 2019 and 2 percent in 2020. Those forecasts have not yet taken into account President Trump's promises to create more jobs.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
FEB
2017
FEB
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
154
110
132
86
22
24
Unemployment rate
4.6
3.3
4.6
3.0
5.0
5.2
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (January 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.1 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.6 percent (down from 3.3 percent in December).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Tuesday, March 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the DC Coalition for Homeless to discuss homelessness issues in DC along with shelter and transitional housing opportunities. This is a monthly meeting that deals with housing occupancies and other issues pertaining to the reintegration of homeless individuals in mainstream society.
 
On Tuesday, March 6, The Veterans Employment and Education Division met with AARP to discuss small business programing, resources and content we can share, considering the cross section between our memberships.
 
On Tuesday, March 6, The Veterans Employment and Education Division was on the air with CBS radio’s Connecting Veterans to discuss the Legion’s small business initiatives regarding advocacy, events and counseling. The American Legion was also joined by Lynn Lowder from One Vet at a Time.
 
On Wednesday, March 7, The Veterans Employment and Education Division chaired the SBA’s Interagency Taskforce. This committee oversees federal agencies’ compliance on small business goaling with regards to service disabled veterans owned small business set-asides.
 
On Thursday, March 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with VA personnel from the Center for Women Veterans and Center for Minority Veterans to discuss homelessness and employment options once the veteran obtains housing. There are plans to have follow-up meetings to discuss priorities and outcomes as these veterans engage VA facilities. 
 
On Thursday, March 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Linda Brooks Rix, CEO AVUE Technologies and Taskforce Leader, The American Legion Employment Innovation Taskforce, discussed the future platform for delivering the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  Today’s Transitioning Servicemembers (TSM) are more attuned to the use of technology, the digitation of TAP  would allow TSM’s, veterans and their spouses to access updated information for “Just in time” situations as opposed to “point in time”, in which the information may become outdated or irrelevant.  
 
On Friday, March 9, The Veterans Employment and Education Division met with First Data Salutes to discuss their participation in our employment and small business programing for the National Convention in August.
 
On Friday, March 9, The Veterans Employment and Education Division will speak at a DC, MD and VA focused career services provider roundtable hosted by Careerleader LLP. The company focuses on Helping jobseekers and entrepreneurs understand what organizational cultures will be the best fit for them.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Getting Ready to Get Out – Step One: Visit the TAP Office
Whether you are thinking about getting out or have already started the process, there are hundreds of things to consider when preparing for the transition back into civilian life. Thankfully there are trained professionals and other resources that can guide you through the process. The idea of returning to civilian life can be exciting and overwhelming -- the transition process is complex. So where should you start?
 
Step One: One of the first things you must do, if you haven’t already, is to make an appointment to meet with your installation's transition assistance staff. These dedicated professionals are available to assist you with special transition benefits information, employment workshops, automated employment job-hunting tools and job banks, veteran benefits information, disabled veterans benefits information and many other types of transition and other related information is available to you. AND IT'S ALL FREE. Take full advantage of TAP and all it has to offer. Remember though, you have many steps to take, and many questions to get answered, only you and your family can make the critical decisions that must be made.
 
You can start the transition process as early as 12 months prior to separation or 24 months prior to retirement. The sooner you start the better. There is a lot of information to absorb and you need time to plan and decide what is in the best interest for yourself and your family.
 
If you are uncertain about your future plans, now is the time to get the assistance and information you need. Professional guidance and counseling are available at your Transition Assistance Office, as are workshops, publications, information resources, automated resources, and government programs. Take advantage of each one that pertains to your unique situation. In those cases where the Transition Counselor cannot answer your questions, you will be referred to subject matter experts that can give you the information that you need.
 
Your TAP counselor will give you a checklist to get you started. This "Pre-Separation Counseling Checklist" (DD Form 2648) is where it all starts, it will help you to identify the benefits, counseling, and services that can help you prepare your personalized Individual Transition Plan.
 
If you are uncertain about your future plans, now is the time to get all the assistance and information you need. Professional guidance and counseling is available at a Transition Assistance Office, as are workshops, publications, information resources, automated resources, and government programs. Take advantage of each one that pertains to your unique situation.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Madison (WI) wants to build 1,000 affordable apartments over five years, and that effort got a big boost last week. City officials have learned that five out of six affordable development projects received crucial, competitive federal tax credits, including three projects that didn't make the cut in last year's funding cycle. Together, the projects will result in 310 units, 281 of which will be affordable. That will bring the number of affordable units built by the city since 2014 to over 700. At a press conference last week at the site of one of the approved projects, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said that puts Madison "well on track" to hit its 1,000-unit goal. He added that the city has "virtually eliminated" chronic homelessness of veterans. But Soglin said Madison won't stop when it hits 1,000. "The one thing you do when you achieve a goal is you raise the bar," he said. He listed two more goals: ending homelessness for all veterans and ending all chronic homelessness.
 
Major affordable development in Madison is often impossible without federal low-income housing tax credits. The credits are distributed through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) and can account for 75 to 80 percent of the development cost, according to Jim O'Keefe, the city's community development division director. The city's $25 million Affordable Housing Fund was created in 2014 with the goal of creating 1,000 affordable units in five years. It has contributed $15.8 million to various projects, and those local commitments make project applications more competitive in the WHEDA scoring system. "(The credits) are popular. They are coveted. They are highly sought after," said WHEDA chief operating officer Brian Schimming. "Only the best of the best get awards. The city is doing very, very well this round," he said, referring to Madison.
 
Before 2014, the city didn't make a concerted effort to take advantage of WHEDA tax credits, O'Keefe said, and there were "very few, if any" WHEDA applications for Madison projects. Over the last few years, Madison has turned into one of the "more aggressive or active city governments" in the program. Thirteen Madison projects have secured almost $95 million in WHEDA credits, contributing to over $257 million in estimated development costs. Those projects created 835 total units, about 745 of which are affordable. Of the affordable units, 163 are set aside for homeless individuals or families.
 
This is the city's fourth cycle of WHEDA applications. Last year, three out of six Madison projects received funding. This year, those three rejected proposals reapplied and were granted funds: Park Street Apartments, Tree Lane Senior Housing and Fair Oaks Apartments. Park Street Apartments by Heartland Housing at 1202 S. Park Street is a permanent supportive housing project. The proposal would build 58 units for homeless single adults. The project is estimated to cost $11.6 million dollars and the city has committed $1.9 million from the Affordable Housing Fund. WHEDA awarded the full requested amount of $8.1 million over 10 years.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Coast Guard Base Alameda (CA), Detroit, Dover Air Force Base, Fort Bragg (NC), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Houston, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Springfield (VA), St. Paul (MN), Tampa and Washington, DC.
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
According to a survey by cloud accounting software company Freshbooks, the number of self-employed Americans could triple to 42 million by 2020. The study, which included 2,700 American workers in all kinds of working arrangements (traditional employees, independent professionals and small-business owners), was conducted in conjunction with ResearchNow. It specifically excluded “gig economy” workers who use online platforms such as Uber to land temporary work. Instead, it focused on professionals whose main source of income comes from independent client-based work.
 
The number of such self-employed workers in the U.S. stands at 15 million. But with many people placing more value on maintaining flexibility and autonomy and less on climbing a traditional corporate ladder, Freshbooks forecasts that an additional 27 million workers will go the self-employed route over the next two years.
 
Millennials are driving the shift — 42 percent of the expected influx of self-employed workers will come from that age range, according to the survey. But According to AARP, older workers are opting to take the be-your-own-boss career path as well, and the ones who do so report a significant rise in job satisfaction. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 50 and 65 said being self-employed makes them want to keep working longer and push back their retirement plans.
 
With a membership of over 37 million people AARP provides resources that focuses on the elderly, especially on how they can continue to live well after retirement. See their employment and entrepreneurship resources for veterans and caregivers below.
 
Aarp.org/50plusentrepreneurship – Entrepreneur Tools
Aarp.org/work - AARP Work Resources
Aarp.org/job  - AARP’s Job Board
Aarp.org/employerpledge  - AARP Employer Pledge Program
Aarp.org/startabusiness – AARP Small Business Resources
aarp.org/caregiving   AARP Caregiving Resource Center
https://www.aarp.org/home-family/voices/veterans/– AARP Veterans and Military Families
  
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
Update - Important Information for Ashford Students    
Ashford’s online programs are not fully compliant with GI Bill approval requirements; namely, its online programs must be approved by the state in which its main campus is located. The evidence available to VA strongly indicates that Ashford’s main campus is in California, but Ashford has not yet obtained approval from California as is required by law. Consequently, on November 9, 2017, VA notified Ashford that they must take steps to correct this problem, or VA will no longer be able to legally pay benefits based on attending Ashford. However, as part of a plan to resolve the situation, VA informed Ashford that VA would continue to make payments to students attending Ashford until January 9, 2018, to give Ashford additional time to seek compliance with GI Bill approval requirements under the law. Also, as part of this same plan, Ashford agreed to apply to California by January 8, 2018, for approval of its online courses. VA is pleased to report that Ashford applied to California on January 5, 2018. Therefore, at this point in time, VA will continue to pay benefits as long as Ashford continues to make a good faith effort to seek approval in California. It is important to understand that if at any time VA determines that Ashford is no longer making a good faith effort to gain approval in California, VA may be forced to stop making benefit payments. As VA has always maintained, approval by California would resolve VA’s concerns and allow uninterrupted benefits for students attending Ashford.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  3/9/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 16 February 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The U.S. housing market has gained back all $9 trillion in value it lost when the market collapsed, but the uneven nature of the crisis and subsequent recovery has left many housing markets trailing behind, while others surge further ahead. More than half of the nation's largest housing markets have regained all of the value lost during the recession, with the typical U.S. home worth $55,200 more than it was at the bottom of the housing bust, according to a new Zillow report.
In fact, even markets that are looked at as healthy, such as the Washington, DC, area, have still not entirely achieved a complete comeback. The typical DC area home fell 27.5 percent in value or $117,800, according to Zillow. Since hitting bottom in January/February 2012, home values have gained 24.4 percent or $75,700. Home values in the DC area are currently 9.8 percent below the highest level they reached during the housing bubble.
When the housing bubble burst in 2007, home values plummeted, and the typical American home lost 23 percent of its value. Since then, national home values have returned to their previous level, but the recovery has not been the same in all regions of the country. West Coast markets have seen the strongest gains in home value, driven by healthy job growth and limited inventory exacerbated by limitations on new construction. The Sand States that saw the biggest losses when the housing market crashed have yet to fully recover.
The median home in both Las Vegas and San Jose lost about $190,000 during the housing crisis. However, the Las Vegas housing market was hit especially hard during the recession – that $190,000 equaled a 62 percent loss in value – and its recovery is still lagging, with home values only recovering $131,000 so far. In San Jose, homes have gained $615,100 in value since the crisis, more than three times what was lost.
A decade after the financial crisis, the scars of the housing bust are still with us. The gap between the metros with the strongest and weakest housing market recoveries is as wide as it has ever been. The California Bay Area's housing recovery stands out when compared to other markets that saw similar home value appreciation because it has more than regained all of its lost value. Strong, high-paying job markets and persistently limited inventory sent prices skyrocketing, leading to the Bay Area having the most valuable housing markets in the country.
Nationally, home values hit their lowest point in December 2012. Individual markets bottomed out between July 2011 and December 2012. Denver home values fell just over 9 percent during the housing crisis, less than half of what the typical American home lost in value, largely because the Denver housing market never experienced much of a boom during the bubble years. As Denver has emerged as a popular tech hub over the past decade, its home values have climbed rapidly. The median home in Denver is worth $379,500, about 61 percent more than the highest value reached during the mid-2000s bubble.
The other four markets where houses have gained the most value since the recession include San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle. The housing markets that have gained the least value since the recession are Indianapolis, St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JAN
2017
JAN
2018
JAN
2017
JAN
2018
JAN
2017
JAN
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
211
134
184
122
27
11
Unemployment rate
6.3
4.1
6.4
4.3
5.8
2.6
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (January 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.1 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.6 percent (down from 3.3 percent in December).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday February 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a policy panel at the National Association for State Approving Agencies Washington Conference. The Legion’s latest education resolutions, as well as our work on licensing and credentialing, were discussed.
 
On Tuesday, February 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Kathryn Monet, Executive Director, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, to discuss the upcoming two-day National Homeless Veterans Summit during Washington Conference. The homeless veterans summit will discuss the overall status of VA’s homeless veteran programs and the challenges that still remain in assisting and housing homeless veterans and their families.
 
On Wednesday, February 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a skype interview with a local new station (CBS Channel 46) in Atlanta regarding VA’s homeless veterans programs and the challenges in assisting at-risk and homeless veterans and their families.
 
On Wednesday, February 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Capital Bank and members of the Small Business Taskforce to discuss the bank’s innovative services for entrepreneurs and their community reinvestment strategies for 2018. Capital Bank is a mid-sized bank that focuses on serving the diverse needs of business owners in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. It ranked #30 in the top 100 community banks between $500 million and $5 billion for 2014 by SNL Financial.
 
On Wednesday February 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a video call with Dr. Becky Takeda-Tinker, President of Colorado State University-Global Campus. CSU’s new online learning modalities and outputs were discussed, as well as options for a CSU sponsorship of our division’s Washington Conference activities.
 
On Wednesday February 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee staff to discuss supplemental DOD initiatives that are currently being excluded from the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). With both House and Senate Veterans’ Committees organizing TAP roundtable events, our division brought it to their attention that the SkillBridge Program, Marine Leadership Scholar Program, Troops to Teachers and the Corporate Fellows Program are currently excluded from TAP briefings.
 
On Friday, February 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Enlisted National Guard Association and the Apollo Group to discuss the agenda for the Legion’s Future of Servicemember and Veteran Symposium during the 2018 Washington Conference. Apollo group suggested research and reports released by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to highlight the basis for the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act provisions. 
 
Friday, February 16 - Sunday, February 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will attend The EDGE Conference in Austin, Texas hosted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The Legion will be speaking on the influencer’s panel as well as taking part in the Coalition for Veterans Owned Business’ annual stakeholders meeting. The event will include a Vet source training where 150 small businesses will learn more about doing business with Fortune 500 companies. The event will end with the Vet50 Awards, which will recognize the 50 fastest-growing veteran-owned businesses in the country, as identified by Inc. Magazine.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT (TRANSITION)
Document AR 600-8-10, Leave and Pass Administrative Absences, governs leave. Transition leave is ordinary leave chargeable to the soldiers accrued leave account and granted together with transition from the service, to include retirement. At retirement, the leave you have accrued through your retirement date may be sold (limit of 60 days per career), used as transition leave, or split between these two options. You must decide what is best for you. Because it is difficult to cancel an approved retirement, it is best to decide your course of action before submitting your retirement request. The following factors may affect your decision:
 
  • After 20 years of service, each additional month you serve on Active duty provides an additional retired pay multiplier of 1/12th of 2-1/2 percent for those under the Final Basic Pay or High-3 formulas, or 1/12th of 3.5 percent, for those under CSB/REDUX.
  • You must retire on the 1st day of a month unless you retire for disability.
  • Each day of leave can be sold back for basic pay only.
  • Accrued leave paid in a lump sum is automatically taxed at the 25 percent rate.
  • Servicemembers are not permitted to begin employment while in permissive temporary duty assignment (PTDY) status.
  • Servicemembers may work while on transition leave, even for the federal government.
  • Soldiers retiring for disability may have their retirement dates moved back to allow using any transition leave they are unable to sell back due to the 60-day limit.
    The purpose of transition PTDY is to allow soldiers to participate in pre-separation job search and house hunting activities that facilitate relocation or transition of the Soldier to civilian life.
    Soldier must have a need to relocate or conduct job search activities during the requested transition PTDY. If neither of these activities are necessary (for example, the Soldier already has secured a job, and the Soldier will continue to reside in the same residence with no prospect of moving) then transition PTDY is not appropriate. With your commander's approval, you may receive 20 or 30 days of PTDY (based on your geographical location (CONUS/OCONUS)) to conduct job search and house hunting activities. PTDY is a non-chargeable leave granted in addition to any authorized ordinary leave. Transition PTDY may be used in increments (not to exceed days authorized); may be taken in a series of trips in conjunction with transition leave (must have a duty day between transition leave and PTDY); or may be taken in its entirety in conjunction with transition leave (e.g. Soldier elects to take transition PTDY, with full 20/30 days as one trip; starting transition leave on the next day).
     
    Annual Leave: Except during the period 1 October 2008 thru 30 September 13, servicemembers may not carry forward more than 60 days of leave into the next Fiscal Year (FY). From 1 OCT 08 thru 30 September 2013, servicemembers may carry forward up to 75 days of leave. Any leave accumulated in excess of 75 days is lost at the end of the FY unless it was accumulated when entitled to Special Leave Accrual (SLA). Under special leave accrual authority, servicemembers may accumulate, during the period 1 October 2008 thru 30 September 2013, a maximum of 120 days of leave (75 days ordinary leave plus 45 days SLA). Any leave accumulated in excess of 120 days is lost at the end of the Fiscal Year. Outside of 1 October 2008 thru 30 September 2013, a maximum of 90 days of leave (60 days ordinary leave plus 30 days SLA) can be carried forward. For practical purposes, only leave accumulated before deployment plus leave earned during deployment (not to exceed 120 days total) is protected by SLA. Leave earned after deployment is not protected. SLA protection ends when the accumulated leave balance drops to 75 days or less.
     
    The actual leave balance carried forward into succeeding fiscal years is the lowest monthly leave balance after completion of SLA duty. Leave and Earnings Statements (LESs) show SLA days in the Remarks section. Except under Sell Back provisions, SLA days cannot be sold. Soldiers must plan accordingly to avoid losing leave before separation from the service. SLA Sell Back is an additional one-time sell back of accrued leave authorized for Enlisted Soldiers only (does not apply to Officers). Under this provision, an enlisted soldier may elect a one-time leave sell back of up to 30 days leave accrued in excess of the 120 day SLA limitation. SLA Sell Back counts against the 60-day leave sell back limitation during a soldier's military career.
2018 Washington Conference – Employment Activities/Events
 
Thursday, February 22, 9am-2pm - The American Legion Employment Innovation Taskforce RoundTable
  • Friday, February 23, 9am-11:30am - Resume/Financial Literacy workshops
  • Friday, February 23, 11:30am-1pm - Employment Panel & Networking Luncheon
  • Friday, February 23, 1pm -4pm - Hiring Our Heroes, Career Fair
  • Monday, February 26, 8:30am-5pm – National Veterans Employment & Education Commission Meeting
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
After nearly four years in the works, a project that will bring housing for veterans to Brighton is finally ready to start construction. Brighton Marine Health Center and Winn Companies closed on financing Wednesday, February 14, for a $43 million apartment building at its campus along Commonwealth Avenue. They'll start site work soon and plan to formally break ground this spring on a 102-unit building aimed at lower and middle-income veterans. It's on track to open by the fall of 2019. The beginning of construction is the end of a long process to get a project launched that involved piecing together financing and clearing hurdles on Beacon Hill. "It has been a long-term project just to get to this stage," said Bart Munro, a retired Army captain and board member at Brighton Marine who worked on the development. "I'm ecstatic."
Brighton Marine and Winn, a Boston housing developer that will manage the project, filed plans with the city in 2014. The project moved smoothly through Boston Planning & Development Agency permitting, with the strong support of Mayor Martin Walsh, who also directed $3.7 million in city housing funding to the project. It also was in line for financing from the Baker administration until Secretary of State William Galvin -- who oversees the Massachusetts Historic Commission -- stepped in, raising concerns about the demolition of several old officers' barracks on the site. Galvin said the buildings were historic, and blocked state funding.
That dispute stalled the project for months before Brighton Marine and Galvin reached an agreement. Brighton Marine had to keep two of the 75-year-old brick buildings on the site, and try to sell two more, for $1 each, to someone who would agree to move them to a new home. The sales process stretched well into 2017, but ultimately no buyer came forward. Finally, clear of all hurdles and state and city financing in hand, Brighton Marine and Winn closed on their loans Wednesday.
Veterans at various income levels will be given preference when apartment rentals begin next spring, and 11 of the units will be set aside for homeless veterans. Residents will have easy access to Brighton Marine's larger medical and social services campus next door, as well as to job-training programs, said Brighton Marine's president, Michael Dwyer. The goal is to help veterans transition back into civilian life, including by providing them with an affordable place to live. "This is one of the core underpinnings of our mission," Dwyer said. "Housing really helps with a lot of things."
 
Lastly, our division will be hosting a National Homeless Veterans Summit during the 2018 Washington Conference. The Summit will take place on Wednesday, February 28 – Thursday, March 1 at the Washington Hilton. The Summit’s focus is on capturing the landscape of veteran homelessness nationwide and providing policy recommendations to ensure continued progress in the fight to combat and ultimately end veteran homelessness.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Coast Guard Base Alameda (CA), Detroit, Dover Air Force Base, Fort Bragg (NC), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Houston, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Springfield (VA), St. Paul (MN), Tampa and Washington, DC.
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
Veteran-Owned Small Businesses operating in New York can now receive free legal services for issues related to a business lease. On February 6, 2018, the Bill de Blasio administration announced the launch of the new Commercial Lease Assistance Program, which will offer assistance to small business owners with lease negotiation, landlord issues, lease renewal, and eviction notices. Non-franchise businesses that meet an income requirements will be eligible for this program.
 
The program will receive $2.4 million in funding over two years, providing an average of 40 hours of legal services per client and a dedicated attorney to work with each business owner. The program will provide the services in partnership with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, Volunteers of Legal Services, and the Urban Justice Center. Examples of businesses that may be eligible include immigrant, minority, women, or veteran-owned, businesses that employ low-income residents, businesses located in a rezoned or high-poverty areas, or offer job training opportunities.
 
The new program will assist small business owners with pre-litigation services to help resolve problems before they end up in court, and will not represent clients in matters that do end up in court. The services provided can include sending legal correspondence to landlords, addressing tenant harassment issues, and resolving challenges when building ownership changes. Businesses can visit nyc.gov/commlease to learn more. Businesses can also access Small Business Services’ (SBS) Comprehensive Guide to Commercial Leasing.
 
2018 Washington Conference – Small Business Activities/Events
 
  • Wednesday, February 28, 8am-5pm: Boots to Business
Boots to Business is the two-step entrepreneurial training program offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) as a training track within the DOD’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
  • Wednesday, February 28, 8am-5pm: Advance Business Workshop
Value and take away from workshop:
  • Develop your one-page Action Plan f/ Growth to gain clarity instead of feeling overwhelmed by options.
  • Set vision and objectives based on what you need today and tomorrow.
  • Apply the 5 Habits of Profitability to your plan. These are proven to increase profit and value by 71% on average.
  • Learn about protecting what makes your business unique and relationships with employees.
  • Avoid the mistakes about raising capital and M&A strategies.
  • Gain confidence, control and clarity in leading your business.
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
Negotiators failed to reach consensus Thursday, February 8, on new language for borrower-defense regulations, clearing the way for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to craft its own version of regulations designed to protect defrauded student borrowers. The Obama administration crafted the borrower-defense rule to establish a national standard for student fraud claims after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech led to a flood of loan-relief claims. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blocked the rule from going into effect last year and said she would rewrite the regulations to better balance the concerns of students, taxpayers and institutions.
 
DOE was required by law to go through the negotiated rule-making process in which a panel representing various Higher-Ed interest groups attempted to seek consensus on the details of a new rule. Without negotiators reaching consensus, the agency will aim to issue its own proposed rule by November 1. Under the new proposed changes, students would have to clear a higher evidentiary standard in order to receive debt relief and may be expected to have discovered fraud at a “reasonable time.” The rule would impose a three-year limit on claims and does not mention anything about allowing state attorneys general to apply for cohorts of borrowers with claims, according to people familiar with the rulemaking sessions.
 
The borrower defense to repayment rule has existed since the 1990s, but students rarely took advantage of it. Then, student debt activists drew attention to the rule, which held that if colleges and universities engaged in behavior that violated state law, borrowers could have federal student loans cancelled, be relieved of the obligation to repay all or part of the loan, or be reimbursed for the payment of the loan. The Obama administration began the slow work of making changes to process so that students could make claims and have a clear path to debt relief. In 2016, the Education Department announced a revised borrower defense plan. But a few months into the Trump administration, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a “reset” of the rule. In October, DeVos announced the rule would be delayed even further and that the earliest it could take effect would be July 2019.
 
 
2018 Washington Conference – Education Activities/Events
 
The National Veterans Employment & Education Division is looking forward to our upcoming education and wellness activities. Over 150 individual invitations were sent.
 
Wednesday, February 28, 8am-5pm – DOD Skill-bridge Profiles in Success Roundtable
Thursday, March 1, 8am-5pm – Future of Veteran and Servicemember Education Symposium
Thursday, March 1, 9am-4pm – Avenir Wellness Workshop
 
TOPIC 8: PREDATORY LENDING TARGETING VETERANS
Could predatory lending practices affecting veterans also be inflating interest rates paid by thousands of unsuspecting home buyers using FHA loans? The answer appears to be yes – and the underlying abuses in home loans to veterans are prompting action by federal authorities and legislation on Capitol Hill. Here what’s happening: According to officials, some lenders in the VA home-mortgage program have been inducing borrowers to refinance their loans frequently to generate fat fees for lenders themselves, rather than benefitting veterans with lower costs or better loan terms.
 
The lenders use baiting tactics reminiscent of the housing-boom era – “teaser rates,” promises of zero payments for one or two months, refunds of escrows, switches from long-term fixed rates to short-term floating rates, and a grab-bag of bogus claims about saving money. In fact, many veterans have ended up paying more for their loans after the predatory refinancings, and some have found themselves left with little or no equity in their homes. Officials estimate that anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000 veterans have been affected by these marketing tactics during recent years.
 
All this may sound horrible, but it gets worse: Abuses in the VA mortgage lending arena spilled over onto borrowers in the much larger Federal Housing Administration (FHA) market, which primarily serves first-time home purchasers and others who lack significant cash for a down payment. The linkage is via a little-publicized but exceptionally important agency, The Government National Mortgage Association or Ginnie Mae. Ginnie connects individual home buyers and refinancers using federal mortgage program with deep-pocket investors around the world – giant pension funds and banks, among others. Ginnie pools VA, FHA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural housing loans into mortgage bonds, and provides a federal guarantee of timely payments to investors.
 
The inevitable result of the VA lenders’ predatory activities is an unusually high number of refinancings within the pools, which disrupts the expected long-term payment flows to investors. That, in turn, prompts investors to lower what they’ll pay for the bonds, and has the side effect of raising lenders’ interest-rate quotes to VA, FHA and rural home buyers and refinancers.
 
What’s being done to end this scandal? Last week, Ginnie Mae announced that it has notified a small group of lenders who allegedly have been abusing veterans on refinancings that they face potential exclusion from Ginnie’s principal bond program if they don’t stop what they’ve been doing. That would effectively cut them off from their main source of institutional funding for loans – a severe penalty. The agency didn’t identify specific lenders; however, the first penalties could be imposed as early as next month. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would block lenders from foisting rotten refi deals on VA borrowers. The Protecting Veterans from Predatory Lending Act, is co-sponsored by Senators Thom Tillis (NC) and Elizabeth Warren (MA). The bill would require lenders to produce a “net tangible benefits” analysis – demonstrating real savings to borrowers before initiating a refinancing and guaranteeing decreases in interest rates.
 
The American Legion has met with Ginnie Mae regarding this predatory lending issue. We’ll continue to have follow-up conversations with Ginnie Mae and other stakeholders, while looking into this legislation designed to assist veterans looking to refinance.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  2/16/18

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 2 February 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in January, and wages grew at the fastest pace in eight years. The unemployment rate stayed at 4.1 percent, the lowest since 2000, the Department of Labor reported on Friday, February 2. Wages were up 2.9 percent compared with a year earlier, the best pace since June 2009. Wage growth has been the last major measure to make meaningful progress since the end of the Great Recession. The Federal Reserve would like wages to grow even faster – 3 percent or more – but Friday’s report was a welcome sign for workers after years of stagnant pay.
 
Economists say it’s time to take note of how strong, or “tight”, the U.S. job market is. Friday’s numbers show 2018 will be a year of rising wages and the tightest labor market in over a generation. Some economists anticipate that the Republican tax law will continue to boost wages, because some large corporations are giving their workers raises. One-time bonuses, which many other companies have given out, are not counted in the wage growth calculation. Several states also raised their minimum wage at the start of the year, which helped overall wages grow. And experts say wages had to rise at some point as the country kept adding jobs and unemployment stayed low.
 
In a tight job market, there are more jobs available than there are workers to fill them. That forces employers to offer higher pay to attract and keep workers. Employers’ words may finally be translating into action. For years, employers have increasingly said they can’t find skilled workers – or any workers – to apply for job openings. Some economists say there’s a wide gap between the skills employers are demanding and the ones workers have. But other experts contest that if employers were really desperate for workers, they would raise their wages to recruit or retain new employees. Regardless, America has nearly 6 million job openings, near a record high.
 
Job gains in January came across the board. Construction companies hired 36,000 workers. Healthcare businesses added 21,000 new hires. Restaurants and bars gained 31,000 more bartenders, waiters and cooks. Manufacturing gained 15,000 jobs. Still, it wasn’t all good news. Job gains in December and November were revised down by a cumulative 24,000 jobs than previously reported. The number of Americans working part-time jobs but seeking full-time work rose a notch to about 5 million workers. And Americans clocked in for fewer hours. The average work week declined a bit to about 34 hours a week.
 
But overall, economists note the gains in January illustrate a job market that’s come a long way from the Great Recession, which ended in 2009. The economy has added jobs for 88 consecutive months, the longest streak on record. Unemployment has gone from 10 percent in 2009 to 4.1 percent today. Jobless claims are at their lowest point in decades. Consumer confidence remains just below its highest point in 18 years. The move could also force the Federal Reserve to raise its key interest rate faster. Fed officials in December forecast raising rates three times in 2018. But if wages continue to pick up, that could boost inflation. Faster inflation would force the Fed to raise rates faster or more frequently.
 
American investors certainly see more rate increases on the horizon. The yield on the 10-year U.S. bond shot up to 2.84 percent after the jobs report, reflecting higher expectations of more rate hikes.
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JAN
2017
JAN
2018
JAN
2017
JAN
2018
JAN
2017
JAN
2018
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
211
134
184
122
27
11
Unemployment rate
6.3
4.1
6.4
4.3
5.8
2.6
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (January 2018). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.1 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 2.6 percent (down from 3.3 percent in December).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, January 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Nathan Williamson and Terry Warren, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) at VA’s Central Office. We discussed the opportunities for helping caregivers, with employment opportunities.
 
On Monday, January 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with DOL-VETS to discuss the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), particularly its funding and future initiatives to assist homeless veterans and their families. HVRP provides services to assist in reintegrating homeless veterans into meaningful employment within the labor force and to stimulate the development of effective service delivery systems that will address the complex problems facing homeless veterans.
 
On Tuesday, January 30,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a roundtable hosted by the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The roundtable centered on the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) -- in particular the curriculum and the five-day mandatory course to include the two-day optional courses. This needs to addressed as the GAO Report released November 2017 (GAO-18-23) identified that less than 15 percent of Transitioning Service Members (TMS) are taking advantage of these course for one reason or another. We also shared a letter received from a Marine Captain detailing the challenges with providing counseling and mentoring to service members before attending TAP, and that more work could be done to bridge the gap between unit counseling and garrison mandatory workshops.
 
On Tuesday, January 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) in California to discuss their programs and services as well as the challenges they have in helping homeless veterans in Northern California. VRC is a community-based veteran’s service agency with a 44-year history of providing veterans programs. With 15 resource centers across Northern California, Northern Nevada and Northern Arizona, they focus on the complex realties of veteran issues and work diligently to design innovative programs that respond to the diverse needs of veterans and the community
 
On Wednesday, January 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with LTC. Katresha Bailey, Program Manager, Soldier For Life, to discuss different opportunities for the Legion to reengage in collaborating on assisting veterans in obtaining training and/or employment. We’re in the process of scheduling another meeting within the next couple of weeks to meet with the incoming Commanding Officer.
 
On Wednesday, January 31 the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Veterans Business Development regarding their attendance and participation at The American Legion’s Mid-Winter Conference. During the conference, we’ll be hosting Boots to Business: Reboot and an Advanced Business Workshop with the SBA. SBA is also looking to partner with more Legion Posts to host their small business workshops.
 
On Wednesday, January 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with personnel from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to confirm participation with the February 28 SkillBridge Roundtable. DOT was influential in incentivizing waivers for service members and veterans to receive their commercial driver’s licenses, which in turn led to on base training opportunities for transitioning service members to become registered truckers.
 
On Thursday, February 1, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division met with Hemsley Fraser and AVUE Technologies. A technologically-optimized, beautifully designed & ergonomic environment, which is supposed to make learning more than just being in a boring classroom.  The goal is to introduce veterans to a more comfortable environment for learning, in particular with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  Focusing more on a “just in-time” as opposed to a “point in-time” learning model.
 
On Thursday, February 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Joshua Stewart, Policy Director, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), to discuss the two-day meetings that are planned for the 2018 Washington Conference.
 
On Thursday, February 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division presented on a panel at the American Association of Community Colleges National Conference on creating military partnerships on campus; specifically, the portable and conducive framework of community colleges are compatible with trade and skills training that can be synchronized with military occupation crosswalks.
On Thursday, February 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Veterans Education Success to set agenda items for the Future of Servicemember and Veteran Education Symposium planned for the Washington Conference. Three core topics were agreed upon: the state of student debt, institutional risk sharing, and building informed consumers.
 
On Friday, February 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the monthly VSO meeting hosted by the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment & Training Services (DOL-VETS). The discussion focused on the DOL-VETS agenda and future activities. DOL-VETS mission is to prepare America’s veterans, service members and their spouses, for meaningful careers, provide them with employment resources and expertise, protect their employment rights and promote their employment opportunities.
 
On Friday, February 2 – Sunday, February 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will participate in the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) hosted by the U.S. Army Reserve Command Mobile Training Team (MTT). This event allows the Legion to present its programs and services to nearly 800 service members and their families.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens says he wants lawmakers to send him a bill to protect private employers from legal challenges if they give preference to veterans in hiring and promotions. The proposed policy change is part of Greitens' larger push to, as he describes it, "make this the best state in the country for veterans." Greitens campaigned heavily on his military experience as a Navy SEAL and pledged to help other former service members.
 
But two St. Louis employment attorneys say rolling back a bill Greitens signed last year that they say makes it harder for people with disabilities to sue for discrimination would benefit veterans more. Greitens, who founded a charity for veterans after his own military service, told the Associated Press that Missouri employers now face potential lawsuits for prioritizing veterans in hiring. Spokesman Parker Briden said that's because most veterans historically have been men, so giving preference to veterans could expose employers to discrimination lawsuits under federal equal employment laws.
 
But the governor said there's an exception for states that pass laws allowing such a practice. At least 38 other states have adopted similar policies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. "It is a step toward helping veterans," said Cary Kellett, the Department of Missouri Commander for The American Legion. "It's not so much the larger businesses but the smaller businesses, the ones that might be afraid of a lawsuit one way or the other because they don't have the money for the big corporate law offices to support them."
 
Bills filed so far in the Missouri Legislature also would let private businesses give priority to spouses of veterans with disabilities or spouses of deceased veterans. The likelihood that businesses now would be sued for giving preference to employing veterans is unclear. St. Louis employment attorneys Jon Berns and Ben Westhoff said they've never heard of such a case and said private employers now have the ability to hire veterans. Westhoff said it would be "exceedingly difficult" to win in court because of general good will toward veterans. O'Fallon Representative Nick Schroer, who filed a bill for veteran hiring preferences, said he's also not aware of any lawsuits so far but added that employers have complained to him about concern over potential legal issues for giving veterans priority. "This is more of a proactive measure to make sure our courts aren't being used for suing somebody who wanted to give preferential treatment to somebody who's protected and served our country," Schroer said.
 
Berns said veterans most often face employment issues after they've been hired. He cited unfair firing or not making accommodations either for time-off needed to serve or disabilities from service. Both attorneys recommended strengthening employment protections for veterans, either by banning discrimination against them in the Missouri Human Rights Act or rolling back provisions in a new law signed by Greitens last year that they say makes it more difficult for people with disabilities to sue for discrimination.
 
The new law requires people suing for employment discrimination to prove that their protected class status - such as race, gender, age or disability - was "the motivating factor" for an employment decision. Previously those suing only had to prove that it was a contributing factor. "I think more than anything it's a political talking point for the governor," Westhoff said about the proposed legislation. Other veterans' policies on Greitens' agenda include reducing new-business fees for veterans. Greitens said the state needs to "make it as easy as possible for our veterans to start businesses when they return."
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser joined volunteers who hit the streets to count the number of people sleeping outdoors Wednesday night (January 24th) as part of the District's annual "Point-in-Time" (PIT) tally of homelessness. "We set out three years ago with what some people thought was an impossible goal  to end homelessness in our city," Miss Bowser, told about 300 PIT volunteers gathered at Strong John Thomson Elementary in Northwest. Miss Bowser, who ran on a campaign to make homelessness "rare, brief and non-recurring," touted a 10.5 percent reduction in overall homelessness according to PITs count over the last two years. But the PIT count also shows mixed results when it comes to the homeless population that sleeps outdoors. In 2015, the number of homelessness people sleeping rough was 544. In 2016 it dropped to 318, then rose to 897 last year.
Each U.S. city conducts its PIT count and shares it annually with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which uses the tally to fund municipalities' efforts in tackling homelessness. "The better we do our count, the better we can report back to HUD, and the more money [for services] we get," said PIT volunteer Kevin Morton, a 54-year-old former Marine who works as the homeless coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Wednesday night, Mr. Morton and fellow volunteer Hector Lugo, 49, VA peer support specialist, worked for almost an hour to make sure they didn't miss anyone. In Franklin Park, Mr. Morton approached an older man whose gray shelter-issue blanket blends in with the sidewalk on the corner of K and 11th streets NW. As he knelt down to ask the man his name (Richard) and age (65) and if he would like shelter tonight (he didn't), Mr. Morton recorded his survey answers he carried on a clipboard.
 The 2018 PIT count is expected to be lower than last year's, but that could be due to the chilly temperatures. "The unsheltered count tends to go down when the hypothermia alert is on," a spokesperson for the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness told The Times. But more reductions in the PIT lend momentum to Miss Bowser's plan to close the aging homeless shelter at the D.C. General Hospital and replace it with smaller shelters throughout the city. "The work sometimes seems impossible and like we're never nearing an end, but what we do see is that we're driving down the number of people who are coming into our homeless services system," said Miss Bowser, who is running for re-election.
D.C. Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, said the District "can end chronic homelessness. We know how, and we are going do it." Ms. Nadeau, chair of the council's Human Services Committee, backs the Bowser plan but admitted the first community meeting on a proposed homeless shelter in her ward was "pretty rough." Councilmember Elissa Silverman said "we're here to do this count to quantify what our homelessness problem is," but also noted how the annual event highlights the gaps in the District's human services. Ms. Silverman told volunteers that two years ago during a PIT count, she met a homeless couple who refused shelter for fear of giving up their dog. In 2018, there are still no shelters in the District that accept pets. People seeking shelter must place any pets in the care of the Human Rescue Alliance, according to a spokesperson for the District's Department of Human Services.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Coast Guard Base Alameda (CA), Detroit, Fort Bragg (NC), Fort Gordon (GA), Houston, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Springfield (VA), St. Paul (MN), Tampa and Washington, DC.
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
Mark Rockefeller (Legionnaire) calls Post-9/11 U.S. military veterans “the next greatest generation,” as soldiers, aviators, sailors and Marines have returned home with a mindset of restarting their lives by starting small businesses and being their own bosses. But there was a distinct difference for this generation and the World War II greatest generation, of which 49 percent embarked on staring their own small businesses namely the financial crisis that crippled bank lending in 2008.
StreetShares provides 3-36 month term small business loans and lines of credit up to $100,000. The company also offers government contract financing and veteran business bonds. To qualify for a loan, business owners must have at least $100,000 in revenue or have been in business for one year. Good credit is not necessarily grounds for a loan rejection, either, since many service members have higher divorce rates, move frequently and have pushed their limits in more ways than one.
One of the first companies StreetShares funded was Combat Flip Flops, a company whose founders were Green Berets who returned to Afghanistan and repurposed a factory to make sandals and jewelry from deactivated land mines. The company later appeared on Shark Tank, and made a $300,000 deal from Mark Cuban, Daymond John and Lori Greiner.
 
After securing $1.2 million in seed funding and a $5.5 million Series A, the fintech company just closed on $23 million in fresh equity capital. The Series B round was led by a $20 million investment from Rotunda Capital Partners, LLC, and $3 million from existing investors, including veteran-focused venture firm, Stony Lonesome Group. The company has since expanded to an office with a 35-person staff, and is now looking to double its staff and move to a new location. With the raise the company is looking to hire front and back-end developers, designers and other tech talent.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
Recently, Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) sent a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin requesting an update on the VA’s efforts to administer reforms and policies that would protect veterans receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The senator has serious concerns over the VA’s tedious and inefficient implementation of existing policies that would protect veterans from predatory schools and profit-centered institutions. In the letter, Senator Blumenthal was urging VA to review these shortcomings and take immediate action to strengthen oversight, enforcement and accountability to make the promise of educational opportunity a reality for veterans nationwide, and protect student-veterans from unscrupulous, predatory schools. 
 
Senator Blumenthal concluded by stating “with more than $4.8 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill dollars flowing to colleges each year, VA must do more to hold deceitful colleges accountable for providing high-quality education and preventing high-pressure recruitment tactics. The United States Government has a responsibility to ensure that our veterans receive the high-quality educational opportunities they have earned. I encourage you to continue to work closely with veterans, veterans service organizations, and veteran education advocates for feedback when considering implementation of policies.”
 
Our staff will continue to review this process and provide feedback along with the latest information on this important issue.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  2/2/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 26 January 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The economy of the United States is poised for continued growth in 2018. But a potential conflict with North Korea and the deep state war against the President’s agenda can weaken the prospects.
 
Higher rates of growth and increased optimism in the U.S. economy are beginning to cause positive ripple effects around the globe. Since Trump’s election the value of U.S. stocks increased roughly the same as the combined GDP of Brazil, Mexico, and Canada. This is a great boon to the 50 % of U.S. households who have stocks and for many who work for better performing corporations. The stock market only measures one part of the economy and most of those winnings go to major players, but they are also the ones who invest and hire the most.
 
This positive trend has an international effect. Foreigners own approximately 40% of U.S. government debt, 30% of U.S. corporate debt, and 20% of U.S. stocks. Trump professional critics blame him if his policies hurt or help foreigners.  The goal is to diminish his Presidency.  One of Paul Krugman’s recent columns attacked “Trump’s $700 Billion Gift to Wealthy Foreigners.”  If Trump’s tax cuts and deregulations would discriminate against foreigners Paul Krugman and others in his camp would also have cried foul.
 
Something that did not grow in 2017, and for this we have to thank President Trump, is the regulatory state.  I have been arguing for some time that as the cost of regulations is so high in the U.S. and Europe, large investors are ready to risk their assets in countries with higher levels of corruption. According to Transparency International, the average score for corruption in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), is a dismal 3.7 out of 10. China and India, two of the top ten economies, score very low (4 out of 10) on corruption and economic freedom. Nevertheless, they continue to grow much faster than the rest of the world and most of the reduction in world poverty is due to their progress.
 
In several aspects China and India still lag behind the United States. Despite having 9 times our population, their combined GDP still does not match ours. The U.S. still attracts more foreign direct investments than all the BRIC countries combined. If policies continue in this pro-growth trajectory, US leadership as a magnet of investments will consolidate.
 
Only one of the top ten economies in this table saw a major change in its policy directions: the United States. It is a significant and positive turning point. Most of the members of the cabinet of President Donald Trump decided to confront the regulatory monster. Suddenly, the “administrative state,” a charitable word to describe the regulatory tyranny came under attack as never before. Trump brought in some of the best minds to dismantle the oppressive web of regulations. One of them is Neomi Rao, who was founding director of the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School. Rao is the current Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Other superb talents still wait to be confirmed. If I do not mention here the name of some these outstanding nominees, is to avoid giving ammunition to deep state agents.
 
Alejandro Chafuen
Economic freedom and growth forecast for the top ten economies. Source, Heritage Foundation (economic freedom), International Monetary Fund (growth forecast)
 
At the same time that costs and perceived regulatory risks are going down in the US, in several countries the costs of corruption continue to go up. Political leaders and businessmen around the world are going to jail. Some are buying their way out by collaborating with authorities, others by losing economic and political power. At least for now, the sense of complete impunity is gone. The Brazilian corruption behemoths Odebrecht (private) and Petrobras (state owned) bribed so many companies and leaders that the fall-out continues in countries as diverse as South Korea and Peru, and no one knows who will be next.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
DEC
2016
DEC
2017
DEC
2016
DEC
2017
DEC
2016
DEC
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
189
113
167
97
22
16
Unemployment rate
5.7
3.3
5.9
3.4
4.3
3.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (December 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.3 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.3 percent (down from 6.6 percent in November).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Monday, January 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Veterans Education Success to set agenda items for the Future of Servicemember and Veteran Education Symposium planned for the Washington Conference. Three core topics were agreed upon: the state of student debt, institutional risk sharing, and building informed consumers.
 
On Monday, January 22, the Veterans Employment and Education Division met with VA’s Center for Women Veterans regarding their 2018 priorities in outreach to women veterans. Priorities include claims and benefits, but also includes improving referral services for homeless, employment and entrepreneurship issues.
 
On Monday, January 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with the Century Foundation about the latest research concerning higher education debt related to institutions covered under the Gainful Employment rule. The Century Foundation is expected to be a prominent stakeholder in the education symposium.
 
On Tuesday, January 23, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Kevin Schick, Talent Acquisition Specialist for NAVAIR - U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command regarding their employment opportunities for veterans.  They would like to attend our Career Fair during the Washington Conference.
 
On Tuesday, January 23, the Veterans Employment and Education Division along with the chairman of the Small Business Taskforce met with Stephen Sachs representing PDS Consultants in their case against the Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind over the implementation of the Supreme Court’s Kingdomware decision. Their case is currently in the federal Court Of Appeals. The American Legion supports the Kingdomware decision, having written two amicus briefs in support of Kingdomware; once while their case was on appeal and once in the Supreme Court.   
 
On Tuesday, January 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Enlisted Association of the National Guard (EAGUS) to discuss the state of education for national guard soldiers. EAGUS has been engaged with the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions, and has suggested ideas for a higher education reauthorization.
 
On Tuesday, January 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with PVA to discuss disabilities issues and benefits concerning homeless veterans.
 
On Wednesday, January 24, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division met with Blake Souter of Senator Tim Kaine’s, VA office to discuss a draft bill “Military Spouse Employment Act”.  This bill has some concerns regarding Direct Hiring Authority, Improvement to military spouse education programs, and Transition Assistance Programs for Spouses.  While these programs are beneficial to the spouse, it may have an adverse effect on the veteran or transitioning servicemember.
 
On Wednesday, January 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with NCHV to discuss our planned homeless veterans meetings during Washington Conference.
 
On Thursday, January 25, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division attended the Career Fair at Andrews Air Force Base, hosted by JobZone.
 
On Thursday, January 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with U.S.VETS to discuss their homeless veterans initiatives and potential participation in the Washington Conference
 
On Friday, January 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the minority staff on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to discuss concerns with the Higher Education Act reauthorization. Specifically, the House version closes distinctions between for-profit and non-profit schools, cancels borrower defense and gainful employment rules and eliminates the 90-10 rule.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
THE TAX CREDIT FOR EMPLOYERS HIRING VETERANS MAY END IN 2018
 
As Veterans Day approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on the sacrifices veterans have made for our country and how we can support them. One way businesses can support our veterans is to hire them. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) makes it easy for businesses to do just that, but it may not be available after this year.
 
As released by the House Ways and Means Committee on November 2, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would eliminate the WOTC for hires after December 31, 2017.
 
The WOTC Program Details
You can claim the WOTC for a portion of wages paid to a new hire from a qualifying target group. Among the target groups are eligible veterans who receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as “food stamps”), who have a service-related disability or who have been unemployed for at least four weeks. The maximum credit depends in part on which of these factors apply:
 
Food stamp recipient or short-term unemployed (at least 4 weeks but less than 6 months): $2,400
Disabled: $4,800
Long-term unemployed (at least 6 months): $5,600
Disabled and long-term unemployed: $9,600
 
The amount of the credit also depends on the wages paid to the veteran and the number of hours the veteran worked during the first year of employment.
 
You aren’t subject to a limit on the number of eligible veterans you can hire. For example, if you hire 10 disabled long-term-unemployed veterans, the credit can be as much as $96,000.
 
Other Considerations of the WOTC
Before claiming the WOTC, you must obtain certification from a “designated local agency” (DLA) to confirm the hired individual is indeed a target group member. You must submit IRS Form 8850, “Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit,” to the DLA no later than the 28th day after the individual begins work for you.
 
Also, be aware that veterans aren’t the only target groups from which you can hire and claim the WOTC. But in many cases hiring a veteran will provide the biggest credit. Plus, research assembled by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University suggests that the skills and traits of people with a successful military employment track record make for particularly good civilian employees.
 
The Future of the WOTC under Tax Reform
It’s still uncertain whether the WOTC will be repealed. The House bill likely will be revised as lawmakers negotiate on tax reform, and it’s also possible Congress will be unable to pass tax legislation this year. Under current law, the WOTC is scheduled to be available through 2019.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined volunteers who hit the streets to count the number of people sleeping outdoors Wednesday night as part of the District's annual "Point-in-Time" (PIT) tally of homelessness.
 
"We set out three years ago with what some people thought was an impossible goal  to end homelessness in our city," Miss Bowser, a Democrat, told about 300 PIT volunteers gathered at Strong John Thomson Elementary in Northwest.
 
Miss Bowser, who ran on a campaign to make homelessness "rare, brief and non-recurring," touted a 10.5 percent reduction in overall homelessness according to PITs count over the last two years.
 
But the PIT count also shows mixed results when it comes to the homeless population that sleeps outdoors. In 2015, the number of homelessness people sleeping rough was 544. In 2016 it dropped to 318, then rose to 897 last year.
 
Each U.S. city conducts its PIT count and shares it annually with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which uses the tally to fund municipalities' efforts in tackling homelessness.
 
"The better we do our count, the better we can report back to HUD, and the more money [for services] we get," said PIT volunteer Kevin Morton, a 54-year-old former Marine who works as the homeless coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
 
Wednesday night, Mr. Morton and fellow volunteer Hector Lugo, 49, VA peer support specialist, worked for almost an hour to make sure they didn't miss anyone. In Franklin Park, Mr. Morton approached an older man whose gray shelter-issue blanket blends in with the sidewalk on the corner, K and 11th streets NW. As he knelt down to ask the man his name (Richard) and age (65) and if he would like shelter tonight (he doesn't), Mr. Morton recorded his survey answers he carried on a clipboard.
 
The 2018 PIT count is expected to be lower than last year's, but that could be due to the chilly temperatures. "The unsheltered count tends to go down when the hypothermia alert is on," a spokesperson for the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness told The Times.
 
But more reductions in the PIT lend momentum to Miss Bowser's plan to close the aging homeless shelter at the D.C. General Hospital and replace it with smaller shelters throughout the city.
 
"The work sometimes seems impossible and like we're never nearing an end, but what we do see is that we're driving down the number of people who are coming into our homeless services system," said Miss Bowser, who is running for re-election.
 
D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau, Ward 1 Democrat, said the District "can end chronic homelessness. We know how, and we are going do it."
 
Ms. Nadeau, chair of the council's Human Services Committee, backs the Bowser plan but admitted the first community meeting on a proposed homeless shelter in her ward was "pretty rough."
 
Council member Elissa Silverman, at-large Democrat, said "we're here to do this count to quantify what our homelessness problem is," but also noted how the annual event highlights the gaps in the District's human services. Ms. Silverman told volunteers that two years ago during a PIT count, she met a homeless couple who refused shelter for fear of giving up their dog. In 2018, there are still no shelters in the District that accept pets.
 
People seeking shelter must place any pets in the care of the Human Rescue Alliance, according to a spokesperson for the District's Department of Human Services
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Fredericksburg (VA), Fort Bragg (NC), Fort Irwin (CA), Fort Stewart (GA), Houston, Joint Base Andrews (MD), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Lexington Park (MD), Oceanside (CA) Oklahoma City (OK), and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
Veteran-owned small businesses have long faced inconsistencies between the regulations of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and those of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For example, these inconsistencies can lead to companies qualifying as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) under VA standards but not SBA standards—or vice versa. This issue came to a head recently at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (COFC) in Veterans Contracting Group, Inc. v. United States.
 
In a decision issued on December 15 and made public on December 21, the COFC restored a company’s ability to pursue contracts set aside for small businesses owned by disabled veterans by the VA. The decision came a day after the COFC reluctantly backed the SBA’s determination that the same company did not qualify for set-aside contracts under its rules. These conflicting decisions show the struggle the COFC and contractors face when dealing with inconsistent small business rules from two agencies.
 
On January 10, 2018, the VA issued a proposed rule that would place all veteran-owned small business ownership and control requirements with the SBA. In line with the 2017 NDAA, the rule gives the SBA sole responsibility for regulations regarding these ownership requirements—removing all related clauses from VA regulations. In addition, the rule includes changes intended to clarify how veterans can establish a service-connected disability in order to qualify a business as an SDVOSB and how surviving spouses of owners can still certify. The VA also created a more comprehensive list of the circumstances involving waste, fraud, and abuse that would cause a business to become ineligible as a veteran-owned small business.
 
This proposed rule clearly seeks to avoid similar issues as the ones found in Veterans Contracting Group and is open for public comment for 60 days after its publication.
 
TOPIC 7: LEGISLATIVE
On Thursday, January 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division submitted testimony to the, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health and Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity regarding the efforts and programs of the Departments of VA, HUD, and DOL to reduce veteran homelessness. During the hearing, the subcommittees were assessing the various programs used to provide homeless and at-risk veterans with housing, healthcare, supportive services, and job training search, and placement assistance. 
Listed below are excerpts from our testimony.
Generally, the causes of homelessness can be grouped into three categories: economic hardships, health issues, and lack of affordable housing. Although these issues affect all homeless individuals, veterans face additional challenges in overcoming these obstacles, including: prolonged separation from traditional support systems such as family and close friends; highly stressful training and occupational demands, which can affect personality, self-esteem and the ability to communicate upon discharge; and non-transferability of some military occupational specialties into the civilian workplace. Research indicates that those who served in the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam eras are at greatest risk of becoming homeless, but that veterans from more recent wars and conflicts are also affected. Veterans returning from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq often face invisible wounds of war, including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, both of which correlate with homelessness.
 
Since 2014, more than 880 mayors, governors, and other state and local officials have answered the call of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, pledging to do all they can to ensure their communities succeed. And it’s working. A growing list of 57 communities, including the entire states of Connecticut, Delaware, and Virginia, have proven that ending veteran homelessness is possible and sustainable. As documented through federal criteria and benchmarks, urban, suburban, and rural communities across 26 different states have proven that they can drive down the number of veterans experiencing homelessness to as close to zero as possible, while also building and sustaining systems that can effectively and efficiently address veterans’ housing crises in the future.
 
In 2016, VA awarded $300 million via 275 individual SSVF grants to non-profit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. The VA’s SSVF grantees cover 400 of the 416 Continuums of Care across the country. Through FY 2015, more than 157,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families were served with these funds. Additionally, in 2015, 55,669 veterans served in the SSVF Program exited to permanent housing outcomes. Over the course of the program’s lifetime, 78 percent of all participants have exited to permanent housing.
 
Lastly, through FY 2017, HUD has awarded approximately 93,000 HUD-VASH vouchers. Nationwide, more than 300 Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) have participated in the program. Recently, Congress made permanent a set-aside program to encourage HUD-VASH vouchers to be used on tribal lands, thereby filling an important gap in our service delivery system. HUD-VASH, SSVF and HVRP are very vital programs in the quest to combat and ultimately end veteran homelessness. Data has proven their quality and effectiveness.
 
The American Legion urges Congress and the VA to continue to adequately fund/prioritize these programs that have been game changers to at-risk and homeless veterans. The American Legion will not rest until we see continued efforts in getting veterans off the streets and into affordable and safe housing as well as support services they need in order to sustain their healthy independent living.
 
TOPIC 8: EDUCATION
Ashford University can continue enrolling students on the GI Bill — at least for now, the Veterans Affairs Department has confirmed.
 
The online, for-profit school that’s one of the top enrollers of military students was in danger of losing its eligibility to accept GI Bill funds last year after failing to maintain the appropriate state-level approval required for the veterans education benefit. That approval is still pending, but despite the VA’s Jan. 9 deadline, the federal agency has decided not to pull payments as it awaits a court appeal and a decision from the state of California.
 
“Otherwise, Ashford likely would have sought a stay from the court, which, if granted, may well not have required Ashford to apply to (the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education),” VA spokesman Randy Noller said in an email. “In that event, VA would still be paying benefits and Ashford would not be undertaking any corrective actions.”
 
After closing its only brick-and-mortar campus in Iowa in 2016, Ashford lost its approval from that state and opened a campus in Phoenix, receiving a sign-off from the Arizona State Approving Agency. But the VA said in a November notice to Ashford that because the school’s main campus is in San Diego, Arizona did not have jurisdiction to approve Ashford. The notice gave the school 60 days to comply with the law.
 
Shortly after, Ashford filed an appeal in federal circuit court, disputing VA’s interpretation of the law and arguing that unless the court intervenes, “VA’s precipitous and unlawful decision will force Ashford’s veteran students to face an unpalatable set of choices.”
 
The VA has moved to dismiss the case, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Wednesday. The court could grant that dismissal in the next several months or choose to fully litigate the case, which could take about a year, he said.
 
According to spokespersons from Ashford University, the Veterans Affairs Department “has made assurances that as long as Ashford pursues this application in good faith, it will continue to pay benefits, even as Ashford and the VA remain in negotiation over approval in Arizona.” Ashford has temporarily stopped enrolling new GI Bill students and is reviewing that decision at this time.
 
On the Department of Education side, Secretary DeVos is considering undoing a landmark ruling by the Obama-era Education Department regarding colleges that seek to convert from for-profit schools into nonprofit institutions. The Center for Excellence in Higher Education, which is based in Utah and owns a chain of career colleges, is in negotiations with Education Department attorneys over reversing the Obama administration’s rejection of the school’s nonprofit status, according to court filings made last week. If the ruling is reversed, schools such as Ashford University may seek loopholes in filing as a non-profit entity.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  1/26/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 19 January 2018
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
It often doesn’t take much for investors to become panicky. Despite reaching historically high bench marks, investors are waiting for the other shoe to drop. So it’s not without reason that the looming government shutdown could put a brake on the current bull market. The bump down is typically small. The Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500-stock index falls an average of 0.3 percent one week after a shutdown, by historic standards. While the market in the past has quickly rebounded, an interruption in government services might still spook investors.
 
Stocks failed to hold strong gains Tuesday, January 16, as the possibility of a government shutdown loomed over investors’ minds. The Dow Jones industrial average erased a 283 point gain, closing down 10.3 points. The S&P 500 also saw its advances evaporate, closing 0.4 percent lower after rising as much as 0.8 percent. Although the government would stop paying federal workers, S&P predicts a shutdown would increase the deficit because of the added cost required to stop and start federal programs. The last three government shutdowns – two during President Bill Clinton’s administration and a third under President Barack Obama in 2013 – cost the federal government $4.25 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
 
If the past is any indication, here’s what you can expect if the government closes:
 
  • The first people hit would be those 800,000 government employees that won’t be getting paid.
  • If you receive Social Security, you’ll get your check. Social Security is a mandatory program that will continue even if Congress fails to pass a spending bill.
  • National parks and monuments will close immediately.
  • Going on vacation and waiting for your passport? Your trip may be derailed if the spending impasse goes on too long. If the shutdown lasts more than a few days and you need to renew or apply for a passport, you could run into problems. Without workers, the State Department would have to stop processing applications.
     
    In other news, TransCanada announced it’s moving forward with construction of the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline. Last November, Nebraska regulators approved a pipeline route for KXL through their state. However, the route that was approved differed from TransCanada’s preferred route for KXL, complicating the future of the project. This week, TransCanada reported that interest in using the pipeline is strong. The company stated that they have received 20-year commitments to deliver approximately 500,000 barrels of Canadian and U.S. oil – enough interest to make the business justification to continue to move forward with the project. In addition, TransCanada also revealed that they are now proceeding with pre-construction plans and activities to build KXL on the alternate-approved route.
     
    Why it Matters:
     
  • The Keystone XL pipeline will allow more Canadian and American oil to move more easily to U.S. refineries.
  • It will bring important job growth and tax revenue to communities along the route, and create good construction and manufacturing jobs in the short term. KXL will help fuel the American economy for decades to come.
  • Pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to move large amounts of oil with the least risk.
  • Although U.S. oil production has increased, our nation continues to import crude oil. By importing more oil from our friendly neighbor to the North, we improve energy security for North America.
     
     
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
DEC
2016
DEC
2017
DEC
2016
DEC
2017
DEC
2016
DEC
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
189
113
167
97
22
16
Unemployment rate
5.7
3.3
5.9
3.4
4.3
3.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (December 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.3 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.3 percent (down from 6.6 percent in November).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Tuesday, January 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Adam Martinez, Director, Miligistix. This company is a consulting firm specializing in Military Talent Programs. Miligistix’s are experts in designing, deploying, and optimizing all aspects of military and veteran recruiting, hiring, engagement, and retention programs. The discussion centered on how we could potentially collaborate to help veterans make themselves more competitive in the global marketplace.
 
On Tuesday, January 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a training session to participate in the upcoming Point-in-Time (PIT) Count in Washington, DC.  The PIT Count is a count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single nigh in January. HUD requires that Continuums of Care (COC) conduct an annual county of homeless persons who are sheltered in emergency shelter, transitional housing and Safe Havens on a single night. COC’s also must conduct a count of unsheltered (i.e., are living in a place unfit for human habitation, such as in a park or in an abandoned building) homeless persons every other year (odd numbered years).
 
On Wednesday, January 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a meeting with Rosye Cloud, Senior Advisor, Veterans Employment Office of Economic Opportunity, VA, to discuss 2018 initiatives and the direction the VA is going with respects to veteran employment.
 
On Wednesday, January 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a town hall meeting located at U.S.VETS in Washington, DC, with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.  Issues of at-risk and homeless veterans was the main topic of discussion. U.S.VETS is the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk veterans.
 
On Thursday, January 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Kathryn Poynton, Director of Events, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, to discuss the upcoming Career Fairs during The American Legion’s Washington Conference and Puerto Rico. The USCC would like to have two Career Fairs in Puerto Rico this year.
 
On Thursday, January 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Disabled Veteran Business Alliance and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) regarding the Legion’s past support of the Fairness to Veterans in Infrastructure Act, which was reintroduced in the 115th Congress by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA).
 
On Thursday, January 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Latin Economic Development Center (LEDC) to discuss their real estate and microlending services for Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia residents. They extend their services to everyone but specialize with the Spanish speaking population. The LEDC is hoping to service more veterans and asked the Legion to refer veterans to them to utilize their services. 
 
On Friday, January 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a follow-up meeting with Senator Pat Toomey’s (PA) office to discuss their co-sponsorship or reintroduction of the Legion’s backed Fairness to Veterans in Infrastructure Act in the Senate.
 
On Friday, January 19 – Sunday, January 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the 99th Regional Support Command (RSC) Yellow Ribbon Program.  The Legion presented to Reservists who have recently returned from deployment, as well as those who are preparing to deploy in the near future.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
A new initiative in Connecticut seeks to level the playing field for veteran jobseekers who’ve received an other-than-honorable discharge from the military. Veterans with this kind of administrative discharge, more commonly known as a “bad paper” discharge, can lose out on state and federal benefits, but also face barriers in finding employment, said Alyssa Peterson, a law student intern with Yale’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic, which has represented veterans seeking to upgrade their discharge status.
The State’s Council on Human Rights and Opportunities is getting involved. The agency has begun working with veteran groups and its counsel, the Yale clinic, to address what they say is a systemic discrimination against veterans with bad paper discharges. The goal is to educate employers about their legal obligations to not discriminate, help employers understand the military discharge process and educate veterans about their employment rights. “We are glad to have the CHRO take up the issue so that we can educate employers about how discharge information can be handled in ways that benefit all deserving veterans and bring all of their skills and experience into the workforce,” Steve Kennedy, IAVA-CT team leader, said in an emailed statement.
When hiring, employers consider the characterization of an individual’s military service, and a bad paper discharge is often a red flag on job applications. Employers are often unfamiliar with the military discharge process, and are unaware or assume that a bad paper discharge means a veteran engaged in some sort of criminal conduct or served dishonorably, Peterson said.
About 890,000 enlisted service members, or nearly 6 percent of enlisted service members in all military branches except the Coast Guard, have received an other-than-honorable discharge, according to an estimate by the Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard. Vets can receive this kind of discharge for minor infractions such a watching a movie while on duty or missing a flight for deployment, Peterson said.
In Connecticut, some employers have policies explicitly stating they will only hire vets with honorable discharges, which could put them at risk of violating federal and state civil rights laws, according to Peterson. She offered JPMorgan Chase and Walmart as examples.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Recent survey data indicate that eviction (i.e., a forced to move from a rental property by a landlord) may occur in up to 1 of 14 renter households. Such an involuntary or forced move is associated with both immediate and enduring negative consequences, including ongoing residential mobility, often to neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty and crime1 and into substandard or lower-quality housing. The experience of eviction has been associated with an increased likelihood of depression, poor health, and stress related to parenting5 as well as the degradation of social support networks. Eviction may even lead to homelessness: among the 58,000 individuals who access emergency homeless shelters in New York City each night, two-thirds cite eviction as their cause of homelessness. The immediate impact of eviction tends to persist over time as these households have a diminished ability to access housing. Finally, an effect of involuntary moves is job loss, ultimately resulting in “material hardship,” which has been shown to be ongoing.5
 
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-Veterans Affairs (VA) Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program is intended to ensure housing stability for Veterans with a recent history of homelessness who require supportive services to live independently. However, Veterans leave HUD-VASH, and other permanent supportive housing (PSH) programs, for a number of reasons, including eviction. The objective of the present study was to identify correlates of eviction from HUD-VASH - both characteristics of the Veterans and precipitating events, in this case revealed through Veterans’ use of acute care services - that may signal imminent eviction.
 
RESULTS
 
Approximately 1 in 10 veterans who left HUD-VASH housing exited due to eviction, a rate slightly higher than that reported in the limited existing research assessing evictions among renter households. Veterans who left HUD-VASH due to eviction were more often male, were not receiving compensation related to a service-connected disability, and had diagnoses of chronic medical conditions, serious mental illness (SMI), and substance use disorder (SUD). The prevalence of suicidal and self-harm behaviors was 7 times higher among evictees than veterans who left HUD-VASH because they accomplished their goals. Evictees stayed in HUD-VASH an average of about 19 months; the average tenure among those who accomplished their goals was 40 percent longer.
 
Compared with veterans who had accomplished their goals, a significantly larger proportion of veterans who were evicted had received acute care - inpatient and/or emergency - and more frequently increased their use of acute care as exit approached. Veterans who were evicted were approximately 40 percent more like likely to have an acute care visit during the 30 days immediately prior to exit compared with 61–90 days prior to exit and had almost 10 times the rate of acute care use as veterans who accomplished their goals during the 30 days prior to exit.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Fredericksburg (VA), Fort Bragg (NC), Fort Irwin (CA), Fort Stewart (GA), Houston, Joint Base Andrews (MD), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Lexington Park (MD), Oceanside (CA) Oklahoma City (OK), and Springfield (VA).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness, and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The VA has published two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking which, in effect, (1) would shift the duties of certifying Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) as relates to Ownership and Control (O&C) from the VA