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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 to the Small Business Administration (SBA) (see,https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/10/2017-27715/va-veteranowned small-business-vosb-verification-guidelines); and (2) revises the regulations dealing with set-asides and sole source awards under the Veterans First Contracting Program (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/11/2018-00169/revise-and-streamline-va-acquisitionregulation- to adhere to federal acquisition regulation).
While subject to comment periods and final rulemakings, the big picture story line is that this revised regulatory scheme, if passed, will shift much of the oversight on VOSBs from the VA to the SBA. While the SBA oversees almost all small business concerns related to federal procurements, including the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Program, the VA has had its own veteran-owned business certification program, called the Vets First Verification Program. Arising out of the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-461), this program granted the VA with unique authorization to certify businesses as VOSBs and SDVOSBs as well as set-aside and issues sole source contracts to these entities for VA-specific procurements.
This was a program wholly independent of the SBA’s SDVOSB set-aside program, which covers agencies outside the VA for procurements. Traditionally, in contrast to the organized, detailed certification program that the VA has, in which it affirmatively certifies entities as VOSBs, the SBA’s SDVOSB program is a self-certifying program. Businesses would self-certify as being Service Disabled Veteran-Owned (and Small) for reasons of pursuing contracts outside the VA. This remains, but now the VA is “transferring” some of its oversight to the SBA.
 
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 is 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
 
World War II veteran William E. Price, commander of American Legion Post 257 in Laguna Woods, California, stepped to the microphone to tell his story, from newly discharged U.S. Army Air Corps electrical mechanic in 1946 to aerospace engineer whose work on the Voyager Program to this day sends data back to earth from intergalactic space. Recent UCLA graduate and Student Veterans of America member, 36-year-old Donnie Stiles told how when he first enlisted in the Marine Corps, “I was not mature enough for college.” That changed when he got out and realized the opportunity military service had given him. American Legion Department of California Commander Robert Heinisch said education benefits were a driving force behind the decisions of his two sons, both combat veterans, to serve in the U.S. armed forces.
 
U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Raymond Jackson, who commands Maritime Safety Security Team Los Angeles-Long Beach, described the GI Bill as “a tangible way to say thank you for your service.” They were among dozens of veterans who gathered Wednesday, January 17, at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in the nation’s second-largest city, home of Los Angeles County Military & Veterans Services, for the opening of “The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Centennial Salute to the GI Bill.” The traveling multi-media exhibit is on its third stop in a tour that began last June at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
 
American Legion National Headquarters Executive Director Verna Jones described Patriotic Hall – known as a “living” veterans memorial facility that features a broad gamut of services and programs – as “a fitting place for The American Legion’s centennial salute … In a very real sense, the GI Bill is also a living memorial to veterans and all who have taken the oath to defend our nation in uniform. “As a symbol of The American Legion’s centennial, the GI Bill holds a sacred place,” Jones said at the opening of a panel discussion moderated by American Legion Past National Commander David K. Rehbein, chairman of the organization’s 100th Anniversary Observance Committee. “It spans from The American Legion founders who wrote it – men and women who came home to no VA services, limited health care and bleak economic hope – to the Post-9/11 generation, so many of whom chose military service as a springboard in careers that make America the strongest economy on the planet.”
 
It was not always that way, explained Dr. Jennifer Keene of Chapman University, a distinguished scholar of World War I and its effects. When the veterans of the First World War came home from their battlefields and duty stations, “they got $60 in separation allowance. They could wear their uniform home. They got train tickets.” The American Legion grew quickly to prominence in its first decade by working to change the way wartime veterans should be treated by the federal government after discharge. “Veterans almost immediately turned to the new American Legion and joined The American Legion in great numbers – this was a World War I organization – looking for someone they could trust,” she explained.
 
Among the early Legion’s first orders of business, Keene told those gathered for the panel discussion in Patriotic Hall’s historic auditorium, was to make the case for “adjusted compensation” and to not define it as a pension program, which had been politically controversial and economically challenging for the government after the Civil War. Adjusted compensation was meant to reimburse World War I veterans for lost economic opportunity while they were serving in uniform while at the same time incomes were climbing and companies were profiteering due to the war. “Adjusted compensation was a different argument,” she said. “During the war, there had been a boom, and wartime workers had made high wages, and war profiteers had made high profits. The American Legion argued that it was unfair to take soldiers out of their daily lives and pay them $30 while essentially everybody on the home front was making out. They had lost the opportunity to get ahead in their civilian lives.”
 
A 20-year bond, payable in 1945, was the compromise from the federal government. The Depression, however, intervened, and when veterans marched on Washington for earlier payment of the bonuses, The American Legion began to envision a different future for military veterans, some 16 million of whom would soon serve in World War II. The GI Bill was built on that future. Drafted by The American Legion and fiercely defended through to passage as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the so-called “GI Bill of Rights” revolutionized not only military service but U.S. economy and culture.
 
Among its effects, as portrayed in the exhibit, were democratization of higher education, reasonable readjustment compensation for those returning to civilian careers, a decent VA hospital system, the expectation of home ownership by average Americans, the ability to appeal conditions of discharge from branches of service and an incentive so great that the United States could become an all-volunteer force, as it has been for more than 40 years. “The American Legion had the right idea,” explained John Kamin, U.S. Army veteran of the war in Iraq and an assistant director for the Legion’s National Employment & Education Division. “This was the paradigm shift that resulted in the 20th century economy.” Low-interest home loans through the GI Bill, Kamin explained, “literally changed the face of the country.”
 
Education benefits, home loans and the promise of a decent health-care system remain among the top reasons young people choose to begin their adult lives by serving in uniform, Lt. Cmdr. Jackson said. Most often, that choice proves successful. “It’s an excellent tool,” Jackson explained. “A lot of young men and women, when they graduate from high school, they may not have the grades they thought they were going to have, and they may not have the finances they thought they were going to have, available to them. Having the GI Bill available to present to young men and women to enter the Coast Guard is an excellent recruiting tool … A lot of people will come into the Coast Guard for the GI Bill, and that’s the only thing they see. When they leave, they leave with integrity. They leave with training. They leave with respect from the community.”
 
Dr. Keene made the point that GI Bill-educated veterans have come home from service to contribute not only to the economy but to their local communities, which through the years has changed the way the public perceives veterans in general. “It has impacted millions of people,” she said. “It’s a way that investing in the veteran really helps us all.”  “The GI Bill was the only reason, I can honestly say, that encouraged me and gave me what I needed to finish at the junior college level and go on to the university and finish,” said Hugh Crooks Jr., vice chairman of the California Veterans Board and former American Legion National Executive Committeeman, a retired law-enforcement officer. “That’s why I have an undergraduate degree now.” Without the Vietnam War GI Bill, Crooks said, “there would have been a lot of people who would not have had that opportunity at all.”
 
The original legislation nearly failed in June 1944 when a conference committee was deadlocked on a 3-3 vote until American Legion leaders led a frantic search for Representative John Gibson of Georgia, who represented the swing vote to pull the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act out of committee. Gibson, who was rushed from rural Georgia through a rainstorm in the middle of the night to cast the swing vote, is rightfully remembered as an essential figure in the bill’s passage.
 
Attending the event Wednesday at Patriotic Hall was David Gibson, a member of American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood and Representative Gibson’s great nephew. “My grandfather’s brother helped save the GI Bill and helped make it happen,” said David Gibson, first vice commander of California’s American Legion District 24. “Of course, being a veteran, I appreciate that.” He remembers personally the struggle of working and going to school full time as he was starting a family after military service in 1975. “Every little bit helps,” he said. “I think it’s only appropriate. Some gave all, and all gave some, but to be able to use that benefit not just for education but for housing, even the benefits you get if you have health issues … it’s the least our country can do. It’s the least the government can do for those who put their life on the line.”
 
The panel discussion explored changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s latest reboot, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, known at the “Forever GI Bill” because it lifts restrictions on the span of time a veteran has to use the benefits. The act, signed in August by President Trump, was supported by The American Legion, which also provided guidance to keep it valuable for new generations. Kamin noted that the GI Bill is frequently in need of revision to keep up with changes in higher education and the economy but also to keep the benefits package from getting watered down over time. “It’s a responsibility that lives on in all of us,” Rehbein said of the pride and stewardship The American Legion feels about the GI Bill and the need to continuously revisit it. To that point, added Crooks, as he studied the exhibit panels in Patriotic Hall: “We cannot educate people enough on that.”
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  1/19/18

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 12 January 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 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 USD 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 USD 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”. 

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
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 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a planning call with the American Association of Community Colleges over their Workforce Development Initiative Conference in New Orleans on February 1. The American Legion’s work on licensing and credentialing will be featured in a breakout session on military hiring, and the Legion has also been asked to attend advisory sessions on military transition.
 
On Tuesday, January 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting with the Pew Charitable Trusts Foundation to review new veteran education initiatives Pew is engaged in. Pew is looking to expand its work on student loans and default rates, and requested guidance from The American Legion on an appropriate course of action.
 
On Tuesday, January 9, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division attended a stakeholders meeting at the Mayor’s Office, District of Columbia.  Discussed multiple issues pertaining to Veteran Small Business.  The three areas that were highlighted: 1) The Veteran Business Center, 2) Contract Procurement, and 3) NCRC Veteran Loan Program.  More to follow in the upcoming weeks.
 
On Wednesday, January 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing on VA home loan mortgage churning. The hearing covered recent trends in VA home loans that indicate that mortgage companies are taking advantage of loopholes in the system to offer junk refinance options that lower the quality of VA home loans. Regulatory changes were discussed, but the consensus of the subcommittee was to hold off on legislative changes.
On Wednesday, January 10, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division,  conference call with Kathryn Poynton, Director of Event Operations & Specialty Events-U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation regarding the upcoming career fair during the American Legion Washington Conference.  We are looking at 60 employers and 2 VSOs.
 
On Wednesday, January 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division along with the Legislative Division met with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to discuss the implementation of a Legion supported program for veteran owned small businesses. Though DOT staff could not weigh in on policy change, they laid out the administrative barriers and processes the agency could take in implementing such a change.
 
On Wednesday, January 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division along with the Legislative Division met with Senator Toomey to discuss the likelihood the senator will sponsor The American Legion backed Fairness to Veterans in Infrastructure Act in the Senate. The Fairness to Veteran in Infrastructure Act will increase opportunities for veteran small businesses in national infrastructure repair and improvement projects.
 
On Thursday, January 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking session on the borrower defense rule. Changes to the rule are currently being discussed to increase the evidence needed to prove institutional fraud, which would severely limit veterans ability to have student loans forgiven. The American Legion provided public comment.
 
On Thursday, January 11, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Felicia Brown- Talent Acquisition Specialist for AARP, regarding different opportunities for our older veteran population and participation at the career fair during the Washington Conference.
 
On Friday, January 12, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division conference call with Charles Brown of Impact  Diversity, wants to discuss  different opportunities and services for our veteran population throughout the United States.  They would like to offer a program that would assist servicemembers in their transition from military life to the private sector.
 
On Friday, January 12, 2018, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Janet Giles, CEO of JobZone, discussed future opportunities to hold career fairs at one of our American Legion Posts in Maryland.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Apprenticeship Opens Door to Nontraditional Career
Regina McLean of Hampton, Virginia, has never been one to stand down from a challenge, including a bold move into a nontraditional career opportunity.  At 32, Regina had been working at a child care center in Newport News. While out shopping one afternoon, she came across Newport News Shipbuilding. Curious to learn more about the company, Regina stopped in.
 
She learned that the company was seeking job candidates for work building aircraft carriers and submarines. Although she had no prior experience in manufacturing, she was intrigued by the opportunity and filled out an application. Regina was hired as a machinist two weeks later, and received training on how to weld and run blades and saws. Her supervisors saw her potential and encouraged her to pursue the company’s machinist apprenticeship program after a few months on the job.
 
Eager to learn more, she took their advice and was accepted into the four-year program in 2002. She spent two days in the classroom and three days in the field per week, and was paid for all of her time. Her skills and motivation stood out: Regina was selected to work with an experienced foreman at a company outside of the shipbuilding school, while most other apprentices worked directly under the supervision of a school craft instructor.
 
“I worked for supervisors with a lot of experience who made sure I learned everything about the job and fully understood what I was doing,” Regina said, “They allowed me to gain supervisory experience, and learn about relevant regulations and processes.” When Regina graduated in 2006, she received the Niels Christiansen Award for her excellent work and having the highest grade in her trade.
 
Regina later became a craft instructor at Newport News Shipbuilding’s apprenticeship school, teaching students about leadership, machinist theory, and onboard machine shop installation and testing. Since finishing the apprenticeship, she has earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, and is currently employed in a management position with the company. “Pursuing an apprenticeship was the best decision I have ever made,” she said. “It afforded me a lot of opportunities and built confidence in me I would not have had otherwise.”  
      
Find an apprenticeship program or learn how to sponsor one at www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced a new employment program aimed at helping job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness, and those on the brink of homelessness, gain stable and long-term employment.  The new program, Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services (HVCES), relies on Community Employment Coordinators (CECs) who know their communities and can work with local employers to identify suitable jobs based on a veteran’s skills and abilities.
 
 “Securing long-term, stable and fulfilling employment is important for veterans who are exiting homelessness or are at-risk of becoming homeless,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin. “We know that finding gainful employment can change the life of a veteran. This new program is a key component of the overall strategy to prevent and end veteran homelessness.”
Each VA Medical Center (VAMC) will have a dedicated CEC who will be responsible for connecting homeless and at-risk veterans to appropriate VA and community-based employment services. The goal is to establish relationships with employers who may be able to hire veterans while VA provides the necessary support services to ensure each veteran’s transition back into the workforce is successful.
 
CECs also will work with existing VA employment programs and local workforce development organizations to identify other employment-related resources for this subset of the veteran population. Veterans exiting homelessness offer a diverse skillset that is applicable to many different fields and leadership roles within organizations.  VA offers a variety of wraparound services including health care, housing assistance and other VA supports to increase the likelihood of on-the-job success.
 
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), Lexington Park (MD), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Nellis Air Force Base (NV), Oceanside (CA) and Oklahoma City (OK).
           
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
 
Allstate and USA Today recently released their Small Business Barometer, a survey and report on the state of small business in America. Optimism among veteran small business owners is outpacing the nation's small businesses as a whole, according to this year's Allstate/USA Today Small Business Barometer. The annual index study released new data ahead of Veterans Day showing that veteran entrepreneurs' optimism is at a resounding 99 out of 100 — which the Barometer found is a reflection of veterans' overall success in areas such as business performance, hiring and growth.
 
In fact, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of veterans say there's never been a better time to own a small business. And while the numbers are high among all small business owners — 64 percent say the best time to own a business is now and 92 percent report high optimism — veterans' positive views of the small business climate are consistent across the board.
 
More findings from the Small Business Barometer:
  • 70 percent of veteran small business owners say their business is doing well (64 percent for small-business owners overall).
  • 64 percent of veterans' small businesses have experienced recent growth (55 percent overall).
  • 57 percent of veteran small business owners have experienced more growth this year than last year (49 percent overall).
  • 51 percent of veteran small business owners plan to hire this year (42 percent overall).
    The Barometer results reveal that nearly half (45 percent) of all small-business owners employ veterans, and more than a third (35 percent) have veteran hiring practices. Why is that? Respondents gave a number of reasons, but a few stood out: 51 percent said they have veteran hiring practices because it's the right thing to do; 46 percent said it's because of transferable traits and skills; and 41 percent of all small-business owners said they value veterans' teamwork skills.
     
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
On January 3-7, the American Legion Veterans Employment & Education Division traveled with the Communications Division to Student Veterans of America’s 10th annual national conference to unveil The American Legion’s exhibit on the passage of the World War II GI Bill. The exhibit was a remarkable success among conference attendees, which was described in Jeff Stoffer’s article “The ‘best kind of handshake’ for young veterans”. A video of the Legion’s activities at the conference is available on youtube as well:
 
The ‘best kind of handshake’ for young veterans
 
Six-year U.S. Air Force veteran Myra Hallman, secretary of her Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter at Humboldt State University in northern California, wasn’t sure how she was going to make it to SVA’s 10th national convention last weekend in San Antonio. The problem was a lack of available resources.
 
She turned to Arcadia American Legion Post 247. “They heard about our issues with funding, and at a meeting discussed what the options were,” Hallman said Friday after visiting “The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Centennial Salute to the GI Bill” traveling exhibit at the convention. “They got together and partnered with the local Coast Guard unit, and they were able to rally up some money for a scholarship for myself and one other person.”
Now, she adds, “I’m a member of that post.”
 
Hallman was among an estimated 1,600 attending the convention of the organization that formed in 2008, and was housed in its early years at The American Legion National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. SVA has since grown to serve some 500,000 student veterans through more than 1,300 campus chapters nationwide. Among the attendees was Derek Blumke, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Michigan and founding president and chief executive officer of SVA, as well as a member of The American Legion’s 100th Anniversary Observance Committee.
 
“This 10th anniversary conference is the culmination of blood, sweat and sacrifice of some the nation’s greatest leaders and future leaders,” Blumke said. “It’s an organization that I was fortunate enough to have been involved in at its formation. It’s a big family.”
 
Student veterans swarmed around the Legion centennial exhibit, shooting and posting on social media smartphone photos of two particular artifacts on display – a pen President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to sign the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 and a Sharpie used by President Donald J. Trump to sign the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, the “Forever GI Bill” that relieves restrictions on the length of time veterans have to use their education benefits. The act was officially named in honor of The American Legion past national commander considered the chief architect of the original GI Bill.
 
American Legion District 20 Commander Al Alford of San Antonio said he thinks the student veterans discovered something about the organization after visiting the multi-media exhibit.
 
“You know, I find that most of them are not familiar with how this thing came about,” said Alford, who used his GI Bill benefits and DoD tuition assistance to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees during his 31-year Air Force career. “Where did it come from? Having a display like this here is very important to educate them on the importance of the GI Bill, as we look at potential enhancements – or even drawbacks in the future – that they will be cognizant of what they need to do to make sure this bill stays in place, with adjustments as necessary.”
 
“I learned something new,” said Brandon Blake, a member of American Legion Post 13 in Anacortes, Wash., and an SVA member who has used his GI Bill benefits to earn an associate’s degree in welding at Skagit Valley College and is now working toward another in marine technology. “I live in a coastal town, so the welding and marine industry are pretty big there.”
 
“If you look at the GI Bill story itself, it really is a fascinating story,” Alford said. “The American Legion has always been at the forefront. And importantly, at the student veterans association meetings here, we get to recruit younger members. We need younger members, new blood into The American Legion in order for us to progress and move forward as an organization into the future. To me, this is one of the seeds that we need as part of our recruitment efforts.”
 
Blake would not disagree with the value of connecting the 10-year-old veterans group with the Legion, which is nearing its 100th anniversary. “The Legion, in my experience, saved my life,” Blake said. “I depended on alcohol heavily, and they got me the help that I needed. They knew how to speak the VA language that I needed to translate and get into a rehabilitation center and get me where I am now.”
 
In addition to his educational pursuits, Blake is also now an American Legion service officer dedicated to helping his fellow veterans. The former tank commander who fought in the troop surge during Operation Iraqi Freedom and came home after nine years in the Army with what he describes as “pretty serious battle fatigue” said his appreciation of The American Legion grew as he got to know it better. “I’m glad there are organizations like this – especially the Legion – that have stepped up and taken veterans in and helped them transition,” he explained, “Ultimately, it’s having peers you can relate to. Without the Legion, that wouldn’t exist.”
 
“The connection with The American Legion is something I am really proud of,” said Blumke, who said American Legion Past National Adjutant and Past National Commander Robert Spanogle was a critical mentor to him and SVA in the student veterans organization’s infancy. “I think The American Legion is one of the greatest organizations this country has produced,” Blumke said. “It’s an organization that has helped shape this country. I see a partnership with SVA as something that’s going to be beneficial to our country’s success as we go through challenging times ahead.”
 
“Some of the biggest issues we have is, as a community, just being recognized by our administration and having an appropriate work space or community space,” Hallman said. “The benefit that we are finding is we are able to have a close-knit community. Actually, with the help of the local VFW-American Legion post, we have been able to use that as kind of an off-campus area for students to gather.”
 
“Our chapter is really engaged in the community, and we have worked with The American Legion,” said Rene Jiminez, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2008 to 2013, and is now the SVA chapter president at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., as well as a member of a West Covina American Legion post. “At our second annual softball tournament (to raise scholarship funds), we reached out to American Legion and VFW posts, and they really helped us out. They were really supportive and recruited members there. Later that night, I became a member. I got to talk to them, see what they are about… and I liked it. After school, I think it will be a creative outlet for me. I like policy and government – the GI Bill – all that stuff is right up my alley.”
 
Jiminez was one of many student veterans who did not know The American Legion drafted the original GI Bill until he visited the exhibit at the convention. “I had no idea until I saw this thing. It’s incredible that veterans did it for veterans. That’s the most important part.”
He said his chapter plans to soon add a KIT (Keep in Touch) list of area veterans service organizations to go along with other SVA chapters the group engages regularly. “We hope to have a liaison for every American Legion post in the area. All this will be happening in the spring. It’s worked with our community colleges. We really want it to work for American Legion posts and VFW posts.”
 
Marine Corps veteran Kyle Brooke of Grand Valley State University in Michigan said his chapter has built a strong relationship with American Legion Post 459 in Grand Rapids, Mich., after one of the post’s officers “started coming to our meetings on campus and we started sharing resources, helping each other out at events. We would go and help host one of their events. They would let us use their post for fundraisers and dinners. Working back and forth between our chapter and the Legion post, 459 specifically, has been a great help. We did the Grand Rapids Veterans Day parade where we were marching with their post as well as sporting the Grand Valley State University SVA banner, so we were able to get out there and be seen more. Now, most of our members of the SVA are actually members of that post. So, we are also helping that post get a more youthful audience.”
 
He said his SVA chapter’s treasurer, Katy Harris, has taken her interest in veterans of earlier service a step further by visiting area nursing homes, interviewing those who served and writing their stories. “Especially when they don’t have family members in the area, that gives them an outlet, that social outlet,” said Brook, a senior philosophy major. “It is a wonderful experience. They both get a great thing out of it. You get companionship for the older veteran and a better understanding for the younger one.”
 
The relationship between Grand Valley State student veterans and the Legion made Brooke a member, he said. “I never really thought about an American Legion post or being a Legionnaire, but within the first few times I hung out there with SVA … where do I sign up? What do I do? I see what we’re doing here, and I like it.”
 
SVA members attending the convention said veteran-to-veteran engagement and advocacy is critical to the transition process to civilian life. “As a veteran, you may be working full time and going to school full-time, which I did, so you don’t have time to do internships or network in a traditional way,” said Vanessa Vinson, a software developer who spent five years as an Army avionics mechanic before she started a master’s program in leadership and change at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, using the Post 9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program at the private school.
 
“Having an opportunity to come together and dedicate yourself to networking with other veterans – maybe some veterans who have had more opportunities to do internships and learn what they are doing – builds a team camaraderie, especially since we come from similar backgrounds and we have similar issues getting into employment. Some of us may be starting new careers, which means, despite our excellent military careers, we are starting at the bottom, so that’s kind of an experience we have together that we can share.”
 
“When we were overseas, we were always leaning on each other,” Blumke explained. “Getting back, you can feel isolated at times. You can feel like you need to do everything alone. Having people around you who are going through similar experiences gives you other folks you can lean on.”
 
Vinson, also an American Legion member, said she would like to use her education and military experience to demonstrate to the corporate world what veterans bring to the table in the economy.
 
“I have found that a lot of the Army values I learned are core to leadership,” she said. “In fact, a lot of the leadership studies that we do today, military research studies founded them. Finding out that a lot of the roots corporate America uses for leadership came from the military is kind of mind-blowing. I didn’t realize I had a lot of skills already until I started studying academically.”
 
The GI Bill, she explained, is a big reason she is able to chart her desired career path. “The GI Bill meant the freedom to go to school wherever I wanted to go. Service was something my family did, so that was kind of a no-brainer. The fact that there was a GI Bill there was an added bonus of service. I didn’t realize how amazing it was going to be until I got out and there was an opportunity to go to a private college using the Yellow Ribbon Program. That expansion allowed me to look at any school I was able to go to, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without military service.”
 
Army veteran Michael Duerr, who was at the conference to recruit students for domestic and international internships through the Washington Center, used his GI Bill benefits to earn a master’s degree in conflict resolution and mediation at Tel Aviv University in Israel. “Knowing that when I got out, the GI Bill was there for me to continue my academic pursuits was a safety net,” he said. “When I got out of the Army – that kind of shaky time of transitioning – I knew I could go back to school. I was very grateful.”
 
In addition to the benefits of education and career preparation, a deeper meaning of GI Bill benefits was not lost on veterans attending the convention. “I think (the GI Bill) is something that when I got out, was the best kind of handshake that you could receive in a true, material way, of saying thank you for your service, what you’ve done matters to our country, and we want to invest in you now,” Vinson said.
 
A resolution passed at the May 2015 meeting of The American Legion National Executive Committee encouraged collaborations with selected post-9/11 groups, including SVA, Team Rubicon, The Mission Continues and Team Red, White and Blue – all of whom were well represented at the 10th National Convention of SVA to do what the resolution suggests: “build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships.”
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  1/12/2018
 

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 8 December 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Many economists lately have been fretting that rising home prices, which have far outpaced wage increases, make homeownership unaffordable to too many Americans. Yet a recent report from the data analytics division of Black Knight says that housing is more affordable than long-term benchmarks. Home prices increases vary from one location to another, with only a handful of states seeing dramatic price increases. Affordability is also impacted by income levels and interest rates. Low interest rates currently make home purchases less burdensome.
 
The September Mortgage Monitor found that nationally 21.4 percent of the median income was required to purchase the median-priced home, compared to 24.2 percent from 1995 to 1999 and 26.2 percent from 2000 to 2003, just before the rapid increase in home values. Home price increases, estimated at 6.07 percent by the most recent S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, are anticipated to continue in 2018. Low interest rates contribute to affordability, but rising prices have offset the savings from low rates. The Black Knight report looked at state-level data to analyze differences between various housing markets.
 
Only Hawaii, California, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have higher payment-to-income ratios now than their longer-term benchmarks. If prices continue to rise and mortgage rates rise in 2018 as anticipated, affordability could be reduced further. According to the Black Knight’s report, most states will remain below long-term benchmarks for affordability even if homes prices rise at the same pace next year. But if mortgage rates rise higher or home prices rise more, more states will see their affordability rate decline by the end of 2018.
 
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
NOV
2016
NOV
2017
NOV
2016
NOV
2017
NOV
2016
NOV
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
216
155
163
123
53
33
Unemployment rate
6.5
4.6
5.8
4.3
10.0
6.6
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (November 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 6.6 percent (up from 3.3 percent in October).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, December 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Matt Miller, Deputy of Policy, Department of Labor (DOL), Timothy Green, Director, Office of Strategic Outreach and Mark Toal Regional Manager of DOL-VETS to discuss different opportunities regarding the apprenticeship program. Additionally, the conversation centered on the opportunity for The American Legion to be included in the Advisory Committee operated by DOL-VETS.
 
 On Tuesday, December 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division hosted Colleen Mizuki and Marion Cain, who demonstrated DoD’s Alternative Wellness Program being introduced at several Yellow Ribbon Programs. The program focuses on mindfulness and healthy coping mechanisms for participants who are under stress.
 
On Tuesday, December 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division interviewed a potential intern from the Washington Center for Spring 2018 semester to work on employment, education, and small business issues within the division.
 
On Tuesday, December 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Samantha Price, Legislative Assistant, Representative John Delaney’s (MD) office to discuss a draft bill, which addresses the online portion of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The main objective of the bill is to centralize each Federal Agency’s’ (i.e., Departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor, and Defense) version of TAP. In its current draft form, the VA will manage all Federal Agency’s online TAP. The American Legion recommends that DOL should manage the online TAP as opposed to the VA.
 
 On Tuesday, December 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Herbert Hawthorne and Greg Pace of DeVry University. We discussed several opportunities pertaining to higher education as well as vocational rehabilitation opportunities. In addition, staff addressed our concern in regards to the use of vocational rehabilitation as a way to pay for a career readiness course. The American Legion opposes this for the simple fact that most universities and other agencies offer the same exact program at no cost to the veteran and in a much shorter timeframe then what is being offered by DeVry University.
 
On Wednesday, December 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the monthly VSO meeting hosted by the VA Center for Women Veterans. During this meeting, each VSO in attendance discussed their current activities and legislation that they are working on.
 
On Wednesday, December 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Charles McCaffrey, Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Director for the District, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) region, to discuss their participation (small business workshop) at the 2018 Washington Conference.
 
On Wednesday, December 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the House and Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies  Subcommittees personnel to discuss VA funding for case management services for homeless veterans. The discussion centered on ensuring that the money allotted for the HUD-VASH case management services would be used for that specific program.
 
On Thursday, December 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated on a planning committee call for the upcoming Winterhaven (Stand Down) event in January 2018. With just about 400 homeless or at-risk veterans in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia preregistered to participate in the Washington, DC, Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down, the Medical Center will transform into a one-stop service and resource haven for veterans in need. The annual event will be held Saturday, January 27, 2018, from 9am until 2pm at the Medical Center on 50 Irving Street, NW, Washington, DC.
 
On Thursday, December 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the press briefing, “Employment for Veterans with Disabilities, Support and Strategies for Increasing Employment for Those Who Serve.” Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL) was the guest speaker. Senator Duckworth touched on the subject of veterans with physical and/or mental disabilities who are highly capable of productivity, and looking for opportunities within the civilian workforce.
 
On Friday, December 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education participated in a conference call with 12 other VSOs to review the provisions within the Higher Education Reauthorization Act that may affect veterans education. While some positive elements were uncovered, such as data-sharing between VA and the Department of Education to ensure loan discharges, repeal of the 90-10 rule, Public Service Loan Forgiveness and gainful employment are against current Legion resolutions.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT (RESERVISTS)
 
Prior to 9/11, the obligation of the military’s Reserve Component servicemembers - more commonly known as Reservists - was typically limited to training one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer. In support of the extended military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, Reservists have been required to serve as full-time members of the military for prolonged periods of time. A rough calculation suggests that in about half of all cases, Reservists spent a year or more serving on full-time military duty, with the average duration lasting eight months. The military has relied more heavily on Reservists during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq  than at any other time since the Korean War. This increased reliance has strained many aspects of Reservists’ lives, including their civilian careers, because activation to full-time military service requires them to be absent from their jobs for extended and unplanned periods.
 
Legal protections exist to limit potential adverse effects, in the form of the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994, which prohibits employers from discriminating against Reservists in hiring, retention, reemployment, and promotion due to their military membership. It also requires that employers allow Reservist employees unpaid leave for military training and, when required, full-time military service. There is evidence, however, that USERRA may not always be effective. Stories from major outlets have reported on the difficulty Reservists have experienced in finding civilian employment, indicating that employers may be hesitant to hire or invest in employees who might be absent from the workforce for extended and unplanned periods of time. A resume study was conducted by the Harvard Business Review, where virtually identical fictitious resumes were submitted to employers, with the only difference being membership in the Reserves: One resume indicated current membership, while the other indicated completed membership. Because the military is overwhelmingly male, the fictitious applicants were assigned male names.
 
To avoid the possibility of discrimination based on race (inferred from the applicants’ name), the fictitious names selected were absent of such associations. Informed by the most common civilian occupations of Reservists, job openings for positions in sales, customer service, and general office positions were used. In all, the sample included nearly 8,000 resumes sent to employers from August 2015 to August 2017. To isolate the effect of current service in the Reserves, the study compared the number of requests for interviews received by resumes indicating current service to the number of requests for interviews received by resumes indicating completed service.
 
The findings suggest that there is a negative effect associated with current service in the Reserves. Compared with resumes indicating completed Reserve service, resumes indicating current service were 11 percent less likely to be called for an interview. One explanation is that employers may be weighing the cost of losing a Reservist employee to full-time military service for an extended period. They may also be weighing the cost of hiring and training a replacement. For example, what should the employer do when the Reservist employee returns - expand the workforce to include both the returning Reservist and the replacement, or choose to lose the investment made in the replacement employee? Employers may simply choose to hire fewer Reservists to avoid confronting a potential issue like this one.
 
While this 11 percent gap is significant, the negative effect associated with current service in the Reserves is likely to be greater for jobs involving specialized skills or requiring significant on-the-job training. Finding temporary employees to replace Reservist employees in these jobs is likely more difficult. As a result, employers are unlikely to invest in a temporary employee to cover for the Reservist in the event of an absence due to full-time military service, making hiring a Reservist potentially more costly to the employer.
 
In total, the findings suggest that USERRA’s anti-discrimination provisions may actually be ineffective in eliminating discrimination in the hiring phase. It’s also an issue that may be difficult for Reservists to combat. Relative to violating other provisions of USERRA, like firing or refusing to promote a Reservist employee, discrimination in the hiring phase is more difficult to prove. Unsuccessful applicants are generally not able to observe the entire pool of applicants or the successful applicant, and because there are a smaller number of Reservists in the labor market than other groups, it may be more difficult for Reservists to prove systemic discrimination against an employer.
 
Going forward, however, the negative effect of current service in the Reserves is likely to persist. There are no serious efforts to bring back the draft, and another crisis or conflict will likely require extended deployments of Reservists. During these times, it is important to find ways to support the civilian career opportunities available to those who have volunteered to fight our wars.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has killed a plan to shift money from a major homelessness program in response to a wave of protests from veterans’ advocates – to include The American Legion – who said the move would aggravate conditions for chronically ill and vulnerable veterans. Advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD, which co-sponsors the $460 million program, had attacked the decision, saying the service has helped dramatically reduce homelessness among veterans. After POLITICO published a story about their anger, Shulkin reversed course late Wednesday, December 6. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless program,” he said in a news release, adding that the money would not be shifted to the Choice program, which enables veterans to get healthcare outside the VA system.
 
Shulkin promised to get input from local VA leaders and others on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most. The announcement came after a confusing week of messaging from the VA. On November 27, Shulkin and HUD Secretary Ben Carson appeared at a Washington shelter to tout President Trump’s commitment to ending veteran homelessness. Then on December 1, Shulkin’s staff told advocates on a phone call that the agency was ending the program – one of two major VA homelessness projects – and funneling the money to local VA hospitals that could decide how to use it. The original VA decision was buried in a September circular without prior consultation with HUD or veterans’ groups.
 
A person involved with the program said the decision to cut it was made with no input from rank-and-file VA or HUD staff and surprised even employees at the VA. Shulkin’s reversal also came after HUD on Wednesday released its annual survey showing a 1.5 percent increase in veteran homelessness over 2016 – the first rise since 2010. Most of the jump occurred in Los Angeles, where housing costs are skyrocketing. Senator Patty Murray (WA) and the 13 other members of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee had asked the VA to reconsider its decision.
 
HUD data show there were nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in 2016, and even those with housing still need assistance. The program has reduced the number of displaced servicemembers, serving 138,000 since 2010, and cut the number without housing on a given day by almost half. More than half the veterans housed are chronically ill, mentally ill, or have substance abuse problems. They can easily lose their housing again and need VA case managers to mediate with landlords, pay bills, and help them access the agency’s services and jobs. Veteran and homeless advocates were infuriated by the VA’s original decision.
 
The decision would have affected $265 million immediately and $195 million more under the VA’s 2018 budget. Under the program, HUD offers housing vouchers for veterans, and the VA provides case management – finding them apartments and making sure they stay there. At the November 27 event, Shulkin and Carson said President Trump was increasing funding for veterans homelessness. They promised to help every veteran find a home. Advocates had said cuts to the homelessness program would be doubly foolish because the chronically homeless veterans it serves typically costs cities and the healthcare system hundreds of thousands of dollars for emergency rooms visits, ambulance runs and prison stays that could be avoided if the veterans were reasonably sheltered.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Fredericksburg (VA), Fort Bragg, Fort Irwin (CA), Fort Stewart (GA), Lexington Park (MD), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Nellis Air Force Base (NV), Oceanside (CA) and Oklahoma City (OK).
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 is considering the use of tiered evaluations to address concerns that Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) may not always offer fair and reasonable pricing when two or more veteran-owned businesses compete for a contract. In a session on Tuesday, December 5, at the National Veterans Small Business Engagement, a panel of VA acquisition leaders described the potential tiered evaluation process. Many SDVOSBs and VOSBs wonder whether tiered evaluations are an effort to circumvent Kingdomware.
 
The VA panel consisted of Tom Leney, Executive Director of Small and Veteran Business Programs, Jan Frye, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics, and Robert Fleck, Chief Counsel of the Office of General Counsel. Mr. Leney said that the Kingdomware decision has been good for veterans and the VA, and noted that the VA’s annual SDVOSB/VOSB spending rose significantly following the Kingdomware decision. Jan Frye posited that when Kingdomware was voted into law in June 2016, the VA was worried that the decision would result in higher prices and lengthier procurement processes. But Frye’s assumption is based on unfounded anecdotes -- the VA doesn’t currently have any hard data about whether that’s proven true on a macro level, though it has commissioned a study to evaluate it.
 
Mr. Leney alleged that there is anecdotal evidence of cases where the VA has paid “excessive prices” to award contracts to veteran-owned businesses. But the same can be said when the VA carries out micro-purchases for convenience, regardless of inflated price. Under a tiered evaluation, a solicitation would be set-aside for SDVOSBs or VOSBs, but other companies (including large businesses) would also be able to submit proposals. The agency would start by evaluating the proposals of the top tier - in most cases, likely SDVOSBs.  If the VA didn’t receive “fair and reasonable” pricing at that tier, the VA would go down to the next and continue down the chain until a “fair and reasonable” offer was available to accept.
 
The speakers said that using a tiered evaluation approach would prevent procurement delays.  As it stands now, if an acquisition has been set aside for SDVOSBs but no SDVOSB offers a fair and reasonable price, the VA must cancel and resolicit, but the issue is that “fair and reasonable” is very subjective. Mr.  Leney said that there have been cases where the VA has solicited the same acquisition “two, three or four times” before receiving fair and reasonable pricing. A tiered evaluation would allegedly eliminate this problem by allowing the contracting officer to simply go to the next tier, instead of resoliciting, but this gives the VA too much power and ability to completely circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision to give veterans their own set-asides within the VA.
 
The speakers indicated that tiered evaluations wouldn’t be used in all acquisitions. Mr. Leney said that the approach likely wouldn’t be used in acquisitions involving complex technical proposals because the VA would be unlikely to receive offers from companies whose proposals might never be considered. But the VA seems to think that the approach could work well in less-complex acquisitions, particularly where price is a critical factor. But the main takeaway here is that higher pricing doesn’t necessarily mean unreasonable pricing. At a VA contracting roundtable held by the House Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, Ranking Member Kuster (NH) blatantly stated that it was not the VA’s job to interpret the Kingdomware law, nor was it the law’s intent to establish cheapest as fair and reasonable. The VA must simply follow what Congress and the Supreme Court has put into place. Veterans have fought tirelessly to see Kingdomware passed, and for the VA to blatantly disregard and circumvent this decision shows that veterans must continually fight for the law that was put into place.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
This week, the first of three negotiated rulemaking sessions on the Department of Education’s ‘gainful employment’ rule were held, with the National Veterans Employment & Education Division staff member serving as a negotiator representing servicemember and veterans interests. The Gainful Employment rule mandates that student borrowers not pay more than 30 percent of their discretionary income in student-loan payments. It was created to address for-profit colleges that charged high tuition payments but left graduates with poor career opportunities or low-paying jobs. The rule was suspended by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, resulting in a rewriting of the rule with the input of this negotiated rulemaking committee.
 
The Committee was made up of representatives from public, private and for-profit schools, as well as companies, consumer advocates and Assistant Attorney Generals who have been following the rule. The rule was repeatedly questioned by the for-profit negotiators, who believed the rule to be inherently flawed. While deeper negotiations were held on tweaking specific statutes related to disclosure and reporting, the rulemaking session was dominated by a question over whether the rule should be applied to all institutions, if at all. The for-profit negotiators levied charges that non-profit and public institutions would be discovered to leave students in just as much debt with just as few career opportunities as the for-profit institutions, and therefore should be subject to the same disclosure and punitive rules.
 
From the veterans perspective: John Kamin (Assistant Director, VE&E) and fellow negotiator Daniel Elkins from the Enlisted Association of the National Guard sought to be a voice of reason between the consumer advocates and the for-profit negotiators. They repeatedly stressed the desire to determine the specific provisions that were at fault within gainful employment, verified by the outcomes that have already been made public from last year’s iteration. To this end, the topic of whether the rule should be applied to all sectors was at best secondary, at worst a distraction. The veteran negotiators had two main questions on this:
 
  1. According to United States Code, “Gainful Employment” is an authority to be applied (i.e. regulated) to proprietary institutions, and as such expanding it to all institutions would require an act of Congress. To what degree does a rulemaking committee typically take up a legislative issue?
  2. While the authority is legislative, the actual rule was developed based on concerns with, complaints made, and scandals associated with the for-profit sector. To verify the hypothesis that other sectors left students in just as much debt with just as few career opportunities as the for-profit institutions, were there any complaints, concerns, or scandals made at public and non-profit schools?
Unfortunately these questions were never addressed by the for-profit negotiators, who just reiterated the unfairness that the rule did not apply to all sectors. It’s repeated place on the agenda was therefore a disappointment. On a positive note, the negotiators from both sides of the aisle seemed receptive to the idea that provisions from the previous gainful employment rule in 2011 may be taken up again and agreed to. In preparing for the next negotiated rulemaking session, our division will seek to explore the questions being raised by the for-profit negotiators, as well as analyze the previous rule from 2011.
 
EDUCATION ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 2017
 
Resolution. 312: Eliminate Delimiting Dates for the Montgomery GI Bill and Post-9/11 GI Bill: ACCOMPLISHED - the signature provision of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (Forever GI Bill), moving forward the GI Bill will no longer expire after 15 years, but will instead be earned by the veteran for perpetuity. This only applies to servicemembers who joined the military after 2013.
 
Resolution No. 20: GI Bill Fairness for Wounded Servicemembers and Activated National Guard and Reservists: ACCOMPLISHED - the Forever GI Bill amended the deployment authorities entitled to the GI Bill, providing all past and future servicemembers activated under 12301(h) and 12304b orders GI Bill entitlement for their time served.
 
Resolution No. 21: Education Benefit Forgiveness and Relief for Displaced Student-Veterans: ACCOMPLISHED - the Forever GI Bill restores education benefits to all student-veterans who attending shut down institutions such as ITT Tech and Corinthian College.
 
Resolution. 327: Support Further Assessment and Evaluation of Institutions of Higher Learning to Enable Veterans to Make Informed Education Choices: FUNDING EARMARKED - the Forever GI Bill secured $30 million to be earmarked for VA education services IT in order to improve the GI Bill Comparison Tool.
 
Resolution. 333: Support Increase in Reporting Fees for Educational Institutions: ACCOMPLISHED - the Forever GI Bill increased reporting fees that the VA pays institutions from $7 to $16 for every veteran certified for educational benefits.
Resolution No. 338: Support Licensure and Certification of Servicemembers, Veterans and Spouses: NATIONAL COMMANDER’s TESTIMONY PROVISION PASSED - the Forever GI Bill prorated monthly entitlement of the GI Bill for certifications and tests, increasing veterans entitlement to education benefits.
 
Resolution No. 77: Authorization to Build Veteran College Search Tool: ACCOMPLISHED - The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division now features a college search tool powered by CollegeRecon, which can be found at https://www.legion.org/education.
 
TOPIC 8: TAX REFORM
 
At this point in the negotiation between the House and Senate - once tax reform becomes law - homeownership across the country will be negatively impacted in a significant way. Bedrock incentives to owning a home, such as the deduction of state and local taxes and the mortgage interest deduction, would be severely eroded. Although neither bill eliminates the MID outright, both cap it, and overall the bills would cause more taxpayers to opt not to itemize in general.  This would reduce home values by more than 10 percent, resulting in a loss of substantial equity and driving house values downward, based on average losses calculated by an analysis performed by Pricewaterhouse Coopers for the National Association of Realtors. For example in Northern Virginia, that translates into a $50,000 drop in values on average.
 
Some economists believes that the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is really an anti-homeownership bill that will shift America from a nation of homeowner’s to a nation of renters. On average, homeowners will see an $815 tax increase, while non-homeowners will get a tax cut of $516. This would saddle future generations of American with more than $1.5 trillion in new debt to fund these tax cuts. Currently, homeowners are allowed to deduct the taxes they pay to state and local governments, but deduction in the Senate bill is headed for elimination. Tax reform is important, but the final product should reflect the tremendous value that homeownership offers veterans, citizens and communities across the country.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  12/8/17

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 1 December 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Fixed mortgage rates retreated this week but strong economic data and comments by the incoming and outgoing Federal Reserve chairs left many anticipating higher rates. According to the latest data released Thursday, November 30, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 3.90 percent with an average 0.5 point (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 3.92 percent a week ago and 4.08 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average slid to 3.30 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.32 percent a week ago and 3.34 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable-rate average jumped to 3.32 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.22 percent a week ago and 3.15 percent a year ago.
 
Financial markets appeared to like what they heard from President Trump’s nominee to become the Fed chair. They reacted positively following Jerome Powell’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. As investors sent the stock market to new highs, bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to a two-week high of 2.37 percent Wednesday. Home loan rates are strongly influenced by the bond market. Also Wednesday, Janet Yellen indicated in what probably was her final remarks on Capitol Hill as Fed chair, that a strengthening economy will support more interest rate increases. It is widely expected that the central bank will raise its benchmark rate at its next meeting, December 12-13.
 
Some economists do not think home loan rates will move much between now and then. Despite several major developments on tax reform – rates are unlikely to move drastically as markets await the Fed’s next interest rate move in mid-December. Others predict they will start rising sooner. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that a majority of experts it surveyed say rates will move higher in the coming week. Good news for the economy translates to bad news for mortgage rates. The mortgage bond market is in a position to lose the recent improvements and move lower, which translates to higher mortgage rates.
 
Meanwhile, mortgage applications fell off last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 3.1 percent. The refinance index dropped 8 percent, while the purchase index rose 2 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 48.7 percent of all applications. Applications to refinance showed a 7.7 percent decrease to the lowest level since January 2017, as there was no significant rate incentive for borrowers. Both conventional and VA refinance applications drove the decline, decreasing 8.3 and 8.2 percent over the week, respectively With an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday, purchase activity increased 1.8 percent to the highest since September 2017, and was 6.2 percent higher than the same week a year ago.
 
 
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
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
153
120
130
104
24
16
Unemployment rate
4.7
3.6
4.7
3.7
4.5
3.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (October 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.3 percent (down from 6.9 percent in September).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, November 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Athena Construction Group regarding questions about VA procurement. We connected the company with the VA’s Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) for further assistance.
 
On Monday, November 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Enlisted Association of the National Guard Legislative Director Daniel Elkins to discuss next week’s Gainful Employment Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. Our staff member will serve as one of the negotiators representing veterans and military families on the rulemaking committee.
 
On Monday, November 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Elizabeth Belcaster from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters regarding plans for the next credentialing roundtable. It was agreed that a focus on CDL licensing and military skillbridge initiatives would optimize stakeholder engagement.
 
On Tuesday, November 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Natalie Gross from MilitaryTimes regarding a recent bill that was introduced to promote veteran entrepreneurship. Representatives Claudia Tenney (NY) and Julia Brownley (CA) introduced the Veteran Entrepreneurs Act to provide tax credit that reduces financial barriers for veterans opening franchises. If enacted, the bill would help by creating a tax credit to cover 25 percent of initial franchisee fees.
 
On Tuesday, November 28, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division had a conference call with Mark Toal, Regional Manager, Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS), to discuss DOL’s participation during the 2018 Washington Conference.
 
On Tuesday, November 28, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Hakeem Basheerud-Dean, Director of Veterans Services and Employment, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), to discuss hiring of veterans, and OPM’s role in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
 
On Tuesday, November 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with VA Deputy Under Secretary of Economic Opportunity Curt Coy to discuss the Legion’s exclusion from the VA Advisory Committee on Education. Mr. Coy conceded that the Legion was more engaged on veterans’ education issues, but that since they had a representative serve on their advisory committee in 2016 it was now the VFW’s turn to serve on the committee.
 
On Wednesday, November 27, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division held a conference call with Chuck Hodges, Senior Event Coordinator, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hiring Our Heroes, regarding the participation in their upcoming Career Fairs in Texas.
 
On Wednesday, November 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Ben Miller, Senior Director, Postsecondary Education, Center for American Progress (CAP), to discuss the background of the Gainful Employment rule. CAP was involved in its iterative development, and shared concerns over the possibility for its complete elimination.
 
On Thursday, November 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met Elisha Harig-Blaine, Principal Housing Associate (Veterans and Special Needs), National League of Cities, to discuss the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness and other related issues.
 
On Thursday, November 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Pat Campbell from the CFPB about leadership changes. While the situation is ongoing, it appears that the CFPB will proceed with Mick Mulvaney as acting Director.
 
On Thursday, November 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference with Linda Brooks-Rix, CEO of AVUE Technologies regarding the recent GAO report (GAO-18-23, Transitioning Veterans November 2017) which has identified the short falls of DOD.  According to the report, DOD has failed to provide adequate transitioning time for the Reserve Component, which has resulted in 48 percent of the Reserve Component going unserved. AVUE Technologies would like to see how they can collaborate with The American Legion to help in reduce that number.
 
On Friday, December 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Tamre Newton, Department of Defense (DOD) Chief of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), to discuss how the Legion can be more involved with TAP. Currently, most military installations allow for a VSO to speak to all transitioning service members and their spouses, unfortunately they normally go with the VSO’s (VFW & AMVETS) that have an office on that installation. Ms. Newton will review how we can incorporate more than just those two VSOs.
 
On Friday, December 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Marc Jerome, President of Monroe College, to discuss their progress in veterans’ recruitment and graduation. Monroe College has unique approaches to recruitment and instruction that welcome non-traditional college students in the New York area, resulting in diverse outcomes that may conflict with existing gainful employment statutes.
 
On Friday, December 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Charles McCaffrey, Director of the DC Regional Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC), to discuss his potential participation in the small business development workshops being planned for our 2018 Washington Conference.
 
On Friday, December 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with Veterans Education Success and Student Veterans of America concerning the Higher Education Reauthorization plan, known as the ‘The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. Provisions related to 90-10, student loan forgiveness, gainful employment and negotiated rulemaking are categorically in conflict with The American Legion’s education resolutions.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT (FINANCIAL PROTECTIONS)
 
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) amendments continue a temporary provision that extends for one year following a servicemember’s period of military service the protections related to the sale, foreclosure, or seizure of the servicemember’s mortgaged property, or the filing of a legal action to enforce a mortgage obligation or other similarly secured obligation. The temporary extension expires on December 31, 2017. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) updated its “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Notice Disclosure” (Form 92070) to reflect the extensions.
 
Section 303 of the SCRA, codified at 50 USC 3953, addresses obligations secured by a mortgage, trust deed, or other security similar to a mortgage on real or personal property owned by a servicemember. The provision applies only to obligations that originated before the servicemember’s military service and for which the service member is still obligated. On March 31, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act of 2015 (Pub. L. 114-142). This act extended again, on a temporary basis, the duration of coverage applicable to the section 303 protections for obligations described above from nine months to one year after a servicemember’s military service. (See OCC Bulletin 2015-21, “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act: Extension of Time Period for Certain Protections.”)
 
The temporary extension specifies that a sale, foreclosure, or seizure of property based on a breach of a secured obligation is not valid if made during the period of military service or within one year thereafter, unless it is made pursuant to a court order or a waiver by the servicemember; and/or a court may, on its own motion, and shall, upon application by a servicemember whose ability to comply with the obligation is materially affected by military service, stay the proceedings or adjust the obligation to preserve the interests of all parties at any time during the period of military service or within one year thereafter.
 
This extension ends December 31, 2017. Unless Congress enacts another extension, beginning January 1, 2018, there will be a period of 90 days after the end of the servicemember’s military service during which a foreclosure, sale, or seizure of the servicemember’s property based on a breach of a mortgage, trust deed, or other security, without a court order or waiver, will not be valid. During this period, a court may also stay proceedings enforcing such obligations.
 
The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, 12 USC 1701x(c)(5), requires lenders to send a notice of servicemembers’ rights to borrowers within 45 days of the date a missed payment was due on a mortgage secured by the borrower’s principal residence, unless the borrower pays the past-due amount before the expiration of the 45-day period. The contents of the notice are prescribed in HUD’s “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Notice Disclosure.”
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Providers in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have found housing for nearly 600 homeless veterans since then-President Obama challenged the country to end homelessness for veterans, officials said Tuesday, November 21st. Pittsburgh and Allegheny County joined veteran advocacy groups in 2014 to create the Pittsburgh Rapid Results Homeless Veterans' Boot Camp, consisting of service providers across the county that find permanent housing for veterans. The group has placed 587 veterans in homes since creating a master list in 2015 of veterans needing help, according to Mayor Bill Peduto. “Five hundred eighty-seven lives have been directly changed ... from being given no opportunity to being given the opportunity to do whatever they would want to do in life,” Peduto said. “Five hundred eighty-seven individuals and their families are in a much better position because of the work that was done between federal, state, county and city government together with those that were on the ground carrying out the mission.”
Joe DeFelice, mid-Atlantic regional manager for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, praised the city, county, and a score of providers gathered at the county courthouse for their efforts. DeFelice declared that Allegheny County has “effectively ended” veterans homelessness, but that doesn't mean every veteran has a home. It means the county and city have created a system to “identify, assess, connect and permanently house” homeless veterans, DeFelice said. “Our work's not done,” Peduto said. “Today we are simply recognizing the work of those in this room in working together to be able to find a time period of less than 90 days between identifying a veteran who is homeless and putting them in a permanent home. That means tomorrow there will be another dozen veterans who will need our help.”
Christy Pietryga, a program manager for South Side-based Veterans Leadership Program and chair of the boot camp, said the group meets weekly to discuss veterans' individual cases. “We've never had that collaboration before,” Pietryga said. “Street to home, our goal is 90 days. Our average is roughly 80 to 85 days.” Jason Merced, 34, of Oakland and Kelly Ferry, 41, of Sharpsburg said they were homeless until connecting with boot camp providers. Merced is a Navy veteran, and Ferry is an Army veteran. “Two years ago, I walked out of a really bad situation and I found myself homeless and scared,” Ferry said. “These programs collectively saved my life. They put me in a safe place. They specifically targeted areas that I really needed help in.”
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Fredericksburg (VA), Fort Irwin (CA), Fort Stewart (GA), Lexington Park (MD), Joint Base Andrews (MD), and Nellis Air Force Base (NV).
On Thursday, November 16 – Saturday, November 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando Florida. The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a DOD-wide effort to promote the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. The American Legion was able to directly assist 65 veterans and their families.  This was the first yellow ribbon program that the Legion participated in with this particular military unit. Our division has established a relationship in order to get a presentation role and opportunities for future participation in upcoming yellow ribbon events. 
 
It is vital that The American Legion maintains participation within the Yellow Ribbon Program. At this point, we’re the only VSO that currently participates at these events. We participate in Yellow Ribbons events within the Departments of Florida, New Jersey, and Virginia. Our division is presently working on establishing a relationship with the Yellow Ribbon Program within Department of California. By attending these events, it gives The American Legion the opportunity to get in front of countless servicemembers, veterans, and spouses to discuss their challenges as well as sharing our programs/services that can positively affect their transition back into civilian life.
 
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 Administration (SBA) has announced a veterans business outreach center funding opportunity, which is available for eligible private organizations, colleges and universities, private sector firms, nonprofit organizations and state, local or tribal governmental agencies. Eligible organizations are encouraged to apply for funding from the SBA to provide training and counseling to aspiring and existing veteran small business owners as a Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC). The grant awardees will be providing training to servicemembers and military spouses through the Boots to Business entrepreneurship training program, which is part of the Transition Assistance Program. 
  
Those organizations selected to receive the funding will provide training, mentoring, and SBA resource navigation to veterans, active-duty servicemembers, Reserve, National Guard, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. Each award is made for a base project period of 12 months, with four 12-month option periods. “SBA’s VBOCs are the boots on the ground when it comes to serving existing and prospective veteran entrepreneurs,” said Barb Carson, Associate Administrator, SBA Office of Veterans Business Development. “Every entrepreneurship journey is different, and each VBOC brings something unique to the table. We’re excited to see this diversity represented in the upcoming applicant pool”.
 
SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development will host a conference call on Tuesday, December 12, at 3:00pm to provide details on how to apply for the VBOC grant and to answer any questions about the funding program. Dial in to 888-858-2144, and use the access code 5817583#. Instructions on joining the call will also be posted on www.sba.gov/ovbd, and on grants.gov.
  
To submit your application for the VBOC-2018-01 grant:
 
  • Go to the www.grants.gov portal.
  • Click on “Applicants” tab.
  • Then click on “Apply for Grants”.  
  • Follow the “Search” tab and type in “VBOC” in the keyword block to pull up grant announcement VBOC-2018-01.
  • Click on the “Package” tab, and then click on “Apply” to fill out the application form.
     
    Applications submitted via other media, including SBA’s website, will be rejected and will not be evaluated. Applications must be submitted via grants.gov no later than 4pm on Monday, January 8, 2018. Direct any questions about the VBOC funding opportunity to Janet Moorman via email at Janet.Moorman@sba.gov
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will propose sweeping legislation that aims to change where Americans go to college, how they pay for it, what they study, and how their success - or failure - affects the institutions they attend. The bill is known as The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. The most dramatic element of the plan is a radical revamp of the $1.34 trillion federal student-loan program. It would put caps on borrowing by parents and students, and eliminate some loan-forgiveness programs for students. Notable to The American Legion, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) would be eliminated.
 
Republicans say their policy proposals, which would make up the new Higher Education Act, are aimed at filling that gap by both deregulating parts of the sector and laying the conditions for shorter, faster pathways to the workforce. They say the act focuses on ensuring students don’t just enroll in school, but actually graduate with skills that the labor market is seeking. This will likely take more than a year to wind through Congress and could undergo substantial revisions. The Higher Education Act of 1965 was last reauthorized in 2008, and was set to expire in 2013, but was extended to allow legislators more time to work on a new version. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to score the bill next week.
 
The bill would create losers and winners. Some student borrowers would see increased loan payments. Many universities are likely to oppose the limits on federal student loans and fight new competition from alternative education providers. The bill also attaches new strings to grant funds for historically black and minority-serving colleges. On the other hand, community colleges would get more funding to team with the private sector and create apprenticeships. And for-profit colleges, which were targeted by the Obama administration because many of their students ended up with high debt loads and limited job prospects, could get many changes it has lobbied for, including equal footing with nonprofit schools when it comes to limits on federal aid and measurements of graduate success.
 
Additionally, the GOP plan aims to expand apprenticeships and competency-based education, along with more “learn and earn” opportunities, said Representative Virginia Foxx, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and Workforce that drafted the proposal. Senator Patty Murray (WA), the top Democrat on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Wednesday that the House proposal was “extremely disappointing,” cutting oversight of predatory for-profit colleges and eliminating federal financial aid for needy students. She said the bill “would put corporations’ bottom lines ahead of students’ best interests,” and called it “another partisan step in the wrong direction.”
 
The higher-education establishment is likely to balk at many of the changes, said Judith Eaton, President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which oversees the regional accreditors that serve as gatekeepers to federal student aid. “You will get nontraditional actors like companies that provide coursework for apprenticeships.” As part of its plan to slow the growth of federal student loans, graduate students and parents of undergraduates would face so-far-unspecified caps on how much they could borrow for tuition and living expenses - instead of borrowing whatever schools charge. The change could cut into enrollment and potentially siphon off billions of dollars a year from universities.
 
It would preserve an option known as “income-driven repayment,” which ties borrowers’ monthly bills to their earnings, but would eliminate the ability of borrowers to have balances forgiven under them. Currently, borrowers can make payments of 10 percent or 15 percent of their discretionary incomes - as determined by a formula - and have remaining balances forgiven after 20 or 25 years. Under the bill, borrowers would pay 15 percent of discretionary incomes for as long as it took to cover the amount they would have paid under a 10-year standard repayment plan. Current participants in both programs would be grandfathered in.
 
Many Republicans and conservatives believe student-aid programs have become too generous and have enabled schools to charge higher prices, ultimately at taxpayers’ expense. One of the biggest winners in the new higher-education legislation is the for-profit college industry, which faced new regulations under the Obama administration. The rollback of those regulations has been under way since President Donald Trump took office. The reauthorization proposal goes a step further by prohibiting future action by the Education Department on what is known as the gainful-employment regulation, which ties access to federal student aid to whether career programs lead to decent-paying jobs.
 
Steve Gunderson, chief executive and president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, said he is eager to eliminate the gainful-employment rule, because it scrutinizes graduate outcomes almost exclusively at for-profit colleges. “If we can replace those two words with a common set of outcomes metrics for everybody, I think we’re all better off,” he said. The bill also touches on regulations that online programs view as burdensome, eases restrictions on paying student recruiters and other issues with an outsize effect on for-profit institutions.
 
“It sounds to me as if they’re including pretty much everything the for-profit schools want,” said Bob Shireman, a deputy undersecretary in the Education Department in the Obama administration and now a senior fellow at the left-leaning Century Foundation. While the bill eases up on for- profits, it purports to move toward greater accountability at all schools by revamping the dashboard of information available to prospective students and by mandating that schools would have to pay back some portion of federal loans if the student didn’t. This so-called skin-in-the-game proposal has been long fought by the higher-education lobby. “Institutions need to recognize they have a role to play in this process, and they need to have ‘skin in the game’ when it comes to preparing students for success academically and financially,” Ms. Foxx said. “Under the committee’s proposal, if an institution’s program or repayment system doesn’t set up a student for success, then it cannot be eligible for student aid.”
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  12/1/17

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 17 November 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The U.S. economy delivered a double win for the Federal Reserve in October with an encouraging pickup in inflation and an unexpected gain in retail sales, further solidifying expectations that policy makers will raise interest rates next month.
 
The consumer-price index excluding food and fuel accelerated on an annual basis for the first time since January, while the overall cost of living rose in line with forecasts, a Labor Department report showed Wednesday. The rise in retail sales last month followed a bigger September advance than previously estimated, according to Commerce Department figures.
 
Together, the reports are “a reflection on the fairly solid economic environment we’re currently enjoying,” said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit. “Inflation is moving closer to the Fed’s target on the core. A December rate hike seems fairly certain, and justifiable,” and “the outlook for consumer spending looks good.”
 
Investors on Wednesday saw a 93 percent chance of a Fed interest-rate increase in December, up from 91 percent yesterday. U.S. stocks and yields on 10-year Treasuries were lower as new obstacles emerged on a tax plan.
 
Higher costs for shelter, medical care, air fares and used vehicles produced a broad-based advance in core CPI, signaling businesses may get more pricing power over time.
 
While the price gains also helped to boost retail sales -- since those data aren’t adjusted for inflation -- demand looked resilient heading into the holiday shopping season as consumers purchased more furniture, electronics and clothing, and spent at restaurants.
 
The CPI data will help inform policy makers on where inflation stands vis-a-vis their projections, though the Fed’s preferred gauge is a separate figure based on consumer purchases and issued by the Commerce Department. That measure has matched or exceeded the Fed’s 2 percent goal in just two months of the past five years. Some central bank officials focus on the measure excluding food and energy, which is also below their target. October data are due Nov. 30.
 
Nonetheless, the latest report offered more evidence that the cost of living is moving in the right direction, after Fed officials began to question long-held assumptions that low unemployment would cause inflation to accelerate.
 
Housing costs were a significant factor in October, with the shelter index climbing 0.3 percent. That included a 1.6 percent increase in lodging away from home and a 0.3 percent increase in owners’ equivalent rent, one of the categories designed to track rental prices. Expenses for medical care climbed 0.3 percent, and used-vehicle prices rose 0.7 percent, ending a nine-month streak of declines.
 
Prices for wireless-phone services and hotel stays both increased. In recent months, several Fed officials have cited changes in these costs as transitory factors affecting inflation. At the same time, a 1 percent drop in energy prices weighed on overall inflation in October, and costs for new vehicles, apparel and recreation showed declines.
 
While a December rate increase by the Fed would be the third this year, inflation data in coming months will also play a role in the timing and number of rate increases in 2018, when Jerome Powell is set to take over as central bank chairman from Janet Yellen. Officials in December will update their projections for the benchmark interest rate, after September forecasts showed a median forecast of three quarter-point hikes next year.
The latest sales figures also bode well for retailers gearing up for the holiday season. Nine of 13 major retail categories showed month-over-month increases in the value of sales, indicating American consumers will continue to fuel the economy in the fourth quarter, helped by steady hiring and an increased wealth effect from soaring stock prices and higher property values.
 
“As long as a robust labor market is generating sizable income gains, the consumer should remain on a solid track,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, said in a note.
 
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
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
153
120
130
104
24
16
Unemployment rate
4.7
3.6
4.7
3.7
4.5
3.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (October 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.3 percent (down from 6.9 percent in September).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, November 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a roundtable on “Higher Education and Veterans’ Economic Opportunity and Mobility” hosted by the Pew Charitable Trust and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. While the information was designed for laymen policy makers, contacts were made with Pew Charitable Trust for further outreach opportunities.
 
On Monday and Tuesday, November 13-14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Service Women Action Network’s (SWAN) 2nd annual conference and focus group. The topic of this conference focused on mental wellness for women veterans.
 
On Tuesday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division was interviewed by CBS radio on the subject of unscrupulous practices in VA Home Loan mortgage churning. It has been discovered by the CFPB and Ginnie Mae (Government National Mortgage Association) that lenders have been taking advantage of the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) to push out short-term adjustable rate mortgages even as interest rates climb. A task force has been launched by VA and Ginnie Mae to explore the depth of this malpractice, and support has been given for this by both Democrats and Republicans (Sen. Warren and Sen. Tillis).
 
On Tuesday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke to Tom Philpott from Legion Magazine to inform them of the updates concerning Home Loan mortgage churning, for an investigative article that Mr. Philpott is writing.
On Tuesday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke to the military news and opinion website taskandpurpose.com on the recent article about a military daughter who owes the VA $50,000 after her father's GI Bill was cancelled. The controversy is due to a transferability provision that awards transferability to dependents after six years of service, but is conditional on an additional four years of service. The National Veterans Employment & Education Division is not only aware of the issue, but has other testimonials of veterans and family members affected by it.
 
On Tuesday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Victory Media to discuss the status of the company following their settlement with the FTC over allegations of misleading marketing practices. The National Veterans Employment & Education Division called Victory Media to task over these allegations in 2016, and has been satisfied with the reforms that Victory Media has implemented. With the publicity surrounding their settlement with the FTC the controversy has resurfaced. Despite other veterans groups calling for further punitive actions against Victory Media, there is no evidence that we’ve found that suggests any further impropriety.
 
On Wednesday, November 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a House Committee on Space, Science, and Technology policy forum on  STEM Education. The forum explored what steps Congress, business, and education organizations can take to get more of the talent, skills, and leadership of the veteran community into the high-paying, high-need STEM fields.
 
On Wednesday, November 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Michelle Anthony, a member of the Small Business Task Force, about a project she is working on for homeless veterans.
 
On Wednesday, November 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Blue Star Families Survey Release Reception. Considered the largest survey of the military family community, Blue Star Families' annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey is a valuable resource for understanding the current state of the military community.
 
On Thursday, November 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Diana Peters, a veteran whose company provides a free service that helps veterans find franchises.
 
On Friday, November 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division facilitated a meeting between CEO of Student Veterans of America CEO Jared Lyon and Chairman of Legion’s 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee Ted Roosevelt IV at Barclay’s headquarters in NYC. The meeting centered around future collaborative opportunities between The American Legion and Student Veterans of America, including suggestions for potential post-to-chapter engagement, and national program support.
 
On Friday, November 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division hosted a VSO brown bag education policy meeting, with special guests Pat Campbell from CFPB and Rohit Chopra from Consumer Federation of America. The discussions centered around recent activity going on with Department of Education rulemaking and new payday loans policy.
 
On Friday, November 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the DOL VETS coffee meeting for all VSO stakeholders.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its intention to hire hundreds of veterans identified at a veterans jobs fair in August 2017.
 
DHS hosted a two-day, veterans-focused recruitment and hiring event titled “Continue Your Service to America.” The event included informational training sessions and exhibits to showcase the critical missions performed across the department. Participants had the opportunity to interview for a position, receive a tentative job offer and initiate the background screening process.
Approximately 2,500 candidates attended the event, with 620 interviewed on-site. There were also 381 candidates identified at the hiring event to move into the next phase of the law enforcement hiring processes at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). To date, DHS has extended tentative job offers to 207 veterans, and components will continue to use the certificates of eligibility and resumes of veterans identified through the August event to fill vacancies.
 
The Department also conducted a series of “DHS is Hiring Veterans” webinars in preparation for the hiring event that explained that DHS aims to hire hundreds of veterans from the veterans recruitment event. The department described the types of positions available to veterans, provided information on the hiring process, and tips on building a federal resume. Over 5,000 veterans participated in the online sessions.
 
Veterans currently make up 27.6 percent of the Department’s workforce. DHS continues to be a leader among federal agencies in employing veterans and has the highest percentage of veteran employees among large federal agencies for the second year in a row. DHS is still actively recruiting for law enforcement and mission support positions.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
On November 16, Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, introduced the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program Improvement Act of 2017 to fight veteran homelessness by strengthening job training programs for our warfighters who have returned home.
 
Currently, homeless veterans are eligible for job training and placement services under the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP). However, if a veteran is also eligible for assistance under the U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), or Native American Housing Assistance, the VA considers them to be no longer “homeless”, thereby restricting access to HVRP. In doing so, a veteran is denied access to a program that will help them re-enter the workforce and get them back on their feet.
 
The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program Improvement Act would clarify that veterans eligible for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), or Native American Housing Assistance are also eligible for HVRP assistance. This legislation would also reauthorize the HVRP program for five years, along with programs that are designed for female homeless veterans and homeless veterans with children.
 
“Veterans have served our nation with honor and distinction, and we must do more to help them re-enter the workforce and thrive when they transition back to civilian life,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “To break the cycle of veteran homelessness, veterans must have the tools they need to support themselves and their families. I am honored to join Congressman Wenstrup to introduce this legislation to strengthen job training programs for homeless and recently homeless veterans, and to help those who have struggled to find employment get back on their feet”.
 
“Too often, when our men and women in uniform return home after their service to this country, finding a job and assimilating back into civilian life proves fraught with challenges,” said Congressman Wenstrup. “Strengthening job training programs to empower our veterans with career and job opportunities that provide similar comradery and meaning as their service provided them is the least we can do, after all they have done for us”.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Uncasville  (CT), Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall (VA), Lexington Park (MD), and Joint Base Andrews (MD).
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
 
A bill in the U.S. Senate would authorize new entrepreneurship training initiatives and improve existing programs for members of the armed forces, veterans and their families. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) co-sponsored the Veterans Small Business Ownership Improvements Act.
 
"This legislation would give our veterans and military family members the training they need to launch a small business and succeed as entrepreneurs," he said. "Servicemembers and their spouses come out of the service with a wide range of skills and this bill will help them apply those skills as small business owners and ultimately help grow the economy."
 
The bill would enhance existing programs like the Boots to Business Program, the Women Veterans Business Training Program and the Business Training Program for Service Disabled Veterans. It would also modify the Veterans' Business Outreach Center, which provides financial assistance to educational institutions and veterans' nonprofit organizations instituting projects benefiting veteran-owned small businesses.
 
It would establish the Veterans Business Owners Initiative Pilot Program, which would give grants to nonprofit entities fostering small business peer support groups. And it would direct the U.S. Small Business Administration to create an online mechanism servicing as a one-stop resource for veterans on all of the entrepreneurial development programs available. The aim of this legislation would be to help servicemembers transition to civilian employment and business ownership and benefit the economy by their hiring practices and more.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
Ashford University announced this week that it has temporarily suspended new enrollment of veteran students who receive the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
 
The action by the online for-profit university, which is owned by Bridgepoint Education, is the latest development in a long-running dispute between Ashford, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a state regulator.
 
Last year Iowa's state approval agency moved to strip the university's GI Bill eligibility, citing a previous decision by Ashford to close its physical location in the state. Ashford sued to block the decision, and that lawsuit remains active. However, the university subsequently secured approval from Arizona regulators to shift its state-based eligibility for veterans' benefits from Iowa to that state. The federal VA in September backed the approval by the Arizona agency.
 
Then, last week, the VA changed course and told Ashford that the Arizona agency had not provided sufficient evidence that it has jurisdictional approval over Ashford's online programs. The VA said that in 60 days it would suspend Ashford's GI Bill eligibility and approval of new student enrollments and re-enrollments unless "corrective action" is taken by the university.
 
While Ashford said in a corporate filing that it strongly disagrees with the VA's moves, the for-profit decided to voluntarily drop new enrollments of veterans. Veteran students account for roughly 10 percent of Ashford's total enrollment, the university said, and 7 percent of its revenue.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 3 Nov 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
“THE CONVERGENCE of income across regions in the United States is a robust fact.” So wrote Olivier Blanchard, until recently the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, in 1991. At the time he was right. During much of the 20th century, poor states and regions in America caught up with rich ones at a rate of about 2% per year, a figure sometimes called the “iron law of convergence”. In 1930, for example, workers in Mississippi earned just 20% of the wages of workers in New York. By 1980, the proportion had increased to 65%. 
 
But in the years since Mr. Blanchard’s pronouncement, such convergence has slowed. A paper by Peter Ganong of the University of Chicago and Daniel Shoag of Harvard finds that incomes across states converged at a rate of 1.8% per year from 1880 to 1980. Since then, however, there has been hardly any convergence at all.
 
study by Elisa Giannone of Princeton finds that convergence has declined in cities too. Between 1940 and 1980, poor cities caught up with rich ones at a rate of 1.4% a year. Since then, they have lagged behind. 
 
As income gaps have stopped narrowing, differences in regional labor markets have emerged. A recent paper by Alison Weingarden of the Federal Reserve Board estimates that since 2007 the gap between the labor-force participation rate of “prime-age” workers aged 25 to 54 in big cities and similar workers in rural areas has grown from 1 to 3.8 percentage points. Since 2015, the difference between the unemployment rate of prime age city-dwellers and their rural counterparts has increased from 0.3 to 1.2 percentage points
 
What is causing this economic divide? One theory says that restrictive housing regulations have caused property prices to rise in rich cities like San Francisco, discouraging low-skill workers from relocating to such places. Another argues that new technologies have boosted the productivity and wages of skilled labor. Such “skill-biased” technological change has widened existing gaps between rich and poor cities and encouraged better-educated workers in poor towns to migrate to places where they can get a more attractive return on their skills.
 
Both theories point to a lack of labor mobility. At an event held at the Federal Reserve on September 26th, Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, lamented the loss of economic opportunities for Americans who live in small towns and are unable to move. “A conventional assumption in economics is that regional differences should narrow over time as workers move toward areas where jobs are more plentiful and wages are higher,” Ms Brainard told the audience. “In reality, Americans’ propensity to move is currently at its lowest level in many decades.”
 
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
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
153
120
130
104
24
16
Unemployment rate
4.7
3.6
4.7
3.7
4.5
3.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.2 percent (September 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 6.9 percent (down from 7.4 percent in August).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, October 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will meet with Monica Mills, Executive Director, Food Policy Action, to discuss food insecurity for servicemembers and veterans and their upcoming public relations campaign regarding this issue.
 
On Monday, October 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a meeting with The American Legion Small Business Task Force and Source America. Source America creates jobs for people with disabilities, and competes for VA contracts through Ability One designation. The meeting was held to discuss a compromise between SDVOSB’s and VOSB’s and Ability One designated companies. The American Legion opposes drafted legislation that creates a loophole for Ability One contractors to gain contracts over SDVOSB’s and VOSB’s.
 
On Monday, October 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Round Table hosted by Students Veterans of America, focused on “Military to Civilian Transition Way Ahead, Connecting Resources in the Veterans Ecosystem.” Military to Civilian Transition is  a fairly new concept that the VA is attempting to implement with the support of other agencies- Department of Labor and Department of Defense, they would also rely heavily on input from Veteran Service Organizations.
 
On Tuesday, October 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with U.S.VETS to discuss their outreach efforts and transitional housing for veterans in the Washington, DC area. 
 
On Tuesday, October 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Richard Fabian, Chief Operations Officer for SonoSite of FujiFilm, to discuss potential opportunities to work with the American Legion’s employment, small business, and apprenticeship programs.
 
On Tuesday, October 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education spoke with Mark Toal, Regional Manager, Department of Labor-Veterans Employment & Training Services Maria Temique, Manager, Department of Labor-Veterans Employment & Training Services, discussed potential concerns regarding the Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) at certain American Job Centers (AJC’s)
 
On Wednesday, November 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Mark Escherich, Military & Veteran Programs Manager, U.S. Transportation Security Administration regarding American Legion participation at their upcoming resource fair.  Would like the Legion to speak on the different program and services offered.
 
On Wednesday, November 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a monthly meeting held by VA Center for Women Veterans. During this meeting, each VSO had a chance to mention what they are working on currently in terms of women veterans.
 
On Thursday, November 2,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will have conference calls with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) and National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) to discuss VA’s funding for case management services for homeless veterans who receive a HUD-VASH voucher.
 
On Thursday, November 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended  Microsoft Innovation: Serving Veteran Communities—Improving Access to Opportunity, focused on different opportunities for veterans within Microsoft and like industries.  Key Note Speaker was Congressman (R-MI) Bergman, serves on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs explained that most Human Resource staff don’t understand the veteran community, therefore, are hesitant at times to hire veterans and that the VOW Act may need to be updated.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Pentagon tech advisers want special career track, ‘innovation elevator’ for big thinkers
 
A group of tech industry heavyweights believes the Pentagon needs to protect tech experts and innovators from the department’s traditional up-or-out career path if the department has any hope of keeping up with a wave of new technologies.
 
The Defense Innovation Board, or DIB, a group empowered to report directly to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on the best way to grow America’s military technological edge, believes the traditional system simply is no longer viable for meeting technological needs. Instead, it is suggesting a pair of workarounds that can be built into the existing system: a brand-new career specialization track for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals, as well as a “tech elevator” that would sequester the best and brightest innovators in the department into a special workspace to develop new ideas.
 
Since forming more than a year ago, members of the board have spent time traveling and getting to know how the Pentagon operates. While they have made recommendations for changes in the past, the ideas laid out during an Oct. 24 public event reflect a more radical approach, though one that Eric Schmidt, the head of Google parent company Alphabet and the chairman of the DIB, thinks is long overdue. “The system is designed to allow for exceptions and waivers and things like that, and they need to be fully utilized,” Schmidt told reporters at the event. Added astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, there will continue to be resistance to change “until enough people recognize that China, North Korea, whomever else is just kicking our ass in cyberspace, in the innovation space, in the tech space. And then it will happen quickly.” “If you don’t do it proactively, you will do it reactively,” he added. “That’s for sure.”
 
A STEM career path
 
While the idea of creating a specialized career track for high-tech jobs was described as a recommendation, statements from the board members made it clear they think it is past time for the Pentagon to move in this direction. Marne Levine, chief operating officer at Instagram, laid out the rationale for the new career track, saying that a lack of specific career fields for tech experts hinders both recruitment and retention. Much has been made of the fact that the Pentagon is in a fight with the commercial sector for talent. And with tech companies already fiercely competitive among each other for skilled workers, government simply can’t draw the level of talent it needs. But Levine argued that a big negative for those experts is also the lack of “a clear and viable career path for STEM specialists,” as many in those fields simply want to do what they are best at, whether it be coding or cybersecurity. Similarly, those talents who do enter the military often leave early because they find there is no room to grow their specific skill sets, and if they want to be promoted, they need to leave their areas of expertise for an unrelated role — at a time when the Department of Defense’s leadership openly talks about how they need to fill these key areas of talent. “All of this seriously undermines the department’s ability to build the force that we need to address the emerging technical challenges,” Levine concluded. The solution: to build a new career track, akin to those for musicians or medical professionals within the military. The fact that similar exceptions already exist was hammered home by Schmidt to reporters after the event.
 
 “Do they take the doctors in the military and then turn them into programmers? Do they turn them into technicians? I don’t think so. Do they take the lawyers in the military and make them doctors and so forth? It’s insane,” Schmidt said. “So it seems to me it’s pretty obvious we should have a path for people who are highly valued and highly technical, and allow them to continue” in those areas. Several times in his comments, Schmidt seemed bewildered by the way that the military will train experts such as pilots only to force them out of their specializations and into other jobs if they seek to move up in rank.
 
Members of the Defense Innovation Board listen to comments during a public meeting to discuss innovation opportunities for the Department of Defense. (Cmdr. Patrick Evans/Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs) “Where is the logic where you take expertly trained cybersecurity people — we’re short of them — and you transfer them into something that’s not cybersecurity? That makes no sense. That’s analogous of taking expertly trained pilots and making them into something that’s not a pilot. Which they do, but that doesn’t make any sense either. Last time I checked, there’s a pilot shortage,” he said.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Robert Lindie looked out nervously at the crowd of dozens of homeless veterans gathered in the theater at the VA Maine Healthcare System at Togus, uncomfortable speaking publicly but doing so nonetheless, to give his message to the men and women who now sat where he had sat just three years ago.
       
"I was sitting four rows back," the Augusta man, who walks with a cane, said as the 20th annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down got underway Saturday morning. "I was homeless. I had no place to go, and no way to get there. I was kind of at the end of my rope."  Knowing Lindie was a veteran, a friend had asked him whether he wanted to go to Togus. He said "not really" but relented, and he went. He later was admitted to the veterans' hospital and, after three or four weeks there during which he said he "just needed to get my running gear in shape," he moved into the Bread of Life Ministries' Veterans Shelter in Augusta. Then Togus staff members helped him find an apartment, also in Augusta, where he has lived since. Sober for three years, he volunteers at Togus, including Saturday at the Homeless Veteran Stand Down, a daylong event in which military veterans from across the state can get free services as well as free clothing and other items.  "I like volunteering because that's what makes the world go round," he told his fellow veterans. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help, nothing at all. You're in a good place. You've got to take that first step. And you know what, folks? This is a good first step."
       
Veterans were offered free services or goods at 32 stations set up in multiple buildings of the Togus campus, including a wide array of health care services; transportation to and from Togus from designated pickup locations; child care; food and drinks; haircuts; boots and clothing; personal care items; women's services; information on housing, employment, training and veteran benefits; legal services; assistance with taxes; flu shots; and food stamp and MaineCare applications. All of it was free.
      
Anthony Ward, who served in the Army in the early 1980s until a blasting cap blew his hand apart as he was setting up targets in the Mojave Desert, got a pair of reading glasses, underwent oral cancer screening, and inquired about getting dentures at the Stand Down on Saturday morning. He's living in transitional housing with Veterans Inc. in Lewiston, after having lived at a Tedford shelter in Brunswick. Now he is looking for an apartment. Ward said it was the first time he'd attended the Stand Down, which he said was "really cool."
       
Tom Baker, who recently moved from Florida to Maine and who served in the Army from 1970 to 1973, said he's a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and he came to Maine because he thought he could stay off drugs better in Maine. Saturday he underwent oral cancer screening, was looking to set up a dental appointment, and visited a podiatrist to have his feet checked out.
       
"Stand down" is a military term that refers to active-duty personnel being taken off a battlefield to a safe place. Saturday's annual event, according to organizers, is meant to allow homeless veterans to "stand down" from homelessness for a day, and to help them connect with services and supports to help end their homelessness. Susie Whittington, a social worker who works with homeless veterans at Togus, applauded homeless veterans for coming and urged them, even though they didn't want to ask for help, to let the roughly 200 volunteers and Togus staff at the event help them. She said she doesn't want to see the homeless veterans back again next year, still homeless
     
Dan Dunker, associate director of the VA at Togus, said 25 to 30 organizations had volunteers at the event. He told the homeless veterans, before they dispersed around the facility to get services, the goal was not just to give them a bit of information or an application for a program that might help them but, rather, to help them with their problems on the spot, or get them into programs that can help them.  "We're going to take care of your business today. We're not going to give you an application and send you on your way," he said.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), El Paso, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (DC), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base (CO), Uncasville (CT), Warwick (RI) 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 Friday, November 10, U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (NC-08), Fort Bragg’s Congressman, will join Facebook, the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, and Blue Star Families for a “Boost Your Business” event to help veteran, servicemember, and military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners grow their businesses. This is a great opportunity for small businesses to learn how to capture new audiences, increase sales and grow by leveraging social media.
 
Following this week’s National Veterans Small Business Week and in honor of Veterans Day, this free event will teach veteran, service member, and military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners valuable tricks of the trade that will empower them to build their online presence and more effectively utilize social networking to increase sales, grow their customer bases and expand. The educational event will honor the contributions and sacrifices made by veteran business owners and their families, and empower them to take their business to the next level with Facebook and Instagram.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
Angela Gray has witnessed employers' changing perceptions of education firsthand. The 36-year-old Louisiana resident is the vice president of accounting at Pioneer Rx Pharmacy Software, where she's also in charge of human resources. She says she sometimes encounters job candidates with degrees earned fully or partially online. Gray is even pursuing one herself: an online master's in finance from Pennsylvania State University—World Campus.
 
In the past, "you would see a degree from online and kind of toss that resume in the trash," she says. "That's just not what's happening in HR these days. They are becoming widely accepted, especially from established schools." Gray might be onto something. Many employers accept accredited online master's degrees in specialized business disciplines such as finance, accounting and marketing, among others, recruiters say. To them, the university's reputation – combined with several other factors, such as a job applicant's work experience – holds more weight than whether the candidate earned the degree online or in person. The MBA is an ideal option for those looking to pursue careers in general management, says Andres Rodriguez, director of client accounts at Protis Global, a staffing firm specializing in consumer goods, food and beverage, hospitality and banking. But more-focused online business degrees may be a good choice for those who know they want to work in a particular discipline, experts say – and these degrees are growing in popularity, including online, according to recruiters.
 
"There are these new demands and challenges in the business landscape that an MBA is just not diving into," Rodriguez says. As examples of other options, Rodriguez points to online master's degrees focusing strictly on data science, as well as interdisciplinary programs such as the online Master of Science in integrated design, business and technology offered at the University of Southern California. Chris Vennitti, president of the professional staffing firm Hire Strategy, agrees that for candidates looking for a career in a defined field within business, a specialized online program can be "a great way to go."
 
"It's very widely accepted now, even commonplace, with employers," he says. Nearly a decade ago, getting a degree from an online program would potentially signal to employers that a job candidate didn't take his or her education seriously, Vennitti says. That's completely changed, he says, as employers today view online degrees as legitimate ways to further a career while continuing to work full time. "Often, I don't feel the need to differentiate, because ultimately, the online program is often very similar to what would happen if they were to show up and go to the particular university," says Rebecca Dappen, managing partner at the Lucas Group executive search firm who focuses on accounting and finance. In fact, most applicants don't specify on their resumes whether a business master's was earned online, and that's generally acceptable – though recruiters or hiring managers may ask. Jessica Chesher, an online master's in accounting graduate from the Syracuse University Whitman School of Management, initially enrolled in an online MBA program. But she soon discovered her passion for accounting after taking a course in the subject and switched to the Master of Science in the field.
 
TOPIC 8: LEGISLATIVE
 
The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division is working with congressional staff on provisions in H.R.1659 Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act which will correct this oversight. On Thursday, The American Legion’s National Commander called for President Trump to veto the legislation that would effectively kill a rule that would have made it easier for consumers to sue banks and credit card companies.
 
In a statement supported by the Committee on Veterans Employment & Education’s Resolution No. 83: Protect Veteran and Servicemember Rights to Fair Consumer Arbitration, Denise Rohan declared that the Joint Resolution passed by the Senate on Wednesday night would deprive veterans and military service members of the ability to challenge unfair financial practices.
 
 “Every servicemember and veteran should have the right and responsibility to confront predatory loan practices,” American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan said.
 
The resolution would shut down a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule that would allow consumers to band together to sue banks and credit card companies. It passed 51-50 in the Senate, with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Without the rule, consumers are likely to have to enter into mandatory arbitration clauses with financial institutions, meaning that they must settle disputes in arbitration rather than in court. Trump is expected to sign the resolution into law.
 
“Our membership has stated unequivocally that we are opposed to situations where our military and veterans’ financial protections are chipped away to increase the profits of the big banks,” Rohan said.
“Repealing the CFPB arbitration rule takes away consumers' most effective tool to protect themselves against predatory lenders,” she said.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 27 October 2017
 
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 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 USD 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 USD 831 billion to be spent across the following 10 years to boost the economy.
 
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
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
139
131
127
94
12
37
Unemployment rate
4.4
3.9
4.8
3.4
2.3
6.9
 
National unemployment rate is 4.2 percent (September 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 6.9 percent (down from 7.4 percent in August).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, October 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended MOAA’s annual meeting. MOAA, or the Military Officers Association of America’s advocacy efforts include ending DoD sequestration, increasing the defense budget, reforming Tricare, and aiding military families in all ways possible. Specifically, MOAA seeks expansion of spousal employment opportunities, including incentives for employers and contractors to hire military spouses.
 
On Monday, October 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division, spoke with Tony Ragland, Military Service Coordinator, Department of Veterans Affairs, Atlanta Regional Office. Discussed the potential opportunity for the American Legion to assist veterans with the different programs and services the American Legion has.
 
On Tuesday, October 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Davison spoke with Cara Ludwig, Manager of Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, discussed their upcoming career fairs and transition summits in Connecticut and Georgia.
 
On Tuesday, October 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Linda Rix-Brooks, CEO of AVUE Technologies regarding the downgrading of VA positions, in particular VA Police Officers. Currently VA Police Offers do not hold 6c status, A special 20-year retirement system was created for certain designated positions which require employees to meet vigorous physical demands. Because of the physical demands, this retirement system allows employees to retire sooner, with just 20 years of service. It also includes a mandatory retirement when the employee reaches a designated age or years of service.  This is concerning since the data collected clearly shows that VA police officers hold and conduct the same duties and responsibilities as local their counterparts in the law enforcement occupation.
 
On Tuesday, October 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Brian Thompson, Special Advisor for Military Affairs at the Department of Education. The meeting was to finalize a roundtable sit down with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, which has been finalized for October 31.
 
On Wednesday, October 25, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Tim Green, Director, Office of Strategic Outreach, Department of Labor, Veterans Employment &Training Services (DOL-VETS) discussed their upcoming hearing before the House of Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. The hearing will focus on the current effectiveness of the Transitions Assistance Program (TAP), agencies expected to testify before the committee will include the Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and Office of Personnel Management.
 
On Wednesday, October 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Victory Media to discuss their recent settlement with the FTC over deceptive marketing practices. Since being accused of misleading veterans to fraudulent schools over the summer of 2016, Victory Media has taken several positive steps in the right direction.
 
On Wednesday, October 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with Public Citizen to debrief the results of the Senate vote to repeal the CFPB’s arbitration rule. The vote was 50-50, with Vice President Pence casting the tie breaking vote in favor of banks. Through Resolution 83: Protect Veteran and Servicemember Rights to Fair Consumer Arbitration, The American Legion has a firm position supporting the CFPB rule, and is disappointed with the results. Though Wall Street’s money won, a statement is being drafted requesting that these rights remain protected.
 
On Wednesday, October 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni to review their policy portfolio. They are interested in reforms to the Higher Education Act that would change the nature of accreditation, having significant implications for GI Bill usage and outcomes.
 
On Thursday, October 26, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Sergeant Major (SgtMaj) William Harvey of Marine and Family Programs Division, discussed opportunities to address their Marines and family members in order to provide them access to other resources beyond the military.  The SgtMaj would like to have at least two (2) VSO’s on a quarterly basis to speak with their Marines and families at Marine Corps Base Quantico. 
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Transition Improvement Act
 
Problem: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employs over 8,500 disabled veterans nationwide in frontline medical positions but newly hired veterans with service-connected disabilities aren’t covered by a law providing their counterparts in other federal agencies access to paid sick leave in their first year that they otherwise would have to accrue. Currently these VA employees are left with the difficult choice of taking leave without pay just to receive care for conditions from their military service.
 
Current Law: On November 5, 2015, the Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act (P.L. 114-75) was signed into law after unanimous passage by Congress. The Act made up to 104 hours of paid sick leave available to new veteran federal employees hired by “Title 5” federal agencies with service-connected conditions rated as 30% or more disabled for the purposes of attending medical treatment related to these conditions. “Title 38 employees” such as VA physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, dentists and expanded-function dental auxiliaries are not subject to Title 5 civil service requirements and are hired under a separate personnel authority under Title 38 U.S. Code. Therefore, the Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act does not apply.
 
Solution: The Department of Veteran Affairs Veteran Transition Improvement Act amends Title 38 to apply the Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act to newly hired VA Title 38 employees. The bill also makes minor technical fixes to reorganize existing law on the VA’s leave transfer program and moves this statute in a new section together with the disabled veteran leave requirement.
 
Impact: According to January 2017 data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), there are over 13,000 Title 38 vacancies nationwide. Passage of the bill is urgent because those disabled veterans VA hires should have access to the additional leave they are entitled to on day one.
 
Supporters: National Association of VA Physicians and Dentists (NAVAPD), Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and the Federal Managers Association (FMA) support this bill.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
The head of Montana's Veterans Affairs program on Friday outlined plans to expand facilities in the state, add services, increase efforts to prevent veteran suicides and provide housing for homeless vets. Dr. Kathy Berger, director of Montana VA Health Care System, told about 50 people at Helena College about progress Montana VA has made for the state's 98,000 veterans since she took over in October 2016.  She noted that Montana VA leads regional hospitals in treatment of nine of 13 categories that include Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection, post-op sepsis and post-op hip fractures and exceeds national averages as well. It is in the top 10 percent of eight of 13 categories.
 
She said she was "quite pleased" overall with how Montana VA ranked compared to others.
Berger said the department had 35,540 patients in 2016, has total revenues of $16,985,701 in Fiscal Year 2017 and expenditures of $174,650,674. "Sometimes it's hard to make our dollars stretch like we'd like them to," she said.  Projects include an 18,000 square-foot primary care in 2018 and 18,000 square-foot outpatient mental health clinic at Fort Harrison in Helena in 2019.  She said there are plans to remodel some of the vacant brick buildings on the Fort Harrison campus into housing for homeless veterans.
 
In Missoula, there are plans to expand the Missoula clinic from 20,000-square-feet to 60,000 square feet in 2022, Berger said.  It will add services such as radiology, pathology, dental, gastroenterology, prosthetics and home-based primary care.  She said this would keep people from having to come from Missoula to Helena for treatment. Leases for Community-Based Outpatient Clinics will be executed in 2018 for Browning, Cut Bank, Great Falls, Havre, Lewistown, Anaconda, Bozeman, Kalispell, Hamilton, Glendive and Glasgow, Berger said.  And Berger said Montana VA would increase efforts to prevent veteran suicides in Montana.  She noted there were 46 suicides in 2015 and 111 attempts. There were 23 in 2017, but the attempts had increased to 134. Berger said they would add positions to aid in core mental health services and set priorities to combat suicide.
 
Veteran Morgan Hawley of Hays attended the meeting, “I'm glad to hear they are building bigger facilities," he said.  "I was impressed with the size of the budget," said veteran Jim Nys of Clancy, who added he was a little overwhelmed by all of the acronyms used in the speech.  Berger said afterward that Montana VA was able to make progress because the leadership has remained constant for the first time in several years. She was named permanent director in October 2016.  She also said top management jobs had been filled.  "Employees, when given a chance, will dig in and get things done," Berger said.  Moreover, she said previous officials had done things to improve the facilities and that the expansion projects were "sorely needed."  "We are busting at the seams for space," Berger said.
 
Montana has one of the largest per capita veteran populations. It along with Alaska and Maine has about 10 percent of its population as veterans, according to an analysis of VA and Census Bureau data by the Washington Post.  In September, the Montana VA Health Care System received a three-star rating for quality, improving its one-star grade from earlier this year.  In January, Montana VA received a 1-star rating for VA facilities in the lowest (fifth) quintile.  The rating, which ranges from one to five, was done through the VA's Strategic Analytics and Improved Learning Value Model and applies to the health care system throughout the state.
 
The Montana VA Health Care System has a presence in every major city in the state through community-based clinics, a community living center and an acute care medical center.  Berger said Montana VA has 1,166 full-time employees and 152 full-time vacancies.  It has had 43 retirements since October 2016, which accounts for 676 years of experience. It has had 83 newly created jobs since February 29 of those at Fort Harrison.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), El Paso, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (DC), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base (CO), Uncasville (CT), Warwick (RI) 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
 
If you are a veteran with a small business, do you have veteran certification from the state of Missouri and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs?  If not, you could be pass