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NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 21 April 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Mortgages rates continued their month-long swoon, sinking to their lowest levels in five months. According to the latest data released Thursday, April 20, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average tumbled to 3.97 percent with an average 0.5 point (points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 4.08 percent a week ago and 3.59 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed-rate hasn’t dipped below 4 percent since November. The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.23 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.34 percent a week ago and 2.85 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average fell to 3.1 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.18 percent a week ago and 2.81 percent a year ago. A senior economist stated that weak economic data and growing international tensions are driving investors out of riskier sectors and into Treasury securities. This shift in investment sentiment has propelled rates lower.
 
Because of uncertainty surrounding the French elections and tensions in North Korea, investors are scooping up bonds. That’s driving yields lower. The yield on a 10-year Treasury sank to its lowest point since November on Tuesday, dropping to 2.18 percent. Because home loan rates tend to follow the same path as long-term bond yields, they also fell. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that experts it surveyed were almost evenly divided on where rates are headed in the coming week. Thirty-eight percent said they would fall, 38 percent said they would hold steady, and 24 percent said they would rise. Meanwhile, despite the drop in rates, mortgage applications were down last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 1.8 percent. The refinance index was essentially unchanged, slipping 0.2 percent. The purchase index fell 3 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 42.4 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
MAR
2016
MAR
2017
MAR
2016
MAR
2017
MAR
2016
MAR
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
191
160
165
126
26
35
Unemployment rate
6.3
5.0
6.4
4.6
5.4
7.9
 
National unemployment rate is 4.5 percent (March 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.0 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 7.9 percent (up from 5.0 percent in February).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, April 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Tim Green, Director of Office of Strategic Outreach, Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS), regarding the Memoranda (M-17-22) from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to all Head of Executive Departments and Agencies. It outlines a Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce. We talked about the impact this memo will have on veterans in regards to the downgrading of positions within all federal agencies.
 
On Monday, April 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the interview that the Media Relations Division had with Dog Tag Bakery Inc. Several of the class attendees were interviewed, as well as the CEO, Meghan Ogilvie. Dog Tag Bakery’s goal is to build a bridge to business, employment, and a productive civilian life for returning veterans with disabilities, spouses, and caregivers. The entrepreneurial program is a five-month training program that holistically fosters growth through world-class education, ample leadership development opportunities, and a personalized business management rotation. Graduating fellows from the program earn a Certificate in Business Administration from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies. The curriculum serves as an introduction to business from an academic perspective and consists of seven courses that are tailored to the small business-focused goals of our fellows. Courses include accounting, management, communication, financial management, marketing, business policy, and entrepreneurship.
 
On Tuesday, April 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Janet Giles, CEO of JobZone Online. Ms. Giles would like to collaborate with The American Legion, in particular the Department of Washington DC, to host a Career Fair for all veterans in Washington, DC.
 
On Tuesday, April 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with George Eldridge. Mr. Eldridge is serving in the United States Air Force, and manages the VetFran program.  VetFran is a part of the International Franchise Association (IFA) - an advocacy group for franchisors and franchisees on Capitol Hill. VetFran has numerous resources and advocacy points for veteran entrepreneurs. VetFran is frequently represented at Small Business Committee hearings, and may be of assistance in The American Legion’s advocacy and programmatic work.
 
On Tuesday, April 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Chris Yates, Vice Commander of the 22nd District in California. Mr. Yates has volunteered to attend the Hiring Our Heroes hiring event at Camp Pendleton, CA on May 17th. He stated that he is also interested in getting his district more involved with veteran employment and small business outreach. Mr. Yates and his district encourage their local Legion family of over 10,000 members and all citizens of San Diego County to establish relationships with veteran-owned businesses to buy their products and use their services. Mr. Yates and his district have created a business directory that provides contacts to local businesses owned by veterans, servicemembers, and military spouses.
 
On Tuesday, April 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Linda Lee, a Local Veteran Employment Representative (LVER) for Washington DC. Ms. Lee requested The American Legion to participate on their employment panel to speak with veterans who are transitioning from military service to the private sector.
 
On Tuesday, April 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Cara Cooke, Event Manager of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, to discuss the status for the Career Fair in Puerto Rico. Currently, there are 39 employers and 158 veteran job seekers registered.  The expectation is that 300 veterans will attend the Career Fair.
 
On Wednesday, April 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting with the VA’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs to discuss testimony on the April 26th House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Our division has been requested to testify. The subjects discussed include GI Bill for 12304b and 12301(h) orders, relief for displaced students, Frye Scholarship and Yellow Ribbon funding, as well as VA’s position on the Post-9/11 GI Bill buy-in recommendation.
 
On Thursday, April 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Bruce Kasold, Chief Operation Officer, and Brian Hawthorne, Director of Communications and Development, the PenFed Foundation, to discuss their new homeless veterans initiative and how the Legion may possibly collaborate with them. The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (PenFed Foundation) is a national charity working to meet unmet needs of the military personnel and their families in the areas of financial literacy, housing and support for the wounded.
 
On Thursday, April 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in an Employee Resource Fair hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). There is a large population of veteran employees who work for the USDA, and many were interested in learning about how The American Legion helps the military and veteran communities.
 
On Friday, April 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 125th Air National Guard Yellow Ribbon Program in Jacksonville, Florida. Four hundred Airmen and their families are scheduled to attend. We’ll be speaking about Legion programs and services to the unit.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Senator Roy Blunt (MO), a member of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, released the following statement touting Senate passage of his Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) American Military Veterans Act. The measure establishes a tiered recognition program within the Department of Labor to award employers based on their contributions to veteran employment. “Our military men and women have the skills and experience that are an asset to employers in every sector of our economy,” Blunt said. “I’ve been encouraged to see many employers in Missouri and across the nation step up their veterans hiring programs. This bill recognizes those efforts, and will help connect more veterans with businesses that offer benefits and opportunities to help them succeed.”
 
Each year, nearly 200,000 service members transition from active-duty to civilian life. The HIRE Vets Act would recognize qualified employers for meeting certain criteria designed to encourage veteran-friendly businesses. The recognition would come in the form of a Medallion Certificate, awarded at the platinum and gold levels. Blunt continued, “Transitioning to the civilian job market is one of the most daunting challenges our service men and women face. The HIRE Vets Act will provide information they need to guide their job search and ease that transition. It’s a simple, bipartisan step we can take to help keep our promises to those who have served.” Blunt and Senator Joe Manchin (WV) introduced the HIRE Vets Act last month. The Senate-passed version of the bill will now go back to the House for a final vote, which would then send the bill to the president’s desk.
 
The American Legion supports this legislation.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
A local nonprofit organization is changing the lives of homeless veterans by using old shipping containers to create homes that will one day spawn a veteran-owned community in Montgomery County (TX). Mark Cook, co-founder of Green Zone Housing, said repurposing the containers into living quarters makes a lot of sense. In fact, Cook, who worked in overseas oil fields for several years, slept in a few of these and know the durability of these containers first-hand. “They can withstand winds. They’re water-tight. They’re economical. And they’re everywhere,” Cook told the Houston Chronicle.
 
The mission of Green Zone Housing is to provide a refuge community for homeless and at-risk veterans and ensure they can thrive by acting as their own support system for their fellow veterans. The first home was built from a 40-foot rusted old container that had previously been used as a fireworks stand. The first home was unveiled on Veteran’s Day 2016 in Magnolia, and has been used as an exhibit Jim’s Hardware in Montgomery, to show residents in the area that there is value in repurposing these containers to provide a real home to those who served our country, and somehow ended up on the streets. Since the unveiling last year, Green Zone Housing has been working to help create this unique community in Montgomery.
 
Each of these homes cost about $20,000 to build, a bargain compared with the cost of building a new home, and include a bathroom, sleeping area, appliances, and kitchen.  However, the container homes, are also much smaller than an average home, often less than 1,000 square feet in some cases. The program works much like Habitat for Humanity, being that the recipient of the home is required to help build their home. The participating veterans will be exposed to new skills related to building their own home, such as welding, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work.
 
The nonprofit, which is really still in its infancy, is looking to acquire at much as 15 acres of land that will become the Green Zone community, whose focus will be to help other veterans who suffer from PTSD. The goal is to have an office on the property to administer the nonprofit as well as facilities for veterans such as a chapel, gymnasium and space for those veterans who want to live there in the community.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Camp Pendleton, Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell, Fort Irwin (CA), Fort Riley (KS), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lexington Park (MD), Marine Corps Base Quantico (VA), and Springfield (VA).
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
The battle to define the future of veterans’ education benefits commenced this week, and quickly escalated to fever pitch. Right now the lines are drawn between Student Veterans of America (SVA) on one side and the VFW and IAVA on the other, as the community waits to see what The American Legion's position is. For the past six months SVA has proposed the idea of a buy-in concept for the Post-9/11 GI Bill; consequently, it would create a de facto “forever” GI Bill. The theory is that a two-year buy-in would provide a firewall against cuts, preserving the entire benefit for generations to come. Additionally, the concept would result in revenue of an estimated $300 million a year which could be invested in expanding the GI and increasing the benefits.
 
The idea was discussed in private meetings with VSO’s to determine interest and define how the revenue could be re-invested to maximize benefits to veterans and military families. Last week the House Veterans Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing on April 26 and called SVA, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Reserve Enlisted Association, and The American Legion to testify on the topic. VFW wasn’t invited (in part because of their private opposition to it) to provide oral testimony. As a result they went public this week with a full-on assault on the concept. On Tuesday, April 18, three articles came out categorizing the concept as a “tax on troops” from Task & Purpose, Stars & Stripes and militarytimes.com, with VFW extensively quoted. Soon after, VFW was invited to participate in the hearing on the 26. Picking up on the publicity, IAVA relaunched their #defendthegibill social media campaign and declared the concept and called the act “political cowardice”. SVA responded with their own social media #forevergibill, and collected testimonials from student-veterans who expressed support for a forever GI Bill. On Thursday, April 20, IAVA shelved their #shewhobornethebattle campaign and made #defendthegibill their primary effort, with CEO Paul Rieckhoff taking to the airwaves at MSNBC to mock the concept.
 
The American Legion continues to review this concept as a way to expand the Post-9/11 GI Bill. We request that if this provision were to move forward, future enlistees buying into the program would be allowed to use their benefit with no delamination date. This would result in the Post-9/11 GI Bill becoming a lifetime benefit.  We also request that future enlistees have the $100 deducted from their account on the second year to reduce the burden of the buy-in. These recommendations should not be interpreted as support for this bill. The provisions fall outside the scope of established resolutions of The American Legion. With no resolutions addressing the provisions of the legislation, our division is researching the material to present to the National Executive Committee to develop a position that truly reflects the will of our membership.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
THE JONAS PROJECT – Background
 
Jonas Kelsall announced that when he graduated high school he wanted to become a Navy SEAL. His parents had to sign the enlistment papers because he was not yet 18. His plan to become a SEAL came as a complete surprise to his parents, but he always was a person of his word, and so the papers were signed and Jonas entered the Navy. He made it through BUDS, and was off to the University of Texas for the next four years. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree along with his Commission and spent the next several years following his dream, eventually leading him to Lt. Commander in the Naval Special Warfare elite Development Group.
 
Jonas spent 12 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, but on August 6, 2011, at the age of 32, he was killed in action in Afghanistan in the single worst disaster in the history of the U.S. SEALs. In remembrance of Jonas Kelsall, his parents created The Jonas Project - a non-profit organization that helps veterans start their own businesses. It is for those veterans, who have an entrepreneurial spirit, and the determination to succeed at their dream, that The Jonas Project was born. The Jonas Project’s mission is to create jobs by growing veteran-owned business opportunities through collaboration, not duplication. The Project’s vision is to provide assistance and professional mentoring to eligible veterans with a desire to become entrepreneurs; these veterans, in turn, hire fellow veterans and/or spouses of veterans as employees, ultimately contributing to job growth for veterans and their families.
 
The Jonas Project works exclusively with veterans to help them launch new businesses. It is a non-profit organization that offers free services to veteran entrepreneurs and provides two years of mentoring services from established business entrepreneurs in order to limit the mistakes and risk of the startup process. They help guide veterans in completing all of a business plan’s requirements, which  include: accurate financial statements, a fully functional operating plan, and an effective marketing plan. As a part of the project’s service to veterans, they offer connections to business professionals in areas such as marketing, legal, or web development which can be utilized when necessary. Sixty percent of The Jonas Project’s mentors are veterans, and has helped 9 veterans open their own business since November, 2016.
 
The Jonas Project announced that it has been named a “2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit” by GreatNonprofits for the second year, the leading provider of user reviews of charities and nonprofits. The Jonas Project works with veteran entrepreneurs to provide critical resources for the first two years of the veteran’s business including business mentors, business and operational planning, and professional services. The Top-Rated Nonprofit Award is based on the rating and number of reviews that The Jonas Project received from volunteers, donors and aid recipients. GreatNonprofits is the leading website where people share stories about their personal experiences on more than 1.2 million charities and nonprofits. The GreatNonprofits Top-Rated Awards are the only awards for nonprofits determined by those who have direct experience with the charities – as donors, volunteers and recipients of aid.
 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  4/21/17
 
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 13 April 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The economy added 98,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported Friday, fewer than half the monthly number for January and February. The report contained some notable good news: The unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent, the lowest level in almost a decade and a milestone in the long road back from the Great Recession. The rate was 4.7 percent in February. Wages also continued to rise. But the disappointing number of new jobs was jarring for the administration, and well below what economists had expected. It comes as the stock market surge, which followed the November election, subsides and amid signs that economic growth in the year’s first quarter proves weak. Economic perceptions, as well, may not be playing out in reality. Sentiment among consumers and business rose after the election, but so far, it has not been matched by a comparable increase in spending by either group.
 
Manufacturing continued to add jobs last month, but at a slower pace. Payrolls in the retail sector, meanwhile, declined further, shedding tens of thousands of jobs. However, when you look at the jobs report as a whole, there’s an awful lot of good news in it. Also watching closely are the policy makers of the Federal Reserve, which has begun to reel in its post-recession stimulus. It raised interest rates last month and said it planned to do so twice more this year. But signs of a sluggish economy could affect how quickly the central bank moves. The consensus view on Wall Street is that the economy expanded at an annual rate of 1 percent last quarter, with the pace of growth in the current second quarter rising to 3.5 percent.
 
The March report represents a snapshot of the economy, not an oil painting. And snow and cold weather in many parts of the country clearly took a toll on the construction sector, which barely grew after gaining a total of more than 90,000 jobs in January and February. The tepid numbers for March mask pockets of strength. For example, a few white collar sectors like professional and business services are holding up well, adding 56,000 jobs last month. On the other hand, new technologies are upending venerable industries like retail, as consumers shift to shopping online and department stores close. The retail sector lost almost 30,000 jobs last month, after a decline of about 31,000 in February.
 
The headline numbers for hiring and the unemployment rate are derived from separate surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of establishments, the other of households. Although the two tend to converge over time, they can vary widely from month to month, and March was one of those times. So while businesses showed an anemic gain of 98,000 jobs in terms of payrolls, households reported a 472,000 increase in employment, without any fall in labor participation. That explains why the unemployment rate could fall by 0.2 of a percentage point, even as the number of job creation was far short of expectations.
 
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
2016
MAR
2017
MAR
2016
MAR
2017
MAR
2016
MAR
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
191
160
165
126
26
35
Unemployment rate
6.3
5.0
6.4
4.6
5.4
7.9
 
National unemployment rate is 4.5 percent (March 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.0 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 7.9 percent (up from 5.0 percent in February).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, April 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Mareo Marazzi, Director, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor (DOL), to discuss the unemployment rate for veterans in Puerto Rico.  Currently, DOL does not keep track of unemployed veterans in Puerto Rico. The closest thing they have for statistics is through the U.S. Census Bureau – American Community Survey from 2015.
 
On Tuesday, April 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Davy Leghorn from Monster.com to discuss the upcoming National Convention activities/events. Topics discussed included a potential employment summit and small business development workshop.
 
On Tuesday, April 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Janille Rodriguez, Deputy Chief of Staff & Legal Counsel, Office of The Honorable Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico, to discuss the concerns and issues that are affecting the veterans in Puerto Rico. The American Legion extended an invitation for the Congresswoman to be a keynote speaker at the May 18th Career Fair.
 
On Tuesday, April 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a follow-up roundtable discussion with HVAC and SVAC staff on the future of the GI Bill. The discussion advanced from how to make the Post-9/11 GI Bill permanent to a means by which to do so: sunsetting the Montgomery GI Bill and rolling over the $100/month buy-in to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. There was general agreement with the VSOs that the only way that adding a buy-in option to Post-9/11 GI Bill could be supported was if that money could be invested directly back into education, strengthening the GI Bill. Examples of how to do this would be increasing the benefits for Reservists, adding more months of entitlements for STEM courses, or even introducing interval pay back in.
 
On Wednesday, April 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with a veteran and new Legion member about getting his small business into the federal contracting space. The Division assisted this veteran by providing local resources, such as PTAC, VBOC, and the SBA district office closest to him.
 
On Thursday, April 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Debra Truchon, Operations Manager, U.S.VETS – Washington, DC site, to discuss gaps in services for homeless veterans who don’t have mental/physical disabilities and/or substance abuse issues. U.S.VETS is a nonprofit that assist homeless veterans with crucial services that lead to independent living and long-term stability.
 
On Thursday, April 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Marine 4 Life – Veterans & Employers/Corporate Networking Event. These kinds of events allow us to promote The American Legion’s programs and services as well as meet servicemembers, veterans and their families.
 
On Thursday, April 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division was interviewed by VetsVoice Radio on the work The American Legion is doing to support veterans education in light of the Westech College closure - including what veterans need to watch out for and what they can do if they are getting into a problem with an education vendor. The American Legion has Service Officers around the country who are available to assist veterans affected by school closures. Additionally, The American Legion Education Center at www.legion.org/education features links to Pearson Education support counselors, who can advise veterans on specific matriculation options.
 
On Thursday, April 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Sam Maldonado from the SBA district office in Puerto Rico. Topics discussed included the upcoming career fair and business workshop that The American Legion is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Small Business Administration on.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Ending of the Hiring Freeze
 
The Trump administration announced its hiring freeze will end Wednesday, April 12, while delivering to agencies promised guidance on how they should reduce the size of their workforces in both the near and long-term.
President Trump’s hiring freeze, which went into effect January 23, lasted 79 days, with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issuing guidance to end it 11 days before the president’s initial deadline. While agencies are allowed to begin hiring again without restriction or approval from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday they cannot begin onboarding employees “willy-nilly.”
Puerto Rico’s Veteran Unemployment Rate- Still Unclear
The unemployment rate for our veterans in Puerto Rico is still unclear. The Bureau Labor of Statistics tracks the overall unemployment rate for Puerto Rico; however, does not distinguish between veterans and non-veterans. According to the United States Census Bureau - American Community Survey Veteran Status conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Statistics of Puerto Rico, shows that the overall unemployment rate is 19.1 percent of which 11.4 percent are veterans. Listed below is a chart of employment data on Puerto Rico. 
 
Subject
Puerto Rico
Total
Percent
Veterans
Percent
Estimate
Margin of Error
Estimate
Margin of Error
Estimate
Margin of Error
Estimate
Margin of Error
Civilian population 18 years and over
2,735,679
+/-524
(X)
(X)
83,847
+/-5,191
3.1%
+/-0.2
PERIOD OF SERVICE
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gulf War (9/2001 or later) veterans
(X)
(X)
(X)
(X)
12,850
+/-2,030
15.3%
+/-2.0
Gulf War (8/1990 to 8/2001) veterans
(X)
(X)
(X)
(X)
11,373
+/-2,164
13.6%
+/-2.2
Vietnam era veterans
(X)
(X)
(X)
(X)
28,409
+/-2,408
33.9%
+/-2.1
Korean War veterans
(X)
(X)
(X)
(X)
17,396
+/-2,134
20.7%
+/-2.3
World War II veterans
(X)
(X)
(X)
(X)
2,773
+/-817
3.3%
+/-1.0
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
EMPLOYMENT STATUS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Civilian population 18 to 64 years
2,108,714
+/-524
(X)
(X)
33,413
+/-3,852
(X)
(X)
Labor force participation rate
(X)
(X)
57.8%
+/-0.5
(X)
(X)
51.7%
+/-5.1
Civilian labor force 18 to 64 years
1,219,398
+/-10,006
(X)
(X)
17,274
+/-2,606
(X)
(X)
Unemployment rate
(X)
(X)
19.1%
+/-0.7
(X)
(X)
11.4%
+/-3.8
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
Eight veterans who live in a Helena facility won't be left homeless if the facility shuts down, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said. The Montana Veterans Foundation is planning to close its Willis Cruse Transitional Facility because the VA reduced its funding. The VA will make sure a long-term housing plan is in place for the veterans, said Mike Garcia, a spokesman for the VA Montana Health Care System. "Those veterans are not going to be left out in the cold," he told the Helena Independent Record in a story published Sunday. The facility had 12 beds, but the VA told the Montana Veterans Foundation in November 2015 it was reducing the funding to eight, saying not all the beds were being used.
Foundation President Mike Hampson said that level of funding isn't sufficient to pay the bills, and the group announced last month it would have to sell the building. Hampson said he tried but failed to persuade the VA to restore the funding. Foundation officials have been speaking with the operators of Spring Meadow Resources, which provides services to people with developmental disabilities, about taking over the veterans' shelter program. Spring Meadow operates six group homes and two apartment complexes.
Jim Bissett, Spring Meadow Resources' CEO, said his group and the Montana Veterans Foundation need to negotiate further. If they reach an agreement to take over the program, Spring Meadow would then have to negotiate with the VA, Bissett said. The VA would have to agree to renew its contract with the Montana Veterans Foundation and then transfer it to Spring Meadow for the shift to occur. The foundation would continue to operate the facility, but with a different focus, Hampson said. The foundation might try providing services to a wider range of veterans, such as women with children, Hampson said. The Willis Cruse home serves only men.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Camden (NJ), Camp Pendleton, Chicago, El Paso, Farmingdale (NY), Fort Irwin (CA), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lexington Park (MD), Marine Corps Base Quantico (VA), Patrick Air Force Base (FL) and Springfield (VA).
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
The National Veterans Employment & Education Division has been following developments in the Texas Statehouse that may serve as a bellwether for veterans’ education benefits across the country. The Hazlewood Act is a state of Texas benefit that provides qualified veterans, spouses and dependent children with free public education for up to 150 credit hours. While it does not provide the housing stipend that the Post-9/11 GI Bill has, the Hazlewood Act is widely considered the most generous state education benefit for veterans in the country. This year, Texas legislatures are looking to roll back this benefit.
 
As it stands, the Hazlewood Act requires veterans to only serve 181 days to receive the full benefit and transfer it to dependents (for comparison the Post-9/11 GI Bill for comparison requires three years of active-duty for full entitlement and 10 years of service to transfer). In 2009, the Hazlewood Act cost $24 million. In 2015, it rose to $169 million. By 2019, the cost is expected to balloon to $380 million. The reason for this exponential increase is the ease of transfer to dependents. With no expiration date of use and no additional service requirement to gain, the majority of Hazlewood Act recipients have been dependents, not the veterans themselves. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is an example of this, where over $2 million in tuition was paid to 177 veterans and 626 veteran dependents.
 
To attempt to avoid this overrun, House Bill 3766 was introduced this past March. This bill would place a 15-year expiration date on use, and increase the service requirement to four years. Local veteran groups have pushed back hard on this, and got a similar bill shut down in 2015, even as university groups strongly supported it. Last year, the state only reimbursed universities for about 20 percent of the lost tuition revenue for veterans' dependents. University officials say they end up having to pass the costs on to other students, including poor students struggling to pay for school.
 
Although the deliberations we are having in Washington, DC over the Post-9/11 GI Bill are under far calmer circumstances, it is ironically linked to the Hazlewood Act. Hazlewood was conceived in 1923 as a program solely for veterans, but in 2009 with the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill many veterans stopped using it. To enhance its value, in 2009 the legislature began allowing transferability, which rapidly changed Hazlewood usage. What Hazlewood shows is that once transferability is promised to servicemembers and veterans, it is not a benefit that can be taken away without a fight in Texas’s case; consequently, this means proposing increasing the service dates from 181 days to four years rather than directly focus on dependents as a cost overrun. 
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky, recently signed into law a bill which requires the Finance and Administration Cabinet to promote and publicize opportunities for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses to contract for goods and services. House Bill 161, sponsored by Representative DJ Johnson (Owensboro), also requires that state agencies be provided with information on how to find service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. The measure takes another step to ensure Kentucky veterans succeed when they return home from service.
 
The Finance and Administration Cabinet is the primary support agency for state government, and is specifically responsible for administrating the state’s revenue. Supporting veteran-owned businesses has been an initiative strongly supported by the Governor. House Bill 161 swiftly passed the House and Senate in a bipartisan manner.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  4/13/17
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 7 April 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Mortgage rates fell for the third week in a row, but their downward trend may be short-lived. According to the latest data released Thursday, April 6, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average tumbled to 4.1 percent with an average 0.5 point (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 4.14 percent a week ago and 3.59 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed-rate has fallen 20 basis points in less than a month. The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.36 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.39 percent a week ago and 2.88 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average ticked up to 3.19 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.18 percent a week ago and 2.82 percent a year ago.
 
After three straight weeks of declines, the 30-year mortgage rate is now barely above the 2017 low. Next week’s survey rate may be determined by today’s employment report and whether or not it can sustain the strength from earlier this year. The yield on the 10-year Treasury sank to 2.34 percent Wednesday, a drop of 28 basis points in less than three weeks. Since mortgage rates tend to follow the movement of long-term bonds, home loan rates also dipped. But between the release of the Federal Reserve minutes Wednesday and today’s employment report, mortgage rates could be poised for a rebound. In the minutes of its March meeting released this week, the central bank indicated that it may begin to shrink its balance sheet. Since the economic downturn, the Fed has been buying mortgage-backed securities and has about $4.5 trillion in bonds. Investors have been wondering when it would begin shedding its holdings.
 
The last time the Fed signaled it was thinking about unwinding its bond-buying program, mortgage rates soared in what became known as the “taper tantrum.” Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that more than half of the experts it surveyed predicted rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week, moving less than two basis points up or down. About a third expect rates to go up. Meanwhile, mortgage applications were down last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 1.6 percent. The refinance index fell 4 percent, while the purchase index inched up 1 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 42.6 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
MAR
2016
MAR
2017
MAR
2016
MAR
2017
MAR
2016
MAR
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
191
160
165
126
26
35
Unemployment rate
6.3
5.0
6.4
4.6
5.4
7.9
 
National unemployment rate is 4.5 percent (March 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.0 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 7.9 percent (up from 5.0 percent in February).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, April 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Megan Ogilvie, CEO of Dog Tag Bakery Inc., to discuss The American Legion becoming a potential resource partner. Dog Tag Bakery supports veterans by offering a free entrepreneurial fellowship in conjunction with Georgetown University.
 
On Tuesday, April 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Joel Gregg from Post 201 in Lemon Grove, California. Mr. Gregg will be covering the Military Spouse Hiring Fair at Fort Irwin on April 26 – 27 for The American Legion.
 
On Tuesday, April 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Darlene Scully, Women Veterans Coordinator, VA, about The American Legion being a vendor for the upcoming Women Veteran’s Conference in June. This event will be the fourth annual event for the VA’s Department of Florida -- held in Orlando from June 9-10. This event helps women veterans network with other women veterans, learn important information from knowledgeable speakers as well as connect with local, state, and national resources while discovering career opportunities. Florida is home to the third largest women veteran population in the nation, with more than 154,000. Women veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the veterans’ population. Of the approximately 21.3 million living veterans nationwide, more than 2 million are women.
 
On Tuesday, April 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Rafael Contreras, Soldier for Life Coordinator for Puerto Rico, to discuss the upcoming Career Fair and the resources available for veterans, particularly Reservists and National Guardsmen. Currently, the unemployment rate for veterans in Puerto Rico is hovering around 12 percent. Also, our division is working on getting more local employers to participate in the Career Fair.
 
On Wednesday, April 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with LTC. Brian Kane from Private Public Partnership (P3O), regarding the finalization of the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) and the possibility of other MOUs with The American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the Legion. 
 
On Thursday, April 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a presentation from the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) Advisory Council on Military Education. The SOC Program is a cooperative civilian and military effort designed to link servicemembers to institutions that provide high-quality education while 1) maximizing the proper award of academic credit for military training and experience, and alternative testing and 2) facilitating the transferability of credits, so servicemembers can reach their educational goals and the goals of the Armed Forces.
 
On Thursday, April 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Carmen Caban, Wounded Warrior Work Specialist, to discuss employment opportunities and their training programs to include resume writing and effective interviewing skills workshops to better assist America’s wounded veterans.
 
On Thursday, April 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a meeting with leadership from the Universal Technical Institute (UTI). UTI would like to see changes in the NDAA that would allow greater on-base access to the school, in order to provide academic counseling and access to the military’s Transition Assistance Program. This has been a longstanding goal of UTI and American Military University but has been voted down every year, in part due to the advice of DOD. Our division is studying the issue and will respond accordingly.
 
On Thursday, April 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Barbara Carson, Administrator, and Mark Williams, Program Manager, Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Veteran Business Development (OVBD). The main topic discussed was the upcoming hiring fair and small business workshop in Puerto Rico on May 18. The SBA and The American Legion have agreed to work together to coordinate a small business workshop that will last for two hours prior to the hiring fair. Other topics discussed included the recent interviews with 10-12 of the 20 Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC) offices, and the recent hearing on SBA entrepreneurial programs, where our division testified.
 
On Thursday, April 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Jeremy Horstman, VBOC Director on the campus of Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Topics discussed included the need for more manning to increase outreach efforts, and best practices that are currently taking place at the Georgia VBOC location.
 
On Friday, April 7, the National Veterans Employment & Employment & Education Division was interviewed by GI Jobs magazine on The American Legion’s role in veterans’ education advocacy. The story will be featured in an article in their upcoming May issue.
 
On Friday, April 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a veteran homelessness panel at the University of Maryland. Discussion centered on the challenges that homeless veterans face and how The American Legion and other stakeholders assist these veterans (and their families) reintegrate back into mainstream society.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
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 are not 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 percent 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 Veterans 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: The American Legion, National Association of VA Physicians and Dentists (NAVAPD), Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), 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).
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
On Tuesday, April 4, Representative Ted Deutch (FL), Brad Schneider (IL), and Tim Murphy (PA) introduced bipartisan legislation to aid homeless veterans through voluntary contributions raised from a new "check-off box" on the annual federal tax return. The Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund Act of 2017 (H.R. 1875) would make these funds available to the VA, in consultation with the Departments of Labor and Housing and Urban Development, solely to provide services to homeless veterans, including developing and implementing new and innovative strategies to end veteran homelessness.
"When Americans go from risking their lives on the battlefield to struggling to find shelter on the streets, we know we're failing our veterans," said Deutch. "A young American's decision to serve in our Armed Forces should not lead them into poverty and homelessness. With this bill, the American people can help homeless veterans access the crucial services they need by donating directly to a fund overseen by Congress."
"On any night in America, nearly 40,000 veterans are without a home," said Schneider. "It's unconscionable that men and women who served our country, and may still bear the physical and mental scars of that service, are forced to live on the streets. Giving Americans the option to divert a portion of their tax refund to aid homeless veterans is a small, commonsense step to make it easier to give back to those who sacrificed for us."
"The United States is home to the best Armed Forces in the world, yet too many of these brave heroes cannot call our nation home when they return from their service to spend their nights on the cold streets and alleyways of our communities," said Murphy. "This is shameful. As Americans, we have an obligation to end veterans homelessness and protect those who have protected us."
To ensure transparency and accountability in how these taxpayer dollars are spent, this legislation would require the President's annual budget submission to Congress to include the previous year and proposed uses of funds from the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund and requires Congress to be notified 60 days in advance of any expenditure of such funds. The American Legion supports this bill.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Camden (NJ), Camp Pendleton, Chicago, El Paso, Farmingdale (NY), Fort Irwin (CA), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lexington Park (MD), Marine Corps Base Quantico (VA), Patrick Air Force Base (FL) and Springfield (VA).
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
This week, another for-profit school abruptly shut down without notice to students: Westech College. The Los Angeles Times reported that students showing up for class Monday at Westech locations in Fontana, Moreno Valley and Victorville found locked doors and a notice saying the school was forced to shut down because of financial issues. While this was surprising to students, its closure was in part instigated by Department of Education (also referred to as the Education Department or ED) actions. In December, ED officials conducted a program review and identified that Westech also had failed to pay refunds and complaints indicated lacking the financial and administrative capability. As a result, ED placed the school on “Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 (HCM2), preventing the school from receiving advanced federal funds until the school could prove it was financially sound.
 
Sometimes referred to as a “kiss of death” for for-profits, this action in December effectively meant it was only a matter of time before the school shut down. Thankfully there were only 37 student-veterans attending this school according to the VA. They have put out messaging to the students informing them of the situation, as well as resources available, including American Legion Service Officers. While this affected a limited number of veterans, it is very likely that it will not be the last school to abruptly shutter its doors in 2017. To further assist in these contingencies, our division added a page specifically for displaced students on www.legion.org, that lists resources including support from Pearson Education.
 
To help restore these veterans educational benefits for their lost time at these schools, The American Legion supports H.R. 1216 – the Protecting Veterans from School Closures Act of 2017. The Legion advocacy on this is supported by Resolution No. 21: Education Benefit Forgiveness and Relief for Displaced Student-Veterans.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
On Wednesday, April 5, AppRiver announced an exclusive, limited-time program to help veterans launch and succeed as technology entrepreneurs. The Veteran to Entrepreneur (V2E) program is a new start-up package that includes a comprehensive assistance program, including training, business counsel, marketing support, and a specialized, limited-time refund program providing additional capital to invest in their businesses. Since its inception, AppRiver has supported and hired veterans, including some senior managers who envisioned this new program.
 
The AppRiver veteran program is designed as a simple process for interested and qualified veterans. Rather than simply earn a commission on their sales, veterans in the V2E program will for a limited time be refunded all the AppRiver revenue they earn. Coupled with multiple levels of training and support, the program is aimed to help veteran entrepreneurs in the most challenging phase of a business – the critical first year. After the first six months, or when the veteran-owned companies have earned $5,000 in revenue from AppRiver, they will have the option to remain as referral agents and receive commissions on future sales, or, if qualified, to become resellers who get discounted pricing and handle first-tier support calls for their clients.
 
This new online platform encourages veteran entrepreneurship and helps veterans find jobs, gain easier access to VA health services, use artificial intelligence for veteran suicide intervention, and learn about other resources that are available to them. AppRiver is opening the program to veterans who own more than a 50-percent interest in a qualifying ISV, VAR, or MSP business that is less than one year old. It is aimed at, though not limited to, veterans whose military specialties include information technology.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  4/7/17
 
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 31 Mar 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Mortgage rates tumbled for the second week in a row as long-term bond yields fell to their lowest level in a month. According to the latest data released Thursday, March 30, Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate slid to 4.14 percent with an average 0.5 point (points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 4.23 percent a week ago and 3.71 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed rate average dropped to 3.39 percent with an average of 0.4 points. It was 3.44 percent a week ago and 2.98 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average slipped to 3.18 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.24 percent a week ago and 2.90 percent a year ago.
 
The failure by the House of Representatives to pass healthcare legislation last week fueled the move by investors from stocks to bonds, driving down yields. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.38 percent Monday, its lowest level since late February. Because mortgage rates tend to follow the movement of long-term bonds, home loan rates also dropped. Rates aren’t expected to move much in the coming week. According to Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, nearly two-thirds of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable, moving up and down less than two basis points (a basis point is 0.01 percentage point).
 
In addition to lower mortgage rates, which increase affordability, more good news arrived for the housing market this week. Pending home sales were up 5.5 percent in February, according to the National Association of Realtors. New-home sales also rose last month. Meanwhile, mortgage applications were essentially flat last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – slipped 0.8 percent. The refinance index fell 3 percent, while the purchase index increased 1 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 44 percent of all applications, the lowest level in nearly nine years.
 
 
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
2016
FEB
2017
FEB
2016
FEB
2017
FEB
2016
FEB
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
145
154
128
132
17
22
Unemployment rate
4.7
4.6
4.9
4.6
3.6
5.0
 
National unemployment rate is 4.7 percent (February 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.0 percent (down from 5.8 percent in January).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, March 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Coreena Conley, Director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), in Sacramento, California. Topics discussed included best practices in their local VBOC, what they could improve upon, and what they would do with increased funding. We also briefly touched on the National Convention that will be held in Reno this year, as this is Conley’s area of responsibility with her VBOC.
 
On Monday, March 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Jack Fanous, CEO & Co-Founder, JobPath, to discuss their platform that would assist veterans in resume creation, mentorship, job training and MOS translation. This service would be at “no cost” to veterans.
 
On Tuesday, March 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with U.S.VETS to discuss their outreach and housing concerns for homeless veterans and their families in the Washington, DC area. We also discussed their challenges with funding and employment issues.
 
On Tuesday, March 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Marc Esposito, Program Manager for LINE 1, to discuss his platform that will allow veterans seeking employment a direct line to employers. This service would be at “no cost” to veterans.
 
On Wednesday, March 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division gave a presentation at the VA’s Center for Women Veterans Conference called Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business. Topics covered included The American Legion’s Small Business Task Force, our resource partners such as the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Veteran Business Outreach Centers and how we help the SBA facilitate their entrepreneurial programs, such as Boots to Business Reboot.
 
On Wednesday, March 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the office of Representative Susan Brooks (IN) to discuss H.R. 1104, the Veterans TEST Accessibility Act. If enacted, H.R. 1104 would amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for pro-rated charges to entitlement to educational assistance under Department of Veterans’ Affairs Post-9/11 GI Bill Educational Assistance Program for certain licensure and certification tests and national tests, and for other purposes. This is a cornerstone of our credentialing portfolio for 2017.
 
On Thursday, March 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees Majority meeting to discuss the future of the GI Bill. The discussion centered on how to make the Post-9/11 GI Bill permanent, regardless of dates of conflict. In wake of the evidence produced by Student Veterans of America (SVA) in their National Veterans Education Success Tracker (NVEST) that student-veterans surpass their civilian counterparts, a case is being made that continuing these benefits beyond conflict dates is a sound investment for America.
 
On Thursday, March 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division addressed the audience on the Tri-Administrative VA call. The American Legion discussed its commitment to aiding veterans in starting their own business, and the resources we provide in doing so. Specific topics discussed included the Small Business Task Force, SBA’s Boots to Business Reboot program and how we partner with the SBA to facilitate the program, and our legislative advocacy efforts that are in support of veteran-owned small business.
 
On Friday, March 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Veteran Service Officers’ (VSO) roundtable to discuss the veteran unemployment rate.  There is a huge concern with Puerto Rico. Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) does not track the veteran unemployment rate for Puerto Rico, due to the fact that Puerto Rico does not have unemployment insurance.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of their military status or military obligations. It also protects the reemployment rights of individuals who leave their civilian jobs (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) to serve in the uniformed services, including the U.S. Reserve forces and state, District of Columbia, and territory (e.g., Guam) National Guards. Under USERRA, employers must make "reasonable efforts" to help a veteran who is returning to employment to become qualified to perform the duties of the position he or she would have held but for military service whether or not the veteran has a service-connected disability. If the veteran has a disability incurred in or aggravated during his or her service, the employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability and return the veteran to the position in which he or she would have been employed if the veteran had not performed military service. If the veteran is not qualified for that position due to the disability, USERRA requires the employer to make reasonable efforts to help qualify the veteran for a job of equivalent seniority, status, and pay, the duties of which the person is qualified to perform or could become qualified to perform. This could include providing training or retraining for the position at no cost to the veteran. See Title 38, United States Code, Chapter 43 - Employment and Reemployment Rights of Members of the Uniformed Services, 38 U.S.C. § 4313; 20 C.F.R. §§ 1002.198, 1002.225 -.226. USERRA applies to all veterans, not just those with service-connected disabilities, and to all employers regardless of size. 
 
There has been a steady uptick in USERRA claims.  During the month of March, The American Legion has received 5 USERRA complaints.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
No veteran should be without a place to call home: The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) maintains its commitment to ending homelessness among veterans. The focus is threefold:
  • Conducting coordinated outreach to proactively seek out veterans in need of assistance,
  • Connecting homeless and at-risk veterans with housing solutions, healthcare, community employment services and other required supports,
  • Collaborating with federal, state and local agencies; employers; housing providers, faith-based and community nonprofits; and others to expand employment and affordable housing options for veterans exiting homelessness.
     According to VA, "we need to remember that most homeless veterans do not read the paper or listen to television so let's do our part as veterans and active military to end the homelessness of veterans. There is a saying among Vietnam veterans that 'Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another' and all veterans and active military need to help all veterans."
    Volunteers constructed an entire community to house homeless veterans: Many veterans sacrifice comfortable, lucrative lives to protect the liberties of their home country -- only to find nothing left of those former lives when they return. In the face of rising veteran homelessness rates, due in part to inadequate medical and psychological resources, Missouri volunteers pooled their creativity, time and money to create a community of tiny homes that welcomes veterans, completely free of charge. There is an organization in Oklahoma that has started creating homeless villages for homeless veterans and building tiny homes for homeless veterans.
     
    TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
     
    This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Camden (NJ), Chicago, Detroit, Farmingdale (NY), Fort Irwin (CA), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lake Charles (LA), Lexington Park (MD), Little Rock (AR), Marine Corps Base Quantico (VA), and Patrick Air Force Base (FL).
     
    The National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Philadelphia Hiring EXPO hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  There were 85 employers, 209 Job seekers with 74 potential Job offers extended (2 Customer Engineering Services; 7 Holt Logistics; 18 Helmets to Hardhats; 9 Allentown Police; 15 Abilities Solutions; 5 TMC Transportation; 10 PCI; 8 Medici Pizza).
     
    The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
     
    TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
     
    This week, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division worked closely with House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees leadership to determine achievable goals for 2017. To that end, all suggestions to changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill were mapped out in full:
     
  1. New IT Money to Improve Chapter 33 Processing - Will line item $30 million in IT improvements for education benefits in order to allow for greater access to benefits online.
  2. Require School Certifying Access to Entitlement - Gives school certifying officials access to student records in order to protect student-veterans against potential VA overpayments.
  3. Mandatory School Certifying Official Training - Requires VA to create mandatory training for school certifying officials on how to process GI Bill benefits.
  4. Limitation on Reporting Fees for General Fund - Ensures reporting fees collected by schools from the VA are used for veteran services, not general administration.
  5. Codification of Veterans Success on Campus Program - Would make permanent the Veterans Success on Campus Program, which provides vocational rehabilitation counselors on campuses with large veteran populations.
  6. Priority Class Enrollment for Student Veterans - Requires that if a school offers priority class enrollment to some students (examples: upper classmen or athletes) they must offer it to veterans.
  7. Yellow Ribbon availability for Fry Scholarships - Provides eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon program for Fry Scholarship recipients. The Fry Scholarship provides Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the children and surviving spouses of servicemembers who died in the line of duty while on active-duty after September 10, 2001.
  8. Credit for Chapter 33 for 12301(h) and 12304b orders - Provides Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement to the healthcare orders and new deployment orders that the Reserve and National Guard components will be using.
  9. Expanded Work-Study program - Expands work study benefits for student-veterans.
  10. Licensing and Credentialing Test Entitlement Changes – Pro-rates entitlement charge for licensing and credentialing test to the true cost of the test and not one month of entitlement.
  11. Relief for ITT Student Veterans - Restores entitlement for veterans for the course they were enrolled in when the school closed.
  12. Pilot Program for Accelerated Learning Programs – 5-year Pilot Program for microdegrees, IT bootcamps, coding courses, etc. not currently authorized for GI Bill funding. Would be separate from Montgomery GI Bill Benefits, seeking $25 million a year.
  13. Greater funds for State Approving Agencies (SAAs) - Provides $2 million more a year in mandatory funds and authorizes hybrid funding model with VA.
  14. Increase Chapter 35 payments by $200 a month - Similar to the Fry Scholarship, Chapter 35 offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or of veterans who died while on active-duty or as a result of a service-related condition.
  15. Restore Reporting fees for school - Schools receive reporting fees for every veteran benefit they certify. This change would increase that number from $8 to $16 dollars.
  16. Provide 100 percent Chapter 33 for Purple Heart recipients - Provides 100 percent Chapter 33 eligibility to a Purple Heart recipient even if they do not have the amount of active-duty time needed to receive 100 percent.
  17. Allow veterans to transfer entitlement to another dependent following death of dependent - Would allow transfer to another dependent if the original recipient of the education benefit died.
  18. Greater funds into Chapter 33 tiers - Would increase funding for GI Bill payments for veterans eligible for 50 percent and 60 percent of the GI Bill. This affects a significant amount of Reservists who have deployed downrange but do not have 36 months of active-duty.
  19. Expand GI Bill to CTE School independent study - Expands Chapter 33 benefits for accredited independent study courses – a certificate showing completion of study at an area career and technical school or a postsecondary vocational school providing postsecondary level education.
  20. Additional Months of Entitlement for STEM - Would allow for veterans enrolled in STEM degrees to receive an additional 9 months of eligibility towards that degree.
  21. Establish Student Veteran Center Grant Program - This would establish a $25 million dollar grant program for schools to establish veteran education centers to help student-veterans maximize their benefits, receive academic aid, and connect with their peers on campus.
  22. Prorate BAH for months during which a reservist is mobilized - Would require that if a Reservist is called up to active-duty while they are in school, that they do not lose the entire month of BAH due to active-duty under their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
  23. Make Chapter 33 First payer - Would make VA pay entire portion of Chapter 33 eligibility first then any loans, scholarships would cover rest. Under current law loans and scholarships are paid first.
  24. Allow schools to use standard term dates if first class meeting is within 12 days to term start - If dates of class date and term date are split between two months, with this fix veterans would not have to wait the whole month before receiving the benefit just because their class started on the 1st of the month.
  25. Allow student to cancel benefits for a term in order to conserve entitlement - If a student-veteran receives a full scholarship, they would have the ability to cancel their GI Bill payments and get their months of eligibility back.
  26. Change on BAH entitlement for true residents - This would change how an individual’s monthly BAH is calculated so that it is based on the campus where an individual physically participates in a majority of classes, as opposed to it being based on the institution of higher learning at which the individual is enrolled.
 
In order to fund these changes and establish the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a permanent program, Student Veterans of America (SVA) proposed sun setting the Montgomery GI Bill and converting its $100/month for 2-year buy into the Post-9/11 GI Bill. There is historical precedence for this in seeking to establish a permanent GI Bill. The original GI Bill, Korea GI Bill, and Vietnam era GI Bill all had delimiting dates associated with the conflict periods. In 1984, the Montgomery GI Bill was passed as a modest “peacetime” GI Bill providing an education stipend that servicemembers could buy into for $100 a month on active-duty. Although the Montgomery GI Bill still exists, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a much more generous benefit covering both tuition and a living allowance.
 
As long as the Montgomery GI Bill exists as the “de facto” GI Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill exists as an era-specific GI Bill subject to eventual cuts or roll back. SVA has argued that through their extensive research into student-veteran outcomes, investing in the Post-9/11 GI Bill for all veterans moving forward is a sound investment for our country. By eliminating the Montgomery GI Bill and establishing the Post-9/11 GI Bill as the singular education benefit with the added protections described, the future of veterans’ education would be protected for generations to come.
 
The National Veterans Employment & Education Division is currently studying the issue.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The Veterans Business Outreach Centers, or VBOC’s, are designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and mentoring, and referrals for eligible veterans owning or considering starting a small business. The SBA has 20 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement throughout the country, but the veteran community’s demand for entrepreneurial resources is outpacing the services available from the 20 VBOCs SBA currently funds. The American Legion believes that if the VBOCs were funded to the maximum capacity or were juggling less number of states within their region, they would be able to meet the veteran entrepreneurial demand for services. Furthermore, this would allow them to expand their role in outreach to government entities to advocate for veteran-owned small businesses. Thus, The American Legion recommends an additional funding of $18 million for the Office of Veterans Business Development within the SBA.
 
This $18 million would go towards an additional 31 VBOCs - one in each state and Puerto Rico, increase funding for Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot, and the development of a more diverse training program for established business owners to sustain, improve financial performance, and expand their businesses. The additional funds could also aid in expanding a training program to include training in legal and government regulations, Service-Disabled Veteran-owned Small Business (SDVOSB) contracting opportunities, access to affordable technology resources, and training on cybersecurity and protection of intellectual property. Since 2013, some of the performance metrics of the VBOC concluded that over 98,742 veterans received small business counseling, 114,085 veterans received business related training, 3,130 jobs created, 400 new business start-ups and 703 Boots to Business training classes have been held for transitioning servicemembers.
 
TOPIC 8: TESTIMONY
 
The American Legion testified before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce on Thursday, March 30, to represent the views of entrepreneurial veterans and press for additional assistance for veterans who want to start small businesses. Joe Sharpe, Director of the Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Division, urged members of Congress to give veterans the resources they need to start businesses in order to further stimulate the nation's economic recovery. Sharpe said, "Veterans, when compared to their civilian counterparts, are more likely to start a business and are generally more successful at creating a lasting small business."
One of the top impediments facing entrepreneurial veterans is access to capital to develop a minimally viable product or service, create a market, and scale their businesses. "One of the leading barriers to small business financing is requiring that debt be secured by the equity in fixed assets," said Sharpe. Most veterans leaving military service lack the equity necessary for traditional bank loans. Sharpe said, "One solution is to re-introduce legislation such as S.1870 - The Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition (VET) Act of 2016," that The American Legion spearheaded in the previous Congress.
U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (KS), and Jon Tester (MT), sponsored the bill and successfully navigated it through the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship last year, but was canceled with the end of the 114th Congress last November. The 2016 VET Act would have created a pilot program to enable veterans who did not desire to go to college to use money from their GI Bill benefit to start a small business. Committee Chairman Representative Steve Knight (CA) expressed interest in the Legion's VET Act legislation and requested more information. "It's ideas like this that drive our economy forward," Sharpe said. "It is veterans who will lead the way."
 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  3/31/17
 
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 24 March 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Gulf War-Era II veterans edged down to 5.1 percent in 2016. The jobless rate for all veterans also edged down over the year to 4.3 percent. The unemployment rate for male veterans overall was not statistically different from the rate for female veterans in 2016. The unemployment rate for male veterans (4.2 percent) edged down over the year, and the rate for female veterans (5.0 percent) changed little. Among the 453,000 unemployed veterans in 2016, 60 percent were age 45 and over, 36 percent were age 25 to 44, and 4 percent were age 18 to 24. Veterans with a service-connected disability had an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent in August 2016, which is about the same as veterans with no disability. Nearly 1 in 3 employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked in the public sector in August 2016, compared with 1 in 5 veterans with no disability. Employment gains occurred in construction, private educational services, manufacturing, health care, and mining. The Employment Situation for March is scheduled to be released on Friday, April 7, 2017.
 
Due to the recently increased mortgage rate, Americans started buying homes at the fastest pace since July 2016. According to the Commerce Department, new-home sales rose 6.1 percent month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000.That sales pace is nearly 13 percent higher than February of last year, a positive sign for the housing market that demand is robust at the start of the spring home-buying season.
 
Adequate job growth and a recovering economy have caused an increase in interest in new homes, while the prospect of rising mortgage rates since the November presidential election may have pulled some sales forward. Builders have increased the construction of new homes, which helps meet strong demand and boosts sales. That could provide a slight lift to the broader economy through construction jobs and the consumer spending linked to home purchases. Demand for homes is still outpacing the construction gains. In February 2017, there were 266,000 new homes for sale, which is the most since July 2009 — a month after the recession ended — and up nearly 10 percent from a year earlier. The median sales price in February of a new home was $296,200, a decline that might reflect that much of the sales last month were in the cheaper Southern markets.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, March 20,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with several Legion posts in Philadelphia in regards to volunteer coverage for the upcoming veterans hiring event.
 
On Tuesday, March 21,   the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the centennial celebration of the first enlisted female, Loretta Perfectus Walsh, to join the Armed Forces. This event was located at Arlington Women's Memorial and hosted by both DACOWITS and the Center for Women Veterans.
 
On Tuesday, March 21,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a teleconference on DoD's new Institutional Compliance Program for voluntary education. Designed with support from Price Waterhouse Cooper, the new program was created to foster quality assurance from the schools that participate in DoD's tuition assistance program.
 
On Tuesday, March 21,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Teamsters Assistance Program Awards Reception, where Director Joe Sharpe was awarded a Certificate of Achievement from General President James Hoffa. The Teamsters Military Assistance Program advocates for training and credentialing for transitioning service members to receive technical jobs.
 
On Wednesday, March 22,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the DACOWITS quarterly business meeting. Topics discussed included women's retention, physiological gender differences, and women's propensity to serve.
 
On Wednesday, March 22 - Thursday, March 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the USAA Foundation in San Antonio regarding the Legion's homeless veterans initiatives to include prevention, employment, training, housing and other related resources. Texas is one of four states with the largest homeless veteran population.
 
On Thursday, March 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with the directors of 10 out of 20 VBOC’s located throughout the nation. Topics discussed included best practices for helping veterans start their own business, marketing sources, and their relationships with resources partners, such as the SBDC, WBC, and PTAC.
 
On Thursday, March 23,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee discussion on how broader education policy developments might specifically impact veterans. Specifically, the Gainful Employment Rule, federal student loan relief and the ban on incentive compensation were discussed as potential issues that might be legislated this session.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017 or the HIRE Vets Act (H.R. 244) has been introduced by Representative Paul Cook (CA). If enacted, this bill would direct DOL to establish a HIRE Vets Medallion Program to solicit voluntary information from employers for purposes of recognizing through a HIRE Vets Medallion Award verified efforts by these employers to: (1) recruit, employ, and retain veterans; and (2) provide community and charitable services supporting the veteran community. The American Legion supports this legislation.
 
Additionally, law enforcement officer Brian Benvie received a promotion, retroactive seniority, and back pay through his claims filed with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Benvie, an Army reservist who has served deployments in Kosovo, Iraq, and Kuwait, first missed taking promotional exams for sergeant and lieutenant at the Brockton, Massachusetts, police force due to active-duty military service. When he eventually took the exam, he found others were promoted ahead of him even though he scored better. Compounding the situation, his time in grade for promotions was miscalculated.
 
Benvie filed complaints under USERRA and received swift help from DOL-VETS staff in the national office and the regional office in Atlanta. "They were a big help because they took my case," Benvie said. DOL-VETS eventually referred the case to the Department of Justice, which reached a settlement with the City of Brockton that included more than $32,000 in back pay. Benvie said the positive outcomes on promotion, seniority and pay through USERRA "will have ramifications for the rest of my life."
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
In 2015, there were 564,708 homeless people across the United States. Since then, many states, including Arizona, have reported drops in homelessness. However, Arizona still had an estimated 9,700 homeless people in 2016, according to the most recent Housing and Urban Development data. The 9, 700 homeless population in Arizona includes homeless veterans as well. A homeless encampment was forced to vacate land near Loop 202 near Mesa this week and had temporarily set up camp near 19th Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix. The group is largely made of veterans. While the number of homeless veterans has been decreasing nationally, they make up 8.6 percent of all homeless people in the United States.
 
A group called Veterans on Patrol operates the local encampment they call Camp Pulaski. The group was expected to be at the location in Phoenix for the next 60 days, but its ultimate destination remains undecided. The group has an urgent need for bottled water, canned food, powdered drink mix and single-serve snacks. The camp also needs trash bags, batteries, sleeping mats, duct tape, and clean socks and underwear for men and women. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can visit the Veterans on Patrol's Alpha Base "Camp Pulaski" Facebook page.
The Arizona Department of Veterans Services also helps serve homeless and at-risk veterans in the state. In the fiscal year 2013, the Arizona Veterans' Donation Fund set up by the department awarded over $725,000 to veterans' programs and initiatives throughout the state.
 
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming April hiring events to be staged in Lexington Park (MD), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Chicago (IL), Patrick AFB, (FL), Farmingdale (NY), Fort Bragg (NC), and Fort Irwin (CA). Two of April’s seven hiring events are geared towards military spouses.
 
The National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the several career fairs hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. These events were located in Houston (TX), Fort Bliss (TX), Lake Charles (LA), and San Antonio (TX). There were over 275 attendees at the hiring fair in San Antonio.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
The New York Times published an editorial this week highlighting the potential for for-profit abuses to increase as Obama-era regulations are rolled back. In preparing for this, further coordination with the Department of Education will be pursued to protect student veterans from these abuses, as they are at higher risk to being targeted by schools because of their GI Bill eligibility.
 
Predator Colleges May Thrive Again
By THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD
MARCH 23, 2017
 
Congress has tried since the 1940s to curb predatory for-profit schools that survive almost solely on federal money while they saddle students with crushing loans for useless degrees. As the industry’s scandals grew and its role in the student debt crisis became more excessive, the Obama administration established rules that could get the worst of these programs off the federal dole. But the Education Department under its new secretary, Betsy DeVos, seems ready to undermine those regulations and let predatory schools flourish once again.
 
The department has hired two high-level officials from the for-profit sector — one of whom has since resigned. The other is a school, under state and federal investigation, that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined last year for duping students into taking out costly private loans.
 
The Education Department also announced it would review and extend compliance deadlines for a rule created to ensure schools train students for good jobs by requiring that their graduates’ average debt not be too burdensome compared to their income. This delay could leave students — often the most disadvantaged and unsophisticated consumers — vulnerable to programs that are already failing the federal performance test.
 
The industry is trying to cast this “gainful employment rule” as onerous and unnecessary. But the abuses that prompted the Obama administration to develop this rule in the first place are well documented.
 
A history of the for-profit college industry published earlier this year by the Century Foundation shows how crooked schools sprang up to swindle World War II veterans out of their G.I. Bill benefits, attracting students with predatory recruitment techniques, enrolling them in sham courses and using false attendance records to bill the government.
 
A congressional report in 1952 noted that scores of for-profit executives had been convicted of fraud and that “hundreds of millions of dollars [had] been frittered away on worthless training.” A few years later, another federal report estimated that of more than 1.6 million veterans who had attended for-profit schools, only 20 percent had completed the course of study.
 
Congress eventually specified in the Higher Education Act of 1965 that career-training programs had to prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” to be eligible for federal aid.
 
The gainful employment rule formulated during the Obama administration requires for-profit and nonprofit career-training programs to show that, on average, the annual loan payments of their graduates amount to less than 8 percent of their total income, or less than 20 percent of their discretionary income, after the cost of basic necessities like food and housing. Programs that fail for two out three years are supposed to be cut off from federal aid.
 
The test is hardly rigorous; only 9 percent of career-training programs failed it. But 98 percent of those were at for-profit colleges, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonpartisan research group.
 
Some of the programs failed the test spectacularly. For example, only 7 percent of the students at McCann School of Business and Technology in Hazelton, Pa., finished the “medical assisting” degree program on time. After paying more than $30,000 in tuition, graduates earn only about $20,300 per year — less than the typical high school graduate earns. According to an analysis of federal data by the institute, graduates of this program at all McCann locations had an average of more than $26,000 in student loan debt.
 
The Education Department’s delay in enforcing the rule will keep some prospective students from being warned off programs that would bleed them of student aid. Gutting the rule would keep these predatory schools in business.
 
It’s clear that the Education Department has the interests of the industry at heart. But the department cannot operate in a way that sets up the country’s most vulnerable students for exploitation, failure, and default.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
A new website will serve as a “one-stop shop” for those seeking to buy goods and services from veterans and military spouses. The Veteran Market is an e-commerce platform where verified veterans, military spouses, and businesses can sell their products online. Co-founders Mike Phipps and Scott Davidson said the site grew from the notion that there was not a centralized, verified marketplace for veterans and military spouses to sell their wares.
 
While sites such as Etsy give military spouses an online forum to sell their wares, the founders of The Veteran Market say their site will provide a centralized online location for selling products while ensuring that sellers don’t need to understand technology to set up their own business sites. The Veteran Market can be used by all types of businesses, ranging from home-based entrepreneurs to established businesses.
 
By leveraging open source information from organizations such as The American Legion, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Dun and Bradstreet, The Veteran Market can “verify” sellers while minimizing the burden of sending personally identifiable information to prove military service. The process takes less than 24 hours and no personal information is kept. The enrollment process will also include a link to allow qualified individuals to join The American Legion if they’re not already members

 

 

 
Posted 17 March 2017
Legion Meets With President Trump
 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 17 March 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
It’s a tough market for homebuyers. Prices are high and supply of available homes is low. And while the Federal Reserve’s rate hike could make home buying more expensive, house hunters shouldn’t start panicking yet. The Fed increased its benchmark interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday, March 15. The Fed doesn’t directly set mortgage rates, but its actions can affect the housing market. Mortgage rates tend to move with the government’s 10-year Treasury note, which serves as a benchmark for many forms of credit, including mortgages. Interest rates on the notes have already risen since Donald Trump was elected president.
 
But Wednesday’s hike was widely expected, meaning the markets had already priced it in. So many experts don’t see rates moving much higher in the coming weeks. The Fed has now raised rates three times since the end of 2015. Following the first hike in December 2015, mortgage rates started 2016 with a drop for the first few weeks. Plus, rates are still relatively low, and many experts don’t expect them to rise above 5 percent this year. Last week, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage climbed to 4.21 percent – a 2017 high. A year ago, it was 3.68 percent.
 
At the current interest rate, buyers will pay $57 more per month compared to a year ago, assuming a $235,000 price tag and a 20 percent down payment. That might not be a deal breaker for many buyers, but it could hurt those shopping in more expensive neighborhoods, or those right on the margin of being able to afford a home. Experts agree that rates will stay around 4.25 percent to 4.30 percent this buying season. Right now, the Central Bank is expected to raise rates three times this year, but if its actions become more aggressive, it could bring a sharper upswing in mortgage rates. And it’s not just the Fed that can influence mortgage rates.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
FEB
2016
FEB
2017
FEB
2016
FEB
2017
FEB
2016
FEB
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
145
154
128
132
17
22
Unemployment rate
4.7
4.6
4.9
4.6
3.6
5.0
 
National unemployment rate is 4.7 percent (February 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.0 percent (down from 5.8 percent in January).
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, March 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Tony Williams from the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS) regarding three (3) USERRA issues in Washington, New Jersey. USERRA is a Federal law intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserve, National Guard, or other uniformed Services: (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service. DOL-VETS provides assistance to those persons experiencing service-connected problems with their civilian employment and provides information about USERRA to employers. DOL-VETS also assists veterans who have questions regarding Veterans' Preference.
 
On Monday, March 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness luncheon, and a session with the VA discussing their continued priority to eliminating veteran homelessness at the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, DC.  The luncheon provided mayors and city councilmembers from across the country to tell their stories about the challenges and successes with combating veteran homelessness.  The consensus with these local leaders is that veteran homelessness can be solved with intense collaboration at the local level along with adequate funding from the federal, state, and local governments.
 
On Wednesday, March 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a Hiring Fair hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Hiring Our Heroes. During this event, several job seekers showed interest in learning more about the open positions at The American Legion headquarters office in Washington, DC. Several other attendees requested more information on how to become a Legion member.
 
On Wednesday, March 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Monica Orecchio, Program Manager for Verizon’s Military Team. We discussed their Military initiative. Currently, Verizon’s veteran employee population is around 10,000 and growing.
 
On Thursday, March 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with Marc Esposito, Project Manager of Line 1 Corporation, to discuss their digital platform and how it will assist service members and veterans in establishing a network system of employment resources across the nation.
 
On Thursday, March 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the WAVE 7th annual women veteran’s business seminar. During the event, there was a panel discussion concerning subcontracting as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) with prime contractors. Prime contractors in attendance included Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, and BAE Systems.
 
On Thursday, March 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division hosted a VSO roundtable on the history of the GI Bill, featuring two “GI Bill Historians”. David Whitman, who authored an online history series on the WWII GI Bill and Vietnam Era GI Bill, and Dr. Suzanne Mettler, author of the book Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation discussed the background and impact of GI Bill programs over the years, as well as the importance of protecting the GI Bill for future generations of veterans to come.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017 or the HIRE Vets Act (H.R. 244) has been introduced by Representative Paul Cook (CA). If enacted, this bill would direct DOL to establish a HIRE Vets Medallion Program to solicit voluntary information from employers for purposes of recognizing through a HIRE Vets Medallion Award verified efforts by these employers to: (1) recruit, employ, and retain veterans; and (2) provide community and charitable services supporting the veteran community. The American Legion supports this legislation.
Additionally, law enforcement officer Brian Benvie received a promotion, retroactive seniority, and back pay through his claims filed with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Benvie, an Army reservist who has served deployments in Kosovo, Iraq, and Kuwait, first missed taking promotional exams for sergeant and lieutenant at the Brockton, Massachusetts, police force due to active-duty military. When he eventually took the exam, he found others were promoted ahead of him even though he scored better. Compounding the situation, his time in grade for promotions was miscalculated.
Benvie filed complaints under USERRA and received swift help from DOL-VETS staff in the national office and the regional office in Atlanta. "They were a big help because they took my case," Benvie said. DOL-VETS eventually referred the case to the Department of Justice, which reached a settlement with the City of Brockton that included more than $32,000 in back pay. Benvie said the positive outcomes on promotion, seniority and pay through USERRA "will have ramifications for the rest of my life."
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
This week, the Trump Administration released the first federal budget request of his presidency. For any administration, a president’s budget proposal is a document that lays out that administration’s priorities for federal spending. This proposed budget is released every fiscal year by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and covers all federal programs, including those which we consider being the mainstays of our work to end veteran homelessness. This proposal, however, is not an act of law; it is merely a proposal. Congress is the final arbiter of which program receives funding, and how much.
 
The budget proposal published this week is known as a “skinny budget,” as it is much briefer than a budget justification released in a non-inaugural year. Because of the amount of work that a complete federal budget entails, and the short time afforded to a new administration to complete one, the publication of such skinny budgets is a standard practice among new presidents. A skinny budget, this one included, is usually light on detailed information about specific programs.
 
Despite that, there are a few takeaways that The American Legion is able to share with you about the President’s priorities, while still bearing in mind that Congress will change many things before funding legislation is signed into law several months from now.
 
First, is a line in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget chapter, which states in full that the request “Supports VA programs that provide services to homeless and at-risk veterans and their families to help keep them safe and sheltered.” This sentence in the budget proposal, combined with the prioritization of veteran homelessness by the new VA Secretary Shulkin, seem to indicate that the VA’s investments in community providers working to end homelessness will largely continue. In fact, the VA at large is slated in the proposal to receive an increase in discretionary funding of more than $4 billion.
 
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, however, would have its funding decreased by 13.2 percent, or $6.2 billion. This decrease would come from a variety of programs and offices within HUD, including the complete elimination of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships, and Choice Neighborhoods programs. Rental assistance programs would also see a decrease in funding, although the budget says that these savings would be found through “reforms that reduce costs while continuing to assist 4.5 million low-income households.” It is not clear at this time whether the HUD-VASH program is included in any of these proposed cuts, or what reforms are under consideration.
 
Similarly, the President’s budget proposes to decrease the Department of Labor’s budget by 21 percent, or $2.5 billion. Part of this cut would include the elimination of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), and a decrease in funding for job training and employment service formula grants, which may include the Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) to provide employment assistance to veterans at American Job Centers. The Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP) is not mentioned in the skinny budget by name.
 
Separate from the Departmental sections, the President’s budget includes a list of several independent agencies that the Administration would like to defund. Among these is the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) which has played a critical role in the progress and successes that we have seen in our work to end veteran homelessness over the past several years.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Chicago, Detroit, Farmingdale (NY), Houston, King George (VA), Lake Charles (LA), Little Rock (AR), Patrick Air Force Base (FL), Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
 
The National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Washington Wizard’s Career Fair hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. There were 55 employers, 175 job seekers with 86 potential job offers extended 86 (10 Secret Service; 10 U.S. Forrest Services; 10 FedEx Ground; 10 Dog Tag Bakery; 10 Victor O’Neil; 7 Navy Federal; 5 PAE; 4 Southwest Airlines; 4 Vivant Solar; 3 AFFES; 3 G4S; 3 Hertz; 2 Koons Automotive; 2 Computer Science Corps; 2 Fairfax County PD; and 1 DC PD)
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
 
 
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
A research team investigating the mental health burden and treatment-seeking behaviors of student-veterans attending rural community colleges in the southern United States has found that this population has difficulty integrating into the campus community and needs support to help it succeed. The study, published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, is the first to report on the mental health burden faced by veterans at the community college level.
 
“Of the 211 student-veterans who participated in our study, we heard the stories of 23 veterans who struggled with the aftermath of trauma exposure, and suffered from sleep disturbance, hypervigilance, irritable or aggressive behavior, and difficulty concentrating,” said Ann Cheney, an assistant professor in the Center for Healthy Communities in the UC Riverside School of Medicine and a coauthor on the study. “Student veterans often have physical and mental injuries, deployment- and combat-related stress, and family/relationship disruption after deployments. Our findings underscore the need for supportive services in higher education to integrate student-veterans into campus communities and refer them to mental health care resources toward improving their academic success.”
 
Veterans returning from overseas combat often struggle with trauma-related psychological distress that can affect their daily lives and academic performance. Because of this mental health burden, student-veterans are more likely to show lower academic achievement and are at higher risk of dropping out of college. The research paper notes that returning veterans with psychological trauma often experience recurrent or involuntary memories, flashbacks, and negative alterations in mood. The authors write that student-veterans may have difficulty relating to others, and may perceive student peers as immature and/or their comments as disrespectful. They add that veterans feel separate from the rest of the student body because of their extended gap between high school and college, older average age, and deployment experiences, thus creating additional challenges for them to integrate with the rest of the classroom.  Student-veterans also may struggle to find a sense of belonging, leading to feelings of isolation.
 
Cheney and her colleagues did their research in Arkansas, where, by 2010, more than 5,500 veterans used the Post-9/11 GI Bill to obtain a higher education. Many veterans attended two- and four-year colleges in rural, underserved areas of the state. Because rural areas have limited resources and healthcare services, the researchers conducted the study at 11 community colleges in rural regions throughout Arkansas, including the medically underserved areas of the Mississippi Delta Region and the Ozark Mountains.
 
The study was supported by a Department of Defense grant to senior author Geoffrey Curran at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
Marci Posey, Economic Developer, Small Business Administration (SBA), will present Boots to Business Reboot: Introduction to Entrepreneurship, on March 23, at Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Porter branch in North Stafford. The one-day course will be held from 8 am to 5 pm. The class is free and open to all veterans and their spouses. SBA's Boots to Business Reboot is a national program designed to introduce veterans and their spouses to the basics of small business ownership, including techniques for evaluating the feasibility of their business concepts, the components of a business plan, an introduction to private and public resources and opportunity recognition. Participants are introduced to SBA resources available for start-up capital, technical assistance and contracting opportunities. The program is also recommended for those who wish to grow an existing veteran-owned small business.
 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  3/17/17
 
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 10 March 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The U.S. economy added a robust 235,000 jobs in February, the Department of Labor (DOL) said Friday, March 10. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent from 4.8 percent in the previous month. It’s a vast improvement from 2009 when unemployment peaked at 10 percent after the financial crisis. Last year, the economy averaged about 190,000 new jobs per month. The economy is showing other signs of strength: Consumer and business confidence is high, and stocks are at record levels.
 
Wage growth continued to show signs of progress after persisting at a sluggish pace for years. Wages grew a solid 2.8 percent in February compared with a year ago. In February, manufacturing added 28,000 jobs. Trump has promised to increase manufacturing jobs by getting better trade deals for the United States. Construction companies hired another 58,000 workers last month. Experts say that increase is mainly due to warm winter weather in the Northeast and Midwest.
 
However, other sectors did not perform as well. The retail sector lost 26,000 jobs in February as major retailers like JCPenney announced store closings. Government and transportation jobs saw meager pains. Solid job gains almost certainly clear the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next week. Fed leaders like Chair Janet Yellen said a rate hike in March would be appropriate if the economy stayed on track. It did just that.
 
In addition, January’s existing-home sales pace was the strongest it’s been in nearly a decade, reported the National Association of Realtors. Sales increased 3.3 percent over December 2016, to an adjusted rate of 5.69 million. Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home, explained senior economists.
 
While some consumers were investing in existing homes, others were breaking ground on their own projects. According to the Census Bureau, housing starts reached 1,246,000 in January. While still a few percentage points below where it was in December, this rate is 10.5 percent higher than what was seen in January 2016. Meanwhile, just over one million homes were completed during January.
OUSEHOLD 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
2016
FEB
2017
FEB
2016
FEB
2017
FEB
2016
FEB
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
145
154
128
132
17
22
Unemployment rate
4.7
4.6
4.9
4.6
3.6
5.0
 
National unemployment rate is 4.7 percent (February 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.0 percent (down from 5.8 percent in January).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, March 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Tyra Nelson, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) Coordinator for the 81st Regional Support Command (RSC). Ms. Nelson is requesting The American Legion to participate in events that cater to the 30-day portion of the program for service members returning from deployment. The next Yellow Ribbon event will be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
 
On Monday, March 6 – Thursday, March 9, the National Employment & Education Division participated in the 2017 Council of College and Military Educators (CCME) Professional Development Symposium. Topics at the symposium included: Impact of Automated Tools Used in Higher Education; Impact on Limited Education Support; Education Issues Impacting National Guard and Reserve; and Transitioning Military and Veteran Career Employment – Preparation Seminars and Corporate Programs. CCME is an active proponent for the professional development of those serving in the military education community by providing a forum for the exchange of information on educational programs, strategies, and innovation among its members and associated partners. CCME membership is composed of military educators, civilian educators, post-secondary educational institutions, and suppliers of quality education products and services. CCME's mission is to promote and provide educational programs and services and to facilitate communication between the membership and the DOD educational support network.
 
On Tuesday, March 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the National Alliance to End Homelessness to discuss their 2017 legislative priorities and agenda. The Alliance works to prevent and end homelessness by improving policy, building capacity, and educating opinion leaders.
 
On Wednesday, March 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Izzy Abbass of Warriors4Wireless. This company assists veterans in obtaining the necessary skill-set needed to work in the field of telecommunication. We discussed the feasibility of extending their program to the Department of Puerto Rico in an effort to reduce their veteran unemployment rate.
 
On Wednesday, March 8, the Nation Veterans Employment & Education Division attending a military spouse networking event at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, OH. During this event, employers, job seekers, and service organizations were able to connect with one another to provide resources to military spouses.
 
On Thursday, March 9, the National Employment & Education Division participated in a roundtable concerning the Post-9/11 GI Bill and how we can make modern-day learning avenues more accessible for service members and veterans. The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hosted the event.
 
On Thursday, March 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a military spouse hiring event at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, Ohio. There were approximately 55 employers at this event, and approximately 100 job-seekers. 
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017 or the HIRE Vets Act (H.R. 244) has been introduced by Representative Paul Cook (CA). If enacted, this bill would direct DOL to establish a HIRE Vets Medallion Program to solicit voluntary information from employers for purposes of recognizing through a HIRE Vets Medallion Award verified efforts by these employers to: (1) recruit, employ, and retain veterans; and (2) provide community and charitable services supporting the veteran community. The American Legion supports this legislation.
Additionally, law enforcement officer Brian Benvie received a promotion, retroactive seniority, and back pay through his claims filed with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Benvie, an Army reservist who has served deployments in Kosovo, Iraq, and Kuwait, first missed taking promotional exams for sergeant and lieutenant at the Brockton, Massachusetts, police force due to active-duty military. When he eventually took the exam, he found others were promoted ahead of him even though he scored better. Compounding the situation, his time in grade for promotions was miscalculated.
Benvie filed complaints under USERRA and received swift help from DOL-VETS staff in the national office and the regional office in Atlanta. "They were a big help because they took my case," Benvie said. DOL-VETS eventually referred the case to the Department of Justice, which reached a settlement with the City of Brockton that included more than $32,000 in back pay. Benvie said the positive outcomes on promotion, seniority and pay through USERRA "will have ramifications for the rest of my life."
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Some have been engineers or contract managers who have lost focus and no longer think they can succeed. Another wins jobs easily but had a pattern of quitting after a few weeks. The local Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP) meets Allen County homeless veterans where they are at in life and works to build them back up to succeeding in the workforce. "We deal with people who even their families have given up on them," said David Wilson, regional program director for Volunteers of America in northern Indiana. HVRP is an outreach program of the Volunteers of America ministry. The latter dates back to the Civil War era and is an offshoot of the Salvation Army, Wilson said.
Volunteers of America also operates the local Liberty Landing and Safe Haven shelters for homeless U.S. military veterans, he said. The ministry opened the HVRP office in July 2015. "The main mission of our program is to exude love," said Terrell Brown, local HVRP program coordinator. The program, which is funded by the Indiana Department of Labor, begins by getting homeless veterans ready to return to a job, Brown said. That includes everything from helping with resume writing, interviewing skills and job applications to getting them haircuts, interview clothes, tools or specialized work clothing, and providing transportation. "We break down all the barriers so they can get to work," said Jennifer Schuler, local HVRP outreach and retention specialist.
HVRP also strives to make sure the veteran and job are a good match so employment goes well for both the veteran and his or her employer, Schuler said. Once a veteran starts a job, Schuler also makes regular visits to the veteran's workplace to make sure the job is going well and to help the person work through any concerns or challenges that arise. Since the ministry opened here, they have served 172 Allen County veterans, and 100 earned employment, Brown said. Others still are a "work in progress."
HVRP serves veterans of all ages, but a high percentage are in the 55-64 age group, Brown said. About 98 percent of the veterans they serve are men. The program typically prepares veterans to seek manufacturing, restaurant and warehousing jobs, Brown said. But HVRP will seek out jobs to match a veteran's skills or interest, including trying to place at a similar skill level those who once worked in management or executive positions. "If we show them a little love," Brown said of the veterans, "these guys will do things they didn’t even think they were capable of."
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Chicago, Detroit, Farmingdale (NY), Houston, King George (VA), Lake Charles (LA), Little Rock (AR), Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
 
During the 2017 Washington Conference, The American Legion sponsored and hosted the Career Fair along with two workshops - Effective Resume Writing and Financial Literacy. These workshops contributed greatly to the overall success of the Career Fair. There was a total of 225 job Seekers, 88 onsite interviews, which led to 46 potential job offers.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
On Tuesday, February 14, our National Commander officially released a statement on the 2304b and 12301(h) orders’ GI Bill eligibility, which the VE&E staff has researched. It reads as follows:
 
Dear Legion Family Members and Friends,

Bryan Lowman served his nation with honor and made sacrifices to help keep America safe, just like every man and woman who has worn the uniform. But our nation has failed Capt. Lowman and tens of thousands of his fellow reservists.

In 2010, Lowman was deployed to Afghanistan in a detachment with the North Carolina National Guard. During the deployment, he became severely ill with typhoid fever, lapsed into a coma and underwent multiple emergency surgeries over the course of a year in Afghanistan, Germany and at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

After his long recovery, Lowman aimed to pursue a college degree. Based upon his active-duty time on his DD214, Lowman was supposed to be entitled to 90 percent of his post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. “I applied for the GI Bill prior to the start of the fall 2016 semester at Clemson University,” Lowman said. “After an initial delay, VA downgraded my rating to 40 percent. When I called the GI Bill hotline, they told me that my active-duty time was not eligible to get the GI Bill benefits.”

What changed? After Lowman fought for our country and while he was battling for his life at Walter Reed, the government turned its back. Because of a loophole, his activation status was changed to 12301(h) medical orders, which shred his benefits on the basis that he did not complete his deployment. That’s wrong and should be corrected immediately. Unfortunately, Lowman’s story is not unique. Since 2007, approximately 20,000 reservists — others who were wounded or injured in combat — have faced similar issues.

During The American Legion’s congressional testimony coming up in a few weeks, I will share our organization’s concern with this practice. It is abhorrent. And Congress and VA must work to reverse this policy that unfairly penalizes our reservists.

Carry the legacy forward.
http://editor.legionemail.com/the-american-legion/schmidt_sig_NL.jpg
Charles E. Schmidt
National Commander

 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) offers 5 programs to assist Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) increase their ability to win contracts with the government. Programs, varying in length from 1 to 3 days, are held in the Washington, DC, area, 11 miles from the White House. Attendees receive hands-on, market-based lessons that aid in establishing the best business practices for Federal contracting. This program is funded through the Montgomery County Chamber Community Foundation (MCCCF) and is free to veteran-owned businesses nationwide.
 
VIP is designed by experienced executives and is the first-ever national center to train SDVOSBs and VOSBs to succeed in Federal contracting. The three key benefits of this program are being able to accelerate growth with market-based, practical training, learning how to reduce business risks for teaming partners and customers, and understanding how to build relationships with prime contractors and government to create a network of national teaming partners.
In April 2016, VIP START was launched to train SDVOSBs and VOSBs who need help expanding their business growth into the federal marketplace. VIP START has graduated 48 veteran-owned businesses from 15 states and Washington, DC. Additionally, in October 2015, VIP GROW celebrated a milestone achievement of graduating its 500th VIP GROW participant. Since the program launched in 2009, VIP GROW has graduated 638 veteran-owned businesses from 38 states.
 
 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  3/10/17
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 10 February 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The new year may have provided a clean slate for many Americans, but economic factors from months and years past continue to affect financial outlooks. On the one hand, a study has shown that "zombie firms" are contributing to a stagnation in the U.S. economy. While on the other, first-time American unemployment claims dropped to near-record lows in January. Although the living dead are certainly scary enough in their own right, "zombie firms" are a much more realistic monster the U.S. is currently dealing with. These companies are defined as organizations that consistently can't meet their interest payments, thereby digging into a hole of debt that should have killed them off, but hasn't yet.
 
According to a study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published this month, the recent increase in the number of "zombie firms" is translating to major efficiency problems within the U.S. economy. The report stated that a 3.5 percent increase in the number of these organizations between 2005 and 2013 can be linked to a 1.2 percent decline in productivity across all sectors. Of course, these companies have not been confined to the past. This is still a problem that the American economy will have to deal with for years to come, but the recent study should help shed light. Average consumers seem to have lost some of their certainty as they moved into 2017.
 
The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index found that confidence levels had reached 111.8 in January. This number is reached based on public perception of the current state of the economy. The reason this is noteworthy is the fact that December had the highest confidence level seen in the past 15 years at 113.3. While a decrease of two points in a month isn't an earth-shattering amount, it does show at the very least a stagnation in optimism. This could simply be connected to the new year, or it could be the fact that the U.S. has a new president. Regardless, this shift will be carefully monitored in the months to come. On a more positive note, it would seem that Americans are enjoying another stretch of high employment. Labor Department statistics that were reported on by CNBC found that the number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time dropped by 15,000 by January 14, 2017.
 
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
2015
JAN
2016
JAN
2015
JAN
2016
JAN
2015
JAN
2016
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
179
211
138
184
41
27
Unemployment rate
5.7
6.3
5.3
6.4
7.9
5.8
 
National unemployment rate is 4.8 percent (January 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 6.3 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.8 percent (up from 4.3 percent in December).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, February 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a meeting with Barbara Carson, Associate Administrator and Craig Heilman, Deputy Associate Administrator, from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The discussion centered on small business topics that will be covered during our commission meeting at the upcoming Washington Conference.
 
On Tuesday, February 7 – Thursday, February 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended TAP classes at Quantico Marine Corps Base. The goal of our participation is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Labor (DOL) portion of the transition course.
 
On Tuesday, February 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a roundtable held by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman, Representative Phil Roe (TN), to review the findings in Student Veterans of America’s (SVA) NVEST (National Veterans Education Success Tracker) research project. The NVEST research determined that student-veterans were outperforming their civilian counterparts, but still had significant attrition in proprietary for-profit institutions.
 
On Tuesday, February 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the DC Coalition for the Homeless to discuss the vacancy rates for homeless individuals in the city as well as the challenges that homeless families face in the District of Columbia. Additionally, there was discussion centered on employment, training and child care issues.
 
On Thursday, February 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Veterans Task Force meeting at the Easter Seals Headquarters. The points of discussion were updates on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Section 503 related to the Fair Play & Safe Workplaces Executive order.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Many employers will continue their focus on hiring veterans in 2017, new research finds. A study from CareerBuilder revealed that 37 percent of businesses plan to actively recruit former military members for open positions over the next 12 months. Although that percentage remains unchanged from a year ago, it’s up from 33 percent in 2014 and 27 percent in 2013.
 
In addition, the research revealed that 47 percent of the employers surveyed hired a veteran over the past year, and 31 percent hired a veteran within the past three years. The employers are actively recruiting veterans said these are the top jobs fields for which they will be recruiting veterans:
 
  1. Customer Service
  2. Information Technology
  3. Sales
  4. Production
  5. Distribution and Logistics
  6. Accounting and Finance
  7. Human Resources
  8. Business Development
  9. Marketing
  10. Research and Development
  11. Public Relations
  12. Clinical
  13. Legal
Even if they already have a job, many veterans likely will be looking for a new employer this year. The research found that just 57 percent of veterans are satisfied and enjoy their work --- down from 65 percent last year. In addition, 20 percent said they are working in a low-paying job, and 22 percent said they are working in a job that is below their skill level.
 
When searching for work, it is critical that veterans highlight their military service, the research suggested. Nearly half of the hiring managers surveyed said they tend to pay more attention to resumes and applications that belong to veterans, and 68 percent said that if they had two equally qualified candidates for an open position – one veteran and one nonveteran – they would be more likely to hire the veteran.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Indiana lawmakers are considering a scratch-off lottery ticket to fund services for veterans, but concerns have emerged over whether the tickets would be allowed under the contract with the private company that runs the state's lottery. Two bills were debated Tuesday in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. One would provide funding for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The other would provide assistance to homeless veterans. But it's uncertain when the new lottery tickets, if approved by the legislature, could be launched because they are not called for in the existing contract with GTECH Indiana, which operates the Hoosier Lottery. State Senator Mike Delph, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, delayed a vote on the bills until the issue could be reviewed. But he said his intention is to advance the legislation this session. "I believe that if we can move forward with the scratch-off lottery ticket, we can blow this out," Delph said. "I believe in the people of Indiana, and I know their character and I know they'll respond if we ask them to."
Delph's proposal would provide money for hyperbaric oxygen therapy for veterans with PTSD or a brain injury. During the therapy, patients are exposed to pure oxygen. While the benefits of the treatment haven't been proven with studies, multiple people have provided anecdotal evidence of success. Veteran Jason Emery struggled with PTSD after he came home in 2005. At one point, he was taking 22 different medications in an attempt to feel better, and when he tried to wean himself off, he became suicidal. He eventually found hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and it worked. "Because of this therapy, I can stand before you, a man with high hopes for his future," Emery said. "I no longer feel like a burden to society."
Lafayette Senator Ron Alting's proposal would dedicate the revenue of the scratch-off toward helping the 663 homeless Indiana veterans, including 326 in Marion County. The lottery ticket would generate funding of $1.1 million to $2.1 million per year. His plan did meet some criticism because the revenue wouldn't solely go to veterans. 40 percent would go to the state's general fund. William Henry, a representative from The American Legion Department of Indiana, spoke in favor of the bill but was concerned about the percentage of money going to the general fund. "There needs to be transparency, because I can see this happening: we're going to pull on the heart strings of veterans by advertising this as money that goes to veterans," Henry said.
Alting said other senators wanted a higher percentage dedicated to the general fund and that it was necessary to gain support for the legislation. "Don't get hung up on the 40 percent," Alting said. "We need to get something passed and then we can build on it." If the bills pass, Indiana would join at least five other states that already use lottery funds to help veterans.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Los Angeles, Montgomery (AL), Springfield (VA), St. Paul (MN) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
On Tuesday, February 7, Student Veterans of America (SVA) and the National Student Clearing House released their initial findings for their National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST) research project. This is the first comprehensive in-depth study of the academic success of the modern student-veteran. The results are very encouraging for veterans in higher education. Amongst the biggest findings, it was found that student-veterans have a success rate of 72 percent compromising 54 percent completion and 18 percent still in school, with an attrition rate of 28 percent. The success rate is far greater than that of other nontraditional students, which has been measured at less than 40 percent.
 
By type of institution:
 
  • Public schools have enrolled 56 percent of GI Bill students while taking 34 percent of the total GI Bill funds, and accounts for 64 percent of the total degree completion.
  • Private schools enroll only 17 percent of GI Bill students, while taking 25 percent of the total GI Bill funds, and accounts for 16 percent of the total degree completion.
  • Proprietary and for profit schools enroll 27 percent of the GI Bill students, while taking 40 percent of the total GI Bill funds, and accounts for only 19 percent of the total degree completions.
These statistics at face value are an indictment of for-profit institutions, but further research is required to drill down on GI Bill malpractice in for-profit schools which results in the highest attrition rate.

TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) offers 5 programs to assist Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) increase their ability to win contracts with the government. Programs, varying in length from 1 to 3 days, are held in the Washington, DC, area, 11 miles from the White House. Attendees receive hands-on, market-based lessons that aid in establishing the best business practices for Federal contracting. This program is funded through the Montgomery County Chamber Community Foundation (MCCCF), and is free to veteran-owned businesses nationwide.
 
VIP is designed by experienced executives, and is the first-ever national center to train SDVOSBs and VOSBs to succeed in Federal contracting. The four key benefits of this program are being able to accelerate growth with market-based, practical training, learning how to reduce business risks for teaming partners and customers, and understanding how to build relationships with primes contractors and government to create a network of national teaming partners.
 
In April 2016, VIP START was launched to train SDVOSBs and VOSBs who need help expanding their business growth into the federal marketplace. VIP START has graduated 48 veteran-owned businesses from 15 states and Washington, DC. Additionally, in October 2015, VIP GROW celebrated a milestone achievement of graduating its 500th VIP GROW participant. Since the program launched in 2009, VIP GROW has graduated 638 veteran-owned businesses from 38 states.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  2/10/17
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 3 February 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
The mortgage industry has gone through some changes in the last three months. If you’re looking to finance a home in 2017, it’s important that you know what the opportunities are and how to capitalize on them. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider your financing. Interest rates have spiked and are now sitting at over 4 percent on the widely popular 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. This change occurred seemingly overnight once Donald Trump was elected president. The markets saw this and rallied, marking a change that meant less regulation, with more opportunity in the investment market. Subsequently, this meant that expense bonds were driving mortgage rates higher. The market was further affected when the Federal Reserve tightened its monetary policy in December 2016. As a result, you can now expect an interest rate on your mortgage anywhere between 4 percent and 4.5 percent, depending on your credit score, the loan program and your financial stability.
Buying a home is still a solid goal for many, and it is certainly still an attainable one. With higher interest rates, however, affordability will become the main thing to consider, especially the choice between being able to make a mortgage payment and continuing to save. When you qualify for a loan, an interest rate with a half percent difference can translate to around $75 to $80 a month, depending on the amount being financed. While this change may not seem significant, in the long run it is something to take into consideration when planning to invest in a high-ticket item. Keeping your credit score as high as possible is also important for scoring a good interest rate and keeping your housing payment manageable.
Here are some things to keep in mind in 2017.
Financial Markets: If the stock market continues to improve and rally, expect mortgage rates to continue their upward climb.
Big Events: It would take something big and unexpected to cause the market to reverse course, shifting money into bonds and driving mortgage rates lower. If something like this does happen and you are eyeing a particular interest rate, act quickly.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Pay attention to any news from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. If rates continue to rise, current underwriting standards might be adjusted to meet the needs of the shrinking housing market. Expect guidelines to loosen slightly to offset the higher interest rates.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JAN
2015
JAN
2016
JAN
2015
JAN
2016
JAN
2015
JAN
2016
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
179
211
138
184
41
27
Unemployment rate
5.7
6.3
5.3
6.4
7.9
5.8
 
National unemployment rate is 4.8 percent (January 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 6.3 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.8 percent (up from 4.3 percent in December).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
On Saturday, January 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the annual Stand Down (Winterhaven) at the Washington, DC, VA Medical Center. Winterhaven is invaluable for at-risk and homeless veterans. The full day of services, which addressed many of the contributing factors associated with homelessness, included: one-on-one employment, education and housing counseling, financial planning, substance abuse and rehabilitative programs and psychosocial services. Winterhaven attendees who were underemployed and at-risk of homelessness had access to resources to assist in foreclosure or rental eviction avoidance, utility bill assistance and legal aid. Veterans also received health assessments, HIV testing, specialty care exams including: dental, podiatry and audiology as well as warm clothing, boots, haircuts, personal care packs and a warm meal. Participants could personally meet with the more than 60 community organizations, over 350 community volunteers and government agencies which have joined forces with the DC VA Medical Center to eliminate and avert veteran homelessness in the DC metropolitan area.
On Monday, January 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a Women as Veteran Entrepreneurs policy meeting at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Other organizations in attendance included the Small Business Administration (SBA), VA, and various women veteran small business owners. The SBA discussed updates on policy issues such as 8(a) program, the All Small Mentor Protégé Program, and the upcoming activity on S. 1870, the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act. If enacted, S. 1870 would amend the Small Business Act to direct the SBA to carry out a three-year pilot program to assess the viability of awarding grants to up to 250 eligible veterans and retiring or honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces to start (or acquire) a business enterprise. The VA announced that it will be hosting a National Summit in Dallas on April 20-22. It has been 6 years since the VA has hosted a National Summit.
 
On Monday, January 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division finalized the details for a “2017 State of Credentialing Report” to inform the new administration and other stakeholders of the successes and opportunities in credentialing of service members and veterans, based off of the information and data collected from The American Legion’s credentialing summits and roundtables. The report will be presented at the Washington Conference Credentialing Roundtable on February 23rd.
 
On Monday, January 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Janet Giles, CEO of Job Zone, to discuss how we may potentially be more active in their Career Fairs. Additionally, we discussed different types of resume workshops, interviewing techniques, and other activities that can assist veterans in obtaining meaningful employment. Lastly, we discussed the possibility of the Legion hosting a Career Fair in the Richmond, Virginia area.
 
On Monday, January 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Mark Toal, Regional Veterans Employment Coordinator, DOL-VETS, regarding the report released by the Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training and Employer Outreach (ACVETEO), which is composed of Veterans Service Organization (VSOs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders. In the report, it was noted that the implementation of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) into the Military Life Cycle (MLC) model has had a positive effect on transitioning service members.
 
On Tuesday, January 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attending a Center for Women Veterans update meeting. Other agencies in attendance included the Department of Labor and other Veteran Service Organizations. Topics discussed included the 2017 National Women Veterans Summit that will be held on April 21-22 in Dallas, and the I Am A Veteran campaign started by a group of women veterans. The purpose of the campaign is to progress the conversation about how women are seen by the general public. All too often, they believe, a woman veteran is perceived as the wife or daughter of the “actual” veteran, and they’re trying to help change that misconception.  The women veterans featured in the campaign discuss what it means to be a veteran, and what a veteran looks like, as well as  some of their personal experiences.
 
On Wednesday, February 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Laura L'Esperance, Senior Vice President of Brand and Communications, The Mission Continues, to discuss opportunities for The American Legion and The Mission Continues to collaborate on programs and initiatives. The discussion centered on points to be included in a potential Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
 
On Wednesday, February 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Izzy Abbass of Warriors4Wireless (W4W), to discuss the possibility of an MOU with The American Legion.  We discussed the level of training that that they provide in order to ensure veterans are adequately prepared to compete in the telecommunications field. As stated by Mr. Abbass, “Warriors4Wireless (W4W) is a nonprofit career development program designed exclusively to supply talented transitioning service members and veterans for employment in the telecommunications industry. They take pride in assisting America’s veterans with a unique opportunity to be trained and employed for careers in a booming technical industry that will benefit from having the best talent working for them. A follow-up meeting was scheduled for next week.  In addition, an invitation was extended to Mr. Abbass to participate in The American Legion’s Washington Conference Career Fair on February 24.
 
On Friday, February 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with U.S.VETS to discuss our site visit during Washington Conference.  We’re planning a visit on Tuesday, February 28, to this local community service provider to discuss their program/services and the continued challenges of assisting homeless veterans and their families in obtaining stable housing and/or independent living. 
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
A Reston company this week won an award for its efforts to help veteran small businesses. During a visit to StreetShares on February 1, Governor Terry McAuliffe presented StreetShares with the first place award for Virginia Values Veterans (V3) Program, to announce the updated 25,000 veteran jobs goal for V3 and to share his passion for the veteran community, according to a StreetShares news release. StreetShares, Inc. is America’s social finance community for veterans and their supporters. The non-profit, veteran-operated company provides business loans. “I am on a mission to make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in the Nation,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “We have the fastest-growing veteran population, the greatest share of veterans in our workforce, and the largest percentage of female veterans of any state in the country.”
The V3 Program reached the initial goal of creating 10,000 veteran jobs years early, and accomplished the 20,000-job stretch goal in November. McAuliffe said his new goal is to reach 25,000 veteran jobs before he leaves office. “We’re thrilled to bring StreetShares into the V3 Program as we work to hit our new goal of 25,000 veterans hired by the end of my Administration,” McAuliffe said. “We have a shared passion for empowering Virginia veterans and making smart investments in education, employment, and entrepreneurship.” StreetShares also announced the “StreetShares 1,000 Virginia Veteran Jobs Initiative,” to support the V3 goal of 25,000 veteran jobs in the next 12 months.
“Great companies, like great governors, seek to solve great problems. That’s what we’re trying to do here,” Mark L. Rockefeller, an Iraq war veteran and CEO and co-founder of StreetShares, said in the news release. “StreetShares has a community of more than 30,000 veterans, small businesses and those who support them, brought together by mobile technology.” Rockefeller described StreetShares as a ‘force-multiplier’ to reach Virginia’s goal. Additionally, Rockefeller announced the finalists for the StreetShares Foundation’s Veteran Small Business Award. In support of veteran entrepreneurship, the Foundation’s goal is to inspire, educate, and support veteran business ownership in America through content, inspirational stories, and three business grants totaling $10,000 each month. Grants are made possible by partnering with JPMorgan Chase who also attended the event and has a shared passion for veteran entrepreneurship.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
While the Point-In-Time (PIT) homeless count numbers are still being compiled from this week's annual event, there is one family from 2016's count that won't be in the final tally. As Seanna Herring-Jensen, program manager of the co-host Arlington Community Resource Center in Northern Virginia, tells it, a family of five came to the resource fair held in conjunction with the PIT count, not having asked for any help before and not expecting much. They were staying on the Mountain Loop Highway just trying to survive and had been living that way for eight years. They had an eight-year-old daughter who had never slept in a real bed. After sharing their information with homeless count volunteers, they got a meal, some clothing, access to medical and dental care, their name placed on housing lists, and other resources.
"Today, the family has a home, their daughter (and other family members) has a bed to sleep in, and she is going to school and loving it," Herring-Jensen said. "Those are the kind of success stories we want people to hear when we talk about why the homeless count is so important to finding help for people and families." Alex Lark with Housing Hope, which mobilized some 100 volunteers to fan out in teams in the north county seeking to document the homeless, added that many of last year's homeless are now in homes. Each year, volunteers take to the streets, shelters and wooded areas where unsheltered homeless are known to camp to determine how many people are living without a permanent place to live. The numbers are reported to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of state and local grant applications.
The Stillaguamish Senior Center, a volunteer base for one of the five PIT districts in the county, also offers a resource fair. The fair, coordinated by Housing Hope, Lutheran Community Services and the Arlington Community Resource Center, includes free lunch, clothing, music, and several nonprofit agencies that can assist with services, products and resources to help the homeless. In all, 1,118 people in nearly 878 households did not have a permanent place to stay, according to the 2016 survey. The numbers included those in emergency shelters, transitional and temporary housing, and the unsheltered. Among those, 471 reported being unsheltered. Of the 471 interviewed, 425 reported a disabling condition - 179 substance abuse, 126 mental illness and 69 co-occurring disorders. In addition, the count reported 36 veterans who are homeless, a number that is on the decline and a particular focus of attention by federal agencies.
Herring-Jensen said local agencies are working hard to engage homeless, and the resource fair goes a long way toward meeting that goal. "They are part of our community," said Herring-Jensen, who is also involved with the North County Homeless Coalition. She said the PIT count "brings in a sense of community and gives us the opportunity to interact with homeless people in a positive way." Lark added, "When you take the time to engage with (homeless) people, it takes the stigma away." Lark said the data captured on homeless families has helped Housing Hope analyze the key reasons why people wind up unsheltered. "The three key reasons are family breakup, drug and alcohol abuse, and job loss," Lark said.
Information from the count also helps agencies like Housing Hope determine where they should direct their affordable housing resources. One nearby project is the 50-unit Twin Lakes Landing, which will be composed of pre-built modular units assembled on site, with the project aimed to serve low-income and homeless families. About 20 military personnel from Naval Station Everett volunteered for the PIT count. A Navy team of Sarah Proffitt, Sandra Navarreti and Joe Bradley was among them.  
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Herndon (VA), Los Angeles, Montgomery (AL), Springfield (VA), St. Paul (MN) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
The National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended Dr. David Shulkin’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of Veterans Affairs this Wednesday. Dr. Shulkin vowed “there should be no doubt” that he will seek “major reform and transformation of the VA.” While Dr. Shulkin has impressive knowledge and experience in veterans’ healthcare, he is new to the field of education benefits. Nevertheless, in his remarks, he expressed a commitment to continue to protect student-veterans:
 
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): "The American Legion included in its legislative priorities, and I thank them for doing so, the need to protect student-veterans from predatory schools,"
 
VA SEC Nominee David Shulkin: "Yes" (said in a meaningful tone)

Sen. Blumenthal:  "In 2016, the Yale Law School issued a report, entitled, "VA's Failure to Protect Veterans From Deceptive Recruiting Practices," which showed that the VA is not complying with 38 USC 3696, which requires disapproval of GI Bill funding when the VA finds that colleges have engaged in deceptive and misleading college recruiting.  This topic is very close to my heart, having 2 sons who have served and knowing many, many student-veterans.  If confirmed, would you commit to cracking down on colleges that are essentially lying to our veterans and cheating them and the taxpayers out of veterans' hard-earned GI Bill support, including by using all resources and authorities available to you, as the head of the VA, as well working with other federal agencies, to crack down on these abuses?"
VA Nominee Shulkin:  "Yes, Senator.  This situation that you describe would not be tolerable to me.  And absolutely I would commit to that.”
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) has several events in February. On February 3, the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) hosts a webinar and town hall sessions for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses interested in participating in the Veterans First Contracting Program. This training is designed for firms interested in submitting their first CVE Verification application. Also, firms who have been inactive in the program for some time and now desire to submit an application can also benefit from this session. The Pre-Application webinar and town hall occurs every Friday and the third Tuesday of the month.
 
In addition, from February 6-8, the 2017 National 8(a) Association Small Business Conference will be held in Orlando, Florida. The 2017 National 8(a) Small Business Conference is designed to provide resources and information on how to navigate and capitalize in federal contracting. The nation’s top legal firms, accountants, key federal officials and the industry’s best consultants will be there to help give small business owners the education, knowledge, and resources needed to attain a higher level of success.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  2/3/17
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 27 January 2017
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Mortgage rates escalated this week, gaining much of what they had given back the first three weeks of the year. Exuberance in the stock market drew investors away from bonds and into equities, pushing the Dow Jones industrial average past the 20,000 mark for the first time. Less than a week into the new administration, investors are buying into what President Trump said he would do on tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure spending.
 
The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 2.41 percent Monday before making big jumps Tuesday and Wednesday to reach 2.53 percent. Because mortgage rates tend to follow the movement of long-term bonds, they also climbed higher. According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average increased to 4.19 percent with an average 0.4 point (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 4.09 percent a week ago and 3.79 percent a year ago.
 
The 15-year fixed-rate average rose to 3.4 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.34 percent a week ago and 3.07 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average slipped to 3.2 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.21 percent a week ago and 2.9 percent a year ago. In addition, the 10-year Treasury yield increased more than 10 basis points this week. The 2.8 percent decline in existing home sales in December is a reminder of the lack of homes for sale. According to the National Association of Realtors, supply is at its lowest level since 1999, a factor that should support higher house prices regardless of the oscillations of the mortgage rate.
 
After a brief pause by the markets, a move toward lower rates seems to have run out of steam. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that half the experts it surveyed say rates will rise in the coming week. Meanwhile, mortgage applications increased last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – grew 4 percent from last week. The refinance index ticked up 0.2 percent, while the purchase index rose 6 percent to its highest level since June. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 50 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
DEC
2015
DEC
2016
DEC
2015
DEC
2016
DEC
2015
DEC
2016
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
173
189
150
167
22
22
Unemployment rate
5.7
5.7
5.9
5.9
4.6
4.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.7 percent (December 2016). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.7 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 4.3 percent (down from 10 percent in November).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, January 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Stacey Bryant, Division Chief,  81st Regional Support Command (RSC), regarding their upcoming Yellow Ribbon Event (February 17-20) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The American Legion will have a speaking role at each breakout session.
 
On Monday, January 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Cara Ludwig of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, regarding the promoting of the Legion’s Winter Conference Career Fair (February 24). The event went online for registration on January 22nd, and already has 102 registered job seeking veterans.
 
On Monday, January 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a conference call with Richard Lanham to discuss his app designed to help veterans and transitioning military members translate the skills and experiences they have learned from the military into the civilian workforce.
 
On Monday, January 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division organized an education working lunch at Military Officers Association of America (due to renovations our DC Headquarters office was unavailable), where education priorities were discussed for the Trump administration. The special guest for the event was Dawn Bilodeau, Chief of the Department of Defense's Voluntary Education Program, which oversees base access and tuition assistance. 
 
On Tuesday, January 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Barbara DeHenzel of Job Source for the Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland.  Barbara would like to assist us with the promoting of our upcoming Career Fair as well as assist veterans with interviewing techniques and resume writing.
 
On Tuesday, January 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the JobZone Career Fair at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Our staff met and spoke with several vendors who are interested in attending the Winter Conference Career Fair.
 
On Tuesday, January 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the quarterly VetForce meeting. Topics discussed included new 2017 NDAA Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (SDVOB) certification rules, and Kingdomware impact on small business contracting. Brian Holland, Deputy Director of Workforce Development at DOES (Department of Employment Services) also discussed veteran employment incentives for employers of small businesses.
 
On Tuesday, January 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting at Bunker Labs to discuss their veteran programs. Founded in 2014, Bunker Labs is a national not-for-profit program for veterans. Their mission is to inspire, educate, and connect transitioning service members and veterans as they seek to launch their own businesses. Their locations nation-wide provide veterans with weekly programming and entrepreneurship classes, a support network of more than 500 professionals, and access to fundraising.
 
On Tuesday, January 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division was featured on an Army Reserve P3 (Private-Public Partnership) teleconference, where we presented on the resources that The American Legion provides Reservists and their families. P3 provides specialized opportunities in business and interagency environments for Army Reserve Soldiers to enrich their civilian life. To help identify the best opportunity for each Soldier, P3 has developed a nationwide-network of individuals responsible for readiness support.
 
On Wednesday, January 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division received a briefing by VA Homeless Programs personnel regarding veteran homelessness issues in the Los Angeles area. In addition, we went on a site visit on the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center campus to view the domiciliary, welcome center (which has 46 transitional beds) and the permanent supportive housing units that will be ready to move in for homeless veterans no later than early February.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
On Monday, January 23, President Trump issued an executive order implementing a hiring freeze across the federal government, with exceptions only for military, national security or public safety personnel. “In carrying out this memorandum, I ask that you seek efficient use of existing personnel and funds to improve public services and the delivery of these services,” Trump wrote in the memorandum, according to the paper. Statistics from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), though, show that the number of executive branch employees hasn't been this low since 1965, and that the number of employees has stayed more or less steady in the last 15 years. The full effect of a hiring freeze is unclear. According to OPM, the federal government hired 221,000 workers in fiscal 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. The number excludes uniformed military personnel. But roughly a third of those hired were military veterans, who enjoy hiring preferences in the federal government.
 
Listed below are remarks from our National Commander regarding the federal hiring freeze.
 
“The American Legion believes that the president is correct in exempting national security, public safety and our armed forces from the federal hiring freeze,” American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt said. Schmidt also asked the private sector to step up efforts to hire veterans seeking employment. “Veterans, particularly disabled veterans, have often looked to the federal government as an institution where they could find meaningful employment. This hiring freeze will certainly impact their job prospects," Schmidt said. "I urge all employers to look to this extremely talented, professional and disciplined population of men and women and allow them to serve your companies and businesses as well as they have served our nation. The American Legion will continue to sponsor veterans job fairs across the nation as a way to show our gratitude. Employers would be wise to tap into this talent pool.”
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Each year during the last 10 days of January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asks communities across the country to count the people who are homeless, inside shelters or outside in cars, campsites and other areas unfit for human habitation, on one single night. This annual count provides data and information, but it should not be mistaken as a count of people who experience homelessness over the course of the year - that number is typically three times higher than the count on a single night. In terms of statistics, the most useful data to come from the point-in-time count is demographics. We find out age trends, where people are from and what issues they purport to have. However, even as an exercise in collecting demographics, almost all of the data points are based on self-disclosed information, which has historically proven to be less than accurate.         
One example is chronic homelessness. According to the 2016 point-in-time count, conducted last January 27, there were 199 people experiencing chronic homelessness in Maine on that night alone, up 3 percent from the year before. However, it was found through better data collection and reporting practices that the number of people who experienced chronic homelessness for all of 2016 was less than what was reported on that night, and it was down fairly significantly from the previous year. Through the Maine Homeless Management Information System, a database that collects information entered by emergency shelters and other homeless service providers throughout the state, it had access to data sets that more accurately reflect homelessness in Maine as well as progress made toward ending it.         
Although it’s known that one solitary night in the middle of the winter is not reflective of homelessness in Maine, HUD uses the data collected on the night of the point-in-time count in a variety of ways, one of which is to make funding decisions based on progress made toward ending homelessness. Asking self-report questions of people found to be homeless on one given night is not a sound scientific method of data collection and analysis, nor is it an effective method for gauging progress on ending homelessness in Maine.          
In Maine, they’ve discovered a much better way - annual data. About 98 percent of people who experience homelessness throughout this state show up in emergency shelters. Two percent or fewer stay outside or in places unfit for human habitation. Both sets of data are collected in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). Because of the software's sophistication, they are able to carefully screen data to ensure that people are not counted more than once, and then analyze the data looking back over the course of an entire year. This is done every July and has proven to be effective, as they can gauge the state of homelessness in Maine, and what progress has been made on a year-to-year basis. They can see what programs and initiatives are working well, where additional resources are needed and discover emerging trends.         
In 2016, those trends looked like this:
  • 7,020 people were homeless, compared to 7,679 people in 2015 - a 12 percent reduction.       
  • There was a 63 percent decrease in the average length of stay in homelessness in 2016 compared to 2015.         
  • There was a 54 percent decrease in veteran homelessness over two years: 201 people in 2016, compared to 438 in 2014.       
  • There was a 67 percent decrease in single adult long-term stayers over three years: 87 people in 2016, compared to 262 in 2013.        
Maine is making tremendous progress in ending homelessness. Most promising is the reduction in the number of people who were chronically homeless and homeless veterans - they have housed the vast majority of them over the past three years, and they hope to finish that job in 2017. Whether they do or not will depend on them having adequate resources. In Maine, they know exactly what to do to end homelessness: They simply need resources for affordable housing, rental subsidies that level the playing field for people in poverty and services for adequate support so people will stay housed successfully in the community where they can thrive.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Dallas, Los Angeles, Montgomery (AL), Springfield (VA), St. Paul (MN) and Washington, DC.
 
On January 26, 2017, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division and the Department of Maryland participated in a Hiring Fair coordinated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Hiring Our Heroes, and hosted by the Officer’s Club at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Over 120 veterans, spouses, and active-duty service members attended the event with over 30 employers. Also, we participated in a Career Fair hosted by JobZone at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.
 
In all, our division participated in 5 Career Fairs during the month of January and interacted with more than 300 service members and veterans, of which 157 requested more information about The American Legion’s services and programs to include membership. The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
This week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued the nation’s largest servicer of both federal and private student loans for systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment. CFPB alleges that Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, created obstacles to repayment by providing bad information, processing payments incorrectly, and failing to respond to complaints. Through this the company illegally cheated many struggling borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments, which caused them to pay much more than they had to for their loans. The Bureau seeks to recover significant relief for the borrowers harmed by these illegal servicing failures. Specifically the Bureau charges that Navient:
 
Fails to correctly apply or allocate borrower payments to their accounts: As soon as a borrower begins to pay back their loans, student loan servicers are supposed to take a borrower’s payment and follow instructions from the borrower about how to apply it across their multiple loans. Navient repeatedly misapplies or misallocates payments - often making the same error multiple times over many months. The company all too often fails to correct its errors unless a consumer discovers the problem and contacts the company.
 
Steers struggling borrowers toward paying more than they have to on loans: When borrowers run into trouble repaying their federal student loans, they have a right under federal law to apply for repayment plans that allow for a lower monthly payment. But the Bureau alleges that Navient steers many borrowers into forbearance, an option designed to let borrowers take a short break from making payments. But interest continues to add up during forbearance. Certain consumers with subsidized loans end up paying a heavy price because they could have potentially avoided those interest charges. From January 2010 to March 2015, the company added up to $4 billion in interest charges to the principal balances of borrowers who were enrolled in multiple, consecutive forbearances. The Bureau believes that a large portion of these charges could have been avoided had Navient followed the law.
 
Obscured information consumers needed to maintain their lower payments: Borrowers who successfully enroll in an income-driven repayment plan need to re-certify their income and family size annually. But Navient’s emails and annual renewal notice sent to borrowers failed to adequately inform borrowers of critical deadlines or the consequences if they failed to act. Navient also obscured its renewal notices in emails sent to borrowers that did not adequately alert the borrower about the need to renew. This could have caused monthly payments to jump by hundreds or even thousands of dollars
 
Deceived private student loan borrowers about requirements to release their co-signer from the loan: Navient told borrowers that they could apply for co-signer release if they made a certain number of consecutive, on-time payments. Even though it permits borrowers to prepay monthly installments in advance and tells customers who do prepay that they can skip upcoming payments, when borrowers did so, Navient reset the counter on the number of consecutive payments they made to zero. So borrowers who tried to get ahead of their loans and prepay would have been denied and had to start over.
 
Harmed the credit of disabled borrowers, including severely injured veterans: Student loan payments are reported to credit reporting companies. Severely and permanently disabled borrowers with federal student loans, including veterans whose disability is connected to their military service, have a right to seek loan forgiveness under the federal Total and Permanent Disability discharge program. Navient misreported to the credit reporting companies that borrowers who had their loans discharged under this program had defaulted on their loans when they had not, potentially causing damage to their credit reports.
                                                                             
This week’s lawsuit alleges that Navient has been in violation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. The suit seeks redress for consumers harmed by Navient’s illegal practices. The CFPB is also seeking to keep Navient from continuing the illegal conduct described above, and to prevent new borrowers from being harmed.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The recent passing of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act made some vital adjustments to ownership criteria for a Service-disabled Veteran-owned Small Business (SVDOSB). The 2017 NDAA amended that a veteran with a permanent disability does not need to personally operate the small business on a day-to-day basis. It also permits a surviving spouse to continue operating the small business as an SDVOSB after the service-disabled member’s death. Prior to the 2017 NDAA, the VA and the SBA had separate SDVOSB programs and qualification criteria. The 2017 NDAA also consolidated these definitions by requiring the VA to use the SBA’s criteria for ownership and control.
 
The 2017 NDAA made three important changes to the ownership and control criteria themselves. First, it specifies that stock owned by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), is not considered when the VA and SBA decides whether service-connected veterans own at least 51 percent of the company’s stock. This portion of the 2017 NDAA overturns a 2015 decision by the SBA, which held that a small business ineligible as a SDVOSB due to the service-disabled veteran not owning 51 percent or more of the small business’s ESOP class of stock.
 
Second, the 2017 NDAA continues to provide that “the management and daily business operations” of an eligible SDVOSB generally must be controlled by service-disabled veterans.  However, the 2017 NDAA states that if a veteran has a “permanent and severe disability”, the spouse or permanent caregiver of such veteran may run the small business. This is comparable to the one that was previously used by the SBA in its regulations; the VA did not have a provision whereby a spouse or permanent caregiver may operate an SDVOSB. However, the Act further states that a small business may qualify as an SDVOSB if it is owned by a veteran with a disability that is total and who is unable to manage the daily business operations of the small business, but the statute does not stipulate that the small business must be run by a spouse or caregiver.  In other words, for veterans with permanent and total disabilities, the statute appears to allow control by others.
 
Lastly, the 2017 NDAA states that a surviving spouse can continue to operate a small business as an SDVOSB when a veteran dies if: (1) the spouse acquires the veteran’s ownership interest; (2) the veteran had a service-connected disability rated 100 percent disabling by the VA, or died as a result of a service-connected disability and (3) the small business was verified in the VA’s VetBiz database prior to the veteran’s death. When these circumstances apply, the surviving spouse may continue to operate the company as an SDVOSB for up to ten years. This provision is very similar to the one previously found in the VA’s regulations. The SBA previously did not have any provisions whereby a surviving spouse could continue to operate an SDVOSB.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  1/27/17
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 6 January 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The U.S. economy added 156,000 new jobs in December, according to government data issued Friday, January 6, slightly below economists’ expectations, though still representing relatively strong growth. The final report issued by the Department of Labor during President Obama’s administration showed the unemployment rate at 4.7 percent, slightly up from 4.6 percent the previous month. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected American companies to add 180,000 jobs in the month. Still, the number of new jobs added in December was far above what’s needed to keep up with population growth, economists said. December marks the 75th straight month of job growth - the most extended streak the country has seen since 1939.
 
The number of new jobs added each month has gradually slowed as the economy recovers from the depths of the recession, from average monthly gains of 251,000 in 2014 to 229,000 in 2015 and 180,000 in the first 11 months of 2016. Senior Economists expected the rate of job growth to slow as the recovery matured and we got back to where unemployment was likely to remain longer term. Average hourly earnings increased by 10 cents to $26.00 in December, evidence that economic growth is finally translating into increases in worker paychecks after a long period of stagnation. Over the year, wages are up 2.9 percent.
 
Revisions to job figures for October and November also added another 19,000 jobs to the rolls. President-elect Donald Trump inherits an economy that is relatively healthy, though economists caution that some industries and regions of the country continue to lag behind in the recovery. Trump has pledged to boost the U.S. economy by reducing regulations and corporate taxes, boosting infrastructure spending, and reviving America’s manufacturing sector.
 
Signs of a strengthening economy persuaded the U.S. Federal Reserve to vote unanimously in December to raise their benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, the first such increase in a year. In its December meeting, Fed officials did not mention Trump by name, but they clearly discussed the potential economic impact of his impending presidency. Minutes of the meeting released in early January cited Fed officials as saying that they may need to lift rates faster in the future if changes in government spending cause inflation to rise by more than expected, likely referring to Trump's promise to boost infrastructure spending. "We're operating under a cloud of uncertainty at the moment, and we have to wait and see what changes occur and factor those into our decision-making as we gain more clarity," Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a news conference.
 
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
2015
DEC
2016
DEC
2015
DEC
2016
DEC
2015
DEC
2016
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
173
189
150
167
22
22
Unemployment rate
5.7
5.7
5.9
5.9
4.6
4.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.7 percent (December 2016). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.7 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 4.3 percent (down from 10 percent in November).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Tuesday, January 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the staff of the new Representatives for the 115th Congress, Thomas MacArthur (NJ) and John Moolenaar (MI), as well as Justin Amash (MI).  All of these congressional members are eager to work with the Legion in order to better take care of America’s veterans. Representative MacArthur’s team has veterans issues on the top of his priorities, since his region (New Jersey-3rd District) has 65,000 veterans.
 
On Tuesday, January 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Lisa Lutz, Roy Swift, and Stephen Crawford to finalize the National Credentialing Meeting next week. Additionally, plans were drafted to hold the first of the 2017 Credentialing Roundtable’s at the Washington Conference on February 23rd.
 
On Wednesday, January 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Nikki Dean, recruiter for AMEWAS, Inc., a privately held, veteran-owned small business located in Maryland. AMEWAS would like to build a relationship with The American Legion in order to find qualified veterans for employment with their company.
 
On Wednesday, January 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Mark Williams, Lender Relations Specialist, Small Business Administration (SBA), to discuss plans for the Washington Conference, particularly who will teach eight modules of the Boots to Business Reboot workshop, and how we will effectively advertise to service members and veterans for the event.
 
On Wednesday, January 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Mary Beth Bruggeman, Executive Director for the Southeast Region, The Mission Continues (TMC), to discuss potential points of collaboration with The American Legion and TMC. It was agreed that community service initiatives should and could be promoted for both organizations. Follow-up meetings are being planned as well as the possibility of creating a MOU.
 
On Thursday, January 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the National League of Cities (NLC) to discuss veteran homelessness issues, particularly surrounding housing placement for homeless veterans and their families. NLC is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. Working in partnership with the 49 state municipal leagues, NLC serves as a resource to and an advocate for more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns it represents.
 
On Wednesday, January 4 – Friday, January 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Annual Student Veterans of America’s (SVA) Conference held in Anaheim, California. Our staff presented on a panel as well as manned a booth during the Conference. Since 2008, the SVA National Conference has been an annual gathering of service members, veterans, advocates, thought-leaders, stakeholders, and supporters in higher education in the world. Attendees can build their own unique experience by selecting breakout sessions to attend based off our 6 different tracks. Tracks include: Career Readiness, Chapter Management, Higher Education, Research, and Student Success.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT SUMMARY
 
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 156,000 in December, with an increase in healthcare and social assistance. Job growth totaled 2.2 million in 2016, less than the increase of 2.7 million in 2015.
 
Employment in healthcare rose by 43,000 in December, with most of the increase occurring in ambulatory healthcare services (+30,000) and hospitals (+11,000). Healthcare added an average of 35,000 jobs per month in 2016, roughly in line with the average monthly gain of 39,000 in 2015.
 
Social assistance added 20,000 jobs in December, reflecting job growth in individual and family services (+21,000). In 2016, social assistance added 92,000 jobs, down from an increase of 162,000 in 2015.
 
Employment in food services and drinking places continued to trend up in December (+30,000). This industry added 247,000 jobs in 2016, fewer than the 359,000 jobs gained in 2015.
 
Employment also continued to trend up in transportation and warehousing in December (+15,000). Within the industry, employment expanded by 12,000 in couriers and messengers. In 2016, transportation and warehousing added 62,000 jobs, down from a gain of 110,000 jobs in 2015.
 
Employment in financial activities continued an upward trend in December (+13,000). This is in line with the average monthly gains for the industry over the past 2 years.
 
In December, employment edged up in manufacturing (+17,000), with a gain of 15,000 in the durable goods component. However, since reaching a recent peak in January, manufacturing employment has declined by 63,000.
 
Employment in professional and business services was little changed in December (+15,000), following an increase of 65,000 in November. The industry added 522,000 jobs in 2016.
 
Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, information and government, changed little in December.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
What can others in Southern California learn from Pasadena's work that led it to have the highest reduction of homelessness among 32 major American cities? In a word, collaboration. It wasn't just a newly redoubled effort on the part of public officials within City Hall, though Housing Director William Huang is one of the most pro-active advocates for putting a roof over people's heads in Southern California. And it wasn't just the city's vaunted nonprofit social services agencies, though organizations such as the eminently successful Union Station have led the effort to get individuals and families off the street for generations now.
Rather, it was the way the public and private sectors in the city began working together to fight for housing that led it to see a 54 percent reduction in homelessness in the years studied by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2009-2016, according to a report from the group. The city counted 1,216 as homeless in 2011, but only 530 in 2016. Officials in the Housing and Career Services Department say three times as many people would be homeless today if the city had ignored the problem.
On the public front, Pasadena previously operated an intake center where the homeless could come to get help. But that meant those affected had to come to the center actively seeking assistance. These days, outreach teams made up both of nonprofit staffers and volunteers and city workers, including police officers, make contact with homeless in the field daily in an attempt to build trust so they are more likely to use the city's resources, officials say.
The fact is, Pasadena, like other Southland cities, still has more homeless as a percentage of its population than others around the country. But that's because the relatively benign weather here will always be a draw for the down-and-out. There were other area successes - Long Beach, for example, saw a reduction of 1,659 people or 43 percent. But despite much effort, especially regarding homeless veterans, the city of Los Angeles actually saw an uptick of almost 15 percent over those seven years. More diligent counting methods account for some of that increase. In the end, homelessness knows no city boundaries. By building more affordable housing and continuing current philanthropic and civic work, all Southern California cities can help all residents find homes.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Austin, Cleveland, Dallas, Joint Base Andrews (MD), Lexington Park (MD), St. Petersburg, and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
The American Legion is supporting federal efforts to assist student-veterans impacted by the closure of ITT Technical Institute (ITT Tech) by providing educational counseling through its service officer network. ITT Tech announced it was permanently closing all its campuses nationwide Sept. 6, citing actions by the U.S. Department of Education to ban the for-profit institution from enrolling new students using federal financial aid over concerns of financial mismanagement. This announcement directly affects more than 6,000 military veterans expected to attend fall 2016 classes using GI Bill funds.
Accredited American Legion Service Officers are specially trained to provide expert assistance, which is free to all veterans and their families. While the majority of a service officer’s work involves application for VA disability benefits, these professionals also provide information, referrals and resources on education. Recently, service officers have received information to specifically counsel veterans affected by the ITT Tech closings.
“We are deeply troubled by ITT Tech’s abrupt closing and the blockade it has placed in front of veterans seeking higher education,” said American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. “Since its inception, The American Legion has honored its commitment to veterans and their families in readjusting to civilian life. Today, our service officers assist veterans with understanding their benefits, solving VA’s health-care maze and finding educational opportunities that match their interests. We are honored to serve as the nation’s vanguard for veterans’ education benefits by counseling these veterans through our service officer network.”
To contact your nearest American Legion Department Service Officer for ITT Tech information or questions on VA benefits, visit www.legion.org/serviceofficers.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
Representative Jerry McNerney’s bill, H.R. 1313, a bill that protects Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) was signed into law by the President as part of a veterans omnibus package that was passed by Congress. H.R. 1313 was included in the passage of H.R. 6416, the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016. The Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Relief Act will protect SDVOSB’s in the event that the business owner (service-disabled veteran) passes away, by providing a longer transition period during which the business would keep its SDVOSB status and any VA contracts associated with that status.
 
In the United States there are an estimated 500,000 Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. Currently, if a veteran who was rated 100 percent disabled and who owned a service-disabled veteran-owned small business passes away, the surviving spouse has 10 years to transition the business away from service-disabled veteran-owned small business status. However, if the veteran business owner was rated less than 100 percent disabled or dies of a non-service connected injury, the surviving spouse only has one year to transition the business for contracts with the VA.
 
The SDVOSB Act will allow a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, whose veteran owner passes away and was rated less than 100 percent disabled at the time of death, with a sensible 3-year transition period from SDVOSB status with the VA. The SDVOSB Act was strongly supported by The American Legion.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  1/6/17
 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 2 Dec 2016
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent from 4.9 percent the previous month, according to new government data released Friday morning. The first employment report since voters went to the polls last month shows an economy in strong shape as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office.
The unemployment rate fell to levels not seen since August 2007, before a bubble in the U.S. housing market began to burst. The fall was driven partly by the creation of new jobs and partly by people retiring and otherwise leaving the labor force.
Democrats seized on the report as evidence that President Obama had cultivated a much more robust economy that Trump would now inherit. The data comes a day after Trump celebrated a deal in Indiana to preserve about 1,000 jobs at a furnace factory run by Carrier, a unit of United Technologies, saying he planned to intervene more frequently in corporate decisions to move jobs overseas. Carrier had planned to move a factory to Mexico, but partially relented under pressure from Trump and a $7 million tax subsidy from the state.
The report was largely in line with investor expectations, and stock markets were subdued in late-morning trading.
The data release comes ahead of the Federal Reserve's Dec. 13-14 meeting, when the central bank is expected to announce its first interest rate increase in a year. Although wages fell slightly in November, many economists view the steady wage gains of the earlier months as a sign that a tightening labor market is allowing workers to demand higher pay, increasing pressure on the Fed to head off inflation by hiking interest rates.
Trump has promised to spend heavily to rebuild America's infrastructure, plans that may also create jobs and increase inflationary pressure in coming months.
Despite the positive data, the veterans’ unemployment rate disturbingly appears to be heading in the opposite direction: the Gulf War-era II veterans’ unemployment rate was at 4.2% at this time in 2015, now it is hovering at 6.5%. This startling trend appears consistent with overall veteran employment shifts as well.
 
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
2015
NOV
2016
NOV
2015
NOV
2016
NOV
2015
NOV
2016
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
131
216
93
163
38
53
Unemployment rate
4.2
6.5
3.6
5.8
7.2
10.0
 
 
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
2015
NOV
2016
NOV
2015
NOV
2016
NOV
2015
NOV
2016
 
Veterans, 18 years and over
 
Unemployed
391
499
334
406
57
94
Unemployment rate
3.6
4.8
3.5
4.4
4.5
7.4
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, November 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Bart Rogers of Seafarers International Union (SIU), to discuss employment opportunities for veterans.  This may be a great opportunity to assist our homeless veterans with employment, living quarters and a salary.  Positions would be aboard ships for a period of 6 months.
 
On Monday, November 28th, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke to David Shearman from Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Jon Clark from House Veterans’ Affairs Committee about the recent article in Stars and Stripes alleging thousands of activated reservists having their GI Bill benefits withheld due to the types of active duty orders they were put on. They shared that this is true, and that they have previously made efforts to inform DoD that they should not be putting reservists under these types of orders. Additionally, a legislative fix that would retroactively grant these veterans GI Bill entitlements was added to S.2921, the Veterans First Act, which was not passed. VE&E is still actively working with Veterans’ and Armed Services Committees to demand answers for these issues.
 
On Tuesday, November 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with John McCary, Program Manager for the Schultz Family Foundation regarding assisting veterans with transition from the military to civilian life.  The Foundation currently has a program in place and would like for The American Legion to play a large role in the program.
 
On Tuesday, November 29th, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Department of Defense voluntary education programs. Specifically, Senator John McCain called Peter Levine, Acting Under Secretary Of Defense For Personnel And Readiness to the witness stand to discuss DoD actions taken against the University of Phoenix.
 
On Wednesday, November 30th, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division is meeting with Curt Coy, Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity in the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to discuss 2017 education priorities. Issues planned to review include reining in GI Bill overpayments, GI Bill application integration into vets.gov, funding for State Approving Agencies, and improvements to the GI Bill Comparison Tool.
 
On Wednesday, November 30th, The National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a small business forum hosted by The Atlantic. Some topics discussed include availability and access to capital, best business practices, and the impact that the new administration may have on small business. The United States currently has 28 million small businesses that form a vital engine in the economy, employing more Americans each year. With crowdfunding, angel investors, and technology opening up new paths of capital and ways of doing business, the obstacle to entry has decreased more than ever for would-be veteran entrepreneurs. However, along with these new opportunities for small business come many challenges, such as taxes, new healthcare rules, and a growing demand to increase the minimum wage. At The Atlantic’s sixth annual Small Business Forum, we explored the most efficient practices that could allow small businesses to survive and thrive.
 
On Wednesday, November 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Samantha Price, Assistant Legislative Director for Congressman Delaney.  They discussed the Transition Assistant Program (TAP) in its current form.  The congressman would like to introduce legislation that would require all federal agencies to place their version of TAP on a signal website, in addition, would be available to veterans and their family members after they leave service.  Currently the Department of Labor-Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS) has a TAP System set up on their site and is accessible for all.  Legislation would require all agencies to create the same.
 
On Wednesday, November 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with John Huston, Senior Policy Advisor for the House Republican Policy Committee to discuss potential solutions to restore Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to veterans affected by the ITT closures. Mr. Huston also shared troubling allegations that the Department of Education blocked efforts by education companies to acquire ITT campuses, which would have allowed veterans to continue their studies. Further exploration is being conducted.
 
On Wednesday, November 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Yuri Beckelman, Deputy Chief of Staff & Legislative Director for Congressman Mark Takano to inform him about troubling information that has been shared with VE&E concerning the future of the Troops to Teachers Program (TTT). TTT was unexpectedly shut down at the end of October, with regional offices being closed and TTT staffers told to stop showing up. Mr. Beckelman pledged to duplicate VE&E’s efforts to search for answers on this by inquiring with the Department of Defense as to the program’s status.
 
On Thursday, December 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Seth Lynn, Executive Director of Veterans Campaign. Veterans Campaign is a non-profit devoted to providing veterans the tools and knowledge needed to explore second service careers in public office. As the work has many intersections with the VE&E concept paper VetState, discussions were had as to the extent of Veterans Campaign training content. Based on the work shared by Seth Lynn, further meetings have been scheduled to explore potential collaboration opportunities.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Facing allegations it manipulated the veterans’ employment preference, the Justice Department has been ordered not to hire a non-veteran. The position is on hold during an Office of Special Counsel investigation.
Acting on an OSC request, the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), a quasi-judicial agency that reviews federal personnel matters, prohibited the hiring for 45 days with the order issued Sept. 30.
Although this concerns allegations that Justice essentially cheated two veterans out of assistant director positions, it also highlights the debate over whether the preference is too great and conflicts with other goals such as more diversity in federal employment. The Senate has voted to limit the preference, though chances for that provision now seem dim.
In the current case, the OSC contends Justice Department managers granted “advantage to their preferred nonveteran candidate when they attempted to manipulate the hiring process,” according to the MSPB order. Both veterans were rated “best qualified.” The nonveteran candidate, however, was the highest-ranking applicant.
The OSC, an independent agency that investigates prohibited personnel practice allegations, said Justice officials told the veterans “the highest-ranked candidate was a nonveteran who could not be hired unless Veteran A and Veteran B withdrew from competition,” according to the MSPB.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
On Monday, November 14, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced $18.5 million to 39 local public housing agencies across the country to provide a permanent home to an estimated 2,100 veterans experiencing homelessness. The supportive housing assistance is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA. The HUD-VASH Project Based Vouchers (PBVs) being awarded are attached to specific existing, new construction or rehabilitated units. These vouchers will preserve affordable housing and ensure that persons who need services to live stably in their own homes receive them. See local funding chart below.
“Housing our nation’s veterans has been a top priority of this Administration, and one at which we’ve been particularly successful,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that those who have served their country in uniform have a home, and these vouchers will expand our success in ending veteran homelessness as we know it.”
“Increasing the supply of affordable housing is one of the keys to ending Veteran homelessness,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “The project-based HUD-VASH vouchers announced today will increase the availability of affordable housing for the most vulnerable homeless Veterans in communities across the U.S. and ensure they have access to VA case management and supportive services to remain stably housed.” 
In June, HUD awarded nearly $38 million to help more than 5,200 homeless veterans find homes. That funding ensured that communities could provide the critically needed housing assistance and case management services to those veterans and their families experiencing homelessness.  In August, HUD announced that veteran homelessness in the U.S. was cut nearly in half since 2010.  Since 2010, the Obama Administration and 19 federal agencies and offices that form the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) launched the nation's first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness serves as a roadmap for how the federal government will work with state and local communities to confront the root causes of homelessness, especially among former servicemen and women.
More than 79,000 vouchers have been awarded and approximately 111,000 homeless veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program since 2008. Rental assistance and supportive services provided through HUD-VASH are a critical resource for local communities in ending homelessness among our nation's veterans. In the HUD-VASH Program, VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) assess veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for these vouchers. Decisions are based on a variety of factors, most importantly the duration of homelessness and the need for longer term, more intensive support in obtaining and maintaining permanent housing. The HUD-VASH program includes both the rental assistance the voucher provides and the comprehensive case management that VAMC staff offers.
Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH Program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Arlington (TX), Belle Chasse (LA), Biloxi (MS), Cincinnati, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Lee (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), Huntsville (AL), Joint Base Andrews, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington (KY), Lexington Park (MD), Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Montgomery (AL), Omaha (NE), Philadelphia, Pinellas Park (FL), Reston (VA), Rochester (NY), Springfield (IL), Springfield (VA) and Washington, DC.
 
The American Legion participated in a Careers Fair held at Fredericksburg, VA (Job Zone), a total of 125 service members and veterans participated with several job offers made and 3 veterans were requesting membership information. 
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
On Friday November 25th, the Stars and Stripes published the article "Pentagon holds GI Bill benefits for reservists" that raises serious accusations of DoD sacrificing educational benefits as a cost cutting measure.
Since 2012, over 7,000 reservists have been activated for deployments under Order 12304b[1].  A relatively new and obscure deployment code, the measure was created by the Pentagon in 2014 to scale back spending on benefits. By law, reservists involuntarily mobilized under Title 10, section 12304b, do not receive credit for the GI Bill while they are activated.
The exception has fueled the belief that reservists are not afforded the same benefits as active duty troops. The only reason this information came out to the public was because Will Hubbard, Vice President of Government Affairs for Student Veterans of America has recently redeployed from a deployment with the Marines, and learned only in redeployment briefings that he was ineligible. He informed Alex Horton, who investigated the issue and reported on it.
Our sources at HVAC and SVAC say they have been tracking on this issue for a year, and attempted to include fixes in the Veterans First Bill (which is not likely to be passed in the lame duck). The American Legion supported this bill, and sent a letter of support to Senator Johnny Isakson on November 10th, 2016. In addition to the legislative fixes, these sources shared that they have repeatedly pleaded with the DoD to stop cutting these orders for servicemembers, as they have drastically affected the benefits they’ve received. These calls have gone unheeded.
Through Resolution No. 312: Ensuring the Quality of Servicemember and Veteran Student’s Education at Institutions of Higher Learning, VE&E suggests that we make a firm stance on this issue and stand up for the veterans affected by these orders. As the creator of the original GI Bill and the strongest advocate of passage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, we must continue to serve as its toughest vanguard. In addition to pursuing legislative fixes to these issues, it is also worth holding DoD accountable for their treatment of servicemembers in this regard. Before doing so, further discussions with the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will be necessary to learn the full story.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
According to the SBA, veteran business owner demographics and the economic and business environment are changing dramatically and rapidly. There is evidence that the proportion of veteran women business owners increased from 2008 to 2012. The share of women business owners appears to have increased among both veterans and non-veterans, but at a much greater rate for female veterans.
 
Most veteran business owners are male. The share of business ownership by female veterans is lower than in the overall population, but it is growing. In 2012, 4.4 percent of veteran business owners were women, up from 2.5 percent in 2008. In the overall population, 35.9 percent of business owners were women. To continue the support of female veteran-owned businesses, the WIB believes it to be integral for women to come together to support one another as mentors, empowering each other to lead strong, successful businesses.
 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  12/2/16

 


[1] The actual number is much higher. The count referenced does not include the Army National Guard. The National Guard Bureau was unable to produce data on mobilizations under that authorization after weeks of Stars & Stripes requests.

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION

Week Ending 18 Nov 2016

TOPIC 1: ECONOMY

The sharpest spike of the year in mortgage rates came after the presidential election. According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average soared to 3.94 percent this week with an average 0.5 point (points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). That’s 37 basis points higher than a week ago when it was 3.57 percent and the fifth-largest one-week jump in the 30-year fixed rate since 2000 (a basis point is 0.01 percentage point). It was 3.97 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed rate hasn’t been this high since January. The 15-year fixed-rate average jumped to 3.14 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.88 percent a week ago and 3.18 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed rate hasn’t been above 3 percent since February.

The five-year adjustable rate average climbed to 3.07 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 2.88 percent a week ago and 2.98 percent a year ago. This is the first time since January the five-year ARM has been higher than 3 percent. Since Trump was elected president, investors have flooded the stock market and pulled out of the bond markets. Treasury yields have skyrocketed, rising 44 basis points in the past week to their highest level since January. The yield on a 10-year bond went from 1.79 percent on November 4 to 2.23 percent on Monday. The movement of the 10-year Treasury bond is one of the best indicators of whether mortgage rates will rise or fall. When yields go up, mortgage rates tend to follow.

Higher home loan rates may put a damper on the housing recovery. With lack of inventory driving up home prices in some markets, higher rates will make housing less affordable. However, if the economy gets a boost and wages grow under Trump, higher rates may not matter as much. As the country continues to learn more about shape of the new administration, their policies, and the global reaction, we expect more volatility as markets try to put a price on the political developments. Consumers considering buying or refinancing now should stay patient, as rates will likely stabilize once markets find a new equilibrium.

Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed were split over where rates were headed in the coming week. Half said they would fall, 40 percent said they would rise and 10 percent said they would remain relatively unchanged. Bonds continue to get hammered as the election results have both the stock market and the U.S. dollar soaring. Many people have missed that China is continuing to sell U.S. Treasuries, which is also causing a disruption to the market. Investors still believe that there will be a rate hike by the Fed in December and markets are still trying to build in the change ahead of the Fed meeting. This will hopefully lead to a scenario similar to last year in which an initial overreaction was followed by a strong rally and falling mortgage rates. Markets continue to remain choppy as both the Fed’s decision and the new President’s agenda have yet to be fully uncovered, leading to uncertainty in several markets, both domestic and foreign.

Meanwhile, higher rates caused mortgage applications to plummet this week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index - a measure of total loan application volume - fell 9.2 percent from the previous week. The refinance index sank 11 percent to its lowest level in eight months, while the purchase index dropped 6 percent to its lowest level since January. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 61.9 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

OCT
2015

OCT
2016

OCT
2015

OCT
2016

OCT
2015

OCT
2016

 

Gulf War-era II veterans

 

Unemployed

142

153

104

130

38

24

Unemployment rate

4.6

4.7

4.1

4.7

7.2

4.5

National unemployment rate is 4.9 percent (October 2016). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.7 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 4.5 percent (up from 2.3 percent in September).

TOPIC 2: MEETINGS

On Monday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Joining Forces Veteran Homelessness Summit at the White House. The panels and breakout sessions dealt with the progress, challenges and future initiatives regarding ending veteran homelessness in the United States. Speakers included First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, VA Secretary Robert McDonald and HUD Secretary Julian Castro as well as Governor of Connecticut, Dannell Malloy and Mayor of Mesa, Arizona, John Giles. There was also a panel of formerly homeless veterans. These veterans shared their stories of successfully reintegrating back into independent/stable living. Joining Forces works hand in hand with the public and private sectors to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.

On Monday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division hosted a meeting on VA Overpayments & GI Bill reinstatement with Barmak Nassirian, Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The Department of Veterans Affairs identified $416 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill overpayments in fiscal year 2014 alone, and without redress these overpayments may grow.

On Tuesday, November 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting on establishing transition memos and guides for the Trump administration on education issues at Student Veterans of America’s national headquarters. The meeting was conducted by Patrick Campbell of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Students.

On Tuesday, November 15,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Niki Dean, Human Resource Manager, American Electronic Warfare Associates (AMEWAS), to discuss how we can potentially assist their company in finding veterans to fill their vacancies. The company has a new veteran hiring initiative and plans to hire 10 more veterans by the end of the year. Currently, 6 percent of the company’s employees are veterans.

On Tuesday, November 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Craig Heilman, Deputy Associate Administrator, and other leadership staff at the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) to discuss their programs/services and future initiatives. OVBD’s mission is to empower veteran entrepreneurship by formulating, implementing, administering, and promoting policies and programs to equip veteran, service member (active-duty, National Guard, Reserve), and military spouse owned small businesses with counseling, training and education, access to capital, and contracting opportunities.

On Wednesday, November 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Ryan Chamberlain, Outreach Coordinator, Kaiser Permanente, to discuss collaborating with assisting veterans in obtaining credentials necessary to be competitive in the work force. Kaiser would like to focus on Medics/Corpsmen becoming Registered Nurses (RN) and/or License Practical Nurses (LPN).

On Wednesday, November 16,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Corporals Sukhvinder Mehta and Nancy Badmus from the  Prince George’s (PG) County, Maryland, Department of Corrections. The conversation centered on developing a relationship and utilizing certain American Legion Posts to help recruit and assist veterans with the application process for employment within the PG County Department of Correction.

On Wednesday, November 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a panel discussion on the for-profit education industry hosted at The Cato Institute. The panel was moderated by Kimberly Hefling, Senior Education writer at Politico. The focus was on the challenge of effective regulations that protect students from predatory practices while not encumbering innovation in education.

On Wednesday, November 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 2nd Annual Women Veteran Conference of the BWCC Women in Business (WIB). The conference included an ‘All Hands on Deck Chat’, which was an empowering panel of selected organizations representing resources and services available to women to help strategically position their business for growth.  WIB (Women in Business) is founded by the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber as a resource for female entrepreneurs. Specifically, the WIB supports women’s success in business by fostering relationships, growing leadership skills, and empowering women to find and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

On Thursday, November 17,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Orville Whitlock and Lt Col. Kane from P3O. We reviewed the MOU and would like to extend the MOU to all divisions within The American Legion. This is an MOU that will assist their Soldiers and family members as well as increase the Legion’s membership. This collaboration has the potential to cross over into The American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the Legion. The Private Public Partnership Office (P3O) develops, integrates and directs partner relations for the Army Reserve. P3O partners with not-for-profit, for-profit and academic organizations to support the Chief, Army Reserve's top priorities and the Army Reserve Mission of providing trained, equipped and ready Soldiers, leaders and units to meet America’s requirements at home and abroad.

TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT

Although the veteran unemployment rate is less than the national rate, listed below are some barriers that still hinder veterans from obtaining gainful employment.

  • Lack of preparation for finding a civilian job, and unrealistic expectations for the kind of work and salary for which they qualify. After 14 years of war, many leaving the military have led troops in battle, often on multiple deployments. But that experience doesn’t always translate to a similar civilian position. “Many expect to start at mid-level and supervisory positions, and become angry when they don’t, and then are not willing to accept lower positions,” according to the study;

  • Unaddressed mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a leading predictor of veteran unemployment. The report found that many employers are wary of hiring veterans with mental health disorders; and,

  • Difficulty relating to civilians and adapting to civilian work culture.

    TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS

    On Monday, November 14, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced $18.5 million to 39 local public housing agencies across the country to provide a permanent home to an estimated 2,100 veterans experiencing homelessness. The supportive housing assistance is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA. The HUD-VASH Project Based Vouchers (PBVs) being awarded are attached to specific existing, new construction or rehabilitated units. These vouchers will preserve affordable housing and ensure that persons who need services to live stably in their own homes receive them. See local funding chart below.

    “Housing our nation’s veterans has been a top priority of this Administration, and one at which we’ve been particularly successful,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that those who have served their country in uniform have a home, and these vouchers will expand our success in ending veteran homelessness as we know it.”

    “Increasing the supply of affordable housing is one of the keys to ending Veteran homelessness,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “The project-based HUD-VASH vouchers announced today will increase the availability of affordable housing for the most vulnerable homeless Veterans in communities across the U.S. and ensure they have access to VA case management and supportive services to remain stably housed.” 

    In June, HUD awarded nearly $38 million to help more than 5,200 homeless veterans find homes. That funding ensured that communities could provide the critically needed housing assistance and case management services to those veterans and their families experiencing homelessness.  In August, HUD announced that veteran homelessness in the U.S. was cut nearly in half since 2010.  Since 2010, the Obama Administration and 19 federal agencies and offices that form the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) launched the nation's first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness serves as a roadmap for how the federal government will work with state and local communities to confront the root causes of homelessness, especially among former servicemen and women.

    More than 79,000 vouchers have been awarded and approximately 111,000 homeless veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program since 2008. Rental assistance and supportive services provided through HUD-VASH are a critical resource for local communities in ending homelessness among our nation's veterans. In the HUD-VASH Program, VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) assess veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for these vouchers. Decisions are based on a variety of factors, most importantly the duration of homelessness and the need for longer term, more intensive support in obtaining and maintaining permanent housing. The HUD-VASH program includes both the rental assistance the voucher provides and the comprehensive case management that VAMC staff offers.

Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH Program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR

This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Allen (TX), Fredericksburg (VA), and Jacksonville (FL).

The American Legion participated in Career Fairs held at Patuxent River, Maryland; Fort Myers, Virginia; and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, DC. A total of 626 service members and veterans participated in these events with 22 job offers made, while numerous veterans requested membership information. The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic well-being of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.

TOPIC 6: EDUCATION

The American Legion is supporting federal efforts to assist student-veterans impacted by the closure of ITT Technical Institute (ITT Tech) by providing educational counseling through its service officer network. ITT Tech announced it was permanently closing all its campuses nationwide Sept. 6, citing actions by the U.S. Department of Education to ban the for-profit institution from enrolling new students using federal financial aid over concerns of financial mismanagement. This announcement directly affects more than 6,000 military veterans expected to attend fall 2016 classes using GI Bill funds.

Accredited American Legion Service Officers are specially trained to provide expert assistance, which is free to all veterans and their families. While the majority of a service officer’s work involves application for VA disability benefits, these professionals also provide information, referrals and resources on education. Recently, service officers have received information to specifically counsel veterans affected by the ITT Tech closings.

“We are deeply troubled by ITT Tech’s abrupt closing and the blockade it has placed in front of veterans seeking higher education,” said American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. “Since its inception, The American Legion has honored its commitment to veterans and their families in readjusting to civilian life. Today, our service officers assist veterans with understanding their benefits, solving VA’s health-care maze and finding educational opportunities that match their interests. We are honored to serve as the nation’s vanguard for veterans’ education benefits by counseling these veterans through our service officer network.”

To contact your nearest American Legion Department Service Officer for ITT Tech information or questions on VA benefits, visit www.legion.org/serviceofficers.

TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS

According to the SBA, veteran business owner demographics and the economic and business environment are changing dramatically and rapidly. There is evidence that the proportion of veteran women business owners increased from 2008 to 2012. The share of women business owners appears to have increased among both veterans and non-veterans, but at a much greater rate for female veterans.

Most veteran business owners are male. The share of business ownership by female veterans is lower than in the overall population, but it is growing. In 2012, 4.4 percent of veteran business owners were women, up from 2.5 percent in 2008. In the overall population, 35.9 percent of business owners were women. To continue the support of female veteran-owned businesses, the WIB believes it to be integral for women to come together to support one another as mentors, empowering each other to lead strong, successful businesses.

 

Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director

Veterans Employment & Education Division

202.861.2700 ext. 2989

Week Ending:  11/18/16

 

 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.

 

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