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NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 17 November 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The U.S. economy delivered a double win for the Federal Reserve in October with an encouraging pickup in inflation and an unexpected gain in retail sales, further solidifying expectations that policy makers will raise interest rates next month.
 
The consumer-price index excluding food and fuel accelerated on an annual basis for the first time since January, while the overall cost of living rose in line with forecasts, a Labor Department report showed Wednesday. The rise in retail sales last month followed a bigger September advance than previously estimated, according to Commerce Department figures.
 
Together, the reports are “a reflection on the fairly solid economic environment we’re currently enjoying,” said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit. “Inflation is moving closer to the Fed’s target on the core. A December rate hike seems fairly certain, and justifiable,” and “the outlook for consumer spending looks good.”
 
Investors on Wednesday saw a 93 percent chance of a Fed interest-rate increase in December, up from 91 percent yesterday. U.S. stocks and yields on 10-year Treasuries were lower as new obstacles emerged on a tax plan.
 
Higher costs for shelter, medical care, air fares and used vehicles produced a broad-based advance in core CPI, signaling businesses may get more pricing power over time.
 
While the price gains also helped to boost retail sales -- since those data aren’t adjusted for inflation -- demand looked resilient heading into the holiday shopping season as consumers purchased more furniture, electronics and clothing, and spent at restaurants.
 
The CPI data will help inform policy makers on where inflation stands vis-a-vis their projections, though the Fed’s preferred gauge is a separate figure based on consumer purchases and issued by the Commerce Department. That measure has matched or exceeded the Fed’s 2 percent goal in just two months of the past five years. Some central bank officials focus on the measure excluding food and energy, which is also below their target. October data are due Nov. 30.
 
Nonetheless, the latest report offered more evidence that the cost of living is moving in the right direction, after Fed officials began to question long-held assumptions that low unemployment would cause inflation to accelerate.
 
Housing costs were a significant factor in October, with the shelter index climbing 0.3 percent. That included a 1.6 percent increase in lodging away from home and a 0.3 percent increase in owners’ equivalent rent, one of the categories designed to track rental prices. Expenses for medical care climbed 0.3 percent, and used-vehicle prices rose 0.7 percent, ending a nine-month streak of declines.
 
Prices for wireless-phone services and hotel stays both increased. In recent months, several Fed officials have cited changes in these costs as transitory factors affecting inflation. At the same time, a 1 percent drop in energy prices weighed on overall inflation in October, and costs for new vehicles, apparel and recreation showed declines.
 
While a December rate increase by the Fed would be the third this year, inflation data in coming months will also play a role in the timing and number of rate increases in 2018, when Jerome Powell is set to take over as central bank chairman from Janet Yellen. Officials in December will update their projections for the benchmark interest rate, after September forecasts showed a median forecast of three quarter-point hikes next year.
The latest sales figures also bode well for retailers gearing up for the holiday season. Nine of 13 major retail categories showed month-over-month increases in the value of sales, indicating American consumers will continue to fuel the economy in the fourth quarter, helped by steady hiring and an increased wealth effect from soaring stock prices and higher property values.
 
“As long as a robust labor market is generating sizable income gains, the consumer should remain on a solid track,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, said in a note.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
153
120
130
104
24
16
Unemployment rate
4.7
3.6
4.7
3.7
4.5
3.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.1 percent (October 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.3 percent (down from 6.9 percent in September).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, November 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a roundtable on “Higher Education and Veterans’ Economic Opportunity and Mobility” hosted by the Pew Charitable Trust and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. While the information was designed for laymen policy makers, contacts were made with Pew Charitable Trust for further outreach opportunities.
 
On Monday and Tuesday, November 13-14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Service Women Action Network’s (SWAN) 2nd annual conference and focus group. The topic of this conference focused on mental wellness for women veterans.
 
On Tuesday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division was interviewed by CBS radio on the subject of unscrupulous practices in VA Home Loan mortgage churning. It has been discovered by the CFPB and Ginnie Mae (Government National Mortgage Association) that lenders have been taking advantage of the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) to push out short-term adjustable rate mortgages even as interest rates climb. A task force has been launched by VA and Ginnie Mae to explore the depth of this malpractice, and support has been given for this by both Democrats and Republicans (Sen. Warren and Sen. Tillis).
 
On Tuesday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke to Tom Philpott from Legion Magazine to inform them of the updates concerning Home Loan mortgage churning, for an investigative article that Mr. Philpott is writing.
On Tuesday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke to the military news and opinion website taskandpurpose.com on the recent article about a military daughter who owes the VA $50,000 after her father's GI Bill was cancelled. The controversy is due to a transferability provision that awards transferability to dependents after six years of service, but is conditional on an additional four years of service. The National Veterans Employment & Education Division is not only aware of the issue, but has other testimonials of veterans and family members affected by it.
 
On Tuesday, November 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Victory Media to discuss the status of the company following their settlement with the FTC over allegations of misleading marketing practices. The National Veterans Employment & Education Division called Victory Media to task over these allegations in 2016, and has been satisfied with the reforms that Victory Media has implemented. With the publicity surrounding their settlement with the FTC the controversy has resurfaced. Despite other veterans groups calling for further punitive actions against Victory Media, there is no evidence that we’ve found that suggests any further impropriety.
 
On Wednesday, November 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a House Committee on Space, Science, and Technology policy forum on  STEM Education. The forum explored what steps Congress, business, and education organizations can take to get more of the talent, skills, and leadership of the veteran community into the high-paying, high-need STEM fields.
 
On Wednesday, November 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Michelle Anthony, a member of the Small Business Task Force, about a project she is working on for homeless veterans.
 
On Wednesday, November 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Blue Star Families Survey Release Reception. Considered the largest survey of the military family community, Blue Star Families' annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey is a valuable resource for understanding the current state of the military community.
 
On Thursday, November 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Diana Peters, a veteran whose company provides a free service that helps veterans find franchises.
 
On Friday, November 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division facilitated a meeting between CEO of Student Veterans of America CEO Jared Lyon and Chairman of Legion’s 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee Ted Roosevelt IV at Barclay’s headquarters in NYC. The meeting centered around future collaborative opportunities between The American Legion and Student Veterans of America, including suggestions for potential post-to-chapter engagement, and national program support.
 
On Friday, November 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division hosted a VSO brown bag education policy meeting, with special guests Pat Campbell from CFPB and Rohit Chopra from Consumer Federation of America. The discussions centered around recent activity going on with Department of Education rulemaking and new payday loans policy.
 
On Friday, November 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the DOL VETS coffee meeting for all VSO stakeholders.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its intention to hire hundreds of veterans identified at a veterans jobs fair in August 2017.
 
DHS hosted a two-day, veterans-focused recruitment and hiring event titled “Continue Your Service to America.” The event included informational training sessions and exhibits to showcase the critical missions performed across the department. Participants had the opportunity to interview for a position, receive a tentative job offer and initiate the background screening process.
Approximately 2,500 candidates attended the event, with 620 interviewed on-site. There were also 381 candidates identified at the hiring event to move into the next phase of the law enforcement hiring processes at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). To date, DHS has extended tentative job offers to 207 veterans, and components will continue to use the certificates of eligibility and resumes of veterans identified through the August event to fill vacancies.
 
The Department also conducted a series of “DHS is Hiring Veterans” webinars in preparation for the hiring event that explained that DHS aims to hire hundreds of veterans from the veterans recruitment event. The department described the types of positions available to veterans, provided information on the hiring process, and tips on building a federal resume. Over 5,000 veterans participated in the online sessions.
 
Veterans currently make up 27.6 percent of the Department’s workforce. DHS continues to be a leader among federal agencies in employing veterans and has the highest percentage of veteran employees among large federal agencies for the second year in a row. DHS is still actively recruiting for law enforcement and mission support positions.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
On November 16, Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, introduced the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program Improvement Act of 2017 to fight veteran homelessness by strengthening job training programs for our warfighters who have returned home.
 
Currently, homeless veterans are eligible for job training and placement services under the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP). However, if a veteran is also eligible for assistance under the U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), or Native American Housing Assistance, the VA considers them to be no longer “homeless”, thereby restricting access to HVRP. In doing so, a veteran is denied access to a program that will help them re-enter the workforce and get them back on their feet.
 
The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program Improvement Act would clarify that veterans eligible for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), or Native American Housing Assistance are also eligible for HVRP assistance. This legislation would also reauthorize the HVRP program for five years, along with programs that are designed for female homeless veterans and homeless veterans with children.
 
“Veterans have served our nation with honor and distinction, and we must do more to help them re-enter the workforce and thrive when they transition back to civilian life,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “To break the cycle of veteran homelessness, veterans must have the tools they need to support themselves and their families. I am honored to join Congressman Wenstrup to introduce this legislation to strengthen job training programs for homeless and recently homeless veterans, and to help those who have struggled to find employment get back on their feet”.
 
“Too often, when our men and women in uniform return home after their service to this country, finding a job and assimilating back into civilian life proves fraught with challenges,” said Congressman Wenstrup. “Strengthening job training programs to empower our veterans with career and job opportunities that provide similar comradery and meaning as their service provided them is the least we can do, after all they have done for us”.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Uncasville  (CT), Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall (VA), Lexington Park (MD), and Joint Base Andrews (MD).
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
A bill in the U.S. Senate would authorize new entrepreneurship training initiatives and improve existing programs for members of the armed forces, veterans and their families. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) co-sponsored the Veterans Small Business Ownership Improvements Act.
 
"This legislation would give our veterans and military family members the training they need to launch a small business and succeed as entrepreneurs," he said. "Servicemembers and their spouses come out of the service with a wide range of skills and this bill will help them apply those skills as small business owners and ultimately help grow the economy."
 
The bill would enhance existing programs like the Boots to Business Program, the Women Veterans Business Training Program and the Business Training Program for Service Disabled Veterans. It would also modify the Veterans' Business Outreach Center, which provides financial assistance to educational institutions and veterans' nonprofit organizations instituting projects benefiting veteran-owned small businesses.
 
It would establish the Veterans Business Owners Initiative Pilot Program, which would give grants to nonprofit entities fostering small business peer support groups. And it would direct the U.S. Small Business Administration to create an online mechanism servicing as a one-stop resource for veterans on all of the entrepreneurial development programs available. The aim of this legislation would be to help servicemembers transition to civilian employment and business ownership and benefit the economy by their hiring practices and more.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
Ashford University announced this week that it has temporarily suspended new enrollment of veteran students who receive the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
 
The action by the online for-profit university, which is owned by Bridgepoint Education, is the latest development in a long-running dispute between Ashford, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a state regulator.
 
Last year Iowa's state approval agency moved to strip the university's GI Bill eligibility, citing a previous decision by Ashford to close its physical location in the state. Ashford sued to block the decision, and that lawsuit remains active. However, the university subsequently secured approval from Arizona regulators to shift its state-based eligibility for veterans' benefits from Iowa to that state. The federal VA in September backed the approval by the Arizona agency.
 
Then, last week, the VA changed course and told Ashford that the Arizona agency had not provided sufficient evidence that it has jurisdictional approval over Ashford's online programs. The VA said that in 60 days it would suspend Ashford's GI Bill eligibility and approval of new student enrollments and re-enrollments unless "corrective action" is taken by the university.
 
While Ashford said in a corporate filing that it strongly disagrees with the VA's moves, the for-profit decided to voluntarily drop new enrollments of veterans. Veteran students account for roughly 10 percent of Ashford's total enrollment, the university said, and 7 percent of its revenue.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 3 Nov 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
“THE CONVERGENCE of income across regions in the United States is a robust fact.” So wrote Olivier Blanchard, until recently the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, in 1991. At the time he was right. During much of the 20th century, poor states and regions in America caught up with rich ones at a rate of about 2% per year, a figure sometimes called the “iron law of convergence”. In 1930, for example, workers in Mississippi earned just 20% of the wages of workers in New York. By 1980, the proportion had increased to 65%. 
 
But in the years since Mr. Blanchard’s pronouncement, such convergence has slowed. A paper by Peter Ganong of the University of Chicago and Daniel Shoag of Harvard finds that incomes across states converged at a rate of 1.8% per year from 1880 to 1980. Since then, however, there has been hardly any convergence at all.
 
study by Elisa Giannone of Princeton finds that convergence has declined in cities too. Between 1940 and 1980, poor cities caught up with rich ones at a rate of 1.4% a year. Since then, they have lagged behind. 
 
As income gaps have stopped narrowing, differences in regional labor markets have emerged. A recent paper by Alison Weingarden of the Federal Reserve Board estimates that since 2007 the gap between the labor-force participation rate of “prime-age” workers aged 25 to 54 in big cities and similar workers in rural areas has grown from 1 to 3.8 percentage points. Since 2015, the difference between the unemployment rate of prime age city-dwellers and their rural counterparts has increased from 0.3 to 1.2 percentage points
 
What is causing this economic divide? One theory says that restrictive housing regulations have caused property prices to rise in rich cities like San Francisco, discouraging low-skill workers from relocating to such places. Another argues that new technologies have boosted the productivity and wages of skilled labor. Such “skill-biased” technological change has widened existing gaps between rich and poor cities and encouraged better-educated workers in poor towns to migrate to places where they can get a more attractive return on their skills.
 
Both theories point to a lack of labor mobility. At an event held at the Federal Reserve on September 26th, Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, lamented the loss of economic opportunities for Americans who live in small towns and are unable to move. “A conventional assumption in economics is that regional differences should narrow over time as workers move toward areas where jobs are more plentiful and wages are higher,” Ms Brainard told the audience. “In reality, Americans’ propensity to move is currently at its lowest level in many decades.”
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
OCT
2016
OCT
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
153
120
130
104
24
16
Unemployment rate
4.7
3.6
4.7
3.7
4.5
3.3
 
National unemployment rate is 4.2 percent (September 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 6.9 percent (down from 7.4 percent in August).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, October 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will meet with Monica Mills, Executive Director, Food Policy Action, to discuss food insecurity for servicemembers and veterans and their upcoming public relations campaign regarding this issue.
 
On Monday, October 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a meeting with The American Legion Small Business Task Force and Source America. Source America creates jobs for people with disabilities, and competes for VA contracts through Ability One designation. The meeting was held to discuss a compromise between SDVOSB’s and VOSB’s and Ability One designated companies. The American Legion opposes drafted legislation that creates a loophole for Ability One contractors to gain contracts over SDVOSB’s and VOSB’s.
 
On Monday, October 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Round Table hosted by Students Veterans of America, focused on “Military to Civilian Transition Way Ahead, Connecting Resources in the Veterans Ecosystem.” Military to Civilian Transition is  a fairly new concept that the VA is attempting to implement with the support of other agencies- Department of Labor and Department of Defense, they would also rely heavily on input from Veteran Service Organizations.
 
On Tuesday, October 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with U.S.VETS to discuss their outreach efforts and transitional housing for veterans in the Washington, DC area. 
 
On Tuesday, October 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Richard Fabian, Chief Operations Officer for SonoSite of FujiFilm, to discuss potential opportunities to work with the American Legion’s employment, small business, and apprenticeship programs.
 
On Tuesday, October 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education spoke with Mark Toal, Regional Manager, Department of Labor-Veterans Employment & Training Services Maria Temique, Manager, Department of Labor-Veterans Employment & Training Services, discussed potential concerns regarding the Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) at certain American Job Centers (AJC’s)
 
On Wednesday, November 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Mark Escherich, Military & Veteran Programs Manager, U.S. Transportation Security Administration regarding American Legion participation at their upcoming resource fair.  Would like the Legion to speak on the different program and services offered.
 
On Wednesday, November 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a monthly meeting held by VA Center for Women Veterans. During this meeting, each VSO had a chance to mention what they are working on currently in terms of women veterans.
 
On Thursday, November 2,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will have conference calls with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) and National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) to discuss VA’s funding for case management services for homeless veterans who receive a HUD-VASH voucher.
 
On Thursday, November 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended  Microsoft Innovation: Serving Veteran Communities—Improving Access to Opportunity, focused on different opportunities for veterans within Microsoft and like industries.  Key Note Speaker was Congressman (R-MI) Bergman, serves on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs explained that most Human Resource staff don’t understand the veteran community, therefore, are hesitant at times to hire veterans and that the VOW Act may need to be updated.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Pentagon tech advisers want special career track, ‘innovation elevator’ for big thinkers
 
A group of tech industry heavyweights believes the Pentagon needs to protect tech experts and innovators from the department’s traditional up-or-out career path if the department has any hope of keeping up with a wave of new technologies.
 
The Defense Innovation Board, or DIB, a group empowered to report directly to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on the best way to grow America’s military technological edge, believes the traditional system simply is no longer viable for meeting technological needs. Instead, it is suggesting a pair of workarounds that can be built into the existing system: a brand-new career specialization track for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals, as well as a “tech elevator” that would sequester the best and brightest innovators in the department into a special workspace to develop new ideas.
 
Since forming more than a year ago, members of the board have spent time traveling and getting to know how the Pentagon operates. While they have made recommendations for changes in the past, the ideas laid out during an Oct. 24 public event reflect a more radical approach, though one that Eric Schmidt, the head of Google parent company Alphabet and the chairman of the DIB, thinks is long overdue. “The system is designed to allow for exceptions and waivers and things like that, and they need to be fully utilized,” Schmidt told reporters at the event. Added astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, there will continue to be resistance to change “until enough people recognize that China, North Korea, whomever else is just kicking our ass in cyberspace, in the innovation space, in the tech space. And then it will happen quickly.” “If you don’t do it proactively, you will do it reactively,” he added. “That’s for sure.”
 
A STEM career path
 
While the idea of creating a specialized career track for high-tech jobs was described as a recommendation, statements from the board members made it clear they think it is past time for the Pentagon to move in this direction. Marne Levine, chief operating officer at Instagram, laid out the rationale for the new career track, saying that a lack of specific career fields for tech experts hinders both recruitment and retention. Much has been made of the fact that the Pentagon is in a fight with the commercial sector for talent. And with tech companies already fiercely competitive among each other for skilled workers, government simply can’t draw the level of talent it needs. But Levine argued that a big negative for those experts is also the lack of “a clear and viable career path for STEM specialists,” as many in those fields simply want to do what they are best at, whether it be coding or cybersecurity. Similarly, those talents who do enter the military often leave early because they find there is no room to grow their specific skill sets, and if they want to be promoted, they need to leave their areas of expertise for an unrelated role — at a time when the Department of Defense’s leadership openly talks about how they need to fill these key areas of talent. “All of this seriously undermines the department’s ability to build the force that we need to address the emerging technical challenges,” Levine concluded. The solution: to build a new career track, akin to those for musicians or medical professionals within the military. The fact that similar exceptions already exist was hammered home by Schmidt to reporters after the event.
 
 “Do they take the doctors in the military and then turn them into programmers? Do they turn them into technicians? I don’t think so. Do they take the lawyers in the military and make them doctors and so forth? It’s insane,” Schmidt said. “So it seems to me it’s pretty obvious we should have a path for people who are highly valued and highly technical, and allow them to continue” in those areas. Several times in his comments, Schmidt seemed bewildered by the way that the military will train experts such as pilots only to force them out of their specializations and into other jobs if they seek to move up in rank.
 
Members of the Defense Innovation Board listen to comments during a public meeting to discuss innovation opportunities for the Department of Defense. (Cmdr. Patrick Evans/Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs) “Where is the logic where you take expertly trained cybersecurity people — we’re short of them — and you transfer them into something that’s not cybersecurity? That makes no sense. That’s analogous of taking expertly trained pilots and making them into something that’s not a pilot. Which they do, but that doesn’t make any sense either. Last time I checked, there’s a pilot shortage,” he said.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Robert Lindie looked out nervously at the crowd of dozens of homeless veterans gathered in the theater at the VA Maine Healthcare System at Togus, uncomfortable speaking publicly but doing so nonetheless, to give his message to the men and women who now sat where he had sat just three years ago.
       
"I was sitting four rows back," the Augusta man, who walks with a cane, said as the 20th annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down got underway Saturday morning. "I was homeless. I had no place to go, and no way to get there. I was kind of at the end of my rope."  Knowing Lindie was a veteran, a friend had asked him whether he wanted to go to Togus. He said "not really" but relented, and he went. He later was admitted to the veterans' hospital and, after three or four weeks there during which he said he "just needed to get my running gear in shape," he moved into the Bread of Life Ministries' Veterans Shelter in Augusta. Then Togus staff members helped him find an apartment, also in Augusta, where he has lived since. Sober for three years, he volunteers at Togus, including Saturday at the Homeless Veteran Stand Down, a daylong event in which military veterans from across the state can get free services as well as free clothing and other items.  "I like volunteering because that's what makes the world go round," he told his fellow veterans. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help, nothing at all. You're in a good place. You've got to take that first step. And you know what, folks? This is a good first step."
       
Veterans were offered free services or goods at 32 stations set up in multiple buildings of the Togus campus, including a wide array of health care services; transportation to and from Togus from designated pickup locations; child care; food and drinks; haircuts; boots and clothing; personal care items; women's services; information on housing, employment, training and veteran benefits; legal services; assistance with taxes; flu shots; and food stamp and MaineCare applications. All of it was free.
      
Anthony Ward, who served in the Army in the early 1980s until a blasting cap blew his hand apart as he was setting up targets in the Mojave Desert, got a pair of reading glasses, underwent oral cancer screening, and inquired about getting dentures at the Stand Down on Saturday morning. He's living in transitional housing with Veterans Inc. in Lewiston, after having lived at a Tedford shelter in Brunswick. Now he is looking for an apartment. Ward said it was the first time he'd attended the Stand Down, which he said was "really cool."
       
Tom Baker, who recently moved from Florida to Maine and who served in the Army from 1970 to 1973, said he's a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and he came to Maine because he thought he could stay off drugs better in Maine. Saturday he underwent oral cancer screening, was looking to set up a dental appointment, and visited a podiatrist to have his feet checked out.
       
"Stand down" is a military term that refers to active-duty personnel being taken off a battlefield to a safe place. Saturday's annual event, according to organizers, is meant to allow homeless veterans to "stand down" from homelessness for a day, and to help them connect with services and supports to help end their homelessness. Susie Whittington, a social worker who works with homeless veterans at Togus, applauded homeless veterans for coming and urged them, even though they didn't want to ask for help, to let the roughly 200 volunteers and Togus staff at the event help them. She said she doesn't want to see the homeless veterans back again next year, still homeless
     
Dan Dunker, associate director of the VA at Togus, said 25 to 30 organizations had volunteers at the event. He told the homeless veterans, before they dispersed around the facility to get services, the goal was not just to give them a bit of information or an application for a program that might help them but, rather, to help them with their problems on the spot, or get them into programs that can help them.  "We're going to take care of your business today. We're not going to give you an application and send you on your way," he said.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), El Paso, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (DC), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base (CO), Uncasville (CT), Warwick (RI) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
On Friday, November 10, U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (NC-08), Fort Bragg’s Congressman, will join Facebook, the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, and Blue Star Families for a “Boost Your Business” event to help veteran, servicemember, and military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners grow their businesses. This is a great opportunity for small businesses to learn how to capture new audiences, increase sales and grow by leveraging social media.
 
Following this week’s National Veterans Small Business Week and in honor of Veterans Day, this free event will teach veteran, service member, and military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners valuable tricks of the trade that will empower them to build their online presence and more effectively utilize social networking to increase sales, grow their customer bases and expand. The educational event will honor the contributions and sacrifices made by veteran business owners and their families, and empower them to take their business to the next level with Facebook and Instagram.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
Angela Gray has witnessed employers' changing perceptions of education firsthand. The 36-year-old Louisiana resident is the vice president of accounting at Pioneer Rx Pharmacy Software, where she's also in charge of human resources. She says she sometimes encounters job candidates with degrees earned fully or partially online. Gray is even pursuing one herself: an online master's in finance from Pennsylvania State University—World Campus.
 
In the past, "you would see a degree from online and kind of toss that resume in the trash," she says. "That's just not what's happening in HR these days. They are becoming widely accepted, especially from established schools." Gray might be onto something. Many employers accept accredited online master's degrees in specialized business disciplines such as finance, accounting and marketing, among others, recruiters say. To them, the university's reputation – combined with several other factors, such as a job applicant's work experience – holds more weight than whether the candidate earned the degree online or in person. The MBA is an ideal option for those looking to pursue careers in general management, says Andres Rodriguez, director of client accounts at Protis Global, a staffing firm specializing in consumer goods, food and beverage, hospitality and banking. But more-focused online business degrees may be a good choice for those who know they want to work in a particular discipline, experts say – and these degrees are growing in popularity, including online, according to recruiters.
 
"There are these new demands and challenges in the business landscape that an MBA is just not diving into," Rodriguez says. As examples of other options, Rodriguez points to online master's degrees focusing strictly on data science, as well as interdisciplinary programs such as the online Master of Science in integrated design, business and technology offered at the University of Southern California. Chris Vennitti, president of the professional staffing firm Hire Strategy, agrees that for candidates looking for a career in a defined field within business, a specialized online program can be "a great way to go."
 
"It's very widely accepted now, even commonplace, with employers," he says. Nearly a decade ago, getting a degree from an online program would potentially signal to employers that a job candidate didn't take his or her education seriously, Vennitti says. That's completely changed, he says, as employers today view online degrees as legitimate ways to further a career while continuing to work full time. "Often, I don't feel the need to differentiate, because ultimately, the online program is often very similar to what would happen if they were to show up and go to the particular university," says Rebecca Dappen, managing partner at the Lucas Group executive search firm who focuses on accounting and finance. In fact, most applicants don't specify on their resumes whether a business master's was earned online, and that's generally acceptable – though recruiters or hiring managers may ask. Jessica Chesher, an online master's in accounting graduate from the Syracuse University Whitman School of Management, initially enrolled in an online MBA program. But she soon discovered her passion for accounting after taking a course in the subject and switched to the Master of Science in the field.
 
TOPIC 8: LEGISLATIVE
 
The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division is working with congressional staff on provisions in H.R.1659 Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act which will correct this oversight. On Thursday, The American Legion’s National Commander called for President Trump to veto the legislation that would effectively kill a rule that would have made it easier for consumers to sue banks and credit card companies.
 
In a statement supported by the Committee on Veterans Employment & Education’s Resolution No. 83: Protect Veteran and Servicemember Rights to Fair Consumer Arbitration, Denise Rohan declared that the Joint Resolution passed by the Senate on Wednesday night would deprive veterans and military service members of the ability to challenge unfair financial practices.
 
 “Every servicemember and veteran should have the right and responsibility to confront predatory loan practices,” American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan said.
 
The resolution would shut down a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule that would allow consumers to band together to sue banks and credit card companies. It passed 51-50 in the Senate, with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Without the rule, consumers are likely to have to enter into mandatory arbitration clauses with financial institutions, meaning that they must settle disputes in arbitration rather than in court. Trump is expected to sign the resolution into law.
 
“Our membership has stated unequivocally that we are opposed to situations where our military and veterans’ financial protections are chipped away to increase the profits of the big banks,” Rohan said.
“Repealing the CFPB arbitration rule takes away consumers' most effective tool to protect themselves against predatory lenders,” she said.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 27 October 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Despite facing challenges at the domestic level along with a rapidly transforming global landscape, the U.S. economy is still the largest and most important in the world. The U.S. economy represents about 20% of total global output, and is still larger than that of China. Moreover, according to the IMF, the U.S. has the sixth highest per capita GDP (PPP). The U.S. economy features a highly-developed and technologically-advanced services sector, which accounts for about 80% of its output. The U.S. economy is dominated by services-oriented companies in areas such as technology, financial services, healthcare and retail. Large U.S. corporations also play a major role on the global stage, with more than a fifth of companies on the Fortune Global 500 coming from the United States.
 
Even though the services sector is the main engine of the economy, the U.S. also has an important manufacturing base, which represents roughly 15% of output. The U.S. is the second largest manufacturer in the world and a leader in higher-value industries such as automobiles, aerospace, machinery, telecommunications and chemicals. Meanwhile, agriculture represents less than 2% of output. However, large amounts of arable land, advanced farming technology and generous government subsidies make the U.S. a net exporter of food and the largest agricultural exporting country in the world.
 
The U.S. economy maintains its powerhouse status through a combination of characteristics. The country has access to abundant natural resources and a sophisticated physical infrastructure. It also has a large, well-educated and productive workforce. Moreover, the physical and human capital is fully leveraged in a free-market and business-oriented environment. The government and the people of the United States both contribute to this unique economic environment. The government provides political stability, a functional legal system, and a regulatory structure that allow the economy to flourish. The general population, including a diversity of immigrants, brings a solid work ethic, as well as a sense of entrepreneurship and risk taking to the mix. Economic growth in the United States is constantly being driven forward by ongoing innovation, research and development as well as capital investment.
 
The U.S. economy is currently emerging from a period of considerable turmoil. A mix of factors, including low interest rates, widespread mortgage lending, excessive risk taking in the financial sector, high consumer indebtedness and lax government regulation, led to a major recession that began in 2008. The housing market and several major banks collapsed and the U.S. economy proceeded to contract until the third quarter of 2009 in what was the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. The U.S. government intervened by using USD 700 billion to purchase troubled mortgage-related assets and propping up large floundering corporations in order to stabilize the financial system. It also introduced a stimulus package worth USD 831 billion to be spent across the following 10 years to boost the economy.
 
While the labor market has recovered significantly and employment has returned to pre-crisis levels, there is still widespread debate regarding the health of the U.S. economy. In addition, even though the worst effects of the recession are now fading, the economy still faces a variety of significant challenges going forward. Deteriorating infrastructure, wage stagnation, rising income inequality, elevated pension and medical costs, as well as large current account and government budget deficits, are all issues facing the US economy.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
139
131
127
94
12
37
Unemployment rate
4.4
3.9
4.8
3.4
2.3
6.9
 
National unemployment rate is 4.2 percent (September 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 6.9 percent (down from 7.4 percent in August).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, October 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended MOAA’s annual meeting. MOAA, or the Military Officers Association of America’s advocacy efforts include ending DoD sequestration, increasing the defense budget, reforming Tricare, and aiding military families in all ways possible. Specifically, MOAA seeks expansion of spousal employment opportunities, including incentives for employers and contractors to hire military spouses.
 
On Monday, October 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division, spoke with Tony Ragland, Military Service Coordinator, Department of Veterans Affairs, Atlanta Regional Office. Discussed the potential opportunity for the American Legion to assist veterans with the different programs and services the American Legion has.
 
On Tuesday, October 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Davison spoke with Cara Ludwig, Manager of Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, discussed their upcoming career fairs and transition summits in Connecticut and Georgia.
 
On Tuesday, October 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Linda Rix-Brooks, CEO of AVUE Technologies regarding the downgrading of VA positions, in particular VA Police Officers. Currently VA Police Offers do not hold 6c status, A special 20-year retirement system was created for certain designated positions which require employees to meet vigorous physical demands. Because of the physical demands, this retirement system allows employees to retire sooner, with just 20 years of service. It also includes a mandatory retirement when the employee reaches a designated age or years of service.  This is concerning since the data collected clearly shows that VA police officers hold and conduct the same duties and responsibilities as local their counterparts in the law enforcement occupation.
 
On Tuesday, October 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Brian Thompson, Special Advisor for Military Affairs at the Department of Education. The meeting was to finalize a roundtable sit down with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, which has been finalized for October 31.
 
On Wednesday, October 25, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Tim Green, Director, Office of Strategic Outreach, Department of Labor, Veterans Employment &Training Services (DOL-VETS) discussed their upcoming hearing before the House of Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. The hearing will focus on the current effectiveness of the Transitions Assistance Program (TAP), agencies expected to testify before the committee will include the Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and Office of Personnel Management.
 
On Wednesday, October 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Victory Media to discuss their recent settlement with the FTC over deceptive marketing practices. Since being accused of misleading veterans to fraudulent schools over the summer of 2016, Victory Media has taken several positive steps in the right direction.
 
On Wednesday, October 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with Public Citizen to debrief the results of the Senate vote to repeal the CFPB’s arbitration rule. The vote was 50-50, with Vice President Pence casting the tie breaking vote in favor of banks. Through Resolution 83: Protect Veteran and Servicemember Rights to Fair Consumer Arbitration, The American Legion has a firm position supporting the CFPB rule, and is disappointed with the results. Though Wall Street’s money won, a statement is being drafted requesting that these rights remain protected.
 
On Wednesday, October 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni to review their policy portfolio. They are interested in reforms to the Higher Education Act that would change the nature of accreditation, having significant implications for GI Bill usage and outcomes.
 
On Thursday, October 26, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division spoke with Sergeant Major (SgtMaj) William Harvey of Marine and Family Programs Division, discussed opportunities to address their Marines and family members in order to provide them access to other resources beyond the military.  The SgtMaj would like to have at least two (2) VSO’s on a quarterly basis to speak with their Marines and families at Marine Corps Base Quantico. 
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Transition Improvement Act
 
Problem: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employs over 8,500 disabled veterans nationwide in frontline medical positions but newly hired veterans with service-connected disabilities aren’t covered by a law providing their counterparts in other federal agencies access to paid sick leave in their first year that they otherwise would have to accrue. Currently these VA employees are left with the difficult choice of taking leave without pay just to receive care for conditions from their military service.
 
Current Law: On November 5, 2015, the Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act (P.L. 114-75) was signed into law after unanimous passage by Congress. The Act made up to 104 hours of paid sick leave available to new veteran federal employees hired by “Title 5” federal agencies with service-connected conditions rated as 30% or more disabled for the purposes of attending medical treatment related to these conditions. “Title 38 employees” such as VA physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, dentists and expanded-function dental auxiliaries are not subject to Title 5 civil service requirements and are hired under a separate personnel authority under Title 38 U.S. Code. Therefore, the Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act does not apply.
 
Solution: The Department of Veteran Affairs Veteran Transition Improvement Act amends Title 38 to apply the Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act to newly hired VA Title 38 employees. The bill also makes minor technical fixes to reorganize existing law on the VA’s leave transfer program and moves this statute in a new section together with the disabled veteran leave requirement.
 
Impact: According to January 2017 data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), there are over 13,000 Title 38 vacancies nationwide. Passage of the bill is urgent because those disabled veterans VA hires should have access to the additional leave they are entitled to on day one.
 
Supporters: National Association of VA Physicians and Dentists (NAVAPD), Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and the Federal Managers Association (FMA) support this bill.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
The head of Montana's Veterans Affairs program on Friday outlined plans to expand facilities in the state, add services, increase efforts to prevent veteran suicides and provide housing for homeless vets. Dr. Kathy Berger, director of Montana VA Health Care System, told about 50 people at Helena College about progress Montana VA has made for the state's 98,000 veterans since she took over in October 2016.  She noted that Montana VA leads regional hospitals in treatment of nine of 13 categories that include Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection, post-op sepsis and post-op hip fractures and exceeds national averages as well. It is in the top 10 percent of eight of 13 categories.
 
She said she was "quite pleased" overall with how Montana VA ranked compared to others.
Berger said the department had 35,540 patients in 2016, has total revenues of $16,985,701 in Fiscal Year 2017 and expenditures of $174,650,674. "Sometimes it's hard to make our dollars stretch like we'd like them to," she said.  Projects include an 18,000 square-foot primary care in 2018 and 18,000 square-foot outpatient mental health clinic at Fort Harrison in Helena in 2019.  She said there are plans to remodel some of the vacant brick buildings on the Fort Harrison campus into housing for homeless veterans.
 
In Missoula, there are plans to expand the Missoula clinic from 20,000-square-feet to 60,000 square feet in 2022, Berger said.  It will add services such as radiology, pathology, dental, gastroenterology, prosthetics and home-based primary care.  She said this would keep people from having to come from Missoula to Helena for treatment. Leases for Community-Based Outpatient Clinics will be executed in 2018 for Browning, Cut Bank, Great Falls, Havre, Lewistown, Anaconda, Bozeman, Kalispell, Hamilton, Glendive and Glasgow, Berger said.  And Berger said Montana VA would increase efforts to prevent veteran suicides in Montana.  She noted there were 46 suicides in 2015 and 111 attempts. There were 23 in 2017, but the attempts had increased to 134. Berger said they would add positions to aid in core mental health services and set priorities to combat suicide.
 
Veteran Morgan Hawley of Hays attended the meeting, “I'm glad to hear they are building bigger facilities," he said.  "I was impressed with the size of the budget," said veteran Jim Nys of Clancy, who added he was a little overwhelmed by all of the acronyms used in the speech.  Berger said afterward that Montana VA was able to make progress because the leadership has remained constant for the first time in several years. She was named permanent director in October 2016.  She also said top management jobs had been filled.  "Employees, when given a chance, will dig in and get things done," Berger said.  Moreover, she said previous officials had done things to improve the facilities and that the expansion projects were "sorely needed."  "We are busting at the seams for space," Berger said.
 
Montana has one of the largest per capita veteran populations. It along with Alaska and Maine has about 10 percent of its population as veterans, according to an analysis of VA and Census Bureau data by the Washington Post.  In September, the Montana VA Health Care System received a three-star rating for quality, improving its one-star grade from earlier this year.  In January, Montana VA received a 1-star rating for VA facilities in the lowest (fifth) quintile.  The rating, which ranges from one to five, was done through the VA's Strategic Analytics and Improved Learning Value Model and applies to the health care system throughout the state.
 
The Montana VA Health Care System has a presence in every major city in the state through community-based clinics, a community living center and an acute care medical center.  Berger said Montana VA has 1,166 full-time employees and 152 full-time vacancies.  It has had 43 retirements since October 2016, which accounts for 676 years of experience. It has had 83 newly created jobs since February 29 of those at Fort Harrison.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), El Paso, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (DC), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base (CO), Uncasville (CT), Warwick (RI) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
If you are a veteran with a small business, do you have veteran certification from the state of Missouri and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs?  If not, you could be passing up valuable opportunities through government contracting programs.
 
Both the state and the VA give service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) priority for some contracts. The VA also gives special consideration to veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs), and it can offer set-aside and sole-source contracts to SDVOSBs and VOSBs.  These programs result in a large number of Missouri SDVOSB and VOSB companies receiving federal contracts.
 
Recent federal laws and a sympathetic new VA procurement hierarchy also place the highest priority on SDVOB contracts, followed by VOSB contracts. This procurement authority is a logical extension of VA’s mission to care for our nation’s veterans.  VA refers to its program as the Veterans First Contracting Program.  Veterans First Contracting Program To qualify for this program, you must first have your status as a veteran verified. You can find step-by-step instructions at the following website: 1.usa.gov/1PZgYW8. It provides an overview of the process, screen shots for submitting an application and detailed explanations.
 
Seeking veteran certification can be complex, but the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) has locations across the state where counselors can help with the process.  Even better, these counselors have received training on certification rules from the VA itself, through its Verification Assistance Program. The goal of the program is simple: To reduce denials due to lack of understanding and misinterpretation.
 
Meanwhile, the state of Missouri’s Division of Purchasing and Materials Management (DPMM) has a set-aside program for service-disabled veteran enterprises. DPMM’s goal is to award 3 percent of all contracts for jobs or services to qualified service-disabled veteran business enterprises (SDVEs).
 
The program also has a bonus point system for bidders who meet the requirements of a SDVE on bids or proposals for any job or service, not just set-aside contracts, though there are a few exceptions. A qualified SDVE vendor can obtain DPMM contracts and bonus points by using qualified subcontractors or suppliers that provide at least 3 percent of the total contract’s value.
Any individual, business or organization that meets the definition of a service-disabled veteran and service-disabled veteran business enterprise may submit an application form with copies of discharge papers and other documentation to DPMM. DPMM will then review the completed application form and documentation to determine if the individual, business or organization qualifies as a SDVE.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
Associated Press is reporting that the I.R.S. has asked a wounded veteran from Michigan to pay $62,000 in income taxes on the federal government’s cancellation of his student loans. It has become the first nationally covered story on a loophole that The American Legion has long worried will hurt wounded warriors.
 
According to Department of Education rules, a veteran who is rated permanently and totally disabled is eligible to have their education loans discharged. However, under Section 61(a)(12) of the International Revenue Code of 1986 this discharge of indebtedness is considered fully taxable. To put it succinctly: the Department of Education considers the debt forgiven, while the IRS considers the forgiveness income.
 
First Lt. Will Milzarski served two tours in Afghanistan that left him with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and hearing loss. He transitioned to a state job, but retired last year after he struggled with concentration and memory. Because he could not afford to pay his student loans while living on disability pay, he was happy to get the news that the U.S. Department of Education was cancelling $223,000 in debt. The IRS quickly swooped in to inform him that he owed them $62,000 in taxes on the forgiveness. He is also facing $8,000 in Michigan taxes, penalties and interest in addition to the federal taxes.
 
Joshua Wease, a clinical associate professor of law who directs Michigan State University’s low-income tax clinic, said the tax in this case is not logical.
 
"If an individual has been deemed disabled and unable to pay their student loans, it seems incredible that they wouldn’t also be deemed unable to pay the taxes on the forgiveness of those same student loans,” he said.
 
The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division is working with congressional staff on provisions in H.R.1659: Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act which will correct this oversight.
 
TOPIC 8: LEGISLATIVE
 
The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division is working with congressional staff on provisions in H.R.1659 Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act which will correct this oversight. On Thursday, The American Legion’s National Commander called for President Trump to veto the legislation that would effectively kill a rule that would have made it easier for consumers to sue banks and credit card companies.
 
In a statement supported by the Committee on Veterans Employment & Education’s Resolution No. 83: Protect Veteran and Servicemember Rights to Fair Consumer Arbitration, Denise Rohan declared that the Joint Resolution passed by the Senate on Wednesday night would deprive veterans and military service members of the ability to challenge unfair financial practices.
 
 “Every servicemember and veteran should have the right and responsibility to confront predatory loan practices,” American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan said.
 
The resolution would shut down a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule that would allow consumers to band together to sue banks and credit card companies. It passed 51-50 in the Senate, with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Without the rule, consumers are likely to have to enter into mandatory arbitration clauses with financial institutions, meaning that they must settle disputes in arbitration rather than in court. Trump is expected to sign the resolution into law.
 
“Our membership has stated unequivocally that we are opposed to situations where our military and veterans’ financial protections are chipped away to increase the profits of the big banks,” Rohan said.
“Repealing the CFPB arbitration rule takes away consumers' most effective tool to protect themselves against predatory lenders,” she said.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  10/27/17

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION

Week Ending 20 October 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Initial job claims, a way to measure layoffs, sank by 22,000 to 222,000 in the week ended October 14. That’s the lowest figure since March 1973 and well below the 244,000 Market Watch forecast. The more stable monthly average of claims declined by 9,500 to 248,250, though it remains somewhat elevated because of the recent hurricanes. The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, decreased by 16,000 to 1.89 million, the Department of Labor reported. That’s also a 44-year low.
 
New claims for benefits have fallen sharply after a spike last month tied to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, whose disruptions temporarily put many people out of work. Claims are now essentially back to normal in Texas and Florida. One caveat: Initial claims in Puerto Rico still appear to be artificially low because of major power struggles that have made it hard for workers to file applications. Yet even if power were fully restored, the level of claims on the island territory wouldn’t rise enough to alter the broader trends.
 
The U.S. labor market is the strongest in at least 15 years, reflecting a sturdy economic expansion now in its ninth year. The 4.2 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since 2000, and the biggest complaint among business leaders is a shortage of skilled workers to fill a record number of job openings. In addition, manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic heated up in October, the Philadelphia Fed said Thursday. Its gauge jumped 4.1 points to 27.9, the strongest reading since May. Any reading over zero signals improving conditions. Economists had forecast a reading of 20.2.
 
Overall factory conditions improved, but some details of the report softened. The new-orders gauge slipped to 19.6 from 29.5, signaling slower growth in the future. The shipments gauge also declined, to 24.4 from 37.8. But workforce measurements strengthened: the gauge that tracks the number of employees soared to 30.6 from 6.6, and the workweek tracker rose to 19.4 from 11.9. Growth in manufacturing activity isn’t just steady, it’s accelerating, and firms surveyed by the regional bank remain optimistic about the future. There are some downsides to stronger growth, however, more than 40 percent of the firms surveyed reported increases in the prices they paid for raw materials this month.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
139
131
127
94
12
37
Unemployment rate
4.4
3.9
4.8
3.4
2.3
6.9
 
National unemployment rate is 4.2 percent (September 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[1]Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 6.9 percent (down from 7.4 percent in August).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, October 16, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division met with James Todd, Regional Manager, Marine For Life (M4L), to discuss upcoming Transition Assistance Program (TAP). M4L requested that The American Legion provide materials/brochures for them to display and give away to their transitioning Marines.
 
On Monday, October 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a meeting with VA’s Customer Advocacy and Vender Advisory Service (CAVAS). Other constituents involved included VetForce, VVA, and the Legion’s Small Business Task Force. Topics discussed included procurement issues for veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs).
 
On Tuesday, October 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in Hiring Our Heroes hiring fair planning calls for Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, Washington, DC and Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, our division had a conference call with the Department of Michigan regarding a potential partnership between them and the Veteran Business Outreach Center located in Flint, Michigan.
 
On Wednesday, October 18, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division participated in a Career Fair hosted by JobZone at Fort Lee, Virginia. 180 servicemembers and veterans pre-registered for this event. All jobseekers were engaged by Legionnaires and given materials regarding the Legion’s services/programs to include membership information.
 
On Wednesday, October 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Legislative Division event awarding House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) Economic Opportunity Staff commemorative plaques for their work on the Harry Colmery GI Bill. Staffers Jon Clark and Kelsey Baron were singled out for their exceptional work on behalf of veterans and their families.
 
On Wednesday, October 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division was interviewed by the Center for Teaching and Learning on the history of The American Legion and the GI Bill, and the modern student-veteran. Specifically distinctions were explained over the differences between enlisted, non-commissioned officers and commissioned officer students, as well as the qualities that separate them from traditional students.
 
On Wednesday, October 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Kathryn Monet, Chief Executive Officer, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) to discuss the VA’s Homeless Veterans Program budget and other relevant issues surrounding veteran homelessness.
 
On Wednesday, October 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Na’Stella Graves, Transition Services Manager, Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program, at Fort Lee. We discussed issues and concerns that seems to plague transitioning soldiers and their families.
 
On Thursday, October 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with James Miller and Linda Rix-Brooks, CO-CEO’s, AVUE Technologies, to discuss the Department of Labor’s HIRE Vets Medallion Program, and the added value for employers and jobseekers if implemented properly. Additionally, there was conversation regarding the downgrading of some VA personnel. The American Legion will be meeting on Monday, October 30th, with the VA’s Assistant Secretary, Peter Shelby, to discuss our concern about the downgrading happening within the agency.
 
On Thursday, October 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in Hiring Our Heroes Hiring Fair planning calls for Mohegan, Connecticut, and El Paso, Texas.
 
On Thursday, October 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with VA’s Senior Advisor on Employment, Rosye Cloud, to express concerns about the VA’s online employment resources, many of which are not current. Ms. Cloud shared that they would work on correcting all identified links that were out of date, and asked for follow-up information on all identified links.
 
On Thursday, October 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on new data related to student loans and outcomes. Specifically, the National Center for Education Statistics released a major development in higher education data, results from the Outcome Measures survey. The survey for the first time ever shows how part-time and transfer students in college are progressing toward graduation, and indicated stronger success among transfer students.
 
On Friday, October 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Community Solutions to discuss the new Conway Residence in Washington, DC. This building contains 124 units of mixed-income housing: 60 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans; 17 units of permanent supportive housing for individuals served by DC Department of Behavioral Health; and 47 units of workforce housing for individuals making no more than 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).  Community Solutions works nationally to help communities end homelessness, both by improving local housing efforts and by working in communities of concentrated poverty to change the conditions that make people vulnerable to future homelessness.
 
On Saturday, October 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 20th anniversary and rededication of The Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington Cemetery. This memorial is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history. Visitors to the Women’s Memorial experience the collective history of women in the military along with the individual stories of registered servicewomen. The Women’s Memorial:
 
  • Recognizes all women who have served in or with the United States Armed Forces – past, present and future;
  • Documents the experiences of these women and tells their stories of service, sacrifice and achievement;
  • Makes their contributions a visible part of our history;
  • Illustrates their contribution equal to that of men in defense of our nation; and
  • Serves as inspiration for others.
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
While many veterans who served in the military after September 11, 2001, have successfully readjusted to civilian life with minimal difficulties in the first few years after they were discharged, others have experienced difficulties, according to veterans GAO heard from in discussion groups and studies GAO reviewed. These readjustment difficulties include financial and employment, relationships, legal, homelessness, and substance abuse. According to VA's strategic plan, one of its strategic objectives is to improve veteran wellness and economic security, and it states that the ultimate measure of VA's success is the veteran's success after leaving military service. However, there is limited and incomplete data to assess the extent to which veterans experience readjustment difficulties. Therefore, it is not known to what extent veterans are facing one or a combination of problems when they readjust to civilian life.
There is relatively more information available on the number of veterans who had a physical or mental condition within a few years of leaving the military. For example, one 2010 study shows that 32 percent of recently-separated veterans were diagnosed by either the Department of Defense (DOD) or the VA with a disease or injury of the musculoskeletal system. In this and other studies reviewed by GAO, estimates for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) varied from 10 to 12 percent. According to these studies, some groups of veterans - those who had served in combat and younger veterans - were more likely than others to experience readjustment difficulties or be diagnosed with a mental health condition.
While an array of VA benefits and services are available during a veteran's first few years out of the military, GAO has identified long-standing challenges with VA's delivery and management of this support. Specifically, VA provides a wide range of services and benefits through several programs, such as education, healthcare, counseling, employment, home loans, and insurance. VA informs veterans of these benefits and services before they leave military service through outreach and education. However, GAO's prior work over the last decade has shown that VA has struggled for years to, among other issues, (1) provide timely access to medical appointments, (2) make timely disability compensation decisions, and (3) coordinate the transfer of medical records from DOD. GAO has made numerous prior recommendations to address these issues, and VA has taken some actions to implement them; however, some recommendations remain unaddressed, and GAO continues to monitor VA's progress.
Agency officials and veterans GAO spoke with during this review suggested additional actions that VA can implement to improve its assistance for transitioning veterans. For example, a few VA staff suggested that VA conduct additional research to identify veterans who are predisposed to PTSD and better understand why some veterans do not use VA services. Veterans at all of the sites GAO visited suggested that it would be beneficial for separating servicemembers to have additional time to adjust to the idea of being a civilian and relearning what civilian life is like. Without comprehensive information on the difficulties experienced by recently-separated veterans, VA cannot assess risks to achieving its objectives and may be missing opportunities to enhance assistance to veterans by not providing needed services early in the veteran's readjustment process. GAO recommends that VA take steps to better understand the difficulties faced by readjusting veterans and use this information to determine how best to enhance its benefits and services for these veterans.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
When Greg Stegall left the Navy at 30 years old, he found himself utterly adrift: a single dad with no degree, no clear plans for the future and a short resume in a down job market. Struggling to find work, Stegall put his son in a boarding school for poor children and asked his parents for money and food. Nearly 30 years later, Stegall, now 58, oversees a program at a Pennsylvania food bank that delivers meals to hungry veterans. But he still regularly sees other veterans in similar situations. Military advocates like The American Legion have long warned that certain groups of veterans suffer extreme rates of hunger. Those include veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- 27 percent of whom have struggled to put food on the table.
Now, in a first-of-its-kind program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will screen all veterans who visit its healthcare facilities for hunger, asking them whether they've struggled to afford food in the past three months. That's welcome news to Stegall and other advocates, who say veterans are especially hard to reach because they're often unwilling to seek help. Any program that tries to engage hungry vets will "make a positive impact in their lives," Stegall said.
Veterans' hunger has long flown under the policy radar, in part because it varies widely between generations and regions. Overall, multiple studies have found that all veterans' rates of both poverty and food insecurity are lower than those in the general population. But there are pockets of veterans who experience hunger often. People with disabilities and mental illnesses are far more likely to be food insecure, according to data from the Department of Agriculture. An estimated 39,000 veterans were homeless in 2016, which can make it difficult to access food. Most strikingly, a 2015 paper published in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from food insecurity at more than double the national rate of 12 percent.
It isn't entirely clear why more recent veterans suffer higher rates of hunger. Researchers have hypothesized that it may relate to the state of the job market when they left the military, or to the high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. The apparent epidemic among recent veterans -- as well as urging from a bipartisan coalition of politicians and anti-hunger groups -- has prompted VA to reevaluate its food security approach. In early October, VA launched a screening initiative that will be implemented at all its facilities by the end of the month. Under the program, VA health care providers will ask all patients whether they have run out of food or struggled to pay for it within the past three months. If they say yes, VA staff will connect them to a local food pantry or community program, share information on enrolling in food stamps or refer them to follow-up care with a dietary counselor, if needed.
Advocates say this is a critical step toward addressing hunger in a vulnerable, and often unreachable, population. Veterans frequently suffer from conditions, such as disability or mental illness, that can impede them from seeking help. The stigma against accepting "handouts" is also a common problem. Experts are also hopeful the screenings will help clinicians address other diet-related health issues, such as diabetes and depression. Studies of VA patients have shown that veterans who struggle with food insecurity also tend to have problems in these areas, and VA has identified hunger as a major factor behind hypoglycemic incidents in its diabetic patients.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), El Paso, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fredericksburg (VA), Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (DC), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base (CO), Uncasville (CT), Warwick (RI) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The average age of a farmer is between 60-65, and for every five or six farmers who are retiring, only one new farmer is taking their place. With this shortage of people getting into the agricultural space, the country will soon start to see a food shortage and outsourcing of food production to other countries. Furthermore, feeding a growing population will require a 70 percent increase in food production by 2050, and veterans who enter agriculture can be a part of meeting that need. Studies have confirmed that an ever-increasing number of those enlisted in the U.S. military had their roots in rural America. With that in mind, many groups, including the Farmer Veteran Coalition and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), began to think that veterans could cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders. Veterans possess the unique skills needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems. Agriculture offers purpose, opportunity and physical and psychological benefits.
 
Many farms in Virginia are owned and operated by veterans, and Hudson Heritage Farms is just one such farm that has recently taken on the mission of helping to recruit and train other veterans who are interested in entering the farming profession. On October 26-27, Hudson Heritage Farms in South Boston will host the first veteran farming training to be held in Southern Virginia. Veterans who are already involved in agriculture are welcome, along with veterans who are considering entering an agricultural field. This conference is intended to provide basic business training and an overview of resources available to assist veterans who are interested in farming, as well as an opportunity for networking with other veterans.
 
The two-day Veteran Farming Conference will cover topics including how to start a new business, marketing, budgeting, value-added products, financing, liability, agritourism and more. Distinguished speakers include Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Basil Gooden, Department of Veteran Services Commissioner John Newby and Matthew Underwood, USDA military veteran agricultural liaison support, along with representatives from Farmer Veteran Coalition, Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, Agribility and many others. The conference also will include resource panels, exhibitor booths, time for networking and tours of two veteran-owned Halifax County farms. Registration is open now, and this event is free for veterans.
 
TOPIC 7: LEGISLATIVE
 
Congressmen heard arguments Wednesday, October 11, for cutting federal funding given to veterans who attend flight training programs, with The American Legion and Student Veterans of America explaining that schools use a loophole to charge inordinate amounts for tuition and abuse the GI Bill. Representatives from the VA also told members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity that they were concerned with the amount of money some flight schools charge students who use the GI Bill to pay for their education. According to VA data, one student was charged more than $534,000 in fiscal 2014 – a cost footed by taxpayers.
 
The Los Angeles Times first reported in 2015 that some companies avoided spending limits the VA places on private schools by working as contractors for flight training programs at public universities, which aren’t subject to caps. Congressmen are considering legislation to close that loophole, and a draft proposal that they discussed Wednesday would impose a spending cap on the flight schools. For private schools last fiscal year, the cap was slightly less than $22,000 for each student.
 
In 2016, there were about 1,700 student veterans enrolled in flight training programs at a cost to the GI Bill of about $48.5 million. It was noted that while some veterans choose to pursue a vocation in flight programs, these programs continue to operate at levels requiring vastly more resources than limits on vocational training costs. Veterans who desire a career in aviation should be able to achieve those goals, and not at the expense of the sustainability of the GI Bill. In written testimony, Matthew Zuccaro, President of Helicopter Association International, wrote his organization supported tightening regulations to prevent abuse by flight programs. However, Zuccaro, an Army helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, also wrote spending caps would “unfairly impact the ability of veterans” to pursue pilot jobs and veterans would face a “discriminatory financial burden.”
 
While many of these programs cite a national shortage of pilots as the justification for this training; the shortage exists within fixed wing aviation (planes). As Mr. Zuccaro’s affiliation alludes to, the high-priced schools are almost all for helicopter training- fixed wing flight training is significantly less expensive. There is no shortage of helicopter pilots, and their salaries are significantly lower than fixed wing pilots. In short: a high cost programs for low paying jobs is a model that is difficult to support. The House already passed legislation in 2016 to address GI Bill spending on flight programs, but the measure was dropped in the Senate. Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX) and Representative Mark Takano (CA), asked for urgency Wednesday to pass the bill again.
 
TOPIC: EDUCATION
 
In 2012, just months after graduating from New Hampshire Institute of Art, Donald and Nora Brennan’s son, Keegan, died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm. Keegan and his parents had taken out $78,000 in student loans for Keegan. The student loans were forgiven, but while the Brennans were still grieving for their son’s death, they were slapped with a tax bill of more than $33,000. Many veterans with 100 percent disability ratings are discovering that they are subject to the same tax loophole: that while they can have their student loans forgiven, the IRS will then immediately tax them for the entirety of the loans.
 
With Congress set to tackle a massive, contentious tax law proposal, there is a simple, bipartisan reform it can do right now to help thousands of grieving parents like the Brennans and hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers with total and permanent disabilities – many of whom are disabled veterans. With $1.4 trillion of student loan debt on the books and 8 million borrowers in default, many people face challenges in dealing with this debt. But student loan debt is especially burdensome for veterans transitioning out of military service and coping with a service-related disability.
 
There are programs designed to help these borrowers. But the programs come with a big catch: the possibility of a very large tax bill. Solving this problem is simple and inexpensive, but bills designed to fix this problem died in Congress last year and have yet to move this year. When a borrower dies or becomes permanently disabled before paying off a student loans, the loans can be discharged, relieving the disabled borrower or surviving family members of the burden of paying off a loan they often cannot afford. And there is a special program that allows veterans to seek federal student loan forgiveness if they receive a 100 percent disability rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs. These are good, common-sense ways to help families who are dealing with a disability or a loss with the burden of student debt.
 
But loan forgiveness comes with an unexpected side effect: The Internal Revenue Service may treat the amount of the forgiven loan as taxable income. Although some will be able to exempt this income because they are insolvent, not all will qualify. As a result, a family that was relieved to have a student loan forgiven may then end up struggling to pay a big tax bill - all while dealing with the death of a child. For many of these borrowers, this tax has collateral consequences. In order to pay the tax liability, some borrowers could be forced to sell their homes, cars or other necessary assets. Some borrowers could even lose eligibility for Medicaid because the income eligibility guidelines include canceled debt. The federal government should not require borrowers to give up medical care or the assets necessary to maintain basic necessities.
 
Disabled veterans, borrowers with disabilities and bereaved families should not be put under this kind of financial stress. Student loan forgiveness after a student’s death or disability – a policy intended to relieve a financial burden – should not lead to a huge tax bill. In 2016, The American Legion joined 33 other veterans service organizations and community organizations to support passage of the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act, which would rid the tax burden on forgiven loans. These efforts to rid the tax burden on forgiven loans have bipartisan support – even passing unanimously in the Ways and Means Committee, and was reintroduced this year in both the Senate and House.
 
The bills are sponsored in each chamber by more than a dozen representatives from both parties and have a very low price tag, but despite the valiant efforts of their sponsors, they are stalled in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees. Meanwhile, disabled borrowers and parents of deceased borrowers nationwide are still facing heavy tax bills on their forgiven loans due to a lack of Congressional action. The proposed Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act is a commonsense bipartisan measure that would immediately benefit thousands of Americans of every background and political stamp.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  10/20/17

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 6 Oct 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
For the fourth time in five months, existing-home sales fell in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million, according to a September 20 press release from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This is 1.7 percent lower than July’s 5.44 million. New home sales also took a tumble in August, according to data released September 26 by the U.S. Census Bureau. New single-family home sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000. This marks a 3.4 percent drop compared to July’s new home sales of 580,000. The drop wasn’t for lack of interest; in fact, according to NAR there were plenty of buyers vying for a home this summer. Unfortunately, other obstacles got in the way. Steady employment gains, slowly rising incomes and lower mortgage rates generated sustained buyer interest all summer long, but unfortunately, not more home sales. What’s ailing the housing market and continues to weigh on overall sales is the inadequate levels of available inventory and the upward pressure it’s putting on prices in several parts of the country. Sales have been unable to break out because there are simply not enough homes for sale.
 
Total housing inventory at the end of August was 1.88 million existing homes for sale, a 2.1 percent drop compared to the end of July. If home sales were to continue at August’s pace, this inventory would be able to sustain the market for about 4 months. At the end of August 2016, there were 2.01 million homes available. Meanwhile, new home inventory is estimated to be 284,000, about 6-month supply, according to the Census Bureau. Housing completions were also low, according to a September 19 press release form the Census Bureau. Last month, a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,075,000 privately-owned homes were completed, a 10.2 percent drop compared to July. Likewise, housing starts also fell 0.8 percent to 1,180,000.
 
Though home construction wasn’t its strongest in August, there are signs it could pick up soon. The Census Bureau reported a 5.7 percent increase in building permits, amounting to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,300,000. In its monthly outlook report for September, Freddie Mac, reported it expects new home sales to take off next year. The company anticipates 1.33 million housing starts for 2018, which will certainly help the ebbing supply of available homes. Freddie Mac also noted that it expects home price escalation to simmer a bit in 2018; U.S. house prices grew 6.3 percent in 2017 and are expected to grow just 4.9 percent in 2018. In other words, while home prices may still continue to increase, they may not be as dramatic or pose as much of an obstacle to homeownership. The company expects total home sales, including both existing and new homes, will increase 2 percent between 2017 and 2018.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
SEP
2016
SEP
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
139
131
127
94
12
37
Unemployment rate
4.4
3.9
4.8
3.4
2.3
6.9
 
National unemployment rate is 4.2 percent (September 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 6.9 percent (down from 7.4 percent in August).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, October 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division and National Commander, Denise Rohan, met with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS) Team. We discussed the National Commander’s theme for The American Legion. Additionally, there was discussion around DOL-VETS upcoming initiative to help veterans in all aspects, to include disabled veterans, women veterans, unemployment rate, transitioning veterans, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
 
On Monday, October 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Thomas Leney, Executive Director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). Topics discussed included the AbilityOne appeal against the VA for federal contracts. AbilityOne wants the Rule of Two overturned in order to secure federal contracts from Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs). Other topics included the creation of an advisory council within the VA to speak on behalf of SDVOSB’s in VA contracting.
 
On Monday, October 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division presented at Southern Maryland’s 5th Annual United Veterans Boot Camp at Legion Post 82 in La Plata, Maryland. The topic covered the services The American Legion provides to veterans seeking employment opportunities, as well as the benefits of joining an American Legion post.
 
On Tuesday, October 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Kelsey Baron, Professional Staff Member, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and Nicholas Vince, Legislative Assistant, Representative John Rutherford (SC) to discuss a bill that would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make grants eligible organizations for the provision of transition assistance to member of the Armed Forces recently separated from active-duty.
 
On Tuesday, October 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a conference call with Walter Cotton and Billy Jenkins, members of The American Legion’s Small Business Task Force. The topics included the meeting with Thomas Leney and how The American Legion will be moving forward in securing small business opportunities for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) within the VA.
 
On Wednesday, October 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the monthly partner breakfast at the VA’s Center for Women Veterans. Topics discussed included updates from VSOs and other organizations, and current pending legislation affecting women veterans.
 
On Wednesday, October 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Debra Anderson, Director for the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Mrs. Anderson would like to see how The American Legion can participate during the TAP classes.
 
On Wednesday, October 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Terry Schow, National Executive Committee member, the Department of Utah, regarding data from the Census Bureau.  During the past census (2010), the census has failed to adequately capture the true numbers of veterans within certain areas.  This is problematic since veteran funding in those areas are based off of the veteran population.  Not every veteran self identifies unless they are specifically asked.  We’ll follow up with Senator Hatch’s office next week.
 
On Wednesday, October 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a private meeting with Charles Drummond, the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Education and Training (Force Training). The information shared dealt with the upcoming November 7th roundtable, as well as how Force Training has been a critical asset in The American Legion credentialing events.
 
On Thursday, October 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Charles Brown and Robert Horton from Impact Diversity Solutions Corporation.  They’re offering a program that will assist veterans with resume writing, job searching and interviewing skills. Currently, there is draft legislation that will be part of the House Veterans’ Affairs committee hearing on Wednesday, October 11th.  If enacted, the bill would fund organization(s) that would equip veterans and their families with the necessary tools needed to find meaningful employment.
 
On Thursday, October 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Southeast Veterans Center in Washington, DC, to discuss transitional housing and their future plans on assisting homeless veterans and their families. The Center is a transitional housing program that provides an extensive list of services for homeless veterans, providing them with the tools needed to successfully return to civilian life.
 
On Thursday, October 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a roundtable with the VA’s Office of General Counsel on the “Waiver of Prohibition Against VA Employee Relationships with For-Profit Educational Institutions” federal action that was filed. Concerns were expressed that this was not done in the appropriate manner, with veterans service organizations being excluded from the decision, and finding out online through a registry notice. Additionally, there is a broader question of the legal authority for the VA to waive a federal statute without an act of Congress.
 
On Friday, October 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Swords to Plowshares to discuss their programs/services that help homeless veterans get off the street and transition into permanent housing.
 
On Friday, October 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS) to discuss future initiatives that would address their apprenticeship program.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The United States was facing a crisis in veteran unemployment, with veterans facing higher unemployment rates than civilians. Recognizing the need and positive impact of veterans in the workforce, the American business community refocused on hiring veterans, nonprofit organizations worked to mitigate veteran unemployment challenges, and the government created programs to assist veterans seeking employment. Through these efforts, veteran unemployment has now decreased to levels below civilian unemployment. Despite our success in reducing veteran unemployment, companies still face significant challenges in recruiting, hiring, and retaining veteran talent.
In partnership with the Bush Institute, Hiring Our Heroes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation reached out to leaders across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to further examine the causes of current veteran employment issues and to set the stage for collaborative action. This task force developed recommendations on how to mitigate and overcome these veteran employment challenges. Throughout these three meetings - in March, May, and June - the task force used the veteran employment life cycle as a framework to discuss issues and opportunities associated with each interconnected phase of the life cycle:
  • Pre-Transition: Activities, along with the supporting tools and resources, available to transitioning veterans during their transition from the military.
  • Recruiting and Hiring: The process by which organizations attract, select, and appoint suitable candidates for professional roles.
  • Onboarding and Integration: The process of getting an employee into the organization, networked and aligned to become effective members of an organization.
  • Retention: The process by which an organization retains employees in its workforce; often refers to the strategies for retention rather than the outcome of those strategies and includes setting conditions for employees to progress along a career path.
    While separate and distinct, each stage is dependent on the other, and, for enduring success, members of private, public, and nonprofit organizations must take a synchronized approach to reinforce a successful veteran employment strategy. Task force member discussions revealed that many veterans lack a clear sense of what type of job or industry they would like to pursue or do not know how to articulate how their skills translate to the civilian workforce. Another issue the members identified is that talent acquisition members lack military knowledge and context for evaluating veteran candidates. Starting the transition process earlier could enable veterans to spend more time thinking about employment before transitioning out of service. Since there is an absence of comprehensive veteran employment data, task force members agreed an opportunity exists to re-visit veteran employment data collection, sharing, and analysis.
    From their discussions, the task force members identified key issue areas and provided corresponding recommendations to support veterans in finding purposeful, full-time employment.
    Key Recommendation Areas:
  • Increase public-private partnerships to improve veteran employment outcomes;
  • Expand apprenticeship, fellowship, and internship programs for transitioning service members;
  • Expand data collection, sharing and analysis;
  • Enhance employer hiring, onboarding and retention best practices;
  • Identify opportunities to customize transition assistance;
  • Create and expand DoD programs; and
  • Identify opportunities for expanding aptitude testing.
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Over 50 community organizations will come together Friday, October 6, to offer services and information as part of the Grant County (IN) Veteran Stand Down. For homeless veterans and any veteran in need, the stand down will offer booths on just about anything a veteran might need -- filing a claim, building a resume, enrolling in healthcare, finding a home as well as offering goods such as clothing and appliances. "These stand downs are a collaborative effort within the community with nonprofits and community organizations and county agencies where we highlight the awareness of homelessness and to help identify the homeless and extend services," said Wayne McBride, chief of staff for the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The VA will be present on Friday and offer a wide array of services for veterans, Bob Kelley, Volunteer Veterans Service Officer and committee member of the stand down, said. Around 200 veterans, mostly from Grant County, pass through each year, according to Kelley. Veterans are asked to bring a copy of their VA or military ID or a copy of their DD214. The stand down will begin on Friday at 8:45am with an opening ceremony, at the Grant County Family YMCA. The event itself will run from 9am to 2pm. Community members offering services include Walgreen's, which will administer flu shots and have donated travel kits, and Indiana Wesleyan University will conduct health screenings. "Stand downs were made to help veterans realize all the services available to them," he said.
 Kelley said they will open doors to the veteran warehouse which has clothing, dishes and appliances. Veterans will be free to take whatever they need. Combating homelessness among veterans is an emphasis at all stand downs. Kelley said they have success each year finding veterans who are in need of housing. "Every year we've been able to identify veterans that could use a place to live," he said. Anyone who is looking to get involved with the stand down has plenty of options. Kelley said people can donate to the veteran warehouse, especially small appliances. Anyone willing to volunteer is encouraged to go to the YMCA on Friday.
 Kelley said they will go above and beyond to make sure any veteran can get the help they need. "If you know a veteran that is a shut in, call the 'Y' and we will come pick them up," he said. The Grant County Family YMCA can be reached at (765) 664-0544.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Camp Lejeune, El Paso, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Lee (VA), Herndon (VA), Honolulu, Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base (CO), Rochester (MI), San Antonio, San Francisco, Uncasville (CT), Warwick (RI) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The state of New York is giving grants of up to $50,000 to farmers who are veterans for the purchase of equipment, repair of buildings and other measures to boost production. The Veterans Farmer Grant Fund was approved last week by the board of directors of Empire State Development, the state’s primary business aid group. The agency will administer the $250,000 fund. Eligible veterans have until January 26, 2018, to apply for grants between $15,000 and $50,000. The fund was established by the State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo in the 2016-17 state budget. Grants will not exceed 50 percent of the total cost of individual projects, which are to commence after February 28, 2018.
 
Applicants must own at least 50 percent of the farm, which must have had a minimum of $10,000 in sales last year. They also must provide proof of their military service. The state fund is the latest aid initiative for farmers who are veterans. The Farmer Veteran Coalition, a California-based group, offers grants to third parties who purchase equipment and supplies for veterans just starting out in farming or ranching. The coalition has awarded $1.2 million since it began in 2011. Last month, the coalition opened a New York State chapter, led by retired Army Colonel John Lemondes, who raises sheep and produces maple syrup and honey in upstate Jamestown.
 
The new veterans grant fund is based on the state’s New Farmers Grant Fund, established four years ago to help young people pursue careers in agriculture. The fund has allocated more than $2.4 million since 2014. Local grant recipients include Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard in Peconic and Cutchogue, Bhumi Farms in East Hampton, Browder’s Birds in Mattituck and Condzella Hops in Wading River.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is pushing to suspend a 50-year-old ethics law that prevents employees from receiving money or owning a stake in for-profit colleges that pocket hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition paid through the GI Bill of Rights. The VA’s Office of General Counsel held a heated session with VSO advocates, including The American Legion this past Wednesday where they were accused of lowering protections for student-veterans. The agency said the conflict-of-interest law - enacted after scandals enveloped the for-profit education industry - is now redundant and outdated, with “illogical and unintended consequences” affecting employees who have no real conflict of interest, such as a VA doctor teaching a course at a school attended by veterans with educational benefits.
 
But veterans’ groups and ethics experts reject those arguments and say the department is abandoning protections for veterans and taxpayers. We worry that the effort is part of a larger rollback of federal safeguards that were instituted before President Trump took office to combat abuses and fraud by for-profit colleges. Several officials who worked in the for-profit college industry and had criticized the Obama-era crackdown as excessive, for example, have joined the Education Department, which administers and polices the federal student loan program and the industry. The proposal to suspend the ethics law was published in the Federal Register in mid-September and is scheduled to take effect on October 16, but no public hearings have been scheduled and no public comments have yet been submitted.
 
“It’s just reckless and sloppy,” said Walter Shaub Jr, former director of the Office of Government Ethics. He questioned why such a blanket exception for more than 330,000 agency employees should exist when the law allows waivers for individuals or even classes of individuals, like those teaching courses. Invoking the waiver also requires public hearings. Most troubling is that the move seems like an attempt by the executive branch to overrule the legislative branch. They are saying that the statute is unreasonable, but instead of asking for a vote on changing the law they are making their own rules. One concern of critics is that officials at the organization’s upper levels could be making decisions about a college in which they have a financial interest, like permitting a school with a record of abuses to recruit at military bases. Another is that people advising veterans about their educational benefits could steer students to a particular school because they were on the payroll.
 
Two months ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee issued a report during its debate over the military budget instructing the department to review the statute - but its concern was that the current rules “may be inadequate to identify conflicts of interest that can develop” because of gifts or expensive meals. And a report issued in July by the director of the agency’s Education Service found that financial issues involving tuition and fees were by far the leading complaint among students who had called the agency’s GI Bill hotline since 2014. Dozens of other agencies also have supplemental ethics rules that have been written to address potential problems specific to those agencies. Senator Patty Murray (WA), a longtime advocate for veterans, said she planned to look into the agency’s decision. “I am deeply concerned the VA is opening the door for predatory for-profits to take advantage of men and women who have bravely served our country,” she said.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  10/6/17

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 29 September 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Fixed mortgage rates’ upward climb stalled this week as weak housing data put a damper on investors’ enthusiasm. According to the latest data released Thursday, September 28, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average maintained at 3.83 percent with an average 0.6 point, same as it was a week ago (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 3.42 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average was flat, holding steady at 3.13 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.72 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average rose to 3.20 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.17 percent a week ago and 2.81 percent a year ago.
 
Recently released data showed the housing market slowed down in August – pending sales of homes fell 2.6 percent and existing sales of homes fell 1.7 percent. Both measures have declined in four of the past five months. New home sales dropped 1.7 percent. Meanwhile, home prices continue to rise. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index gained 5.9 percent in July as constrained supply has put upward pressure on prices. In a speech earlier this week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen spoke of the danger of the central bank ‘moving too gradually’ when raising interest rates. Because of her remarks and despite this year’s low inflation, investors continue to anticipate a rate hike in December. Rising home prices and mortgage rates are likely to cause a bigger slowdown in the housing market.
 
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed have differing opinions on where home loan rates are headed. A majority say rates will fall, a third say they will rise and a quarter say they will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Although mortgage rates felt a little increase after last week’s Fed meeting, they have remained relatively flat since that time. The Fed did keep a final rate increase on the table for 2017 and stated a target of at least three rate hikes for 2018. August saw the housing market take a small tumble as all three sales figures (pending, new and existing) fell, both month-over-month and year-over-year. Most are pointing to an issue of supply but increasing home prices have also put a wrench in mortgage transactions.
 
Mortgage applications were also flat this week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 0.5 percent. The refinance index fell 4 percent, while the purchase index increased 3 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 50.8 percent of all applications. Mortgage rates increased to their highest level in almost a month following a relatively hawkish Fed statement last week, driving the decline in refinance activity. The Federal Reserve announced the start of its plan to reduce the size of its balance sheet and indicated plans to increase short-term rates one more time this year. Purchase applications increased slightly last week, but were still weighed down by tight inventories of homes for sale and lingering effects from the hurricanes.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
147
139
110
99
37
40
Unemployment rate
4.7
4.2
4.2
3.5
7.3
7.4
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (August 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 7.4 percent (up from 3.6 percent in July).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, September 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a conference call with SOLID Design and International Brotherhood of Teamsters to determine goals for the upcoming Credentialing Summit. Initial plans were drafted for working groups.
 
On Monday, September 25, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division had a conference call with Janis Bailey, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, American Security Programs (ASP), regarding employment opportunities. They would prefer that the veteran have military police background but it is not required. These position are “IMMEDIATE HIRE” positions. ASP is a premium contract security services company based in Northern Virginia and a wholly owned subsidiary of SecurAmerica.
 
On Tuesday, September 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a VET-Force meeting at the Smithsonian Museum. Topics discussed included small business contracting with the Smithsonian, and Supplier Diversity. VET-Force advocates for the support of America’s service-disabled and other veteran-owned entrepreneurial enterprises, as one way for veterans to provide economic security and prosperity for their families and for the communities they live in.
 
On Tuesday, September 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a press call with Americans for Financial Reform to discuss The American Legion’s opposition to congressional actions that would overturn rules on forced arbitration for consumers and servicemembers alike in the wake of the Equifax data breach and Wells Fargo scandal. Over our National Convention, the National Veterans Employment & Education Commission’s Subcommittee on Veterans Education, Other Benefits & Homelessness foresaw this potential crisis, and voted forward Resolution No. 83: Protect Veteran and Servicemember Rights to Fair Consumer Arbitration.
 
On Tuesday, September 26, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division met with Onward to Opportunities in Partnership with the Veterans Career Transition Program (O2O-VCTP) regarding their programs that are designed to assist servicemembers, veterans and spouses. There are three tracks that they offer: 1) Customer Excellence; 2) Information Technology; and 3) Business Management- Project Management. O2O-VCTP is a free career training program that provides professional certification and job placement support to transitioning servicemembers, veterans and military spouses.
 
On Wednesday, September 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a meeting with National Industries for the Blind (NIB). Meeting topics included veteran employment opportunities with NIB, and AbilityOne’s appeal regarding contracting preferences for veterans within the VA.
 
On Wednesday, September 27, the National Veterans Employment and Education Division had a conference call with retired Major General Gary Patton, Vice President, Veterans Outreach for CACI, to discuss their immense need of filling employment vacancies within their organization. Relocation expenses may be included depending on position. CACI provides information solutions and services in support of national security missions and government transformation for Intelligence, Defense, and Federal Civilian customers. Last year, CACI won the Governor’s Award – presented by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe – for the most veterans hired in Virginia among companies with 1001+ employees.
 
On Thursday, September 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a Career Fair in Washington, DC that targeted low-income and homeless individuals – to include veterans and their spouses. Employers that participated in the event were Ambit Energy, CVS Caremark, Department of Employment Services, Four Seasons Hotel, Giant Food, Walmart, MGM National Harbor, Capitol Police, Keany Produce and Premier Financial Alliance – to include others. 
 
On Thursday, September 28,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Peter Shelby, Assistant Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs Human Resources and Administration,  to discuss the downgrading of low-level VA positions. A follow-up meeting was scheduled for next week.
 
On Thursday, September 28,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Linda Rix-Brooks and James Miller, CO-CEO’s, AVUE Technologies to discuss issues regarding the VA downgrading of low-level positions, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the possible effect of the Government-wide Reduction in Force (RIF).
 
On Friday, September 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Eric Grumdahl, Director of Special Projects, Minnesota Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, to discuss their challenges and progress in eliminating veteran homelessness. In the past year, eighteen southwest Minnesota counties have found housing for every known homeless veteran. The VA and its partners have housed 856 people, and are looking to find homes for about 200 more.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Hiring opportunities for veterans in FY 2017 (Oct 1, 2016 – September 30, 2017) continued to improve throughout Federal Executive Branch of Government. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has released the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch report for FY 2016, and the government-wide data continues to be positive. In FY16, more than 71,000 veterans entered civil service, increasing the total number of veterans to 635,266 in the federal government. That number adds up to 11,000+ more veterans employed by Executive Branch agencies compared to the previous year.
Data on veteran employment has been published by OPM every year since Executive Order 13518 “Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government” and the Veterans Employment Initiative (VEI) was established in 2009. Federal agencies have used the VEI to meet many of their mission critical staffing needs, while benefitting from the skills, training, and dedication veterans, transitioning servicemembers and their families bring to federal service. Veterans now represent approximately one-third (31.1 percent) of the total U.S. federal workforce, marking a five percentage point rise since the initiative was implemented in 2009. The retention rates for veterans are encouraging as well, with many agencies retaining newly hired veterans at rates near those of their non-veteran employees.
The VEI is governed by an Interagency Council on Veterans Employment, comprised of the federal government’s 24 largest departments and agencies that provide the VEI with overall vision and strategic direction. The Council is co-chaired by the Secretaries of Labor and Veterans Affairs, with the Director of OPM serving as Vice-Chair. “OPM’s critical leadership role on the Council has steadied the direction and strength of this initiative,” said Acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan. “The Veterans Employment Initiative in FY 2016 has achieved great success and I look forward to the strong collaboration of Council members and its Steering Committee for continued success in the return on investment of hiring our nation’s veterans as we move forward,” said McGettigan.
"It has been very encouraging to see more opportunities for veteran hires to significantly address the critical staffing needs the federal government faces,” said Hakeem Basheerud-Deen, OPM’s Director of Veterans Services and Executive Director of the Council. “OPM continues to support the Veterans Employment Initiative. We remain committed to offering opportunities for Federal agencies to learn about the benefits of making skillful use of the veteran hiring authorities to meet hiring needs. We will also continue to provide federal agencies with suggestions for best practices, such as the benefits of continuous feedback from individuals actively engaged in the veteran hiring process and how such engagement will help the Initiative to continually evolve to meet the needs of Federal agencies and veterans,” said Basheerud-Deen.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
On September 18, Senator Dean Heller (NV), a senior member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, welcomed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announcement that several agencies in Las Vegas, Reno, and Sun Valley, Nevada will receive federal funds to help homeless veterans. The funds were made possible through the VA's Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program, and a total of $188 million will be awarded to community agencies around the country that provide services to homeless veterans. 
 
"No veteran should be forced to live on the streets after serving their country. I'm pleased the VA recognizes the good and meaningful work organizations in our communities are doing to ensure Nevada's warriors have a place to call home," said Heller. "As a senior member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee representing 300,000 veterans living in Nevada, I will continue to push for policies that reduce the rate of veteran homelessness and help put the men and women who answered our nation's call on a successful path after separating from the military." The Nevada agencies receiving federal funding include:
 
  • HELP Las Vegas Housing Corporation - Las Vegas
  • HELP Las Vegas Housing Corporation II - Las Vegas
  • The Salvation Army - Las Vegas
  • United States Veterans Initiative (U.S.VETS) - Las Vegas
  • WestCare Nevada, Inc. - Reno
  • Vitality Unlimited - Sun Valley 
     
    Senator Heller has been a long-time champion of fighting veteran homelessness. Earlier this year, Heller introduced the Creating a Reliable Environment (CARE) for Veterans' Dependents Act, a bipartisan bill that would ensure that children of homeless veterans are eligible for services provided to that veteran by VA-funded facilities. In May, Heller spoke at a Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing about the legislation. In 2012, he authored the Women's Homeless Veterans Act, a bill to provide shelters and short-term housing to women who become homeless after serving in the military. Heller also recently joined several of his colleagues in advocating for three critical programs to help homeless veterans across the country: Supporting Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program; the GDP Program; and services provided by the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Camp Lejeune, El Paso, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Lee (VA), Herndon (VA), Honolulu, Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base (CO), Rochester (MI), San Antonio, San Francisco, Uncasville (CT), Warwick (RI) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The state of New York is giving grants of up to $50,000 to farmers who are veterans for the purchase of equipment, repair of buildings and other measures to boost production. The Veterans Farmer Grant Fund was approved last week by the board of directors of Empire State Development, the state’s primary business aid group. The agency will administer the $250,000 fund. Eligible veterans have until January 26, 2018, to apply for grants between $15,000 and $50,000. The fund was established by the State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo in the 2016-17 state budget. Grants will not exceed 50 percent of the total cost of individual projects, which are to commence after February 28, 2018.
 
Applicants must own at least 50 percent of the farm, which must have had a minimum of $10,000 in sales last year. They also must provide proof of their military service. The state fund is the latest aid initiative for farmers who are veterans. The Farmer Veteran Coalition, a California-based group, offers grants to third parties who purchase equipment and supplies for veterans just starting out in farming or ranching. The coalition has awarded $1.2 million since it began in 2011. Last month, the coalition opened a New York State chapter, led by retired Army Colonel John Lemondes, who raises sheep and produces maple syrup and honey in upstate Jamestown.
 
The new veterans grant fund is based on the state’s New Farmers Grant Fund, established four years ago to help young people pursue careers in agriculture. The fund has allocated more than $2.4 million since 2014. Local grant recipients include Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard in Peconic and Cutchogue, Bhumi Farms in East Hampton, Browder’s Birds in Mattituck and Condzella Hops in Wading River.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs has abruptly revoked a Garland, Texas vocational training school's ability to enroll veterans through the GI Bill, halting classes and sending as many as 300 students home with less than half of their training program completed. The VA confirmed Thursday afternoon that the Texas Veterans Commission Education Program has withdrawn approval of the Retail Ready Career Center (RRCC) in Garland to train GI Bill beneficiaries. As a result, those students "will no longer receive GI Bill benefits at the school, and any future certification of G.I. Bill students is prohibited." Students have shared that federal investigators first visited the campus on West Kingsley Road a week ago. They returned Wednesday of this week and ordered the school shut down. The majority of the students, in a 6-week training program to become HVAC technicians, are military veterans who either sought out the program or, in some cases, were recruited by Retail Ready Career Center to join their classes.
 
Students say the 6-week program is paid for with 11-weeks of their GI Bill benefits, approximately $20,000. "They didn't give us any explanation," said Army veteran and RRCC student Justin Arreola. "They just told us to get our things and get out. It was right in the middle of the class. Head instructor walks in, tells us sorry guys the school is shutting down, you all have to leave the building immediately." Students were drawn to the program in Garland from across the country, provided housing in extended stay hotels throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and bused to and from the school campus. Arreola says that when the VA ordered a stop to the GI Bill funding, the school offered many of the veterans airline tickets home. "We were promised a lot of stuff. And basically told us to leave with no answers, no explanations whatsoever," said Army veteran Peter Szczepaniak who left Garland Thursday to drive home to his wife and family in San Antonio. He, along with the current students in his class, began their courses on September 11 and were scheduled to receive their full certifications by October 21. "We just want answers from the owner and I don't think it's right. And that's all I have to say about that," Szczepaniak said. An attorney for the company issued the following statement: "The Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting an administrative review that has temporarily suspended classes. We hope to resolve this soon. Retail Ready Career Center is attempting to address any issues that may have arisen from this unfortunate situation."
 
Students say they have been told the investigation has to do with whether the GI Bill money was being properly collected and properly spent, something the U.S. Attorney’s Office would neither confirm nor deny. Other students contacted by WFAA (local news station) complained the VA shut down the program with little or no concern for the veterans involved. They ask why the VA didn't allow the students to just finish the final 4-weeks of their training that their veterans’ benefits had paid for. In the meantime, as many as 300 students, mostly veterans from across the country, are headed home with another unexpected battle to fight. "Yesterday I saw grown men that had seen combat, cry on the bus because of what happened," Justin Arreola said. "A lot of them had left jobs, a lot of them quit well-paying jobs to come here to get educated to be able to provide for their families better. And they broke down not knowing what they were going to do at that point." A VA spokesperson says it is assessing the impact of these actions on GI Bill students attending the school and will be updating the students soon on their options going forward.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  9/29/17

 


 NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 22 September 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
On Wednesday, September 20, several benchmarks mortgage rates climbed higher. The average rates on 30-year fixed and 15-year mortgages both moved up. Meanwhile, the average rate on 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages also increased. Rates for mortgages change daily, but they remain much lower overall than they were before the Great Recession. The average rate you’ll pay for a 30-year fixed mortgage is 3.77 percent, up 3 basis points from a week ago. A month ago, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was higher, at 3.83 percent.
 
At the current average rate, you’ll pay $464.25 per month in principal and interest for every $100,000 you borrow. That’s up $1.70 from what it would have been last week. The average 15-year fixed-mortgage rate is 2.97 percent, up 2 basis points over the last week. Monthly payments on a 15-year fixed mortgage at that rate will cost around $689 per $100,000 borrowed. That may squeeze your monthly budget than a 30-year mortgage would, but it comes with some big advantages: you’ll save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan in total interest paid and build equity much more rapidly.
 
The average rate on a 5/1 ARM is 3.15 percent, up 4 basis points over the last week. These types of loans are best for those who expect to sell or refinance before the first or second adjustment. Rates could be substantially higher when the loan first adjusts, and thereafter. Monthly payments on a 5/1 ARM at 3.15 percent would cost about $430 for each $100,000 borrowed over the initial five years, but could climb hundreds of dollars higher afterward, depending on the loan’s terms.
 
Additionally, almost a decade after the financial world plunged into its biggest crisis in generations, the U.S. Federal Reserve has taken the landmark decision to start unwinding some of the stimulus it created to ward off a second Great Depression. The Fed will start cutting its $4.5 trillion balance sheet in October, initially by just $10 billion per month. Fed chair Janet Yellen said the normalization process would be gradual and predictable. Policymakers also left U.S. interest rates unchanged, at 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. The Fed committee expects to raise borrowing costs once more this year, followed by three raises in 2018.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
147
139
110
99
37
40
Unemployment rate
4.7
4.2
4.2
3.5
7.3
7.4
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (August 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 7.4 percent (up from 3.6 percent in July).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, September 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the annual Air Space & Cyber Conference sponsored by the Air Force Association (AFA). During this event, the Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, briefed on the state of the Air Force, as well as listed her 5 priorities for the Air Force. AFA brings together Air Force senior leaders including the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Major Command Commanders, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, and many more. The conference includes three days of rich discussions and insights into transformational factors that guide the Air Force today. The agenda addressed:  Changing defense strategies; Operational issues; Legislative changes; Force structure; and the Defense market.
 
On Monday, September 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with LTC. Ramit Ring, Employment Director, Soldier for Life, to discuss upcoming changes and new point of contacts within Soldier for Life in different regions across the country.
 
On Monday, September 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with Americans for Financial Reform, AMVETS, VVA and the National Military Family Association about new developments in Joint Resolution 47, which would nullify a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule regulating arbitration agreements in financial products and services. At the National Convention, our commission submitted and passed Resolution No. 83: Protect Veteran and Servicemember Rights to Fair Consumer Arbitration, making The American Legion’s position on this clear and in favor of protecting veterans and servicemembers rights to fair arbitration. As a result of sharing this information, our division was asked to provide remarks for a Wednesday, September 20, press conference organized by Senator Jack Reed (RI).
 
On Tuesday, September 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division presented on CBS Radio regarding veteran entrepreneurship, and what The American Legion is doing to advocate for it. Center Director, Emily King from Bunker Labs was also present, and had mentioned forming partnerships with other VSO’s to aid in veteran entrepreneurship outreach.
 
On Tuesday, September 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Karin Childress, National Director Veteran Employment and Partner Development, Military.com, to discuss the implementation and launching of their new “Military Translator” and renewal of our current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). 
 
On Tuesday, September 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Business Roundtable’s conference call briefing. The conference call objective was to release the results of the third quarter CEO economic outlook survey.
 
On Tuesday, September 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division facilitated a conference call with the leadership of Suburban Propane. The company is looking to expand their search for veterans to fill vacant positions within their organization -- positions are located nationwide (41 states). Suburban Propane are offering lucrative incentives to assist with their recruitment efforts, such as  payment of CDL and endorsement fees. New Jersey and other states have a Veteran CDL waiver program (see http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/Commercial/milway.htm), Reservists Training Compensation Program, Veteran Buddy Program, and Military Relocation Assistance.
 
On Wednesday, September 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a phone call meeting with a veteran to help him find resources in starting a small business.
 
On Wednesday, September 20,  the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Robin Noonan, Manager, Naval Institute Press, to discuss different opportunities for them to assist veterans at Career Fairs. Naval Institute Press works closely with Military.com. Naval Institute Press provides an independent forum for those who read, think, speak and write to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to global security.
 
On Wednesday, September 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Jason Wright, Vice President Military and Veterans Affairs, JP Morgan Chase & CO., to discuss upcoming hiring initiatives in the Greater Chicago area.
 
On Wednesday, September 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division provided remarks at a press conference organized by Senator Jack Reed on “The CFPB Forced Arbitration Rule”. Joining Assistant Director John Kamin were John McElligot, Deputy Executive Director of the Commissioned Officers Association; Paul Bland, Executive Director of Public Justice; and Tracy Kilgore, a Wells Fargo fake account victim. The purpose was to raise awareness of how servicemembers and veterans are affected by consumer arbitration, as well as share The American Legion’s official position.
 
On Wednesday, September 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a long awaited call with the VA’s Education Service Office. The discussion covered the lack of an American Legion representative on the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education (VACOE), the lack of VA action on Ashford University, and a covert attempt that was discovered to amend VA rules to allow VA employees to own stocks and accept gifts from for-profit institutions.
 
On Thursday, September 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation titled “Uniform Champions: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Excellent Assistance for Veterans.” This is the first veterans event at The Heritage Foundation in recent years. The featured speaker was Thomas Meyer, Director of Veterans Services at The Philanthropy Roundtable.
On Friday, September 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with a Military Fellow at DOD to discuss veteran homelessness and the challenges of reintegrating these men and women back into mainstream society.
 
On Friday, September 22, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a conference call with Billy Jenkins and Bill Elmore (small business task force members) to discuss creating a resolution that would direct the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development Office to create a position for a veteran procurement contracting officer. This position would oversee federal agencies and recommend policies that would increase Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) participation in federal contracting.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
At BAE Systems, an international defense and aerospace company and Department of Defense contractor, there’s an added reason to recruit veterans: Many jobs actually require military experience. Because of that, in many ways the transition and acclimation period for veterans is reduced, said Chris Davison, who works in veteran recruiting and is the Warrior Integration Program manager at BAE Systems. When veterans get hired, there’s a good chance they’ll be working on equipment that they’ve used on active-duty, he said. And besides that, the company uses much of same jargon that would be familiar to military employees. "We’re a company that not only supports the military, that’s our main customer – our sole customer, in many cases," he said. "There’s really not a big learning curve I guess. Any veteran would be very well served if they just take a look at us."
 
At the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center in downtown Washington, DC, there’s a glass wall with a sign that reads, "Don’t go it alone." It’s a phrase servicemembers learn to live by and something that the century-old consulting firm wants to remind its employees. The center’s director, former Marine Corps Cobra pilot Kurt Scherer, said his military training and skills have been more useful to him on the job than what he learned attending Harvard Business School. "I think it’s the focus on people, the leadership, the ability to work hard at a task, the privilege of serving something larger than yourself," Scherer said of how military experience applies to working at the company, which dedicates 70 percent of its recruiting budget to finding military-connected employees.
 
Recruiters at several companies on this year’s list told Military Times that when they meet with veterans at Job Fairs or elsewhere, they’re not necessarily looking for people who already know how to translate their military experience into "civilianese," as General Motors’ Kinsey calls it. They’re looking for soft skills – such as integrity, trainability and leadership – taught in the military that carry over into the civilian sector.  Many companies also said they engage in aggressive follow-up tactics with candidates to determine whether they’d be a good fit for their company and then advocate for them with the appropriate hiring managers behind the scenes. The companies that responded to the survey have an average of four recruiters devoting at least half of their time to military and veteran applicants, and about 40 percent of companies have an internal tool that translates MOS codes for recruiters so that they can better understand applicants’ military experience.
 
Developing strategies to help recruiters and hiring managers better connect with military candidates has been part of Vivian Greentree’s job at First Data. When she joined the global payment and technology solutions company in 2014, she spearheaded a company-wide military engagement strategy called First Data Salutes. As the then-head of military and veteran affairs, Greentree, a Navy veteran and military spouse, oversaw steps to include military spouses in the company’s sourcing and recruitment strategies, change job requirements to include "equivalent military experience," and help hiring managers better understand why some spouses may have gaps or frequent changes in employment. "The different states on their resumes didn’t mean that they were running from the law," she’d tell them.
 
First Data Salutes has also led to cultural changes large and small, such as business cards for military-affiliated employees and plaques for their desks that say, "I’m a veteran," or "I’m a military spouse." Just in the last year, First Data has broadened access to its internal training platform, First Data University, where hiring managers and employees can get insight into the experience of military-affiliated employees. The company has also changed its policies for Reservists in training or on active-duty to include full civilian pay for at least part of the time they’re away. "I think the secret – the key – is having more veterans in positions of authority in the private sector," said Greentree, now senior vice president and head of corporate citizenship. "No one wants to hire a veteran more than a veteran. No one wants to hire a military spouse more than a military spouse."
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
A coalition of different groups and individuals are seeking to connect people to resources and provide free on-the-spot services. "We're trying to battle homelessness," said Susie Stuvland, a case manager with Community Action Program of East Central Oregon (CAPECO). "Homelessness is a bigger problem than we realize. As a community, we need to link arms and try to stop it." CAPECO, Home 4 Hope and veterans services in Umatilla and Morrow counties, Stuvland said, are reaching out to individuals and community partners to join them in presenting Project Community Connect & Umatilla/Morrow Veterans Stand Down. There is no fee for vendor space and there are many volunteer opportunities available.
A free yearly event, Project Community Connect alternates between venues in Pendleton and Hermiston. The upcoming event is Saturday, October 7 from 10am to 2pm at the Pendleton Convention Center, 1601 Westgate. Free transportation is available through Kayak Public Transit. Also, Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS) volunteers will provide "doggie day care" onsite while participants are attending the event. Stuvland said they want to provide a welcoming environment and eliminate barriers for people to attend. In addition, there will be many giveaways.
People who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless and veterans are invited to enjoy a hot meal, learn about available resources and to receive such services as a haircut, health screenings, dental care, vision examinations, pet care, clothing and hygiene supplies. Professionals will be on hand to provide information about housing resources, employment opportunities, adult education services, legal help (including information specific to expungement), application assistance for the Oregon Health Plan and more.
Other supportive services represented will include Domestic Violence Services, Umatilla-Morrow Head Start, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Department of Human Services. Also, veterans services representatives will be on hand to discuss specific resources available to veterans, such as employment, benefits information, healthcare and mental health services.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Camp Lejeune, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Lee (VA), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Honolulu, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base, Philadelphia, Rochester (MI), San Antonio, San Francisco and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
Boosting business opportunities for veteran-owned entrepreneurs is the right thing to do, of course, but it's also good for corporate America's bottom line. The Department of Defense estimates that 230,000 to 245,000 enlisted personnel and officers will leave active-duty military service this year, and many of these servicemembers will turn to self-employment through business ownership. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), of the more than 27 million small businesses in the U.S., 9 percent, or 2.5 million of them, are veteran-owned.
 
More and more companies want to do business with veteran-owned businesses, and that was the driving idea behind VetSource - a gathering of veteran entrepreneurs in Norfolk, Virginia, to interact with Fortune 500 company leaders and learn about procurement opportunities. VetSource, presented by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, is a first-of-its-kind convening of veteran business owners for an open-call event in Norfolk. VetSource helps educate veteran business owners and connect them to Fortune 500 business procurement opportunities. It is a three-phase program to include online, residency, and post-program support phases.
 
Phase 1 is an online training program in the form of a webinar that gives veteran-owned businesses (VOBs) an overview of the procurement process. Veterans are given the opportunity to ask the experts about procurement best practices and ways to make the most out of the time they have at these events. These webinars are there to help demystify the procurement process and prepare VOBs for networking and matchmaking opportunities.
 
Phase 2 is residency – intended to provide classroom instruction as well as networking and matchmaking opportunities. On September 20, veterans were able to join the Center for Veteran-Owned Business (CVOB) and Procurement Executives at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott for a day of procurement panel discussions, jam sessions, a resource fair with over two dozen exhibitors, and a keynote address. Veterans were able to learn the ins and outs of procurement and make connections with executives at some of the largest companies in Virginia and surrounding states.
 
Phase 3 is post-program support and mentorship – delivered through a robust, comprehensive network of mentors, resources and national partnerships. VetSource helps educate established veteran owned businesses, both procurement ready and ready to grow, and connect them to Fortune 500 procurement opportunities.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
A massive cyber security incident at Equifax - one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States - may have exposed private information belonging to 143 million people - nearly half of the U.S. population. The breach, which was discovered July 29, includes sensitive information such as social security numbers, birthdays, addresses, and in some instances, driver's license numbers. The agency said 209,000 credit card numbers were exposed in the breach, which includes customers in Canada and the United Kingdom.
 
While this data breach raises major concerns for every impacted consumer, there are particularly concerned about Equifax’s impact on servicemembers and student-veterans. Since active-duty servicemembers and student-veterans frequently move due to Permanent Change of Station orders or semester changes, this can make it even harder to quickly learn if they’ve had their identities stolen.
 
Servicemembers and veterans have special tools at their disposal from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), like active-duty alerts or a security freeze, to reduce the risk of identity theft. Here is the fast five facts on the Equifax data breach:
 
  1. The personal information of a reported 143 million people has been stolen, including many servicemembers and veterans. 
  2. Criminals with stolen information may attempt to use credit cards or open new accounts in veterans or servicemembers names. It can be hard to notice if you are a victim of identity theft until you review your reports or statements and see charges you didn’t make, or are contacted by a debt collector about a debt that you don’t recognize.
  3. Servicemembers and veterans are advised to closely monitor your financial statements and credit reports. If anything seems out of the ordinary, no matter how small, action should be taken immediately. These include:
 
  1. Reviewing  free credit reports for signs of fraud or identity theft.
  2. Signing up for an active-duty alert on credit reports.
  3. Consider placing security freezes on credit.
  4. Review any free credit monitoring services offered by the company affected by the data breach. Read the fine print, but never give credit card information for a "free" product.
 
  1. If problems are run into taking these actions, complaints can be submitted to the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).
  2. For help handling financial challenges at every step of military career and transition, check out the CFPB’s guide through the military lifecycle.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  9/22/17

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 15 September 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Fixed mortgage rates’ downward march came to a halt this week. According to the latest data released Thursday, September 14, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average held steady at 3.78 percent with an average of 0.5 point, same as it was last week (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 3.5 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate also didn’t move, remaining at 3.08 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.77 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average slipped to 3.13 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.15 percent a week ago and 2.82 percent a year ago.
 
The lack of movement by fixed mortgage rates may be the pause before they begin to ascend once again. Long-term bond yields rose sharply this week, after slumping to their lowest levels since the presidential election. Since falling to 2.05 percent on September 7, the yield on the 10-year Treasury surged to 2.20 percent Wednesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury tends to be one of the best indicators of where home loan rates are headed. When yields go up, mortgage rates tend to follow. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that more than two-thirds of the experts it surveyed say rates will climb in the coming week.
 
After touching the lowest levels of the year last week, mortgage rates have since trended up. Unless we get a black swan moment, something that shocks the stock market, some experts are not too bullish on mortgage-backed securities. This would mean a slightly higher mortgage rate in the coming week for the borrowers. Meanwhile, despite two natural disasters that struck major population centers, mortgage applications picked up last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – increased 9.9 percent. The refinance index jumped 9 percent, while the purchase index grew 11 percent.
 
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 51 percent of all applications. The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) rose 0.7 percent to 180.2 last month. A decline in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are tightening, while an increase signals they are loosening. Mortgage credit availability increased slightly in August, driven by the expansion of credit among conforming and agency jumbo programs. Following the same pattern as last month, agency eligible adjustable rate mortgage loan programs continued to be updated in August to allow for higher loan-to-value ratios, effectively increasing the availability of credit.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
147
139
110
99
37
40
Unemployment rate
4.7
4.2
4.2
3.5
7.3
7.4
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (August 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 7.4 percent (up from 3.6 percent in July).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, September 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a conference call with members of The American Legion’s Small Business Task Force. The topics discussed included veteran procurement opportunities within the VA regarding high tech medical equipment.
 
On Tuesday, September 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a networking event hosted by the Australian Embassy and Bunker Labs, located in Alexandra, Virginia. This event was for aspiring veteran entrepreneurs and veterans who support entrepreneurship. Bunker Labs is a national nonprofit that was created by military veterans for veterans to start and grow businesses. 25 percent of transitioning servicemembers want to start a business and they need places inside their communities where they can connect with the people, resources, and support they need to start and grow their businesses. Bunker Labs’ network is designed to fill that space.
 
On Wednesday, September 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a conference call with House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee of Oversight & Investigation and the Small Business Task Force. The topic of the call was the VA trying to create a loophole around using service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses in procurement of high tech medical equipment, and instead, using big businesses who have standing relationships with high technical medical equipment manufacturers.
 
On Thursday, September 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a House of Representatives Small Business Committee hearing on the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) entrepreneurial programs. Specifically, the hearing was held to discuss how each of SBA’s resources partners utilize technology in their outreach efforts. Witnesses included the Women’s Business Center, Small Business Development Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center, and SCORE.
 
On Thursday, September 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Carl Landry, Community Outreach Coordinator, Homeless Veteran Program, at the VA Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Landry briefed us on the state of veteran homelessness in his catchment area – 125 homeless veterans with 373 HUD-VASH vouchers being used to permanently house homeless veterans and their families. Additionally, we did a site visit to the Faith Mission in Columbus. Each year, Faith Mission provides more than 90,000 nights of shelter to men, women and veterans, while serving three meals a day to anyone who is experiencing homelessness. They also provide case management, employment assistance and a health center to help clients overcome barriers to self-sufficiency.
 
On Friday, September 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a panel discussion hosted on Capitol Hill regarding bad paper discharges caused by servicemembers who have experienced PTSD, TBI, or Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and the negative effects of it.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has released the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch report for FY 2016, and the government-wide data continues to be positive. In FY16, more than 71,000 veterans entered civil service, increasing the total number of veterans to 635,266 in the federal government. That number adds up to 11,000 more veterans employed by the Executive Branch agencies compared to the previous year.
 
Data on veteran employment has been published by OPM every year since Executive Order 13518 Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government and the Veterans Employment Initiative (VEI) was established in 2009. Federal agencies have used the VEI to meet many of their mission critical staffing needs, while benefitting from the skills, training, and dedication veterans, transitioning service members and their families bring to Federal service.
 
Veterans now represent approximately one-third (31.1 percent) of the total U.S. federal workforce, marking a five percentage point rise since the initiative was implemented in 2009. The retention rates for veterans are encouraging as well, with many agencies retaining newly hired veterans at rates near those of their non-veteran employees. The VEI is governed by an Interagency Council on Veterans Employment, comprised of the Federal Government’s 24 largest departments and agencies that provide the VEI with overall vision and strategic direction. The Council is co-chaired by the Secretaries of Labor and Veterans Affairs, with the Director of OPM serving as Vice-Chair.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Last week, Representative Lee Zeldin (NY) introduced new legislation in the House of Representatives, H.R. 3680, to make permanent a grant funding program that is expiring at the end of this year, the Supportive Services Veteran Families (SSVF) program that provides financial assistance for supportive services for very low-income veteran families in permanent housing. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on a single night in January 2016, there were 39,471 homeless veterans in the United States. Of those homeless veterans, 26,404 were staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs or safe havens while 13,067 veterans were found in places not suitable for human habitation. While veterans constituted only 9 percent of the U.S. adult population in 2015, they made up 11 percent of the U.S. homeless adult population. 
The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, which is authorized by Congress and administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been a critical resource for helping low income and homeless veterans. The SSVF Program provides supportive services grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives, which in turn coordinate and/or provide supportive services to very low-income veteran families. Entities receiving supportive services grants must utilize the funds to provide supportive outreach services to homeless veterans and their families. The services include but are not limited to case management services, assistance in obtaining VA benefits, and support in obtaining and coordinating other public benefits available in the grantee’s area or community. In addition, the organizations provide temporary financial assistance to veterans as needed. SSVF prioritizes the delivery of rapid re-housing services to homeless veteran households, an intervention designed to help individuals and families exit homelessness, return to housing in the community, and avoid homelessness again in the near term. Currently, the SSVF program must be reauthorized by Congress every five years. Representative Zeldin’s bill would make this program permanent. 
In 2017, the VA awarded $587,328,694 in 367 individual SSVF grants to organizations across the country. In Suffolk County, $9,445,001 of SSVF grants enabled three organizations to provide services to homeless veterans. Representative Zeldin said, “Supporting our nation’s veterans and ensuring all veterans across this great nation receive the proper treatment, care and support is a responsibility we all share. These brave men and women answered the call to service and repeatedly put their lives at risk to support and defend our Constitution and ensure the safety and security of our country. Although homelessness among veterans has decreased since 2010, the issue remains one of national significance – even one homeless veteran is too many. I am proud to introduce legislation which will ensure these heroes receive much needed support services. The SSVF program is fundamental to our efforts to end veteran homelessness as it enables organizations across the country to provide shelter and essential services to members of the veteran community in need. Extending these grants affirms our commitment to ending veteran homelessness across the country and preserves the important programs that so many of our veterans rely upon. Ensuring our homeless veterans have shelter and a safe place to live should never be a partisan issue. Congress must pass this bill and make the SSVF program permanent.” 
“We thank Representative Zeldin for introducing this bill that would make permanent the SSVF program, eliminating the need for future reauthorizations,” said Adrian Fassett, CEO of the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk, Inc. “Through this vital program, EOC of Suffolk, Inc. looks forward to continuing to provide housing and other critical support services for low-income homeless Veterans.” Tom Ronayne, Director of Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency, said, “SSVF has enabled countless veterans to either remain in familiar living environments or provide them with opportunities to get into a safer, more secure and stable living environment. The ripple effect of this is that veterans and their family members remain employed or become more employable. We are very concerned that SSVF remains in place, especially here in Suffolk County where we have one of the largest veteran populations in the country. I wholeheartedly support Representative Zeldin’s efforts to permanently secure it.”
“Since Services for the UnderServed (SUS) began working with Long Island’s veterans through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant in 2013, we have been able to assist over 2,000 veterans with housing and homelessness prevention services in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. This has had a life-changing impact on veterans and their families. Sadly, homelessness will continue to affect many, and having SSVF in place to help veterans in their time of need is of the utmost importance. SUS fully supports Representative Zeldin’s proposal to permanently extend the SSVF grant,” said Beth Gabellini, MS, LMSW, Regional Director, Veterans Division Long Island, Services for the UnderServed. “SSVF plays a critical role in preventing veterans’ homelessness and rapidly rehousing veterans in the event that they become homeless. Without this crucial funding, the incredible progress the Long Island community has made in ending veterans homelessness would be impossible. The Supportive Housing Network of New York supports legislation to make this life-saving resource permanent,” said Laura Mascuch, Executive Director, Supportive Housing Network of New York.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Camp Lejeune, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Lee (VA), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Honolulu, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), Peterson Air Force Base, Philadelphia, Rochester (MI), San Antonio, San Francisco and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
A federal jury spent all afternoon Wednesday, September 13, deliberating the fate of two Little Rock businessmen accused of defrauding a government program that helps service-disabled veterans. The jury heard evidence for five days, followed by closing arguments Wednesday morning, on 28 felony charges apiece against Ross Alan Hope, owner of a Little Rock-based heating and air company called Powers of Arkansas, and Mikel Kullander, owner of Kullander Construction in Little Rock.
 
Each man is charged with mail-fraud conspiracy; three counts of major fraud, each involving more than $1 million; and 24 counts of mail fraud. They're accused of falsely claiming that a business they formed in 2007, DAV Construction, was owned and operated by a service-disabled veteran, so that it would qualify for million-dollar contracts set aside for veteran-owned businesses. The men haven't disputed forming DAV Construction with a former employee of Hope's, Jim Wells, who is a service-disabled veteran, for the purpose of being able to bid on the government contracts. They said they tried to comply with federal regulations and believed they were in compliance when they formed the company. But about four years and several million-dollar contracts later, after a visit by a government verification expert, they were deemed unqualified under a newly established government verification program.
 
The men sought reconsideration and were eventually allowed to resume bidding on the set-aside contracts, but when the government shut them down again, the denial was accompanied by criminal charges. Assistant U.S. Attorneys have sought, over the past week and a half, to prove that the men had the intent to deceive the government from the time they formed DAV Construction. The prosecutors say the men knew from the beginning that Wells wasn't going to "control" the day-to-day activities of the company, as federal regulations required the veteran to do, and that they deliberately overstated Wells' involvement to gain access to the set-aside contracts.
 
Defense attorneys contend that the men never intended to commit a crime. The attorneys say the men were surprised to learn in 2011, four years after forming the company to take part in the new program, that their business wasn't considered a true service-disabled veteran-operated business. Companies applying for the set-aside contracts were required only to self-certify when the program began, but the government later set up the verification program to detect possible fraud. Another red flag was that more than $1 million of the profits earned through the program were traced to one of the accused’s personal accounts, and more than $300,000 was traced to the other defendant, which could be seen as evidence of intent. The prosecutor also asserted that the two men used Jim Wells, and caused legitimate service-disabled veteran-operated businesses to not be in a fair competition.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs this week backed Ashford University’s attempt to shift its state-based eligibility for veterans’ benefits from Iowa to Arizona, likely preserving the for-profit university’s access to Post-9/11 GI Bill and active-duty military tuition benefits. Ashford enrolls roughly 5,000 student-veterans. The online university decided to shut down its physical campus in Iowa two years ago. Last year Iowa’s Department of Education ruled that Ashford would no longer be eligible to receive veteran benefits, citing reasons the university vigorously contested.
 
Then, in July, the university’s parent company, Bridgepoint Education, received approval from Arizona to receive veterans’ benefits. The federal VA on Wednesday, September 13, backed that decision, sending a letter to Ashford saying that the university would receive a facility code for its Arizona campus.
 
We’re reviewing this new development and provide follow-up in the near future.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  9/15/17

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION

Week Ending 1 September 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Employers added only 156,000 jobs in August as the pace of hiring slowed, according to the Department of Labor (DOL) report Friday, September 1. The unemployment rate also crept up to 4.4 percent from the 16-year low of 4.3 percent reached last month, as fewer adults reported that they had a job during the month. DOL also revised down earlier estimates for job growth in both June and July by a total of 41,000 jobs, suggesting that the labor market is not quite as strong as it appeared to be a month ago.
 
While Hurricane Harvey has essentially shut down much of business in the Houston metropolitan area in the last week, the storm had essentially no impact on this jobs reading, DOL said. The department collected most of the numbers behind the August report before the storm hit Texas. Harvey’s impact could show up in the September jobs report if numerous businesses in the region are still closed two weeks from now, when they collect this month’s data. The storm could also give a lift to employment when cleanup and reconstruction begins.
 
Additionally, long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week. It was the fifth straight weekly decline for the benchmark 30-year rate, which again reached a new low for this year. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year, fixed rate mortgages fell to 3.82 percent from 3.86 percent last week. A year ago, the rate stood at 3.46 percent. It averaged 3.65 percent for all of last year. The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate home loans dipped to 3.12 percent from 3.16 percent last week. Those loans are popular with homeowners refinancing their mortgages.
 
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year loans also remained at 0.5 point. Rates on adjustable five-year loans fell to 3.14 percent from 3.17 percent last week, The fee was steady at 0.5 point.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
AUG
2016
AUG
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
147
139
110
99
37
40
Unemployment rate
4.7
4.2
4.2
3.5
7.3
7.4
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (August 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 7.4 percent (up from 3.6 percent in July).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, August 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Lori Adams, Policy Director, National Association Society Workforce Agencies (NASWA), to discuss opportunities for collaboration in reaching veterans throughout the nation. While employment is on the top of their list, they understand that The American Legion offers different services and programs that can benefit servicemembers, veterans and their families.
 
On Monday, August 28 – Wednesday, August 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held conference calls with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders regarding an upcoming Transition Summit in Hawaii and Job Fairs in  Arlington (TX), Carlisle (PA), Fort Carson, Rochester (MI), Warwick (RI) and Washington, DC.
 
On Monday, August 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a planning call with Army University over upcoming credentialing initiatives. Army University identified Non-College Degree Programs (NCDs) as an area of exploration for expanding tuition assistance into in order to meet industry employment demands.
 
On Tuesday, August 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a closed-door meeting with the Department of Veterans Affairs Education Services to discuss the implementation of Public Law 114-315, Section 404. The Public Law requires educational institutions to report academic progress for all students receiving VA educational benefits attending their facility.
 
On Tuesday, August 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Kristy Park, Vice President, Jefferson Business Consulting LLC, to discuss employment opportunities for veterans and their families with DaVita Kidney Care. Davita Kidney Care will be hosting its first National Veterans Interview Day on Tuesday, September 19. DaVita Kidney Care is a leading provider of kidney care in the United States, delivering dialysis services to patients with chronic kidney failure and end stage renal disease. DaVita Kidney Care strives to improve patients' quality of life by innovative clinical care, and by offering integrated treatment plans, personalized care teams and convenient health-management services. For more information, please go to this site – https://app.brazenconnect.com/a/davitahiresvets/e/a0jl8#!eventLanding;eventCode=a0jl8.
 
On Wednesday, August 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Kayce Deidre, Human Resources, TESLA, regarding their Veteran Hiring Initiative. The initiative is still in the beginning stages; however, TESLA plans on hiring veterans to fill open positions at their fairly new facility in Sparks, Nevada. Positions range from warehouse support to system engineers to include supervisors and mid-level managers. During the Career Fair, hosted by The American Legion in conjunction with the National Convention, TESLA made 2 job offers.
 
On Thursday, August 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a meeting with FASTPORT, a veteran-owned employment software company. FASTPORT’s mission is to help all members of the military community find meaningful career opportunities with great employers. FASTPORT is looking to build a relationship with The American Legion to assist us in finding ways to better reach and help veterans (and their spouses) obtain gainful employment.
 
On Thursday, August 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Cara Cooke, Senior Manager, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, to discuss our participation in an upcoming Career Fair in Rhode Island.  The Chamber is requesting to host the hiring event at an American Legion Post.
 
On Thursday, August 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a planning call with Chris Cortez, Vice President at Microsoft, to discuss the vision for an American Legion Education Advisory Committee. The intent would be to provide the veterans education equivalent to the success of the Homeless Veterans Task Force and Small Business Task Force.
 
On Thursday, August 31, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a planning call with Military Times over the launch of a new initiative to their website, Rebootcamp. Rebootcamp will be dedicated to transitioning servicemembers, as well as veterans and active-duty servicemembers pursuing higher education. A major goal for this site will be hosting outside voices – experts with useful information to share, veterans with stories of their own transition challenges, etc. The planning call reviewed potential American Legion content that can be shared.
 
On Friday, September 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Hiring Our Heroes, to discuss the upcoming Transition Summit at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
 
On Friday, September 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a telephone meeting with Matt Sherwood, Director, Veterans Business Outreach Center for the Michigan region, to discuss more collaboration on further aiding veterans who desire to establish and/or expand their small businesses.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Starbucks, Tesla, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Panasonic – those were just some of the employers and service organizations that participated in the Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair on Tuesday, August 22nd during The American Legion’s 99th National Convention in Reno. The Job Fair featured personal branding and career planning forums, including: Reboots to Business Entrepreneurship Workshop; Resume Workshop; Mock interviewing/resume review; Financial Literacy Workshop; and Networking Reception. 56 jobseekers attended the Job Fair with 25 of those veterans receiving job offers.
 
Hiring Our Heroes, a joint initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The American Legion, launched in March 2011 as a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning servicemembers and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. To date, more than 31,000 veterans and military spouses have obtained employment opportunities through Hiring Our Heroes events. Over 2,000 companies of all sizes have committed to hire 710,000 veterans and military spouses as part of the Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign – of those commitments, there have been more than 505,000 confirmed hires.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Vernon Poling was 44 years old when he finally got a home of his own. The Iraq War veteran was medically discharged from the Army in 2014, had to quit his trucking job for medical reasons and found himself living out of his pickup last year in Orange County, a sprawling area of Southern California known for beaches, Disneyland and high housing costs. Poling was homeless for seven months before he found temporary housing in the area. He then learned about Potter's Lane, an apartment complex made from recycled shipping containers, just for homeless veterans. It's believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. On a sunny Friday in April, Poling walked into his 480-square-foot  apartment for the first time, set down his backpack on his new floor and took it all in. "I have never had a place of my own," Poling said. "I got out of high school, I tried working. I was still living with the parents. I joined the Army at 23, active-duty. Then I was staying with Uncle Sam in the barracks. To finally have my own place, it feels really good."
 
Poling was the last of 15 homeless veterans to move into Potter's Lane, a $6.7 million project paid for with federal, state and local dollars, donations and money from the nonprofit behind the project, American Family Housing, among other sources. The apartments could easily belong to San Francisco tech workers or hipsters in Los Angeles' trendy Arts District. Each of the 15  units are made of three shipping containers pieced together and spiffed up with faux wood flooring, drywall and floor-to-ceiling windows on two of four walls. They include artwork and homemade quilts, and overlook a courtyard that includes a giant American flag, a garden, grills and picnic tables.
 
American Family Housing wanted to make sure the complex's design built on the strength of the U.S. military, said Donna Gallup, the group's president. "All of the units look over the courtyard so that they can watch each other's backs and develop that community and that sense of belonging," she said. The men  living at Potter's Lane were among 350 homeless veterans in Orange County. The county's homeless population is much smaller than that of neighboring Los Angeles, but it's expanding. Orange County has about 4,800 homeless people overall, a 13 percent increase since 2013, according to Point-in-Time, a group that tracks homelessness.
 
Potter's Lane is a positive step forward, but with just 15 apartments, it's also a "drop in the bucket" for the region's homeless, said Eve Garrow, homelessness policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union's Orange County office. "About 54 percent of all people experiencing homelessness in the county are literally living in the streets," Garrow said. "Meanwhile, the wait time for affordable housing is between five and 10 years when you can get on the list. So there's a dire shortage." Garrow also has concerns about the location of Potter's Lane in a commercial area among car repair shops. "We need to be thinking about models that integrate people who were previously homeless, so they can enjoy and access all the benefits the community offers," Garrow said.
Gallup of American Family Housing said the location helped speed the permitting process. "In just about six months' time we had an entire 15-unit project completed," Gallup said. "Normally, a traditional project would take up to two years to build, and the fact that our homeless veterans are sleeping on the streets right now, I think timing is very important." Megan Hustings, director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless, said she's never heard of using shipping containers for permanent housing for the homeless, though there have been affordable housing projects involving tiny houses in places like Denver, Seattle and Austin.
 
A lack of affordable housing nationwide means more projects like Potter's Lane are needed, Hustings said. After two months of living in his new home, Poling said he was feeling settled and had made friends, particularly with his next-door neighbor Dale Dollar, a former Marine who was homeless for 14 years. On a recent  evening, Poling and Dollar sidled up to a picnic table with plates of pasta and salad, part of a weekly meal provided to Potter's Lane residents by a local nonprofit. They laughed and bobbed their heads to upbeat oldies playing on speakers as they chowed down. Though he appreciates the company, Poling said the best part of his new home is probably his bed. "There's been a couple nights that I've been surprised I've slept so long," Poling said. "It's a load off."
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Arlington (TX), Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), Biloxi (MS), Camp Pendleton, Carlisle (PA), Fort Carson, Fort Hood, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Sam Houston, Honolulu, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), McLean (VA), Philadelphia, Rochester (MI), San Antonio, San Francisco and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The U.S. Small Business Administration's Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development (IATF) and Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs (ACVBA) will hold quarterly public meetings on September 6 and 7, 2017, at SBA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Both meetings will address the current state of veteran businesses and provide progress updates made in support areas for veteran entrepreneurship.
 
The IATF members will focus on topics related to federal procurement and access to capital in the September meeting. This quarter's ACVBA meeting will include a discussion on women veteran entrepreneurship featuring all three SBA Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program (WVETP) grantees: Bunker Labs, Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and LiftFund.
 
Additionally, the National Women's Business Council will preview the findings of a research project related to women veteran business ownership. In 2012, there were more than 383,302 veteran women-owned businesses in the United States, a number that has continued to rise. Further, veteran women-owned businesses experienced a 300 percent growth between 2007 and 2012.
 
The ACVBA will also feature a presentation on commercial supply chain opportunities from a veteran business owner's perspective, updates on SBA veterans programs, and a briefing from SBA's Office of Economic Opportunity regarding the Community Advantage initiative and Microloan Program. The ACVBA will conclude with a Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) roundtable. 
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
For-profit colleges are winning their battle to dismantle Obama-era restrictions as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolls back regulations, grants reprieves to schools at risk of losing their federal funding, and stocks her agency with industry insiders. More than seven months into the Trump administration, DeVos has:
 
• Moved to gut two major Obama-era regulations that would have cut off funding to low-performing programs and made it easier for defrauded students to wipe out their loans
• Appointed a former for-profit college official, Julian Schmoke Jr., to lead the team charged with policing fraud in higher education - one of a slew of industry insiders installed in key positions. Schmoke is a former dean at DeVry University, whose parent company agreed last year to pay $100 million to resolve allegations the company misled students about their job and salary prospects
• Stopped approving new student-fraud claims brought against for-profit schools. The Education Department has a backlog of more than 65,000 applications from students seeking to have their loans forgiven on the grounds they were defrauded, some of which date to the previous administration.
 
For-profit colleges, which enrolled nearly 2.5 million students in the past academic year, encompass multistate behemoths such as the University of Phoenix and DeVry, as well as hundreds of small trade schools that struggle to make ends meet. Seeing a resurgence since the enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the industry has been dogged by allegations of predatory sales techniques and poor outcomes that left tens of thousands of students and veterans drowning in debt while the schools raked in billions from federal student loans and grants. President Obama sought to curb those abuses with a regulatory crackdown that the industry blamed for pushing two of its giants, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, into bankruptcy, while others saw their stock prices nosedive and enrollment plummet.
 
For-profit college leaders, who hired Newt Gingrich, an ally of President Donald Trump, to help them navigate the executive branch, hail the friendlier approach as a welcome departure from the previous administration, which they and many GOP lawmakers say unfairly targeted their schools. But consumer advocates warn of loosening the reins on an industry rife with allegations that it lures students with false promises, saddles them with debt and then leaves them without the skills they need to get decent jobs.
 
Much of the fight is now shifting to the states, where Democratic attorneys general have been coordinating investigations of the industry and mounting challenges to DeVos' rollback of federal regulations. DeVos is best known for promoting K-12 school choice, but while that agenda stalls in Congress, her highest-profile actions since taking office have involved for-profit colleges. She has moved to scrap regulations that would have cut off federal aid to career college programs where graduates are stuck with high loan debt but relatively low earnings. She also delayed a rule that would have barred the companies from requiring students to resolve complaints through arbitration, rather than a court or class-action lawsuit.
 
Beyond those changes, for-profit colleges are notching wins behind the scenes, as Education Department regulators scale back their enforcement of the industry and decide individual cases in ways that favor the industry. The administration quietly killed a federal task force designed to crack down on abuses at for-profit colleges and share information across investigative agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorneys general. DeVos’s Education Department officials have also shown leniency to the industry in reversing specific Obama administration actions against schools accused of wrongdoing.
 
The department sought to help the Charlotte School of Law, for instance, whose access to federal loans was cut off by the Obama administration over allegations that it misled students about the bar exam and failed to meet educational standards set by the American Bar Association. The school, which hired DeVos’ confirmation guide, or “sherpa,” as a lobbyist, won an initial offer to reinstate its federal funding from the Trump administration. The school and department officials were negotiating that deal when state regulators swooped in and forced the struggling school to close.
 
The American Legion continues to wait on Secretary DeVos’s response to a request to meet with national VSOs to discuss veterans’ education.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  9/1/17
 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 11 August 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Mortgage rates were stagnant again this week as financial markets lingered in a summer lull. According to the latest data released Thursday, August 10, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 3.90 percent with an average 0.5 point (points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 3.93 percent a week ago and 3.45 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed rate has remained below 4 percent for the past month and 11 of the past 12 weeks. The 15-year fixed-rate remained the same at 3.18 with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.76 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average slid to 3.14 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.15 percent a week ago and 2.74 percent a year ago.
 
The slight drop in rates likely reflected concerns about weakness in certain data released earlier in the week, such as the drop in auto sales, but the market also reacted to stronger than expected job growth in Friday’s employment report. Mortgage rates aren’t expected to move much in the coming week. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that half of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. With the Fed in somewhat of a holding pattern as they determine how to lower the balance sheet and whether another rate increase is warranted this year, markets have remained calm as we head into the final weeks of the summer. This has boded well for mortgage rates, which have seen little movement in either direction, allowing for borrowers to close out any late summer transactions with relative ease. As we head into fall, the biggest event on the horizon is the government debt ceiling debate that should throw our public officials into extreme focus.
 
Meanwhile, mortgage applications picked up last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – increased 3 percent. The refinance index grew 5 percent, while the purchase index slipped 1 percent lower. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 46.7 percent of all applicants. Mortgage rates decreased last week, which led to the highest volume of refinance applications since mid-June. With rates trading in a narrow range, the purchase market continues to show strength, with application volume running about 7 percent ahead of last year at this time. The increase in refinance applications was driven primarily by a 15 percent increase in government refinances, led by a 17 percent increase in VA refinances.
 
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
JUL
2016
JUL
2017
JUL
2016
JUL
2017
JUL
2016
JUL
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
188
153
155
134
33
19
Unemployment rate
5.9
4.6
5.8
4.8
6.4
3.6
 
National unemployment rate is 4.3 percent (July 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.6 percent (down from 8.5 percent in June).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, August 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Department of Pennsylvania regarding state legislation for veterans employment. The department inquired as to what resolutions our division had regarding the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
 
On Monday, August 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a planning call with Les Davis from Military Network Radio regarding upcoming panel participation. We’ll be speaking during the Military Network Radio’s talk show on veteran education and the new GI Bill that recently passed Congress.
 
On Monday, August 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in Hawaii Transition Summit planning call. This two-day transition summit will feature interactive and informative panel discussions, recruiter training, and facilitated discussions focuses on improving competitive employment for servicemembers, veterans, and military spouses. The summit will also include a networking reception for employers, military leaders, and job seekers, and will culminate in a Hiring Fair on the second day.
 
On Tuesday, August 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Timothy Green, Director, Office of Strategic Outreach, Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS) regarding Mahindra’s Veteran hiring initiative. DOL-VETS has listed The American Legion as a key stakeholder in all hiring initiatives across the United States.
 
On Tuesday, August 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in planning calls for veteran Hiring Fairs in Carlisle (PA) and Arlington (TX). During these events, employment workshops are led by HR and workforce professionals, which cover a variety of topics including resume building, networking, and interview tips, taking into account the job seeker’s military background and lifestyle.
 
On Wednesday, August 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service Office to discuss recent data and other relevant info regarding service members/veterans home ownership.
 
On Wednesday, August 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated on the CBS’s Connecting Veterans radio show regarding the mission of our division and the advocacy, activities and events we host for veteran entrepreneurs and those seeking gainful employment.
 
On Wednesday, August 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in planning calls with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation regarding Legion participation at their Career Fairs in Fort Carson, Camp Pendleton, and Joint Base Lewis McCord.
 
On Wednesday, August 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Coreena Conley, Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Director, concerning updates for the upcoming Veteran Small Business Summit during National Convention. The topics discussed included registration, speakers and other logistics.
 
On Wednesday, August 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Mark Toal, National Veterans Employment Manager, Department of Labor, about issues that national companies are having with the GI Bill apprenticeship program. Currently, national companies offering veterans apprenticeships have to be approved by every state they operate in to be eligible for the GI Bill, creating prohibitive administrative hurdles. Currently, we’re reaching out to these companies to learn more about the challenges and how we can effectively assist them.
 
On Thursday, August 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Cabot Creamery Cooperative to discuss employment opportunities for homeless veterans in the agriculture industry.  Future discussions will also include the Farmers Veteran Coalition.
 
On Thursday, August 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Brigadier General Olive, Deputy Commanding General of Sustainment, 335th Signal Command, to discuss opportunities for The American Legion to address their returning soldiers and their families.
 
On Thursday, August 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Lisa Lutz from SOLID Design and Marion Cain, DOD Director of Force Training, to discuss credentialing objectives for 2017-2018. The American Legion is planning its third National Credentialing Summit for the 2018 Washington Conference along with a final credentialing roundtable in the fall focused on the flight industry.
 
On Thursday, August 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Chip Myers, Vice President, UPS Corporate Public Affairs, regarding employment opportunities for veterans. UPS is looking to increase their veteran hiring.
 
On Thursday, August 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Raul Rosas, Commissioner, Maryland Veterans Commission, to discuss different opportunities to assist veterans in Maryland, and adjoining states.
 
On Friday, August 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to negotiate the participation of The American Legion during their Career Fair in Mississippi. Additionally, we talked with the Hispanic Commission regarding the unemployment rate, VA medical services and homeless veteran population in Puerto Rico.
 
On Friday, August 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Community Solutions to discuss their initiative to house homeless individuals/families (to include veterans) throughout the country. Community Solutions deploys the best problem-solving tools from multiple sectors to help communities end homelessness and the conditions that create it.
 
On Friday, August 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Michael Knippel, Program Manager, Veterans Employment Coordinator Wage & Investment, Internal Revenue Service, to discuss The American Legion helping to conduct a financial wellness survey of all veterans in the state of Georgia.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The jobless rate for all veterans edged down to 4.3 percent in 2016 from 4.6 percent in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recently released annual Employment Situation for veterans. This continues a downward trend from the peak of the recession in 2011, and brings the veteran unemployment rate near pre-recession levels.
Some highlights from the 2016 report include:
  • Unemployment for veterans who served on active-duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 edged down to 5.1 percent in 2016.
  • In 2016, the annual average unemployment rate for women veterans was not significantly different from all male veterans or all non-veterans of either gender. This makes the fourth consecutive year that the unemployment rates of women veterans was not statistically different from that of women non-veterans.
  • 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 25 to 44, and 4 percent were 18 to 24.
  • Veterans with a service-connected disability had an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent in August 2016, about the same as veterans with no disability (4.7 percent).
  • As of August 2016, nearly 1 in 3 employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked in the public sector, compared to about 1 in 5 veterans with no disability.
  • In 2016, the unemployment rate of veterans varied across the country, ranging from 1.8 percent in Indiana to 7.6 percent in Washington, DC
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Continuing his strong record of reducing homelessness in New Jersey, Governor Christie on Thursday, August 3, visited Family Connections in Paterson for a roundtable discussion and to announce the Department of Children and Families' (DCF) expansion of its permanent supportive housing program for families by adding 25 units in both Hudson and Middlesex counties. Keeping Families Together (KFT) is a model of permanent supportive housing designed specifically for child welfare-involved families struggling with homelessness and other challenges. KFT provides families access to supportive services, including case planning and evidence-based and trauma-informed coordinated services to support each family's unique needs. DCF established the first KFT program for 10 families in Essex County in July 2014. "My administration has made eliminating homelessness for New Jersey citizens a key priority through a variety of programs, including Keeping Families Together, which provides families with the support services they need to get them back on track and stand on their own," said Governor Christie. "Our homelessness efforts are an investment in the future, giving parents the opportunity and stability in their lives to reconnect with their children or to literally keep their families together."
With the latest expansion of the Hudson County program and the addition of a new KFT program in Middlesex County through Catholic Charities, the number of New Jersey families benefitting from Keeping Families Together will now increase to 173 across nine counties: Essex, Passaic, Hudson, Monmouth, Atlantic, Gloucester, Camden, Cumberland, and Middlesex. The additional 25 families who will be served by the Hudson KFT program will begin moving in this fall. These families will have access to housing and high quality services to help them reach their goals and give brighter futures for their children. "Twenty-five fortunate families in Hudson County, and another 25 in Middlesex County, will soon take an important step toward breaking the cycle of homelessness," said DCF Commissioner Allison Blake. "Instead of despair and hopelessness, these families will now have a foundation upon which to build better futures for their children, and change for the better the lives of generations to come."
DCF is partnering with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on this state-wide effort to support New Jersey's most vulnerable families. DCA committed 150 project-based housing choice vouchers to the program. Twenty-five will be allocated to the Hudson effort and another 25 for Middlesex. The vouchers are essential to helping these families find an affordable and safe place to live. The initial Keeping Families Together pilot showed promise improving child well-being and decreasing child welfare involvement in New York City, according to Metis Associates. To coordinate the state's efforts in combating homelessness, Governor Christie formed the Governor's Working Group on Homelessness in April 2015. The Working Group is comprised of two public members and representation from the Departments of Human Services, Health, Children and Families, Community Affairs, Labor and Workforce Development, Military and Veterans Affairs, Corrections, The State Parole Board and the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
Highlights of the Administration's work to address homelessness include:
 
  • Created the Interagency Council on Homelessness, which provided recommendations to improve programs and policies on homelessness and homelessness prevention, including the formation of a Working Group to examine housing first policies, rapid re-housing, and improved coordination among state agencies and social service providers;
  • Expanded the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs successful Veterans Haven program to provide access to veterans in the northern part of the state in addition to the southern part of the state, doubling the capacity;
  • Awarded 149 Shelter Support grants totaling $18.2 million in both state and federal funding to nonprofit and local government agencies operating emergency homeless shelters and transitional housing facilities in New Jersey;
  • Provided $4.4.million for the Homelessness Prevention Program for financial assistance to low-and moderate-income tenants and homeowners in imminent danger of eviction or foreclosure due to temporary financial problems beyond their control;
  • Under the statewide Housing First program, 425 rental vouchers will be allocated to chronically homeless households and 25 rental vouchers to homeless veterans; and,
  • DCA anticipates $5.4 million in annualized funding for the vouchers and $250,000 in discretionary Community Services Block Grant funds for coordinated services.
    In the current fiscal year budget, Governor Christie included $43.8 million to fund programs that prevent homelessness and support homeless shelters, transitional housing facilities and rental assistance. Over the past five years, New Jersey homelessness has decreased nearly 29 percent and family homelessness has dropped by 49 percent. In 2016, the homelessness rate among families with children declined by 10.9 percent.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Arlington, Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), Biloxi (MS), Camp Pendleton, Carlisle (PA), Fort Carson, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Charleston, King George (VA), Lexington Park (MD), McLean (VA), Oceanside (CA), Philadelphia, Reno, San Antonio, San Francisco and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
After public comments, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has confirmed that the extended three-year SDVOSB and VOSB verification term that was originally adopted in February 2017 will remain in effect indefinitely. Before February, SDVOSBs and VOSBs were required to be verified every two years. Originally, when the VA adopted its SDVOSB and VOSB program regulations in 2010, it required participants to be re-verified annually. This created tremendous frustration from program participants, as well as VA, due to the extra work yearly verification processes took.
 
In 2012, the VA extended the eligibility period to two years instead of one. Additionally, in February 2017, the VA issued an interim final rule, further extending the verification period to three years. Now, the final rule is here, and the VA is sticking with the three-year eligibility period.
 
In the final rule, the VA restates its confidence that the reliability of the verification program will not be compromised by extending the eligibility period to 3 years. For instance, in Fiscal Year 2016, the VA had a total of 1,109 re-verification applications, in which only 11 were rejected. Additionally, the VA believes that there are other means of discovering ineligible participants, such as impromptu inspections and status protests by contracting officers and other SDVOSBs and VOSBs. To summarize, the risk of eligibility extension being harmful for VOSB’s and SDVOSBS’s is low. The VA has adopted its original interim rule without change, meaning that the three-year verification period is now in place indefinitely.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
A new page on The American Legion’s website, legion.org/collegerecon, will help college-bound veterans find the right school. The page is a joint effort between the Legion and CollegeRecon.com, a website created to connect current and former military personnel with more than 3,000 not-for-profit colleges and universities across the country. Garrett FitzGerald, president and founder of Home Front Alliance, which created College Recon, said the site was created to fill a void in the marketplace. While there were plenty of firms aimed at helping students find college, they weren’t covering education in an impartial way. “We created this environment where veterans can search for schools (without the ‘hassle’ of being recruited),” Fitzgerald said.
 
Those using College Recon search the list of schools, create their own profile and then interact with the schools they’re interested in. “It can be a daunting challenge for veterans to find the right school,” said Paul E. Dillard, chairman of the Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Commission. “The American Legion is proud to work with College Recon to provide veterans an efficient tool they can use to navigate the education landscape, and identify local community resources.” And College Recon sees the Legion as a viable ally. “I knew that we didn’t want to recreate the wheel and try to go out and get our own membership,” FitzGerald said of the reasoning behind College Recon working with The American Legion. “We wanted to create an innovative and resourceful tool that we could then go out and provide to different veterans service organizations, company websites, even the military itself.”
 
While CollegeRecon was the preferred service, due diligence was given to explore the market segment of college search tools and two competitors were determined: Victory Media and Military Times. While both occupy a larger market share, their revenue strategy relies on a component that prohibits direct partnership: ranking colleges. While ranking colleges is a common industry practice for corporations and LLCs (such as U.S. News & World Report and CollegeFactual), it presents significant ethical challenges and liabilities for non-profits, which must prove that no undue influence affects college rankings. For these reasons, The American Legion is not in the business of telling veterans where they should go to school. A tool that provides an ‘index’ of schools rather than a ‘ranking’ of schools matches the criteria for building informed consumers without editorializing. CollegeRecon is the sole party that provides this for an intended audience of military and veteran students.  
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  8/11/17

 


NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 4 August 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
America has added more than a million jobs since President Trump took office. The U.S. economy gained a strong 209,000 jobs in July, more than economists had expected. The unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent, matching a 16-year low. Just after the Great Recession in 2009, unemployment peaked at 10 percent. Many economists say the United States is at or near “full employment,” meaning the unemployment rate won’t go down significantly more.
 
The job market continues to be one of the main strengths of the U.S. economy. July was the 82nd consecutive month of job growth. But wage growth is sluggish. Wages grew only 2.5 percent in July. The Federal Reserve would like to see wage growth kick up to 3.5 percent. Economists expect the Fed will announce a plan to start reducing its $4.2 trillion portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities at its next policy meeting in September. The Fed bought these securities to lower interest rates in the wake of 2007-2009 financial crisis. Sluggish wage growth and the accompanying benign inflation, however, suggest the U.S. central bank will delay raising interest rates again until December.
 
The Fed has raised rates twice this year and its benchmark overnight lending rate is in a range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent. Prices of U.S. government debt fell after the data while U.S. stock index futures added to gains. The dollar rose sharply against a basket of currencies. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 183,000 jobs in July and wages rising 0.3 percent.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JUL
2016
JUL
2017
JUL
2016
JUL
2017
JUL
2016
JUL
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
188
153
155
134
33
19
Unemployment rate
5.9
4.6
5.8
4.8
6.4
3.6
 
National unemployment rate is 4.3 percent (July 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.6 percent (down from 8.5 percent in June).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Tuesday, August 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a meeting with Coreena Conley, Director of the Sacramento, Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC). Meeting topics included: finalizing the Small Business Summit flyer that will be used for National Convention, and
following up with guest speakers and panelist members to confirm attendance for National Convention in Reno, Nevada.
 
On Tuesday, August 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Emily Hoffman, scheduler for the Secretary of Labor, R. Alexander Acosta, to discuss the possibility of the Secretary participating during the National Convention at our Employment Summit (Saturday, August 19), and addressing the General Assembly on Tuesday, August 22nd. Ms. Hoffman will have a definitive answer next week.
 
On Wednesday, August 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Steven Kett of the National Guard Bureau, to discuss opportunities for reaching our veterans who are in search of employment and connecting them with employers who are looking for immediate hires.
 
On Wednesday, August 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Rebecca Russel, Talent Acquisition Representative for JT3 LLC. Currently, JT3 are looking to fill several positions immediately. In addition, we discussed their overall veteran hiring initiative for 2017 and beyond.
 
On Wednesday, August 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in planning calls with the U.S. Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes for the Fort Carson Transition Summit as well as the Camp Pendleton Transition Summit.
 
On Wednesday, August 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a screening of the higher education documentary Failed State hosted at the New America Higher Education Initiative. Directed by Alex Shebanow and executive produced by Dan Rather, Failed State examines the rise and expansion of for-profit institutions and its effects on higher education and debt in America. New America’s Senior Policy Analyst Stephen Burd served as the film’s policy advisor, and discussed the documentary at the screening.
 
On Thursday, August 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Veterans Employment Trajectory (VET) Initiative Reception at The Washington Center. The VET Initiative is The Washington Center’s inaugural program created for student-veterans to provide them “semester in Washington” opportunities to both learn about government and intern with companies, federal agencies and organizations in the area. The American Legion hosted one such veteran this summer, with plans to increase volunteers for the VET Initiative’s class of 2018.
 
On Thursday, August 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division connected the Indiana Regional Small Business Administration (SBA) office, Michigan VBOC, and Indiana’s Department Adjutant in order to facilitate more small business events for veterans in the Indianapolis area.
 
On Thursday, August 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Les Davis, Co-Host, Military Network Radio, regarding the Veterans Education podcast that our division will be participating in on Tuesday, August 15th.  Topics to be discussed include the new Forever GI Bill, as well as the climate for servicemembers who are transitioning out of the military and onto college campuses across the country.
 
On Thursday, August 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Warren Bolden, Program Specialist, Division of Program Operations, Office of Federal Contracting Compliance Program (OFCCP), regarding a complaint from a veteran in Puerto Rico who felt that his case was unknowingly transferred from the Puerto Rico office to the New York Office.  The veteran’s issue was resolved during the call.
 
On Thursday, August 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Doreen Owens, Director of Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (DVET) for the State of Nevada. We discussed the opportunity to collaborate on outreach for our Career Fair and workshops hosted by The American Legion during the National Convention.
 
On Friday, August 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Matt Sherwood, Director, VBOC, in Michigan. Mr. Sherwood would like to continue fostering the relationship with The American Legion by sponsoring more small business workshops within his region at Legion posts.
 
On Friday, August 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Melissa Washington, Founder of the Women Veterans Alliance based out of Sacramento, California. Ms. Washington would like to create a relationship between her organization and The American Legion.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Military spouses are the unsung heroes of our nation’s defense. Sixteen years into America’s longest-running war and in the face of millions of servicemember deployments, military spouses have met the challenges that confront them head-on. “While our military members serve our nation,” Dr. Jill Biden noted at the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Employment Summit last June, “their spouses wait behind serving in their own way, moving from base to base, enduring deployment after deployment, leaving behind family and friends, running households and raising children.”
 
Yet while being a military spouse can create a host of obligations and commitments to one’s family and community, it is not a paid position, even as 77 percent of employed military spouses say that having two incomes is vitally important to their family. That’s why the issue of military spouse employment is critical to our national security and the continued readiness of our military.
The Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouses in the Workplace Survey, which was released in June 2016, found that deployments, frequent moves and ever-changing family needs make it difficult to maintain or advance a career. With military spouse unemployment ranging from 20 percent to 25 percent, and underemployment at 35 percent to 40 percent over the last decade, military families are more likely to live on a single full income than civilian families.
 
According to economist Dr. Adam Jones of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, who worked on the survey, the data show that “while the economy is not in recession, military spouses live in recession.” The more educated a military spouse, the more pessimistic they are about career opportunities, with 57 percent of spouses with college degrees and 63 percent with postgraduate degrees believing that the military lifestyle does not support their efforts to maintain a career. Sixty-seven percent of military spouses reported having to quit or change a job due to a military-related move. Almost half of employed military spouses reported they were now being paid less than they were in another position held within the past five years.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Veterans are not unlike civilians when it comes to homelessness. They must navigate the lack of affordable housing and economic hardship that everyone faces in addition to the challenges brought on by multiple and extended deployments. Taken together, these factors create a population that deserves – but can often struggle with – housing stability. Research indicates that those who served in the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam eras are at the greatest risk of becoming homeless but that veterans from more recent wars and conflicts are also affected. Veterans returning from deployments in Afghanistan often face invisible wounds of war, including traumatic brain injury and PTSD, both of which correlate with homelessness.
 
Significant progress has been made in housing our nation’s homeless veterans. This is due, in large part, to connecting them with rapid re-housing, through the VA’s Support Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, and permanent supportive housing, through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH). In 2015, alone, the SSVF program helped nearly 100,000 veterans and about 35,000 children remain in their homes or quickly exit homelessness. Similarly, since 2008, more than 114,000 homeless veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program. Numerous other programs have played an important role in addressing veteran homelessness including outreach, employment, transitional housing, and substance abuse treatment.
 
On a single night in January 2016:
 
  • 39,471 veterans (approximately 9 percent of all homeless adults) were experiencing homelessness.
  • Most were without children; about 3 percent (1,131) were homeless as part of a family.
  • 91 percent were men, while 8 percent (3,328 veterans) were women.  
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Arlington, Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), Biloxi (MS), Camp Pendleton, Carlisle (PA), Fort Carson, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Charleston, Lexington Park (MD), Portsmouth (NH), Reno, San Antonio, San Francisco, Springfield (IL) and Washington, DC.
 
The Department of Georgia participated at a Career Fair hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. There were 76 employers and 294 veteran job seekers, which resulted in 9 potential offers. The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
As a courtesy to the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) Communities, FedBizAssist provides updates every month to illustrate the effect of VA’s implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision in the matter of Kingdomware Technologies vs. United States. The updates include chart comparisons of VA’s Fiscal Year 2017 with VA’s Fiscal Year 2016 conveyed as total number of dollars spent, total number of transactions, and accomplishments as percentages of total dollars spent.
 
As seen in the data, the VA clearly remains the Federal leader in contracting with SDVOSB’s and VOSB’s.  Although the number of transactions reported for SDVOSBs and VOSBs are down significantly (55.89 percent, and 44.21 percent), spending with these firms is up by $549 Million and $525 Million (in comparison to for Fiscal Year 2016).  As a percentage of total VA spending, spending with SDVOSBs and VOSBs is up 4.28 percent and 2.97 percent. But in consideration of the adverse aspects of this situation, VA has failed to increase its SDVOSB/VOSB goals since Fiscal Year 2010, despite significantly exceeding these goals each year.  The VA Secretary did not issue a small business goal memoranda for Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016, and issued the Fiscal Year 2014 Secretary’s goal memorandum with only 38 days left in the fiscal year.  The current fiscal year’s goals were not issued until May 25, 2017, with only 128 days remaining in Fiscal Year 2017.
 
It also appears that the SBA’s Section 8(a) Business Development Program at VA is being increasingly utilized. For Fiscal Year 2017, through June 30, 2017, VA reported a total of 125 transactions totaling $17,042,085 using the authority of Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act. One could assume that the VA is utilizing the Section 8(a) Authority due to these procurements being designated as non-competitive procurements, and VA’s implementing guidance for the “Rule of Two” applies only to competitive procurements.  Keeping this in mind, the VA also has the authority to make sole source awards to SDVOSBs and VOSBs.
 
Below is a snapshot of the data from VA’s FY 2017 SDVOSB and VOSB accomplishments versus FY 2016: 
 
(Please note, SDVOSB accomplishments included in VOSB accomplishments.  Federal departments and agencies are allowed to count expenditures with firms in multiple socioeconomic categories in each of their respective categories.  All SDVOSBs are also VOSBs, but all VOSBs are not SDVOSBs.)
 
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Accomplishments
 
Goal:  10 percent
 
  • Dollars Reported:  $2.575 Million – Up from $2.026 Million (Increase of $549 Million)
 
  • Accomplishment:  17.38 percent - Up from 13.10 percent (increase of 4.28 percent)
 
  • Number of transactions reported: 30,447 - Down from 69,029 (Decrease of 38,582 transactions - over 55.89 percent)
 
Veteran-Owned Small Business Accomplishments
 
Goal:  12 percent
 
  • Dollars Reported:  $2.759 Million - Up from $2.234 Million (Increase of $525 Million)
 
  • Accomplishment:  17.38 percent - Up from 14.41 percent (increase of 2.97 percent)
 
  • Number of transactions reported:  73,049 – Down from 127,724 (Decrease of 54,675 transaction - over 42.1 percent)
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
The largest expansion of veteran education benefits in nearly a decade has passed the Senate - its last step before being sent to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law. The bill would remove, from those servicemembers who enlisted from 2013 onward, the 15-year limit on when recipients must use their GI Bill benefits - a provision meant to give veterans more flexibility to attend higher education and obtain new skills later in life. The legislation also boosts education assistance for National Guard and Reserve troops, Purple Heart recipients and for the dependents of fallen troops. It also would send funding to nontraditional education providers like coding boot camps.
 
In addition, the legislation would fully restore the GI Bill education benefits for veterans who were affected by the collapse in recent years of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, two massive for-profit college chains that had campuses across the country. Students such as Caleb Bennett were days away from starting the final semester of an associate degree at ITT Technical Institute outside Indianapolis last fall when he got word that the school had unexpectedly closed. Instantly he found himself with only a week’s notice, a pregnant wife and nearly two years of worthless credits paid from his non-reusable store of GI benefits. When a refund check from ITT bounced a month later, the young family’s finances were thrown into chaos.
 
“It’s a real big hit on the chin, but you just have to suck it up and get to it and hope something happens. Thankfully something did”, said Caleb. That something came in the form of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. Yet it is worth remembering that the legislation was almost never introduced, and wouldn’t have passed without the aggressive advocacy of The American Legion.
 
Negotiations on the legislation, which is a combination of 18 different bills, were halted in April following a rift between Student Veterans of America (SVA) and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) against Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the VFW over how to pay for the expansion. A public hearing was canceled and discussions ceased. Representative Tim Walz (MN) said it was almost a “death knell” for the GI Bill expansion.
 
But The American Legion and SVA reignited the momentum for the bill with a roundtable discussion with over 40 VSOs and academic associations at our Washington, DC Headquarters on May 18th. The results of this roundtable were consensus on what was wanted out of a new GI Bill. “This bill, as currently written, will launch a new era for all who have honorably served in uniform, and for the nation as a whole. It will close current gaps in the existing Post 9/11 GI Bill and guarantee that veterans have access to their hard-earned GI Bill benefits beyond the current 15-year time limit,” said National Commander Charles Schmidt.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  8/4/17
 

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 28 July 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The U.S. economy accelerated in the second quarter as consumers ramped up spending and businesses invested more on equipment, confirming that the sluggish performance early in the year was temporary. Gross domestic product (GDP) increased at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the April – June period, which included a boost from trade, the Commerce Department said in its advance estimate on Friday, July 28. Growth for the first quarter was revised down to a 1.2 percent rate from the previously reported 1.4 percent pace. First-quarter growth was the weakest in a year. The rebound in growth, together with a tightening labor market, likely leaves the Federal Reserve on course to announce a plan to start reducing its $4.2 trillion portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities in September as well as raise interest rates for a third time this year.
 
The U.S. central bank left rates unchanged on Wednesday and said it expected to start winding down its portfolio “relatively soon.” The dollar fell against a basket of currencies after the release of the data, while prices for U.S. government bonds rose. The economy grew 1.9 percent in the first half of 2017, making it unlikely that GDP would top 2.5 percent for the full year. President Trump has set an ambitious 3.0 percent growth target for 2017. While the Trump administration has vowed to cut corporate and individual taxes as part of its business friendly agenda, Republicans’ struggles in Congress to pass a healthcare restructuring have left analysts skeptical on the prospects of fiscal stimulus. So far, the impasse in Washington has not hurt either business or consumer confidence.
 
A resurgence in consumer spending accounted for the bulk of the pickup in economic growth in the second quarter. Consumer spending, which makes up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, grew at a 2.8 percent rate. That was an acceleration from the 1.9 percent pace logged in the first quarter. But with wage growth remaining sluggish despite the labor market being near full employment, there are concerns that consumer spending could slow in the third quarter. Annual wage growth has struggled to break above 2.5 percent. Business spending on equipment rose at an 8.2 percent pace in the second quarter, the fastest since the third quarter of 2015. It was the third straight quarterly increase.
 
Spending on mining exploration, wells and shaft grew at a 116.7 percent rate, slowing from the first-quarter’s robust 272.1 percent pace. As a result, investment on nonresidential structures increased at a 4.9 percent pace, moderating from the January – March period’s brisk 14.8 percent rate. Businesses continued to carefully manage their inventories in the second quarter but spent more in some places. Inventory investment was neutral to GDP growth after slicing off 1.46 percentage points in the first quarter. Trade added 0.18 percentage point to growth, contributing to output for a second straight quarter. Housing was a drag on growth in the last quarter, with investment on homebuilding contracting at a 6.8 percent rate, the worst performance since the third quarter of 2010.
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
137
172
109
129
28
43
Unemployment rate
4.4
5.1
4.2
4.5
5.5
8.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (June 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.1 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (up from 3.5 percent in May).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, July 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Toni Giddens, Program Manager of Nevada’s Work for Warriors Program, to discuss different opportunities for collaboration in order to close the unemployment gap for our Nevada  National Guardsmen, Reservists and their immediate family, as well as Gold Star families and veterans in need. The program assist candidates through the entire employment process, from start to finish.
 
On Monday, July 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held a conference call with representatives from Walgreens and DeVry to discuss a collaboration with The American Legion regarding an apprenticeship program for veterans. Walgreens was awarded Tricare's pharmacy network for users nationwide, taking over for CVS pharmacies. As a result, Walgreens is looking to expand its support for military and veteran hiring opportunities. Unfortunately, our division sees numerous problems with Walgreens proposed partnership with DeVry. Most prominently, the VA has several “cautionary flags” placed on DeVry, warning veterans that there are issues they need to be aware of regarding the school’s practices. These are primarily around misleading marketing practices that the school has pledged to change. Nevertheless, there is the potential for disaster if the partnership goes public, as questions will be raised over why Walgreens chose DeVry exclusively over reputable online non-profit institutions such as University of Maryland or Colorado State University.
 
On Tuesday, July 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Lori Adams, Program Manager for the National Association Workforce Agencies (NASWA), to discuss their upcoming Washington Conference and our participation on one of their panels.
 
On Tuesday, July 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the office of Representative Lois Frankel (FL) about reintroducing H.R.1399, the Veterans Education Empowerment Act from the 114th congress. The bill would authorize competitive grants for institutions to build veteran centers on college campuses. With veterans resources being built across the country on college campuses, and with testimonials of success that were recently highlighted in the Legion Magazine, federal grants have the potential to be valuable concepts. Our division is continuing our study on the specifics of the bill.
 
On Wednesday, July 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with David Molina, Founder & CEO, Operationcode, to discuss their veteran initiative and potential employment opportunities for veterans. Operationcode gets veterans into the tech industry.  Their career services team provides resume reviews and technical interview prep. They work with tech companies nationwide to provide job opportunities and support the military community’s transition into tech.
 
On Thursday, July 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with U.S.VETS and ScoutComms to discuss ways in which U.S.VETS can be marketed in the DC area for all of the programs/services that they provide for at-risk and/or homeless veterans. ScoutComms is the nation’s leading communications, advocacy, and philanthropic strategy firm dedicated to providing services that support veterans, servicemembers and military families.
 
On Friday, July 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Coreena Conley, Director, Veterans Business Outreach Center, in Sacramento, California. Ms. Conley had been assisting The American Legion with the Small Business Summit for the National Convention in Reno. The topic of the meeting was the Small Business Summit logistics and other minor details.
 
On Friday, July 28- Sunday, July 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will be participating in the 99th Regional Support Command (RSC) Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Preprogram (YRRP). This is a Department of Defense (DOD) effort to promote the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. The American Legion will have a speaking role in front of the General assembly, where we will be speaking to 900 servicemembers and their families.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Southland veterans, their spouses and working-age children are invited to attend a free, five-day employment transition seminar from August 14 to August 18 at the Village of Orland Park Cultural Center, 14760 Park Lane. The seminar is open to all honorably discharged veterans, members of the National Guard or Reserve, spouses of veterans, active-duty, National Guard or Reserve, military caregivers, and dependent children of working age. Co-sponsored by the Village of Orland Park and Operation Job Ready Veterans, the seminar includes transition assistance, resume preparation, company research, networking and interviewing skills, and employer introductions. Those who successfully complete the five-day seminar will attend a mini-graduation ceremony and hiring fair.
“The goal is to provide veterans the tools they need to get long-term and meaningful employment,” Orland Park (IL) Mayor Keith Pekau said in a news release. “I have first-hand knowledge about the challenges of transitioning out of the military. Seminars like this are extremely beneficial to veterans and their families as they prepare for life after the military. We all know veterans and their families have a lot to offer the work force so it’s critical to assist them in making this transition.” The seminar is run by Operation: Job Ready Veterans, a nonprofit based in Indianapolis dedicated to preparing servicemembers, veterans, military spouses, dependents and caregivers for entry into the workforce. “Many veterans are struggling with the transition from military to civilian life. We spend the first day honing in on what their transitional issues are,” said Suzanne Tansel, Community Outreach and Marketing Coordinator for Operation: Job Ready Veterans. “Most veterans aren’t aware, so we do a lot of self-reflection and address possible issues.”
The seminar includes resume writing, which focuses on translating what veterans did in the service into civilian speak, and re-wording resumes to meet job market standards. Veterans are welcome to bring their resumes, but are not required to have one as they will create one during the seminar. “We spend a lot of time on passions, and what veterans want to do with their life,” Tansel explained. “We try to get veterans to think more broadly about what they want to do. Just because you were something in the military, doesn’t mean you have to be that in the civilian world.”
Veterans will also learn how to network, interview, and give a 30-second elevator speech on themselves. Tansel noted that many veterans are used to speaking about their service from a group perspective and will not talk about themselves. Veterans will be asked to prepare and rehearse their speech so that they become comfortable talking about themselves and what they can offer a company. “It really is a great week. It’s interesting to watch the relationships form between the teammates. It’s a great thing,” said Tansel, who also graduated from the program. “I can’t speak more highly of the process. We’re so excited to be in Orland Park.”
The program has seen 83 percent of graduates get hired within a month of the class and 90 percent retain their jobs. Tansel said it is not uncommon for veterans interviewing at Friday’s mini Job Fair to get an offer to come in for an interview or to get a job offer immediately following the graduation. “We’re also hoping that veterans will join the VFW or The American Legion and become more involved in the community,” said Orland Park Veterans Program Assistant Tom Dubelbeis. “Veterans have a lot to contribute – they’re very focused and mission-oriented.”
Veterans interested in the free, five-day seminar need to register by noon on Friday, August 11. Register online at Job Ready Vets, or by calling (312) 636-9777 or (855) 456-2732 or by email at BFitch@jobreadyvets.org.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
U.S Office of the Marines has issued the following news release:  Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 373 supported the Veterans Village of San Diego during their 30th Annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down from Friday, July 21 to Sunday, 23, at San Diego High School in San Diego.  
 
The stand down offered homeless veterans shelter and provided services such as medical care, dental care, legal assistance, haircuts and food for three days. "MWSS-373 has been providing support to make this event possible, ranging from building and maintaining tents to setting up cots for over 2,000 homeless participants this year," said 1st Lt. Andrew Wallace, MWSS-373 site officer for the Veterans Village of San Diego. Veterans Village of San Diego was established in 1981 with the goal of giving back to the community by assisting homeless veterans who face substance abuse or have mental health concerns. The organization is committed to its motto "leave no one behind" and provides services to more than 2,000 veterans each year. 
 
"These are homeless veterans who have nowhere else to go so it is important for us to give them these services, whether it is putting food in their bellies or just providing them with a place to stay for a few days," said Cpl. Eddie Salazar, a communications technician with MWSS-373, and volunteer. Marines with MWSS-373 provided equipment such as cots, tents, chairs and fork lifts; many also volunteered their time by preparing work stations and sleeping quarters, distributing food and drinks as well as greeting veterans attending the stand down.
 
The purpose of the Veterans Village of San Diego and the reason Marines with MWSS-373 support this event is to help rehabilitate these veterans and get them off the streets, said Salazar. "The entire reason we are here is service, whether that be on the battlefield or serving the community," said Wallace.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Arlington, Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), Biloxi (MS), Camp Pendleton, Carlisle (PA), Fort Carson, Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Charleston, Lexington Park (MD), Portsmouth (NH), Reno, San Antonio, San Francisco, Springfield (IL) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
This week, the U.S. House passed Representative Neal Dunn’s (FL) bill giving more federal contracts to small businesses owned by veterans. Last month, Dunn unveiled the Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act, which would make the VA and the General Services Administration (GSA) send more federal contracts to small businesses owned by veterans, closing a loophole left by the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act passed in 2006. Earlier this month,  the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which held a hearing on the bill, passed it without opposition. The American Legion testified in favor of this bill during the hearing. On Monday, July 24,  the House passed the bill on a voice vote. Representative Phil Roe (TN) was also a champion of the bill, bringing it through the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee which he chairs. The bill was received in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, July 25, and sent to the Veterans Affairs Committee. So far, there is no Senate sponsor.
 
Additionally, Representative Jack Bergman’s (MI) bill, H.R. 2749, Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2017, passed unanimously in the House on July 24. The American Legion had previously testified in support of this bill during the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigation’s June 29th hearing. Bergman said the bill closes a loophole that was being exploited by companies abusing the system and wasting taxpayer dollars. The program is meant to support veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The bill cracks down on “improper pass-throughs”…or the selling of an awarded contract to a larger company for profit. The Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2017 requires participants in the Vets First Program to certify they are performing the percentage of work already required by law and directs the VA to refer suspected violators to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation. The bill also directs the VA Secretary to consider whether existing administrative and criminal penalties for fraudulent representation would apply in each case.
 
The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs receives complaints nearly every week from veteran-owned small businesses regarding “improper pass-throughs,” where a small business obtains a certain contract but then gives all, or substantially all of the work, to a larger company while still collecting the profit. In some instances, multiple companies will pass through the work while adding price markups. Even though this has long been prohibited by the law, in practice the federal government has little ability to stop it from occurring. This improper practice by some bad actors in the system leaves many veterans who abide by the law unable to receive the contracts they are willing and capable of doing.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
Major reforms to veterans’ education benefits are one step closer to becoming law after the House of Representatives unanimously voted in favor of the legislation Monday, July 24 – and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee followed up with a unanimous vote supporting it just two days later.
 
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017, known as the “Forever GI Bill” would make significant changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Altogether, it combines 18 bills and is expected to increase GI Bill costs by $3 billion in 10 years. To offset costs, the legislation calls for reducing the annual growth of GI Bill recipients’ living stipends to fall in line with active-duty servicemembers' basic housing allowance. The decrease would not apply to people now using the GI Bill.
 
These provisions include eliminating a requirement that veterans use their benefits within 15 years of active-duty service and expanding benefits for Reservists, Purple Heart recipients and surviving dependents. The bill would also retroactively restore benefits to veterans affected by recent school closures and provide additional funds to GI Bill users pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. There has been a lot of momentum for the bill since it was unveiled by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee a week and a half ago, receiving bipartisan support and the backing of several prominent veteran service organizations.
 
“This bill and how it got to this point today is a shining example of how well Congress can and should work together,” Committee Chairman Representative Phil Roe (TN), said before the vote. Committee Ranking Member Representative Tim Walz (MN) called the GI Bill legislation “a real historic piece of work” and “just smart legislation… The Senate is going to pick this up, and I think and look forward to that day when President Trump, hopefully towards the end of summer, early fall picks that pen up and signs this and makes a difference in veterans’ lives today.”
 
On Wednesday, July 26, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs followed up with its own hearing for its own identical plan for GI Bill reform, and voted unanimously to advance the legislation onto the Senate floor for a vote. Now that the healthcare vote has concluded, the possibility for a motion for unanimous consent in the Senate appears possible before the mid-August recess. 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  7/28/17

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 21 July 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Mortgage rates have dipped to their lowest level of 2017, just in time for homebuying season. With the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 4.16 percent this week, home loans haven’t been this low since December. You would think this would be the perfect opportunity for would-be homeowners shop for mortgages and then to get out there and look at houses. But that’s not happening, at least on the mortgage side of the equation. Homebuyers applied for fewer mortgages last week than they did the same week a year before, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The year-over-year decline was just 1 percent, but still, a soft beginning to homebuying season isn’t what forecasters expected.  After all, most people have jobs.
 
Most likely explanation is that not enough houses are for sale. When people can’t find homes to buy, they don’t apply for mortgages. The inventory of homes for sale, especially for starter homes, is at its lowest level in more than 10 years, according to Freddie Mac’s latest economic outlook. The note points out that in February, the typical home was sold after being on the market for three months. That’s an abnormally short time on the market. From 1985 to 2015, homes typically were on the market for 5.3 months before they were sold – almost twice as long as in February. Those stats come from the National Association of Realtors.
 
Homebuilders aren’t going to rescue desperate would-be homeowners. Housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.22 million units, according to the Census Bureau. That’s well below the 1.7 million new homes we need to replace torn-down homes, accommodate new households and provide second homes for those who can afford them.  In other words:  We need builders to construct half a million more homes per year than they’re building.
 
The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell this week to 4.16 percent from 4.22 percent, according to Bankrate’s weekly survey of large lenders. A year ago, it was 3.75 percent. Four weeks ago, the rate was 4.29 percent. The 30-year fixed mortgages in this week’s survey had an average total of 0.28 discount and origination points. Over the past 52 weeks, the 30-year fixed has averaged 3.92 percent. This week’s rate is 0.24 percentage points higher than the 52-week average. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.35 percent from 3.43 percent. The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.42 percent from 3.46 percent. The 30-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgage fell to 4.07 percent from 4.15 percent.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
137
172
109
129
28
43
Unemployment rate
4.4
5.1
4.2
4.5
5.5
8.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (June 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.1 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (up from 3.5 percent in May).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, July 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division testified at the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (H.R. 3218). H.R. 3218 would bring about the largest expansion of GI Bill benefits in a decade, and include provisions that support servicemembers deployed and activated under both 12304b and 12301(h) orders, as well as relief for displaced students from closed schools such as ITT Technical Institute. The testimony was live streamed, and is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KonUS9nZGnk.
 
On Monday, July 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with Christine Rivera, Principal, Career Development at Walgreens, regarding an apprenticeship program they’re working on implementing in the fall. Walgreens would like The American Legion to endorse this program. Walgreens will hire veterans under the apprenticeship program, provided they are enrolled as a full-time student with the intent of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. After graduation, Walgreens will guarantee the veteran a position as a store manager at one of their stores. The only reservation that we have is the school that Walgreens is partnering with is DeVry University. This may be problematic due to DeVry’s recent issues with their veteran student population. The American Legion will be having follow-up conversations in the coming weeks.
 
On Tuesday, July 18 the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Kayce Didier, Talent Acquisition Representative for Tesla Giga-factory, regarding their new veteran hiring initiative. Tesla just opened a new manufacturing plant in Reno (NV); consequently, they desire to hire veterans based upon our work ethic, discipline and team orientation.
On Wednesday, July 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated on CBS Radio's Connecting Vets morning show on the improvements for the GI Bill. In addition to sharing the impact of the legislation and the history of Harry Colmery and the original GI Bill, veterans entrepreneurship and future efforts towards incorporating small business components into future GI Bill improvements was discussed.
 
On Thursday, July 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with DOL-VETS to discuss the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) and its impact nationwide. In addition, we had a conference call with Cabot Creamery to discuss employment opportunities for homeless veterans within the agricultural arena. Lastly, we had a conference call with Stateside to discuss their legislative/policy agenda regarding homeless veterans. Stateside offers deep expertise in the core services, strategies and execution of local and state government relations.
 
On Thursday, July 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Rebecca Russel, Talent Acquisition Representative for JT3. JT3 provides engineering and technical support to four of the western test ranges for the U.S. Air Force and Navy under the Joint Range Technical Services Contract, better known as J-Tech. The company is in search of veterans who may possess certain transferrable military skills.
 
On Friday, July 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Denise Wright, Senior Program Analyst, Center for Minority Veterans, VA, to discuss issues surrounding homeless veterans and their employment/training opportunities. 
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides protection in any case in which a Guard or reserve servicemember (or a servicemember's dependent) has coverage under a health plan in connection with the servicemember's civilian job, including a group health plan (as defined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), and the servicemember is absent from their civilian job by reason of service in the uniformed services, the plan provides that the servicemember may elect to continue their health care coverage. The maximum period of coverage of a servicemember and their dependents under such an election shall be the lesser of:
  • The 24-month period beginning on the date on which the person's absence begins; or
  • The day after the date on which the person fails to apply for or return to a position of employment.
A servicemember who elects to continue health-plan coverage may be required to pay not more than 102 percent of the full premium under the plan of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 associated with such coverage for the employer's other employees, except that in the case of a servicemember who performs service in the uniformed services for less than 31 days, such person may not be required to pay more than the employee share, if any, for such coverage.
In the case of a health plan that is a multi-employer plan, as defined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, any liability under the plan for employer contributions and benefits arising under this paragraph shall be allocated:
  • By the plan in such manner as the plan sponsor shall provide; or
  • If the sponsor does not provide to the last employer employing the person before the period served by the member in the uniformed services, or if such last employer is no longer functional, to the plan.
Except as provided above, in the case of a servicemember whose coverage under a health plan was terminated by reason of service in the uniformed services, an exclusion or waiting period may not be imposed in connection with the reinstatement of such coverage upon reemployment under this chapter if an exclusion or waiting period would not have been imposed under a health plan had coverage of such person by such plan not been terminated as a result of such service. This applies to the member who is reemployed and to any individual who is covered by such plan by reason of the reinstatement of the coverage of such person.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
A $5 million program to assist homeless veterans has helped only 268 get off the streets over 18 months, according to a recent Los Angeles County civil grand jury report -- in part because a $1.2 million contract to provide interim shelter has been delayed for nearly a year. Homes for Heroes, a county program funded by the federal government, provides interim shelter to veterans and pays for move-in costs and minor repairs for landlords who agree to rent to former servicemembers. But from January 2016 to June 2017, the report said, the program has helped more property owners, 363, than it has veterans.
The "bridge" housing contract was put out to bid by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in September, but the agency had not reached an agreement with providers by the time the report -- which was released in late June -- was prepared, the grand jury said. Tom Waldman, spokesman for the homeless services authority, said the contract process began in November and the agency reached an agreement in April with a provider to house eight veterans. A second provider, Volunteers of America, had been expected to furnish shelter for 72 more but lost its site. That contract will be executed when Volunteers of America finds a new location, Waldman said.
Phil Ansell, director of the county's homeless initiative, said the grand jury's information was seven months old. "In the ensuing months, progress has been made, although more certainly remains to be done," Ansell said in a written statement. Despite housing thousands over the last three years, Southern California continues to lead the nation in veteran homelessness, with 4,800 living on streets and riverbeds countywide -- including 2,700 in the city of Los Angeles, the report said. Mayor Eric Garcetti had made a pledge to end veteran homelessness a signature of his administration, but scrapped a timetable this year as the numbers continued to climb. The mayor's office referred comment on the report to the homeless services authority and county officials. The grand jury's report also expressed concern about Homes for Heroes' administrative costs.
Officials with the homeless services authority told jurors that portion represented 15 percent of the total funds, the report said. But "as no contracts have been awarded, we were not able to obtain the actual administrative cost for the contractors." According to the report, federal rent vouchers go unused because veterans can't find a place to use them before they expire. "These voided vouchers go back to the county for reassignment to other homeless veterans waiting for housing," the report said. A county spokeswoman disputed this finding, saying that "100 percent" of its veteran vouchers are being used. The grand jury also found that many homeless veterans don't know where to get help.
They may be living on skid row, where they receive assistance from the missions but have trouble getting government aid available at downtown's Patriotic Hall or the Department of Veterans Affairs campus in West Los Angeles, the report said. Another impediment is that much of the housing that accepts veteran rent vouchers is for men only; their family members must find shelter elsewhere, the report said. The grand jury also found that homeless veterans lack storage for their belongings, and that police use ticketing and arrests to remove them from neighborhoods where they are unwanted.
To help alleviate the crisis, the grand jury recommended, among other things:
 
  • Considering using the General Hospital building north of downtown, or other vacant structures, to house homeless veterans and their families;
  • Expanding county benefits for homeless veterans from one to two years;
  • Setting up a county mobile outreach service for veterans at the missions;
  • Giving the missions more county homeless funds;
  • Establishing county storage facilities for homeless veterans; and
  • Speeding up the procurement and contracting process.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), Biloxi (MS), Camp Pendleton, Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Charleston, Lexington Park (MD), Portsmouth (NH), Reno, San Francisco, Springfield (IL) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
After receiving “numerous” public comments, the VA has confirmed today that the extended three-year Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) verification term - originally adopted in February 2017 - will remain in effect indefinitely. Before February, SDVOSBs and VOSBs were required to be reverified every two years. When the VA originally adopted its SDVOSB and VOSB program regulations in 2010, the VA required participants to be reverified annually.  Needless to say, many early participants in the program weren’t happy with the requirement for reverification every year (VA might not have been too happy, either, since this undoubtedly created a lot of extra work for it, too).
In 2012, the VA extended the eligibility period to two years. Then, in February 2017, the VA issued an “interim final rule,” further extending the period to three years. At the time, the VA said that it would accept public comment on the interim final rule, then issue a final rule responding to those comments. Now, the final rule is here, and the VA is sticking with the three-year eligibility period. In the final rule, the VA reiterates that it is confident that “the integrity of the verification program will not be compromised by establishing a three year eligibility period.”  
The VA points out that in Fiscal Year 2016, “from a total of 1,109 reverification applications, only 11 were denied,” or less than one percent. And, the VA writes, there are other means of discovering ineligible participants, including “random, unannounced inspections” and “status protests” by VA contracting officers and other SDVOSBs and VOSBs.  Therefore, the “risk of extending the period from two to three years is very low.” The VA says that “numerous commenters expressed support for the extension of the eligibility period, asserting that it allows veterans more time to focus on the success of their business, and reduces the administrative burden of gathering and submitting the required documentation.” The VA has adopted its original interim rule without change, meaning that the three-year verification period is now in place indefinitely.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
The U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) held a legislative hearing on July 17 at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., regarding H.R. 3218, the Harry W. Colmery Veteran Educational Assistance Act of 2017. During the hour-long hearing, HVAC members heard testimonies from several Congressmen, as well as representatives from four veterans service organizations (VSOs) including The American Legion. “I can’t imagine a topic more worthy of our attention than ensuring that veterans have the education benefits they’ve earned and deserve,” said Representative Phil Roe (TN), the HVAC chairman. “H.R. 3218 and how we got here, and where we are today, is a shining example of how well Congress can and should work together.”
Named for the principal architect of the original GI Bill, H.R. 3218 would improve and extend GI Bill benefits granted to veterans, their surviving spouses and dependents. Specifically, it would:
  • Remove time restrictions to use the GI Bill, enabling future eligible recipients to use their GI Bill benefits for their entire lives as opposed to the current 15-year timeline; and
  • Simplify the benefit for future servicemembers by consolidating the GI Bill into a single program, which would reduce the Veterans Affairs (VA) department’s administrative costs.
American Legion’s National Veterans Employment and Education Division Assistant Director John Kamin, who testified before the committee, said the bill reaffirms the ideas of Harry Colmery and that of the Legion’s - investing in veterans’ education makes this country greater. “As a World War I veteran, Colmery knew firsthand the challenges of transitioning from war,” said Kamin. “He saw the potential for a benefit that didn’t create dependence, but would foster greater citizenship through economic empowerment. A benefit rooted in the idea that the individual, not the government, could decide how and where to use it. A benefit that would challenge the status quo that education was the providence of the wealthy and the elite.”
The bipartisan legislation also will:
  • Provide significant increases in GI Bill funding for reservists and guardsmen, dependents, surviving spouses and surviving dependents;
  • Provide 100 percent GI Bill eligibility to post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients;
  • Restore eligibility for servicemembers whose school closes in the middle of a semester and creates a pilot program that would pay for veterans to take certain high technology courses.
“Most strikingly is making the GI Bill a ‘forever’ benefit. This has the potential to greatly increase GI Bill usage rates by providing servicemembers the flexibility they need to pursue their educational aspirations,” Kamin said. “As this committee affirms its commitment to veterans’ education, it is for us to rededicate our efforts to refining the GI Bill for the next generation.”
When it comes to the GI Bill, Kamin said the Legion believes that numerous areas can be improved. He suggested the following:
  • Increasing the State Approving Agencies (SAAs) funding from $19 million to a rate of $26 million so that SAAs can effectively perform their oversite responsibilities;
  • Empowering our servicemembers and veterans to be informed consumers who can make the best choices they can on how to use their benefits; and
  • Developing a solution that would provide GI Bill resources and start-up capital to small business, just as the original GI Bill did.

For Kamin, these improvements may seem small but the impact cannot be overstated. “Just as the original GI Bill was beyond any measurement at the time, the bills that this committee passes will have an impact beyond our years – not just on our veterans, but on the country as a whole,” he said. H.R. 3218 was sponsored by every HVAC committee member, is budget neutral and includes provisions that have been proposed and prioritized by VSOs, according to an HVAC press release. “This bill, as currently written, would launch a new era for all who have honorably served in uniform and for the nation as a whole,” American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt said in a letter addressed to Roe’s office on July 11, “Just as The American Legion did when the original GI Bill was passed in 1944, and subsequent versions were introduced, we will fight for this improved version until it is sent to the president’s desk for his signature. The American Legion will continue to work closely with you to ensure that veterans and their families rally across this country for these improvements.”
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  7/21/17

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 14 July 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
If Congress doesn’t act soon, tens of millions of Americans will only receive about three-quarters of their Social Security benefits when they retire in the future. In an annual report released Thursday, July 13, trustees of the government’s two largest entitlement programs – Social Security and Medicare – urged lawmakers to act quickly to assure Americans they’ll be able to get their full retirement benefits. The trustees projected that the Social Security trust fund will be tapped out by 2034. While that projection is unchanged from last year’s annual report card, the trustees warned of persistent long-term challenges ahead fixes aren’t made to pay for the program.
 
The latest projection doesn’t mean retirees will get nothing starting in 2034. It only means that at that point the program will only have enough revenue coming in to pay 77 percent of promised benefits. So if you were expecting to get $2,000 a month, your payout would shrink to $1,540. Still, the looming date is a concern to budget watchdogs. Social Security insolvency is no longer a problem only for future generations – without action, current workers and even current retirees will face a 23 percent across the board cut in just 17 years. That is when today’s 50 year-olds reach the normal retirement age and today’s youngest retirees turn 79.
 
Other groups also responded, warning lawmakers to act fast in order to avoid disruptive consequences for beneficiaries and taxpayers. The administration believes hitting its target of 3 percent economic growth through tax reform, loosening regulation and trade will help to pour in trillions of dollars into the economy and bring in additional revenue to meet the nation’s entitlement obligations.
 
Social Security is funded by two trust funds – one for retiree benefits and one for disability benefits. The 2034 date is the exhaustion date for both funds combined. When considered separately, the old-age fund will be depleted by 2035 – the same projection as last year – after which it would be able to pay just 75 percent of benefits. The disability fund is now projected to be tapped out by 2028, five years later than previously projected. After which, the payout would be 93 percent of promised benefits. The trustees said the revised projection for disability benefits was due to the fewer-than-expected 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
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
137
172
109
129
28
43
Unemployment rate
4.4
5.1
4.2
4.5
5.5
8.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (June 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.1 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (up from 3.5 percent in May).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, July 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a conference call with the Sacramento Veterans Business Outreach Center. Coreena Conley, Director of the Sacramento VBOC, will be collaborating with us to facilitate the Small Business Summit being held during the National Convention in Reno.
 
On Monday, July 10 – Tuesday, July 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the State Convention of the Department of Texas. We assisted in conducting several workshops -- Civilian Resume Writing, Financial Literacy, and Federal Resume Writing -- to 134 Soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.  In addition, we contributed to the department’s successful Career Fair. The event included numerous veteran-friendly companies and a significant pool of qualified servicemembers and veterans.
 
On Wednesday, July 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Oona Schmidt, Chief of Staff, Operation Renewed Hope Foundation (ORHF), to discuss their program that assists homeless veterans and their families. ORHF is a veteran led nonprofit that provides quality housing and supportive services for our nation’s homeless veterans.
 
On Wednesday, July 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the monthly breakfast held by the VA’s Center for Women Veterans. During this meeting, topics discussed include policy and legislation effecting women veterans, as well as updates from other stakeholders, such as the VA and other VSO’s.
 
On Thursday, July 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Department of Virginia’s Hiring Fair for their annual State Convention. During this event, VE&E assisted in giving resource information to veterans, as well as answered any questions related to The American Legion.
On Thursday, July 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had ac conference call with Tim Green, Director, Office of Strategic Outreach, Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) regarding the recommended changes to the HIRE Vets Medallion Program. The program recognizes employers that recruit, retain, and employ veterans, and that offer charitable services support of the veteran community. There is plans for a follow-up meeting in the near future.
 
On Friday, July 14, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a meeting with Kayce Didier, Associate Recruiter for Tesla Gigafactory, to discuss different opportunities of collaboration to assist veterans with full-time employment across the nation. 
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The state of Indiana is using a new law to thank veterans for their service by giving service members and their spouses preferential treatment for employment and training. “The legislation certainly strengthens and codifies the practices we have in place and the legislature recognizing the importance of veterans in the workforce,” said Nick Goodwin, chief strategy officer for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
The law requires the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to give a veteran or their spouse priority for placement in any federal or state employment or training program administered by the department. The veteran or spouse must submit documentation showing the veterans honorable discharge from service and must meet the eligibility requirements for the program. Indiana has the lowest unemployment rate of veterans in the United States at 1.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Employment Situation of Veterans-2016” report. The District of Columbia takes the number one spot with the highest veteran unemployment at 7.6 percent.
State Senator Brandt Hershman (Buck Creek) authored the bill and said Hoosiers should be celebrating the low unemployment rate for veterans, but also trying to build upon the success and not “resting on our laurels. It is commonly felt that veterans bring not only a unique skill set to the workforce but also a fantastic work ethic,” said Hershman, “and we want to ensure that those highly motivated folks have every opportunity to develop the skill set they need to meet the job market required by today’s employers.”
In 2016, the Indiana Department of Workforce and Development and its WorkOne Career Centers helped more than 10,000 Hoosier veterans and put more than 1,000 into employment opportunities. “Veterans tend to stick to something that they believe in, so they are looking for employers that will do the same for them,” said Michael Thompson, state veterans’ program director for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. “It goes back their core values that they have and are taught in the military.”
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
In late June, the Department of Labor announced the award of $43.3 million in Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program grants. The grants will help an estimated 21,000 veterans successfully reintegrate into the competitive workforce. The grants will fund a variety of services to assist homeless veterans in their return to the labor force including occupational, classroom, and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance. Grants were awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, tribal governments, and faith-based and community organizations.
 
Many HVRP grant recipients' awards will also include funding to allow them to target specific at-risk veteran populations. The Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program provides funding for services to expedite the reintegration of incarcerated or recently incarcerated veterans who are at risk for homeless into the labor force. The Homeless Female Veterans and Veterans with Families Program provides funding for services to expedite the reintegration of homeless female veterans and veterans with families into the labor force.
Grantees in the HVRP program network coordinate their efforts with various local, state and federal social service providers. To learn more about the Department of Labor's unemployment and re-employment programs for veterans, visit www.dol.gov/vets/.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), Biloxi (MS), Camp Pendleton, Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Charleston, Lexington Park (MD), Portsmouth (NH), Reno, San Francisco, Springfield (IL) and Washington, DC.
 
The National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a Career Fair in conjunction with the Department of Texas State Convention. The collaboration between the Department of Texas and Texas Veteran Commission resulted in 46 employers being on hand to assist 161 veteran job seekers, which led to 2 on the spot hires within the first couple of hours.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
Two former officials of a now dissolved local government contractor for NASA and the Air Force have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States government using a program meant to benefit service-disabled veterans. Minda Moore of Kelley’s Logistics Support Systems (KLSS) Solutions in Greene County was indicted in Dayton’s U.S. District Court for unlawfully securing services contracts and subcontracts, including $1.4 million from NASA. Nicholas Borton reached a plea deal and is scheduled to be sentenced in August. No court dates have been scheduled in Moore’s case. Charges include conspiracy to file false claims, make false statements and wire fraud. Court records allege Moore and Borton fraudulently held out KLSS Solutions as a set-aside business qualified as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). The filings say a law was passed in 1999 aiming for at least 3 percent of government prime and subcontracts be awarded to businesses owned and operated by service disabled-veterans or their caregivers.
 
KLSS was organized in 1997 as a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) to provide services to the U.S. government and aerospace industry, according to the indictment. In 2008, a separate company named KLSS Solutions was organized as an Ohio corporation by founders Steven Powers, Anita Kelley-Powers (Powers’ wife) and Borton (Powers’ son-in-law), according to state business filings. Court records say it did business as a SDVOSB. Court records say Powers was in fact a service-disabled veteran, but in 2009, Moore became the controlling owner of KLSS and Borton became president of KLSS and KLSS Solutions. In January 2013, due to a terminal illness of Powers, Moore and Borton recruited someone to serve as a “straw man” owner of KLSS Solutions because he was a service-disabled veteran. This “straw man” didn’t do any actual work or management of KLSS Solutions and didn’t receive any compensation, according to court records, which also listed various documents that allegedly show the conspiracy.
 
Between March 2013 and June 2014, according to court documents, KLSS Solutions was awarded 15 subcontracts for NASA and was paid $1,411,452. In March 2008, KLSS Solutions was awarded a Department of Air Force (DAF) prime contract worth $148,619. KLSS Solutions was officially dissolved April 6, 2017, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
A bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday, July 13, to make the GI Bill for Post-9/11 veterans a lifetime education benefit for new recruits who go on to serve three years of active-duty. Current Post-9/11 veterans who qualify for the GI Bill would still be subject to the use-it-or-lose-it time limit of 15 years for the education benefit under the proposed "Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017," named for the late American Legion national commander who wrote the original GI Bill in 1944. The proposed bill also included reforms and changes to the qualifications for the GI Bill for Purple Heart recipients, National Guard and Reservists, the dependents of veterans, and victims of for-profit school closures.
At a news conference, Representative Phil Roe (TN), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he expected to hold a hearing Monday on the GI Bill proposal ahead of quick passage by the full Committee. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA), told the Associated Press that he also expected quick passage by the full House. "We'll move it out this month," he said. On the Senate side, Senator Johnny Isakson (GA), chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said he was preparing to introduce a companion bill to the House version.
Representative Tim Walz (MN), the ranking member on HVAC, said the bill would "enhance one of the best programs ever to come out of Congress," a reference to the original GI Bill that gave a college education to many returning World War II vets. Proponents of the bill stressed the "forever" provision that would allow new recruits to use the GI Bill whenever they choose and not be bound by the 15-year limit. "This takes off that 15-year window," said Representative Jack Bergman (MI), a member of HVAC and a retired Marine lieutenant general.
If passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, the new bill would take effect recruits who enlist after January 1, 2018. Veterans Service Organizations enthusiastically backed the bill. "This bill, as currently written, would launch a new era for all who have honorably served in uniform, and for the nation as a whole," said Charles E. Schmidt, National Commander of the American Legion. The new bill would address what were seen as shortcomings in the GI Bill of 2008 which guaranteed full-ride payment to any in-state public university -- or the cash amount for private college students similar to the value of a scholarship at a state college.
The old bill left out Purple Heart recipients who had not completed three years of active-duty. The new bill would make Purple Heart recipients eligible for the education benefits no matter how long they served on active-duty. It’s estimated that 1,500-2,000 Purple Heart recipients had been ineligible for the education benefits because of the three-year active duty qualification. The new bill would also restore educational benefits for veterans who were enrolled in for-profit schools that shut down. Under the new provisions, those veterans would be able to recover their educational assistance for future use.
In addition, National Guard members and Reservists who were involuntarily activated would become eligible for the full benefit received by their active-duty counterparts. In cases where a veteran transfers the education benefits to a dependent child, the new bill would eliminate the current prohibition against transferring the benefit to a second child should the first child die. This beefed-up Post-9/11 GI Bill recognizes the long service and sacrifice of the one percent of Americans who have voluntarily put their personal lives on hold to fight an unimaginable multi-front war for 16-plus years. The strong congressional support also proves that taking care of veterans and their families is the most bipartisan issue there is in Washington.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  7/14/17
 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 7 July 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The momentum in the U.S. labor market picked up in June, new government data showed Friday, July 7, with the private sector and the government adding 222,000 jobs. The figure surpassed estimates of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, who had expected an addition of 178,000 jobs in the month.  The unemployment rate was relatively unchanged at 4.4 percent, up from 4.3 percent in May. The Department of Labor also revised its estimates for job gains in April and May, raising the combined figure by 47,000 jobs. Average hourly earnings were up by 2.5 percent from a year ago to $26.25, continuing a streak of relatively weak wage growth. The largest gains were seen in the healthcare sector, which added 37,000 jobs as an aging U.S. population continued to drive the industry. The ranks of daycare providers, financial analysts and miners also swelled in June.
 
The average pace of job gains remains strong, eight years into the economic expansion. However, it is still significantly slower than what would be required to meet President Trump’s ambitious promise of creating 25 million jobs in the next decade. On Monday, President Trump took to twitter to celebrate gains made in the economy. “Really great numbers on jobs and the economy!” he wrote. “Things are starting to kick in now, and we have just begun!” Economists say the president has probably not been in the office long enough to have much of an influence on the economy – and that the economy that Trump is now presiding over looks nearly identical to that at the end of the Obama administration.
 
Trump’s election fueled hopes of tax cuts, infrastructure spending, and other policies that would support business. But while the administration has moved quickly to dismantle regulations, legislative efforts that would alter taxes and spending have proved far more difficult, as divisions within Congressional Republicans have bogged down healthcare reform. Many business leaders are still hoping for tax reform before the end of the year, but they privately say the window is closing. Even as hopes for a “Trump bump” that would stimulate the economy recede, the economy continues to chug along, with steady if unimpressive growth.
 
“We’re doing fine. It’s just not as much as many people would like, but it’s a very healthy 2 percent, stated a senior economist. While the current economic expansion is already the third-longest in history, an aging population and a relative lack of technological innovation mean that rates of economic growth have been slower than past boom times. Still, the Federal Reserve has judged that it is time to begin to raise interest rates to more normal levels, after holding them low to stimulate the economy after the recession. On June 14, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point, from 1 percent to 1.24 percent, the third such increase in six months.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
JUN
2016
JUN
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
137
172
109
129
28
43
Unemployment rate
4.4
5.1
4.2
4.5
5.5
8.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (June 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 5.1 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (up from 3.5 percent in May).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, July 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division wrote testimony regarding veteran’s employment for an upcoming hearing for VA&R. The first bill, S. 1325,  is a  bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the authorities of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire, recruit, and train employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This bill will direct VA to expand its workforce, leading to more timely and efficient healthcare for veterans. The American Legion supports legislation that will increase the employee capabilities at the VA.
 
On Wednesday, July 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division wrote testimony regarding veteran’s employment within the VA for VA&R’s upcoming hearing. The bill, Department of Veterans Affairs Quality Employment Act, is to improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physicians and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The American Legion believes that an increase in VA workforce will lead to reduced patient waiting times, the improvement of employee vacancy rates, decreased turnover in senior VA medical center leadership, timely claims processing, reduced homelessness, the elimination of improper burials at VA cemeteries, and better assurance of compliance with national policies, rules and laws enacted to assist veterans and their families.
 
On Wednesday, July 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with LTC. Patricia Bailey, from Soldier For Life, to discuss different collaborative opportunities on the implementation on an executive order for the entire Army. The executive order will outline responsibilities for Army tenants with regards to how Soldier for Life operates. One of the things they are looking at are the current business rules and best practices our organization uses as we function on Army installations.
 
On Thursday, July 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Doreen Owens, Director for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DVET), Department of Labor, for the State of Nevada. We discussed different opportunities for collaboration in assisting veterans with finding meaningful employment.
 
On Thursday, July 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a planning call hosted by Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes regarding the hiring fairs for National Convention. Currently there are 6 employers and 2 veteran resource organizations. The goal is to have 30 employers and 6 veteran resource organizations.
 
On Thursday, July 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a planning call hosted by Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes, regarding the hiring fair for the Department of Virginia’s Convention. There are currently 50 employers and 5 service organizations registered.
 
On Thursday, July 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Joanne Johnson, Supportive Housing Specialist, CORT, to discuss homeless veterans and the potential of working together to furnish their homes. 
 
On Thursday, July 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with representatives from VFW, Got Your 6, TAPS, VVA, and Student Veterans of America (SVA) to discuss aligning strategy and goals for the upcoming push to improve the GI Bill. These stakeholders are requesting five improvements to the GI Bill: 100 percent eligibility for Purple Heart recipients, Yellow Ribbon access for survivors, GI Bill eligibility for Reservists under 12304b and 12301(h) orders, ending the 15 year delimiting date, and relief for student-veterans attending closed schools.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The Department of Labor (DOL) announced its new “HIRE Vets Medallion” Program, which will recognize employers that recruit, retain, and employ veterans, and that offer charitable services in support of the veteran community. The agency is establishing the program under the HIRE Vets Act. President Trump signed the act into law on May 5.
DOL will establish two levels of awards - the Gold HIRE Vets Medallion Award and the Platinum HIRE Vets Medallion Award - for large employers and for small and medium-sized employers.
The award criteria include the:
  • Percentage of employees who are veterans;
  • Percentage of veteran employees who are retained;
  • Establishment of veteran assistance and training programs;
  • Employment of dedicated human resources professionals for veterans; and
  • Income and tuition support for veterans.
DOL will solicit, verify, and review award applications from employers on an annual basis.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
John Rhodes has a quiet, hardworking and appreciative demeanor about him. On a recent morning in a quiet Northeast El Paso neighborhood, Rhodes, 56, was more optimistic about life and very appreciative about the new opportunity in his life. The Navy veteran who served six and a half years - and who was once homeless and battling an uncertain future - last week moved into his new home with the help of a federal housing voucher program. "I'm feeling optimistic, this is a new chapter in my life," said the humble and easy going Rhodes, who works at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery. "When I was homeless, it was a difficult time. Circumstances in my life led to me being homeless. There were times I wasn't sure if it would get better. I spent time in subsidized housing and it was a process to get to this point," Rhodes said. "But I've been fortunate to have a great support system and so many people have helped me," he added. "It'll be nice to sleep in a new house, to have warm running water. It's a positive time right now in my life."
Rhodes qualified for his new home through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program, which was initiated in 2008 by former President Barack Obama to eradicate veteran homelessness. The Housing Authority of the City of El Paso, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Office of U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke also aided in helping homeless veterans like Rhodes find a home to live. The program provides rental assistance vouchers for privately owned housing to eligible veterans, and can eventually help a rental voucher recipient to home ownership, officials said. In 2015, HACEP helped another formerly homeless veteran in El Paso, Daniel Lemus, buy a home. Since 2015, HUD has allocated more than 88,000 vouchers nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
HACEP CEO Gerald Cichon said 236 veterans or veterans and their families in El Paso have received vouchers, with a few more available. "It's great to see John get this opportunity," Cichon said. "John Rhodes is what these programs and resources are all about, to take someone who proudly served our community from homelessness to home ownership. To see John happy means a great deal.” Rhodes, who holds a business administrative finance degree from Western Washington University, hopes to help other homeless veterans. "I know a lot of veterans out there and I want to be able to help them," Rhodes said. "There are opportunities out there for veterans and I know I didn't always want to get the help offered to improve my life. But once I did it, I was grateful and doors opened in my life. This is a new opportunity in my life. Hopefully, others will see what happened to me and the opportunities I received and that will help them," he added. "Our veterans deserve to have good things happen them and there are people out there to help them."
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Belle Chasse (LA), Biloxi (MS), Camp Pendleton, Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Charleston, Lexington Park (MD), Portsmouth (NH), Reno, San Francisco, Springfield (IL) and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
Two former officials of a now dissolved local government contractor for NASA and the Air Force have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States government using a program meant to benefit service-disabled veterans. Minda Moore of Kelley’s Logistics Support Systems (KLSS) Solutions in Greene County was indicted in Dayton’s U.S. District Court for unlawfully securing services contracts and subcontracts, including $1.4 million from NASA. Nicholas Borton reached a plea deal and is scheduled to be sentenced in August. No court dates have been scheduled in Moore’s case. Charges include conspiracy to file false claims, make false statements and wire fraud. Court records allege Moore and Borton fraudulently held out KLSS Solutions as a set-aside business qualified as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). The filings say a law was passed in 1999 aiming for at least 3 percent of government prime and subcontracts be awarded to businesses owned and operated by service disabled-veterans or their caregivers.
 
KLSS was organized in 1997 as a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) to provide services to the U.S. government and aerospace industry, according to the indictment. In 2008, a separate company named KLSS Solutions was organized as an Ohio corporation by founders Steven Powers, Anita Kelley-Powers (Powers’ wife) and Borton (Powers’ son-in-law), according to state business filings. Court records say it did business as a SDVOSB. Court records say Powers was in fact a service-disabled veteran, but in 2009, Moore became the controlling owner of KLSS and Borton became president of KLSS and KLSS Solutions. In January 2013, due to a terminal illness of Powers, Moore and Borton recruited someone to serve as a “straw man” owner of KLSS Solutions because he was a service-disabled veteran. This “straw man” didn’t do any actual work or management of KLSS Solutions and didn’t receive any compensation, according to court records, which also listed various documents that allegedly show the conspiracy.
 
Between March 2013 and June 2014, according to court documents, KLSS Solutions was awarded 15 subcontracts for NASA and was paid $1,411,452. In March 2008, KLSS Solutions was awarded a Department of Air Force (DAF) prime contract worth $148,619. KLSS Solutions was officially dissolved April 6, 2017, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
Attorney generals from 18 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Thursday, July 6, against the Department of Education (ED) and Secretary DeVos, challenging the department’s move last month to freeze new rules for erasing the federal loan debt of student borrowers who were cheated by colleges that acted fraudulently. The rules, known as borrower defense, were finalized in October by the Obama administration after years of negotiation and review, and they had been scheduled to take effect on July 1. But after President Trump took office, Secretary DeVos paused the planned changes, citing a federal lawsuit filed in May by an association of for-profit colleges in California that is seeking to block the rules.
 
In their lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, the states called the agency’s rationale for the delay - the California lawsuit - a “mere pretext” for repealing and replacing rules that had already been finalized. The states are seeking to have the rules restored. Secretary DeVos is on record as having criticized the rules, calling them “a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools,” and she said she would establish a new rule-making committee to reconsider the matter from scratch.
 
Concurrently, two student borrowers sued ED in the same federal court over the delayed rules. The students both attended the New England Institute of Art in Brookline, Massachusetts, a for-profit school that stopped enrolling new students in 2015. Its parent company, Education Management Corporation, agreed that year to pay $95 million to settle a government lawsuit charging the company with making illegal payments to recruiters. The Obama administration’s push to streamline and expand the borrower defense process came after hundreds of for-profit colleges were accused of widespread fraud and collapsed, leaving their enrolled students with huge debts and no degrees. The failure of two mammoth chains, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, gave the issue added urgency.
 
An existing federal law allows borrowers to apply for loan forgiveness if they attended a school that misled them or broke state consumer protection laws. The American Legion assisted student-veterans affected by this through their service officer network in the wake of the ITT shut downs. Once rarely used, the system was overwhelmed by applicants after the wave of for-profit failures. Corinthian’s collapse alone led to more than 15,000 loan discharges, with a balance of $247 million.
 
This balance is paid for by taxpayers. The rules that Secretary DeVos froze would have shifted some of that risk back to the industry by requiring schools at-risk of closing to put up financial collateral. They would also ban mandatory arbitration agreements, which have prevented many aggrieved students from suing schools that they believe have defrauded them. ED is having a town hall on their regulatory freezes on July 10, and The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division is on the town hall agenda to speak on these issues.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  7/7/17

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 30 June 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Long-term U.S. mortgage rates were unchanged to lower this week, as the benchmark 30-year rate reached a new low for the year. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday, June 29, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.88 percent, down from 3.90 percent last week. The rate stood at 3.48 percent a year ago and averaged a record low 3.65 percent in 2016. The 15-year, fixed-rate home loan, popular with homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages, was unchanged last week at 3.17 percent.
 
U.S. mortgage rates have remained low even though the Federal Reserve has been raising short-term interest rates. The Fed has increased its key rate by a quarter-point three times since December, most recently this month, to a range of 1 to 1.25 percent. At the same time, would-be home buyers are facing higher prices and fewer options. Sales listings have plunged 8.4 percent over the past 12 months to 1.96 million. The median sales price in May rose 5.8 percent from a year ago to $252,800.
 
Data issued Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors showed that Americans signed fewer contracts to buy homes in May, the third straight monthly decline and evidence that a shortage of homes for sale has suppressed purchases. To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. The average fee for a 30-year mortgage this week was unchanged at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year loans also held steady at 0.5 point.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
125
151
105
132
20
19
Unemployment rate
4.0
4.6
4.0
4.8
4.0
3.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.3 percent (May 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (down from 5.0 percent in April).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, June 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with a constituent who shared a previously unknown oversight in the GI Bill: transferring over Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits without the knowledge of how their Montgomery GI Bill affects the entitlement. In 1989, Steve Vozzola enlisted in the Navy and served 4 years, earning the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and using 35 months of entitlement towards a Bachelor’s Degree. He graduated and commissioned back in the Navy, and served until 2011. He assumed he had received the Post-9/11 GI Bill for his years of service after using MGIB, and he was not incorrect: the Post 9/11 GI Bill has provisions in its statute that authorize 12 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill once MGIB is exhausted. Unfortunately for Steve, he had not exhausted all of his MGIB Benefits; in fact he had used 35 months and 24 days of it, leaving 6 days left of MGIB entitlement. When he made the decision to transfer his education benefits over to his children he was unaware of this, and they received only 6 days instead of 12 months. A legislative solution will be difficult to remedy this, but our division will explore the issue further to see how widespread it is.
 
On Monday, June 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division, along with AVUE Technologies met with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) to discuss initiatives related to the proposed pay downgrades to VA employees in 19 occupations across the nation. The roundtable discussion focused on findings related to previous research on the value of VA employees such as police officers, custodial staff, and others. The conclusion of this meeting resulted in the initiation to facilitate interviews in order to begin the study.
 
On Monday, June 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Kathryn Monet, Executive Director, and Joshua Stewart, Director of Policy, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), to discuss plans (i.e., roundtable and site visit) for National Convention and employment issues regarding homeless veterans. 
 
On Monday, June 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Melissa Washington, President & Founder, Women Veterans Alliance (WVA). The Women Veterans Alliance’s mission is to empower women that have served or are currently serving through networking, career and professional development, and mentorship. WVA has grown to be the largest women veteran networking group in California and is expanding to other areas. The topic discussed was potentially developing a partnership, and The American Legion having a vendor table at the annual Women Veterans Alliance Conference in October 2017 in order to offer Legion resources to veterans and to gain new members.
 
On Wednesday, June 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference with Billy Jenkins, a member of The American Legion’s Small Business Task Force. The topics that were discussed included the proposed legislation regarding veteran procurement, and The American Legion’s testimony on the subject on Thursday, June 29.
 
On Wednesday, June 28, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division continued its series of Credentialing events with a roundtable focused on emergency healthcare: Facilitating Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans in Allied Health and Emergency Medical Services. The event was attended by over 40 industry, military, government and academic leaders, while being the first roundtable to focus exclusively on a niche industry segment. Feedback from the roundtable indicated it was well received, with Marion Cain, DOD’s Associate Director for Force Training, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness), declaring it was the “most effective credentialing roundtable the Legion has ever hosted.” After action reviews will be completed by the end of the week of July 7th.
 
On Thursday, June 29, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division testified during the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigation hearing. This hearing was in regards to four proposed bills dealing with veteran small business.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
How often do people change jobs? It might be more often than you think. The era of employment for life is long over. Workers now migrate from job to job over their career in search of greater fulfillment and compensation. Employers discharge employees more readily than in the past when business conditions change or productivity by a worker lags. It can be difficult to determine the number of times people have changed jobs throughout the course of their workable lives. The main reason for this difficulty is that there is no current consensus on what is considered a career change. For some, an internal transfer may be considered a change, while others would only consider a jump to a new company. A promotion or internal occupational change may be a career change to some, but others may define it differently. Not only is the definition of change in and of itself complicated, but even seemingly minute details like the duration of time a person must stay in a role for it to be considered a career are up for debate. 
 
Roughly two-thirds of veterans are likely to leave their first post-military job within two years because of problems like low job satisfaction and limited opportunities for advancement, according to a 2014 survey by employment specialists. The report, from VetAdvisor and Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families, confirms concerns from many veterans groups that post-military employment problems don't end when troops land their first civilian job. According to the research, roughly 44 percent of veterans who responded to the survey left their first civilian job within a year of employment. Another 21 percent left after one to two years on the job. Veterans blamed the quick job changes on a lack of advancement opportunity in their offices, tedious work requirements and finding that the job is a poor match with their military skills. But on a more positive note, more than 43 percent of veterans surveyed said they left their job for another, better position.
 
Today, the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career. Many workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to another. Job searching and networking, as well as tracking and adjusting to job market trends, have taken on enhanced importance. Upgrading one's employment status has become an ongoing process, rather than something you do once or twice during your career.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
On June 29, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Veterans Matter, a program that provides security deposits to homeless veterans in 14 states and the District of Columbia announced that, through their joint efforts, they have helped 1,500 veterans exit homelessness and move into permanent housing. Veterans Matter, supported by John Mellencamp, Dusty Hill, Katy Perry, Kid Rock and many others in the entertainment industry, was established in 2012 by the Toledo, Ohio-based nonprofit 1Matters.org, and focuses exclusively on providing security deposits to homeless veterans who qualify for rental subsidies from the joint Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. In providing these security deposits, Veterans Matter removes a major barrier to securing stable housing for homeless veterans.
“VA can’t end veteran homelessness alone,” said Anthony Love, senior adviser and director of community engagement for the Veterans Health Administration Homeless Programs Office. Partnerships with innovative, community-oriented groups, such as Veterans Matter, have played a major role in the decline in veteran homelessness in recent years. “In collaboration with VA, we are able to make a greater impact for homeless veterans than we could on our own,” said Ken Leslie, who founded Veterans Matter and was once homeless himself.
Once veterans are housed through the HUD-VASH program, VA case managers can connect them to other supportive services such as employment assistance, health care, mental health treatment and substance abuse counseling to help them recover and improve their ability to stay housed. Based on data released by HUD in 2016, since 2010, there has been an estimated 47 percent reduction in homelessness among veterans across the country. Further, HUD said, between 2015 and 2016 alone, the number of homeless veterans decreased by 17 percent. In addition, of all VA homeless programs that assist veterans, HUD-VASH assists the largest number of veterans who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness. And of those veterans in the program, 91 percent remain housed. The program has allocated more than 88,000 housing vouchers nationwide to date.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Camp Pendleton, Fort Carson, Fort Sam Houston, Gulfport (MS), Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Lexington Park (MD), Los Angeles, Portsmouth (NH), Reston (VA), Rochester (NY), San Francisco, Seattle, and Springfield (IL).
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
In a continued effort to support America's active-duty military, veterans and their families, Bob Evans Farms, via its "Our Farm Salutes" program launched the Heroes to CEOs initiative, a new grant program developed in partnership with The Mission Continues that will award three $25,000 business grants to deserving veterans who submit a video sharing their business idea and a plan demonstrating a solid business concept; not-for-profits are also eligible for the grant.
 
The initiative is the largest veterans-only grant program currently available for all veterans. The winners will also receive a business coaching session with acclaimed businessman and investor Daymond John, the Founder and CEO of FUBU and investor on ABC's reality series Shark Tank. The grants, given in partnership with The Mission Continues, will help veteran business owners continue to find purpose and to serve their communities, as an extension of their military service. The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact by deploying veterans on new missions in their communities, so that their actions will inspire future generations to serve. The Heroes to CEOs grant program is another way to help veterans fulfill their dreams and transition back to civilian life.
 
Veteran entrepreneurs are asked to submit a business plan, multimedia assets and a personal essay about their passion for their business in order to have their idea considered. Veterans must submit their idea and business plan to the Our Farm Salutes website, www.ourfarmsalutes.com, no later than August 8 to be considered for the contest. Winners will be announced on September 12, 2017. As part of the "Our Farm Salutes" program, Bob Evans Farms will also be working with The Mission Continues as a lead sponsor for both the Los Angeles 4th Platoon and in activating a brand new service platoon in The Mission Continues family, Columbus 1st Platoon, which launches officially during the first quarter of 2018.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION & CREDENTIALING
 
The American Legion’s series on military credentialing continued this week with a roundtable on June 28th covering emergency healthcare: Facilitating Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans in Allied Health and Emergency Medical Services. While the roundtable was focused on issues related to EMTs, Paramedics, and innovative skill identifiers being developed, the discussions were informative and wide ranging.
 
Although the roundtable was the most focused that the Legion has yet held (compared to broader credentialing events covering ‘Construction’, ‘IT’, ‘Energy’ etc.), it was also the most structured, featuring 10 presentations over 6 hours of discussion:
 
  1. Overview of DOD’s Military and Education Training Campus
  2. Overview of Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences College of Allied Health Sciences
  3. Intermediate Care Technician Positions for Veterans in VA Hospitals
  4. History of Emergency Medical Services from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  5. Military Competency Alignment in Higher Ed from the Michigan Community College Association
  6. Facilitating EMS Certification for Veterans from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians
  7. Activation of EMS Personnel Licensure Interstate Compacts from the National Association of State EMS Officials
  8. Overview of the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit from the Midwestern Higher Education Compact
  9. Update on the Credential Engine from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education
  10. Overview of Virginia’s Military Medics & Corpsman Pilot Program from the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
 
Based on discussion with attendees at the conclusion, the roundtable succeeded in carrying on the high standard of success set by previous roundtable discussions. Broadly this has been defined by two metrics: size and diversity of the audience, and value of content.
 
For size and diversity, we set a goal of 30 attendees for the roundtable with representation from 6 stakeholder groups: military, federal government (VA and Labor), state government organizations, academia, accrediting organizations and industry. We exceeded this with 41 attendees.
 
For value of content, we set a goal of three primary presentations: the Medical and Education Training Campus, USUHS College of Allied Health Sciences, and the VA Hospital system. While negotiation was necessary to ensure participation from the first two, through our friends in DOD confirmations of attendance were secured. As the guest list was developed, we received numerous requests for presentations, and through our stakeholder group and regular meetings, a premise for the event was developed. We selected and placed presentations that established a narrative to the roundtable that began with military training, traveled through to academic accrediting post-military, and on to careers and jobs available on the civilian sector.
 
Feedback from the roundtable indicated it was well received, with Marion Cain, DOD’s Associate Director for Force Training, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness), declaring it was the “most effective credentialing roundtable the Legion has ever hosted.” After action reviews will be completed by the end of the week of July 7th.  In addition to an internal after action report, a roundtable summary will be provided to all attendees. 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  6/30/17
 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 23 June 17
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The U.S. economy added 138,000 jobs last month, less than the 174,000 jobs gained in April and lower than expected. Job gains for March and April were also revised down. The economy is still growing but the job market has lost some momentum. But the unemployment rate dropped 4.3 percent in May – its lowest level since May 2001. Shortly after the Great Recession ended in June 2009, unemployment peaked at 10 percent. Still, the drop in the unemployment rate in May wasn’t for good reasons. More Americans stopped looking for work while the number of people with a job fell too.
 
There is some good news though. Americans are earning more as well as wages continued pick up. Hourly earnings rose 2.5 percent during the past 12 months. Experts were split on the report. Some said it is a sign that job growth is slowing down after three straight years of job gains and major drop in unemployment. Others say May’s sluggish job gains don’t tell the whole story. The monthly jobs numbers can be volatile – and they are always revised. Other measures – such as jobless claims – reflect a healthy job market.
 
So far this year, the U.S. has added 810,000 jobs. Since February, the first jobs report with President Trump in office for the whole month, the U.S. gained 594,000 jobs. However, a litany of factors, such as consumer spending and interest rates, influence hiring decisions. Job creation is not just a function of White House policies. Energy jobs were particularly in focus Friday following President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Trump said the deal would have been bad for American workers. The job numbers probably clear the path for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this month. Fed officials indicated last week a rate hike would be likely if the economy stayed on track.
 
In addition, mortgage rates fell to one of the lowest levels of the year in the most recent week, following a short-lived rebound, housing finance provider Freddie Mac said Thursday, June 22. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.90 percent in the June 22 week. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.17 percent and the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.14 percent. Each product declined one basis point during the week. Those rates don’t include fees associated with obtaining mortgage loans.
 
Mortgage rates are keeping close pace with the U.S. Treasury yields. The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, meanwhile, is just one basis point above its lowest mark for 2017. At the end of the year, many economists and analysts forecast mortgage rates averaging about 4.50 percent throughout 2017. So far this year, they’ve averaged 4.08 percent. That’s helping make housing more affordable. Lean inventory in the market pushed median prices to the highest on record in May, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.
 
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
125
151
105
132
20
19
Unemployment rate
4.0
4.6
4.0
4.8
4.0
3.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.3 percent (May 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (down from 5.0 percent in April).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, June 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Kathryn Monet, Executive Director, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), to discuss plans (i.e., meeting/roundtable, site visit) for our National Convention as well as their policy/legislative agenda for 2017.
 
On Monday, June 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with David Muir, Senior Vice President, Easter Seals, regarding the status of the MOU between The American Legion and Easter Seal. Scott Miller, Deputy Director, Media and Communication, American Legion, will be contacting Mr. Muir in the near future to continue discussion.
 
On Monday, June 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Janet Giles, Chief Executive Officer/ Founder, JobZone, to discuss the collaboration of available resources to better assist veterans in their transition from their military career to their future civilian career. 
 
On Tuesday, June 20 - Wednesday, June 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a two-day education symposium, “A Competency-Based Approach to Talent: Connecting Military, Higher Education, and Workplace Learning” in Kansas City, Missouri. The symposium was hosted by the Lumina Foundation, Army University and the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN). The symposium linked academia, industry, and the public sector, including the U.S. Army, to work toward developing a competency-based approach to credentialing and talent recruitment and development. Stakeholders in each of these sectors award, evaluate, and require credentials such as college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications, professional licenses, and badges. The Army doesn’t yet award credentials but is interested in how to help its soldiers earn credentials for military learning. This symposium highlighted efforts to improve how credentials are understood by both providers and employers by focusing on what people must know and demonstrate to earn them instead of a focus on traditional measures such as hours spent in the classroom.
 
On Wednesday, June 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division (along with the DC Media Division) participated in the CBS Connecting Veterans radio show to discuss veteran homelessness and how concerned citizens can participate in assisting them and their families.
On Wednesday, June 21, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a roundtable discussion with the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity to examine ways to that we can enhance and improve the quality of education for student-veterans.
 
On Thursday, June 22 - Friday, June 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Virginia Women Veterans Summit in Chesapeake, Virginia. There were over 500 women veterans in attendance and over 30 vendors. The summit brought together veterans, employers, community leaders and government agencies from the federal, state, and local levels to raise awareness about the services and benefits offered specifically for women veterans through expert presenters, panel discussions and exhibits. Speakers included Dorothy McAuliffe, First Lady of Virginia; Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016, U.S. Army Reserve Captain; Dr. Nancy Glowacki, Women Veteran Program Manager, DOL-VETS; Anne Sprute, Founder, RP6; and Kayla Williams, Director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans.
 
On Friday, June 23, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the 2nd Annual Resource Fair hosted by the VET Center in Gainesville, Florida. The Resource Fair is aimed at giving veterans the necessary tools to obtain meaningful employment and financial stability.
 
On Saturday, June 24 & Sunday June 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will participate in the 165th Air National Guard Yellow Ribbon Program. The American Legion will discuss and outline the different programs and services that are available to returning Airmen and their families.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 - a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans - edged down to 5.1 percent in 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in April 2017. The jobless rate for all veterans also edged down over the year to 4.3 percent. About 36 percent of Gulf War-era II veterans had a service-connected disability in August 2016, compared with 22 percent of all veterans.
 
This information was obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that provides data on employment and unemployment in the United States. Data about veterans are collected monthly in the CPS; these monthly data are the source of the 2016 annual averages. In August 2016, a supplement to the CPS collected additional information about veterans on topics such as service-connected disability and veterans' current or past Reserve or National Guard membership. Information from the supplement is also presented in this release. The supplement was co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and by the U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service.
 
Highlights from the 2016 data:
 
  • 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 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, about the same as veterans with no disability (4.7 percent).
  • Nearly 1 in 3 employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked in the public sector in August 2016, compared with about 1 in 5 veterans with no disability.
  • In 2016, the unemployment rate of veterans varied across the country, ranging from 1.8 percent in Indiana to 7.6 percent in the District of Columbia.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Senator Tom Udall (NM) joined Senators Jon Tester (MT), John Hoeven (ND), and Johnny Isakson (GA) in introducing bipartisan legislation to combat homelessness and improve direct support services for Native American veterans. Hoeven and Udall are the chairman and vice-chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Tester and Isakson are the ranking member and chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The legislation, the Tribal HUD-VASH Act would formally authorize a joint Tribal housing initiative between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program, which provides rental and housing assistance to homeless and at-risk homeless veterans in Indian Country. Only 26 of the 567 federally recognized Native American Tribes received HUD-VASH vouchers under the current Tribal HUD-VASH demonstration, yet Native Americans serve in the military at a higher percentage than any ethnic demographic in the United States.
Tribal members in New Mexico and throughout the nation have a proud history of military service, and they have served our nation with honor and distinction. Unfortunately, research from HUD and the VA shows that Native veterans are disproportionately affected by homelessness, Udall said. “It is our solemn duty to ensure Native veterans have the services they have earned when they return home, including safe and quality housing. That’s why our bill tackles this unacceptable reality head-on by authorizing the Tribal HUD-VASH Program to ensure that critical housing and support services are available to homeless veterans living on or near Tribal lands. I am proud to join my colleagues on both the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to introduce this bipartisan bill, and I look forward to working with them to get it passed by the full Senate.”
“Every day that Native American veterans struggle with homelessness is a day that we have failed to uphold this country’s promise to our veterans,” Tester said. “It is critical that these resources are available for every person who bravely served our nation, and that includes the veterans in Indian Country. No veteran, including Tribal veterans, should face homelessness,” said Hoeven. “This legislation will help ensure that Native Americans who courageously served our country have access to safe and quality housing. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass this bipartisan bill.” “No veteran should be without a home, said Isakson. This bipartisan legislation will help continue efforts to provide housing and supportive services to Native American veterans.”
HUD-VASH has supported homeless veterans since 2008, but prior to 2015, Native American tribes and tribal housing authorities were unable to access HUD-VASH funds. Udall joined Tester to help pass legislation that required HUD and the VA to set up a pilot program to provide Native American tribes entry into the HUD-VASH program; that pilot expired last year. The Tribal HUD-VASH Act would authorize the program and ensure that at least 5 percent of all HUD-VASH vouchers are set aside for Native American Tribes and Tribal housing authorities to address veteran homelessness. The bill would also ensure that HUD and the VA modify the initiative through Tribal consultation to better guide available resources to homeless Native American veterans. In addition, the bill directs the Indian Health Service to provide any assistance requested by HUD or the VA to implement the initiative, and directs HUD, the VA, and the Indian Health Service to conduct a review of the initiative every five years.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Enterprise (AL), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Lee (VA), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington (KY), Lexington Park (MD), Los Angeles, Portsmouth (NH), Reston (VA), Rochester (NY), San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
A bipartisan group of legislators, including the chairmen of the House and Senate Small Business committees, introduced legislation Thursday, June 22, to train staff at small business development centers in cybersecurity strategy. House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (OH) and Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Jim Risch (ID) are joined by Representative Dwight Evans (PA) and Senator Gary Peters (MI) on the Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act. A press release touting the new bill describes it as a priority for both committees.
 
“Many small business owners lack the capital and expertise they need to prevent a cybersecurity attack,” Chabot said in the release, adding that “providing cybersecurity training to lead small business development center employees will broaden their expertise to help more small businesses prevent an attack and potentially help save their companies.” The bill would require that 20 percent of small business development center employees receive certification in cybersecurity. Small businesses create two out of every three jobs in our country each year, and they need the right tools and skills to identify cyber threats and protect their customers and their livelihoods,” Peters said in the release.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
On Tuesday, June 20, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in a panel discussion titled “The GI Bill: Then and Now” at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.  American Legion Past National Commander Bill Detweiler, one of the founding leaders of the museum, moderated the discussion. Panelists were: former Senator Jim Webb (VA); American Legion Assistant Director John Kamin; Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity for the VA, Curtis Coy; and Student Veterans of America (SVA) President and CEO, Jared Lyons.
 
Approximately 200 attendees made their way through the initial outbursts of Tropical Storm Cindy to participate in the event which opened a special six-month American Legion centennial presence at the museum. On display are the original cover and signature pages of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, on loan from the National Archives, and the typed speech, with handwritten editing marks, given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, after he signed the act into law.
 
The exhibit also features illustrated panels and touchscreen videos that tell the story of the GI Bill, from the situation in 1943 when tens of thousands of disabled GIs were returning to their home communities in need of support to the Post-9/11 rendition that provides education benefits and other opportunities for 21st century veterans. The exhibit also documents the massive effects of the GI Bill on the U.S. economy, national security and establishment of an all-volunteer military. American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones told the crowd that education benefits are always in need of review and adjustment. She explained that the Legion is actively working with the SVA and other groups, as well as VA and Congress, to improve benefits for Reservists called to active-duty and to protect veterans whose for-profit schools close during their GI Bill funded educations.
 
“The GI Bill is not something The American Legion did,” Jones said. “It is something The American Legion does.” The exhibit is built to travel to other venues around the country to help The American Legion tell its centennial story. “As an achievement to highlight heading into our centennial celebration, it’s important to consider that the GI Bill connects the dots from our founding World War I generation to the Post-9/11 veterans who use the benefit today,” Jones said. “The GI Bill must (always) poise veterans for success after service in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  6/23/17
 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 16 June 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Mortgage rates moved slightly higher this week, reversing their month-long slide. According to the latest data released Thursday, June 15, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average crept up to 3.91 percent with an average 0.5 point (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 3.89 percent a week ago and 3.54 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average rose to 3.18 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.16 percent a week ago and 2.81 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average climbed to 3.15 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.11 percent a week ago and 2.74 percent a year ago.
 
The upward swing in mortgage rates came ahead of the widely anticipated rate hike by the Federal Reserve. The central bank announced Wednesday it was raising its benchmark rate for the third time in six months. The Federal Reserve also announced plans to unwind its balance sheet this year. The Fed will begin to reduce the securities held on its balance sheet later this year, limiting the amount of securities that will be allowed to runoff each month. With lower caps for mortgage backed securities compared to Treasury’s, it is possible that there will be less widening in mortgage spreads than previously estimated.
 
The quarter-point hike came too late in the week to be factored into Freddie Mac’s survey. The government-backed mortgage-backer aggregates current rates weekly from 125 lenders from across the country to come up with a national average mortgage rate. The yield on the 10-year Treasury sank to 2.15 percent Wednesday. Because mortgage rates tend to follow the path of long-term bonds, it is likely that home loans rates will also fall next week. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that more than half of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week.
 
Meanwhile, fueled by refinances, mortgage applications grew last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – increased 2.8 percent. The refinance index jumped 9 percent to its highest level since November, while the purchase index dropped 3 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 45.4 percent of all applications. Rates held steady at seven-month lows last week, providing continued support for a small resurgence in refinance activity and a continued year-over-year growth in purchase applications. The refinance index increased 13 percent over the last two weeks and the average loan size increased to almost $275,000, the largest since September 2016. Purchase applications decreased over the week, but were up almost 8 percent compared to the same week one year ago.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
125
151
105
132
20
19
Unemployment rate
4.0
4.6
4.0
4.8
4.0
3.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.3 percent (May 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (down from 5.0 percent in April).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, June 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) to discuss the upcoming National Convention in Reno and how they can potentially be involved. We also discussed pending legislation and other relevant info on assisting homeless veterans and their families.
 
On Tuesday, June 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Trina Stewart, Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Specialist of Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency to discuss the resources that are available to incarcerated veterans.  In addition, we discussed the possibility of visiting a local correctional facility in the District of Columbia.
 
On Tuesday, June 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Maria Well from the Virginia Employment Commission, to discuss the possibility of collaborating with the Legion in an effort to help unemployed and/or underemployed veterans seeking gainful employment.
 
On Tuesday, June 13, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with the Soldier for Life Program about developments in the Army’s SkillBridge initiative, specifically regarding proposed changes that would authorize federal agencies to participate in the program. The SkillBridge Initiative allows companies and organizations to partner with military posts to provide technical training and job placements to soldiers who are within their ETS window. While Soldier for Life was encouraged about the prospect of federal agency participation, they pointed out an important development in 2017 concerning DOD: for the first year since 2000, servicemembers are prohibited from working as civilian staff at DOD and all military branches for six months following ETS. That regulation was waived after 9/11, but has been re-implemented as of the last NDAA.
 
On Thursday, June 15, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division testified in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Legislative Hearing on GI Bill improvements. Over 25 legislative changes were brought to the floor for discussion, including provisions to allow GI Bill eligibility for 12301(h) and 12304b orders, relief for displaced student-veterans, and GI Bill Yellow Ribbon eligibility for Gold Star Families.
 
On Friday, June 16, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting with the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) Administrator, Barbara Carson. Topics discussed included The American Legion’s National Convention in Reno, Nevada, the upcoming hearing on procurement in regards to veteran-owned small businesses, and the curriculum used to teach the Boots to Business Reboot course on entrepreneurship.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
The Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program is a major investment to increase the ability of community colleges to address the challenges of today's workforce. Grants are designed to help workers eligible for training under the TAA for Workers program, as well as a broad range of other adults. Every U.S. state received funding for each of four years through 256 grants totaling $1.9 billion. TAACCCT grants, which continue through September 2018, are impacting 60 percent of the nation's publicly-funded community colleges and building industry-aligned programs in manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, energy, transportation and other industries.
Through TAACCCT, community colleges have developed or redesigned nearly 2,600 Programs of Study to help adults learn skills that lead to family-supporting jobs. Each college or consortium of colleges developed programs of study aligned with local and regional business needs, which were identified through partnerships formed or strengthened with grant funds. To help adult students obtain industry-recognized credentials more quickly, colleges are using TAACCCT funding to innovate with strategies such as career pathways, credit for prior learning, competency-based models, online training, and strong student support systems. The curriculum and other learning materials developed by TAACCCT grantees are being made widely available to all types of training providers 
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
In 2010, the Obama Administration announced the ambitious goal of ending homelessness among veteran. Between 2015 and 2016, veteran homelessness increased in eight states and decreased in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, veteran homelessness fell by almost 50 percent since 2009.  Yet statistics are only part of the story. What is missing from federal and state statistics, the media and the minds of many Americans, is the story of homeless veteran families.  Families are often missed when volunteers head out to count homeless individuals. Veterans with families often stay with friends, known as “doubling up.” Or, forced to fragment, parents send kids to stay with family while they go to a shelter. Plus, some females who are homeless and the head of their household don’t identify as veterans. They may not be eligible for VA benefits, or are unclear about available services. Some may not seek care at the VA due to mistrust, harassment or past military sexual trauma. Providers, policymakers and the public need to understand that homelessness among the families of men and women who have served our nation may be invisible, But it is significant.
 
These families are at high risk. Decades of research show that children in homeless families are at risk for physical and mental health problems, academic delay and of becoming homeless themselves as adults – creating a second generation of homelessness. Many homeless families are resilient, but face additional stressors of reintegrating into civilian society and coping with parents who may have PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Although veterans are often satisfied with their own health and mental health services at VA, many parents feel alone when it comes to their family. Many veterans are overwhelmed by PTSD and depression, as well as the search to find housing and a job. They worry about the toll on their family. Yet they find few resources for their family within the VA, such as family therapy, and need help finding needed health and mental healthcare for their spouse and children in the community. Parents need more help connecting to resources for their families in the community, clearer information about the social services available to veteran families and more emotional support as parents.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Atlanta, Enterprise (AL), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Lee (VA), Fort Sam Houston, Herndon (VA), Joint Base Andrews, Kansas City, King George (VA), Lexington (KY), Lexington Park (MD), Los Angeles, Portsmouth (NH), Reston (VA), Rochester (NY), Seattle, and Washington, DC.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: SMALL BUSINESS
 
It’s been more than a year since the SBA issued a final rule overhauling the limitations on subcontracting for small business contracts. The SBA’s rule, now codified at 13 C.F.R. 125.6, changes the formulas for calculating compliance with the limitations on subcontracting, and allows small businesses to take credit for work performed by similarly situated subcontractors. But the Federal Acquisition Regulation’s (FAR) corresponding clauses have yet to be changed, and this has led to a lot of confusion about which rule applies, especially since many contracting officers abide by the legally-dubious proposition of the rule not counting if it is not in the FAR. The FAR Council is now moving forward with a proposed rule to align the FAR with the SBA’s regulations.
 
In January 2013, former President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act  (NDAA) into law. The 2013 NDAA made major changes to the limitations on subcontracting. The law changed the way that compliance with the limitations on subcontracting is calculated for service and supply contracts - from formulas based on “cost of personnel” and “cost of manufacturing,” to formulas based on the amount paid by the government. And, importantly, the 2013 NDAA allowed small primes to claim performance credit for similarly situated entities. Interestingly, a year later - well before either the SBA or the FAR Council had amended the corresponding regulations - the GAO issued a decision suggesting (although not directly holding) that the similarly situated entity concept was currently effective. But most contractors and contracting officers continued to apply the “old” rules under the FAR and SBA regulations.
 
On May 31, 2016, three and a half years after the 2013 NDAA was signed into law, the SBA published a final rule implementing the changes. The SBA’s regulation took effect on June 30, 2016, and less than a month later, the VA issued a Class Deviation, incorporating by reference the new SBA regulations for VA Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) acquisitions. But for many other procurements, contracting officers continued to include FAR 52.219-14, which uses the old formulas and makes no mention of similarly situated entities. (FAR 52.219-14 applies to small business, 8(a) and WOSB contracts. For HUBZone and non-VA SDVOSB procurements, the subcontracting limits are implemented by other clauses, which use the old formulas but allow the use of similarly situated entities).
 
This has led to a lot of confusion.  Does a contractor comply with the SBA regulation?  The FAR clause?  Both?  Some contracting officers have taken the position that the FAR clauses govern until they’re amended. But the SBA, of course, wants contractors to follow the SBA regulations.  Indeed, a joint venture formed under the SBA’s regulations must pledge to comply with 13 C.F.R. 125.6. Now, it seems, the FAR Council seems to be making progress on eliminating the FAR/SBA discrepancy (the FAR Council is a shorthand term for the body of defense and civilian agency representatives who propose and implement changes to the FAR.). In its most recent list of “Open FAR Cases,” published on June 9, 2017, the FAR Council says that it is working on a “Revision of Limitations on Subcontracting.” Specifically, the new FAR rule “implements SBA’s final rule” from last year, and “also implements SBA’s regulatory clarifications concerning the application of the limitations on subcontracting, non-manufacturer rule, and size determination of joint ventures.”
 
As of June 5, the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council (CAAC) has concurred with draft interim FAR rule. FAR Council staff are preparing to send to Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) after Department of Defense (DOD) approval to publish. First, this means that the draft rule is well along in the process.  Review by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy is one of the final steps before a rule is published in the Federal Register. Second, it appears that the FAR Council intends to adopt an interim rule, rather than a proposed rule. An interim rule takes effect immediately after publication, and can be adjusted after receipt of public comments.  A proposed rule doesn’t take effect until public comment is received and a final rule is published.  In other words, if the FAR Council uses an interim rule, the changes will take effect a lot sooner.
 
TOPIC 7: EDUCATION
 
The Department of Education is beginning the process of rolling back regulations aimed at holding for-profit colleges accountable and helping students who may have been misled or defrauded by them: the borrower-defense-to-repayment regulation, which was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, and the gainful-employment regulation, which was already in effect. The borrower-defense-to-repayment regulation was meant to allow borrowers who feel they have been defrauded by their college or program to have a simpler process for having their student loans forgiven by the federal government.
 
Scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2017, borrower defense would set new standards and procedures under which federal student loan borrowers could obtain relief from repayment, prohibited postsecondary institutions from using pre-dispute arbitration clauses and class-action waivers, and substantially revised the Department’s financial responsibility and requirements for which postsecondary institutions would be required to provide the Department with an irrevocable letter of credit. The Department of Education has now indefinitely delayed the implementation of this rule.
 
The gainful-employment regulation was meant to hold career-preparation programs accountable for the outcomes of their graduates. Specifically, if the estimated loan payments of a program’s graduates exceed a certain percentage of their income over a period of years, then the program would risk losing federal student aid. For a college to have access to federal student aid, the college must meet minimum gainful employment standards. The current formula says that on average, student loan borrowers of a degree program must not have student loan payments exceed 20 percent of their discretionary income or 8 percent of their total earnings. Both rules were written in response to practices stemming from for-profit colleges, which included companies such as ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. The Department of Education has now indefinitely suspended this rule.
 
While reexamining the proper course of action for student protections was expected, these moves have effectively ended recent efforts to increase protections for student-veterans. Additionally, they were done without the feedback of military and veterans organizations, which have traditionally been included in these decisions. The Department of Education will conduct public hearings on BDR and GE on July 10, 2017, and the National Veterans Employment & Education Division intends to speak at these hearings on behalf of student-veterans.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  6/16/17

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending June 9th 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
Mortgage rates fell for the fourth week in a row as long-term bond yields continued their extended slide. According to the latest data released Thursday, June 8, by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average sank to 3.89 percent with an average 0.5 point (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount). It was 3.94 percent a week ago and 3.6 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed-rate has fallen 16 basis points in the month (A basis point is 0.01 percentage points). The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.16 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.19 percent a week ago and 2.87 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average remained the same as it was a week ago, at 3.11 percent. It was 2.82 percent a year ago.
 
Mortgage rates tend to follow the path of long-term bond yields. As investors buy up bonds, sending prices higher, that drives yields down. The yield on the 10-year Treasury plunged to a seven-month low this week, slumping to 2.14 percent Tuesday. In less than three months, it has dropped 46 basis points from its peak this year at 2.6 percent. The 30-year mortgage rate moved in tandem with Treasury yields, falling 5 basis points to 3.89 percent. Mixed economic data and increasing uncertainty are continuing to push rates to the lowest levels in nearly seven months.
 
Events here and around the world are having an impact on mortgage rates – the elections in the United Kingdom, testimony by former FBI director James Comey on Capitol Hill and Gulf region countries cutting ties with Qatar, which raised tensions in the Middle East. Then there’s the near certainty of a rate hike at next week’s Federal Reserve meeting. With the central bank likely to raise rates for the third time in six months, home loan rates should be trending higher, not lower. Instead, they appear likely to continue their downward course no matter what the Fed does next week.
 
Meanwhile, mortgage applications surged last week as rates fell, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – increased 7.1 percent. The refinance index rose 3 percent, while the purchase index grew 10 percent to its highest level since May 2010. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 42.1 percent of all applications. The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) this week, which showed lending standards tightened in May. The MCAI decreased 1.1 percent to 181 last month. A decline in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are tightening, while increases indicate loosening of credit.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
125
151
105
132
20
19
Unemployment rate
4.0
4.6
4.0
4.8
4.0
3.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.3 percent (May 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (down from 5.0 percent in April).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, June 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Ingrid Rincon, Veteran Outreach Program Director for the Gainesville, Florida Vet Center, to discuss several opportunities for assisting veterans, servicemembers, and Reservists and National Guardsmen.  Ms. Rincon requested that we present at their upcoming “Resource Event” aimed at helping our servicemembers.
 
On Tuesday, June 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Michael Knippel, Veterans Employment Coordinator, Wage & Investment Division, Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS strives to achieve a veteran new hire rate of 16 percent within the filing season hiring goal of approximately 10,000 new seasonal employees. The federal government facilitates hiring by giving agencies special non-competitive hiring authorities to recruit military veterans, through the Veterans Employment Initiative and other veteran hiring programs. This would help veterans in places where veterans’ unemployment is high. Additionally, we discussed ways of increasing veteran hiring in Puerto Rico.
 
On Tuesday, June 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Herman Preston, Director of Operations, Government of the District of Columbia, DC National Guard and Janet Giles, CEO of JobZone, to discuss the possibility of holding a Career Fair that will cater to the veteran population within the District of Columbia.
 
On Tuesday, June 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the monthly meeting with the DC Coalition for the Homeless to discuss housing availability and other issues related to assisting homeless individuals. 
 
On Tuesday, June 6, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended MilSpouseFest2017, hosted by MilitaryOneClick (MOC). MOC empowers military communities with multimedia content that informs and entertains.  MOC also connects military members and their families with the latest news, career, money, education, PCS and countless other valuable resources for military life. MOC hosts MilSpouseFest 2017, a live event for military spouses in 6 military communities around the country. During the event, attendees participated in hands-on activities and interactive discussions. Segments and resources throughout the day event focused on social support, finance, education, employment, entrepreneurship, parenting, and military life balance.
 
On Wednesday, June 7, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the SBA’s quarterly veteran Interagency Task Force Meeting. The Interagency Task Force for Small Business Development (Task Force) was established February 14, 2008, by Public Law 110-186 and executed by Executive Order. The Task Force is chaired by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and is comprised of representatives appointed by SBA's Administrator from: SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Treasury, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and four representatives from veterans service and military organizations: American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Naval Postgraduate School, and the Military Officers Association of America.
 
On Thursday, June 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the Homeless Veterans Working Group meeting to discuss policy/legislative agendas as well as VA’s and other federal agencies continued work to combat and prevent veteran homelessness. Anne Dunne, Deputy Director, VA Homeless Program Office, was a guest speaker. Ms. Dunne discussed the changes in the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program, SSVF and other programs within her office. Ms. Dunne stated that Dr. Shulkin (new VA Secretary) will continue their agency’s efforts in ending veteran homelessness.
 
On Thursday, June 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division briefed the Small Business Administration’s Advisory Committee on Business Affairs (ACBA) on The American Legion’s position on using the GI Bill for entrepreneurship and startup capital. The ACBA serves as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the Administrator of the SBA, the Associate Administrator for Veterans Business Development, the Congress, the President and other U.S. policy makers.
 
On Thursday June 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting hosted by the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS) in relation to the formulation and implementation of the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) Act of 2017. The aforementioned legislation aims to incentivize employers for the hiring and retention of military veterans and voluntary contributions and charities to Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). Additionally, this meeting reviewed each component of the legislation, while commentary was provided in a roundtable effort to alleviate challenges relevant to the program. The American Legion provided valuable feedback to respective parties in reference to application fee elimination and/or reduction, and proposing an adjustment to the process of eligible employers eligibility to apply concurrently if they are selected for the award.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
There are more than 800,000 veterans who get help at the Department of Labor’s American Job Centers every year. One of the most important ways Veterans’ Employment and Training Service supports transitioning military servicemembers and their families is by ensuring a successful transition to a meaningful civilian career, once they have completed their time in service.
How do they do that?
  • They prepare veterans, transitioning servicemembers and their spouses for meaningful civilian careers during the Department of Labor Employment Workshop, a key part of the Transition Assistance Program;
  • They provide free employment resources and expertise through local community resources across the country via American Job Centers;
  • They protect servicemembers’ civilian employment rights once their tour of duty concludes, thanks to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA); and
  • They promote employment opportunities in a number of ways, such as on www.veterans.gov and on Twitter @VETS_DOL, and help educate employers about hiring qualified veterans.
    Early planning for the transition to civilian life can make a huge difference for a veteran. The earlier veterans familiarize themselves with the kinds of training, skills and certifications that are most needed in the civilian labor market, the better they are prepared to map their career and educational goals. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and a visit to your local American Job Center can help tremendously in the spirit of planning ahead. AJCs offer priority of service for veterans and free employment help with finding jobs, writing resumes and fine-tuning interview skills. And with nearly 2,400 American Job Centers located across the country, it’s easy for veterans to find one close to them.
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
The homeless population in Los Angeles County, California went up 23 percent in 2017, quadrupling last year's percentage increase. The fastest growing demographics were young people, Hispanics and military veterans. An annual report on homelessness was released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) on Wednesday, May 31, showing a sharp rise in the homeless population across nearly every statistical category in Los Angeles County. The total number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night reached 57,794, a 23 percent increase from 2016, according to the report. Even as work is being done to get thousands of people off the street and into housing, more and more people are becoming homeless. The homeless population increased across all age groups, especially among young people aged 18 to 24. The number of homeless youths jumped 64 percent over the past year, more than any other age group. The second-fastest growing sector was among youths under the age of 18, at 41 percent.
The number of homeless youths in LA who are considered unsheltered, or those whose primary residence is not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, rose by 81 percent from the previous year. In total, three out of every four of the homeless counted in the report were considered to be unsheltered. While African Americans remained the largest racial group, making up 40 percent of the homeless population, the Hispanic population grew by 63 percent, far more than any other ethnic group. The population of white homeless people dropped by 2 percentage points since 2016.
The number of veterans who experience homelessness on a given night increased by 57 percent from 2016, while the number of veterans who were considered to be unsheltered increased from 53 percent to 73 percent in the last year. At the same time, the number of military veterans placed into permanent housing decreased 5 percent from 2015 to 2016. The report attributes the surge in homelessness to the fact that the median cost of rent in LA has been rising much faster than median income. According to a report from the California Housing Partnership Corporation, the median rent in Los Angeles County increased by 28 percent from 2000 to 2015. During that time, the median renter household income has declined by 8 percent.
"There's no sugarcoating the bad news," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We can't let rents double every year. I was particularly disappointed to see veteran numbers go up." Garcetti said that the City of Los Angeles, which has seen a 20 percent rise in homeless population, is in the midst of an extraordinary homelessness crisis that needs an extraordinary response. These men, these women, these children are our neighbors." LAHSA called for more than a half million affordable rental homes in LA that very low income households could afford.
In November, the city of Los Angeles passed Measure HHH, which is expected to raise $1.2 billion for the construction of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing over the next decade, according to the Mayor's office. In March, LA County passed Measure H, which will provide an estimated $355 million annually for services and programs to combat homelessness. Due to the measures passed in the city and the county, more than 14,000 people have been moved out of homelessness and into permanent housing in 2016, a 30 percent increase from 2015 and a 61 percent increase from 2014.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Cheektowaga (NY), Fort Campbell (KY), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Lee (VA), Fort Sam Houston (TX), Fredericksburg (VA), Herndon (VA), Joint Base McGuire-Dix, Los Angeles, Portsmouth (NH), San Diego and Seattle.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION & SMALL BUSINESS
 
In a recent meeting, the Small Business Administration’s Advisory Committee on Business Affairs (ACBA) revisited the issue of using the Post-9/11 GI Bill as small business capital. First introduced in legislation in 2015, the idea has come under constant criticism from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Student Veterans of America (SVA). According to these groups, the Post-9/11 GI Bill should be used exclusively for education. They've said entrepreneurship and education are complementary concepts, which is why it is bad policy to coerce veterans into choosing one over the other, and that earning a college degree or acquiring workforce skills through trade schools, apprenticeships, or professional certifications only improves an entrepreneur’s likelihood of success. They are worried how this affects young servicemembers that leave the military without a college degree and without civilian workforce skills. While they should be encouraged to start businesses if they choose, it remains an unfortunate reality that some businesses will fail. In that situation, veterans must have an education benefit to fall back on. If they do not, we have truly failed them.​
The American Legion believes differently. The purpose of the original GI Bill was to make it possible for the government to provide “… certain loans made to veterans for the purchase or construction of homes, farms, and business properties.” Offices and factories are not the critical requirements for business today that they were in 1944; however, funding for veteran entrepreneurs is still a critical need. In this regard, the GI Bill has not kept up with the change in business practices and should be modified to provide funding to veteran-owned small businesses. GI Bill funding for startups is a “shovel-ready” project that will help boost the number of veterans starting businesses. We are losing veterans in the entrepreneurial community and need to do something now to mitigate the decline before we lose the values and benefits of having veterans in the startup community.

According to a report by the Kauffman Foundation, in 2011 veterans represented 6 percent of new entrepreneurs, compared to 12.6 percent in 1996. In the current legislative environment, every dollar creates an extended debate. FDR finished his statement regarding the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 with “While further study and experience may suggest some changes and improvements, the Congress is to be congratulated on the prompt action it has taken.” It is time for the GI Bill to enjoy “some changes and improvements” to keep up with the change in business since 1944 and let the current generation of veterans congratulate Congress. While this remains an issue of disagreement between The American Legion and VFW, there may be room for compromise. Currently, our division is exploring the feasibility of a "blended" approach to GI Bill for entrepreneurship, where veterans who pursue trade and two year degrees in specialty technical fields may opt into using the rest of their GI Bill as capital upon completion of their degrees. The idea is in the early phases of being vetted, but also may overlap with existing ambitions to emphasize job-ready STEM fields. 
 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  6/9/17

 


 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 2 June 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
U.S. job growth came in below expectations in May with employers adding just 138,000 jobs while the unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent, the lowest it has been in more than 16 years, federal economists reported Friday morning. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected an increase of 180,000 in non-farm payrolls, which would have been in line with average monthly gains seen over the past year. The job market has been strong in recent months and most traders expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this month, despite the slightly weaker May figure. Yet further negative news could cause the Fed to reconsider its plan of gradually raising interest rate later this year, as the central bank eases off its efforts to stimulate the economy.
 
While the Federal Reserve might not be dissuaded from raising interest rates at this month’s meeting, the jobs numbers might make the debate at least more vigorous. The unemployment rate was down slight from 4.4 percent last month, a figure economists had already seen as low. Yet economists said the drop was due in part to a contraction in the labor force, since the unemployment rate measures only those who are actively looking for work but can’t find it. The labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage points to 62.7 percent in May. To some economists, these trends suggest that the economy is already well on its way to providing some kind of a job for nearly all Americans who are willing and able to work.
 
The employment gains were led by the service sector, including healthcare, which has seen business expand as America’s aging population demands more medical services. The mining sector, which has been a focus of President Trump’s, also added 7,000 jobs, continuing a rebound since a low point in October 2016. Yet the manufacturing sector shed jobs – a reminder that most of America’s growth is coming from services. The Department of Labor also revised its estimates for job gains in March and April, lowering the combined figure by 66,000 jobs. Average hourly earnings were up by 2.5 percent from the previous year to $26.22, continuing a streak of relatively weak wage growth.
 
As the economy continues to expand and reaches a point where nearly everybody who wants a job can find one – what economists call full employment – companies should have to start raising wages to attract new workers. But although the U.S. economy has been adding jobs at a furious pace, workers still aren’t seeing very rapid wage growth. Economists are divided about what exactly is causing this. Some believe the U.S. is not yet at full employment, because we are still not seeing a significant pick-up in wage growth. Others believe that the U.S. has reached full employment, but that wage growth is just lagging behind a bit, and will pick-up in coming months.
 
The Beige Book, a complication of detail on the economy from around the country that the Federal Reserve published Wednesday, contained plenty of those details. In New England, a semiconductor manufacturer reported having to raise wages to fill vacant positions. In the area around Cleveland, a firm increased driver pay by 7.5 percent to retain drivers.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
MAY
2016
MAY
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
125
151
105
132
20
19
Unemployment rate
4.0
4.6
4.0
4.8
4.0
3.5
 
National unemployment rate is 4.3 percent (May 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 3.5 percent (down from 5.0 percent in April).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, May 2017.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Tuesday, May 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Cara Cooke, Senior Associate of Events, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the possibility of sponsoring a Career Fair in Ohio on November 10, 2017.
 
On Wednesday, May 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division started the initial drafting of testimony for the upcoming hearing on pending legislation for the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs regarding education, employment and small business issues.
 
On Wednesday, May 31 – Friday, June 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the 2017 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) Annual Conference in Washington, DC. The theme of the conference, ‘Yes, In My Back Yard – Putting Veterans First’, was meant to highlight that local efforts are even more important, as VA, community service providers and other stakeholders, prove the value of past and present efforts to not only the veterans we serve, but the communities we live in. We discussed the Legion’s programs and services on several panels and a roundtable to community service providers that assist homeless veterans and their families.
 
On Thursday, June 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting with Charles Long, Founder and Chairman of America’s Buffalo Soldiers Association. This meeting was held to discuss the potential collaboration of his youth organization with The American Legion’s Boys State in Washington, DC, to potentially increase funding for the program.
On Thursday, June 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a meeting with Davy Leghorn, Senior Manager, Veteran Employment Programs, Military.com, to discuss our upcoming National Convention in Reno. Military.com will be collaborating with The American Legion in order to host a veteran employment summit.
 
On Friday, June 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) monthly meeting. The DOL Secretary, R. Alexander Acosta, was also in attendance. The topics discussed included: processes to improve the streamlining of transitioning service members into employment; the HIRE VETS Act; and the Career, Credentialing, and Apprenticeship track that is being revised in the TAP class.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
DOL announced its new HIRE Vets Medallion Program, which will recognize employers that recruit, retain, and employ veterans, and that offer charitable services in support of the veteran community. The agency is establishing the program under the HIRE VETS Act. President Trump signed the act into law on May 5.
 
DOL will establish two levels of awards - the Gold HIRE Vets Medallion Award and the Platinum HIRE Vets Medallion Award - for large employers and for small and medium-sized employers.
 
The award criteria includes the:
 
  • Percentage of employees who are veterans;
  • Percentage of veteran employees who are retained;
  • Establishment of veteran assistance and training programs;
  • Employment of dedicated human resources professionals for veterans; and
  • Income and tuition support for veterans.
     
    DOL will solicit, verify, and review award applications from employers on an annual basis.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Recently, Senators Richard Burr (NC), Mazie Hirono (HI), and Jon Tester (MT) introduced the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2017. This legislation would build on existing homeless veterans programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by investing in established programs that are proven to be effective and removing any residual barriers to housing for veterans. "Veteran homelessness is a heartbreaking issue," said Senator Burr. "We are making progress in combating veterans' homelessness, and over the last 2 years, we have seen the number of homeless veterans decrease to around 40,000, but that is still far too many, and I will continue to address this problem until the number is zero. In particular, many women have been unable to fully participate in existing programs because their children were not allowed to live in the transitional housing. The Homeless Veterans Prevention Act bill addresses this shortcoming and increases the availability of housing for homeless veterans."
"As we continue to work toward ending veteran homelessness, we can and must do more to ensure veterans have access to the services they have earned with their service to our country," Senator Mazie K. Hirono said. "By expanding existing VA partnerships that provide Hawaii veterans with legal assistance, housing, and healthcare, the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act will not only help prevent veterans from becoming homeless, but also assisting them in moving out of homelessness."
"It's our responsibility to ensure that veterans facing homelessness have the resources they need to get back on their feet," said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "This bipartisan bill makes sure that these veterans have access to health care, legal services and a safe and warm place to call home."
Key Points for the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2017:
  • Keeps veteran families together by allowing the VA to house the children of homeless veterans in transitional housing programs;
  • Requires the VA to enter into partnerships with public and private entities to provide legal services for homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless;
  • Provides VA with the authority to provide dental care to homeless veterans; and,
  • Extends and increases the amount of money available for supportive services to very low-income veteran families in permanent housing.
 
Resolution No. 324 -- The American Legion supports policy and/or legislative proposals that assist homeless veterans and their families.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Cheektowaga (NY), Fort Campbell (KY), Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Lee (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), Joint Base McGuire-Dix, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle.
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
 
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
Recently, The American Legion, in tandem with Student Veterans of America (SVA), conducted a roundtable meeting at the Legion’s DC headquarters to discuss how to improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill and better serve the veteran community. The roundtable was called due to publicly voiced disagreements over the past month on the GI Bill, as noted by Task and Purpose, Stars & Stripes, and Military Times.  These conflicts were the result of months of behind-the-scenes work that The American Legion was a part of to assess the potential for a GI Bill Buy-in. The American Legion’s position on this was always that it was a matter we would take to our National Executive Committee for assessment and review, which we intended to testify on in an April 26th congressional hearing.
However, the VFW leaked this proposal to the media, and the ensuing public outrage resulted in an abrupt cancellation of the hearing, which effectively killed the draft proposal as both Democrats and Republicans backed away from the buy-in option. With these public disagreements between SVA and VVA against VFW and IAVA, it appeared that there would be no common ground this year on the GI Bill. The American Legion finally decided to make a stand on this, and called all of the major VSOs in the country to a roundtable to iron out the differences and find out what we can all agree on. More than 75 representatives from veteran and military service organizations, as well as government and congressional offices, attended the meeting. The meeting was led by John Kamin, Assistant Director at VE&E, and Will Hubbard, Vice President of Government Affairs at Student Veterans of America.
The roundtable was called to order by John Kamin, and then handed to Will Hubbard for a discussion on modernizing the GI Bill, including assessing priorities and reviewing several draft bills/policy proposals. Each attendee was given a sheet with a list of House resolution bills, asking what they support, oppose, have a pending decision or no position on. Consensus was arrived on several critical areas: there was unanimous agreement that 12304b and 12301(h) orders, Purple Heart recipients, and Gold Star Families should all receive full GI Bill payments. All of these issues have been problems for multiple sessions of Congress, where they have failed to pass for perhaps no other reason than complacency. Through this perspective, it can be said that although the meeting was called under difficult circumstances, it resulted in the first true call to action to Congress to change it.
While we disagree over how to pay for it, we agree that the GI Bill needs to be expanded to those who have earned it through their sacrifices. We cannot afford Congress the opportunity of defining these priorities as “common sense solutions” because they’re more than that; they are absolute necessities for our servicemembers and families that we must ensure. Thus, the future is just a little bit brighter on passing substantive change due to the convening power of The American Legion. 
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The VA cannot buy products or services using the AbilityOne List without first applying the “rule of two” and determining whether qualified SDVOSBs and VOSBs are available to bid. The May 30th decision of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in PDS Consultants, Inc. v. United States, No. 16-1063C (2017) resolves - in favor of veteran-owned businesses - an important question that has been lingering since Kingdomware was decided nearly one year ago. The Court’s decision in PDS Consultants makes clear that at VA, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) trump AbilityOne. The Court’s decision involved an apparent conflict between two statutes: the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, or JWOD, and the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006, or VBA.
 
The VBA states that (with very limited exceptions), the VA must procure goods and services from SDVOSBs and VOSBs when the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation of receiving offers from two or more qualified veteran-owned companies at fair market prices. Last year, the Supreme Court unanimously confirmed, in Kingdomware, that the statutory rule of two broadly applies. The JWOD predates the VBA.  It provides that government agencies, including the VA, must purpose certain products and services from designated nonprofits that employ blind and otherwise severely disabled people.  The products and services subject to the JWOD’s requirements appear on a list known as the “AbilityOne List.”  An entity called the “AbilityOne Commission” is responsible for placing goods and services on the AbilityOne list. But which preference takes priority at VA? In other words, when a product or service is on the AbilityOne list, does the rule of two still apply?  That’s where PDS Consultants, Inc. enters the picture.
 
The AbilityOne Commission added certain eyewear products and services for four Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) to the AbilityOne List. VISNs 2 and 7 had been added to the AbilityOne List before 2010.  VISNs 2 and 8 were added to the AbilityOne list more recently. PDS filed a bid protest at the Court, arguing that it was improper for the VA to obtain eyewear in all four VISNs without first applying the rule of two.  The VA initially defended the protest by arguing that AbilityOne was a “mandatory source,” and that when items were on the AbilityOne List, the VA could (and should) buy them from AbilityOne nonprofits instead of SDVOSBs and VOSBs. But in February 2017, just two days before oral argument was to be held at the Court, the VA switched its position.  The VA now stated that it would apply the rule of two before procuring an item from the AbilityOne list “if the item was added to the List on or after January 7, 2010,” the date the VA issued its initial regulations implementing the VBA. For items added to the AbilityOne List beforehand, however, no rule of two analysis would be performed.
 
The parties agreed that the VA’s new position mooted PDS’s challenges to VISNs 6 and 8, which would now be subject to the rule of two. But what about VISNs 2 and 7? PDS pushed forward, challenging the VA’s position that it could issue new contracts in those VISNs without performing a rule of two analysis.  PDS argued, in effect, that nothing in the VBA allowed products added to the AbilityOne List before 2010 to somehow be “grandfathered” around the rule of two. The court finds that the VBA requires the VA to perform the rule of two analysis for all new procurements for eyewear, whether or not the product or service appears on the AbilityOne List, because the preference for veterans is the VA’s first priority. If the rule of two analysis does not demonstrate that there are two qualified veteran-owned small businesses willing to perform the contract, the VA is then required to use the AbilityOne List as a mandatory source.
 
Judge Firestone pointed out that under the VBA, “the VA must perform a rule of two inquiry that favors veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses ‘in all contracting before using competitive procedures’ and limit competition to veteran-owned small businesses when the rule of two is satisfied.”  Citing Kingdomware, Judge Firestone wrote that “like the [GSA Schedule], the VBA also does not contain an exception for obtaining goods and services under the AbilityOne program.”  Judge Firestone concluded: The VA has a legal obligation to perform a rule of two analysis under the VBA when it seeks to procure eyewear in 2017 for VISNs 2 and 7 that have not gone through such analysis – even though the items were placed on the AbilityOne List before enactment of the VBA. The VA’s position that items added to the List prior to 2010 are forever excepted from the VBA’s requirements is contrary to the VBA statute no matter how many contracts are issued or renewed.
 
Judge Firestone granted PDS’s motion for judgment and ordered the VA not to enter into any new contracts for eyewear in VISNs 2 and 7 from the AbilityOne List “unless it first performs a rule of two analysis and determines that there are not two or more qualified veteran-owned small businesses capable of performing the contracts at a fair price.” The apparent conflict between JWOD, on the one hand, and the VBA, on the other, was one of the major legal issues left unresolved by Kingdomware.  Now, as we approach the one-year anniversary of that landmark decision, the Court of Federal Claims has delivered another big win for SDVOSBs and VOSBs.
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  6/2/17

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 19 May 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
It looks like the US economy is perking up under President Trump. The government reported a strong gain in jobs for April on Friday, May 5, and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since May 2007. It seems that consumers, small businesses and corporate CEOs are in a better mood since Trump took office as well. Here’s a look at some of the most important barometers of the economy’s health.
 
JOBS – The employment rate hit a 10-year low of 4.4 percent in April. That is clearly good news for Trump. Even the so-called underemployment rate, a number some consider the “real” unemployment rate since it includes people working part-time that want a full-time job, fell to 8.8 percent in April. That is the lowest since November 2007. Other numbers point to a healthier labor market too: 522,000 jobs have been added in the first three full months after Trump took office. And wages have risen 2.5 percent in the past 12 months. That’s still below the 3 percent level the President, the Fed and many workers would like to see, but it’s a big improvement from just 2 percent shortly after the Great Recession ended.
 
HOUSING PRICES – For many Americans, the bulk of their wealth is tied up in their home. There’s good news on that front. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price for an existing home was $236,400 – up 4 percent from the start of the year. Financing for housing is still fairly affordable too. The average 30-year mortgage rate is 4.02 percent according to Freddie Mac. Rates have fallen this year along with the yield on the long-term 10-year U.S. Treasury bond, and that’s despite the fact that the U.S. Federal Reserve will likely keep boosting short-term rates.
 
LENDING – Consumers continue to borrow money to buy cars, purchase things on credit cards and be able to afford college. The Fed said that consumer credit rose 4.8 percent annually in February (the most recent figures available) to $3.79 trillion. It’s encouraging that consumers are still willing to take on debt and it’s an even better sign that they are paying their bills on time too. The delinquency rate on credit cards was just 2.3 percent at the end of 2016, compared to peak of 6.8 percent in the middle of 2009. But businesses are no longer as interested in borrowing money. Commercial and industrial loan volume was $2.08 trillion in March. Demand for these loans has fallen two straight months and are down from a recent peak of $2.1 trillion in November. It’s not a cause for alarm just yet, but if businesses stop borrowing to finance growth and subsequently hire less as a result; that could be a problem for Trump.
 
CONSUMER SPENDING – It seems that consumers may have dropped after a holiday spending binge. Personal consumption expenditures, a fancy way of saying consumer spending, were flat in February and March. Consumer spending makes up a majority of the nation’s overall economic activity. So the weak spending was a key reason why the nation’s gross domestic product rose at an annualized pace of just 0.7 percent in the first quarter – far below the 3 percent rate many in the Trump administration are touting as doable. This is hurting retailers too. Competition from Amazon isn’t their only problem. Consumers have simply slowed down their pace of spending. The government said in April that retail sales fell 0.2 percent in March, following a 0.3 percent decline in February.
 
TRADE – This is perhaps the thorniest issue for Trump. He’s been hypersensitive about deals with all of America’s major partners. His pledge to “Buy American and Hire American” could put the US at odds with China, Japan, Europe, Mexico and Canada. But Trump has good reason to be worried. The US trade deficit has narrowed only slightly in the past few months – and the gap has widened with China and Mexico. And the overall trade deficit is still significant -- $43.7 trillion.
 
STOCKS – Still a clear bright spot for the president. The major market indexes are near all-time highs. Some of the optimism is due to the continued belief that Trump will eventually be able to lower corporate taxes and reduce regulations on healthcare and banks. But strong earnings growth is fueling the rally too. According to FactSet, profits for S&P 500 companies in the first quarter are on track to rise more than 10 percent for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2011. If those companies eventually start hiring more too, then Trump would be able to show that Wall Street and Main Street can actually both thrive at the same time.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
APR
2016
APR
2017
APR
2016
APR
2017
APR
2016
APR
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
127
129
100
104
27
25
Unemployment rate
4.1
3.9
3.8
3.8
5.1
5.0
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (April 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.0 percent (down from 7.9 percent in March).
 
[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, November 2015.
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, May 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 2017 National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) conference.  Topics discussed were significant barriers to employment, standard operating procedure for assisting veterans with obtaining gainful employment. 
 
Maria Temiquel, Deputy Director, Grants and Training, Office of National Programs, Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Services discussed requiring Directors for Veterans' Employment and Training (DVET’s) and the American Job Center representatives (AJC’s) to be included as part of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
On Monday, May 8, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Bob Looby of New Jersey, regarding the upcoming Veteran Stand Down event that The American Legion is hosting in Atlantic City.
 
On Tuesday, May 9, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the 2017 National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) conference. Jim Sowers, Management Concepts Inc, revamped the National Veterans Training Institute (NVTI) curriculum that all new Local Veterans' Employment Representatives (LVERs) and Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists must attend, in addition, it is highly recommended that all DVET’s also attend the class in order to provide better assistance to both LVER’s and DVOP’s.
 
Charlie Palumbo, DVET for Virginia, has developed a partnership with Mercy Hospital and created the Military Medic And Corpsmen (MMAC) program that would allow Army Medics and Navy Corpsmen the ability to transfer their skills sets into the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) field.
 
On Tuesday-Thursday, May 9-11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans meeting at the VA. This advisory committee provides advice to Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the needs of women veterans regarding health care, rehabilitation benefits, compensation, outreach and other programs administered by VA.
 
On Wednesday, May 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with the DVET for the state of Maryland, Leroy Thomas, who would like to partner with The American Legion to better assist our veterans with finding  gainful employment.
 
On Wednesday, May 10, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the National Women’s Business Council meeting. The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is a non-partisan federal advisory council created to serve as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues of importance to women business owners.
 
On Thursday May 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division spoke with Marilyn Parks of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) regarding the downgrading of Veterans Affairs lower level positions.
 
On Thursday, May 11, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a business workshop hosted by the SCORE chapter in DC. The workshop was called “How to Start a Business”. This workshop covers the legal issues when starting a business, the tax ramifications to a business owner’s personal finances, and what type of business structure is best for the individual and the type of business.
 
On Friday, May 12, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Military Spouse of the Year awards ceremony at the Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s headquarters. During the event, the Military Spouse of the Year award was presented to the Air Force Spouse of the Year, Brittany Boccher.
 
On Monday, May 15, Joe Sharpe, Kaitlin Gray, and Walter Cotton (a Small Business Task Force member), met with Tom Leney, Executive Director of the VA Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) program. During this meeting, the topics discussed included creating an advisory committee for veteran small business within the VA, the effects of the All Small Business Mentor-Protégé Program within the SBA, and handing verification completely over to the SBA.
 
On Wednesday, May 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division hosted a brown bag lunch with VSO education staffers, with special guest Patrick Campbell from CFPB. Pat reviewed numerous changes and improvements going on in the federal education space, including revisions to the GI Bill Comparison tool and changes to Borrower Defense regulations. Patrick also provided insight on consumer protection initiatives that he recommend VSOs focus on safeguarding while regulations are being reviewed for possible repeals.
 
On Wednesday, May 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a Veteran Stand-Down hosted by The American Legion Department of New Jersey. Federal, State, Public and Private support agencies including The Department of Veteran Affairs, New Jersey Department Of Military And Veterans Affairs, American Legion, American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, State Parole Board, MYVA Community, and the DAV, offered a broad array of free services and assistance to over 250 veterans. Assistance included: VA benefits, medical, mental health and addiction counseling, welfare benefits, legal services, housing, employment, haircuts, and clothing provisions.
 
On Thursday, May 18, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division convened a roundtable with Student Veterans of America to discuss Improving the GI Bill with the veterans support community. Over 50 organizations attended, and the event was covered by the Military Times and Stars and Stripes. The objective of the meeting is to unite VSOs to decide on what we hope to accomplish this year in not just defending the GI Bill, but improving it and increasing access to it for new servicemembers.
 
On Friday, May 19, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a Roundtable on Supporting Military-Connected Students held by Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC). SOC has recently come under new leadership, with Dr. John Ballard coming on board to serve as Executive Director. This roundtable was designed for him to share updates and his vision for the future of SOC, which is a collaborative that provides educational opportunities to servicemembers experiencing trouble completing college degrees due to their frequent moves.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act
 
  • Authorize the secretary to reprimand, suspend, involuntarily reassign, demote, or remove a covered individual from a senior executive service position, including removal from civil service, if the secretary determines that their misconduct or performance warrants such an action, subject to a VA-internal grievance process established by the secretary that must be completed within 21 days.
 
  • Authorize the secretary to remove, demote, or suspend for longer than 14 days without pay, subject to an appeal of their removal or demotion to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) for most non-senior executive service (SES) employees. The MSBP would then have 180 days to complete an expedited appeal and render a final decision, subject to judicial review by the U.S. Federal Circuit.
 
  • Protect whistleblowers from retaliation by not allowing the secretary to use this authority to fire employees who have filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The proposal would also establish an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for employees to bring to light major problems at the VA without losing their job or facing retaliation.
     
  • Streamline authority for the secretary to rescind an employee’s bonus or relocation expense reimbursement if the secretary deems it appropriate, and allow reduction to an SES employee’s retirement pension upon their conviction of a felony related to work performance.
 
  • Require the VA to provide periodic training to each supervisor on the rights of whistleblowers; how to address a report by an employee of a hostile work environment, reprisal, or harassment; how to effectively motivate, manage, and reward employees; and how to effectively manage employees who are performing at an unacceptable level.
 
  • Authorize the secretary to directly appoint individuals to the positions of Medical Center Director and Director of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) if they have demonstrated ability in the medical profession, health care administration, or health care fiscal management.
 
  • Require the VA to provide reports to Congress on employee morale and the types of administrative action taken against employees and their effectiveness in disciplining employees. 
     
    Our Concern is that this may strip away any protections from veteran employees. If the agency, which already wins the vast of majority of removal cases it brings before the MSPB, is able to win nearly 100% of the time, then management will initiate mass firings against good employees for bad reasons, including retaliation for reporting mismanagement, anti-veteran animus, politics and discrimination.
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
Women veterans are the fastest-growing demographic of homeless veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A brand new issue of the research journal Psychological Services has come out with an exclusive focus on homelessness, including veteran homelessness. This research journal emphasizes a real need to pay more attention to veteran homelessness and in particular, what causes women veterans to be the largest subgroup of homeless veterans today.
All three of the main articles about homeless veterans in the issue underscore the need in different ways for women veterans to be treated as a separate sub-population when understanding how homelessness affects veterans. As the issue’s editor, Jack Tsai, Ph.D. mentioned in a previous article, as recently as five years ago a comprehensive review of the literature identified only two previous studies on homeless female veterans. This is consistent with another observation that “research on homeless veterans typically excludes women” or that “(few studies) have addressed how women came to be homeless.”
 
In the article by issue editor Jack Tsai, Ph.D., et al. about one-year incidence and predictors of homelessness among 300,000 veterans seen by specialty mental health clinics at VA, it seemed easier to predict the relationships between multiple factors and homelessness — so long as the study subjects were male veterans. Then, drug use, being unmarried, being low-income, being black, having an alcohol use disorder, being aged 46-55, or having a major depressive disorder or dysthymia all were predictive of veteran homelessness. For female veterans in the study, though, only having a drug use disorder (of the factors mentioned) was predictive of homelessness. From other research, other factors — including military sexual trauma (MST), poverty are also risk factors for women veterans and homelessness. This dichotomy reinforces the earlier observation from the literature that both more research needs to be done into the causes and manifestations of female veteran homelessness — and also that female veterans appear to be uniquely distinct from their male veteran counterparts when it comes to why they become homeless.
 
An article by Melissa Dichter, Ph.D., et al. takes a look at intimate partner violence, unhealthy alcohol use and unstable housing among women veterans seen by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). (Intimate partner violence or IPV is the expanded, up-to-date designation for what we used to call domestic violence, or DV.) Alarmingly, the Dichter study pointed out that women veterans face particularly high rates of lifetime IPV exposure — 33 percent of women veterans report IPV vs. 23.8 percent of non-veteran (i.e., civilian) women. Beyond the overlap between IPV and housing instability that exists for both veteran and civilian women, it’s unclear which comes first. In other words, does undergoing intimate partner violence make women more susceptible to unstable housing and/or homelessness — or is it the other way around, do women accept dangerous conditions as way to offset becoming homeless? In two surveys conducted by the International Women’s Media Foundation, women veterans describe the choices they made to manage periods of unstable or precarious housing, and in their responses, approximately 15 percent indicate staying in unsafe relationships during those times. Clearly, more research is needed into whether women veterans are propelled further into unstable housing because of IPV, or whether unstable housing causes women veterans to accept more dangerous living conditions in order to avoid shelters and the street.
 
Finally, in the article by Stephen Metraux, Ph.D., et al. about pathways into homelessness among post-9/11-eras veterans, the 17 qualitative interviews conducted were all among male veterans. In the abstract, there’s a sentence that concludes, “We found that veterans predominantly see their homelessness as rooted in non-military, situational factors such as unemployment and the breakup of relationships...” However, to be clear, that would be how the majority of the 17 male veterans in the study saw the connection. When more than 1,500 women veterans were asked a number of questions about unstable housing after their military service, they answered quite differently. More than one-third believed that their military service did affect or contribute to their experiencing unstable housing or homelessness, whether somewhat so or very much so.
 
The upshot is, while it’s very exciting to see more work being done on veteran homelessness, we’re still at a point where research into what causes and contributes to female veteran homelessness needs to be pursued separately, because the conclusions simply are not interchangeable. It’s time to look at women veterans who become homeless as a separate population, responsive to their own risk factors and presenting with separate needs and challenges from male veterans.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIRS
 
This week, The American Legion attended career fairs in several areas including Springfield (VA), Forest Hill (TX), Oceanside (CA),  and Fort Buchanan (PR). Upcoming career fairs that The American Legion will be involved in include Seattle (WA), Boston (MA), Fort Belvoir (VA), and Pensacola (FL).
 
The mission of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is to take actions that affect the economic wellbeing of veterans, including issues relating to veterans' education, employment, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, homelessness and small business.
TOPIC 6: EDUCATION
 
Planning is underway with Student Veterans of America to convene a Post-9/11 GI Bill Roundtable on Thursday, May 18th to discuss how to improve the GI Bill and better serve the veteran and.  More than 60 veteran and military service organizations and stakeholders have been invited.  Members of the media will be invited to meet with participants at the meeting’s conclusion at 4:00 PM.
 
The purpose of this meeting is to have a closed-door community meeting on the 17 pieces of legislation that were to be discussed in the Congressional hearing on April 26th, before the meeting was cancelled due to controversy over the GI Bill buy-in proposal. While that proposal is no longer under consideration, issues remain that the community needs to come together to solve, including the 12304b and 12301(h) orders, relief benefits for displaced student veterans, and increased funding for state approving agencies. 
 
As background on the issue, the outrage was over a GI Bill buy-in. Those in favor of the GI Bill Buy-in, (the #forevergibill movement) believed in the GI Bill as a lifetime benefit that was investment funded. Those who were against the proposal (the #defendthegibill movement) believe it a wartime benefit with a 15 year limit that is taxpayer funded. Ultimately, the #forevergibill movement failed to counter the emotional outrage generated over labeling the GI Bill buy-in a "tax". They lost the talking points battle, and while the Legion had prepared for testimony on this and other issues in a rational manner, the outrage resulted in the postponement of the hearing. With the situation right now, the goal of the meeting is to lead other veterans organizations to discussing other solutions to expanding the GI Bill. 
 
Credentialing (article from legion.org/education)
 
A newly released American Legion report, “The State of Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans,” sponsored by Military.com, lays out key recommendations to improve the transition to specialized civilian careers for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and military veterans.
 
The report, prepared by SOLID, LLC, focuses on the complex issue of converting military experience into credits toward licenses and credentials necessary for employment in multiple civilian industries that require specialized training and education. It aims to help guide the administration, Congress, state credentialing agencies and industries.
 
“The military invests extensively in formal training for its enlisted personnel, complemented by extensive on-the-job training and hands-on experience,” The American Legion report states in its executive summary. “Military training is state-of-the-art and, early in their careers, service members gain opportunities for direct experience that are unprecedented in the civilian sector. However, the eligibility requirements for civilian credentials seldom offer direct recognition of military training and experience as a means of qualification.”
 
The American Legion conducted the first systematic review of military credentialing for specialized civilian careers in 1996 and has worked continuously to improve acceptance of experience in the U.S. Armed Forces in training programs for such careers as emergency medicine, hazardous material handling, commercial truck driving, mechanical technology and other careers requiring federal, state or industry certification or licensure for employment.
 
The Legion has conducted numerous roundtable discussions involving industry leaders, government employers and other stakeholders over the years, including highly acclaimed national credentialing summits in 2012 and 2015. Two more roundtable discussions and another national American Legion summit are planned within the next year.
 
Among the areas of progress include improved military programs to document hours of training and experience for active-duty personnel that can be submitted for acceptance by government or industry licensing and credentialing agencies. Legislative efforts have also provided improvements at the federal level and on a state-by-state basis. However, the conversion from military experience to credits toward civilian licenses and credentials remains inconsistent, and GI Bill benefits do not always adequately cover the widely varying costs of final examinations.
 
“America spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to train service members to do highly skilled jobs,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said at a Senate subcommittee hearing earlier this year. “They should be ready to move into civilian life with (the help of) certifications.”
 
She emphasized that the Senate “wants to work on making it easier for our service members when they leave the service to have that credential in hand and recognized in all 54 jurisdictions of the United States.”
 
Among the recommendations identified in The American Legion report are:
 
  • Improve the Post 9/11 GI Bill Licensing and Certification Benefit to more accurately cover the cost of final certification examinations
 
  • Ensure the quality of certification programs and non-traditional credential preparation programs
 
  • Better track labor-market demand for employment in fields requiring licenses and credentials
 
  • Reduce state licensure barriers for already-trained veterans and military personnel
 
  • Develop best practices for credentialing service members and veterans
 
  • Ensure that military and veteran interests are represented in civilian workforce credentialing initiative
 
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The U.S. Small Business Administration today announced the Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program funding opportunity competition.  The funding will be given to a U.S.-based organization to expand an existing program providing federal procurement entrepreneurship training to veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, while building the capacity of VOSBs and SDVOSBs to compete for and win federal contracts.
 
The funding opportunity, offered by SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development, will enable one awardee to deliver, and scale as required, an existing veteran federal procurement entrepreneurial training program to VOSBs and SDVOSBs who intend to pursue, or are already engaged in federal procurement.
 
SBA anticipates awarding one cooperative agreement from this announcement. A maximum of $500,000 in funding is available annually for up to four years. The period of performance consists of a base period of 12 months and three option periods of 12 months each.
The VFPETP funding competition is open to eligible nonprofit or private sector organizations with a demonstrated history of providing quality entrepreneurship and/or business management training for VOSBs and SDVOSBs.  Other criteria to be evaluated will include performance metrics, outcomes of the existing program and the ability to scale operations of the existing program to serve SDVOSBs and VOSBs from all U.S. states and territories.
 
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  5/19/17

 

 


 

 
NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION
Week Ending 5 May 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
It looks like the US economy is perking up under President Trump. The government reported a strong gain in jobs for April on Friday, May 5, and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since May 2007. It seems that consumers, small businesses and corporate CEOs are in a better mood since Trump took office as well. Here’s a look at some of the most important barometers of the economy’s health.
 
JOBS – The employment rate hit a 10-year low of 4.4 percent in April. That is clearly good news for Trump. Even the so-called underemployment rate, a number some consider the “real” unemployment rate since it includes people working part-time that want a full-time job, fell to 8.8 percent in April. That is the lowest since November 2007. Other numbers point to a healthier labor market too: 522,000 jobs have been added in the first three full months after Trump took office. And wages have risen 2.5 percent in the past 12 months. That’s still below the 3 percent level the President, the Fed and many workers would like to see, but it’s a big improvement from just 2 percent shortly after the Great Recession ended.
 
HOUSING PRICES – For many Americans, the bulk of their wealth is tied up in their home. There’s good news on that front. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price for an existing home was $236,400 – up 4 percent from the start of the year. Financing for housing is still fairly affordable too. The average 30-year mortgage rate is 4.02 percent according to Freddie Mac. Rates have fallen this year along with the yield on the long-term 10-year U.S. Treasury bond, and that’s despite the fact that the U.S. Federal Reserve will likely keep boosting short-term rates.
 
LENDING – Consumers continue to borrow money to buy cars, purchase things on credit cards and be able to afford college. The Fed said that consumer credit rose 4.8 percent annually in February (the most recent figures available) to $3.79 trillion. It’s encouraging that consumers are still willing to take on debt and it’s an even better sign that they are paying their bills on time too. The delinquency rate on credit cards was just 2.3 percent at the end of 2016, compared to peak of 6.8 percent in the middle of 2009. But businesses are no longer as interested in borrowing money. Commercial and industrial loan volume was $2.08 trillion in March. Demand for these loans has fallen two straight months and are down from a recent peak of $2.1 trillion in November. It’s not a cause for alarm just yet, but if businesses stop borrowing to finance growth and subsequently hire less as a result, that could be a problem for Trump.
 
CONSUMER SPENDING – Shop till you drop? It seems that consumers may have dropped after a holiday spending binge. Personal consumption expenditures, a fancy way of saying consumer spending, were flat in February and March. Consumer spending makes up a majority of the nation’s overall economic activity. So the weak spending was a key reason why the nation’s gross domestic product rose at an annualized pace of just 0.7 percent in the first quarter – far below the 3 percent rate many in the Trump administration are touting as doable. This is hurting retailers too. Competition from Amazon isn’t their only problem. Consumers have simply slowed down their pace of spending. The government said in April that retail sales fell 0.2 percent in March, following a 0.3 percent decline in February.
 
TRADE – This is perhaps the thorniest issue for Trump. He’s been hypersensitive about deals with all of America’s major partners. His pledge to “Buy American and Hire American” could put the US at odds with China, Japan, Europe, Mexico and Canada. But Trump has good reason to be worried. The US trade deficit has narrowed only slightly in the past few months – and the gap has widened with China and Mexico. And the overall trade deficit is still significant -- $43.7 trillion.
 
STOCKS – Still a clear bright spot for the president. The major market indexes are near all-time highs. Some of the optimism is due to the continued belief that Trump will eventually be able to lower corporate taxes and reduce regulations on healthcare and banks. But strong earnings growth is fueling the rally too. According to FactSet, profits for S&P 500 companies in the first quarter are on track to rise more than 10 percent for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2011. If those companies eventually start hiring more too, then Trump would be able to show that Wall Street and Main Street can actually both thrive at the same time.
 
 
HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, veteran status, and period of service
Total
Men
Women
APR
2016
APR
2017
APR
2016
APR
2017
APR
2016
APR
2017
 
Gulf War-era II veterans
 
Unemployed
127
129
100
104
27
25
Unemployment rate
4.1
3.9
3.8
3.8
5.1
5.0
 
National unemployment rate is 4.4 percent (April 2017). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.[1] Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 5.0 percent (down from 7.9 percent in March).
 
TOPIC 2: MEETINGS
 
On Monday, May 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with James Bunch, a retired employee of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Mr. Bunch spoke about a veteran’s entrepreneurial farm training program that he would like to acquire funding for from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and USDA.
 
On Monday, May 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with HVAC Economic Opportunity Subcommittee staff to conduct a postmortem on the changes proposed for the GI Bill. The staff shared that the only way they believe we can proceed with expanding the GI Bill now is through Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) realignment. To equalize the BAH rate between Chapter 33 veterans and active-duty E-5 with dependents would mean an eventual 5 percent reduction in BAH for the Chapter 33 veterans.
 
On Monday, May 1, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division confirmed with the staff for Congresswoman Gonzalez-Colon, Representative of Puerto Rico, that she will be in attendance for the Career Fair as well as the workshops, along with the Secretary of Department of Labor for Puerto Rico.
 
On Tuesday, May 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Phillips to discuss possible veteran’s transitioning training programs and procurement opportunities that the company could create to better serve veterans. Phillips would like to develop a relationship with The American Legion in order to help veterans.
 
On Tuesday, May 2, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated in the planning call for the Career Fair in Puerto Rico. Currently, there are 250 jobseekers registered to attend the Career Fair, 20 for the Small Business Workshop, 110 for the Resume and LinkedIn Workshop.  It is anticipated that close to 500 veterans will be in attendance. The Commanding General for the base has made it an “open base” for that day, which will make it easier for veterans to attend these events.
 
On Wednesday, May 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a military spouse Hiring Fair at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. These Hiring Fairs offers agencies an exciting opportunity to recruit from a richly talented and diverse group of professionals. Clients include men and women of all ranks and from all branches of service. Clients may be active-duty, retired, separating from the military, veterans or military spouses.
 
On Wednesday, May 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division was briefed by VA on their progress in eliminating veteran homelessness in Anchorage, Alaska.  In addition, we went on a site visit to a local community service provider (Salvation Army) that assists homeless veterans with employment, housing and other necessary resources in order for them to successfully reintegrate back into mainstream society.
 
On Wednesday, May 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with American Military University’s (AMU) Vice President for Military & Educational Partnerships, Lou Cordia, to discuss general education issues. AMU has been lobbying for years to lift the base access rules that would allow them to provide counseling to students on military posts, which the DOD currently does not support. The American Legion has supported DOD in the past, and have not seen evidence that this should be overturned. However, common ground was explored on other issues, including supporting improvements to the GI Bill.
 
On Wednesday, May 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the House Rules Committee hearing regarding H.R.244 - Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) American Military Veterans Act of 2017. The hearing focused on House Resolution 305, which would provide consideration of the Senate amendments to the bill (H.R. 244) to encourage effective, voluntary investments to recruit, employ, and retain men and women who have served in the United States military with annual federal awards to employers recognizing such efforts, and for other purposes.
 
On Wednesday, May 3, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the District of Columbia’s monthly “Veterans Affairs Committee” conducted by the Mayor’s office. Some issues discussed were future round tables, which will include 6 randomly chosen DC veterans that will focus on better care at the VAMC; the rollout of their new “Down Loadable” pamphlet pertaining to homelessness; and employment.  Currently, there are 28,000-30,000 veterans that reside in the District of Columbia.
On Thursday, May 4, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended breakout sessions on the Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Forward Conference. This conference was a ground-breaking gathering of over 500 local and national leaders (560 registered) dedicated to expanding apprenticeship opportunities in the United States. These experts convened in our nation’s capital to discuss how we can help millions of students and workers apprentice with thousands of companies to develop skilled careers while providing a more skilled workforce for the US economy.
 
On Friday, May 5, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a business workshop hosted by a SCORE chapter in Washington, DC. Members of the SCORE chapter offer free counseling and mentoring to those who wish to start or build existing businesses in the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland, and in Northern Virginia. This chapter operates with a main office in DC and 12 branch offices in the Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs. SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They have been providing this service for over fifty years. Because SCORE is supported by SBA, and thanks to their network of over 11,000 volunteers, they are able to deliver their services at no charge or at very low cost.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
In recent years, public understanding of military veterans’ needs has been shaped largely by reporting on post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, suicide rates and poor conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But for the great majority of the veterans of Post-9/11 wars, a persistent and profound need is for the social services that will help them transition back to civilian life. That is the assessment of the newest study by the Costs of War project based at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, which uses research to create dialogue about the human, economic and political costs of the Post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the related violence in Pakistan and Syria.
 
In the new Costs of War study, “US Military Veterans’ Difficult Transitions Back to Civilian Life and the VA’s Response,” Anna Zogas, a researcher at the University of Washington, focuses on the difficulties the newest generation of post-combat veterans face as they reintegrate to civilian life. The study surveys research on veterans’ transitions to assess data, reveal patterns of need and review the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) response to those needs. “From changing residences and finding jobs to securing educational and vocational training and settling back in with family, veterans face post-war difficulties that are costs of war not easily captured in healthcare spending totals or in the epidemiology of combat-related health problems,” Zogas said. She found that the VA, the nation’s largest integrated health care system, changed its policies to better assist veterans and more than doubled spending between 2002 and 2015 on programs related to employment and education, two top areas of need according to veterans.
 
Zogas emphasized that the non-medical services the VA provides in tandem with healthcare are key to helping veterans leave the “disciplined, rigid, high-stakes environment” of the military and reintegrate with family, find work, pursue education and navigate a daily routine that is no longer predictable, orderly and mission-focused. “Distinguishing strained social relations from specific medical problems is important because how we define problems shapes our efforts to solve them,” Zogas wrote in the study. Enlisted servicemembers who fought in Post-9/11 wars have been leaving the military at a rate of roughly 250,000 each year, the study reports, and the Department of Defense estimates that this rate will remain at 230,000 to 245,000 per year through 2019. The difficulties veterans have in easing back into civilian life correlate with age, education level and work experience — and many of these veterans are young and lack a college degree.
 
The study reports that in 2008, the year in which the highest concentration of U.S. troops deployed overseas, 41 percent of servicemembers were 25 years old or younger, and only 18 percent had a bachelor’s degree. This means that hundreds of thousands of young post-combat veterans leave the military each year, many of them without established careers to which they can return. Those who enter a college or vocational program may be older than traditional students and may have families to support. Zogas found that between 65 percent and 80 percent of veterans surveyed between 2014 and 2016 left the military without a job lined up. The study cited interviews with case managers of a career services program who suggested veterans have unrealistic expectations of employment options and salaries in the civilian job market. Although they are highly motivated to work hard and move up corporate hierarchies, Zogas wrote, veterans were frustrated by having to start in low-paying, entry-level positions and many reported feeling like they were starting over completely.
 
Young veterans also report social difficulties with greater frequency than the rate at which they are diagnosed with specific mental health concerns, Zogas said. In 2008, 96 percent of a group of Post-9/11 combat veterans surveyed reported that they were interested in receiving services to ease “community reintegration problems,” even though they were already using V.A. primary care or mental health services. More recently, Zogas wrote, in studies published between 2014 and 2016, veterans of the Post-9/11 wars reported adjustment difficulties at rates between 61 percent and 68 percent. Even without the most troubling health issues, such as traumatic brain injuries or PTSD, many post-combat veterans contend with physical and mental health concerns — from musculoskeletal ailments to mental disorders, insomnia and headache — that can make reintegrating with family and succeeding in school and work difficult, the report found.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
During combat missions military personnel are given orders to "Stand Down" when it's no longer required to fire upon the enemy. After returning home some of them unfortunately find themselves living in abject poverty and must "Stand Down." Well that's what occurred from May 1 through 3 at Robert King Park located at 7025 West Flagler in Miami, Florida. It's indicative that veterans not only here in Miami but all over the nation disengage themselves from the evil vices (unemployment, divorce, drugs or alcohol) that led them to become homeless. "We had 267 veterans registered this weekend for our three-day Stand Down event," said Colonel Tony Colmenares USMC (Ret.), College-Wide Director of Veteran and Military Services at Miami Dade College, Kendall Campus. "Over 30 got placed into housing."
The Stand Down takes place every year here in Dade and Broward counties to provide housing and medical assistance amongst other things for displaced veterans. For starters, tents and cots were set up for fellow veterans to sleep so they wouldn't have to continue to sleep on bus benches, sidewalks or wherever they could lay their head. There also were portable latrines (bathrooms) and hot showers. The event also made provisions based on gender that if there were male and female tents. It's very difficult to imagine and disheartening to witness not only men - but women - who served this country existing without food, shelter and clothing.
Valerie Allen, 54, US Army (Ret.) was among the many veterans that slept overnight during the three-day event in hopes that her housing situation would get rectified. "I'm separated from my husband and I have to care for my grandkids that slept in the tent with me as well," said Allen. "I have a car note and other financial expenses to deal with." Allen says that even though she's indigent - she's not eligible for any of the Veterans Affairs (VA) housing services, because she's 100 percent service connected, which means she receives a hefty check on a monthly basis.
Many veterans have open cases and stiff fines that they can't afford to pay because they are unemployed, therefore, legal and employment services were rendered during the "Stand Down". Veteran's court took place and according to Colmenares, approximately $175,000 in fees and fines for veterans were waived. Without these fees and fines some of the veterans might end up being incarcerated and Paul M. Russo, medical center director for the Miami VA, says it's this type of concerted effort between the community and the VA that allows the system to be productive. "For the last five years we have made great strides in eliminating homelessness," said Russo. "But it couldn't have been accomplished without community partners. The VA can't do it alone."
Katherine Fernandez Rundie, Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office, was on hand to assist with getting records expunged and sealed; Career Source South Florida to help with employment; Military ministry for prayer; the Florida Veterans Foundation and Operation Sacred Trust for permanent housing; the Salvation Army for temporary housing of veterans and Natalie Rodriguez, Service to the Armed Forces Director, for the American Red Cross, all play an intricate part in helping to eliminate homeless veterans. "These initiatives have fixed the lives of many veterans here in Miami," said Tomas Pedro Regalado, Mayor of Miami. "This weekend you have witnessed veterans getting their lives together. This was a risky challenge but I knew it was the right thing to do."
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Camp Pendleton, El Paso, Fort Belvoir (VA), Fort Buchanan (PR), McLean (VA), Pensacola, San Diego, Seattle, 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
 
Purdue University is in the process of acquiring Kaplan University, a massive for-profit college in an unprecedented deal that has the potential to alter the landscape of the American education industry. The price of the sale is $1. Kaplan University, a for-profit college with some 33,000 mostly online students will be transformed into nonprofit Purdue classes. If this is approved, it would be the first time that a public university has acquired a for-profit school. The instant that the $1 sale is completed, Kaplan's programs will no longer be subject to "gainful employment" regulations, which revoke federal funding from for-profit schools where students graduate with too much debt relative to their earnings. In the face of this intense regulatory scrutiny, companies that run university chains have been searching for opportunities to transform the schools into nonprofits. In almost every deal, the school's former owner continues to draw some profits from the school through revenue-sharing agreements or land deals.
 
So why has this not been done before? A big reason is the challenges associated with modifying academic accreditation. Deals that alter schools’ tax status cause immense work and potential problems with the school's accreditor, which is charged with approving the deal, or the Department of Education, which will also have to sign off. Last year, a high-profile effort by Grand Canyon University to transform into a nonprofit was blocked by the school's accreditor, which said the school's former owner would maintain too much control.
 
In defining how this will potentially change the educational landscape, it is worth noting Purdue University’s president: former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. With the political power that the former governor has, it should not be surprising to see the red tape and regulatory barriers be lowered in order for the deal to pass. And once that happens, a precedent will be set for schools to follow. As even former Department of Education Secretary (and for-profit critic) Arne Duncan said, he was “excited by this opportunity for a world-class university to expand its reach and help educate adult learners by acquiring a strong for-profit college. This is a first, and if successful, could help create a new model for what it means to be a land-grant institution.”
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy recently released an encouraging report on veteran-owned businesses. The report, which is based on the latest available data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Small Business Owners (released December 2015 and February 2016), shows about 2.52 million businesses in the U.S. majority-owned by veterans. According to the SBA report entitled “Veteran-Owned Businesses and Their Owners,” small business firms owned by veterans employed 5.03 million people, had an annual payroll of $195 billion and receipts of $1.14 trillion. The veteran-owned firms represented 9.1 percent of all U.S. businesses.
 
California, Texas and Florida had the most veteran-owned businesses respectively, while the highest percent of veteran-owned businesses in their populations were found in South Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia. Other highlights from the study include:
 
  • Nearly 30 percent of all veteran-owned firms were in two industry groups: construction and the professional, scientific and technical services group.
  • The industry with the largest share of veteran-owned firms was finance and insurance (13.2 percent), followed by transportation and warehousing (12.1 percent), and construction (11.4 percent).
  • Five industry groups accounted for 71.5 percent of all veteran-owned firm sales: wholesale trade (22.9 percent), retail trade (19.5 percent), manufacturing (12.3 percent), construction (10.1 percent), and professional, scientific, and technical services (7.0 percent).
  • Almost all of these veteran-owned businesses at the time (99.9 percent) were small businesses. Also, a bigger percentage of veteran-owned businesses were home-based (57.0 percent) compared with other businesses (52.2 percent) in the rest of the population. And the most common method for veterans to become business owners was to start their own businesses themselves.
     
     
    Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
    Veterans Employment & Education Division
    202.861.2700 ext. 2989
    Week Ending:  5/5/17

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

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION

Week Ending 28 April 2017
 
TOPIC 1: ECONOMY
 
The most important issues for the United States economy in 2017 and beyond is whether it’s near its speed limit. It has taken eight years of glacial expansion, but the nation is closing in on what economists believe to be its full productive capacity. It’s nearing that level of activity in which nearly everybody who wants a job has one, and factories and offices are cranking at full speed. If the economy grows just 2.5 percent this year, gross domestic product will reach the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the nation’s economic potential by the end of the year.
 
If the Trump administration succeeds at achieving the 4 percent growth the president has said he seeks, we’ll be there by the Fourth of July. If there is in fact more room to grow beyond the budget office’s estimate of ‘potential GDP’ an economic boom remains possible. If there isn’t, higher growth will translate into inflation, not higher output and incomes. The question for the Trump administration, the Federal Reserve and every American who wants a higher paycheck is how much slack there really is in the economy.
 
Economic slack takes the form of empty warehouses and office parks; of machines that run eight hours a day when they were built to run for 12; and, most important, millions of Americans who might be coaxed to work in a booming economy but who aren’t even looking for a job now. If there is a lot of slack, then the Trump administration’s ambitious growth targets look more plausible, and the Fed should move slowly on raising interest rates so as not to choke off the expansion just as it’s getting going. If there’s not very much – if this is about the best the nation can expect to do – then either the Fed will raise rates more quickly to choke off growth or inflation will burst higher, or both.
 
In assessing how close we are (or aren’t) to full capacity, it helps to look at America’s industrial parks and office complexes. The Federal Reserve watches the industrial sector by measuring what is called factory capacity utilization. American companies were operating factories at 75.7 percent of their potential in January. That’s roughly the rate they’ve been at for the last five years. Experience suggests it could go higher. In the spring of 2007, the rate was 79.5 percent. It was above 80 percent for the better part of the 1990s.
 
In other words, the manufacturing sector would seem to have room to produce more stuff even without expanding factory floors or adding equipment. At Caterpillar, the giant maker of heavy equipment based in Peoria (IL), Jim Umpleby, the chief executive, told analysts last month that, even as it closely managed costs, “we’re also preserving capacity for a potential increase in business whenever that comes.” Economic slack is trickier to measure in the service sector; good luck judging whether, say, an insurance company is operating below or at its full potential.
 
But one window into it is the office vacancy rate. Nationwide, 15.8 percent of office space was vacant in the final months of 2016, according to the real estate information firm Reis. That was down from a recent high of 17.6 percent in 2011 – but could still have room to fall. In the last expansion, it fell as low as 12.5 percent, implying that millions of square feet of offices are sitting idle, ready for white collar workers to fill them.
 
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 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Volunteers of America (VOA) to discuss their homeless veteran initiatives to include their programs/services and transitional housing that assist at-risk and/or homeless veterans. VOA is a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing and other assistance services primarily to low-income people throughout the United States. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the organization includes 36 affiliates providing services in approximately 400 communities in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
 
On Monday, April 24, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended the Washington Centers VET Initiative launch reception at the Army Navy Club. Our division will hosting a Washington Center volunteer for the summer semester. The volunteer, Chaze Patrick, is a Legionnaire attending Southern Indiana University -- who is studying in Washington, DC over the summer.
 
On Tuesday, April 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division attended a Career Fair in Lexington Park, Maryland. There were approximately 30 employers and 50-60 job seekers in attendance.
 
On Tuesday, April 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division held informal discussions with the VFW and SVA over alternative offsets in the wake of the GI Bill buy-in fallout. Two potential offsets were identified for further study: limiting disability payments to incarcerated veterans convicted of capital crimes and balancing VA home loan fee differences between active-duty and National Guard/Reserve.
 
On Tuesday, April 25, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) team, Lori Adams, Veterans Affairs Manager, Pam Gerassimides, Assistant Executive Director and Shannon Offord, Director of Strategic Partnership, DirectEmployers, to discuss future opportunities and collaboration. Additionally, we discussed their upcoming Conference in Washington, DC and Indianapolis. NASWA’s focus is on veteran employment, education and credentialing. They requested The American Legion to participate in their upcoming Conference on the Veterans Service Organization (VSO) panel.
 
On Wednesday, April 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division met with Linda Brooks-Rix, CEO and Co-Founder, and Rick Payne, Chief Security Office, AVUE Technologies, to discuss the Federal Agency wide downgrading of GS position in particular those relating to the VA. We discussed the new OMB memo (M-17-22) and the impact it will have on veterans.
 
On Wednesday, April 26, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division had a conference call with Mark Williams, Program Manager, Small Business Administration’s Office of Veteran Business Development, to discuss small business issues. Additionally, we discussed the small business workshop agenda for our upcoming National Convention in Reno, Nevada.
 
On Thursday, April 27, the National Veterans Employment & Education division met with Janet Giles, CEO of Jobzone, to discuss her upcoming Career Fairs and how The American Legion can take a more active role by providing different types of workshops (i.e., Resume, Branding, Interviewing Skills, Social Media, etc.).
 
On Friday, April 28 - Sunday, April 30, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division will participate in the 99th Regional Support Command (RSC) Yellow Ribbon Integration Program to talk about the different programs and services The American Legion offers. Presently, there are roughly 4 units (1,200 soldiers and their families) scheduled to attend. The event will be at the Gaylord Convention Center, at the National Harbor in Maryland.
 
TOPIC 3: EMPLOYMENT
 
Hilton said it plans to hire 20,000 veterans by 2020. The hotel announced the plan, which includes spouses, dependents and caregivers, on Wednesday, April 26. Hilton recently completed a plan it launched in 2013 to hire 10,000 veterans. It hired the most veterans in Florida, Texas and California, which all have large veteran populations, as well as Nevada, South Carolina and Hawaii. The unemployment rate for veterans who have been on active-duty since September 2001, a group known as Gulf War-era II, was 5 percent, while the rate for the overall population stands at 3.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced challenges trying to re-enter the civilian workforce. Their skill sets – like patrolling an Afghan village with an M4 carbine – do not always match the skill sets of the civilian workforce, like managing a restaurant or working in an office. Hilton has developed a coding system to match Hilton job codes with the Military Occupational Specialties code, or MOS, that’s assigned to every member of the U.S. military.
 
The company also said it will continue its honors points donation program, which has already provided 1,700 free hotel stays to 1,100 veterans. More than 300,000 people work for Hilton, which is based in McLean, Virginia. Many other companies have focused on hiring veterans as they come home from war. Last month, Starbucks announced plans to hire 25,000 veterans or their spouses by 2025, as part of its international plan to add 240,000 jobs.
 
TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS), Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program, issued a pre-solicitation notice on April 20 for a contractor to provide homeless veterans with transitional housing, with a goal of temporarily housing veterans while appointments, services, and referrals are in process to secure placement within the VHA community based on available housing programs or return to their residence. The HCHV-Safe Haven Program is an essential and critical part of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and is vital for providing a gateway to VA and community supportive service for homeless veterans eligible for VA healthcare. The VA intends to award the contract to a contractor who can provide secure, appropriately monitored, temporary placement for veterans needing emergency residential placement near the VASDHS campus. The contractor also must provide transportation services, so the veterans can check into VASDHS and return to temporary residential placement with minimal barriers. No veteran can remain at the facility for longer than 180 days.
The contractor who receives the contract must provide case management, temporary housing and supportive services as appropriate, and all facilities, labor, supervision, supplies, materials, and assistance with transportation as required. The VA requires the contractor who receives this contract to use the General Harm Reduction Program (GHRP) model of care. GHRP is a model of care that meets the individuals where they are at when determining an appropriate intervention to decrease substance use. This model of care does not stress abstinence unless this is the active desire of the client in receipt of services. The Harm Reduction philosophy hopes to encourage safer practices in regards to substance use such as; using clean needles, practicing safe sex, following up with medical and mental healthcare, and attempting to increase safety while limiting harm. Any type of theoretical and evidenced based practice that helps reduce harm to an individual is considered harm reduction.
Harm reduction in a transitional housing environment focuses on having highly trained staff that are able to understand the difference between abstinence-based substance abuse treatment and reduction of substance use. The veteran will be required to work with case management staff to develop a plan of care that will effectively help him or her move toward permanent housing. Individuals in a transitional housing harm reduction program will not be discharged for being intoxicated, continued substance use, or an inability to comply with psychiatric medication treatment. The contractor who receives this contract must be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM) database and have as part of the registration all current representations and certifications.
 
TOPIC 5: CAREER FAIR
 
This week, work continued on The American Legion’s upcoming hiring events to be staged in Boston, Camp Pendleton, El Paso, Forest Hill (TX), Fort Bragg, Fort Buchanan (PR), Fort Campbell, Fort Irwin (CA), Fort Riley (KS), Joint Base Andrews (MD), Marine Corps Base Quantico (VA), McLean (VA), Pensacola, San Diego, Seattle, 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
 
Plans for GI Bill reforms this year are now on life support following the in-fighting that Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and veterans advocates had over the buy-in for the Post 9-/11 GI Bill proposal. The conflict has come after months of behind-the-scenes work in which the Legion has been actively engaged in monitoring. The discussions centered on identifying specific enhancements to expand the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and explore budgetary offsets that would support them. A hearing was scheduled for April 26, in which The American Legion was set to testify on 18 bills, and express that we would take the GI Bill spending provision to membership for a vote.
 
However on April 18, the VFW and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) Minority staff leaked a story on the GI Bill buy-in as a tax on troops that the Republicans were proposing. This scathing news release labeled the idea a “tax on troops” that falsely named Chairman Phil Roe (TN) as the author of the draft bill (his staff said he did not intend on sponsoring the legislation) and accused lawmakers of looking to find savings at the expense of veterans. With the outrage that followed, including statements from Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Ranking HVAC Member Tim Walz (MN), the hearing was postponed indefinitely. Privately, HVAC shared that they desired an American Legion endorsement of the provision in order to reintroduce. In a time of war, endorsing this proposal is not an option.
 
Regardless, HVAC Chairman Phil Roe has indicated in his statements that he no longer wishes to focus on the GI Bill: “We’ve got plenty of other issues before us already… we have to fix the Choice program. There are big IT issues to fix at VA. We can’t let one issue suck up all the oxygen in the room… I’m disappointed with the backlash. Our idea was to expand benefits. We’ll continue to work on that.” This statement is a significant departure from his support for multiple GI Bill roundtables held by the committee since January, where veterans groups offered ideas on possible improvements to the education benefits. The actions of the past week by VFW and IAVA have caused significant harm to the relationship that the committees have with VSOs.
 
This environment was created by proceeding on hearings and proposals with a divided community of VSOs. Our division believes that right now the best way to affect change on the GI Bill is to build agreement on this important issue. As the largest VSO in the country, who has remained above the fray on this, The American Legion is in a singular position to be the convening authority on this. In response, efforts are being made in our division to invite other VSOs to the Legion headquarters office in Washington, DC, for a closed-door discussion on what we can agree on to support GI Bill improvements.
 
TOPIC 7: SMALL BUSINESS
 
The Rhode Island Senate is considering a bill that would give veteran-owned companies a small boost when seeking state contracts. In a similar way women and minority-owned companies get a slight preference for these contracts, the bill sets a 3 percent target for bids awarded to veteran-owned businesses. The bill’s sponsor, Woonsocket Senator Marc Cote, has introduced similar bills before with a version of this bill making it through the Senate last year, but not the House.
 
On another note for veteran small business, two businessmen pleaded not guilty Friday to accusations that they lied to obtain more than $11 million in federal contracts set aside for businesses owned by disabled veterans. Andrew Otero, owner of A&D General Contracting Inc., is accused of using the disabled veteran status of Roger Ramsey, owner of Action Telecom Inc., to bid on government contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Army Corps of Engineers - contracts that are only for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, according to the indictment filed April 7 in San Diego federal court. This “rent-a-vet” scheme took advantage of a program that the government created to pay back disabled veterans for their service to the country.
 
The two businesses purportedly created a joint venture in 2009 to bid on the projects, asserting that Ramsey’s company would oversee management of the work and would receive the majority of the profits, according to the indictment. But the businessmen also created a side agreement that they kept secret that spelled out very different terms: that Otero and A&D were really in charge and would receive 98 percent of every payment, the indictment states. Ramsey’s company would only get 2 percent for use of his disabled status, the indictment alleges. The indictment specifies three contracts, with one worth $8.2 million, that were fraudulently obtained.
 
 
Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director
Veterans Employment & Education Division
202.861.2700 ext. 2989
Week Ending:  4/28/17
 
 

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

 







 
 
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
 
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 natio