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Congressional Leaders Introduce Veterans Economic Recovery Act

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Washington, June 4, 2020 | Samantha Gonzalez (202-225-3527) | comments
Today, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, along with Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced the Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020. The Members released the following statements about the bipartisan, bicameral bill:

“America’s veterans are dedicated, talented, and hard-working leaders in their fields, as employers around the world can attest,” said Ranking Member Roe. “That is why the veteran unemployment rate reached its lowest level in modern history earlier this year. Unfortunately, veterans - particularly young veteran women - have not been spared from the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 virus and by our national response to it. I am introducing the Veterans Economic Recovery Act today to rapidly retrain those veterans so that they have the knowledge and skillset they need to successfully transition from military to civilian life, quickly reenter the workforce, and thrive in the post-pandemic economy. We have perhaps no greater calling than the calling to help those who have served live their version of the American dream once they hang up their uniforms. This bill will help us do just that.”

“The men and women who have served our country are entrepreneurs, engineers, teachers, and so much more, but like most Americans, the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for them and their families,” said Rep. Levin. “It’s unacceptable that we now have over a million veterans unemployed, and we need to step up to help get them back to work. With more support for retraining, education, and transition assistance, America’s veterans can lead the way as we work to recover from this pandemic. Under Chairman Takano and Ranking Member Roe, our Committee is determined to help every veteran thrive in their post-service careers, and our Veterans Economic Recovery Act sets out to achieve that goal.”

“We have made great strides to lower the veteran unemployment rate, and last year we saw the lowest rate in nearly 20 years," said Chairman Moran. "Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a setback in veterans' employment. The Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020 will provide retraining opportunities to help our veterans and their spouses find meaningful jobs so they can provide for themselves and their families. These men and women, who have raised their right hand to serve, deserve no less during this crisis that we are facing."

“With veteran unemployment on the rise, it’s critical that we expand resources to swiftly get these folks trained and back to work,” said Ranking Member Tester. “The reality is that the coronavirus hasn’t spared our nation’s servicemembers—and we’ve got to work twice as hard to make certain these men and women get the support they earned during their service. That’s why I’m introducing the bipartisan Veterans Economic Recovery Act, to strengthen existing retraining job opportunities and establish new resources to get veterans employed and back on their feet. Veterans dealing with the devastating, economic consequences of the pandemic need to know that the government is in their corner—and I’ll continue working hard to ensure they aren’t left behind during this crisis.”

This legislation is also supported by the following Veteran Service Organizations: Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), American Veterans (AMVETS), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), National Association of Veteran Program Administrators (NAVPA), National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASSA), Reserve Officers Association (ROA), Veterans Education Success (VES), and Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS).

Background:

In 2019, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.1%, the lowest in 19 years. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the veteran unemployment rose to 11% in April 2020. The unemployment rate for post 9/11 veteran women reached 20% in April 2020, compared to 15.5% for non-veteran women. The centerpiece of the Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020 would be the creation of a rapid retraining program to provide unemployed veterans and reservists with 12 months of educational benefits, to pursue training in high-demand occupations. The education benefits available under the rapid retraining program would be equivalent to the benefits provided under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. To be eligible to participate in the rapid retraining program, veterans must:

- Be between the ages of 25-60;
- Be unemployed on the day of application;
- Have an honorable or other than dishonorable discharge;
- Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit;
- Not be enrolled in another Federal of State job training program;
- Not be receiving disability compensation for reasons that have led to un-employability; and
- Not be in receipt of any unemployment benefit when they begin training under this program.

Members of the National Guard or Reserve who were called up on Federal orders to assist states with the COVID-19 response would also be eligible for the rapid retraining program as long as they meet other age, unemployment, discharge requirements. The bill would also incorporate provisions of H.R. 5766, which was introduced by House Republican Leader McCarthy, to make needed improvements to the VET Tec pilot program and of H.R. 2326, to help veterans and servicemembers transition to civilian life.

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