Dear Mr. Poltrack:
Thank you for your comments regarding the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012 (S. 3457). I appreciate hearing from you.
Coming from a military family, I recognize and appreciate the challenges our veterans face after they come home. I believe that programs aimed at helping veterans find jobs must be effective, efficient, and fiscally responsible. Unfortunately, S. 3457 failed to meet those basic criteria.
As you may know, S. 3457 seeks to create a Veterans Jobs Corps to employ veterans in conservation jobs and as first responders. The bill would authorize $1 billion in mandatory stimulus spending over the next five years totemporarily hire up to 20,000 veterans. No more than 10 percent of these funds could be used to hire veterans as first responders.
On September 19, 2012, I voted to sustain a Budget Act point of order against S. 3457 because the bill violates spending caps set forth under the Budget Act. Despite misinformation to the contrary, sustaining the point of order did not kill the bill. Rather, it allowed the bill to be returned to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee where it could have been fixed to comply with statutory spending limits. Had Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) chosen to fix the bill’s budget violation – instead of playing partisan political games during an election year – it is likely he could have returned the bill to the floor without delay.
Specifically, S. 3457 violates the Congressional Budget Act by increasing mandatory spending by $666 million over the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s allocation. Moreover, the bill uses a budget gimmick to mask the fact that the legislation would increase the deficit by $38 million in fiscal year (FY) 2013 and by $324 million in the FY 2013-2017 period.
In addition, S. 3457 – which never received a hearing – would have created a new veterans jobs program despite a 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finding that the federal government already spends $1.1 billion per year on six major job programs targeted to veterans only: including the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, Veterans Workforce Investment Program, Transition Assistance Program, Local Veterans Employment Representatives Program, the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Project, and the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program. According to GAO, five out of six of the programs provide duplicative services. This report did not include the subsequently created Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which offers 12 months of training assistance to unemployed veterans.
In fact, you may be surprised to learn GAO found that nine federal agencies spend about $18 billion annually to administer 47 job training programs with very little oversight or metrics for success. A June 2012 GAO report also found that there are 19 employment programs serving veterans and servicemembers with disabilities, and their families. The GAO found another seven employment programs for individuals with disabilities that did not limit eligibility to any particular population and were available to veterans and servicemembers. In addition to job training programs, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has outreach and loan programs to assist veterans in operating a small business, and SBA oversees federal procurement programs for veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. Moreover, government-wide veteran hiring preference policies and contract set-asides assist veterans in obtaining long-term jobs in the federal government and with federal contractors.
As the spouse of a veteran who flew combat missions in Iraq, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and supporter of numerous initiatives to support our service members and veterans, I am eager to do all we can to address the serious problem of veteran unemployment. Any veteran who wants to work should be able to find a job, and Congress should focus its efforts on helping create a private sector environment to sustain veteran employment opportunities for the long-term.
You may be interested to know that the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), attempted to introduce substitute legislation aimed at creating long-term jobs for veterans without adding to the debt. Unfortunately, Majority Leader Reid refused to allow a vote on Senator Burr’s legislation. In fact, Majority Leader Reid refused to permit the consideration of any amendments to improve S. 3457, and he recently went so far as to declare that “the amendment days are over.”
I am deeply disappointed with the manner in which the Senate has handled this important issue. Rather than pushing substandard legislation at the last minute in order to score political points during an election year, we should engage in the hard work of understanding the failures of current veteran employment programs and reform them to make them more effective and efficient. I continue to believe that the best way to help veterans find long-term employment is to stabilize our $16 trillion debt, enact tax and regulatory reforms to spur job creation, and ensure a pro-growth economic environment.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. As your Senator, it is important for me to hear from you regarding the current issues affecting veterans. Please do not hesitate to be in touch again if I may be of further assistance.