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Vet Groups Question $1 Billion VA Jobs Program

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The administration is again hoping to establish a major veterans' employment program that would see thousands of former service members employed in public sector jobs across the country.

But beyond the $1 billion line item itself and a few explanatory paragraphs in the Department of Veterans Affairs proposed budget for 2015, the Veterans Job Corps seems to have attracted little or no attention among lawmakers or veterans groups.

While no veterans advocacy group opposes any program that will mean jobs for veterans, the job corps has not been among the priorities the various organizations have presented to lawmakers during a series of hearings this month.

During a recent joint House and Senate hearing attended by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the VA chief mentioned the job corps but none of the lawmakers had any questions about the proposed five-year program.

The VA says the program would enable veterans to leverage skills they learned in the military in municipal jobs ranging from conservation and infrastructure projects to law enforcement. These include jobs as park rangers, police officers, and firefighters.

But critics who spoke on background dismiss the program – which the White House first proposed and Democrat lawmakers began putting into legislation in 2012 – as a political trick. An official with one veterans group said the Veterans Job Corps was introduced in 2012 by Democrats knowing that the GOP would shoot it down before the November election giving Democrats something to hit Republicans on before the ballots were cast.

The $1 billion program was incorporated into the VA's 2014 budget, as well, though legislation funding it was not passed.

Speaking on background, a staff member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said the complaints they get on the program also relate to its affordability and the fact the jobs are publicly financed with no assurance they will be assumed by state and local governments after five years.

But according to one veterans service organization official who commented on the record about the program, there is also reluctance by veterans to go into a "job corps" type program.

"Job corps are usually associated with young people with problems," Rick Weidman, legislative liaison for the Vietnam Veterans of America, said. "They go in there to learn discipline – veterans already have discipline," he said.

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Veteran Jobs Veterans Employment Bryant Jordan
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