A new bipartisan bill focused on giving wounded warriors improved rehabilitation and employment training was announced this week by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-02). The Wounded Warrior Employment Improvement Act (H.R. 5032), with support by the Wounded Warrior Project, DAV and VetsFirst, would reform the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program, and require VA to reduce caseloads, increase education program enrollment, and create a new training program for staff working with wounded warriors.
"The sacrifices of our nation's disabled service members are simply unmatched. These sacrifices come at an extremely hard price to these individuals, which is why we must do everything we can to ensure the best access to our Veterans' assistance services. I'm proud to have helped introduce legislation that would make positive reforms to these programs, and help our Wounded Warriors get back into the workforce," said Mullin.
"After our brave men and women have dedicated their lives in service to our country, far too many of our wounded warriors face challenges in finding meaningful careers, added Maloney. "We can make commonsense reforms to VA's key employment program to help our heroes and ensure our highly skilled veterans secure employment upon their return to civilian life."
According to a recent GAO report, it often takes six years or more for veterans to achieve success in the VR&E program. A Wounded Warrior Project survey found that the unemployment rate among wounded service members is 17.8%. In New York, the average veterans unemployment rate was at 8.2% throughout 2013.
"Our disabled veterans deserve our utmost support when returning from combat. The changes to the VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program proposed in this legislation will allow for a streamlined approach to training and educating our wounded warriors which will assist them in securing viable employment and allow them to successfully transition back to civilian life," said New York State Senator Bill Larkin.
In the current VR&E program, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VRCs) and Employment Coordinators (ECs) help veterans who have service-connected disabilities find sustainable careers. VRCs provide job counseling, direct veterans to VA services specific to their needs, and connect veterans with training or other opportunities to help them reach employment goals.
For more on current vocational rehabilitation programs, visit the Military.com Vocational Rehabilitation page. For more on legislation that affects service members and veterans, and to connect with your local representatives, visit the Military.com Legislative Center.