The Troop Talent Act of 2013 (H.R. 1796), introduced by Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., would give a boost to veterans and servicemembers alike in their private-sector job searches. The bill would help them obtain civilian licenses and certifications from training and experience received in the military.
The American Legion showed strong support for Duckworth's legislation at a June 26 hearing by the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Jeff Steele, the Legion's assistant legislative director, testified that H.R. 1796 "would bolster efforts to streamline the process of obtaining certifications and occupational licenses" and encourage the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide more information about military training and curriculum to organizations involved with private-sector credentialing.
For the past 15 years, the Legion has been urging federal and state lawmakers, as well as industry leaders, to streamline the military-to-civilian licensing and certification process. Resolution 326, adopted during the 2012 National Convention in Indianapolis, called for the elimination of "employment barriers that impede the timely and successful transfer of military job skills to the civilian labor market," and urged DoD to "take appropriate steps to ensure that servicemembers be trained, tested, evaluated and obtain any licensure or certification that may be required in the local civilian workforce...."
Duckworth's bill would also reauthorize the Professional Certification and Licensure Advisory Committee (PCLAC), which was terminated in 2006. This committee's experts would, once again, assist the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in assessing its certification and licensing programs. Steele pointed out that VA lacks subject-matter experts who "can provide recommendations to improve VA's licensing and certification database ...or develop and update material on licensing and certification for use in training State Approving Agency (SAA) staff."
PCLAC would also help develop new material in support of SAA's that certify post-secondary education courses as GI Bill-eligible.
"The last few years have seen a major cultural shift for the military," Steele said, "with top defense officials supporting servicemember credentialing, as well as expanded support for veteran credentialing on Capitol Hill with the passage of legislation which the Legion helped to draft, or that we supported."
The American Legion sees a definite need for PCLAC to resume; its expertise could offer new solutions to VA's senior leadership and members of Congress.
Other measures supported by The American Legion and addressed at the hearing included:
- Military Family Home Protection Act (H.R. 1842): To amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to improve the protections for servicemembers, surviving spouses and disabled veterans against mortgage foreclosures.
- Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education Improvement Act (H.R. 2011): Would extend for another two years the existence of this committee, which The American Legion is a member of. The committee provides insight and advice on educational issues to VA's senior leadership and members of Congress.
- Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2150): Provides for a five-year extension of such programs, which helps homeless veterans gain meaningful employment. The Legion calls this bill "an essential part of the strategy" for eliminating homelessness among veterans by 2015.
- Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship Improvement Act: Would expand the eligibility of children of certain deceased veterans for educational assistance under VA's Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program.