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House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Benefits,
Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
Washington, DC.

    The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in room 340, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. Jack Quinn (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
    Present: Representatives Quinn, Filner, and Reyes.

    Mr. QUINN. Good morning. The subcommittee will come to order. We are pleased to welcome all those in the audience here and, of course, our members, who will be here, some coming a little bit late. We have received some calls that there are some conflicts this morning. I know Mr. LaHood called in. He will be here in a few moments.
    Before we begin with our testimony, I do want to take a minute to welcome some visitors we have at the hearing this morning.
    The Close-Up Foundation is here observing for the better part of about 45 minutes this morning from Houston, TX, Ms. Sheila Jackson-Lee's district, good friend and colleague of all of ours in the House. And their chaperones, I suppose, or the leaders, Mr. Seals, Mr. Spencer, Mrs. Washington, Mrs. Linton, are also joining us today. I thought it might be appropriate now if we asked Mr. Seals if he might want to say a word or two before we begin. Mr. Seals, would you like to address the subcommittee and the folks who are here, sir?
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    Mr. SEALS. I would like to thank you for these young people to have a chance to really see what goes on in Washington, DC.
    Mr. QUINN. Well, I am not so sure you want to see what goes in Washington. (Laughter.)
    Good idea, though.
    Mr. SEALS. So far all of the students have nothing but good things to say. And from listening to them talk, they have already made plans about the things they would like to do in the future. And all we would like to say is we will be watching you. And we thank you for the invitation.
    Mr. QUINN. Well, thank you, Mr. Seals. I appreciate your comments for the record. You have now become part of the record of our proceedings today. And we appreciate that.
    I and I know the other members here are keenly aware of the work, the great work, that Close-Up does. I happen to have spoken to a few groups that have visited our offices when they were on the Hill from our districts back home. So we appreciate all that you are doing.
    I am a former high school English teacher myself for 10 years and a coach while I was teaching. So I think whenever we can take a few minutes to not only recognize young people, students, but to give an opportunity like you are giving them now to be on the Hill and to see how their government works, it is really a step in the right direction. Thank you for doing that.
    And I thank on behalf of the full subcommittee everybody who is here from the Houston, TX, area today. Thank you very much.
    Today we meeting—we are going to hear testimony in a minute from Mr. Borrego on the Fiscal Year 2000 budget request of the Veterans' Employment and Training Service of the U.S. Department of Labor.
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    The Labor Department is requesting $185.6 million for veterans' job search, placement, and training assistance. The largest portion of the veterans' budget, $157.5 million, is distributed to the States by a formula set by the Congress. It would pay the salaries and administrative expenses of 1,431 Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program specialists and 1,305 Local Veterans' Employment Representatives.
    We look forward to hearing testimony from Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training, Mr. Al Borrego, and from representatives of our Nation's veterans' service organizations.
    And for the young people who are with us in the audience today, our hearing is very similar to ones you have seen on TV before and you may have heard of. Members and our staff are here. And we are asking as it relates to our Committee on Veterans' Affairs to hear today from the Department of Labor, who works on veterans' programs for employment.
    So I don't want to confuse anybody. We are the Veterans' Committee and Subcommittee on Benefits, but our Department of Labor here in Washington is given some money. And they try to find jobs for veterans. We will be talking today about that job search and the placement and evaluation of that. And this is the amount of money in the budget they are requesting. We are going to talk about that today and have some people give us some testimony. Then we will ask some questions.
    [The prepared statement of Chairman Quinn appears on p. 28.]

    Mr. QUINN. With that as a backdrop, I do want to yield to the Subcommittee's ranking member, our co-chair, my friend from California, Mr. Filner, and, Bob, give you the floor and yield for a few moments.

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    Mr. FILNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And I, too, want to welcome the students from Close-Up. I am meeting with about a dozen students from my district. I represent San Diego, CA and Trulavista, CA. There will be about a dozen students coming by around noon to my office to say hello.
    We have heard from the Congressional Commission on Service Members and Veterans' Transition Assistance. And in their report, they state that ''Congress must,'' and I am quoting from it, ''provide transitioning Service members with a means and opportunity to succeed in their civilian lives and to invest their talent and ability in the American economy.'' And the report goes on to say that ''Employment is the door to a successful transition to civilian life.''
    I strongly agree with those statements. I know the Chairman does. I know you do, Mr. Borrego. And they very well articulate the responsibility that we as members of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and you in the Department of Labor have to the men and women who have honorably served their country through military service.
    The commission's comments also point out the importance of the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service and the programs administered by you or by the VETS Department. It is your responsibility to open the door for transitioning Service members and for all veterans to successful employment in the civilian economy. And, as you know, it is an enormous responsibility.
    So our purpose here this morning is to determine if the administration's proposed VETS' Fiscal Year 2000 budget is adequate for the purpose that has been outlined. We want to know if under this budget VETS will have the resources necessary to fulfill its responsibility to open the door to successful employment for Service members and veterans. Then if we determine that additional funding would enhance employment opportunities for America's veterans, it will be our responsibility to seek the funding needed.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.
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    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Bob.
    Mr. Reyes, opening remarks, sir?
    Mr. REYES. Mr. Chairman, I have an opening statement that I would like to submit for the record, but I would like to welcome Mr. Borrego and also the students of Houston. It is interesting to note I represent El Paso. And I am closer in El Paso to L.A. than I am to Houston.
    Mr. QUINN. Thank you.
    Mr. REYES. Thank you.
    Mr. QUINN. Without objection, your statement for the record is included.
    [The prepared statement of Congressman Reyes appears on p. 31.]

    Mr. QUINN. We will use our normal procedure this morning of asking witnesses to limit their oral statements to not more than about 5 minutes, Mr. Borrego. I know you are aware of that. Your full written statement will become part of the record this morning. When you are finished with your testimony, we will have questions.
    Welcome back again. We appreciate the hard work you do.
    Mr. BORREGO. Thank you.
    Mr. QUINN. Please proceed.
    Mr. BORREGO. Thank you.

    Mr. BORREGO. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, it is an honor for me to appear before you to present the budget which will serve America's veterans with new and improved employment and training opportunities in the first year of the new millennium.
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    Before I discuss how the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, VETS, will help veterans in the year 2000, I want to thank the committee for the confidence it has shown in VETS by giving it new and expanded responsibilities during the last legislative session.
    The Omnibus Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 1998 strengthened VETS' ability to protect veterans working for State government from employment and reemployment discrimination. The law also allows veterans working for the Federal Government to file complaints under USERRA, even if the alleged violation occurred before the law was enacted.
    Also, the Veterans' Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 greatly expanded opportunities for veterans to compete for and retain Federal Government jobs, entrusted VETS with investigating veterans' preference complaints, and put some teeth in our enforcement efforts by making willful failure to comply a prohibited personnel practice. Also, more veterans will get good jobs with federal contractors and subcontractors because Congress expanded coverage of the Vietnam-Era Veterans' Reemployment Rights Act to include all veterans holding a campaign or expedition badge.
    These legislative improvements go hand in hand with the dramatic growth of our Nation's economy. It is creating unprecedented job growth without appreciable inflation, expanding career opportunities into new technology-based industries, and more than ever allowing our veterans to use the considerable technical and interpersonal skills that they acquired in the military to build strong, stable civilian careers for themselves and their families.
    I intend to leverage VETS' 2000 budget by expanding on the opportunities presented by our dynamic economy to help veterans find not just jobs but to build careers that will enable veterans to move and grow with the new century.
    The Workforce Investment Act, also passed by Congress last year, has consolidated the Nation's employment and training programs and services into a one-stop system, where there are no wrongdoors for people seeking assistance. It also makes better use of America's Job Bank and America's Talent Bank, our electronic labor exchange system.
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    VETS is working diligently within our legislative mandate to make sure that veterans' priority of service is maintained in all Wagner-Peyser services within the one-stop environment.
    As you know, by far the largest portion of VETS' budget is to make sure veterans continue to receive first referral in this system through our network DVOPs and LVERs. These dedicated men and women are veterans themselves. They fund an important but small part in a billion-dollar system paid for by a dedicated tax on employers.
    We do not control the system. It is our job to work it so that veterans receive maximum employment and training services possible. It is the work of DVOPs and LVERs and case-managing veterans who are disabled or have other employment barriers doing career assessments, reaching out to employers and developing job opportunities, matching qualified veterans to actual job openings that provide veterans with priority in the emerging system, priority they have earned through service.
    The $157.5 million that we are requesting for DVOPs and LVERs will bring us more bang for our buck in fiscal year 2000, thanks to outcome measures we are developing as part of GPRA, or the Results Act.
    Coming from a background in organizational development and human resource utilization, I have always looked upon GPRA as an opportunity for government managers to measure, not how hard we are working but how effectively we are working for our customers. And that includes not only veterans but employers and taxpayers, too. It also allows VETS to move as an agency from one that passes its grants to one that actively manages programs to ensure that more of our limited resources are used to help veterans build careers in the new economy.
    But I am not waiting until fiscal year 2000 to improve our management process. Last year I instituted a detailed monthly report called ''VETS Operations and Programs Activity Report.'' It tracks performance goals for all of our programs. And these goals are built into my managers' performance standards. When problems arise, I can see they are systemic and move to fix it.
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    A clearly defined corrective action plan brings accountability to our programs, accountability I must show in my monthly meetings with the Deputy Secretary on VETS' program. As the head of a public agency, I believe in congressional oversight and public scrutiny. Therefore, this monthly report is available to anyone upon request. I believe it will document that the $26.1 million requested for agency administration in fiscal year 2000 is being used responsibly and with the best interests of America's veterans always in the forefront.
    We can do this because Secretary Herman has made it clear throughout the Labor Department that veterans' issues are America's issues. She is bringing resources from throughout the department and seeing how they can help veterans reap their fair share of the bounty our society is now offering to all our citizens, resources for homeless veterans' programs, resources to pilot our Transition Assistance Program overseas so that these 23,000 men and women leaving the Service will be on a level playing field with their stateside comrades, resources to include reporting among federal contractors and subcontractors—these are good career jobs; 20 percent of veteran hires in the Employment Service are federal contractor jobs—resources for a database that will give transitioning Service members a complete listing of all licensing and certifications they will need for civilian jobs requiring them.
    I can say with confidence that veterans have never had a stronger advocate as Secretary of Labor than Alexis M. Herman. Just as she is transforming the Labor Department into a Twenty-First Century agency, VETS is transforming itself to serve Twenty-First Century veterans and help older veterans cope with the employment challenges of the new millennium.
    Today many of America's best businesses have good jobs they cannot fill because of a skills gap. VETS can play an important role in bridging that skills gap.
    My goal is a simple one: to have qualified veterans be first in line at those employers' doors, résumé in hand, ready to work. America's veterans have unselfishly done their duty to bring peace and stability around the world. Working together, we can make the coming century one of prosperity and peace for them here at home.
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    I would be happy to take any questions that you may have.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Borrego appears on p. 32.]

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Borrego, and thank you for the summary of your comments. As you know, we have had a chance to look over all of your testimony today.
    And, please, on behalf of all of us, the subcommittee and the full committee send our thanks to the Secretary of Labor. I have had an opportunity to work with her on a number of programs on my transportation assignment. She is making some great changes there. So please send our best.
    Mr. BORREGO. Will do.
    Mr. QUINN. I have one question now, if I may begin. You mentioned that there are some pilot initiatives that you are looking at with Microsoft and the Communication Workers of America. I have been over the years closely involved with communication workers and the Phone-Home Program in veterans' hospitals.
    CWA has been invaluable in making that happen. It could not have been done without them. The leadership and the nuts and bolts work at getting it done in hospitals all across the country.
    Can you give us just a brief summary of the status of that and how it is going, maybe where it is headed?
    Mr. BORREGO. Yes, sir. The model is a real simple one. Currently there are between three and four hundred thousand jobs that are open in the information technology industry without the skilled employees to fill those, a huge skills gap in there.
    Where we started working is by going to employers. Actually, employers came to us. We asked for their skill standards. We certified to those skill standards. Where there is a skills gap, we are taking a look at putting some of our training money. What we did with the Communication Workers of America is they have agreements with the telecommunications companies.
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    They are setting up an assessment total. They have a Web page. The first person to be hired was on a ship in the Indian Ocean in the Navy, ran across the Web page, contacted CWA, stepped off of the ship in Seattle into a job with U.S. West. Clearly the need is there. So that is a program that is doing very well.
    Microsoft will certify for the information technology industry. These are not Microsoft jobs, but the industry has about 90 percent users of the Microsoft systems. So Microsoft will certify. Once certified, veterans will be placed in the IT industry.
    We start with pilots in our TAP sites. We did four with Microsoft. We went nationwide February 1. And now we are also moving it into the Employment Service so that we can work with the general veterans population, not just transitioning servicemembers. Then it is another step for the whole workforce. These are models that are very good models for the workforce of the Twenty-First Century.
    We are also working with a power communication company that came to us. They are after the combat veterans, the infantry, artillery, armor. They want people to lay fiber optic cables, power transmission. They are looking at the deregulation of the energy industry. So we are moving very rapidly.
    Cisco Systems, which is a nonunion company, signed a partnership with the Communication Workers to get access to our Military To Work Project. It is an area that is really picking up a lot of energy and a lot of speed.
    There is a lot going on. I would suggest a separate briefing where we could you a more in-depth report and take a little bit more time.
    Mr. QUINN. I would love to do that, either for the full subcommittee or any Members who are interested. I know your time is valuable, but that sounds like a winner.
    You and I have had conversations about trying to get some of this done before our veterans separate from the service. That one example you used sounds like that was done before the separation even occurred, which is what we need——
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    Mr. BORREGO. Yes, sir.
    Mr. QUINN (continuing). To do more of. That is a whole other problem you and I have discussed a number of times.
    Mr. BORREGO. Right.
    Mr. QUINN. That is very intriguing with some great possibilities.
    Mr. BORREGO. I would like to devote a little bit more energy to blue collars, to the electricians, plumbers, drivers, commercial driver's licenses.
    Mr. QUINN. How about apprenticeship programs?
    Mr. BORREGO. We have a federal interagency task force. And there is so much going on in the Federal Government that we have broken it into three groups. One is marketing. One is legislative to see what legislative changes would be helpful. The third is apprenticeship. So that is an area that we are starting to look at from the Federal Government.
    Mr. QUINN. One last final question before I yield to Bob. You also know my interest in the voc rehab area——
    Mr. BORREGO. Yes, sir.
    Mr. QUINN (continuing). Where my suggestion has been that members of the House become involved in that project. Any possibilities here with this CWA-Microsoft area, do you think?
    Mr. BORREGO. Yes, sir. I think that I would love to work with committee members of the committee and move that forward.
    Mr. QUINN. I appreciate it.
    Mr. FILNER. Thank you, Al. We all know of your commitment to this effort. So I am not going to ask you to defend the administration budget versus a larger budget.
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    I just want you to know that we are going to suggest to the full committee when we do the budget—I hope Mr. Quinn will join us—an additional 22 million or so for the LVERs, which will allow us to serve almost 34,000 more vets; an additional 40 million for the DVOP Program, which will allow us to serve more than 71,000 more vets, doubling the homeless veterans reintegration project so we can try to place 3,500 more vets in jobs; an additional 50 percent for the National VETS Training Institute, which would allow another 1,300 service providers to be trained; and an additional million or so that would allow the DVOPs and the LVERs to have computer and internet access. I know if we were able to get that, you wouldn't turn that down.
    Mr. BORREGO. Thank you, Mr. Filner.
    Mr. FILNER. Also you know that I have introduced a bunch of bills related to the area. One, H.R. 364, is the Veterans' Training and Employment Bill of Rights Act. This would require that disabled and wartime veterans be provided priority of services under all federally funded employment and training programs. And, of course, we might want to expand eligibility to include veterans who have barriers to employment. Perhaps other changes could be made. But the bottom line here is that veterans should be at the front of the line for federally funded employment and training programs.
    I am just wondering if your agency had taken a position on that or what do you think of that concept?
    Mr. BORREGO. Mr. Filner, I think that your bill does a lot for veterans. That area of priority of service in all federal employment and training is of a large concern to the veterans' community.
    As the Chairman mentioned, we are at Labor. We have a split committee. Our authorization is Veterans'. Our appropriation is Labor. The system that we work in is a billion-dollar employment service system funded by employer unemployment tax.
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    We have and everybody acknowledges priority of service in Wagner-Peyser, the employment service. How do we handle that in the employment and training now that we have gone to the one-stops that bring in 14 programs? There is no priority of service in those.
    From my perspective—and your bill addresses this—we have been trying to work with the labor committees. Our Secretary is also concerned. The Workforce Investment Act had passed the House. It was in the Senate. She sent an amendment to the Senate labor authorization.
    The concept that we got consensus on at the department was fair share. The amendment we sent and asked the committees to write in their authorization legislation that the States assure that veterans receive their fair share in the training programs. We were targeting the dislocated, which is the most applicable to veterans. The Committee did not accept that.
    At the department, we got consensus around fair share, which takes us very close to priority of service. We have not taken a position on your particular bill, but I think that that accomplishes getting priority of service in training.
    Right now we have over 100,000 veterans who need training, many—what is it?—57 percent of the unemployed veterans are over 45. Eighty percent are over 35. Many of them are looking at having mid-career changes as the economy changes. So training is very important. And your bill goes a long way.
    The consensus that we have reached at the department has been on fair share, which is slightly different but gets us most of the way to priority of service.
    Mr. FILNER. For the students in the audience, that was a yes. (Laughter.)
    Thank you.
    Fortunately, my bill was referred to this committee and not to the Labor Committee.
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    Mr. BORREGO. And that is very important.
    Mr. FILNER. I will pass.
    Mr. QUINN. Mr. Reyes?
    Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I don't know that I can follow that act, though, from the gentleman from California, but I did want to publicly thank you again, Mr. Borrego, for coming to El Paso last August and attending a veterans' town hall meeting. In fact, Mr. Chairman, while he was in El Paso, the American GI forum presented Mr. Borrego with an award for some partnership work that he had done with several of the businesses in the local area. So we have seen first-hand some of the successes that you have had.
    In light of that, yesterday we had a hearing where the Congressional Commission on Service Members and Veterans' Transition Assistance provided some testimony where they were somewhat critical of a number of different issues but one of them, in particular, the DOL VETS Program.
    My question to you is: Have you had a chance to look at their report and specifically as it pertains to some of the criticism that they have leveled at DOL VETS? I would be interested in hearing any response that you might have to that.
    Mr. BORREGO. Yes, sir. We are preparing a report. We have 90 days. That should be to the committees on April 25. DOD, VA and DOL have to file a joint report.
    When I looked at that, one of the first things that I think is clear is that both the Congressional Commission and I share the same goal, and that is that veterans be extremely well-served by our department.
    I also know that they looked at a huge number of programs when you look at the VA and DOD and that they had a limited time and that they didn't take a very in-depth look at us. I think part of it is, if the only information I had was the information they have, I would see it the same. But clearly there is a lot that they didn't look into.
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    For example, the system that we work in is paid for by employers. It is an employer tax coming through the federal unemployment trust account. That billion-dollar system is a labor system, not a veteran system. On this system, Congress has done two extremely very smart things. It provided for priority of service for veterans in the Employment Service. That to me is a cornerstone and the key that veterans get referred first.
    What I have seen in working with employers is that if they have a job opening and they need someone that meets their skills. Getting the veteran these first clearly is very important because it is not a veteran system. It is very important that we measure how veterans do relative to non-veterans because that is where we are putting resources.
    The other is that it created the DVOPs. Congress created DVOPs and LVERs. The LVERs monitor the priority of service. They do the matching of the résumés with the employment openings. DVOPs will work with disabled veterans.
    If we take and we compete the DVOPs/LVERs, we are taking a very small piece. But the system doesn't get competed. That is where the jobs are as we transform into the one-stop that has all the employment and training. All of that gets removed. We lose that priority of service because now we have a separate group. It would preclude veterans from using that one-stop system because we are sending them someplace else. So I am not very comfortable. I think we can get to the same dynamics that they are after with incentives.
    The other piece that I am very uncomfortable with is they limit benefits to veterans only for 4 years after separation. It took me 5–6 years to finish college. I wouldn't have been able to get any help. So if you go to college, you can't get help.
    It allows us to continue working with disabled veterans and veterans who have barriers. That is the piece that bothers me most because it puts veterans in the place of having to say once they are past the 4 years, they need help from us, that they have a barrier that keeps them from getting employment that is so severe they can't get employment on their own. It stigmatizes veterans and it stigmatizes those veterans that have been in combat.
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    Clearly what I saw in BLS was that of those eight million Vietnam veterans, those four million that were in country in Vietnam have unemployment rates twice as high as those Vietnam veterans that were not in country. It will penalize those that have been in combat that will carry problems for a long period of time. We will prepare an in-depth report.
    Hopefully I think one of the things that comes out of it is that is very good as it places a spotlight on our programs. Clearly when the legislation was first written—it has been many years. Now we have a new economy. I think there are some changes that can be made that would be very positive and bring us in synch and in tune with a new economy. And we will be proposing those.
    But those are the two pieces. I would hate to lose priority of service in the one-stops, send veterans to a place where they don't have those services. They will clearly lose. And the possibility is it will place 3,000 veterans on the street, put them out of a job. And clearly I think that we can make the system better, but it is a labor system. Our piece is very small.
    So I think that veterans will be ill-served if we take those two recommendations. There are other very good aspects that they had, and we will support those.
    Mr. REYES. Thank you.
    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Reyes.
    I think the Commission's report, as Mr. Filner pointed out with some suggestions right off the bat today, had a lot of good in it. We will hear from you and others about which parts we want to go forward with.
    Thank you, Mr. Reyes. I have no further questions at this point, Mr. Borrego. We appreciate your coming over.
    I will just ask, Mr. Filner, is there anything further?
    [No response.]
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    Mr. QUINN. Thanks again for coming over. We will look at your full statement. Are you going to get back to us with some information?
    Mr. BORREGO. Absolutely. Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. QUINN. For the students here today, we are going to relieve Mr. Borrego of his duties and we are going to have some VSOs come up, which is veterans' service organizations. They will be up at the table in a minute. I will introduce them to you now.
    Thank you, Al.
    Mr. QUINN. Gentlemen, do you want to come forward now? I will introduce you—I know your name tags are there for us—for the youngsters in the group just so that they know who you all represent when they leave. They are going to leave in about 10 or 15 minutes.
    Mr. Calvin Gross is the Chairman of the National Employment, Training, and Business Opportunities Committee of the Vietnam Veterans of America. I am going to go from my right across the table, students. Thank you, Mr. Gross.
    Mr. James Hubbard is the Director of the National Economics Commission, The American Legion. Mr. Jim Magill is the Director of the National Employment Policy of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, the VFW. Mr. David Woodbury is the National Service Director of AMVETS. And Mr. Larry Rhea is the Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs of the Non Commissioned Officers Association of the United States.
    Gentlemen, thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate it. I think you know the ground rules pretty much. I am going to ask you to keep your oral statements to about 5 minutes. We have your full statement here. If the other members agree, we'll hear from all five of you first, and then we will go to questions when you are finished if that is okay.
    Mr. Gross, if you don't mind, we begin with you this morning. Thank you.
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    Mr. GROSS. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to present testimony here this morning. The transition of our Nation's separating veterans into the civilian workforce and the availability of real job opportunities for Service-connected disabled veterans and the availability of Vietnam veterans and veterans of significant barriers to employment is of the utmost importance to the American economy.
    The Veterans' Employment and Training Service indeed provides a most crucial service to veterans in this country. Overall, VVA is pleased with the administration's funding of VETS. Our concern is focused on the quality and the efficacy of services rendered by the actual service delivery systems funded by VETS.
    Today's job market is increasingly complex and technological, demanding life opportunity. In order for vets to effectively provide tangible job delivery services to today's veterans, VVA firmly believes that VETS must implement some key changes.
    In regards to the DVOP and LVER programs, such as DVOP and the LVERs, VVA believes that funding must take place, one. Instead of working in job service offices, you can be stationed out in vet cetera, VA vocational rehabilitation sites, and every work therapy site in all appropriate CBOs.
    Two, each DVOP and LVER should be provided with adequate administrative support and technological tools. A heavy emphasis—this is number three—should be fostered throughout the DVOP and LVER programs that all DVOPs and LVERs must aggressively interact with local employers and businesses on behalf of the clients.
    Simply providing a veteran with a list of jobs culled from the newspapers and internet is not enough. We expect VETS to sell veterans to employers.
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    The VVA believes that these changes can become an everyday working reality if the VETS institutes a system of standards, rewards, incentives, and competition throughout its national network. An incentive program must be treated which rewards those States and local offices that excel at helping veterans in gainful permanent employment.
    Such a program must be predicated on standards by which performance is accurately measured. The VVA believes that VETS must develop performance measures that clearly show the bottom line of DVOPs and LVERs work. The number of veterans placed into permanent jobs, there should be a minimum standard of 50 veterans, 25 disabled veterans, and 12 special disabled veterans placed into permanent employment for DVOP or LVER each year.
    Future monies should be withheld from States not meeting minimum standards of work contracted out. Seventy-three million has been provided to VETS' budget through the title 168 monies. The VVA believes that this relatively small amount of money should be set aside for the workforce and awards that best complete the training, placement of disabled veterans and those veterans with significant barriers to employment.
    Lastly, I would like to briefly comment on Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program. HVRP is a very effective program that moves homeless veterans toward becoming self-sufficient taxpayers again. It is an opportunity for these veterans to recover and earn their piece of the American dream.
    VVA strongly urges the Committee to urge your colleagues on appropriations to allocate the full $10 million that has been our cost for this program. Since the authority for this program will expire at the end of 1999, we urge you to be sure that HVRP will be extended until December 31, 2007 and at a much improved, authorized funding level.
    In summation, the VVA urges VETS to take the necessary changes needed so that today's veterans and tomorrow's veterans will have opportunities fully transitioned into the Twenty-First Century workforce.
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    Mr. Chairman, I again wish to thank you and this committee for the opportunity to be here today. I welcome you and any questions your colleagues would have.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Gross appears on p. 43.]

    Mr. QUINN. Mr. Hubbard.

    Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I would like to start by expressing my appreciation for the members of the Close-Up class who are here today. Both of my daughters went through that program. It is a wonderful program. And what better way to learn about how we do business here than to watch it? So congratulations to the students from Houston.
    Mr. QUINN. Yes. I agree. Thanks.
    Mr. HUBBARD. The American Legion does not concur with the President's recommended funding for personnel levels for the Disabled Veteran Outreach Program, Local Veterans' Employment Representative Program for Fiscal Year 2000.
    Although funding levels for the DVOPs would increase by 175,000, it supports 32 fewer staff positions. The LVER funding increases by $175,000. The number of veterans to be served will not increase. This is not a good trade-off. Fueling salary increases through staff reductions is not acceptable.
    With respect to the Local Veterans' Employment Reps, the Title 38 provides that a minimum of 1,600 positions be funded. Now, this hasn't happened for more than a decade. We recommend this committee consider funding authorization of at least 100 million to properly fund the program.
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    Likewise, the Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program specialists are also seriously under-funded. The President's budget for 80.2 million will support 1,431 DVOPs in the field. That does not even begin to cover the 2,500 one-stops created by the Workforce Investment Act where veterans will go for assistance.
    We believe that VETS will need at least 2,000 DVOPs to meet the WOIA-funded activities. And to do the Transition Assistance Programs provided at some of the one-stop centers, staffing is on a part-time basis. This is a conservative estimate. We believe that an additional $40 million in funding will be required to support even that conservative estimate.
    Mr. Chairman, while we were looking for information and doing research for this testimony, we discovered that 56.2 percent of all unemployed veterans are over the age of 45. You heard from Mr. Borrego a few minutes ago that there are over 100,000 of those people. And they all need training.
    Section 168 of the Workforce Investment Act is that portion which covers this type of training. For at least the past 3 years, this account has received 7.3 million in annual funding, which has allowed the program to operate in only 11 States.
    There are 100,000 of these people available for work in this new economy, but they lack marketable technological skills. The problem is clear. The solution is adequate funding.
    If the 7.3 million funding level continues in authorizing legislation, it becomes the baseline for future budgets. That is dangerous because that hole just gets deeper and darker for the next generation of veterans. That baseline needs to be at least $32 million to allow VETS to begin training in all 50 States under Section 168 of the Workforce Investment Act.
    Mr. Chairman, the National Veterans Training Institute continues to play a critical function in the world of veterans' employment. The exceptional training provided enhances the quality and delivery of services in almost every employment service office.
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    Funding for NVTI must not continue to be flat-lined in 2000. Now, I don't know exactly what the right number is, but I would suggest that the new Assistant Secretary conduct a study in the field of the training that is necessary and then put a budget number to that and get back to you with a recommended figure.
    Mr. QUINN. Excuse me, sir. May I interrupt you for just one second?
    Mr. HUBBARD. Yes.
    Mr. QUINN. When we finish up here today, could we meet for just a second with staff to get that question exact? And I will make that request for you. When we finish up, we will get it. Okay?
    Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. QUINN. You are welcome.
    Mr. HUBBARD. Mr. Chairman, the last time the VETS statute underwent any dramatic change was more than a decade ago when Congress passed Public Law 100–323. That law has served veterans well over the years. The only way it can continue to do so is to give the agency the proper resources. The President's budget leaves the agency barely surviving and some kind of maintenance diet. Veterans deserve better treatment than the public labor exchange.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We will be happy to answer any questions.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Hubbard appears on p. 48.]

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Hubbard. I appreciate you doing that. I just made a note to staff here that when we get the question from you and send it, we will get all of the witnesses today the response from the Department of Labor when it comes to us just so you will have it.
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    Mr. Magill.

    Mr. MAGILL. Thank you very much.
    At the start, I was going to amend my oral remarks just to comment on the support that we would give for the comments by the ranking member on his recommended levels. That was very encouraging to hear.
    One of the major concerns that we are finding out at the Veterans of Foreign Wars is that the main thing people who are just getting out of the military are concerned about is: Will they be able to find a job? This is something that when we go to job fairs, et cetera, one of the first questions is: Is there going to be help out there in locating employment?
    At the same time, we are getting more and more phone calls from individuals in the 50 to 60 age group that have retired from one career and are now looking to supplement that income with employment. They are finding it very difficult to find job placement.
    The Department of Labor has recognized the need to address the concerns of veterans by establishing the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment Training.
    At the outset, the VFW strongly supports the Federal Government taking a proactive role in assisting veterans in their entering the civilian workforce as well as assisting those who may be in danger of losing their jobs through reductions of force and downsizing. We also believe that Congress has both a statutory, if not a moral, obligation to provide the necessary funding to ensure that veterans can become productive members of the civilian workforce.
    While the total Fiscal Year 2000 budget for VETS shows a 4.9 percent increase over fiscal year 1999, we are concerned about some of the specific levels. As was mentioned before, we do note there is a shortfall in the funding of the DVOP Program, which was mandated by Congress, as well as a shortfall in the LVER Program. And it is outlined in my statement. So I won't go into that.
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    We would suggest, though, that maybe a concept should be considered to reward those States that have very good DVOP programs, maybe something by providing some extra funding for those States that have shown that they have excelled.
    Possibly some of the funding could come from the shortfall. And the appropriate appropriations committees may want to consider taking a percentage of that money as a proactive measure and not a detrimental measure.
    With respect to the Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Project, the VFW has long supported it being funded at the congressionally mandated level. And we would hope that the Congress would do that.
    With the National Veterans' Training Institute, NVTI, we find this an extraordinary, beneficial program. And we are pleased to see that it is now on a line item, instead of having to fight for those dollars. And we would encourage the Congress to ensure that that program is properly funded.
    In closing, I would like to commend the Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training for his efforts in bringing veterans' issues directly to the attention of Secretary Herman and other departments within DOL.
    For too long, veterans have not even been at the table when decisions affecting them have been made. We believe now the veterans' voice is being heard. And for that, we thank Mr. Al Borrego for that.
    This concludes my statement. And I will be happy to respond to any questions you have.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Magill appears on p. 50.]

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you very much. Mr. Woodbury.
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    Mr. WOODBURY. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. I am David Woodbury, the National Service Director for AMVETS. We appreciate the opportunity to join you this morning and to provide testimony in support of your oversight efforts on the budget for veterans' employment and training for fiscal year 2000.
    My comments will be brief. Neither AMVETS nor I have been the recipient of any federal grants or contracts during fiscal year 1999 or the previous 2 years.
    At a time in our history when unemployment is approaching record lows, the economy is strong. And for the first time in several decades, the national debate seems increasingly focused on what to do with budget surpluses, rather than how to deal with deficits.
    Americans generally may be content with their economic circumstances. One can reasonably argue that, indeed, times are good. They are unless you happen to be a veteran facing separation or retirement from military service and looking for a job.
    We believe that America's commitment to its veterans, codified and consistently reaffirmed by federal statutes throughout our history, is not being satisfied to the degree Congress intended. Indeed, the perception among America's veteran population is reaching similar conclusions. Increasingly, they sense that a grateful nation may not be and that other priorities now consume the Nation's consciousness, that veterans' issues are no longer important.
    With regard to employment issues, a dichotomy exists. Hardly a day passes without an article appearing in a newspaper or other periodical commenting on corporate America's urgent need for skilled employees. Concurrently, DOD projects that it will separate between 250,000 to 275,000 Service members during each of the next several years.
    The dichotomy is that generally employers are not aware of the advantages this veterans' population and those who preceded them bring to the employment marketplace. And for their part, most veterans do not know how to effectively access the employment opportunities for which they may offer clear and timely solutions.
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    Mr. Chairman, you and your subcommittee together with the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs have aggressively fought to support veterans' programs. Indeed, many of the initiatives you fought for are currently in place. Unfortunately, in two many instances, we believe they are not working as efficiently as you intended. And in the process, veterans are being left behind.
    In its recently published report, the Congressional Commission on Service Members and Veterans' Transition Assistance commented extensively on a series of problems with recommendations. And, in the interest of brevity, I won't repeat any of that here.
    Separately, however, AMVETS in partnership with the Disabled Americans Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars recently published its 13 edition of the independent budget, fiscal year 2000. It also addresses veterans' employment and training issues.
    Representative findings included the following. Service members are not adequately served by the Transition Assistance Program and Disabled Transition Assistance Program, TAP and DTAP. The National Veterans' Training Institute administers training programs unavailable elsewhere and should be funded at a level adequate to ensure training is continued within a constantly changing veterans' environment.
    Discrepancies in the State Employment Service Agency level affect the services veterans receive. The Department of Labor needs to review the current structure and process for the delivery of employment services to veterans to ensure successful outcomes, rather than process, are rewarded.
    Within the vet system, performance standards are inconsistent and inadequate. There is no system in place through which comparisons can be drawn between state programs so that successful programs can be rewarded. Vets must develop meaningful performance standards in order to ensure limited fiscal resources are applied only where successful outcomes are consistently achieved.
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    Inadequate funding within both DVOP and LVER programs make full compliance with federal statutes extremely difficult, if not impossible. For example, there is a shortfall of about $32 and a half million between the mandated level of funding for DVOP and LVER Programs, which only Congress can remedy.
    Mr. Chairman, it seems to us that, notwithstanding the commitment to supporting veterans' employment initiatives and the well-intentioned efforts of both federal and state agencies to effectively implement congressional mandates in this area, veterans continue to be under-served. Part of the challenge which confronts us today may well be to overcome bureaucratic inertia and inability to recognize the changing dynamics associated with veterans' employment issues today, a hesitancy to adjust programs to accommodate for these changes, and a failure to establish clear standards through which program implementation is measured in terms of outcome, rather than process.
    We have the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the Department of Labor, all tasked with responsibility for implementing various congressional mandates for and on behalf of veterans. For its part, DOD certainly knows which Service members are scheduled for separation or retirement. They know who they are, where they are, and when they will be available for transition or employment assistance.
    The Department of Veterans' Affairs is currently in the process of establishing offices at major military separation facilities across the Nation. And by next year, it is my understanding they intend to establish an overseas presence in both Asia and Europe. These initiatives serve several vital purposes, including the ability to provide outreach to veterans at their time of separation. And the Department of Labor knows the labor marketplace. They know better than anyone else where the jobs are.
    There is a natural partnership in the offing here. Each of these agencies has as part of its congressional mandate a responsibility for assisting veterans. And each in its efforts to comply has invoked various policies and procedures focused on satisfying this congressional direction.
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    In the process, however, there may be duplicative efforts which work across purposes. When you are dealing programmatically with these issues, it is very difficult to think in terms and units of one, one veteran seeking help in his or her efforts to find post-military employment.
    We believe we need to examine ways to better focus on the special needs of veterans by applying the strengths each of these agencies brings to the table. We need a coordinated, results-oriented approach which solves employment issues one veteran at a time.
    The companion piece to such an initiative is a renewed outreach effort to potential employers nationwide describing the real benefits to them of hiring veterans. The commission's report pointed out that in its national survey of employers concerning the hiring and job performance of veterans of the United States military, the Gallup organization learned that 74 percent of all employers surveyed reported they employed veterans. But only 26 percent of the employers actively recruited veterans.
    When employers were asked why they did not actively recruit veterans, 29 percent said they did not gear recruiting to any specific group. And 21 percent reported they had never considered recruiting veterans group and 21 percent reported they had never considered recruiting veterans.
    Mr. QUINN. Mr. Woodbury, excuse me for interrupting. If we were on the House floor, someone would stand up and say, ''The gentleman's time has expired.'' Well, we are not there. But I will say it.
    Because we have to get to everybody else, we would simply ask you to conclude in the next couple of minutes. Then we will take your full report. Okay?
    Mr. WOODBURY. That concludes my statement, Mr. Chairman.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Woodbury appears on p. 52.]

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    Mr. QUINN. There we go. Thank you. Thank you very much. We did have a chance to look at most of that, and we appreciate it.
    The Non Commissioned Officers Association of America is here today as the fifth. Last but not least, certainly. Would you begin, Larry?

    Mr. RHEA. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
    Good morning to you and the ranking member, Mr. Filner. It is a pleasure to see both of you again, and we appreciate the opportunity to appear this morning and to make our comments on the subject at hand. We also thank you for your leadership and the interest that you have shown over the years for the employment and training programs for worthy veterans.
    We also at the very start want to extend our salute to Mr. Borrego. I want to frame what I am about to say the right way so that I don't diminish the contributions of any of his predecessors. But, clearly in our view, Mr. Borrego has done more within the Department of Labor to elevate the employment and training needs of veterans than anyone else up to and including the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary of Labor, as well as within the Employment and Training Administration within that agency.
    Overall we are pleased, Mr. Chairman, that the administration has proposed an increase for the programs and services administered by VETS. We note, however, that about 25 percent of the increase that is proposed is consumed by inflation, employee costs, and administrative overhead. But there are several things in the budget that we believe are commendable.
    For example, the proposed pilot program for Transition Assistance Program at overseas locations is clearly commendable in our view. Another example of a commendable initiative is money to support State efforts to compile and provide better outcome measures in what we are trying to do here.
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    The VETS budget proposal also supports expanding the current ongoing effort relating to the licensure and certification of military training. In NCOA's view, this area alone has the potential to be the single greatest thing vets could do to ease the transition of military members into civilian life, into high-paying jobs that ultimately lead to careers.
    In addition to supporting the budget request of $250,000 for this expanded effort, NCOA requests that this subcommittee make the issue of licensure and certification a high priority on your oversight agenda.
    We are very delighted that the subcommittee intends to hold hearings on this subject in April. And we would welcome the opportunity to provide our thoughts and recommendations at that hearing, Mr. Chairman.
    The critical area of the DVOP and LVER Programs I think, like everyone else here this morning has stated, remains of concern to NCOA. While the budget provides a slight increase to those programs as far as the overall dollar amount, because of inflation and employee costs, as has been pointed out, we actually lose some ground. Thirty-four fewer LVERs and 32 fewer DVOPs would be funded in the budget.
    And we are pleased, Mr. Filner, that the subcommittee intends to address some of this area in your recommendations to the full committee. I don't think you will get any arguments at all from the veterans' organizations on that.
    Our experience with DVOPs and LVERs, as we noted in our written testimony, Mr. Chairman, identified several common themes. And I would just ask you to take a look at what we said in there relative to that program because, as my good friend there that is anchoring the other end of this table pointed out, we are of the belief that it is time for some fundamental changes to that program.
    I think what we have been saying as an association to you now for several years was backed up and validated in some of the things that the commission said. The fact that DVOPs and LVERs have consistently told us for several years now that they need more time to do case management, they need more time to outreach to employers, and to sell veterans to employers—and despite what we might think of those commission recommendations—and I know it is getting some criticism right now—I think that is one of the important things that you should look at in all of that.
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    We also support the notion that there needs to be some incentives in place out there for those DVOPs, LVERs, the States, and the local areas that do a good job for us. How that is constructed can be worked on, but I think it is time that we move on that. Here again—and I say this with no disrespect to this subcommittee—we have talked about that for many years, but we haven't done it.
    The fact that the administration proposed an increase in these worthy programs is certainly appreciated and noteworthy. And I would just ask you that as you consider this budget, that you consider it in the context of what we truly need for veterans in the way of outcomes as we approach the new millennium.
    We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with all of you, the subcommittee members as well as the staff, to either change existing programs or, if need be, to create new or revised programs that will truly serve the needs of worthy veterans as we approach the new millennium.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Rhea appears on p. 57.]

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Rhea. And thank you to all of the members on this panel who have offered their views, both in writing and orally. We have come to rely on your input on all of these matters, particularly budget matters. And we appreciate it very much.
    Let me, if I may, Mr. Rhea, sort of pick up where you left off with your discussion and ask a question of all five of you and ask Mr. Rhea to respond first because we just left it. That has to do with the DVOP and the LVERs situation.
    Numbers tell us that fewer than two percent of veterans go to the Employment Service looking for jobs. And then even in the testimony today, we are told that 12 percent get jobs. We will look at the funding and discuss that, as you already have today, while we didn't get into specifics of that or the Commission yet.
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    I guess my question is more institutional, and my question is this: Is it strictly a problem of money? If we are able to get more money to fund it better, is that the answer to the question? Sometimes these problems are structural, problems with the situation the way it exists for us too—I mean, you won't get any argument from us either if we could increase the funding levels to everything, we would. But sometimes it is not always a question of just money. Should we, can we also be looking at some structural changes here?
    Larry, if you don't mind, I will start with you.
    Mr. RHEA. I want to be very careful how I answer that because I wouldn't want to dampen any effort that you might have to get additional money.
    Mr. QUINN. No, no. Believe me, it is not going to happen.
    Mr. RHEA. I think there are some structural sorts of things because what we have heard for quite some time now from DVOPs and LVERs is that they are hamstrung in the current environment. Certainly more money just for the technology types of things, that they don't have out there to do their job with, is needed and appreciated.
    NCOA gets criticized when we say this. And I first mentioned the current environment they feel hamstrung in. But I will be quite honest with you. I told Mr. Borrego this the other day, so I am not telling anything out of school.
    We have got DVOPs and LVERs that are gaming the system on us, too.
    Mr. QUINN. What do you mean by that?
    Mr. RHEA. They are grants through the States. They are working in a State employment service. On one hand, they contend they are strictly to serve veterans, but you have got the employment service wanting other things done and so forth.
    I am saying to you that you have got some that want to walk that middle road. They say: Well, I am not fulfilling my responsibility as a DVOP or LVER because they are pulling me off on something else. So you can't hold me responsible for my low performance there. Okay?
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    Now, having said that, you have got some that want to work both ends against the middle to mask poor performance. That is what I am saying about gaming the system.
    Whatever we do structurally, I think we have to refocus their efforts in those areas that I mentioned, again, I think that the commission stated so very accurately on case management and so forth.
    Mr. QUINN. Mr. Gross, do you want to comment?
    Mr. GROSS. Yes, I do. I am going to make an assumption that you want the truth here.
    Mr. QUINN. Yes. Particularly now that the students are gone, we would like to have the truth. (Laughter.)
    Mr. GROSS. You will walk into an instance where this man has placed 200 vets, and at the same time a man who sits next to him placed 5. And Larry aptly described the games that would go on.
    Basically your question is C. It is both A and B. I have a member of my committee who is a DVOP in Missouri. Three years ago he went for Microsoft training for a PC. He just got it.
    Mr. QUINN. Three years ago?
    Mr. GROSS. Yes, sir. I can document this for you.
    Mr. QUINN. All right. Go ahead.
    Mr. GROSS. And when he said he just didn't remember what to do with the application, the unemployment office lost patience: Well, come in here for training. He shows up, and they are hooked to a mainframe with the CRTs. So they are two different animals, two different behaviors. The application won't work.
    So this man has on his own been able to place people. He has a great record. But it is a matter of: Where did the money go? You spent money on training him. Then you spent money on a PC. And maybe the application wouldn't run on the newest PC. I mean, there are some logistics and planning. What vision is there?
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    We have fought in Michigan. I don't know anybody here in Michigan. In Michigan, we have been fighting a fight where they separated the DVOPs and LVERs from the main employment offices and put them in offices with no access ramps or no bathrooms or no ability to have a PC. So they were just destroying the system.
    This was the governor. We fought the governor. We came to Secretary Borrego. And thank God that he and his staff got into action. And we were able to threaten them with holding up the money until we were able to fold it back in properly. There is not just anecdotal information. There are hard facts for you to have when it comes to these things.
    So vitrics is something that is a part of my life. I could come to you and say we have a business case and it has to be measurable, show you results. Why would we put this kind of money out there and ask for that, not demand that there are measurements and show results? And what do we do, have an application 3 years old come on the new PC?
    Mr. QUINN. So the answer is C?
    Mr. GROSS. Yes, sir, it is C.
    Mr. QUINN. It's not A and B?
    Mr. GROSS. And that is why you have such a low rate of veterans going to these people.
    Mr. QUINN. I agree. I could not agree with you more.
    Does anyone else want to comment before we leave that topic and I yield to Bob?
    Mr. MAGILL. I cannot argue with the points made by Larry and Calvin. One thing I would like to comment, though, the Congress enacted a law last year that removes the restriction that DVOPs be Vietnam veterans. And we supported that. And I am hoping that we will see an improvement with just that small step, which I think is in the right direction.
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    I also think, as was mentioned before, that the case management concept has got to be further explored and developed. I mean, veterans, a lot of times I think when they go in, are only seeing one aspect of it, where maybe in reality they are expecting a little bit more.
    And I think, rightfully so, they should expect more. It is not necessarily just that initial interview and: Okay. Go out and talk to this employer, that employer. He needs to be worked with: the veteran. So we are hoping that that can also be brought into place.
    Mr. QUINN. Good. That is fine. Does anyone want to comment? Thank you.
    Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would agree with Calvin gross that the answer is all of the above. Some States do quite a good job in their veterans' employment efforts. Some States do a terrible job. And some States are undergoing some major changes in the way the public labor exchange works. And veterans in some cases are being left in the dust.
    Michigan was almost one of those places. Fortunately, the veterans' organizations up there got the attention of the governor. And veterans are now part of the program, although it is proving difficult.
    The local office manager here is key. In some cases, local office managers have actually prevented veterans' representatives from doing their job. And then, boy, is that ever frustrating to those folks. In some cases, it is the veterans' representatives themselves.
    I raised my hand when somebody said: Is anybody from Michigan? I grew up there, and I maintain close ties back there. And, in fact, I was up there with Mr. Magill in September at a veterans' representative conference.
    And they are looking at change right in the eye. And he is sitting in the back of the room with a beard and glasses. And they don't like what they see. They were told—there is a standard that was set in corroboration with the Veterans' Employment Training Service people form the State director and the regional director in Chicago. They were given a quota of placements to meet every year. And about a third of those representatives said: We can do that. And about a third of them said: It's not in my job description. Another third said: Well, we will give it a shot. And so there are some systemic problems out there.
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    Now, Mr. Gross also mentioned an incentive program. The people that you see here at this table, we colleagues, we band of brothers, are all members of the Secretary of Labor's Advisory Committee on Veterans' Employment and Training, which I chair.
    And I can tell you that an incentive recommendation has gone forward to the Secretary. The shape and form remain to be put on paper. I understand Mr. Borrego has been tasked with giving some shape and form to that recommendation, and we look forward to working with him on that subject.
    Mr. QUINN. David, just before we move on, I want to see if Larry wants to comment on this.
    Mr. RHEA. No. I would just be repeating.
    Mr. QUINN. Thank you.
    I yield to Mr. Filner.
    Mr. FILNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I am sorry the students left because I want to talk a little bit about politics. Now, notwithstanding some of the structural and accountability issues that you have raised, certainly the level of funding is not sufficient.
    Mr. Gross very eloquently talked about the homeless situation. And Mr. Woodbury talked about within the congressional thought processes how low veterans' issues seem to be in terms of priority. Well, that cries out for political action on behalf of your own membership.
    As I have said in the past several years from this committee, things have changed here. We don't have a committee that can force its will on the appropriators. We don't have a Congress that values that very highly apparently. I mean, 300 Members of Congress have not had military experience. So we have to change what we are doing.
    I need your millions of numbers, not just to talk to us but to talk to the other 430 Members of Congress. When the new majority came, they talked about a contract with America. We need a contract with America's veterans, to be underlined and restored. We have to have a way to do that. I am not sure.
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    Correct me if I am wrong, but I would bet that most of your members know less about the independent budget than we do. And this is a process that is going to go pretty quickly. You need to inform them about that, how whatever we decide to come up with—I don't know—you put Mr. Quinn along with me in my recommendations. I hope that is the case. I am not sure that the full committee is going to accept the independent budget, as some of us will recommend. But whatever we do, it is going to be more than the administration's budget I feel confident to say.
    But whatever we do or even if the independent budget is good enough in terms of a rallying point, which I think it is—I mean, I think you guys have done an incredible job on that.
    The other 420 Members of Congress have to hear that word, ''independent'' budget, so when I go on the floor of the House and talk about it, they say: Oh, yes. I just heard about that from 1,000 letters I got. They need to be informed about that. And you can correct me if I am wrong. I doubt if they have it.
    And when we go through this process after our recommendation leaves the committee, everybody on the floor has to be hearing from their veterans that they want the independent budget so when I go up there and yell about it, everybody knows what I am yelling about. It can't be you guys. Your job is with us, and you have done that very well. But now your grass roots have to grow.
    So whether you call up a contract with America's veterans—I saw Mr. Gross here loved that—or the independent budget or $3 million more, whatever can fit basically on a bumper sticker, the members have got to notify the other members in starting out. I would like to be informed of what you are doing on that.
    I know Mr. Magill looks very anxious to do that. So you could start. But I hope I am wrong in that you haven't started that process. I mean, I haven't gotten one letter on it.
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    Mr. GROSS. How many do you want?
    Mr. FILNER. I want Mr. Reyes. He keeps saying he has got 60,000 veterans. I would want to only get 60,000 letters. Ms. Berkley keeps saying she has the fastest growing mail about it. But more than this committee, it is the other folks. And it is the 300 especially that have no military experience.
    They have to hear that this is an organized group, like any other group in the American electorate that they expect to hear from. And if they don't hear from you, you are nothing. I mean, that is the way it works. They won't have to do anything on the floor if they don't hear from your membership.
    I am sorry, Mr. Magill.
    Mr. MAGILL. No. That is all right.
    At the end of this week, we will be starting our Washington conference. We are going to be bringing in several thousand of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. And I believe the other VSOs are going to be starting theirs in the future.
    We have been trying to educate our people on the budget process. And I am sure I am preaching to the choir here. It is a complicated issue. I wish that it could be something that we could very easily just say——
    Mr. FILNER. Right. Well, let us just say 3 billion more as a rallying cry. I mean, you know, we could——
    Mr. MAGILL. But the Congress want to hear more than just ''We want more and more and more and more.''
    Mr. FILNER. They have got to say that, but——
    Mr. MAGILL. We got to the point where we did say that for a long time. And now we are trying to show where this money can come from, what the needs are for this money, not necessarily the VSOs for years saying ''Just give us more. That is all we want.'' And they walk out. So hopefully these Members of Congress will meet with our members when they come in.
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    Unfortunately, I have to say—and I hope it is not speaking out of school, like Larry said. But sometimes we have very difficult times for Members of Congress that will take the time to meet with their constituents. And this is something that we would appreciate even your help on this when you are talking with your colleagues. If they are coming in and they are taking the time to come to Washington, give them 5 minutes with a Member of Congress. I don't mean to talk about the staff, but they would like to see the Member of Congress.
    Mr. FILNER. Right. But, again, as Mr. Woodbury outlined, it is a low priority right now. You have to force it on them. This is your job now. I am sorry to say it is partially our job, but it is partially your job.
    And I think your veterans if they are typical of those in my district are ready for some more action. I mean, these are folks who served in the military. They know what direction action means. If a member won't meet with them, sit outside their office until they do. They know how to set up tents. You didn't hear it here; right, Mr. Quinn?
    Let there be tents all over the Capitol for members who haven't met with their membership. But when we come to your dinners—VFW has a big dinner, I think the American Legion has a big dinner—I mean, don't let us get away with—when I say ''us,'' I mean you come into the dinner, and everybody is feeling good about it.
    All of those people at the table or at the reception should say: Are you going to vote for the independent budget? I mean, let that be one message and let everybody at that table talk to that Congress person. And don't just let them get away with being there and waving and, therefore, you are going to have your votes.
    Get a commitment out of them at that table. They are coming to it. They think they are going to get political credit. Give them some responsibility or accountability for that credit that when they come to your reception, you want one thing out of them, ''Are they going to support the independent budget?'' or however you want to phrase it because they aren't going to listen unless you force them to listen at this point.
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    The process is going to move, and it is not going to stop for our amendments. It is not going to stop for our arguments unless you have prearmed them through your membership. You have got as much votes as any other organized group or more. You have people who are willing to take on that job I think if you let them know about it.
    And let them show up at the members' offices in their districts. Let them show up at the offices here. And I want someone to come up to me from some other district and say: What the hell are they talking about, this independent budget? I want them to ask me, Mr. Chairman, and force it on them.
    I tell you. My veterans given what happened in the—when the balanced budget thing was passed, they saw what was going to happen in this year's budget, last year's, this year's, and next year's. We have a surplus, but they are still restricted by the rules of that balanced budget agreement. And they sat. And they were ready to do some things.
    Let them come to Washington. Let them surround the Capitol until we pass the independent budget. I mean, I am still looking back to the 1960s, you know, when I had fun.
    Mr. GROSS. I still have the t-shirt.
    Mr. FILNER. If there is anybody who is organized to do it, it is your members. And we could get into these accountability issues at some point. They are real. And we can get into where the money should be. But the fact of the matter is we are at least three billion short. And unless we get that, we can't do very much anyway.
    So let us rally around it. Let us get your troops, literally your troops, to the Congress and let them ask. In fact, you could probably say, ''What the hell is an independent budget?'' and let them ask us.
    Mr. GROSS. Mr. Filner, one of the things that I brought up the other day in a meeting with Kitty Hawkins was that we are throwing away the asset. You made an initial investment in me when I was 19. I served until I was 21. Then you threw that money away. I was highly skilled at what I did. I was not always in combat. I was a courier.
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    I tried the U.S. Postal Police. I tried Customs. I tried the Marshals. I mean, I carried top secret documents all over Europe and Vietnam. I couldn't get there. It was union. I couldn't get a card. Okay? So you lost on your reinvestment of the asset. And that still applies today.
    My plan is to put in the dollars and cents because I think maybe the Members of Congress who never have taken the oath that hasn't expired—I was 19 when I stepped forward, raised my right hand, and took an oath to protect and defend. Did we ever get an expiration date? No. And that is key.
    I think what they will pay attention to is that everything has a residual value. This microphone has a residual value. You have made an initial investment in it. It still works. It still amplifies my voice. It has a place somewhere in our work culture, the same thing with human beings, the same thing with veterans.
    And if we made it dollars and cents, I believe that it will make more sense and if we put it in terms of ''Are they going to put a match to all of this money and burn it up?'' So it is a matter of the assets that this country develops and they throw it away? What caused the deficit?
    Mr. QUINN. Thank you. Thanks, Bob. I know there was a question in there somewhere, but we——
    Mr. GROSS. It was a statement.
    Mr. QUINN. Well, it is a statement. I am told we are going to be called to vote in the next couple of minutes, so I should round this thing out here on a comment more than a question if it is okay, Bob.
    I think Bob Filner knows how the system works as well as anybody in this place, believe me. When he asks for your help to get the job done, he also says that you have partners in this and they are us. There is the vote.
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    My point, Bob, is simply that I think we can help you do that job. You know how these votes get. We are going to go over there now. It was an independent budget vote. We could search out somebody on the floor to do something about it.
    I am on a bill that has to do something with steel quotas, a whole different issue but I happen to be on the bill. And we sent out a Dear Colleague. As the steelworkers worked the crowd last week and some this week, they said: Contact Quinn and Jones and Smith and some other people so that when you get down on the floor, and you ask whether to sign or not sign, they have got somebody as a resource they can come to.
    We have got 28 or 35 or how many members on the Veterans' Committee, 31. We make ourselves available, just as Bob suggested, that for those who aren't signed up, who aren't ready to come, they can come ask us. And we can explain to them the fallout if they don't do it and the reason they should be on, the reason they should vote. Then we sort of team up whatever we can bring to the table with your members out there. Bob hit it exactly on the head I think. We will help you do that.
    Thanks a million. Thanks for your comments, your ideas, and assistance. Bob, thanks. We are going to see each other later. We are adjourned.
    [Whereupon, at 11:32 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]