Letter to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House; Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader; Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader; and Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader - Fitzpatrick, Lamb Lead Bipartisan Effort to Support Veterans
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority
We are writing to advocate for the needs of our nation's veterans, transitioning service members,
and their families in the next COVID-19 legislative response package. The transition for our
service members back to civilian life can be difficult no matter the circumstances. However,
particularly during the current coronavirus pandemic, we believe Congress must do everything in
our power to support our veterans and transitioning service members, especially by addressing
their workforce development, employment, and economic needs.
Veterans' unemployment rates have risen due to COVID-19. During the Great Recession from
2007-2009 studies show that veterans who recently transitioned to civilian life faced higher
unemployment rates than both older veterans and non-veterans. These studies also indicate
increased veterans' suicide rates during the Great Recession, tied in part to less economic
opportunity. Accordingly, we are concerned that the adverse economic conditions stemming
from COVID-19 could cause similar harm to the veterans' community today. Therefore, we
believe that additional targeted veterans and transitioning service members' workforce policy
improvements are needed across several federal agencies to respond to COVID-19 and to ensure
economic stability for the veterans' community in the long-term.
Specifically, we request support for the following:
* GI Bill benefit protections for veterans who are nontraditional students in Registered
Apprenticeship and On-the-Job Training programs. These programs are critical career
pathways for veterans and transitioning service members, and they have been
disproportionately disrupted by COVID-19 because they are more difficult to move to
online platforms, making it difficult for enrolled veterans to earn required On-the-Job
hours. Congress has already addressed GI Bill benefit protections during COVID-19 for
veterans enrolled in higher education. Veterans in apprenticeship and On-the-Job
Training programs deserve parity.
* Funding for the Department of Labor's Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) for
veterans. RAP programs provide paid, work- and classroom-based educational
opportunities for veterans, resulting in the earning of an industry-recognized
credential. Additional funding for RAP will provide additional veterans with immediate
skills and employment opportunities, designed to fit industry needs.
* Increasing access for veterans and transitioning service members to additional skilled
training programs and related supportive services. In addition to RAP, we also advocate
that resources be provided to the following entities that provide high-quality, proven
career pathways for veterans and transitioning service members: veterans service
organizations (VSOs), state-level workforce development agencies, the Department of
Defense's (DoD) SkillBridge initiative, the U.S. Military Apprenticeship Program
(USMAP), and community colleges.
* Recognizing veterans' service-connected skills through enhancements to our existing
credentialing system. Service members leave the military with an incredible amount of
education and skills. We must ensure federal and state licensing bodies better understand
and can translate veterans' experiences, so that they can more quickly put their training to
work in our communities.
We appreciate your leadership and the work you have done through initial legislative packages to
support our veterans and our country during this challenging time. We urge you to take the steps
outlined in this letter in the next COVID-19 response package to support our veterans,
transitioning service members, and their families as they navigate the challenges posed by the
COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you in advance for your consideration, and we look forward to
working with you on these issues.