On March 27, American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger joined a quartet of congressmen at a press conference to promote the renewal of a landmark employment measure for older veterans. The group gathered in front of the United States Capitol building to speak on behalf of the Help Hire our Heroes Act.
The bill, introduced by California Democratic Reps .Julia Brownley and Mark Takano, would extend the term of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). VRAP offers up to 12 months of employment training or retraining assistance to unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 who are not eligible for or enrolled in other federal or state job training programs. VRAP is scheduled to expire March 31.
Dellinger, fresh from his major congressional testimony a day earlier, spoke briefly, thanking Brownley and Takano for their "support and advocacy for our veterans." "We, The American Legion, the nation's largest veterans organization," he said, "worked very hard on the orginal legislation and are very propud of its results. The (VRAP) program has assisted over 76,000 veterans... in receiving the assistance necessary to gain the training needed to be gainfully employed and contribute to our nation's economy. This is a critical juncture in our country's history and we need to promote any program that affords our veterans the opportunity to train for employment.
"That," Dellinger concluded, "is why the 2.4 million members of The American l;egion support the VRAP program."
Brownley and Takano's bill would extend VRAP to September 30 this year by employing disused funds from the government's obscure "Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund." Brownley said plans are being made to introduce legislation to further extend VRAP once her "Help Hire our Heroes Act" passes. She expects little, if any, opposition to the measure.
Brownley and Takano were joined at the outdoor podium by Rep. Mike Michaud ,(D-Maine), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and Rep. Walter Jones, (R–N.C.), a 20-year veteran of the House.