Proposed “SKILLS Act” raises Legion concern

The American Legion is concerned that provisions in a proposed federal act could harm the delivery of services to U.S. military veterans.

The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills ("SKILLS") Act now being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. The measure is designed to reform the nation’s workforce-development system by, among other things, streamlining what the sponsors consider duplicative and ineffective job-training programs.

At stake are the fates of the Legion-supported Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) and Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives program (LVERs) as administered by the Department of Labor’s Veterans Education and Training Service (VETS). Under the proposed SKILLS Act, these programs would be replaced by Veterans Employment Specialists provided at the local level from a general allocation fund. This would eliminate VETS oversight of these outreach and employment assistance activities.

The Legion has long supported Labor’s VETS program. For instance, at its last national convention, Legion leadership adopted a resolution objecting to a then-active proposal to transfer VETS from the Department of Labor to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The resolution stated, in part, "DoL has expertise in job placement, job development, vocational counseling, vocational testing, job-search training, and any other area of employment services…" 

"These same attributes apply to this situation as well," said Joe Sharpe, director of the Legion’s Economic Division. "We believe strongly in the Department of Labor’s expertise and experience and think that any move to compromise VETS’ oversight of these vital veterans’ programs by eliminating the current DVOP and LVERs – would be a huge and ultimately costly mistake."

VETS itself recently issued a detailed point paper concluding, "We believe the approach taken under the SKILLS Act would reduce the level and quality of services currently provided to veterans."

In one of his first speaking engagements, Assistant Secretary of Labor Keith Kelly, who leads the VETS program, promised Legionnaires his office’s unwavering support of job-seeking veterans. He spoke to attendees of the Legion’s Washington Conference on Feb. 26 – barely a month after he took the job.