Committee-passed bills focus on jobs

The House Veterans' Affairs Committee made a commitment to facilitating career opportunities to those who have served by approving bills Wednesday that would create a new veterans job-training program, require VA to post available positions more prominently on the Web and offer 2,000 new internships in benefits processing.

"The men and women who have voluntarily given significant portions of their lives to military service deserve a clear flight path to decent careers after discharge," said American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster, who will be in Washington next week to deliver testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Committees. "Veterans, by virtue of the time they have taken out of ordinary career tracks to put themselves in harm's way, should be warmly invited to search for government job opportunities online, and use their veterans-preference advantage. That's what it's there for." H.R. 3685, one of six measures that passed the committee on Wednesday, would require VA to more prominently display government and some private-sector job postings on its home Web page.

The committee also passed H.R. 5630, which would offer 2,000 internships for veterans to work in the Veterans Benefits Administration. The American Legion has long argued that VA can make headway against two unfulfilled challenges - reducing the VA claims backlog and improving the government's Veterans Preference Hiring Act compliance - by hiring more veterans to work in claims processing. The number of unresolved VA claims is estimated at nearly 1 million. H.R. 5630 also would offer a $500 monthly stipend to veterans who become rural schoolteachers. Additionally, it would set qualification standards for veterans employment and rehabilitation counselors.

Also passed was an omnibus bill creating a new veterans job-training program; doubling the $2,000 monthly pension or living recipients of the Medal of Honor; and excluding veterans with service-connected mental disorders from being listed, unless there is judicial review, in an FBI database used to screen gun buyers.

Also passed were H.R. 5993, which would provide financial counseling to beneficiaries of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, and a measure to allow National Guard and reserve retirees not yet receiving retired pay to officially be considered veterans.