Certification stakes center stage at White House forum

The Economic Division served as a subject matter expert at a White House forum last week on military licensing and certification for transportation jobs. The goal of the forum was to come up with ways to streamline the licensing and certification process for veterans with applicable experience entering transportation fields in the civilian workforce.

Officials from the departments of Transportation, Defense and Labor, the U.S. Army Reserve and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters were also in attendance.

Among the next steps moving forward:

• Reaching out to the general counsel community: It is imperative that the cloudy legal situation regarding donations (for example: manual transmission trucks to the military) and third-party testers be cleared up.

• Promoting CVTA breakout programs and gap analysis: Truck driving schools are looking to create programs for servicemembers with skills that would skip over portions duplicated with previous military experience. Providing this skills gap analysis to transportation schools will help ease the credentialing process for veterans.

• Streamlining communication between TAP, VSOs and employers: Many stakeholders felt that these various entities of the military veteran employment chain are working in relative isolation, and that we need to create partnerships between vertically integrated entities.

• Finding ways to earn credentials before leaving the military: This will allow military veterans to forgo many of the credentialing issues that occur after exiting the military. If the military can accommodate testing on manual transmissions and full air brakes, this would enable service members to attain non-restricted licenses that would make them more employable in the civilian workforce. Attaining a credential during military service would also provide service members with the opportunity to attain the safe driving experience that is required by civilian employers and insurers.

Additionally, on May 1, the Economic Division met with Patrick O’Leary, veterans hiring manager at UPS, and Selden Fritschner, chief at Commercial Driver’s License Division at Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Department of Transportation, to discuss items related to military training and credentialing.

In other news:

JPAC team in Myanmar: A 10-person team from the U.S. Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command returned to Myanmar to begin the second joint investigation mission of the year. The team will investigate five cases in the vicinity of Mandalay during the month-long mission. In February and March, a nine-person team conducted research and field investigations in Taungoo, Rangoon and Mandalay. The team also began an outreach effort requesting local citizens with information on the whereabouts of U.S. servicemembers or downed U.S. aircraft to share the information with JPAC, the U.S. Embassy-Rangoon and the Office of Chief of Military Security Affairs. This initiative resulted in more than 200 reports, which will aid in the investigation efforts for this mission.

JPAC last conducted recovery operations in Myanmar eight years ago. There are approximately 730 Americans unaccounted for in this country from World War II.

Follow up missions are planned for 2014

HAVEN Act: The Economic Division met on April 30 with Jesse Walls, legislative director, Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, to discuss their potential support of H.R. 385, Housing Assistance for Veterans (HAVEN) Act. If enacted the HAVEN Act would establish a pilot program to authorize the secretary of Housing and Urban Development to make grants to nonprofit organizations to rehabilitate and modify homes of disabled and low-income veterans.

Job postings: On May 3, the Economic Division met with Chad Sowash, chief experience officer at RecruitMilitary, to discuss ways the Legion can work with RecruitMilitary in bringing job links from the Legion’s private-sector contacts to RecruitMilitary’s online jobs board. These are preliminary discussions. A tangible result of this meeting is that RecruitMilitary has extended to The American Legion the opportunity to post our vacant positions on their job listing website.

Letters of support: The American Legion on April 30 sent a letter of support to Rep. Grace Meng of New York, giving our organization’s support for draft legislation entitled the VA Regional Office Accountability Act. This legislation would require annual reports to be submitted to Congress by individual VA Regional Offices (VAROs) if they fall below the 125-day and the 98 percent accuracy thresholds for claims processing. The object of this legislation is to assist VAROs in examining the factors contributing to their failure to meet these goals by requiring them to submit the annual report detailing the reasons why they failed. This requirement will enable the VAROs to construct a plan to move toward the goal of ensuring our nation’s veterans receive the best and most efficient service possible. Related resolution

Boston bombing aftermath: Last week, staff from the National Security and Foreign Relations Division attended hearings conducted by the House Foreign Relations Committee regarding Islamist extremism in Chechnya. The attacks by the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston have provoked feelings of solidarity with the American people and especially with the citizens of Boston among the Russian people and Kremlin leadership. President Vladimir Putin expressed his readiness to cooperate with the U.S. government to uncover the details that led to the tragedy in Boston. Webcast:

Claims: During the week ending April 12, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reached dispositions on 144 American Legion represented appeals. Of those dispositions, 73.8 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 28 cases, the board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion’s arguments. In 71 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims that mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 35 (25.5 percent) were outright denials.