Congress needs to support veterans who are battling financial challenges brought on by the ongoing pandemic, The American Legion testified on Dec. 9.
American Legion Education and Credentialing Policy Associate for the National Veterans Education and Employment Division, John Kamin, testified before the House Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Kamin’s testimony focused on congressional and administrative priorities for the upcoming 117th Congress and how the nation can continue to support veterans during and after COVID-19. Watch the hearing here.
The circumstances created by the pandemic are extraordinary, said Kamin. With the veteran unemployment rate doubling since January 2020, more than half a million veterans are currently out of work as the country continues to try to adapt to the impact of the coronavirus.
“America has always been dedicated to investing in the citizens that have put their lives on the line for her defense,” he said. “And more often than not when we do that, we learn how we can enfranchise the rest of the country.”
One of the foremost concerns is that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic conditions that will lead to predatory recruitment targeting of veterans. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse shows an increase of 3 percent in undergraduate enrollment at for-profit institutions during the last year. During the same timeframe, enrollment in community colleges dropped by 9.4 percent.
The 90-10 rule mandates for-profit schools obtain at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources other than Title IV education funds, which are the primary source of student aid. GI Bill benefits fall with the 10 percent category, making them valuable to for-profit institutions and leaving veterans vulnerable to predatory institutions.
“Until this loophole is closed, veterans will continue to be cravenly pursued as a balancing weight,” he said.
Kamin also said that as pathways to higher education for veterans continue to be built, the nation must also continue to bridge the world of education with the world of work. One way to do this would be to reauthorize the historic National Apprenticeship Act. Originally passed in 1937, the bill enabled the Department of Labor to codify rules and regulations empowering registered apprenticeships as means to gainful employment.
“The National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 will reauthorize this bill for the first time in its 87-year history, codifying many of the regulations into statute and modernizing them to meet the needs of today’s workforce through targeted grants and partnerships,” Kamin said.
“Such modernization would not be complete without recognizing the unique potential veterans have to take advantage and succeed in apprenticeship opportunities.”
The American Legion National Executive Committee recently ratified Resolution No. 13: Support “Buy American” Policy within the Federal Government to Create Opportunities for Veterans.”
“The American Legion now officially supports legislation and policy that incentivizes the return of manufacturing from overseas and the creation of more domestic manufacturers, including veteran-owned small businesses,” he testified.
“We must be honest and concede that as a nation, we are reliant on foreign-sourced products for our safety and protection from the spread of COVID-19.”
The “Buy American Act” requires that goods purchased by the federal government are 50% manufactured in America, meaning a substantial amount of the raw materials used in things labeled “Made in USA” are sourced from overseas.
“We must chart a new course to eliminate dependencies from foreign sources for some products that have national security and strategic importance,” said Kamin.
“We need luminaries, and we are dedicated to helping you pass legislation that empowers veterans’ education, small business, and employment pathways, not just because it needs to be done but because America learns from it. “