Does the VA need Economic Opportunity Division?
By Debbie Gregory.
As they transition out of the military, American veterans traditionally face two significant challenges: procuring civilian employment and accessing the education or training necessary to secure civilian employment.
The current Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is divided into three Administrations: Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemetery Administration. VBA is responsible for all benefits, including disability compensation, pension claims, and economic opportunity. Unfortunately, VBA efforts to administer important educational and employment benefits, like the GI Bill or the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, are often overshadowed by VBA’s other missions.
Now, advocates are pushing the VA to establish a Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration that would allow for a new undersecretary position to oversee issues such as housing loans, education assistance and employment programs. The plan, backed by both sides of the aisle in Congress, would allow more flexibility with the military education funding.
Under the proposed bill, the VET OPP Act of 2018, the VA would be required to create a new administration within existing resources, while capping the number of full-time employees available, to avoid growing government and adding new bureaucracy at VA.
The bill would allow the VA to reemphasize and prioritize programs that empower veterans in their civilian lives and enhance their economic opportunities. Led by a new Under Secretary of Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition, this new administration would be responsible for overseeing all transition, education, and employment programs, including: vocational rehabilitation and employment programs; educational assistance programs; veterans’ housing loans; verification of small businesses under the Vets First Program; and, the VA portion of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
The most meaningful way to honor our veterans’ service and sacrifice is by ensuring they have the tools and support they need to live with dignity in the country they fought to protect.
Reformulating veteran legislation in the positive language of economic opportunity emphasizes post-service growth. Congress can instigate this through the appointment, which will benefit newly-minted veterans.