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Bipartisanship inspired by our nation’s heroes

November 15, 2017
Ro's Op-Eds
Jodey Arrington and Ro Khanna


This past weekend, our nation united to remember those who gave up their today so we could have our tomorrow—the men and women who put on the uniform and worked together in defense of our freedom and liberty, regardless of their differences. The leadership of our veterans should serve as a model to those of us who serve in Congress.

Their example has inspired us to seek common ground to solve problems. The first bill we introduced together was a bipartisan term-limits bill to encourage lawmakers to act in the best interest of their country, not their careers.

Our latest bipartisan effort is the Veterans Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform Act (VALOR) Act. Simply put, this bill makes it easier for businesses to offer apprenticeships to veterans. By cutting out redundant bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary procedures at the VA, this bill smooths a veteran’s transition from the battlefield to the workplace.

Currently, businesses that offer apprenticeships to veterans must register their program in each individual State Approval Agency (SAA), the state oversight bodies that administer the GI Bill and ensure veterans enroll in quality educational programs. This is a burdensome process for employers who must fill out paperwork in each separate state, coordinate with different points of contact and send information to dozens of different fax numbers (yes, they still use fax machines).

Businesses that would otherwise offer apprenticeships to veterans are discouraged to do so by this onerous process. We’ve heard of at least one example where a company decided not to offer an apprenticeship to a veteran because he was the only one in that state, and they said it was not worth their time to jump over the bureaucratic hurdles for just one veteran. Government bureaucracy should have never been a disqualifier for this veteran to pursue training for civilian life.

The VALOR Act streamlines the process, making it more efficient for both the veteran and employer. Under our bill, the employer only needs approval from the SAA of the state where the apprenticeship is headquartered, reducing the paperwork from dozens of different SAAs to one. By simplifying the approval process for employers, the number of apprenticeships available to veterans will increase.

Our bill also makes it easier for veterans to receive funding for the program. Right now, both the veteran and the organization must certify the veterans’ hours spent in an apprenticeship program. This unnecessary regulatory burden hurts veterans because many do not have the needed scanning machines to submit their signature. This redundant bureaucratic procedure stalls the payment owed to them as a result, making it difficult to pay their bills.

The VALOR Act would change that requirement so that only the organization providing the apprenticeship will fill out the paperwork. Reporting does not need to take place twice and veterans should not have to jump through redundant hoops to receive the benefits they’ve earned. At the same time, we made sure to preserve important oversight designed to protect veterans thanks to the help and guidance of our partner, Joe Wescott, Legislative Director of the National Association of State Approving Agencies.

These fixes are neither partisan nor controversial. The VALOR ACT shows that in Congress, despite hyper-partisan gridlock and historically low approval ratings, lawmakers can still put our veterans first and get the job done. Although both of us caucus with different parties and come from different states and religious traditions, we put policy over politics to pass the VALOR Act. That is what our founders intended when they hoped the common good would prevail over factions.

We dedicate this bill to our brave service men and women. Inspired by the valor our veterans showed as the ultimate public servants, we hope Congress can work to restore faith in the democracy our brave men and women overseas fought to defend.