RELEASE: Rep. Khanna Introduces Additional Legislation to Help our Nation’s Veterans
Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Khanna introduced the Veteran Outreach Understanding To Reach Every American Courageous Hero Act, the Vet OUTREACH Act, a bill that builds off the VALOR Act, which was signed into law by President Trump in 2017 and made it easier for employers to offer apprenticeships to veterans, without having to jump through additional and unnecessary red tape. The Vet OUTREACH Act will clarify existing statute and allow State Approval Agencies (SAAs) to use funds that are already appropriated to conduct outreach about opportunities available to veterans. SAAs recently received additional funding from legislation passed in the 115th Congress. As they add additional resources—particularly staff—it is important that they have the ability conduct outreach to educational institutions, businesses, and veterans to increase awareness of these deserved benefits, particularly apprenticeships and on-the-job-training (OJT) programs. This bill will not require SAAs to do outreach if they do not think it is required. This bill simply gives them the option to do so.
Outreach conducted by SAAs, particularly for apprenticeships and OJT programs, fell dramatically after 2015. In 2015, SAAs across the country conducted almost 50,000 outreached-related actions to ensure veterans were informed of the benefits they are entitled to receive. Last year, that number fell to just 5,000—a 90% decrease. This dramatic drop began in 2015 after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) informed the SAAs that such outreach was not in statute. SAAs are now left to rely on outreach products created before 2015 and can no longer travel to spread the word about programs for veterans.
“Such outreach is important to make sure veterans, employers, and educators know what apprenticeships and OJT opportunities exist for veterans. With the passage of the Forever GI Bill, the Vet Tech Bill, and the VALOR Act, the opportunities for veterans to participate in apprenticeships and OJTs expanded greatly. However, veterans and employers can only take advantage of these opportunities if they are aware of them,” said Rep. Khanna.
“Our veterans deserve to get the benefits they earned after honorably serving our country. This legislation would improve outreach to ensure that veterans are aware of the resources available to them, such as apprenticeships and on-the-job-training. I look forward to working with Congressman Khanna to get this bill passed,” said Rep. Cook.
The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Kim (NJ-3), Rep. Waltz (FL-6), and Rep. Cook (CA-8). Supportive groups include: Student Veterans of America (SVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASSA) and The American Legion.
“The VFW supports this proposal to grant the State Approving Agencies (SAA) authority to conduct outreach. The SAAs play a vital role in ensuring compliance and integrity for institutions providing education and instruction to veterans. The SAAs conduct quality checks of programs for usage of veteran benefits, and stay vigilant that institutions continue to provide quality instruction. Outreach by the SAAs is incredibly important as it informs institutions about the eligibility of VA beneficiaries to attend their programs. The VFW applauds Congressman Ro Khanna for his commitment to improving education opportunities for student veterans,” said Patrick Murray, deputy director, VFW National Legislative Service.
“Outreach is a critical mission for State Approving Agencies to help ensure veterans success. The National Association of State Approving Agencies strongly supports this bill as it will provide funding to SAAs to get the word out to Veterans, and companies that support them, about the GI Bill,” said Annie Walker, President, NASAA.
“This bill further equips state approving agencies to serve as a vital link between institutions of higher learning, student veterans, service members, families and survivors, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is a longstanding priority among SAAs and we appreciate the leadership to bring this bill forward,” said Lauren Augustine, Vice President of Government Affairs, Student Veterans of America.
Read the Vet OUTREACH Act online here.