A California Congressman introduced a bill today aimed at increasing outreach to veterans to tell them about apprenticeship and training opportunities.
The Veteran Outreach Understanding to Reach Every American Courageous Hero Act, or the Vet OUTREACH Act, was introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.
The bill builds off of the VALOR Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017, which aimed to make it easier for employers to offer veterans apprenticeships and training by bypassing "unnecessary red tape."
The Vet OUTREACH Act clarifies existing statute and allows State Approval Agencies (SAAs) to use money already set aside to conduct outreach about the apprenticeships opportunities.
Khanna said outreach from those state agencies "fell dramatically" after 2015. In 2015, the groups conducted nearly 50,000 outreach-related activities to help veterans learn about benefits. Last year, that number was 5,000 -- a 90-percent decrease.
The drop was due to the Department of Veterans Affairs telling the State Approval Agencies that such outreach was not codified in law and they were no longer able to travel to "spread the word about programs for veterans," Khanna said.
“Such outreach is important to make sure veterans, employers and educators know what apprenticeships and OJT opportunities exist for veterans," Khanna said in a statement to Connecting Vets. "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."
The bill already has support from the VFW, Student Veterans of America and the National Association of State Approving Agencies.
The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla. and Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif.
“Our veterans deserve to get the benefits they earned after honorably serving our country," Cook said. "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."
Another bill passed the Senate and its companion was introduced in the House this week to improve veterans' access to apprenticeship programs.
Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., and a bipartisan group of Congress members introduced the Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act after the Senate version of the bill passed Dec. 4.
Currently, there is a discrepancy between listed registered apprenticeships and those that have received approval for VA benefits.
The bill aims to close that gap by:
Ensuring apprenticeship programs are aware of and make "good faith efforts" to complete an expedited VA process to register;
Clarify that veterans are eligible for advanced program placement and commensurate wage increases based on their military experience;
Improve coordination between agencies by requiring the Labor Department to inform VA of newly registered programs.
"As a Navy veteran and co-founder of the bipartisan Congressional Military Transition Assistance Pathway Caucus, I strongly believe we need to do more to support our veterans as they successfully transition back into civilian life,” said Rep. Cisneros. “This bipartisan bill will ensure our veterans are aware of apprenticeship and job placement programs that will enable them to provide for their loved ones and be productive members of our military family."