Lawmakers have reintroduced plans to create a fourth administration within the VA to handle veterans education, transition and employment benefits and services, aiming to improve oversight on programs like the Forever GI Bill, VA’s Home Loan Program and Vocational Rehab.
Under the Veterans’ Education, Transition and Opportunity Prioritization Plan (VET OPP) Act of 2019, transition benefits would no longer fall under the Veterans Benefits Administration, but would instead be managed by a new administration, the Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration. Proponents of the bill—including DAV—say it would allow for more staffing and resources to be allotted to these programs.
Associate National Legislative Director Jeremy Villanueva testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on the topic, saying the Office of Economic Opportunity programs—that fall under VBA—currently must compete for resources and focus with the Compensation, Pension and Insurance programs.
“Because of the scale and scope of the claims and appeals processing reforms in recent years, it has too often been hard for VA’s economic opportunity programs to compete for adequate funding, specialized resources and other prioritization,” testified Villanueva.
“For example, while VBA has boosted resources to support the modernization and streamlining of the claims and appeals process for the past several years, other important programs have actually seen a stagnation of resources and oversight,” Villanueva added. “Between 2014 and 2018, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment participation increased by approximately 17 percent while the funding rose less than 2 percent.”
A report published by the VA’s Office of Inspector General said a lack of a single accountable official will cause these economic opportunity programs to continue to have these problems. DAV believes this bill will provide the oversight and leadership the OIG is asking for.
“While DAV continues advocating for timely access to high quality veterans’ health care and protecting other veterans benefits, we also recognize that this nation should place equal focus on gainful employment, education and other economic opportunities for veterans,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Randy Reese. “DAV proudly supports the VET OPP Act as it recognizes the value of these programs by combining them into their own Administration focused solely on economic utilization and growth.”
The Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration would stand alongside the three existing administrations—VBA, Veterans Health Administration and National Cemetery Administration—and require a fourth Senate-confirmed undersecretary to report directly to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.