WASHINGTON D.C. – Bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) – the Wounded Warrior Employment Improvement Act – won the support of the Paralyzed Veterans of American (PVA). Last week, the Senate included the bill – which would help veterans with service-connected disabilities find and retain employment – as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. A companion bill has been introduced in the House.
“Veterans injured while serving their country deserve our help in building careers when they return home and transition to civilian life,” said Brown. “This bill would ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs can continue to provide wounded warriors with exceptional care, training, and support.”
The Wounded Warrior Employment Improvement Act would require the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to publish an action plan for improving the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program (VR&E). The plan must include:
- Steps to remedy workload management at VA regional offices and to reduce the caseload per VR&E counselor, allowing more individualized attention for veterans;
- Analysis of why so few veterans who have served post-September 11, 2001 have chosen to participate in VA rehabilitation programs compared to the rate of veterans who seek VA educational assistance;
- Steps to increase VA rehabilitation program participation for veterans serving post-September 11, 2001; and
- The creation of a national staff training program for vocational rehabilitation counselors that covers post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health conditions, and traumatic brain injury.
The bill is endorsed by the Wounded Warrior Project, The American Legion, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). A one-pager can be found here.
Brown and Tillis continue to advocate for servicemembers, veterans, and their families. In May, they introduced legislation to ensure that surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty receive the same educational benefits as the family members of servicemembers who elect to transfer their benefits. The Fry Scholarship Enhancement Act of 2015 would expand eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps students avoid out-of-pocket tuition and fees for education programs that cost more than the allowance set by the post 9/11 GI Bill.
The senators also introduced the Veterans Priority Enrollment Act of 2015 in May so that veterans, students serving in the armed forces, and their qualifying dependents, can take full advantage of the federal education benefits they have earned for themselves and their families. The bill would allow veterans using their GI benefits to attain priority enrollment at four-year institutions so that they can finish their degrees before their benefits expire.