STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
SEPTEMBER 24, 2009
Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, members of the Subcommittee,
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) would like to thank you for the opportunity to express our
views on the various pending legislation for veterans. PVA appreciates the hard work and
PVA does not oppose H.R. 294, a bill that would reauthorize of the Department of Veterans Affairs small business loan program. Recent surveys show that the unemployment rate among veterans is higher than that of the non-veteran population. Surveys also show the percentage of veterans that have pursued an occupation by owning a small business is higher than the non-veteran population. Small businesses represent much of the employment growth in the future. This legislation is intended to help veterans finance or expand their business by guaranteeing a loan to the maxium amount of $500,000. Unfortunately, in this slow economy financial institutions are reluctant to loan money even with a loan guarantee. This makes it difficult for the small business to expand. Perhaps the VA or the Small Business Administration (SBA) could consider a direct loan program for veteran owned businesses.
As a member of Veterans Entrepreneurial Task Force (VET-Force) PVA is aware of the ongoing issue of contract bundling within the VA and other federal agencies. The purpose of contract bundling is not to eliminate the small veteran owned business, but the result of this practice is squeezing out the veteran owned or service disabled veteran owned small businesses. PVA would be happy to work with this Subcommittee as they explore options for veterans in small business.
H.R. 1169 addresses issues that are of great interest to PVA members and tens of thousands of other men and women who have sacrificed so much in service to this nation. PVA supports H.R. 1169, legislation that would increase the amount of assistance provided by the VA to disabled veterans for specially adapted housing and automobile assistance grants and adapted equipment. These proposed increases in the adapted housing grant, automobiles and adapted equipment grants surpass the recommendations made in The Independent Budget. PVA supports increases in these programs as they directly help to improve the lives of our members and other disabled veterans.
PVA advocated for the most recent adjustment to the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant which increased that amount to $60,000. PVA’s architecture program provided us with the information, based on the cost of construction at that time. Through the years the grant has been adjusted in an attempt to keep pace with the rising cost of home construction. It has usually lagged behind the cost of construction, since legislation from Congress was required to adjust the value of the grant, while construction costs consistently outpaced inflation. We were pleased that an automatic annual adjustment was included in the “Housing Recovery” bill passed late last year.
However, PVA is concerned that the amount requested in H.R.1169 for the adapted housing grant ($180,000) is an amount that is not based on logical and reasonable cost estimates for accessible construction. Previous increases were from $48,000 to $50,000 (2003) and most recently from $50,000 to $60,000 (2008). We are concerned that this incredible increase in the benefit could marginalize this legislation and ultimately prevent proper consideration.
PVA supports increases in the adaptive automobile grant as explained in The Independent Budget. VA provides certain severely disabled veterans and service members with grants for the purchase of automobiles or other conveyances. This grant also provides for adaptive equipment necessary for safe operation of these vehicles.
This benefit amount specified in H.R.1169 of $33,000 would be appreciated by, and certainly justified for the veterans that qualify for this grant. An example of the cost of accessible
transportation in 2009 would be a new Honda Element (considered a compact-economy vehicle) converted for use with ramp and equipment cost $45,000-$50,000. We certainly appreciate this proposed amount raising this grant 300 percent from the current $11,000. However, as with our concerns about the proposed SAH grant increase, this proposal faces similar challenges.
H.R. 1182, The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act
PVA supports, H.R. 1182, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. PVA supports this
legislation that will correct a situation that affects veterans as their spouse relocates to live in the community with their active duty husband or wife. This will allow the active duty military member and their spouse to retain driver’s licenses from the same state, retain voting registration from the same state, and file taxes from the same state.
H.R. 2416 requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to use purchases of goods or services for the purpose of meeting certain contracting goals for participation by small businesses concerns owned and controlled by veterans, including veterans with service-connected disabilities. PVA supports this legislation. This legislation will require the VA to continue their outreach to purchase goods and services from veteran owned businesses. With the support of this
legislation, the Department of Veterans Affairs can become an example to other agencies that veteran owned businesses are available in every community and can fulfill the requirements of contracting with the federal government.
PVA supports 2461, legislation that would clarify the VA’s responsibilities when verifying the veteran status of small business concerns. This would prohibit a small business from being listed in the database until the VA has verified that the business is owned and controlled by veterans.
H.R. 2614 will amend title 38, United States Code, to reauthorize the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education. PVA has no objection to this legislation.
PVA supports H.R. 2695, legislation to amend the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) authorizing the Attorney General to bring civil action in U.S. district court to include civil relief restraining orders and injunctions, damages, and penalties. These amendments to SCRA explain the servicemembers’ right to bring their own private action to seek and obtain remedies available under this Act.
PVA supports H.R. 2874, legislation to amend the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act to improve the equitable relief available for servicemembers called to active duty. This legislation protects the servicemember in leases and other property rental agreements, and leases involving motor vehicles. The legislation addresses tuition refund for students who are called to military service.
H.R. 2928 will amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for an apprenticeship and on-the-job training program under the Post 9/11 G I Bill. PVA supports this legislation that could help thousands of veterans as they reenter the workplace. On-the Job training programs have been successful for returning servicemembers to learn job skills while earning enough money to support themselves and their families. One successful example of this type program would be the “Helmets to Hardhats” (H2H) program administered by the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans Employment (CMRAVE). CMRAVE is a non-profit Section 501(c)(3) joint labor-management committee established under the Labor Management Relations Act. In the last year this program has trained approximately 2,000 recently discharged military personnel in the construction trades. Unfortunately, 20,000 veterans applied for this training. Using funds from the Post 9/11 GI Bill is an innovative use of this program that could help many veterans enter the workforce in this current unfavorable economy.
H.R. 3223, this will improve the VA’s contracting goals and preferences for small business owned and controlled by veterans. PVA also supports this legislation that would require the VA to do what they should already be doing, maximizing their contracting efforts with veteran owned businesses. The VA should set an example for the other federal agencies that ignore any requirement for conducting business with veteran owned companies. The legislation would also allow a veteran to own and operate more that one small business and participate in federal contracts using more that one business.
PVA supports H.R. 3554, legislation that provides for inclusion of certain active duty service in the reserve components as qualifying service for purposes of Post 9/11 Educational Assistance Program. This legislation would provide the benefits to title 32 Active Guard Reserve members that are available under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
PVA supports H.R. 3561. This legislation will increase the amount of educational assistance provided to certain veterans for flight training. In Title 38,USC, sec. 3032, (e) (1) states that an individual that is pursuing a program of education consisting exclusively of flight training and meeting the necessary requirements of section 3034 (d) shall be paid an educational assistance in the amount equal to 60 percent of the established charges for tuition and fees. This legislation will increase that amount to 75 percent.
20 years on active duty to transfer entitlement to Post 9/11 Educational Assistance to their dependents. PVA supports this legislation that would allow the transfer of earned educational benefits to their dependents. Many members of the Armed Services that have served for a minimum of 20 years have developed skills and expertise in the military that are transferable to the civilian work force, which provides for an easy transition to the workforce without having a college degree. Some service members have obtained educational degrees during their years in the military and would not use the earned benefit of the GI Bill. In addition, allowing the transfer of this unique, generous educational assistance benefit could serve as an incentive for completing 20 years of service.
Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, members of the Subcommittee,
Paralyzed Veterans of America supports this Subcommittees effort to review and enhance the
economic and educational programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the current, and
future veterans of this nation. This concludes our statement. We would be happy to answer
questions you may have.
Information Required by Rule XI 2(g)(4) of the House of Representatives
Pursuant to Rule XI 2(g)(4) of the House of Representatives, the following information is provided regarding federal grants and contracts.
Fiscal Year 2009
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, administered by the Legal Services Corporation— National Veterans Legal Services Program— $300,000 (estimated).
Fiscal Year 2008
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, administered by the Legal Services Corporation — National Veterans Legal Services Program— $302,556.
Fiscal Year 2007
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, administered by the Legal Services Corporation — National Veterans Legal Services Program— $301,729.