Tester, Colleagues Spearhead Legislation to Tackle Veteran Unemployment During COVID-19 Crisis

Bipartisan, bicameral Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020 would provide critical retraining opportunities, employment assistance to veterans and transitioning servicemembers

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester and his colleagues are spearheading bipartisan, bicameral legislation to address the increasing number of veteran unemployment during the COVID-crisis.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the veteran unemployment rate across the country has risen exponentially—from 3.1 percent in 2019 to 11 percent in April 2020. To help curb the alarming increase of unemployment, the Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020 would create a rapid retraining program to provide unemployed veterans and reservists with 12 months of educational benefits to pursue training in high-demand occupations. It would also expand the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses for Training Providers (VET TEC) program to help veterans and servicemembers transition to civilian life.

“With veteran unemployment on the rise, it’s critical that we expand resources to swiftly get these folks trained and back to work,” said Ranking Member Tester. “The reality is that the coronavirus hasn’t spared our nation’s servicemembers—and we’ve got to work twice as hard to make certain these men and women get the support they earned during their service. That’s why I’m introducing the bipartisan Veterans Economic Recovery Act, to strengthen existing retraining job opportunities and establish new resources to get veterans employed and back on their feet. Veterans dealing with the devastating, economic consequences of the pandemic need to know that the government is in their corner—and I’ll continue working hard to ensure they aren’t left behind during this crisis.”

Education benefits made available through the rapid retraining program under the Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020 would be equivalent to benefits provided to veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. To participate in the rapid retraining program, eligible veterans must comply with the following requirements:

  • Be between the ages of 25-60;
  • Be unemployed on the day of application;
  • Have an honorable or other than dishonorable discharge;
  • Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit;
  • Not be enrolled in another Federal of State job training program;
  • Not be receiving disability compensation for reasons that have led to un-employability; and
  • Not be in receipt of any unemployment benefit when they begin training under this program.

Under this legislation, members of the National Guard or Reserve federally ordered to assist states with the COVID-19 response would also be eligible for the rapid retraining program.

In addition to Tester, this bill was introduced by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, along with Representatives Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Co-sponsors include Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).

This legislation has received widespread support from a number of Veteran Service Organizations, including Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), American Veterans (AMVETS), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), National Association of Veteran Program Administrators (NAVPA), National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASSA), Reserve Officers Association (ROA), Veterans Education Success (VES), and Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS).

A copy of the bill can be found HERE.