By Rick Maze – Staff writer.
Article Posted: Monday Jun 4, 2012 12:33:42 EDT
A key lawmaker discounted President Obama’s June 1 call for quick passage of Veterans Jobs Corps legislation and said a less expensive alternative is already in place if the administration would only do a better job of promoting it.
The $1 billion jobs corps that Obama said Friday should be put on the “to-do list” in Congress would put up to 20,000 veterans to work during the next five years on projects to preserve and restore land and resources, such as habitat restoration; eradicating invasive species; performing deferred maintenance on federal, state and local trails, roads, levees and recreation areas; and working on programs for park visitors.
The administration put money into the 2013 budget to pay for the program, but neither the Republican-controlled House Veterans’ Affairs Committee nor the Democratic-controlled Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee supported having the money in the Veterans Affairs Department budget because the administration has not produced a draft bill for lawmakers to consider.
The $1 billion isn’t included in the federal budget guidelines passed by the House. The Senate has not passed an overall budget plan.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, said he doesn’t think the Veterans Job Corps is a good investment.
At a cost of $50,000 per veteran, the initiative would offer “no guarantee of a long-term position after government funding runs out,” Miller said.
In comparison, the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which provides up to one year of education benefits so unemployed veterans can learn a new, marketable skill, will cost $16,161 per veteran while preparing them for permanent jobs “in a high-demand industry such as manufacturing, technology and health care,” Miller said.
If Obama really wanted to help more veterans, he’d help promote the existing and fully funded program that will start paying benefits on July 1, Miller said.
VA officials said Thursday that of the 45,000 funded VRAP positions for 2012, only 12,200 people have applied. An additional 54,000 slots will open on Oct. 1.
There are eligibility differences between VRAP and the proposed Veterans Jobs Corps. VRAP is limited to unemployed veterans aged 35 to 60 who have exhausted their veterans’ education benefits; have not recently attended a federal, state or local job training program; and are not receiving veterans’ disability compensation with an inability to work being a factor in their disability rating.
The Veterans’ Job Corps would be open to veterans of all generations, White House officials said, but it is aimed chiefly at Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.