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REP. KATHLEEN RICE'S FIRST BILL WOULD BOOST VETERAN EMPLOYMENT AMONG FEDERAL CONTRACTORS

Bipartisan BRAVE Act would reward contractors that hire high rates of veterans, incentivize others to do the same

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Washington, March 16, 2015 | comments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, today introduced her first piece of legislation, a bipartisan bill that would increase rates of veteran employment at companies that receive federal contracts through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment (BRAVE) Act would allow the Secretary of the VA to give preference to companies that have high concentrations of veteran employees when awarding VA contracts, which will reward companies that make it a priority to provide veterans with meaningful employment opportunities and incentivize other companies to do the same. The bill’s co-lead sponsor is U.S. Representative Paul Cook (R-CA), a combat veteran of the Vietnam War who retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. Original co-sponsors include Veterans Affairs’ Committee members Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. The BRAVE Act has also been endorsed by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

“We have to make it a priority, in government and in the private sector, to fully invest in our veterans, invest in their potential to use their unique training and experience to excel in the civilian workforce,” said Congresswoman Kathleen Rice. “We can start by making sure that companies receiving VA contracts are fully committed to veteran employment, and this bill will help accomplish that by rewarding contractors who actively hire veterans and by creating an incentive for others to do the same. It’s important to me that the first bill I’ve introduced has balanced bipartisan support, and I’m confident we can get it to a vote and get it passed.”

Representative Cook said, “Although improvements have been made, post- 9/11 veterans still experienced higher unemployment rates in 2014 than the national average. It’s unacceptable that men and women who signed up to fight for their country are unable to find a job when they return home. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Representative Rice and address this problem head-on by incentivizing veteran employment.”

The full text of the bill is available here.

The Department of Veterans Affairs establishes long-term contracts with private businesses for medical equipment, supplies, services, and more. Currently, the VA gives preference for these contracts to veteran-owned small businesses, but not to businesses that actively employ veterans. The BRAVE Act would allow the VA to consider the proportion of veterans employed by a prospective contractor when awarding federal contracts. The VA is authorized for $19 billion in total procurement and contracting spending, so this bill would not induce any additional costs or burdens on the taxpayers. The bill provides oversight of VA contractors by requiring the debarment of any company that knowingly misrepresents the number or proportion of veterans they employ.

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