Rep. Rice's Opening Statement on the BRAVE Act
From the March 24, 2015 House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity Legislative Hearing
Good afternoon. First I want to thank Chairman Wenstrup and Ranking Member Takano for holding this hearing. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve on this subcommittee, and I look forward to working together to solve problems for our veterans and ensure they have opportunities to succeed in civilian life.
One of the bills we’ll discuss today is H.R. 1382, the Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment Act – the BRAVE Act – which I introduced last week. This bill would authorize the VA Secretary, when awarding contracts, to give preference to companies with high concentrations of veteran employees – rewarding companies that actively employ veterans, and creating an incentive for other companies to do the same.
I want to thank my co-lead sponsor, Congressman Paul Cook from California, for his support. I also want to thank our original cosponsors – Ranking Member Takano and Congresswoman Radewagen, as well as our colleagues on the full Committee, Congressman Abraham and Congresswoman Kuster.
It’s very important to me that the first bill I’ve introduced in the House has balanced bipartisan support – and it’s even more important to our veterans that we work together in a bipartisan way to solve problems for the men and women who have served our country.
One of the biggest problems facing our veterans right now, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is finding good jobs in civilian life. We’ve seen progress in recent years, but the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans is still higher than the national average – and that’s completely unacceptable.
Our veterans have received the best training in the world. They have unique skills and experience that can’t be acquired anywhere but in the United States military. They have what it takes to excel in the civilian workforce – and they don’t need charity. They don’t need a handout. They just need the opportunity.
The BRAVE Act will reward companies that provide that opportunity – it gives them an advantage in securing federal contracts, and that creates an incentive for other contractors to step up and do the same, to make it a priority to actively invest in our veterans. And I have no doubt that as contractors hire more veterans, they’ll realize that it’s a smart investment.
That’s really what this bill is all about. We don’t just want people to hire veterans because it’s the right thing to do – we want them to realize it’s a smart investment. We want them to recognize that it’s in their own self-interest to actively hire men and women who are highly-trained, highly-skilled and know how to get the job done, whatever job it is.
That’s the goal. That’s how we’ll solve this problem and ensure that every single man and woman who served our country can find a good job and succeed in civilian life. And passing the BRAVE Act will help us get there.
I want to thank the witnesses who have taken the time to join us here today. I look forward to hearing your testimony, and I’m eager to work with you to advance this legislation and to help advance our veterans’ careers and educations in any way that I can.