This week, two members of the Florida congressional delegation--Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Stephanie Murphy--teamed up on a bill to help active duty personnel leaving the military enter the civilian workforce.
On Tuesday, Curbelo and Murphy unveiled the “Better Access to Technical Training, Learning, and Entrepreneurship (BATTLE) for Servicemembers Act” which, they insist, “will better prepare departing servicemembers to attend college, learn a technical trade, or start a small business.” Murphy is the chief sponsor while Curbelo is cosponsoring the legislation.
As part of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) currently offered by the Defense Department, servicemembers moving into the civilian workforce can take two day workshops on higher education, skills training and entrepreneurship offered by various branches of the federal government. However, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), less than 15 percent of eligible servicemembers took part in the workshops in Fiscal Year 2016. Curbelo’s and Murphy’s proposal would make departing servicemembers participate in the workshops though they will be able to opt out of it if they so choose.
“As a nation, it’s our responsibility to help our servicemembers succeed, whether on the battlefield or in the workforce,” said Murphy. “America’s armed forces produce some of the most talented, well-trained, and tenacious individuals in the world, but too many of these warriors struggle to transition to civilian life. I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to better prepare our servicemembers to succeed in whatever civilian career they pursue following their military service.”
“We owe it to our servicemembers, and their families, to better help them transition back to the civilian job market,” Curbelo said. “We have a variety of programs available, though too many of these brave men and women are not aware they exist. While much work must still be done to help ensure they have successful and productive post-military careers, this legislation is a positive step forward in achieving those goals.”
Murphy took to the House floor on Tuesday to introduce her bill.
“Over 200,000 servicemembers are honorably discharged from the military each year. Many of them are under age 25, do not have a bachelor's degree, and leave the military without having secured a civilian job,” she said. “Under current law, the Department of Defense is required to ensure that eligible departing servicemembers participate in the Transition Assistance Program, or TAP. The content of TAP has evolved over the years, and continues to be the subject of vigorous debate in Congress and within DOD. As presently designed, TAP's mandatory core curriculum consists of a three-day employment workshop; six hours of briefings on veterans' benefits; and eight to 10 hours of briefings on topics such as translating military skills to civilian jobs and managing personal finances. Beyond this mandatory core curriculum, eligible servicemembers are also given the option to participate in a more specialized, two-day workshop in one of the following areas: higher education; technical and skills training; or entrepreneurship.
“In my view, the core curriculum is necessary, but not sufficient, to enable most departing servicemembers to successfully transition to the civilian world. I believe departing servicemembers should supplement the core curriculum with at least one of the two-day workshops, so they can receive training tailored to their specific personal and professional goals-whether that involves going to school, learning a trade, or starting a business,” Murphy continued.
“The problem is that these two-day workshops, precisely because they are optional, are rarely utilized. According to a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office, fewer than 15 percent of eligible active-duty servicemembers participated in one of the two-day workshops in Fiscal Year 2016, including only 4 percent of eligible Marines. Requiring transitioning servicemembers to opt in to a two-day workshop sends a signal to servicemembers and their commanders that the workshops are unnecessary-thereby discouraging participation.”
Murphy’s bill was sent to the House Armed Services Committee. Michigan Republican Jack Bergman and Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema are also cosponsoring the proposal. So far, there is no counterpart over in the Senate. The bill has the support of a number of groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Student Veterans of America and the Millennial Action Project.