03.11.20

Peters Bipartisan Bill to Expand Veterans Apprenticeship Opportunities Heads to the President’s Desk

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ (MI) bipartisan legislation to expand apprenticeship opportunities for veterans is headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law, after passing the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously today. The Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act – which Peters introduced with U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) – previously passed the U.S. Senate. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) championed the legislation in the House of Representatives. The bill would allow more veterans to use their GI bill benefits toward securing a registered apprenticeship. In Michigan alone, only a few hundred of the 1,000 registered apprenticeships listed as active by the Department of Labor (DOL) have been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Peters also partnered with Rick Donovan, a Michigan veteran in Oakland County and State Legislative Officer for the Polish Legion of American Veterans Department of Michigan, on this bipartisan bill after Donovan reached out to Peters to discuss the lack of apprenticeships that qualify under GI Bill benefits.

“Returning servicemembers should have every opportunity to gain access to the programs that can help them use their unique skillsets to earn good-paying jobs,” said Senator Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This commonsense measure would allow more of our nation’s returning heroes to use the benefits they have earned to secure quality apprenticeships, and I look forward to this bipartisan bill getting signed into law.”

"When we make the decision to send men and women to fight for our country, we make the decision to support them for the rest of their lives -- that means veterans should have every opportunity to enroll in an apprenticeship that connects them to good-paying jobs, and have expenses covered by their GI benefits,” Slotkin said. “This bill came straight from concerns raised by Michigan veterans — that only a small fraction of apprenticeship programs certified by the Department of Labor would accept GI benefits, and that too often veterans aren’t even aware their GI benefits can go toward high-skills training programs. Today, we're passing legislation that closes those gaps and makes our system work better for veterans. Senator Peters has championed this legislation in the Senate, and I couldn't be more proud to have supported his efforts to push it through the finish line in the House and to the President's desk."

“For our men and women in uniform to successfully transition into civilian life, they need to know all the opportunities available to them through apprenticeships,” Senator Capito said. “Expanding access to these work training programs will better prepare our veterans for their future careers. I’m grateful to Senator Peters for his bipartisan support, and I’m thrilled President Trump will be signing the bill into law soon.”

“Twenty six years ago I was able to use my Montgomery GI Bill to enter a registered apprenticeship and become a union sheet metal worker. In using my GI Bill to enter this apprenticeship I was able to receive a U.S. Department of Labor certificate for completion of apprenticeship. This certificate not only provided me opportunity and employment with a meaningful wage and other benefits – but a chance to use this training along with my military training to further my education,” said Rick Donovan, a veteran from Oakland County and State Legislative Officer, Polish Legion of American Veterans Department of Michigan. “With this bill going to the President’s desk to be signed into law, more veterans will know about apprenticeship opportunities and be able to fill good-paying jobs in not only my example of the union building trades such as Helmets to Hardhats, but in other fields: from health care to IT and beyond. I want to thank Senator Gary Peters and Representative Elissa Slotkin for moving this bill through Congress and for their leadership on this bill. They both saw how expanding opportunities for veterans to use their various forms of the GI Bill, by having more employers available to apply to and access their earned benefits would help veterans in obtaining meaningful employment across all sectors of our economy. To see a new law that could go into effect, after approaching lawmakers in my hometown who saw the potential of an idea – and then see how this idea gained bipartisan support – has been an incredible experience. I look forward to this bill helping more veterans to succeed after their service to our country.”

The bipartisan bill would take three commonsense steps to expand opportunities for veterans to use financial assistance in connection with a quality apprenticeship program:

  • New apprenticeship programs applying to register through the Department of Labor would need to provide a written assurance that they are aware of GI Bill assistance and committed to taking the steps to enable veteran apprentices to access these benefits.
  • Apprenticeships would need to factor the skills, training, and experiences gained through military service into where the veteran is placed in the program, which could mean a more advanced placement with higher apprentice wages.
  • The Department of Labor would need to notify the VA of newly registered apprenticeship programs. This would enable the VA to be more proactive in outreach to registered programs not yet approved for GI Bill benefits.

Peters has championed numerous efforts to help more Michiganders gain the skills needed to fill good-paying jobs. Among those efforts, his provisions to expand school counselor training and awareness of career and technical education opportunities that were signed into law by President Trump in 2018. Peters has led numerous efforts in the Senate to support Michigan veterans and servicemembers. Peters’ bipartisan provision was signed into law to help veterans who may have been erroneously given a less than honorable discharge from the military due to negative behavior resulting from mental traumas such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Peters also introduced and supported numerous bipartisan provisions that were signed into law to help our servicemembers and their families. He supported providing our troops with a 3.1% pay raise, repealing the ‘Widow’s Tax’ that had prevented Gold Star families from receiving their full survivor benefits, providing National Guardsmen a record of service after their retirement or completion of service, and improving coordination between various federal agencies to help veterans transition to civilian life. Last month, Peters again urged the Trump Administration to immediately lift the benefits freeze on veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. In addition, Peters introduced bipartisan legislation to significantly improve the VA’s Caregiver Program after the VA Office of the Inspector General recommended reforms to the program. Peters also helped introduce a bipartisan bill requiring servicemembers be assessed for exposure to toxic burn pits as part of their routine health exams and helped introduce the bipartisan Veterans Assistance Helpline Act to establish a three-digit hotline for veterans to gain assistance related to their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and other services.

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