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VIDEO: Senator Peters Advocates for Veterans Apprenticeships & Presses for Updates on Important Michigan VA Investigations During Hearing with VA Secretary McDonough

WASHINGTON, DC – During a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis R. McDonough, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) received an update on the VA’s efforts to promote apprenticeship opportunities that are available to veterans through their GI bill benefits. In 2020, bipartisan legislation authored by Peters was signed into law to expand veterans access to financial assistance for apprenticeship programs, while also requiring apprenticeships to factor a veteran’s military service into where they are placed.  

“As servicemembers transition into civilian life, it’s absolutely critical that they have the tools and the job training they need to be successful in that transition,” said Senator Peters during the hearing. “But the fact remains that for veterans to use their GI Bill benefits on these programs, they have to actually be aware of apprenticeships in the first place, and how those GI funds can be used to help them get that training to transition.”

Peters went on to highlight that a provision he supported in Fiscal Year 2023 funding legislation directed the VA to take additional action to promote apprenticeship programs for veterans, and asked Secretary McDonough what the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is doing to increase awareness of what apprenticeship opportunities exist for veterans.

In response, Secretary McDonough confirmed that outreach to veterans regarding apprenticeship opportunities is ongoing, and ensured he will provide Peters with updated statistics on the program as data becomes available.

To watch the full video of Senator Peters’ questioning, click HERE or below.  

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During the hearing, Peters additionally underscored the importance of two VA Inspector General investigations related to events occurring in Michigan, including the tragic death of Ian Fishback, a veteran from Michigan. While that investigation is ongoing, Peters secured Secretary McDonough’s commitment to implement the Inspector General’s recommendations across the VA once the investigation concludes.

“You and I have spoken repeatedly about my concerns regarding the case of Ian Fishback,” said Senator Peters. “Ian is a native Michigander, who tragically passed away in 2021 following a decline in his mental health as he and his family and friends worked, and worked very hard, to gain him admittance to a VA medical facility. I was pleased when VA opened an Inspector General investigation into his case last summer following our conversations.”

Peters also asked for an update into implementation of the Inspector General’s recommendations for the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit. In 2022, after learning of a crisis in both care and leadership at the facility, Senators Peters and Stabenow called on the VA to conduct an independent investigation, which was launched shortly thereafter. The findings of that report also led Peters to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at ensuring neutrality and accountability in the VA’s peer review process.

Secretary McDonough confirmed that while work is ongoing, many recommendations from the Inspector General’s report have been implemented, resulting in improved care for veterans visiting the medical center.

Senator Peters has long supported Michigan’s military veterans and has worked to ensure they receive the care and benefits they have earned. Just this week, the Senate unanimously passed Peters’ Keeping Military Families Together Act, which would grant the VA permanent authority to bury spouses and dependent children of members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty at the time of their death. In the most recent government funding legislation, Peters helped secure $171 million for the State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program, which provides states with funding to construct, renovate, or repair state owned and operated veterans homes. Last year, Peters announced that the State of Michigan received $57 million from this program to support construction of a new State Veterans Home in Marquette to replace the existing D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans. Peters has long advocated for funding this program, including during a hearing with VA Secretary McDonough in 2023.