Exploratory Paper. Toward Building an Associate s, Bachelor s, or Master s Degree Concentration in Veterans Programs Administration

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2 Exploratory Paper Toward Building an Associate s, Bachelor s, or Master s Degree Concentration in Veterans Programs Administration Darryl Kehrer, MPA 1 Consultant to Mississippi State University Robert H. Foglesong, President 2 September 11, Darryl Kehrer concluded 37 years of public service in 2005 as staff director, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Committee on Veterans Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives. He formerly directed two United States Commissions: Congressional Veterans Claims Adjudication Commission (PL ), as executive director; and Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance (PL ), as a staff director. He is a 1992 Woodrow Wilson Public Service Fellow representing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey.) He is a 1985 graduate of Leadership VA, the agency s executive development program. Kehrer has served as a guest presenter in public policy development at West Point, Air Force Academy, Syracuse University, and HS Truman Institute of National Affairs/University of Missouri at St. Louis. With M.J. McGrevey, he has assisted the late G.V. Montgomery in writing A Team of Many: The Seven-Year Legislative Journey of the Montgomery GI Bill, summer 2008, a book about the art of legislative leadership. 2. This paper is prepared at the direction of R.H. Foglesong, President, and M.J. McGrevey, Chief of Staff/Chief Financial Officer. 1

3 CONTENTS Acknowledgments Executive Summary Introduction Value of Creating a Degree Concentration or Certificate in Veterans Programs Administration at Mississippi State University How Creating the Degree Concentration or Certificate Program Addresses a Public Service Need Background on Administration of Veterans Programs Career Opportunities at Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and Other Valued Organizations Prospective Students and a National Veterans Programs Administration Institute A.A. Program Description A.A. Suggested Course Sequence A.A. Concentration-Specific Course Descriptions B.A. Program Description M.A. Program Description M.A. Suggested Course Sequence M.A. Concentration-Specific Course Descriptions

4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Veterans Benefits Administration Mississippi State University 3 Research and Curriculum Unit Ron Aument, Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits; Dennis Douglass, Deputy Director, Education Service; Dorothy Mackay, Director, Office of Employee Development and Training; Jack McCoy, Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits, Retired; Lynn Nelson, Assistant Director for Policy and Program Development, Education Service; James Palancher, Team Leader, Performance Management Team, Education Service; Bill Sanderson, Deputy Director, Office of Employee Development and Training; W.G. Susling, Assistant Director for Policy and Program Development, Education Service, Retired; Ted Van Hintum, Assistant Director for Program Management, Education Service; Veronica Wales, Director, Office of Human Resources; Devon Seibert, Program and Management Analyst for Regulations Development, Education Service; and Keith Wilson, Director, Education Service. Ms. Mackay also furnished a valued vision for workforce development. Dr. Dave Breaux, Professor and Head, Department of Political Science and Public Administration; Lorene Cox, Veterans Benefits and Programs Coordinator, Center for America s Veterans; Mike McGrevey, Chief of Staff and Chief Financial Officer, President s Office; Philip Oldham, former Dean, College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Peter Rabideau, Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs; Andrew Rendon, Assistant Dean and Director, Center for America s Veterans; Dr. Mike White, Dean of Students; Dr. Marty Wiseman, Professor and Director, John C. Stennis Institute of Government; and Ophelia Mitchell, Business Manager, Office of the President. The nationally recognized 4 Mississippi State University graduate program in political science served as a foundation for the paper, as did the Master of Public Policy and Administration curriculum design. Dr. Patti Abraham, Director; Dr. Stephanie King, Curriculum Coordinator; Dr. Cindy Morgan, Coordinator of Assessment and Accountability; Ashleigh Murdock, Editor; Kelly Agee, Editor; and Fabio Santos, Graphic Designer. Dr. Abraham, Dr. King, and Dr. Morgan also furnished helpful curriculum materials and valued technical guidance and program vision. 3. Also referred to as the University and as MSU in this paper. 4. Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, (accessed August 2, 2007). The University is among an elite group of universities in the nation to have received the Truman Honor Institution Award, granted by the Truman Foundation. Dr. Robert A. Bernstein, external reviewer and chair, Department of Political Science, Auburn University, who has studied many universities across the nation, writes, I have never seen a more successful undergraduate [political science] major program than at MSU. 3

5 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Paralyzed Veterans of America Disabled American Veterans Vietnam Veterans of America Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States The American Legion National Association of Veterans Program Administrators National Association of State Approving Agencies The Coalition for Professional Certification Office of Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment and Training Service Military Officers Association of America/Partnership for Veterans Education Other Assistance Published by Additional copies Douglas Vollmer, Deputy Executive Director David Gorman, Executive Director; Joe Violante, National Legislative Director; Brian Lawrence, Assistant National Legislative Director; and John Bradley III, Consultant Richard Weidman, Director of Government Relations Bob Wallace, Executive Director; Dennis Cullinan, Director, National Legislative Service; and Teresa Morris, Manager, Action Corps John Sommer, Executive Director, and Peter Gaytan, Director, National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission Jack Mordente, President; Faith DesLauriers, Legislative Chairperson; and David Guzman, Legislative Director James Bombard, Past President, and C. Donald Sweeney, Legislative Director Steven Halsey and Laurie Rains, Halsey, Rains, and Associates, L.L.C. Ronald Drach, Director of Strategic Planning and Legislative Affairs Col. Robert F. Norton (Ret.), Deputy Director, Government Relations Dan Nyseth and Dr. Marcelle Habibion Research and Curriculum Unit for Workforce Development Vocational and Technical Education Mississippi State University Mississippi State, MS Research and Curriculum Unit for Workforce Development Vocational and Technical Education Attention: Reference Room and Media Center Coordinator P.O. Drawer DX Mississippi State, MS https://cia.rcu.msstate.edu/curriculum/download.asp (662)

6 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This paper s purpose is to examine creating a concentration in veterans programs administration as part of a certificate program or part of a bachelor s or master s degree in public administration at Mississippi State University (MSU). It examines such an associate s degree at Mississippi s Virtual Community College as well. Lastly, it examines a role for a National Veterans Programs Administration Institute at MSU. The need for each of the degree offerings emerges broadly from three factors: The nation s longstanding commitment to America s military personnel, who have worn the uniform of the United States, in the form of veterans benefits and services designed to ease their transition to civilian life The large baby-boomer-age cohort, referring to those born between 1946 and 1964, is now 43 to 61 years old, and its workforce participation rates will decline substantially among current veterans programs administrators. A cadre of servicemembers, veterans, dependent widows/children, and current veterans programs professionals who may have an interest in pursuing the concentration full time or part time, in the classroom or online The nation s longstanding commitment to veterans is expressed, in part, through the 13,000-person workforce/$45.3 billion budget of Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Through 57 regional offices, each directed by a member of the Senior Executive Service, VBA administers non-medical benefits to about 3.5 million veterans and dependents per year. Such benefits include education and training, disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, non-service-connected pension, vocational rehabilitation, home loan, life insurance, burial, and others. State departments of Labor, Education, and Veterans Affairs administer programs and services also, and veterans service organizations (VSOs) chartered by Congress represent veterans in the benefits claims process. With the aging of VBA s workforce and the first wave of the 1946 baby-boom cohort beginning to retire, including in-state-administered programs and VSOs, opportunities representing responsible jobs and rewarding careers in veterans programs can be expected to become available in the near- to mid-term. VBA alone currently hires about 500 new employees per year. A cadre of persons potentially having an interest in pursuing a veterans programs administration degree or certificate program on a part- or full-time basis, in the classroom or online, would be derived from, for example: 798,000 active duty servicemembers who are pursuing degrees during off-duty hours on-base, on-ship, and online through the Department of Defense tuition assistance program; 165,000 Reservists pursuing degrees under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB); about 175,000 servicemembers discharged from the military each year, of whom about 71 percent, aggregating to about 340,000 annually, pursue postsecondary education using the MGIB; 69,000 disabled veterans currently pursuing postsecondary education under the VA s vocational rehabilitation program; and 78,000 dependent widows and children under the VA s dependents education program. 5

7 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY While these numbers do not measure specific interest in pursuing a career in veterans programs administration, the numbers offer an indication of the value that servicemembers and veterans place on education and training. Indeed, 2.1 million veterans have used the Montgomery GI Bill in transitioning to civilian life. 5 Pursuing the degree would by no means be limited to veterans alone. Augmenting the cadre are current veterans programs professionals whose employers, as a matter of professional development, may see merit in facilitating employee access to a full-time, 18-month in-residence master s program through a proposed MSU National Veterans Programs Administration Institute. The University of Colorado at Denver operates a National Veterans Employment and Training Services Institute through funds from the U.S. Department of Labor. Core coursework within the veterans programs administration concentration could be offered through (1) a Mississippi Virtual Community College A.A. degree; (2) an MSU M.A. degree; and/or (3) a certificate program through MSU s Division of Academic Outreach and Continuing Education. The courses would include the following, with some variations: The Veterans Benefits Administration: An Organizational History, The Department of Veterans Affairs: Structure, Functions, Issues National Veterans Benefits Policy Introduction to Leadership Introduction to Employee Training Techniques Legislating Veterans Benefits History of Veterans Benefits and Policy Administration Veterans Programs Delivery Systems Government Accountability in Veterans Programs Internship MSU s existing programs would add value to a concentration in veterans programs administration. Kiplinger s Personal Finance magazine named MSU a top 100 best buy among the nation s public colleges and universities. Plus, MSU offers in-state tuition to out-of-state veterans. Lastly, the University s G.V. Sonny Montgomery Center for America s Veterans, Stennis Institute of Government, Political and Congressional Research Center, Shackouls Honors College, and Appalachian Leadership Honors Program (Montgomery Chapter) would represent value-added resources for a degree concentration or certificate program in veterans programs administration. 5. Robert H. Foglesong, President, Mississippi State University, The Montgomery GI Bill: A 20-Year Economic Force, The Military Educator, August 2007,

8 INTRODUCTION During fall 2006, Mississippi State University President Doctor Bob Foglesong met informally with Daniel Cooper, Under Secretary for Benefits, United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Dr. Foglesong discussed the University s vision in creating and dedicating the G.V. Sonny Montgomery Center for America s Veterans with the under secretary, as well as other potential long-term initiatives to assist servicemembers, veterans, and dependent spouses/children. 6 VA administers most federal programs for U.S. military veterans. There are currently 24 million living veterans and 36.6 million dependents (spouses and children) of such veterans. VA s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which administers many of the programs addressed by the proposed degree concentrations, anticipates a $45.3 billion budget for FY This paper explores the feasibility and potential designs of an Associate of Arts (A.A.), Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), and/or Master of Arts (M.A.) degree with a concentration in veterans programs administration. 7 It also explores a certificate program. 8 The proposed concentration is specific to the administration of non-medical benefits and services. It does not address administering health-care services for veterans. Career opportunities for prospective program graduates would exist within many public and non-profit organizations, including the 13,000-person VBA workforce. ****** We anticipate this paper as the first step in a series of feedback iterations between potential employing organizations in veterans programs administration, as to skills and competencies sought, and Mississippi State University s academic departments. 6. Mississippi State University, FutureSTATE 2015: A Strategy for Mississippi State University to Become the Region s Most Respected Land-Grant Institution, September 2006, 18: Mississippi State University is establishing a Center for America s Veterans (CVA) to: recruit and support students who have served in the armed forces; make MSU the university-of-choice for veterans and their families who desire to complete a college degree; and perpetuate the legacy of Rep. Sonny Montgomery. See CVA s Web site at 7. Mississippi State University does not offer two-year degrees but develops curriculum for Mississippi community colleges through its Research and Curriculum Unit. See for more information. 8. See for a listing of nine certificate programs offered by the University. These include, for example, Geospatial and Remote Sensing Engineering, Environmental Sciences, and Criminal Justice and Corrections. 7

9 VALUE OF CREATING A DEGREE CONCENTRATION OR CERTIFICATE IN VETERANS PROGRAMS ADMINISTRATION AT MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY First, the concentration would honor and build on the legacy of 15-term Representative G.V. Sonny Montgomery and the GI Bill educational assistance program that bears his name. 9 Second, the concentration would build on the stature of the University s longstanding, national leadership roles. Building on the Montgomery Legacy The vision of G.V. Sonny Montgomery draws together three distinct dimensions of society: military veterans, a healthy domestic economy, and higher education. Allan W. Ostar, President of American Association of State Colleges and Universities, recognized Montgomery s wisdom and foresight in 1987 congressional testimony on legislation that would become the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) 10 : The GI Bill is an important aid to the quality of American education in general in that it provides confident, motivated students who bring a sense of responsibility to our Nation s college classrooms. The strength of our society is based on a strong and balanced relationship between three major elements of American life: the national defense, a productive healthy economy, and an effective system of education. America cannot be strong if any one leg of the three-legged stool is weak. In effect, the GI Bill is a model program for this triad. It strengthens all three. This program uses a military-higher education partnership which strengthens both partners, and our economy and society as well. In developing the legislation that ultimately would become the MGIB, Montgomery recognized and addressed a shift in the military demographic following discontinuation of the military draft in Responding to the services need for bright, highly motivated recruits, as well as to the post-military aspirations of recruits with these attributes and the U.S. s struggle to compete in a transformed world economy, the MGIB delivered on all three counts Two aspects of the Montgomery legacy not discussed in this paper include the Meridian-based Montgomery Foundation, which annually presents three $5,000 Montgomery Leadership awards to seniors at the University; and the G.V. Montgomery Institute, which promotes economic development in east Mississippi and west Alabama. 10. U.S. Senate, Committee on Veterans Affairs, Hearing on S. 12, 100th Cong., 1st sess., 48, Klemm Analysis Group, Inc., Final Report, Program Evaluation of the Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30 of Title 38 USC), April 17, For example, at 35, Klemm notes, According to DoD in fiscal year 1998, 96 percent of all enlisted accessions had enrolled. [ Enrolled means pay in $100 per month for 12 months to become Montgomery GI Bill eligible.] 1998 is the most recent 8

10 Veterans who, as servicemembers, elected to participate in the MGIB program have academic ambitions, as evidenced by their high degree of MGIB usage. 12 Historically, many veterans (and dependent children of servicemembers who die or are totally disabled from military service) have chosen careers with VA. A Veterans Programs Administration degree concentration or certificate program from the University would serve not only the career aspirations of MGIB-eligible veterans inclined toward serving fellow veterans, but also the workforce needs of VA and other valued veteran-serving organizations. The proposed program, while of natural interest to the large population of recently discharged veterans, would not be restricted solely to veteran-students. The need for career candidates with knowledge specific to veterans benefits and administration appears to be growing and traditionally has been undeveloped. 13 The proposed academic offerings could address this need. Building on the University s National Leadership Roles The University s national stature is publicly documented: In 2007, Kiplinger s Personal Finance magazine once again named the University as one of the top 100 best values among the nation s public colleges and universities. 14 Three University faculty members in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration have won Honors Professor of the Year awards for teaching excellence. Recent Master of Public Policy and Administration graduates have achieved Presidential Management Internships with the departments of the Army and Navy and other federal entities. Political Science major and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Aaron Rice was one of 65 students in the nation named a 2007 Harry S Truman Scholar. year Klemm cited in its report. Current enrollment rates are about percent annually. At 136, Klemm notes that [m]ore than two-thirds of surveyed MGIB participants stated that the educational benefit was an important incentive to join the Service. Also, at 44 in Table 19: Demographics of Study Population and Survey Respondents, Klemm notes that of 389,225 servicemembers, only 2.9 percent scored in Category IV on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (meaning at a level of below average in trainability.) Further, at ii, Klemm observes that [t]he Federal Government realizes a sizable financial return on its investment for [MGIB] benefit users... The ratio of Government benefits to cost is more than $2 received for every $1 spent. Private returns are even higher (more than $7 to $1). Lastly, at vi, Klemm observes that MGIB users have more success in the labor market than non-users, an indication that the MGIB contributes to enhancing the Nation s competitiveness. 12. See the Prospective Students and a National Veterans Programs Administration Institute section of this paper, No higher education institution offers a veterans programs administration-specific concentration in public administration. The VA, among others, currently must provide VA-specific legal, program management, and administrative training. 14. University Relations News Bureau, MSU Continues Best Value Listing by Kiplinger s Magazine, (accessed June 21, 2007). Kiplinger selects schools that are noteworthy for their combination of top-flight academics and affordable costs. Kiplinger s considers academic measures that include freshman retention rates, student-faculty ratios, and four- and six-year graduation rates. Measures of cost include total and average costs, as well as average percentage of need met by financial aid. 9

11 The University s Stennis Institute of Government, Political and Congressional Research Center, Stennis Center for Public Service, and Shackouls Honors College 15 represent unique, valueadded resources. The University s G.V. Sonny Montgomery Center for America s Veterans and the Sonny Montgomery chapter of the Appalachian Leadership Honors Program represent value-added services and opportunities. Summary Several compelling reasons to offer a Veterans Programs Administration degree or certificate at MSU include the following: A common bond (the legacy of Sonny Montgomery allies the University, the military, and veterans as economic assets) National stature (the leadership of the University in affordability, academic excellence, and value-added learning resources) Economics (arguably, no discernible ongoing supply of employment candidates with veterans programs-specific skills and knowledge exists) Preparing students for careers in public service, an opportunity to promote high-quality service, in Mississippi starts with its high schools. Mississippi Career Pathways are aligned with 16 National Career Clusters established by the U.S. Department of Education. Such clusters provide a way for schools to organize instruction. One such national cluster is government and public administration. In Mississippi, the human services cluster produces valued public service skills Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, Welcome, (accessed August 31, 2007). The Shackouls Honors College draws regional and national attention because of its size and structure. Though the College includes over 1,000 students, Honors classes are typically limited to no more than twenty students. Students receive individualized instruction from faculty members who challenge them to explore their potential. 16. Mississippi Department of Education, Redesigning Education for the 21 st Century Workforce: A Plan for Mississippi, MDE Brief 2, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 7, 14,

12 HOW CREATING THE DEGREE CONCENTRATION OR CERTIFICATE PROGRAM ADDRESSES A PUBLIC SERVICE NEED The government s financial obligation to military veterans is very large, and it is growing. 17 The federal benefits programs for veterans of the U.S. armed forces are unique. 18 VA is the primary organization that administers these programs. 19 Veterans benefits policy encompasses a large body of statutes, 20 regulations, 21 court decisions, 22 internal legal opinions, and procedural guidance. Knowledge of other federal programs is not readily transferable to veterans programs. For example, Social Security and other major disability programs are typically based on a fairly broad entitlement determination: the applicant is determined to be either disabled, and therefore entitled to benefits, or not disabled, and therefore not entitled to benefits. Rules governing VA s disability program recognize, and pay benefits based upon, small differences in disability. Disability compensation is payable for partial disability in increments of 10 percent. It is not necessary to be totally disabled to receive benefits under this program. Unique Programs and Skills Administering unique benefits and services (as discussed later in this paper) costing $45.3 billion annually requires an array of highly specialized skills and abilities among VBA s 13,000-person workforce. Postsecondary institutions currently offer several public administration concentrations and specializations, such as the following 23 : Public safety administration Environmental programs administration Human resources administration Non-profit administration/management Health policy administration Urban administration Criminal justice administration Election administration 17. Analyses by, and publications of, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, Government Executive Magazine, and various national think tanks have documented this growth in real dollars during approximately the past five years. 18. While many U.S. veterans programs are similar in nature to social programs for the general population, veterans programs are governed by a vast, comprehensive set of rules that is separate and distinct from any other social program. In addition, VA offers many programs exclusive to the military/veteran experience (for example, benefits for specific illnesses associated with exposure to mustard gas, ionizing radiation, or herbicide agents under specific, proscribed circumstances that could only apply to veterans). See 38 CFR for information about benefits in this program category. Post-traumatic stress syndrome, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and cold weather injuries also represent VA programs that are fairly exclusive to military service. 19. Others are the departments of Labor and Defense; Small Business Administration; Office of Personnel Management; state departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor, and Education; community-based veterans service organizations; not-for-profit organizations; etc. 20. Title 38, United States Code. 21. Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations. 22. United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Washington, D.C. 23. See the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration for a listing of these types of specializations/concentrations: 11

13 Value-added Effect Since 1973, the U.S. military has consisted entirely of volunteers. Veterans programs are especially important to the national defense. The way veterans are perceived to be treated by the government has a substantial effect on the military services ability to recruit members. Expertise in veterans programs administration serves the need to ensure effectiveness and results for public dollars invested in such programs. A recent poll shows that Americans have more confidence in the military, a producer of veterans, than in business, industry, health care, banking, law, education, national elected officials, media, or any other profession. 24 These data suggest a likelihood of broad public support for the proposed degree programs. Specialized training in veterans programs administration could lead to the development of national guidelines for such specializations as well as occupational, credentialing requirements for veterans programs administrators. In this way, the academic concentration could contribute to defining the professional discipline of veterans programs administration. 25 Congressional design and VA administration of some veterans programs have come under scrutiny of late, with a major concern being potential variation in disability benefit entitlement decisions across geographic jurisdictions and a large number of pending disability compensation claims. 26 An academic focus on administration of veterans benefit programs could provide Congress, in particular, with an additional tool to promote responsive policies. This is a value that should be of interest not only to veterans but also to taxpayers and other stakeholders. The proposed degree concentrations and certificate program are not designed to address the health-care element of the VA s mission/workforce development requirements. Degree programs in health-care administration are already widely and routinely offered as preparation for careers in private and publicly administered health-care programs. VA is the nation s largest provider of health-care education and training for medical residents and health-care trainees. 27 U.S. medical schools/teaching hospitals have a longstanding working affiliation with VA medical centers. 24. The National Leadership Index 2005: A National Study of Confidence in Leadership, conducted by TSC, a division of Yankelovich, Inc. survey organization, for US News & World Report and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The survey asked adults about the state of leadership in the U.S. today. It found that Americans have more confidence in their military and military leaders than any other segment of American society. The point of contact is Hal Quinley, Ph.D., Yankelovich, Inc. Telephone: The Coalition for Professional Certification is the national credentialing entity that has taken the lead with respect to licensing and credentialing matters affecting servicemembers and veterans. See for selected expert testimony. 26. See for a summary of such issues, legislation, and oversight. 27. Department of Veterans Affairs, Facts About the Department of Veterans Affairs, 2, (July 2007), (accessed May 11, 2007). VA facilities are affiliated with 107 medical schools and 55 dental schools. 12

14 BACKGROUND ON ADMINISTRATION OF VETERANS PROGRAMS Veterans benefits had their genesis in the American Revolution. The Continental Congress, by means of a resolution passed on August 26, 1776, promised pensions to soldiers and officers who were disabled during their course of service. 28 Peter Drucker, 29 a pre-eminent authority on leadership, acknowledged two modern-day veterans benefits as the United States most successful domestic programs, having helped make the United States the world s first predominantly middle-class nation: the World War II GI Bill education and home-buying programs. 30 As discussed, VA is a cabinet-level department and is the largest civilian agency employer in the federal government. 31 Given its workforce size and the comprehensive nature of its mission, VA would clearly be the largest employer to benefit from the enrichment of the labor pool with veterans programs skills. VA s potential customer base includes approximately 24 million veterans, 36.6 million dependents (spouses and children) of living veterans, and 538,000 survivors of deceased veterans receiving VA survivor benefits. 32 Organization The Department of Veterans Affairs comprises three major organizational elements, each headed by an under secretary: Veterans Health Administration (VHA) operates the largest health-care delivery system in America. 33 Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), perceived as a primary market for graduates of the proposed degree program, administers benefits and services for veterans and dependents. VBA employs 13, of VA s 218, person workforce (most VA employees work for VHA, which is not a focus of this paper). 28. Department of Veterans Affairs, The Veterans Benefits Administration: An Organizational History, , November 1995, 5. Various researchers from the Library of Congress helped write this publication. 29. Peter Drucker, Post-Capitalist Society (Collins, 1994), quoted in Michael Bennett, When Dreams Came True: The GI Bill and the Making of Modern America (New York: Brassey s Press, 1996), 7. The GI Bill of Rights and the enthusiastic response to it on the part of America s veterans signaled the shift to a knowledge society. Future historians may consider it the most important event of the 20 th century. We are clearly in the middle of this transformation [in 1993]; indeed if history is any guide, it will not be completed until 2010 or But already it had changed the political, economic, and moral landscape of the world. 30. Ibid. 31. Vice President, Department of Veterans Affairs: Executive Summary, Report of the National Performance Review, (September 7, 1993): 1, (accessed May 11, 2007). 32. Department of Veterans Affairs, FY 2008 Congressional Budget Submission, Volume IV, Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents, 2007 ed., 1. Prepared by the Office of Public Affairs. Brochure, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, VA operates the nation s largest integrated health care system with more than 1,400 sites of care, including hospitals, community clinics, nursing homes, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers, and various other facilities. For additional information on VA health care, visit The vast majority of VA employees work for VHA. 34. Department of Veterans Affairs, FY 2008 Congressional Budget Submission, Volume II, 6A Ibid., Volume IV,

15 VBA is responsible for $45.3 billion 36 in veterans benefits entitlements, as part of VA s $86.75 billion 37 annual budget. The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) operates a nationwide system of veterans cemeteries. 38 Program Services Not a regulatory agency, VA furnishes monetary benefits and direct services to more Americans than any public entity other than the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. For example, in 2006: 5.5 million patients used VA s health-care system; million veterans and dependents received veterans benefits; 40 and 2.8 million veterans gravesites were maintained at 156 VA cemeteries and other VA-affiliated cemetery locations. 41 As a steward of the public trust, VA tracks its mission performance and reports annually to Congress on more than 150 performance-based outcome measures. 42 National Not-for-Profit Advocacy Organizations Veterans service organizations (VSOs) 43 are chartered by the United States Congress and offer a unique, valueadded dimension in helping veterans file claims for benefits. The VSOs possess significant expertise in veterans benefits policy. Historically, Congress has called upon them often so as to use their expertise in writing veterans benefits law. 36. Ibid., Volume IV, Department of Veterans Affairs, FY 08 Landmark VA Budget Request Highlights, (February 5, 2007), under Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, (accessed May 11, 2007). 38. Ibid., 3. The National Cemetery Administration has an operating budget of $167 million and employs about 1,500 persons. 39. Department of Veterans Affairs, Fiscal Year 2006 Performance and Accountability Report, (November 15, 2006): 1, under Office of Budget, (accessed May 11, 2007). 40. Ibid., Ibid. 42. Department of Veterans Affairs, Fiscal Year 2006 Performance and Accountability Report, (November 15, 2006): 1, under Office of Budget, (accessed May 11, 2007). 43. Examples include, but are not limited to, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, The American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, AMVETS, and others. Such organizations maintain offices at VA s 57 regional offices. 14

16 CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AT VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION (VBA) AND OTHER VALUED ORGANIZATIONS Members of the large baby-boom cohort, those born between 1946 and 1964, are now 43 to 61 years old, and their workforce participation rates will decline substantially. With the aging of VBA s workforce, for example, and the first wave of the 1946 baby-boom 44 cohort beginning to retire, many opportunities representing responsible jobs and rewarding careers in public service can be expected to become available in the near- to mid-term. More specifically, 44 % of all federal workers will become eligible to retire over the next five years, creating a federal brain drain that threatens to dramatically diminish the federal government s effectiveness in meeting urgent public needs. 45 Because of the baby-boom effect, the U.S. population in 2012 will have more people of ages and fewer people of ages Currently, VBA nationwide hires about 500 new employees per year. 47 achievement in its qualification requirements. 48 VBA requires superior academic Career Placement Veterans programs administration graduates should be competitive for entry-level to intermediate-level job placement in the following areas: Veterans Benefits Administration, generally as veterans service representatives or claims adjudicators in the disability compensation, pension, education (GI Bill), vocational rehabilitation and employment, home loan guaranty, and life insurance programs President, Economic Report of the President (February 12, 2007): Transmitted to the Congress February 2007 together with The Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisors. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2007, (accessed June 21, 2007). This wave of baby-boom cohort retirements is going to continue for many years. 45. [Proposed] U.S. Public Service Academy, Why We Must Act Now, (accessed July 13, 2007). 46. President, Economic Report of the President (February 12, 2007): Transmitted to the Congress February 2007 together with The Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisors. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2007, (accessed June 21, 2007). 47. Bill Sanderson, Deputy Director, Employee Development and Training, Veterans Benefits Administration, interview by author, April 24, USA Jobs, Veterans Benefits Administration, AVSDM+2007 (accessed July 9, 2007). For example, for a Veterans Service Representative, the candidate must possess an undergraduate degree and meet one of the following: Ranked in upper one third of college class; earned election to a national honor society; earned a GPA of 2.95 or higher on all undergraduate courses or all such courses completed during the final two years; or earned a GPA of 3.45 or higher on all courses in the major or all such courses completed in the major during the final two years. 49. Additional professional opportunities are available in information technology, fiscal and financial management, procurement, administrative services, human resources, employee training, and other areas. 15

17 Veterans Employment and Training Service of the U.S. Department of Labor 50 and state departments of Labor, at Employment Security offices as Local Veterans Employment Representatives or Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialists 51 Postsecondary educational institutions, as veterans affairs officers or program administrators for special-purpose programs, such as Veterans Upward Bound 52 State departments of Education through state approving agencies 53 that approve education and training, employer, and occupational licensing and credentialing entities for veterans training under VA educational assistance programs State departments of Veterans and/or Military Affairs, as program managers or service officers 54 Veterans service organizations chartered by Congress, as veterans service officers 55 Department of Defense contractors, as education service officers or Transition Assistance Program managers 56 To a smaller degree, career opportunities would exist with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and the Veterans Business Development Corporation in administration of various statutory programs for servicemembers and veterans. 50. Most of these federally employed persons serve as state director or assistant state director of veterans employment and training in each state; their role primarily is one of furnishing technical assistance, and monitoring and compliance of state-furnished veterans employment and training services rather than providing the service itself. 51. These are statutory positions set forth in title 38, United States Code. Congress appropriates funds to the states for such purposes through contracts administered by the Department of Labor. 52. During the Vietnam era, Congress furnished funds for campus-based offices of Veterans Affairs through the Veterans Cost of Instruction Program administered by the U.S. Office of Education. Congress no longer funds this program. However, Congress currently furnishes funds to institutions on a competitive basis to administer Veterans Upward Bound. The Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, administers Veterans Upward Bound. 53. Such agencies originated after World War II and are mandated by Congress in title 38, United States Code. Congress appropriates funds to the states for such purposes via contracts administered by VBA. 54. National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, (accessed June 21, 2007). Each year state governments furnish more than $3.5 billion in benefits and services to support veterans and their families. 55. Examples include the Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, The American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, AMVETS, and others. 56. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Hearing on Review of Actions Taken on the 1999 Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance Report, 109th Cong., 2nd Sess., December 7, 2006, 11. The Department of Defense funds 305 education centers at U.S. military bases worldwide; 1,700 DoD education professionals coordinate the degree programs, including in Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. 16

18 PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS AND A NATIONAL VETERANS PROGRAMS ADMINISTRATION INSTITUTE Candidacy for admission to the proposed concentration within the A.A., B.A., or M.A. degree and a certificate program would be open to both non-veterans and veterans. However, one might anticipate significant interest in the concentration from veterans and their dependents because of personal/family commitments and concerns. For example, this group already makes up a significant percentage of VBA s workforce. Further, military service and GI Bill usage often have the effect of introducing servicemembers to the ethic of continued public service and civic leadership as well. 57, 58 The majority of potential students likely would emerge from eight groups, most of whom bring with them an earned financial aid package: Recently Discharged Veterans About 175,000 servicemembers are discharged from military service annually having fulfilled their military obligations. 59 About 71 percent 60 of veterans will use Montgomery GI Bill benefits of about $39,636 per veteran over four academic years for postsecondary education. Veterans have 10 years to use such benefits. Currently, 340,813 veterans and servicemembers are using the MGIB, 61 and 2.1 million have used it since its inception Suzanne Mettler, Soldiers to Citizens: The GI Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation (Oxford University Press, 2005). See primarily Introduction: Civic Generation, Chapter 5: Fostering Social Opportunity, Chapter 6: Creating Active Citizens, and Chapter 7: Making Democracy. 58. Suzanne Mettler, interview with author, July 14, Mettler observes that she conducted surveys with over 1,000 World War II veterans. [Her] analysis reveals that GI Bill beneficiaries became intensely involved in the civic renaissance that characterized post-war democracy. Veterans who used the GI Bill belonged to 50 percent more civic organizations and participated in 30 percent more political activities/organizations than did non-gi Bill recipients. Note: In two subsequent 2005 discussions with the paper s author, Mettler observed that she believes that if surveyed, current veterans would exhibit the same percentages of civic and political leadership. 59. Author s estimate is based on personal knowledge. The number varies each year and thus represents an annual average. Depending on the number of Reservists discharged annually, it can reach 225, Department of Veterans Affairs, FY 2008 Congressional Budget Submission, Volume II, 6C-8. Since 420 military occupational skills are transferable to civilian life, some veterans do not need to use MGIB benefits. 61. Ibid., 2B T.A. Van Hintum, Veterans Benefits Administration, memorandum to author, April 17,

19 Disabled Veterans Currently, 69,406 disabled veterans are enrolled in postsecondary education and training under the VA s vocational rehabilitation program. 63 Disabled veterans can enroll in any educational institution in America, limited only by their own aspirations, abilities, and initiative; the Department of Veterans Affairs pays tuition, books, and fees outright, as well as a monthly educational assistance allowance. Spouses and Dependent Children of Servicemembers (who die or are totally disabled from military service) Currently, 78,133 dependents are enrolled in postsecondary education under this VA program; 67,620 are children, and 11,513 are widows or widowers. 64 Dependent benefits generally are similar to MGIB benefits but provide five academic years of entitlement rather than four. Active-duty Servicemembers Assertions that Americans who make up the United States professional All-Volunteer Force are college dropouts, are not well suited for college, or serve due to no other options do not comport with fact. 65 During Fiscal Year 2006, an impressive 798,971 active-duty servicemembers were pursuing associate s, bachelor s, or master s degrees during off-duty, on-base, on-ship, and online hours. 66 The Department of Defense funds such programs under its Tuition Assistance Program, as mandated by title 10 United States Code Department of Veterans Affairs, FY 2008 Congressional Budget Submission, Volume II, 2B Ibid. 65. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Hearing on Review of Actions Taken on the 1999 Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance Report, 109th Cong., 2nd Sess., December 7, 2006, Department of Defense, Voluntary Education Fact Sheet FY 2006, under DoD Voluntary Education, (accessed May 11, 2007). These numbers do not include students who are enrolled in ROTC programs or service academies or who are attending military occupational specialty schools administered by the service branches. During FY 2005, 819,256 servicemembers pursued such degrees. Neither the FY 2005 or FY 2006 numbers include the Coast Guard. The Department of Homeland Security funds tuition assistance for the Coast Guard. 67. Ibid. Servicemembers used $430.9 million in such benefits during FY 2006; during off-duty hours, 26,663 servicemembers earned associate s degrees, 7,958 earned baccalaureate degrees, and 8,822 earned master s degrees. 18

20 Mississippi State University is a longstanding member of the Servicemembers Opportunity College, a nationwide consortium of institutions that address the unique challenges servicemembers sometimes face in pursuing off-duty education. In some cases, servicemembers might be unable to attend classes in person but could enroll in a veterans programs administration concentration online. This scenario is unlikely to deter those interested in pursuing the degree. Servicemembers are computer literate and technologically savvy. 68, 69 Reservists 70 During Fiscal Year 2006, 165,956 Reservists were pursuing postsecondary training under the Montgomery GI Bill. 71 Current VBA Employees VBA has no readily available data showing how many of its 13,000-person workforce are pursuing degrees part time for professional development or upward mobility purposes. Ordinarily, the VA offers tuition assistance to employees only for courses/programs that are directly relevant to performance of their current jobs through the longstanding Government Employees Training Act (GETA) administered by the Office of Personnel Management. 72 Since the veterans programs concentration would enhance their VA job skills, it is quite possible that some current employees would enroll in one of the three proposed concentrations constituting a degree program. Online instruction would appear to best serve this group as well. 73 Current State Department of Labor Employees The individual states employ 2, Local Veterans Employment Representatives and Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialists through a system of 3,500 one-stop career centers. 68. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Hearing on Review of Actions Taken on the 1999 Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance Report, 109th Cong., 2nd Sess., December 7, 2006, Representative Henry E. Brown, Jr., House Committee on Veterans Affairs, press conference on veterans as competitive business asset/unique national resource, March 24, 2004, Washington, D.C.: Representative Brown asked rhetorically, In what other aspects of our society do technology-savvy 20-year-olds maintain multimillion-dollar tactical aircraft; navigate and trouble-shoot multibillion-dollar nuclear-powered ships; and operate and maintain space-based technologies to keep us safe in an increasingly unsafe world? 70. This includes National Guard and Air National Guard members as well. 71. Department of Veterans Affairs, FY 2008 Congressional Budget Submission, Volume II, B Office of Personnel Management, The Government Employees Training Act (GETA), Training Policy Handbook, under Training and Development Policy, (accessed July 12, 2007). Training opportunities under GETA programs shall be designed to lead to A. improved public service, B. dollar savings, C. the building and retention of a permanent cadre of skilled and efficient Government employees, D. lower turnover of personnel, E. reasonably uniform administration of training, and F. fair and equitable treatment of Government employees. 73. See for information on four online degrees offered by the University. See for information on an online MBA offered to the Mississippi National Guard. 74. John Dowling, Department of Labor Ensures Companies Hire Veterans First, G.I. Jobs Online (May 2006), (accessed August 2, 2007). 19

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