Loya-Sears Bill 2018-04-24T18:35:38-04:00


The “Loya-Sears Warrior Transition Assistance Reform Act of 2018” was introduced by Congressman Bacon (R-NE) on April 18, 2018, and requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide an action plan to improve the DOD Transition Assistance Program (TAP) by mandating earlier pre-separation counseling, standardizing curriculum, increasing participation rates, and improving transition assistance resources. The bill also requires the development and measurement of long-term metrics to assess outcomes and provide continuous feedback to DOD transition assistance program managers, in coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor. The status of H.R. 5553 can be viewed on Congress.gov.

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The unorthodox name of this proposed legislation represents a bridge between what is and what could have been. Sgt. Ryan Loya, a Purple Heart recipient, served ten years Marine Corps infantry. Upon separating in March 2017, he enrolled at NYU and is a Producer at global advertising firm FCB. He will also launch the IPG network’s first Veteran hiring initiative this year. Sgt. Jeremy Sears, who served alongside Ryan, died by suicide after he could not find gainful employment for two years. Both Ryan and Jeremy suffer from combat related PTSD and TBI, yet both have drastically different outcomes.

The Loya-Sears Bill of 2018 Proposes Five Action Items:

  • TAP courses must be started by eligible servicemembers planning to transition out of the military at the onset of their last year of current contract (with no plans to reenlist).
  • Servicemembers separating at the end of a normal term of service (Expiration of Term of Service, ETS, or Expiration of Active Obligated Service, EAOS) cannot be excluded.
  • Mandating TAP to start at the onset of a servicemember’s final year allows proper time to implement classroom curriculum, execute job search, internship, apprenticeship or university applications, and/or small business preparations.
  • Starting earlier improves participation rates, since less than 50% of all eligible servicemembers currently complete TAP on time (90 days or more before separation).
  • Starting earlier allows TSMs to take additional courses.
  • Starting earlier reduces the reliance on online training, allowing TSMs to gain a more enriching experience from on-site training.
  • Starting earlier has the capacity to increase military spouse participation, thus improves military family wellness.
  • Mandate all five active duty branches to align Transition Assistance Program, so that TSMs receive universal preparation regardless of installation.
    • Currently, military branches have varying attendance rates and performance outcomes. Some installations welcome corporate speakers during TAP, or require resumes to be completed and submitted for review, whereas other installations do not.
  • Standardizing TAP supports a level of equity, thereby reducing systemic disparities in outcomes among branches and installations. This in turn, allows for critical analysis in identifying underperforming installations.
  • While a one-size fits all approach is not suggested, creating a baseline will enable TAP to better meet expectations of TSMs, educators, community, and politicians.
  • A majority of TSMs return to their home of record, or move elsewhere from where they are stationed. Standardizing TAP reduces limitations set forth by presenting only local job opportunities. Expanding corporate engagement to a national level enhances career opportunities and exploration for TSMs.
  • To further strengthen TAP, a standardized Individual Transition Plan must be completed one year prior to separation, with preseparation counseling expanded to 12 hours (one hour session per month) to monitor progress.
    • Assigned transition counselor must work with TSM to verify he or she remains on track, and troubleshoot if not.
    • Preseparation counseling progress reports to be delivered quarterly to make facilitating and tracking progress manageable and useful.
    • Six months prior to separation, at minimum, preseparation counselor and TSM should finalize track he or she will pursue.
  • Current TAP courses are five days long, with curriculum split between VA and DOL. The result is information overload and shortened timeframe to implement learning. Expanding duration of TAP can alleviate the compounding stress of separation anxiety and confusion from an accelerated course.
  • Expand basic teachings, such as resume building, interviewing, salary negotiations and networking, into multi-level courses, each expanding on the previous class, with hands on practice. This ensures a stronger level of understanding of materials learned and effective utilization.
  • TSMs who generate strong outputs (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, send out job applications more frequently) are more likely to be hired, which will reduce unemployment benefit payouts, financial strains and risk of homelessness.
    • Glassdoor: On average, every corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes, but only 4 to 6 of these people will be called for an interview, and only 1 of those will be offered a job.
    • Careerbuilder: 61 percent of recruiters will automatically dismiss a resume because it contains typos.
    • Wall Street Journal: 50 percent of applicants for a typical job fail to meet the basic qualifications for that job because only 50 to 76 seconds was spent assessing the position description itself.
    • Google, the firm with a No. 1 employer brand, gets well over 1 million applicants per year. During robust hiring periods when it hires 4,000 people a year, odds of getting hired are an amazingly low 4/10 of 1 percent.
  • TSMs on a Transition Career Track, must be eligible to attend, at minimum, five networking events and/or job interviews anywhere in the United States in their final twelve months, with the first completed no later than 6 months prior to separation.
  • Expand the current resilient transition portion of TAP (1 hour) into a full day of mental and physical health education as a preventative measure, spotlighting existing programs, many of which are underutilized.
  • Dedicating more time to resilient transition has the capacity to create greater reception from TSMs regarding mental health and wellness services available to them. It allows TSMs to begin processing their combat experiences prior to separation, for example, and understand that feelings and reactions to combat are normal. Counseling and treatment is beneficial to all veterans, regardless of their mental health status.
  • Resilient transition must include a VA Mental Health professional to discuss barriers to re-entry, while introducing VA and VSO services that produce great benefits for Veterans regardless of PTSD or suicidal diagnosis. Issues like anxiety, depression,
    and hyper-vigilance are common for Veterans, thus a mental health professional can help begin to address these issues, while discouraging stigmas. Mental health requires exercise and maintenance just like physical fitness.
  • Resilient transition must include a VA Recreational and Sports Therapist to discuss the range of sports available to them that the VA and VSOs can help facilitate (i.e. horseback riding, weightlifting, swimming, rock climbing, etc.). This keeps the Veteran active in a way that is fun and sustainable, allows potential interactions with other Veterans, and creates opportunities to involve spouses and family members.
  • Implementing metrics and benchmarks is necessary to understand and improve short and long-term outcomes. It allows the DOD, VA, DOL, and other agencies, to establish baselines, define best practices, identify and prioritize improvement opportunities and even create a competitive environment within those transitioning out of the military.
  • In addition to identifying program shortcomings, this data allows the DOD to demonstrate successes, such as the percentage of TSMs who reach benchmarks on time, secure interviews and are job candidates as they approach end of service.
  • Such data helps improve administrative processes, therefore reducing administrative costs and margin for human error.
  • Focusing on internal activities, functions and operations of TAP allows performance comparisons between branch and installations, and is also effective in comparing the individual performances of TSMs.
  • How well are we doing compared to other branches/installations? How good do we want to be? How do they do it? How can we adapt what they do to our branch/installation? Which TSMs are doing the best? How can we be better than the best? Have we attained our goals?
  • Benchmarking will help TSMs understand real opportunities and priorities at all levels. It minimizes resistance to change, and fosters enthusiasm to do better than the external benchmark. It promotes discussions on data rather than assumptions or emotion.
  • Mandate that each Transition Assistance office, partner with local and national VSOs to provide premium services to TSMs, offset expansion costs, and limit hiring surplus.
  • VSO programs should be selected using evidence-based, actionable outcomes as indicators of effectiveness, not based on an organization’s size or tenure.
  • VSOs have the capacity to raise the caliber of opportunities presented at TAP run job fair. Heavily focusing on apprenticeships and licensing, and the federal jobs market, does not fairly prepare TSMs for the civilian sector, nor does it strive for excellence, which is enshrined in the messaging when recruiting.
  • Allowing more VSOs to present at installation based job fairs enhances the level of opportunities and networks available to TSMs.
  • Partnerships with VSOs will facilitate networking and mentorship opportunities.
  • Partnerships with VSOs will also connect TSMs with more complete career assessment systems.
  • A coalition of VSO representatives can ensure transparency, ethics and accountability.
    • To date, no national, state or local coalition of VSOs is utilized by the DOD. Third party non-profits and city collaboratives exist providing this service.
    • The VA posts a biennial directory of VSO’s and Military Service Organizations as a resource, which included 144 VSO’s on the 2013-2014 roster. Organizations must have membership of at least 1,000 or be Congressionally recognized. This excludes smaller, equally credible VSO’s (over 40,000 exist across the US).