Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act & The Hiring Heroes Act: What is it?

 Legislation and political context
                The Hire Heroes amends the Wounded Warrior Act to extend through 2014 providing the same rehabilitation and vocational benefits to members of the Armed Forces with severe injuries or illnesses as are provided to veterans.  (Bill Summary & Status 112th Congress (2011 - 2012), 2012). The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) and the Hire Heroes Act are bipartisan, comprehensive legislation that combines provisions of Chairman Miller’s Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act - which passed the House on October 12, 2011 - (H.R. 2433; Report #112-242), and Chairman Murray’s Hiring Heroes Act (S. 951; Report #112-36), and veterans’ tax credits into a comprehensive jobs package that will aggressively attack the unacceptably high rate of veterans' unemployment.
The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act combines provisions of the Hiring Heroes Act (S. 951; Report #112-242) which was first introduced by Florida Representative Jeff Miller as a way to assist veterans either retired or leaving the active duty forces a way to transition seamlessly into the civilian workforce. Representative Millers VOW Act was initially introduced on July 7, 2011 with 31 cosponsors it highlighted three key areas; Retraining Veterans, Improving the Transition Assistance Program, and Improving the Transition of Veterans to Civilian Employment.
                Retraining the Force allows the Secretary of Labor through the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the ability to provide up to 12 months of financial assistance for qualified Veterans for retraining assistance. One of the important aspects of this retraining is it targets the veterans between the ages of 35 to 60. This demographic is often the service member who has spent decades of their life in the military and often do not have skills that are comparable to the civilian workforce. 
                Improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) revises the guidelines for releasing military bases that primarily provide the TAP services to departing military members whether retiring or who have reached their Expiration Term of Service (ETS) with requirements to provide specific services to military members such as counseling, employment, and training services. Services members will be required to participate in these services unless a documented operational requirement prevents them for participating in the services.  Key elements to TAP are:
·         Employment and career goals
·         Education and training
·         Financial Readiness
·         Health and Well-being
·         Relocation and housing assistance
                Improving the Transition of Veterans to Civilian Employment directs the Secretary of Labor along with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to select five but not more than ten Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) that through a coalition of state governors can cross over to state licensing and credentialing.  This allows departing military member with specialized training the ability to become licensed or credentialed in their home state without having to duplicate training or schooling.
                Another important piece to this legislation is that it provides employers with incentives to hire veterans by providing tax incentives. These tax incentives provide up to $5,600 for each veteran hired and up to $9,600 for each disabled veteran hired, if the veteran has been looking for work for six months or longer.
                Supporters loosely modeled their proposal of the VOW Hire our Heroes after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps used during the Great Depression to put people to work planting trees, building parks and constructing dams. (Freking, 2012)

 Problem Analysis
                According to the Labor Department, there are 3.4 million job openings right now in the United States. Yet, many employers are finding that workers do not have the skills or training they need to qualify for them.
There are nearly 900,000 unemployed veterans in the United States–a staggering figure. The latest Department of Labor unemployment report shows that in October 2011, the average unemployment rate among all veterans was 7.7% and 12.1% for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Equally troubling, veterans between the ages of 35 and 64, the group with the highest financial obligations and the fewest available VA education and training options, continue to make up nearly two-thirds of all unemployed veterans. Overall, nearly one in twelve of our nation’s heroes can’t find a job to support their family, don’t have an income that provides stability, and don’t have work that provides them with the confidence and pride that is so critical to their transition home (House Commitee on Veteran's Affairs, 2012). For a comparative analysis provided by the Department of Labor for unemployed veterans compared to civilian populations in the demographic age of 18 and older see Table 1.
Employers, community colleges, local workforce investment and career training organizations have proven that public-private collaboration can be highly effective at preparing and placing veterans in new positions where their skills are needed. Continued support for public-private partnerships will help transition veterans into civilian jobs (Jones, 2012).
                There is a conservative figure that 1.5 million service members will make the transition from military life to the civilian sector over the next five years.  While in Idaho these figures will be substantially lower the impact on the community which as of August 2012 was ranked 23 in the United States with an unemployment rate of 7.4% or 57,081.
Idaho Department of Labor does not have any current data that tracks veterans who were unemployed prior to the most recent deployment of the 116th Cavalry out of Gowen Field. Nor does it have data that tracks the number of veterans and Soldiers that were re-hired or simply re-integrated back into their former jobs but it is believed that at least 40% were unemployed prior to the deployment  (Associated Press, 2011)

 Existing Resources to Deal with the Problem
On September 20, 2012 the Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have established a $1 billion jobs program putting veterans back to work tending to the country’s federal lands and bolstering local police and fire departments. (Freking, 2012) Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma stated the federal already has six job-training programs available to veterans. Stating the problem is not with helping veterans return to the job market but there is no way of knowing how well the programs in place are working.  Senator Coburn argued that the best way to help veterans is by first fixing the nation’s debt this would be a long term solution that would help veterans and their families.
Some federal programs currently being offered are: Veterans Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) and VetSuccess which provides a Veteran who is found eligible for the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, and who has an employment handicap vocational rehabilitation services. Following the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor's determination that a Veteran has met the entitlement criteria, the counselor and Veteran will jointly develop a plan for a rehabilitation program with a goal typically leading toward employment. In some cases, the plan goal may be related to an independent living need. This plan will provide all of the needed services and assistance identified through the initial evaluation.  In those cases when a Veteran is not found to be entitled, the VA Counselor will assist him or her to use the information gathered in the initial evaluation to identify other options, goals, and programs that should contribute to sound vocational adjustment, for example, referral to the State Vocational Rehabilitation program, information about financial aid, and referral to the Department of Labor's Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) program.

Veterans' Recruitment Appointment (VRA) is an excepted authority that allows agencies, to appoint eligible veterans without competition. An eligible veteran can be appointed under this authority at any grade level up to and including a GS-11 or equivalent. Agencies can also use VRA to fill temporary (not to exceed 1 year) or term (more than 1 year but not to exceed 4 years) positions.  Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998, as amended (VEOA) is a competitive service appointing authority that can only be used when filling permanent, competitive service positions. It cannot be used to fill excepted service positions. It allows veterans to apply to announcements that are only open to so called "status" candidates, which means "current competitive service employees."
 The most recent federally funded program is the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) this program this program is currently limited to 45,000 participants from July 1, 2012, through September 30, 2012, and 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012, through March 31, 2014. Participants of the program must attend school full-time in order to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program ($1,564 effective October 1, 2012). The Department of Labor will offer employment assistance to every Veteran who participates upon completion of the program. Participants of the program must be enrolled in a VA approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school and the program must lead to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certificate, and train the Veteran for a high demand occupation.

Currently there are more than 70 cosponsors to the Hiring our Heroes Act.  President Obama has been a firm supporter of federally funding programs that put the veteran back into the workforce. Unfortunately as of September 20, 2012 Senate Republicans blocked the bill saying that the spending authorized in the bill violated limits that Congress agreed to last year. Senate Democrats fell two votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to waive the objection forcing the legislation back into committee (Freking, 2012).
Veterans' Recruitment Appointment (VRA) denounced the vote saying “This bill was bipartisan policy that would have put veterans back into service for their communities as policeman, firefighters and first responders, but the results of today’s vote creates tremendous doubt that this Congress will be able to pass any additional veterans legislation in 2012. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans should not have to wait until 2013 for critical support from Congress” (Freking, 2012).
With 2012 being an election year the stake holders for the Hire our Heroes legislation are the President and candidate Mitt Romney.  This legislation is vital is showing support for the military and the transitioning members of the service. The drawdown of Afghanistan by 2014 will only compound the problems associated with veteran joblessness. The VA has estimated that more than 500,000 new disability claims will be filed over the next five years. This number does not represent the number of veterans and disabled veterans using the current resources available to them to promote job education and eventually stable employment.

Friday, November 6, 2015

“Is a leader made or Born?”

“Is a leader made or Born?”
This is a question that has been included into the syllabi of every leadership school I have attended from Primary Leadership Development Course to the Senior Leader Course. There is no definitive answer to whether a person is born a leader or made a leader. Instead it seems that leadership is a combination of intelligence and aptitude.  For this paper I will discuss the history of the study of leadership and also how the Biological approach and the humanistic approach would explain the personality traits that are associated with the subject of leadership.
            To understand leadership and the development or nurturing of it I thought it was important to look at the way leadership has been studied over the years. Two early foundations of the leadership concept are; philosophy and moral law.
            Leadership has numerous theoretical roots. Socrates in Plato’s Republic, said that the “leadership of civil institutions were to be reserved for the “specially” trained philosopher-kings, not to the ill-trained or uniformed masses who were meant to be followers.” (Hays, 1967)  Many military classes at West Point or The Naval Academy still quote Sun Tzu when discussing senior and subordinate relationships. Aristotle described moral conduct and behaviors that all leaders should poses, these “codes” influenced many great leaders notably Alexander the Great. Machiavelli describes the cruelty, dishonesty, and sometimes brutality that were shown by leaders in his book The Prince.
            Moral Codes affect many concepts of leadership. Marcus Aurelius spoke often of the moral and ethical responsibilities leaders were held too under the Roman Empire. Judaeo-Christian teachings emphasize the divine source from which all leadership is derived from.      These teaching have emphasized the necessity for the utmost ethical standards by all leaders.  Moral Codes were the foundations for the formation of the Japanese code of conduct known commonly as Bushido or the “The Warriors Way” which emphasized tenets such as honor, loyalty, and frugality. The west had a much similar concept known as chivalry which also emphasized the duty to your king, to your God, and to your women. In today’s Army Officers and Non-Commissioned officers are consistently judged on their moral and ethical standards.
              The psychological and trait approach to leadership can raise numerous questions about the development and the emergence of the leadership trait or quality. Using the biological approach or more specifically Hans Eysenck’s theory on personality a leader exhibits some of his personality dimensions on certain levels. The first being extroversion, a leader can usually be described as an A-Type personality. The leader is usually outspoken and can excel within the group dynamic, the leader is usually an outgoing person that has many contacts. Most leaders are usually not introverted, but in my experience I have seen some of the more effective leaders that were border line introverted. Much of their leadership was derived from charisma and their knowledge of their profession, this in turn prompted respect from their subordinates. Neuroticism is a trait that a leader does not want exhibit because having very strong emotional reactions to minor frustrations may not solve the problem but may in fact exacerbate the problem, especially with subordinates, because a leader needs to be a level headed person that weight facts objectively without investing to much emotional bias into the problem. But then again a leader does not want to display the psychoticism super trait because he does not want to appear cold or impersonal to the subordinate. A good leader needs to be empathetic and show concern for them.
            The humanistic approach to leadership would say that the leader is in a position that he chooses to be in and that nobody is forcing him to take the responsibility that he has chosen to take. The humanistic approach would say that a leader takes personal responsibility for the actions he or she chooses to take or not take and in effect suffer the consequences of their action or bask in the glory that may come from the decision to act. From the humanistic perspective a psychologist may say that a leader is ineffective because they spend too much time planning on the future or reflecting on the past. The humanistic psychologist may also say that a leader should remember their past experiences but should not allow them to dictate what they are. We all know that much of leadership is derived from the experiences that they gain throughout their career.
            Leaders can be classified into different categories. The first category is the manner in which the leader achieves his or her position. In informal groups a leader may emerge from the group by asserting himself or herself.  This can be an example of the “born” theory, in which the individual is able to shut down his competition and take over. In the Army we often call this “initiative” and it is part of the Army’s definition of leadership which is; “the ability to influence others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.” The charismatic leader is much like the emergent leader. The charismatic leader is that person that can walk into a room and all eyes turn to look and people seem to just gravitate towards.  The charismatic leader may not have the technical or the tactical experience that some other leaders may have but they still have the ability to influence people to follow them an example of this type of leader is Adolph Hitler.
            The second category is the more formal raise in the hierarchy of leadership.  The rise to a leadership position may either through a democratic process, such as our elected officials.  These leaders were “made” in the sense that they went through the education process and climbed through the ranks to get to that position. In the Army I came in as a private and served first as a rifleman, then progressed to the position of team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant.  In my experience it is important for a leader to progress through the ranks and serve in those positions where “the rubber meets the road”.  Each position capitalizes on the experience of the previous position.  
Arghandab Valley Afghanistan 2010
 (L-R Doc Chaney, 1SG Hicks, SSG Benuelos, SSG Vinyard)
            An example of great leadership can be found in the movie We were Soldiers. In this movie Mel Gibson plays Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Hal Moore the Commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry. General Moore graduated from West Point in 1945 and attended graduate school at George Washington and Harvard University. Later in his career he taught at West Point where General Norman Schwarzkopf was one of his students.  General Schwarzkopf would later comment that General Moore was the biggest influence in his decision to become an Infantry officer. The 7th Cavalry was the unit General George Armstrong Custer led in the Battle of the little big horn.  Prior to their deployment to Vietnam LTC Moore gives a speech to his Soldiers saying;  "Look around you, in the 7th Cavalry, we got a Captain from the Ukraine, another from Puerto Rico, we got Japanese, Chinese, Blacks, Hispanics, Cherokee Indian, Jews and Gentiles, all American. Now here in the States some men in this unit may experience discrimination because of race or creed, but for you and me now, all that is gone. We're moving into the valley of the shadow of death, where you will watch the back of the man next to you, as he will watch yours, and you won't care what color he is or by what name he calls God. Let us understand the situation; we're going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can't promise you that I will bring you all home alive, but this I swear: when we go into battle, I will be the first one to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me God."
General Hal More

LTC Moore was able to draw from his experiences leading Soldiers and from his education which taught him the principles of leadership. These experiences would later be passed on to his students at West Point. All leaders draw upon their experiences as a foundation for developing their own style of leadership. So is a leader made or born? With the proper education I believe that anybody has the potential to be a leader but at different levels of responsibility. Leadership is a lifelong process and when you think you have seen it all you get blindsided by some new situation or a subordinate that you just can’t seem to figure out.