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April 22, 2021
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17) was joined by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) to introduce the Get Rewarding Outdoor Work (GROW) for our Veterans Act.  This bipartisan legislation directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a two-year pilot program to employ veterans for projects of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the veteran unemployment rate across the country has risen sharply — from 3.1 percent in 2019 to 11.7 percent in 2020.  This bill will help foster employment opportunities for veterans.

“We owe veterans a debt for their sacrifice and service.  We also know that outdoor activity experiences can improve the psychological wellbeing of military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.  This bill is the perfect way to increase job opportunities for veterans in an outdoor setting that is good for their mental and physical health,” said Lamb.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line for our country, and they deserve all the support we can provide them,” said Fitzpatrick.  “I am proud to partner with Rep Lamb on the Get Rewarding Outdoor Work for our Veterans (GROW) Act, and remain fully dedicated to supporting our veterans, their families, and their career opportunities each and every day in Congress.”

In 2019, national park visitation generated $41.7 billion, and supported 340,500 jobs.  In 2020, despite early closures due to the pandemic, 237 million people visited our national parks.  However, due to strained resources caused by increased visitation, aging facilities, and inconsistent funding, the National Parks Service (NPS) has been unable to keep pace with park maintenance needs.  Repairs to roads, bridges, water systems, visitor centers, trails, campgrounds, and historic structures have gone unaddressed and NPS estimates it would cost nearly $11.92 billion if it were to fix all the items on its deferred maintenance list.  In Pennsylvania alone, the national parks currently have a maintenance backlog of $299 million. 

Work to address the backlog began earlier this year with the rollout of the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which provided up to $6.65 billion in non-taxpayer funds over five years to address long-overdue priority maintenance issues.  The GROW for our Veterans Act will complement GAOA by providing a trained workforce to address these long-deferred maintenance needs. 

This bipartisan legislation will:

Direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a two-year pilot program to employ veterans for projects for conservation projects at national parks and public lands;

Direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish guidelines containing best practices for departments and agencies of the Federal Government that carry out programs to employ veterans who are transitioning from service in the Armed Forces.  Such guidelines would include lessons learned under the Warrior Training Advancement Course (WARTAC) of the VA, and methods to realize cost savings based on what they have learned from the program;

Direct the VA and Department of the Interior (DOI) to consider partnering with the Department of Defense (DoD) to apply the program under the existing work they do with the Skillbridge program on bases for transitioning out members;

Direct the VA to, within 30 days of the enactment of the bill, commission a study on how the pilot program could affect unemployed veterans; and

Require the VA, DOI and Department of Agriculture (DOA) to, within one year, jointly submit to Congress a report on the pilot program.

The GROW for our Veterans Act is supported by the Union Veterans Council (UVC).

“Veterans have a long history with our nation’s federally managed public lands — both as spaces for healing and reunion and as pathways to meaningful careers in the federal workforce,” said Will Attig, Executive Director of the Union Veterans Council.  “As of 2018, only 17% of all Department of the Interior employees were veterans.  We applaud the introduction of the bipartisan Get Rewarding Outdoor Work (GROW) for our Veterans Act for striving to safeguard the economic, mental, and physical well-being of our veterans as well as the lands and waterways we cherish.”

Visit Lamb’s website for more information on the GROW for our Veterans Act.