National Association of State Approving Agencies
National Association of State Approving Agencies
Advocates for quality education and training programs for our nation's veterans.
Home > About > President's Page > State of the Association Message, February, 2015

State of the Association Message, February, 2015

“A Sure Path to a Better Future”
NASAA President Joseph W. Wescott, III
 
Crystal City Marriott, Arlington VA
February 9, 2015

Good Morning. It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 2015 NASAA Winter Conference.  It is good to be back in Arlington VA and to welcome not only all of our great state approving agency personnel but also our VA partners and our good friends among the VSOs and other national associations.  And what a great job by the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard this morning!  They represent the best military force in the world and remind us of our real purpose.  Thank you.
I also wish to thank Vice President Dan Wellman and the Conference Planning Committee.  They have done a great job of pulling this conference together and believe me, I know firsthand how much hard work is involved in that task.  Dan, I thank you and your team. And an important of that team is Ms. Ana Liza Landig and the excellent staff of the Crystal City Marriot.  We are off to a great start and I think all these folks deserve our applause.

When I look back over the past year, an incredibly fast paced year of far reaching accomplishments, let me begin by stating how proud I am of you, of your hard work and your sacrifices on behalf of our Veterans, and how honored I am to serve as your President.  Let’s take a moment now to look back at those achievements. 

As Public Affairs Officer John Hose and his team document so well in our Annual Report, State Approving Agencies, even in the face of constrained resources and challenging regulatory change, stepped up and actually increased the work that we do on behalf of veterans.  We increased the number of compliance survey visits we completed last year by over 17%.  But even more impressive, we increased the number of education and training programs we approved by over 75% while expanding our outreach efforts to new institutions and veterans by 26%.  We did that in the face of flat funding and against incredible odds…Ladies and Gentlemen, you should give yourself a hearty round of applause. (Applause)  Indeed, the fact is that in every performance measure, you rose to the occasion and completed more accurate work in a more timely fashion. The result being that more SAAs were evaluated Satisfactory during the JPRG than ever in recent memory.

This year we worked with our VA partners to roll out the new VA Complaint System and helped them formulate the manner and method used to conduct Risk Based Performance Surveys ...and state approving agencies conducted some of the first surveys in the nation.  We worked side by side with VA to implement the President’s Principles of Excellence and we are working with our approved institutions to make sure that they understand and keep their promises to the veterans on their campus.  And let me stop right here and thank the VA leadership, here represented by Mr. Coy and Mr. Worley, for your commitment to our partnership.  Three years ago, Undersecretary Hickey promised us a seat at the table and you gentlemen provided us the chair.  The rest is history. We thank you!

I promised you last year that your Executive Board and I would work to ensure that the critical work we do in protecting the future of our veterans would not go unnoticed.  And this year we introduced our new NASAA website and your Executive Board recently not only adopted a new communications plan, but we have formed a new Communications Committee to implement this ambitious plan.  NASAA celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the GI Bill and we hosted celebrations within our states.  We appeared on a national radio talk show and we recently testified before Congress on our changing role and our commitment to approving only quality educational programs.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the question on the Hill is no longer “Who is NASAA?” the question is “Where is National Association of State Approving Agencies on this particular issue? Have you called them yet?”

I could go on and discuss our work with the White House on Apprenticeship/OJT or with their Office of Science and Technology on Accelerated IT training.  And I should mention Judge Advocate Robert Haley’s leadership in a complete review and rewrite of our Constitution and By-Laws which resulted in a more modern and nimble national association, and Secretary Annie Walker’s pending work with the VA on the Secretary’s Advisory Council.  But I’ll just sum up our progress by pointing out that just over two weeks ago, on January 22, we held our first meeting of the VA/NASAA Joint Advisory Committee to discuss national policy and on that same day, Chairman Brad Wenstrup introduced HR47, the “G I Bill Education Quality Enhancement Act,” which we helped draft, which we named and which will finally clarify the process of approving programs and enhance the manner in which compliance surveys are performed.   Chairman Tim Freeman and the NASAA legislative committee deserve both our thanks and our support.

But let me hasten to add, that none of this would be happening without our partners, and I am referring to not just the VA, but to the American Legion, the Student Veterans of America, the VFW, NAVPA and many more.  You share our vision of a better tomorrow for our veterans and we are together making that vision a reality.

We have accomplished much, but there is much more to do.  We have to opportunity to take a place of leadership in the successful implementation of Section 702.  It is now federal law and the time for debate is over.  Whether you see it as an unfunded federal mandate or as a great opportunity to show our appreciation to our Veterans for their sacrifices, it is now a state matter and we are the state agencies with the most knowledge and experience in this field to assist our state leadership.  Mr. Coy, we will not shirk from that responsibility nor ignore this opportunity to make ourselves known as leaders within our individual states and full partners with you in bringing about the successful implementation of the law.   And today I call on every state director to know exactly what your State is doing to implement this law (and most of you already do) and to offer aid as needed so that well before July 1 all of our states are either in compliance or well on the way with waivers in hand.

We will continue to work with our VA partners on our fiscal funding formula.  There is much more work to do in that area and I commit to you, that our Contract Committee and I will be tireless in seeking a fair and equitable distribution model that will take into consideration all of our professional activities,  while providing certain and adequate fiscal support for the important work we do. 

We need to expand and enhance our efforts to ensure only quality programs are approved that provide a path to a good job.  And we should continue to work with our partners among the VSOs, particularly the American Legion, to ensure that only quality certifications with meaningful measures are approved.  And we will continue our work with Congress to make sure that needed safeguards are in place to protect our veterans from those in the private and public sector who say they are interested in helping veterans, when actually they are primarily interested in helping themselves to federal dollars.  And yes, President Mark Barker, we will continue to seek opportunity to accomplish more training and technical assistance visits to our approved institutions, for when they are successful so are our veterans and so are we.

Last month, at the Student Veterans of America Conference in San Antonio, Texas,   I had the opportunity to meet and share the stage with Medal of Honor recipient, Kyle Carpenter.   A young Marine in his first year of study at the University of South Carolina, Kyle is using his GI Bill.  During our panel, he spoke of the uncertainty he faced after his heroic act.  Months in the hospital and rehab, days wondering if he would be accepted, and at his lowest point, whether he would be even wanted.   I can tell you, after hearing that courageous young man’s inspiring story, I left the stage that day with a new commitment to the work ahead.  It is good work, this that we do, noble and needed.  We have proven our ability to do it and to do it well.   We are the gatekeepers of quality, the torchbearers lighting the way to a better tomorrow. And for Kyle, and thousands more like him, we will not fail in our pledge and our purpose. Thank you.