Veterans struggling to find full-time employment now have another service at their disposal. The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) is a part of the 2011 VOW to Hire Heroes Act, and it offers vets the necessary training in a myriad of high-demand industries through local trade schools and community colleges. The veterans funding program will fill in gaps left by other services geared to veterans, ensuring every person who serves the country in the armed forces will have the opportunity to get training and gainful employment after their years of service.
What is VOW and VRAP?
According to the website for the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was designed to offer a seamless transition to veterans exiting their service and preparing to work in the private sector. The program was signed into law by President Obama and is funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program is a part of VOW and was created through a joint effort between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor.
The Community College Times reports that VRAP will eventually train more than 99,000 veterans for high-demand jobs over the next few years, through programs at technical schools and community colleges. The program will initially target 45,000 vets between July 1 and September 30, 2012. Another 54,000 vets are scheduled to receive the benefits of VRAP between October 1, 2012, and March 31, 2014.
“This important milestone demonstrates how meaningful this tool will be to help our nation’s unemployed veterans receive the education and training they need to find rewarding employment in a high demand career field,” Eric Shineski, VA secretary, told the Community College Times. “Veterans realize this is a great opportunity to hone the skills they need to be competitive in the job market, and this program contributes directly to enhancing the strength of our nation’s economy.”
Popularity of VRAP Continues to Grow, Slots Still Available
The Huffington Post reports that VRAP has seen nearly instantaneous popularity, as thousands of vets seize the opportunity to further their career training at local institutions of higher education. More than 27,000 vets signed up for VRAP in the first seven weeks after the program was announced in May, with more than 12,000 coming onboard in just the first two weeks alone. However, the total number is still a far cry from the full allotment for the program during the first phase.
“We are hopeful that we leverage all 45,000 slots for FY [fiscal year] 2012, but are not letting up on our outreach efforts until all 99,000 slots through the end of the program are approved,” Randal Noller, VA spokesman, told the Huffington Post.
To get the training program to the vets that need it most will require plenty of publicity and outreach to the veterans that qualify. At this time, around 18,000 slots are still available for the September 30 deadline.
“It is critical to continue to spread the word about this program to unemployed veterans or those who may know an unemployed veteran,” Ismael “Junior” Ortiz, the deputy assistant secretary for the veterans’ employment and training service at the VA, told the Community College Times.
Details of the Program
VRAP offers 12 months of training in a variety of high-demand industries, through technical schools and community colleges. According to Degree Tree, the amount of assistance vets can qualify for totals the same amount offered under the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty program, which currently totals $1,473 each month. The program provides training in more than 900 high-demand fields, including business and finance, computers, education and health care. Students can also receive necessary training in fields like construction, transportation, sales and food service.
Once a vet is entered into VRAP, he must enroll in a VA-approved program at a community college or technical school in his area. All two-year schools listed on the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Educational Statistics College Navigator are eligible to offer VRAP training. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that the program must lead to an associate degree, certification or non-college degree that prepares the student for a career in his chosen field. The Department of Labor will also offer employment assistance to vets who complete the program.
“We’ll sit with a veteran customer and help them navigate the process,” Steve Jennings, state program coordinator for the Georgia Department of Labor, told the Huffington Post. “In the very end, once they complete their schooling, we come in on the back end of it and provide job services and of course, help them find employment.”
To qualify for VRAP, vets must meet the following criteria:
- Between the ages of 35 and 60
- Classified as unemployed at the time of the application
- Not enrolled in federal or state training program
- Not eligible for other benefits under the GI Bill or other VA program
- Received a discharge other than a dishonorable discharge
- Not receiving VA compensation due to unemployability
Under these criteria, vets who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan will not be eligible for VRAP, since they are currently eligible for other VA programs, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance.
The current unemployment rate for veterans was 7.7 percent as of May, 2012, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported by the Huffington Post. That number is barely lower than the national unemployment average, which stood at 7.8 percent.