Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center, Saginaw, Michigan
Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)
VA Program Enhances Job Skills for Unemployed Veterans
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently approving applications for education grants under the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), a new training and education program for unemployed Veterans who want to upgrade their skills for in-demand jobs. The goal of VRAP is to train a total of 99,000 Veterans in more than 200 job skills that the Department of Labor (DOL) has determined are the most sought-after by employers.
The program is a provision of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which Congress passed and President Obama signed into law in November 2011. The program allows qualifying Veterans to receive up to 12 months of education assistance equal to the current full-time Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty rate of $1,473 per month and is managed by VA and DOL.
“The surge of Veterans applying for VRAP demonstrates the critical need for this program in providing unemployed Veterans the opportunity to find employment in high-demand fields,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
To be eligible for VRAP, a Veteran must:
– Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and not dishonorably discharged;
– Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment;
– Not be enrolled in a federal or state job-training program within the last 180 days; and
– Not receive VA compensation at the 100 percent rate due to individual unemployability (IU).
Veterans approved for VRAP are encouraged to enroll as soon as possible and begin training full-time in a VA-approved program of study at a community college or technical school. The program of study must lead to an associate degree, a non-college degree, or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by DOL.
The Top 10 occupations unemployed Veterans chose for retraining in 2012 included:
– Computer Support Specialist
– Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor
– General and Operations Manager
– Business Operations Specialist
– Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer
– Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Driver
– Registered Nurse
– Paralegal and legal Assistant
– Medical Assistant
VA Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity Curtis Coy explained that continued outreach on VRAP is particularly important because the program applies to a small segment of the Veteran population that may not have regular interaction with VA or stay informed about Veterans’ benefits and opportunities.
“Anyone who knows an unemployed Veteran can help us get unemployed Veterans the job retraining they need through VRAP,” said Coy. “We are counting on the continued help of Veterans Service Organizations and the Department of Labor, as well as the American public, to reach as many eligible Veterans as possible.”
Potential applicants can learn more about VRAP and apply online at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA toll-free at 1-800-827-1000. Information about the Department of Labor’s programs for Veterans is available at www.dol.gov/vets. Veterans can also visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation, listed at www.servicelocator.org, for in-person assistance.