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Slots in veterans job training program filling up

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​More than 27,000 unemployed military veterans ages 35-60 have already applied for new benefits to cover education costs through a joint U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Labor (DOL) program that focuses on retraining up to 99,000 veterans for high-demand jobs.

“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,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. “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.”

VA will own website GIbill.com

Through the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)—which is part of the 2011 VOW to Hire Heroes Act—participants will receive training in one of more than 900 high-demand occupational fields. DOL will provide veterans with employment assistance as well. Qualifying veterans can receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill. The active duty rate is currently $1,473 per month.

Between July 1 and Sept. 30, VRAP will help 45,000 participants, and another 54,000 participants between Oct. 1, 2012, and March 31, 2014.

DOL officials said they are encouraged by the strong numbers but there are still nearly 18,000 slots to fill by Sept. 30.

“It is critical to continue to spread the word about this program to unemployed veterans or those who may know an unemployed veteran,” said Ismael “Junior” Ortiz, the department’s deputy assistant secretary for the veterans employment and training service.

Veterans can apply on a first-come, first-serve basis for VRAP.

To qualify veterans must:

  • Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application and not dishonorably discharged.
  • Start education or training after July 1 in a VA-approved education program offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by DOL. (All two-year colleges listed on the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Educational Statistics College Navigator website are considered authorized VRAP providers, as long as they are approved for GI Bill benefits by the state.)
  • Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program, such as 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.
  • Not receive VA compensation at the 100 percent rate due to individual unemployability.

Upon completion, DOL will contact participants within 30 days after their training to help them find jobs that use their newly learned skills.

“VA has many partners around the country who are helping us to spread the good news about this unique benefit, which provides our unemployed veterans with the opportunity to obtain the skills they need to be competitive in the high-demand job market,” said Allison Hickey, VA’s under secretary for benefits.

For more information on VOW, VRAP, the definition of high-demand occupations and how to apply, visit www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call 800-827-1000. VRAP applications are also available online through eBenefits, a joint project of the U.S. Department of Defense and VA.

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