Column: Building a Better Future for Our Nation’s Heroes
By: Rep. Joe Barton
Every day we hear stories of courageous American service members overseas. We see news reports of joyous homecomings and members of our military surprising their children with their return. We see them happily reuniting with friends, family, and loved ones. What we don't always see, however, is what happens when these brave men and women try and adjust back to their normal lives.
Unfortunately, in many cases, veterans are welcomed home with a quick thank you and then pushed into the job market alone, without training or the educational tools they need to succeed here at home. Fortunately, there are many assistance programs available for veterans who need a little extra help finding work.
On Nov. 21, 2011, the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 became law. The bipartisan bill was passed with the goal of lowering the unemployment rate for our nation's veterans. Currently, there are nearly 1 million unemployed veterans in the United States.
One of the programs created by this bill is the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). This program offers up to 12 months of training and assistance so that veterans will have the educational and vocational support they need to go back to work. The Departments of Veterans affairs and Labor are rolling out this new program on July 1.
The VRAP offers 12 months of training assistance to veterans who:
• Are at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
• Are unemployed on the date of application
• Received an other than dishonorable discharge
• Are not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance)
• Are not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
• Are not enrolled in a federal or state job training program
This program will be available for 99,000 eligible participants from July 1 to March 31, 2014. Veterans under this program can receive up to the full-time monthly payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill for active duty military members. Participants of VRAP need to be enrolled in a VA approved program of education that is offered by a community college or technical school. These programs must lead to a degree or certification and training for an occupation classified as a high demand job by the Department of Labor (DoL). After a veteran receives this education, the DoL will provide employment assistance. The list of high demand jobs can be found at http://benefits.va.gov/vow
Click here to apply for VRAP
As a member of Congress, one of my top priorities is ensuring that American service members are taken care of well after they return home. After the sacrifices our veterans have made, the least we can do as grateful Americans is provide them with a solid foundation of support. They deserve the best from the country they swore to protect, and providing them with proper education and training for good, high demand jobs is just one of the ways we can thank them for their service.