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The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program is a program that was created at the behest of the United States Congress in 2011, as part of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act. This act is intended to help veterans of the United States’ military service branches transition from military careers in to civilian sector work. It provides veterans with the training that they need to either supplement the professional skills they learned during military service, or in some cases can allow veterans to pursue entirely new routes of professional training. In addition to creating the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program – better known as VRAP – in order to achieve this goal, the act also provides employers in the United States with tax credits for hiring veterans with service-related disabilities.
The VRAP program is intended to help place veterans that are entering the civilian workforce into high-demand occupations. This means that VRAP focuses on providing training and job procurement support for veterans seeking work in fields where private sector companies are making hiring pushes. Applications are limited to an initial 45,000 veterans, who must sign up for the program between July 1, and September 30 2012. As of late July 2012, around 39,000 applications have been received for the VRAP program. Between the dates of October 1, 2012, to March 31, 2014, up to 54,000 veteran participants may apply and receive benefits. Those that receive VRAP benefits are eligible for financial support, which is intended to support the costs associated with job training, and are made available to veterans for a period of up to 12 months. Hence, a person that enters a 3 month training program for a high-demand career option would receive 3 months of benefits. A person that enters a 12 month program would receive a full 12 months of benefits. The VRAP program pays veterans the equivalent to the monthly full time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty. Unlike GI bill education benefits, however, the benefits from VRAP will not be sent directly to the school that you are enrolled in. On the contrary, funds will be sent directly to veterans, who are responsible for managing their own payments for tuition, school fees, books, and other educational materials.
To be eligible to participate in the VRAP program, applicants must meet certain requirements. They must be between 35 and 60 years of age. This is because the Bureau of Labor Statistics has determined that more than half of all unemployed veterans fall into this age range – indicating that this group of veterans needs the most assistance at this time. Veterans seeking VRAP benefits must be unemployed at the time that they submit their application, must not have been dishonorably discharged from military service, must not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program, must not be receiving compensation from the VA due to conditions that result in unemployability, and must not be enrolled in any state or federal job training program. Further, participation requires that veteran applicants must be enrolled in an approved technical or community college program that is intended to result in the acquisition of an associates’ degree, non-college degree, or other professional or occupational certificate.
The United States Department of Labor makes determinations about what kinds of jobs represent a “high demand occupation”. As of late July 2012, the United States Department of Labor lists a total of 211 job categories that represent VRAP eligible occupations. The range of jobs is extremely diverse. It covers private sector industry areas ranging from business operations, to arts and media, to sports management and operations, to protective and police services, to healthcare, to skilled labor and production, to transportation. For example, a veteran with previous experience in signals intelligence might augment their career opportunities to capitalize on a community college program that trains individuals to be broadcast media technicians, who work with the equipment necessary to record, edit, and transmit multimedia content on radio and television. Likewise, the VRAP program would support training courses offered by community colleges and technical schools that help individuals become firefighters, police officers, private detectives. Other opportunities include training to work as a radiation therapist, a pharmacy technician, as a dental hygienist, or many other healthcare options. It will even allow individuals to pursue occupations like working as a travel agent, or insurance sales representative. The wide variety of careers that VRAP makes accessible to veterans is quite astounding, and provides ample opportunity for veterans to begin retraining or supplementing the professional skills that the acquired throughout the term of their military service career.
After completion of the program, the United States Department of Labor will offer career placement and job finding support to every veteran that successfully meets program requirements. Those that do not compete the VRAP program successfully will not be adversely affected or penalized by the program or any other government agency. Additionally, the Department of Labor will offer employment assistance whenever training is stopped. It is recommended that VRAP participants that do not successfully complete the program seek other job training and or job placement assistance from the VA or other organizations designed to support America’s veterans. Those that need a job immediately can also utilize a large number of other services provided by the VA or other organizations.
In addition to providing tens of thousands of US veterans with training assistance that they need in order to pursue fulfilling, well-paying careers, the VRAP program’s benefits also serve as a boon to communities throughout the United States. The program provides an influx of money to help drive local economic development. This starts when more individuals begin to pay tuition at local community colleges and technical schools, and continues whenever veterans are able to start working, and hence, spending, within their community of choice. Hence, VRAP represents a step towards economic recovery for the United States.