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210 jobs veterans can get with year of training

May. 31, 2012 - 01:16PM   |   Last Updated: May. 31, 2012 - 01:16PM  |  
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The Labor Department has identified 210 occupations in which unemployed veterans could find work after as little as one year of education and training through the new Veterans Retraining Assistance Program.

But House staffers say there is reason to believe the list is not complete.

The 210 occupations will be covered by a $1.6 billion program that gives veterans age 35 to 60 one year of additional education benefits to retrain into a field where they can get work. The House Veterans' Affairs Committee staff, however, noticed that long-distance truck driving was not mentioned.

"There is a shortage of 300,000 qualified truck drivers in this country right now," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. "Yet truck driving is nowhere in the Department of Labor's list of in-demand jobs."

Trucking has been added to the new Veterans Retraining Assistance Program at Miller's request, but he said he is still not completely satisfied.

"I will continue to review the list to ensure that veterans applying for VRAP have the widest range of careers as possible to choose from, but which are still competitive in today's job market," he said.

VRAP, scheduled to begin July 1, provides up to one year of GI Bill education benefits to veterans aged 35 to 60 who are unemployed, not receiving veterans' disability compensation based on unemployability, do not have any other veterans' education or training benefits available, and are not enrolled in any federal or state job training programs.

The program can cover up to 45,000 veterans this year and 55,000 next year, under the congressional authorization included in last year's Vow To Hire Heroes Act.

Allison Hickey, the Veterans Affairs Department's undersecretary for benefits, said Thursday in testimony before Miller's committee that 12,200 applications have been received so far.

About 23 percent of those who applied were rejected because they were not eligible, some because they are not veterans and some for other reasons, Hickey said.

Slots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, Hickey said. The deadline for first-year applications is Oct. 1.

If someone signs up but later drops out, the slot cannot be filled by another veteran, Hickey said. Miller said he would like to see slots reallocated, but Hickey said this would take a change in law.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are 400,000 unemployed veterans in the eligible age group.

Miller said he is also not satisfied with efforts to publicize the program.

"I am concerned that not enough is being done by either cabinet secretaries, or the president himself, to promote this benefit," Miller said. "Getting the message out about this opportunity is critically important to putting unemployed veterans on a path to a job in a high-demand field."

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., acting ranking Democrat on the veterans committee, said she remained worried about implementation. "Do not wait until the last moment to tell us there are any problems with this program," she said.

Reaching veterans has not been simple, Hickey said, because there is no registry for unemployed veterans, requiring a review of both VA and Labor Department records.

Ismael Ortiz, the Labor Department's deputy assistant secretary for veterans' employment and training, said information also is being provided to veterans who contact any of the 2,800 one-stop career centers operated by the Labor Department.

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