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The Veterans Affairs Department announced Monday it has filled 36,000 of the 45,000 job training openings available in 2012 for unemployed veterans ages 35 to 60, and it expects to have every slot filled by Sept. 30.
An additional 55,000 openings will be available beginning Oct. 1, the start of fiscal 2013, for the Veterans' Retaining Assistance Program, which provides up to 12 months of Montgomery GI Bill benefits while participants take vocational training classes aimed at helping them find work in high-demand occupations.
VA officials report that as of Friday, 51,565 people applied for the program and 36,741 were approved.
VRAP provides up to $1,473 a month in GI Bill benefits for those taking full-time courses to learn the skills necessary to land a job in one of more than 200 occupational fields projected by the Labor Department to have growth of at least 10,000 jobs over the next decade.
The program became law at the insistence of Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, who wanted a job training program aimed at older unemployed veterans who had either exhausted or never earned other veterans' educational benefits. The Vow to Hire Heroes Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last year, includes full funding for the 95,000 enrollments.
In a statement, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the large number of applicants "illustrates how important this program is in providing veterans the opportunity to find employment in a high-demand field."
Veterans have to be approved for a specific course of study at a specific school, but VA officials were unable to provide statistics about the schools and occupational choices of the approved veterans.