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VA opens second phase of job training program

Sep. 20, 2012 - 10:27AM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 20, 2012 - 10:27AM  |  
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The Veterans Affairs Department has filled all 45,000 openings for the first year of a new skills training program for unemployed veterans and has turned to filling the 54,000 slots for the second phase of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program.

The VRAP program provides up to one year of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to unemployed veterans aged 35 to 60 who sign up for vocational training classes aimed at helping them find jobs in high-demand fields.

Effective Oct. 1, the Montgomery GI Bill pays $1,564 a month to full-time students. VRAP requires enrollment in an approved school to learn a skill for one of more than 200 high-demand occupations that the Labor Department estimates will have a minimum of 10,000 new jobs in the next decade.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement that the "surge" of veterans applying for the new benefit "demonstrates this program's importance to provide unemployed veterans the opportunity to find employment in high-demand fields."

The chief architect of the new program was Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, who was concerned that while younger veterans just leaving the military have the generous Post-9/11 GI Bill to help prepare them for civilian jobs, there is no government help for older veterans who are unemployed and have either exhausted or never had education benefits.

VRAP participants must be unemployed on the day they apply for benefits, ineligible for any other veterans' education program, and must not have received a dishonorable discharge. They may be receiving disability benefits but not receiving additional compensation because of service-connected unemployability.

VRAP-approved classes are taught at community colleges and technical schools and must lead to an associate degree or certificate for a high-demand occupation.

Details on how to apply are available online or by calling VA's toll-free hotline, 1-800-827-1000.

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