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VRAP Extension a Possibility

Thursday, January 9, 2014

VRAP Benefits Extended through June 30, 2014

There’s good news from the VA for VRAP-approved veterans. Educational benefits set to expire on March 31, 2014 will continue to be paid through June 30, 2014 or through the conclusion of a Veteran’s current enrollment semester, whichever is earlier.1

The Veteran’s Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) has helped more than 76,000 veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 years old achieve training for in-demand occupations with up to 12 months of educational benefits.2 The program provides monthly benefits up to $1,648 per month to unemployed veterans who are pursuing training for in-demand careers fields but are not eligible for any other VA educational benefit.3 Participants must be enrolled in a program that leads to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certificate. 

The application period for VRAP closed Oct. 1, 2013, but approved veterans previously had only until March 31, 2014 to receive benefits under the current law.3 Recognizing this would leave thousands of veterans in the middle of their spring semesters without benefits, President Obama asked the VA to find a way to make an extension.

This approved extension may or may not affect the possibility of Senate bill S.6, Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act of 2013, introduced in January 2013 by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). This bill, which has only a 14% chance of being enacted according to govtrack.us, would extend VRAP benefits to qualified veterans until 2016.

VRAP Update January 9th, 2014

While the application period for the Veterans’ Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) closed October 1, 2013,1 there is still hope that VRAP benefits could be extended beyond March 31, 2014. As it currently stands, veterans who have been approved for VRAP need to enroll in a training program as soon as possible in order to receive the greatest benefit as, by law, training benefits cannot be paid after March 31, 2014.

That might change if Senate bill S.6, Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act of 2013, introduced in January 2013 by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gains more traction and attention as the March 31, 2014 deadline nears. The bill proposes to extend VRAP benefits to qualified veterans until 2016.

While this bill hasn’t seen any official movement since July 2013, there may be reason for hope. The legislation already has 25 cosponsors in the Senate2 and could likely gain more as the March 31 deadline nears.

VRAP provides monthly benefits up to $1,648 per month to unemployed veterans between 35 and 60 years old who are pursuing training in a high-demand career field.1 VRAP-approved veterans must not be eligible for any other VA educational benefit.

Approximately 50,000 veterans who have been approved for VRAP benefits have not yet enrolled in a qualified training program, according to data from benefits.va.gov/VOW/education.asp. Participants must be enrolled in a program that leads to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certificate.

VRAP 

1. What Is Considered "Unemployed"?

  • The Department of Labor defines "unemployed" as "People who are jobless, looking for jobs, and available for work." All three criteria must be met to be considered unemployed.
  • How And When Does DoL Verify Unemployment Status And Thus Declare Someone Eligible For VRAP? Does A Veteran Have To Remain Unemployed To Be Eligible For VRAP?

o   Unemployment status is determined through self-attestation the day the Veteran applies for the program and they do not have to remain unemployed throughout the duration of the program.

2. Is There A Paper Application Anywhere For VRAP? I Don’t Have A Computer – Now What?

  • VRAP applications are only accepted electronically.  If you need assistance completing and submitting the online application you may visit your Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER)/Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) specialist or One-Stop Career Shop.  You may also receive assistance by visiting the nearest VA Regional Office. Click here for a listing of VA Regional Offices.

3.  Can I Apply For VRAP Before I Start Training?

  • Yes, the earlier the better as applications may be received through October 1, 2013, or once we have 99,000 participants, whichever comes first.

4.  When And How Will I Find Out If I’ve Been Approved For The VRAP Program?

  • Once an eligibility determination is made, a notification letter will be mailed to you.  To obtain the status of your VRAP claim, you may send an electronic inquiry (7 days a week, 24 hours a day) on our website, www.gibill.va.gov by clicking the “Submit a Question” button.  You may also call the VA Education Call Center at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, CST).

5. Can I Use VRAP If I Am Not A Full-Time Student?

  • No. VRAP benefits can only be paid for training pursued on a full-time basis.
  • Students are generally considered full time if they maintain 12 credits per semester3. However, because course loads differ between institutions and programs, students must be deemed full-time by the Recorder in the Financial Aid Department in order to receive their full benefit. Because of the accelerated pace at Charter College all students who are enrolled are full-time.

6. Eligible Programs

  • Participants must be enrolled in a program of education approved for VA benefits that is offered by a community college or technical school.
  • The program must lead to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certificate, and train the Veteran for a high demand occupation. Search for an approved program here.

7. How Do I Verify My Enrollment?

  • If you're receiving the Active Duty or Reserve GI Bill, REAP, or VRAP use the Web Automated Verification of Enrollment(WAVE)  or call our toll free Interactive Voice Response (IVR) telephone line at 1-877-VA-ECERT (1-877-823-2378) to verify your attendance

8. Will The Payments Under The VRAP Be Sent Directly To The School Like Payments Under The Post- 9/11 GI Bill?

  • No. The benefit will be paid directly to you and you are responsible for paying your expenses including tuition, fees, and books.

9. What Will Happen When I Finish My Training Under The VRAP Program?

  • The Department of Labor will provide employment assistance to every Veteran who participates, upon completion of their program.

References:

1.     http://benefits.va.gov/VOW/education.asp

2.     http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:s6: