The Department of Veterans Affairs has just taken steps to remedy a loophole in the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). The program, created by the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act in 2011, was specifically designed to provide education assistance to unemployed veterans ages 35 – 60 that were not eligible to receive GI Bill benefits.
The program has helped over 76,000 veterans at a time when our veteran unemployment rate was at its highest. Eligible participants received up to 12 months of benefits equivalent to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill. The VA stopped accepting new applications to VRAP in October, and to date, more than $740 million has been paid out through the program in training and education benefits.
The loophole exists however, where VRAP payments were to expire March 31, 2014 – in the middle of the spring academic semester. Student-veterans who entered the program late, were unsure if they would continue receiving benefits and were concerned that they would find themselves in debt to cover the remaining months of the term after the original expiration date.
Realizing that many of the participants in the program might not complete their current semester with benefits, the VA extended the program to cover current enrollment periods. The VA will now make payments to cover training from April 1, 2014 through the conclusion of a Veteran’s current enrollment semester or through June 30, 2014, whichever is earliest.
Ryan Weemer is a USMC Iraq war veteran and the Education Program Associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).