Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) encouraged qualified Washington state veterans to sign up for a new job training program that starts July 1. Today is the first day that the Department of Labor and the Department of Veterans Affairs will take applications for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). If accepted, qualified veterans over the age of 35 receive $1,473 per month to help offset the cost of job-training at community or technical college in 200 "high-demand' fields, such as learning how to be a machinist or electrician. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act -- which was enacted into law on November 21, 2011 -- created VRAP.
Cantwell and Senator Dan Inouye (D-HI) joined the Veterans Electrical Contractors Association (VECA) in April in Seattle to highlight the benefits of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act and VRAP. Cantwell was a cosponsor of the bipartisan legislation when it passed last November.
"I encourage all qualified veterans to look into this job training program,"said Cantwell. "Washingtonians who served their country should be able to find a job when they transition from active military. That is why job training like this is so important. This is a step forward to ensure that our veterans have the tools they need to find a job."
The average nationwide unemployment rate in 2011 was 8.9 percent. Yet the unemployment rate that same year for veterans who served since September 2001 was 12.1 percent. For male veterans ages 18-24, the unemployment rate is nearly 30 percent, almost double the rate for the young male non-vets, which is about 17 percent.
VRAP will provide nearly 100,000 long-term unemployed veterans ages 35 to 60 who enroll at a community college or technical college with up to one year of additional Montgomery GI Bill education benefits to help them qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors, from trucking to technology to aerospace. The program is limited to 45,000 participants during fiscal year 2012 and an additional 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012 through the end of the program on March 31, 2014.
Additionally, the new law requires all outgoing service members to participate in the joint Department of Defense and Labor's Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which is designed to help facilitate the transition between military and civilian life as well as put a particular emphasis on helping veterans update resumes and job hunting skills tailored for the 21stcentury job market.
Veterans interested in learning more about VRAP should visit http://gibill.va.gov/benefits/other_programs/vrap.html.