The American Legion is applauding a joint effort between the departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor that focuses on retraining 99,000 unemployed veterans for high-demand jobs.
The program, which debuted May 15, allows unemployed veterans ages 35 to 60 to apply for new benefits to cover education costs for up to one year. As part of a provision of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) allows qualifying veterans to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty rate, currently $1,473 per month.
"Obviously we're also focusing on younger veterans, but most of the nation's unemployed veterans fell between the ages of 35 and 60," said Mark Walker, deputy director of The American Legion Economic Division. "This is a program that is really going to benefit that group, and that was something that The American Legion really pushed. It's big for those veterans and the communities in which they reside."
Veterans can apply on a first-come, first-serve basis for VRAP for programs that begin on or after July 1. Assistance under this benefit program ends March 31, 2014.
To qualify, veterans must:
• Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and not dishonorably discharged;
• Start education or training after July 1 in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by the DoL;
• Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g. Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment);
• Not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program within the last 180 days;
• Not receive VA compensation at the 100-percent rate due to individual unemployability (IU).
Upon completion, the Labor Department will engage participants within 30 days after their training to help them find good jobs that utilize their newly learned skills.
For more information on VOW, VRAP, high-demand occupations, and how to apply, veterans may go to the website  or call VA's Call Centers toll free at (800) 827-1000. Veterans may also access the VRAP application online through eBenefits , a joint project between the Department of Defense and VA.
To complete an application, a veteran will need to know his or her direct deposit information (bank routing number and account number), the name and location of his or her school, the program the veteran wishes to pursue, and the applicable high-demand occupation.
"The goal is to provide training programs and opportunities that put all veterans of all eras back to work," Walker said. "This is going to provide valuable training for veterans to enter into our new global workforce."