One year ago today, the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), a program that offers a renewed opportunity for education/training and job assistance to unemployed Veterans 35-60 years old, started accepting applications. As of this week there have been over 117,000 applicants. We have notified over 101,000 Veterans that they are approved to begin training (through a Certificate of Eligibility-COE) and, to date over 47,000 have begun their training towards a high demand career field.
VRAP is a joint program between VA and Department of Labor. However, the successful outreach of VRAP was a much larger community endeavor. Many individuals who represent our stakeholders, community partners, and Veterans Service Organizations helped us reach out to this deserving population. We thank them for helping us and supporting our outreach efforts. We could not have achieved this without them.
Our challenge now is ensuring that Veterans who have received notification of approval, a COE, start their training as soon as feasible. According to the law that established VRAP, the program expires March 31, 2014, so it’s important that training is initiated and completed by that date.
Please help us get that word out. We do not want any of the 99,000 slots to go unused. The program is only two years long. Unless the program is extended by Congress, we can only accept applications until September 30, 2013, and the last payment can be made through March 31, 2014. The urgency should be conveyed: Apply, use the benefit as soon as feasible, or notify us to cancel the Certificate of Eligibility so that another Vet can potentially use the benefit.
Curtis Coy is VA’s Deputy Undersecretary for Economic Opportunity and a U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force Veteran.