Top Veteran Transition Programs

Military Transition

Recent studies and employment statistics are compelling the federal government to continue to implement solutions and aggressively focus on the ongoing issue of veteran unemployment.

The message is that hiring veterans is the right thing to do, and it makes good business sense. The government invests significant resources in the training and development of military service personnel. Acting aggressively to retain transitioning military service personnel within the Federal Government helps maximize the return on this investment.

Since January 29, 2010, when the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released The Government wide Veterans’ Recruitment and Employment Strategic Plan for FY 2010 – FY 2012, many in the government and private sector have been working to break down barriers and find solutions to decrease veteran unemployment .

According to federal data, the unemployment rate for veterans who served after September 2001 is currently higher than the unemployment rate for non-veterans.

On October 23, 2012, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a new study called “Employment for Veterans: Trends and Programs.” The report detailed the federal programs which can assist veterans to develop job skills in order to help them secure civilian employment, and employment trends.

Federal programs to assist veterans can be divided into three categories:

  • General veterans’ programs
  • Programs that target veterans with service-connected disabilities
  • Competitive grant programs that offer supplemental services, but may be limited in scope

Transition programs cover a variety of topics including information on identifying occupations that align with military skills and specializations, conducting job searches, applying for employment, and navigating veterans’ benefits.

Three Federal employment programs that currently assist veterans are:

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) was established to meet the needs of separating service members during their period of transition into civilian life by offering job-search assistance and related services.

The law creating TAP established a partnership among the Departments of Defense, The Department of Veterans Affairs, Transportation and the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), to give employment and training information to armed forces members within 180 days of separation or retirement.

TAP helps service members and their spouses make the initial transition from military service to the civilian workplace with less difficulty and at less overall cost to the government. An independent national evaluation of the program estimated that service members who had participated in TAP, on average, found their first post-military job three weeks sooner than those who did not participate in TAP.

Under a new overhaul to be completed by 2013, TAP will be replaced by the program Transition GPS, an updated pre-separation and counseling program to offer more robust career resources and better prime vets to take on jobs in the civilian sector.

GI Bill Educational Benefits

GI Bill Educational Benefits provide funds for educational costs, as well as living expenses, while the veteran is enrolled in educational programs. The most widely used program for veterans is the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

And veterans who are no longer eligible for the GI Bill may receive training benefits through the newly created Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP).

Last year, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.

VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011

The “VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011” is bipartisan, bicameral, comprehensive legislation that would lower the rate of unemployment among our nation’s veterans, and is part of a comprehensive jobs package that seeks to improve the high rate of veterans’ unemployment through the following means:

  • Expanding Education & Training: To begin moving veterans out of the unemployment lines, the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011” provides nearly 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits to qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors, from trucking to technology. It also provides disabled veterans who have exhausted their unemployment benefits up to 1-year of additional VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits.
  • Improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP): Too many service members don’t participate in TAP and enter civilian life without a basic understanding of how to compete in a tight job market. Therefore, the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” makes TAP mandatory for most service members transitioning to civilian status, upgrades career counseling options, and job hunting skills, as well as ensures the program is tailored to individuals and the 21st Century job market. The updated program, Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success) is being implemented across the Armed Services today, with full implementation expected in 2013.
  • Facilitating Seamless Transition: Getting a civil service job can often take months which often forces a veteran to seek unemployment benefits. To shorten the time to start a federal job after discharge, this bill allows service members to begin the federal employment process by acquiring veterans preference status prior to separation. This facilitates a more seamless transition to civil service jobs at VA, or the many other federal agencies that would benefit from hiring our veterans.
  • Translating Military Skills and Training: This bill also requires the Department of Labor to take a hard look at how to translate military skills and training to civilian sector jobs, and will work to make it easier to get the licenses and certification our veterans need.
  • Veterans Tax Credits: The “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” provides tax credits for hiring veterans and disabled veterans who are out of work.

Included in this new law is the VRAP, which offers 12 months of training assistance to veterans, who:

  • Are at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
  • Are unemployed on the date of application
  • Received an other than dishonorable discharge
  • Are not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance)
  • Are not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
  • Are not enrolled in a Federal or state job training program

The program is limited to 45,000 participants from July 1, 2012, through September 30, 2012, and 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012, through March 31, 2014. Participants must attend full-time in order to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program ($1,564 effective October 1, 2012).

Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.