The COVID-19 pandemic hit veteran employment hard. In March 2021, 5% of all veterans looking for work reported they had exhausted their job-training opportunities and have been unable to find stable employment; that figure is almost twice as high from the 2.9% during the same time last year at the beginning of the pandemic. In an effort to change the unemployment outlook, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 included $17 billion for several veteran programs. One of these programs is a new fast training plan – the Veterans Rapid Retraining Assistance Program or VRRAP for short. It was signed into law on March 11 and the VA started accepting applications on May 3rd.
Because VRRAP is modeled after the older VRAP (Veterans Retraining Assistance Program) from a few years ago, the VA was able to ramp-up the program quickly. Like VRAP, the VA coordinated with the Department of Labor and identified 200 high demand training programs in eighteen different career fields; everything from high-tech computer-related fields like cybersecurity, to healthcare, media, education, architecture, engineering, transportation and many more. The schools participating in the program and the courses each offer have been approved under the GI Bill and VET TEC high demand job training criteria.
To apply, veterans must meet these all of these requirements:
- Must be between the ages of 22 and 66
- Have an honorable or other-than-honorable discharge
- Unemployed due to the pandemic
- Not eligible for VR&E benefits
- Do not have any remaining GI Bill eligibility left to use
- Not rated as totally disabled and unable to work
- Not enrolled in any federal or state jobs programs
- Not already receiving unemployment benefits including CARES Act benefits.
Each training program lasts up to 12 months with the end goal being veterans learning a new skill or completing a certification program in one of the high demand fields. These new skills will expand their employment opportunities. VRRAP ends on December 11, 2022 and is limited to funding ceiling of $386 million or participant limit of 17,250 – whichever one of the three comes first. Veterans in the training program will have their tuition and fees paid by the VA directly to the school; veterans receive a monthly housing allowance that is calculated based on the same rate as it is for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Training can be pursued on either a part-time or full-time basis. On-the-job training, apprenticeships, internships, and degree programs are not authorized under the VRRAP.
If you are an unemployed veteran meeting the eligibility requirements and wanting to work, the VRRAP opportunity could be a chance to not only get your training paid and earn a monthly stipend while in the program, but also discover a new and exciting career!