Legislation offers more benefits for veterans

With the passage of the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, new benefits are available to unemployed veterans. Veterans may qualify for additional education benefits, and veterans with service-connected disabilities may qualify for additional vocational-rehabilitation and employment benefits.

The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program offers 12 months of retraining assistance to veterans who meet specific criteria. The veteran must be unemployed; at least 35 but not older than 60; have an other than dishonorable discharge; 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); not be in receipt of VA compensation because of individual unemployability; and not enrolled in a federal or state job-training program. The veteran must be enrolled in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school.

The program is limited to 45,000 participants from July 1 through Sept. 30 and to 54,000 participants from Oct. 1 through March 31, 2014. Participants may receive up to 12 months of assistance at the full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program (currently $1,473 per month). The program must lead to an associate’s degree, noncollege degree or a certification, and it must train the veteran for a high-demand occupation.

Veterans who previously completed a VA vocational-rehabilitation program and have used the initial 26 weeks of unemployment benefits may qualify for an additional 12 months of VA vocational rehabilitation benefits.

The veteran must have previously completed a VA vocational-rehabilitation and employment program and been considered “rehabilitated” by the VA. Veterans must apply for this program within six months of using their initial 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and they may qualify for extended or emergency unemployment benefits. The application process is open now, but education or training cannot start until June 1 and applications must be received by the VA no later than March 31, 2014.

The VA may offer incentive payments to encourage employers to hire and train program participants. The VA may be able to reimburse an employer up to half of the veteran’s annual salary for six months or longer. This can provide veterans with a competitive advantage with employers. The veteran must apply and qualify for VA vocational-rehabilitation benefits before being hired.

To apply for these programs, contact your local county veterans service officer or learn more information about vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits, call (800) 827-1000, visit the www.va.gov website and fill out an online application (VONAPP), or complete VA Form 28-1900, Disabled Veterans Application for Vocational Rehabilitation, and submit it through your local county veterans service office.

Richard Schleeter is the veterans service officer for the La Plata County Veterans Service Office. He can be reached at 759-0117 or schleeterrs@co.laplata.co.us.