What Is Wrong with the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)?
That was a fundamental question the House of Representative subcommittee asked. Out of the 114,098 applications that have been approved, only 58,225, or about 51% at the time of this writing, are actually enrolled in a training program. As a result of their findings, the House is now considering legislation to fix some of the issues they believe is causing low enrollment.
One issue is the full-time requirement. Right now, VRAP students must attend school a minimum of 18 seat-time hours per week to be considered full-time. In many of the trade programs, this causes students to take unrelated courses just to maintain a full-time status; courses that in no way help them find employment once their training is complete. In an effort to change this, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) introduced his bill H.R. 1357, which would reduce seat-time hours to 16 and still be considered full-time.
Another factor causing low enrollment is the limitation that VRAP training programs can only be located at two-year public schools. This requirement severely limits the number of training programs that can qualify a student for VRAP funding. While the requirement does need to be changed, Rep Johnson’s bill does not include it and at this time there isn’t a bill currently on the floor that would address this issue yet. This requirement should be expanded to include four-year public and private schools, many of which have very good one-year trade and skill programs.
Right now, VRAP is set to expire on March 31, 2014, however, House Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) introduced bill H.R 562 that would extend the ending date of the program by three months out to June 30, 2014. Many feel the program should be expanded out to a two-year program instead of one year.
Under the VRAP program unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 can get paid at the Montgomery GI Bill benefit of $1,564 per month for up to 12 months to go to school and learn a high demand trade or skill that results in licensure, a certificate, certification or credits that lead toward an Associate’s of Arts (AA) degree.
Now in its second year, VRAP (part of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011) has been far more disappointing than expected. With the two bills already on the table and other changes being discussed, maybe the second year of the program will show better results.
Photo courtesy pirateyjoe