If you are an unemployed military veteran, you may be eligible for a new GI Bill / career training program: the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was created to help veterans gain marketable skills to more easily find a job. These new GI Bill benefits include education and training for unemployed veterans who are aged 35-60. The Veteran Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011 (HR 2433) is part of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program and was signed into law just before the end of 2011.
Here are a sampling of benefits which will help veterans (we will cover these in more depth below):
- Up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits to qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors
- Up to 1-year of additional VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits for disabled veterans.
- Quicker access to veterans preference rating for civil service jobs.
- Improvements to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
- Military skills translation – the Department of Labor is tasked to come up with better ways to translate military skills into the civilian sector.
If these additional benefits seem like something that will benefit you, then please continue reading and we will cover who is eligible for these benefits, more details about the benefits, availability dates, and how you can register to begin receiving them.
If you aren’t eligible to receive these benefits, then please forward this article to a veteran you know who may need assistance qualifying for additional education and training to help find a job.
Expanded GI Bill Benefits for Qualified Veterans
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act will offer qualified and eligible veterans up to 12 months of full-time Montgomery GI Bill benefits at the Active Duty rate. See current MGIB rates for more information.
Here are some additional benefits in greater detail:
Greater education and training opportunities: The VOW to Hire Heroes Act will provide eligible veterans with up to a year of additional MGIB benefits at the active duty rate, in order to help them earn training and certifications in high-demand jobs. In order to receive benefits, eligible veterans must attend a VA Approved education or training program at a community college or technical school, provided the program is working toward an Associate’s Degree, a non-college degree, or a qualified certification in a high demand occupation. Some examples include technology certifications, trucking, and various Associate’s Degrees.
This program also provides disabled veterans up to 1-year of additional VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits, provided they have exhausted their unemployment benefits.
Veterans can acquire “veterans preference status” more quickly. There is currently a delay in how quickly veterans can acquire veterans preference status for civil service employment. The new VOW to Hire Heroes Act will help make this transition more seamless by enabling veterans to acquire veterans preference status before separating from the military, which can help facilitate hiring into a federal job. the goal is to reduce the time it takes to hire qualified military veterans — many jobs currently take months to fill, causing many veterans to file for unemployment benefits while their application and veterans preference is pending.
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) improvements: The TAP program is required by all branches of the service and is designed to help military members make the transition from the military environment to the civilian world. The goal is to help veterans prepare for life away from the military, including creating a resume, interviewing, and getting hired into a civilian position. TAP will be getting as facelift as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, with improvements in career counseling, job searching processes, and more.
Military skills translation. Translating your skills to the civilian marketplace can be difficult. After all, how many civilian jobs are there for bomb loader or artillery specialists? While there aren’t necessarily direct civilian jobs with those job titles, many of the skills you have learned while in these positions are translatable, and the Department of Labor has been tasked to make it easier for military members and veterans to translate their skills into civilian terms, and make it easier to earn licenses and certifications for civilian employment. You can already use the Veterans Job Bank to translate your military skills, but expect more improvements and assistance in the future.
Employment assistance. The Department of Labor will provide employment assistance to each veteran who completes the program.
Veterans Tax Credits: Though this doesn’t directly affect the veterans, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act provides employers with tax credits of $5,600 for hiring an unemployed veteran, and $9,600 for hiring an unemployed disabled veteran. This may make the difference between you getting a job or an employer deciding not to hire an extra employee.
Who qualifies for the VOW GI Bill?
This program is designed to help unemployed military veterans gain marketable skills through training and education.
To qualify for the VOW GI Bill, a veteran must:
- Be age 35 or older and younger than 60
- Be unemployed (according to Department of Labor definitions) with special consideration given to veterans who have been unemployed for 26 weeks or longer.
- 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 Assistance).
- Not be in receipt of compensation due to unemployability.
- Not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program
How to Apply for VOW Benefits
This program will be jointly run by the Department of Labor and the VA. The VA will provide funding for the program, but applications must be submitted to the Department of Labor where they will be processed and approved.
Program start and end date: This program will become available to eligible veterans on July 1, 2012 and is set to extend through March 31, 2014.
Limited availability. Like all good things, there are limits to the availability for this program. The law only provides availability for 45,000 participants in fiscal year 2012, and 54,000 participants in fiscal year 2013. It’s too early to say if there will be extensions on that time frame, as it will likely depend on how the economy is doing and whether there will be funding. (Current funding is already approved and paid for).
At this time, applications have not yet opened. We will update this article when the information becomes available. In the meant time, it is recommended to contact the Department of Labor and/or the VA for additional information or to see if you can be put on their mailing list for updates.
Where to go for more information.
This is a joint program sponsored by the Department of Labor and the Veterans Affairs office. You can read more about the VOW GI Bill here: VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 | House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and at the VOW to Hire Heroes Act page at the VA.