BLOUNTVILLE — Unemployed veterans may have a way to receive higher learning training, while also bettering themselves for future success.
A new program — the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program — has made its way to Northeast State Community College.
VRAP, designed to put veterans who are ineligible to receive GI Bill benefits through educational training courses, was made possible by the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act, which was passed in Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Pat Chandler, coordinator of veterans affairs at Northeast State, said the school is happy to host the program. The program’s guidelines stipulate its benefits can only be used at a community college or technology center.
“It allows them 12 months of benefits. They pay it like they were under the Chapter 30, which was the Montgomery GI Bill,” she said. “They do have to be full time ... to be eligible for the program. It has to be either a certificate or an associate degree that they’re pursuing.”
Some of the programs they’ve seen signed up for the most since VRAP was made available on July 1 have been computer science, automotive, business management and welding.
“We have had several already who have come in already with their certificate of eligibility,” Chandler said. “Turn around times have been pretty quick. We’re still having several a week come in to apply for the program.”
She stressed, though, that VRAP is strictly for those not currently receiving benefits from their past military service.
“This program is to pick up those people who are not eligible for benefits any longer, that are unemployed,” Chandler said. “This is just an additional benefit that they’re able to get ... in order to be able to go back to work. These people cannot be eligible for any other GI Bill. Their time must have already expired.”
The veterans program also has an age limit, only accepting veterans who are between 35 and 60 years old.
As the fall semester approaches, Chandler said there is still time for eligible veterans interested in claiming these benefits to apply.
“If they want to come in the fall there is not a deadline, but they need to get in here as soon as possible,” she said. “We’ll be glad to help them apply for the benefits. They just need to bring us their DD214 form.”
Chandler said her hopes for the program would be to reach interested veterans and to get them enrolled.
“It’s just a wonderful opportunity. We were so glad to see this come about because we know there are veterans out there who are unemployed that just welcome this,” she said. “We just encourage all of them that may be interested in going back to work and are interested in free training to come see us.”
According to a release about the new program, Northeast State is the only community college in the region to administer VRAP benefits.
To complete the VRAP application, veterans can visit the eBenefits website. To apply for admission to Northeast State, visit www.NortheastState.edu/apply.