On Wednesday, October 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs held a conference call to inform military veterans about changes to the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, which has provided financial assistance to military veterans seeking traditional college degrees since 1944, will now provide benefits to veterans seeking non-college degrees, on-the-job training, and correspondence courses, and veterans can be eligible to receive a housing allowance rate when enrolled in distance or online learning courses.
According to Under Secretary General Allison Hickey, who stated the Veterans Benefits Administration has put more than $13 billion in payments in the hands of more than 600,000 service members and Veterans in the past two years for the purpose of enhancing their career opportunities, “there is a different focus now, and not just on academic programs but also on non-degree programs and trade craft skills.”
Hickey also touched on President Obama’s American Jobs Act, which would allow for incentives for employers that would employ veterans and assist them in transitioning effectively from military to civilian/veteran status.
“At the VA we have noted that of the 47 million jobs that will be created between now and 2018, very few will require college degrees and more of them will require non-degree program certification, licensing, journeyman apprenticeships and trade craft skills. There is tremendous opportunity for our veterans to gain access to good paying jobs and for us to incentivize employers to hire them but in ways that help them reduce their training budgets and bills.”
Hickey stated that the financial support and compensation for vocational training, certification, licensing, and other non-degree job training programs, provided by the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill would be “a tremendous opportunity for Veterans to gain the skills necessary to achieve good paying jobs.”
“In the next year alone VA estimates 40,000 Veterans will take advantage of this opportunity. I think it's going to be higher to be honest,” she said.
Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity Curt Coy who was also on the call added, “We are excited about the changes that will give our vets a bit of flexibility. If a veteran has [Information Technology] training experience and they need to get Microsoft certified or Sun systems certified we can help pay for that. If veterans need to receive state certifications or licensing we can provide the benefits to cover those expenses.”
Coy also stated that benefits will be expanded for disabled veterans pursuing vocational training, on-the-job training or apprenticeships. “We predict another 22,000 veterans will take advantage of this,” he said.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service Director Ruth Fanning, that has worked with disabled vets for 30 years said, “In addition to the great changes in the post-9/11 G.I. Bill for education recipients, there has also been a positive impact for the vocational rehabilitation program.”
Fanning says with new benefits added to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services for disabled veterans, veterans will now be able to more fully make the transition to civilian life and the business world.
“We provide tuition, case management books, equipment, tools whatever is needed to help that person. Almost 80 percent of our veterans that were placed in jobs were placed in professional or managerial positions earning an average of $42,000 per year. Compared to recent news, the average household income in America is $50,000. We are not just focused on getting them into a job we are focused on getting into a career that they can succeed in. A veteran only needs a 10 percent disability rating to apply.”
Fanning also spoke of a website www.vetsuccess.gov which helps veterans with job placement, resume and job building tools and employer / employee matching.
For American Indian veterans
When asked about benefits specific to American Indian veterans, VA administrators on the call cited certain factors could serve to benefit veterans in tribal or rural territories.
According to Fanning, “The rural issue is a real concern with employment - I think the good news with the changing economy is that we are in a more global economy. There is a lot of telework that Native Americans or other individuals in rural communities can now take advantage of that include online training programs and employment by large metropolitan companies that are in other areas. Yet they can remain a resident of their rural communities. In addition we are really focused on entrepreneurship, there are many businesses that can be run online,” she said.
“There are several federal agencies that are moving increasingly toward a very major footprint in telework,” said Hickey. “In the future of the VA there will be some opportunities and some strategic planning to be thinking about those things too.”
Complete information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill is available at: www.gibill.va.gov. VA's education information phone number is: 1-888-GIBILL-1. For ongoing benefit information, Veterans and service members can log into the VA website: www.eBenefits.va.gov.