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A $65 million fix by the Veterans Affairs Department will keep thousands of unemployed veterans in job training programs through the end of this semester.
White House officials announced Wednesday that VA would shift new funding to the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. More than 126,000 people have taken part in the program, aimed at veterans ages 35 to 60 who have no other VA education benefits.
Lawmakers and administration officials have lauded the retraining program as a success, helping unemployed and undertrained veterans get back into the job market. Participants receive 12 months of education benefits, equivalent to full-time Montgomery GI Bill payouts.
But when Congress finalized the program in 2011, it covered course payments only through March 2014. That left veterans in courses this semester wondering if they’d be able to continue training through the end of the school year, or if they’d be left to pay for the remaining weeks themselves.
Under the change announced Wednesday, those participants will be allowed to continue receiving payments until the end of the term or until June 30, whichever is earlier.
VA stopped accepting new applications to VRAP in October. To date, more than $740 million has been paid out through the program in training and education benefits.
On Wednesday, Reps. Julia Brownley and Mark Takano, Democrats representing California districts, introduced new legislation to extend the program through Sept. 30, to ensure all participants can finish their training. In addition, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has introduced legislation that would reauthorize the program for two more years.