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VA Boosts Funding to Expiring Training Program

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The Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday announced that veterans enrolled in training programs that extend beyond when program funding expires on March 31 will be provided the money needed to complete their courses.

The announcement comes about a week after comprehensive veterans' legislation that included an extension of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP, failed to pass in the Senate.

"To enable VRAP participants to complete training for their current enrollment period, VA will provide a one-time payment to cover training from April 1, 2014 through the conclusion of a veteran's current enrollment [semester or term] or June 30, whichever is earlier," VA spokesman Drew Brookie said on Wednesday.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, which reviewed the cost of funding VRAP beyond March 31 as part of a House bill, about 5,000 veterans will still be looking to finish their training as of March 31. CBO estimated the cost to be about $20 million.

VRAP was created in as part of the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 to provide unemployed vets between the ages of 35 and 60 with up to 12 months of retraining in high-demand occupations.

The monthly assistance to veterans, based on the Montgomery GI Bill, currently is about $1,640.

Brookie said the VA has received and processed more than 143,000 VRAP applications from veterans and more than 126,000 have been approved for the program. To qualify, the unemployed a veteran also must not have been eligible for any other VA education benefit program. Enrollment was restricted to VA-approved education programs offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certification for a high-demand occupation. 

The VA has paid over $740 million in VRAP training and education to date.

The House of Representatives on Feb. 4 passed legislation that includes a provision extending VRAP through the end of June. The GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of was introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, but only made it onto the House schedule this year.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at Bryant.Jordan@monster.com

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