This week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, introduced a comprehensive veterans’ employment package designed to extend and improve upon veterans’ employment benefits included in the 2011 VOW to Hire Heroes Act.
One of the key VFW-supported provisions included in the “Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act of 2013, or S. 6, is an extension of the highly popular Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP, which offers one year of additional GI Bill-style education benefits to unemployed veterans between the ages of 35-60.
VRAP is scheduled to expire in March 31, 2014, meaning any of the 99,000 veterans approved to participate in the program will no longer be able to receive benefits, even if they are actively enrolled in an approved program.
Through Reid’s bill, VRAP would be extended through March 2016 and 100,000 additional veterans will be able to apply to participate. The bill also extends VA vocational benefits for wounded service members through December 2016 and reauthorizes appropriations for collaborative grants to assist with veterans’ training, mentoring and placement programs.
The bill also builds on the VOW to Hire Heroes Act by directing Department of Labor to develop a single, comprehensive veterans’ jobs portal, commissioning grants for states to hire veterans as first responders, establishing an veterans’ employment threshold for certain government contractors, and improving USERRA protections for members of the National Guard and Reserve.
The VFW was a champion of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act in 2011, and has worked to ensure that veterans who wished to enroll in VRAP could succeed. VFW also pushed for many of the additional reforms, which garnered bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, during the last Congress.
S. 6 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, where the VFW will be closely watching its progress. Check back regularly for updates.