Job retraining program to help older veterans is taking off
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The first round of a new federal program to help older veterans pay for job retraining is almost full just three weeks after it began.
So Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat who sponsored a bill that led to the program, has mounted a public push to let veterans know about it.
“I want to make sure that as many Ohioans get the opportunity to apply as soon as possible,” he said yesterday.
Ohioans who have already applied say they think the program will help them in a difficult job market.
“This is huge,” said Ronald Mussetter Jr., 41, a Navy veteran from Washington Court House who is taking classes at Columbus State Community College to become an aircraft-maintenance technician. “I have four kids at home to take care of.”
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 passed with broad support from both political parties and both houses of Congress. (“VOW” stands for “Veterans Opportunity to Work.”) The act established the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which began on July 1.
The program is open to unemployed veterans who are 35 to 60 years old and aren’t eligible for other educational benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most veterans, for example, lose their access to Montgomery GI Bill money 10 years after they are discharged from the military.
Participants can receive up to $1,473 per month for a year toward training in a “high-demand occupation” at a government-approved community college or technical school.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has a list of 211 occupations that fit the description, from construction manager to registered nurse and from barber to police officer.
The program’s first round is limited to 45,000 veterans. More than 36,000 had applied as of yesterday .
The program will be opened to an additional 54,000 veterans on Oct. 1. Brown said that Congress could consider renewing the program if it’s successful.
William Smith, 53, an Army veteran who lives on the East Side, learned about the program this summer when he enrolled in classes at Columbus State. He has spent much of his recent life in the construction business “pushing a wheelbarrow or mixing the mud,” he said.
His veterans’ assistance money will go toward training in construction management. “I was very happy to hear about this,” he said.
And George H. Cook Jr., 50, an unemployed medical assistant and Air Force veteran who lives on the South Side, will use his newfound benefits to become a licensed practical nurse.
“I need help financially,” he said. “I served my country, and (the program) helps.”
For more information or to apply, visit the VA's Veterans Opportunity to Work page.