Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Legion testifies on executive order impact

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A House subcommittee hearing on May 16 in Washington examined the impact of President Barack Obama’s Executive Order No. 13607 on schools and veterans.

The American Legion submitted written testimony to the hearing conducted by the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and chaired by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind.

The president’s executive order, “Establishing Principles of Excellence for Education Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members,” issued on April 27, is intended to protect the full range of military/veteran education benefits programs – including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Department of Defense Military Tuition Assistance Program, and the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) – from predatory for-profit schools.

The order’s provisions focus on ensuring that servicemembers and veterans have the information, support and protection they need to make informed decisions about their higher-education options.

In its testimony, the Legion pointed out that more than 800,000 student veterans are receiving GI Bill education benefits. Some were recruited by for-profit schools that have drawn criticism for poor graduation rates, high tuition, lack of accountability and questionable recruiting practices.

For-profit schools are not cheap, despite their general lack of brick-and-mortar campuses, academic counseling or personal interaction with faculty members. According to the Department of Education, for-profits cost on average $30,900 per year, compared to $15,600 for public colleges and $26,000 for private non-profits. In addition, 46 percent of all student loan dollars in default come from for-profit schools, despite the fact they account for only 12 percent of college students.

“These are just some of the facts that cannot be ignored anymore by policymakers,” the Legion testified. “Servicemembers, veterans and their family members trying to improve their job prospects shouldn’t be duped into taking on crushing debt in exchange for the promise of a future job that will probably never materialize.”

While the Legion supports Obama’s executive order, its intent should not be limited to for-profit, post-secondary institutions. All post-secondary schools should be a matter of concern.

The Legion said the president’s executive order “is a step in the right direction. It is one portion of the overall effort in aiding decision-makers and encouraging prospective servicemembers, veterans and their family members to consider certain criteria as an important component of their college choice.”

The danger of unscrupulous for-profit schools is a situation that should be of bipartisan concern, the Legion testified, “where bogus degrees are a symptom of crisis among our servicemembers, veterans and their families, and where even those who claim to be accredited are often worthless in the job market. There is a significant gap between the obligation and delivery of higher education, which, unless checked, will constrain our economic growth, risking and squandering this nation’s competitive advantage.”

To read the Legion’s written testimony, click here.

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VA, DoL launch education program

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Starting May 15, unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 can now apply for new benefits to cover education costs for up to one year through a joint Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor program that focuses on retraining 99,000 veterans for high-demand jobs.

As part of a provision of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) allows qualifying veterans to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty rate, currently $1,473 per month.

Veterans can apply on a first-come, first-serve basis for VRAP for programs that begin on or after July 1. Assistance under this benefit program ends on March 31, 2014.

To complete an application, a veteran will need to know his or her direct deposit information (bank routing number and account number), the name and location of his or her school, the program the veteran wishes to pursue, and the applicable high-demand occupation.

To qualify, veterans must:

• Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and not dishonorably discharged;

• Start education or training after July 1 in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by the DoL;

• Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g. Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment);

• Not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program within the last 180 days;

• Not receive VA compensation at the 100-percent rate due to individual unemployability (IU).

Upon completion, the Labor Department will engage with participants within 30 days after their training to help them find good jobs that utilize their newly learned skills.

For more information on VOW, VRAP, high demand occupations, and how to apply, veterans may go to the website or call VA’s Call Centers toll free at (800) 827-1000. Veterans may also access the VRAP application online through eBenefits, a joint project between the Department of Defense and VA.

Veterans are also encouraged to visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation for assistance from staff, Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVERS), and Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists. To find the center near you, click here.

For more information about the Department of Labor’s Veterans programs, click here.




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Hiring Our Heroes headed to Puerto Rico

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It’s often said that when the mainland catches a cold, Puerto Rico gets the flu. This is especially true for veterans unemployment, as the island territory ranks among the highest in the nation in former servicemembers who are out of work.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The American Legion have taken notice, choosing Puerto Rico as the location for a Hiring Our Heroes job fair, which takes place June 1 at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino in San Juan. Attendees can preregister for the free event until May 24. Walk-ins are also welcomed.

Around 35 employers are expected to be in attendance, fielding applications, networking with job candidates and offering other career services. As has been the case in the past with Hiring Our Heroes fairs, some employers will interview on the spot.

Companies like Wal-Mart, JC Penny and Aflac have agreed to maintain booths at the event. Government organizations like the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency will also be on hand.

“One of the main concerns in front of our troops is employment,” said Ildefonso “Pancho” Colon, department commander. “It is my opinion that our troops deserve the first crack at the jobs that are available.”

Current estimates indicate that Puerto Rico has almost 200,000 veterans. “Soft” statistics have predicted that an unproportional amount of them are without work. This made the island a priority for The American Legion and the Chamber.

“It was decided that The American Legion needed to take action and make a statement showing that we support our fellow veterans in Puerto Rico,” said Davy Leghorn, assistant director for the Legion’s Economic Division. “Staff from The American Legion Headquarters and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have worked closely with the Department of Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands to ensure this hiring fair is successful.”

The hiring fair will coincide with The Department of Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands’ annual department convention. The department has helped coordinate the event with Legion national headquarters, the Chamber, the Department of Labor and the National Guard and Army Reserve.

Colon sees it as a crucial step in improving career prospects for veterans in his sovereign.

“The job fair is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “Working together with all the different employers, we can accomplish so much.”

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Joint VA/DOL Program Launches to Retrain 99,000 Unemployed Veterans

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Starting May 15, unemployed Veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 can now apply for new benefits to cover education costs for up to one year through a joint Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor (DOL) program that focuses on retraining 99,000 Veterans for high-demand jobs.

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Revised Policy for Active Duty Health Professions/Financial Assistance Program Stipend and Annual Grant Amount

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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at