The job market today in the U.S. is tough, particularly for those who lack the education and training needed and expected by today’s employers. While the unemployment rate, overall, hovers around 8%, for those who hold a bachelor’s degree, that level is only about 4%. Unfortunately, many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan lack this level of education, and the unemployment rate among this group is a whopping 12%. Luckily, a number of programs exist to help returning veterans earn degrees, thus increasing their chances of finding and keeping good jobs.
American veterans have historically struggled with employment upon their return from war. For example, many veterans of World War I, who were given little more than a train ticket home, had difficulty weathering the storm of the Great Depression. With the end of World War II in sight, the U.S. righted that wrong and passed the G.I. Bill in 1944. This bill provided education and training, loan guarantees for homes and unemployment pay, helping returning veterans acquire the education and skills they needed to have fulfilling, productive careers.
Post-9/11 G.I. Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill builds upon that strong foundation and helps eligible veterans pay for education and training with money for tuition, books, supplies, fees and housing for up to 36 months. Veterans may access these benefits for 15 years following release from service. To qualify, a veteran must have been honorably discharged, and either have at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001, or have been discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. For veterans attending a public institution as a resident, the full cost of tuition and fees may be paid through the program.
Yellow Ribbon Program
For veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who wish to attend either a private or a public institution as a non-resident, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill may not cover the entire cost of their education. The G.I. Bill’s funds are capped at about $18,000 annually (with some exceptions). The Yellow Ribbon Program gives schools the option to make additional funds available to veterans, which are matched by the Veterans Administration. Participating schools may choose to cap the number of participants in their Yellow Ribbon Program.
To be eligible for this program, the veteran must have been honorably discharged and have had an aggregate period of active duty service of at least 36 months after September 10, 2001, or discharged from active duty with a service-connected disability and have served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001, or be an eligible dependent.
Veterans and Online Education
Some veterans returning from the intensity of combat find sitting in a traditional classroom, studying and writing papers boring, and cannot help but compare the obvious importance of their former responsibilities with the seemingly menial nature of their schoolwork. Others struggle with physical disabilities, and many have trouble fitting-in with their younger classmates who cannot relate to their harrowing time abroad, particularly if they are suffering from emotional injuries. For these students, online education offers the opportunity to circumvent much of the tedious and uncomfortable aspects of returning to school, and still acquire the education and training necessary to succeed.
In addition to allowing the veteran student to work at his or her own pace, online schools enable adults to work full or part time, while acquiring their degree – thus further improving their financial situation. For a veteran with a family and obligations, this is often a more practical option.
Jobs Programs for Veterans
The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 created programs to help veterans acquire training and education. The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) provides up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed veterans who are between the ages of 35 and 60, were not dishonorably discharged, are not eligible for other programs (such as the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill) and are not enrolled in another job training program.
For non-dishonorably discharged veterans with service-connected disabilities, the VetSuccess Program provides comprehensive services including evaluation, job training, job search and retention, case management, counseling, medical referrals and independent living services. To be eligible, an active duty service member must have a 20% or higher memorandum rating, and a veteran should have at least a 10% service-connected disability rating or a memorandum rating of at least 20%. Another Vocational Rehabilitation program offers an additional 12 months of benefits for veterans with a service-connected disability who have already participated in a similar program and have exhausted their unemployment benefits.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation (MOPHSF) offers many services for disabled veterans including the Veterans Vocational Technical Institute (VVTI). This online program provides job training for help desk and virtual call center employment.
Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan return home with many valuable traits desired by employers: integrity, loyalty, initiative, dependability, self-reliance, maturity and the ability to know when to “lead, follow or get out of the way.” All of these veterans seek fulfilling, well-paying jobs is an education. With so many programs available to help veterans get this necessary training and education, the transition back to successful civilian life has never been easier.