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Veterans Retraining Assistance Program update

SUN Columnist

This was received from Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Undersecretary for Economic Opportunity Veterans Benefits.

“Many of you were instrumental in helping us get the word out (thank you). I thought it might be useful to give you a brief update. The law that enacted the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) was signed on November 21, 2011 giving up to 99,000 unemployed veterans who do not have any VA educational benefits an additional 12 months of Montgomery GI Bill benefits ($1,564/month) for training towards a high demand occupation. We began accepting applications on May 15, 2012, less than 6 months after enactment. Every veteran who is given a Certificate of Eligibility is contacted by our partners in the Department of Labor to assist them with their employment goals.

“As of late this week, we have received over 94,000 applications, and have approved 77,000 Certificates of Eligibility — all good news. However, just over 27,000 of those eligible have begun using their benefit. I have two ‘asks’.

• Please continue to get the word out on this wonderful program; we continually update our website www.benefits.va.gov/VOW<http://www.benefits.va.gov/VOW>.

• Encourage those Veterans who have been accepted to use their benefit, or turn them in if they do not plan to use them.

“Please help us get that word out. We do not want any of the 99,000 slots to go unused. The program is only two years long. By law we can only accept applications until Sept. 30, 2013, and the last payment can be made through March 31, 2014. VRAP participants that do not enroll in school by March of this year will not be able to receive a full 12 months of training. The urgency should be conveyed — apply, use the benefit as soon as feasible, or notify us to cancel the Certificate of Eligibility so that another Vet can potentially use the benefit.”

Trust Fund

The Trust Fund Grant has directed a change of rules. All requests for travel/lodging reimbursement must have the following: Printed copy of appointment, copy of receipt for gas payment and/or receipt of lodging payment. Payment from Trust Fund will be to the amount on receipts: No receipt-no payment.

Ensure you apply for Travel through VAMC Albuquerque, whenever possible.

If a veteran is eligible for VA Travel payments, no reimbursements are authorized through the Trust Fund Grant.

Benefits

For information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday, 10 a.m., Quality Inn.

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: every other Monday, 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.

Point Man Ministry (veterans): every Thursday, 9 a.m., Crossroads Church, 1044 Park Ave.

Contacts

Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7, 365 days a year. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online, or text 838255.

This story was posted on February 21, 2013.