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American Rescue Plan helps to fund new Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program though the VA

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 7:33 AM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The recently enacted American Rescue Plan allocated $17 billion in support of Veterans in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as providing needed monetary aid.

“The American Rescue Plan is a significant piece of legislation that helps VA deliver on the president’s promise of caring for the men and women who served our great nation, especially during this unanticipated and challenging time,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

The ARP enhances VA’s ability to deliver world class services to veterans and their families while forgiving some accumulated debt, speeding up VA compensation claims, and providing much needed funding to retrain them in new jobs. $386 million dollars goes to initiate a COVID-19 Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program that provides up to 12 months of training and employment assistance for certain unemployed Veterans to enter high demand occupations. $262 million dollars will go to reducing the backlog of compensation and pension claims from 212,000 to 100,000 by September 2022.

The Department of Veteran Affairs has launched the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program as part of its continued effort to support certain Veterans seeking retraining and economic opportunities in response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new program, part of the American Rescue Plan, allows qualifying veterans between the ages of 22 and 67 to receive up to 12 months of tuition and fees and monthly housing allowance payments, based on post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Covered education programs must provide training for a high-demand occupation.

The new program was effective March 11, 2021. You can apply online right now. To qualify Veterans must meet the following criteria:

  • At least 22 years of age and less than 67 years of age
  • Unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Not eligible for GI Bill or VR&E benefits
  • Not enrolled in a federal or state jobs program
  • Not receiving VA disability compensation by reason of unemployability
  • Not receiving enhanced unemployment benefits under the CARES Act

To fill out an application, you’ll need your:

  • Social Security number
  • Bank account direct deposit information
  • If you need help filling out this application, please contact an accredited individual, like a Veterans Service Officer or a veteran representative at the school.

To apply:

  • Complete the education benefits form online
  • After submitting the form, veterans will receive a confirmation message.
  • Veterans can print this page for your records.

The VA will review applications and make a decision within 30 days. They will let you know by mail if we need more information. If your application is approved, you will receive a Certificate of Eligibility or award letter in the mail. Bring this COE to the VA certifying official at your school. This person is usually in the registrar’s or financial aid office. If you application is not approved, you will get a denial letter in the mail.

90/10 Rule

  • ARP now requires Department of Education to include federal funding in 90/10 calculations.
  • No immediate impact to the GI Bill population.
  • No impact to VA’s current 85/15 rule.
  • Long-term impacts are minimal due to less than 40 educational institutions identified in violation of 90/10.

Claims Processing

VBA appreciates the the $262 million authorized by the ARP to support improvements in claims processing. VBA plans to utilize funding from the ARP to increase overtime to process claims and expand scanning of federal records to eliminate the dependency on National Archives and Records Administration. Of the $262 million:

  • $100 million will be used for overtime for claims processing to reduce the backlog of rating claims to around 100,000 by September 2022, which has grown to approximately 200,000 as of April 2021 from 76,000 in March 2020.
  • $150 million will be used to expand the scope of federal record scanning, to further reduce claims processing delays resulting from paper record requests maintained by NARA. Closures at NARA facilities due to COVID-19 have impacted VA’s ability to process claims that require records from NARA to support the veteran’s contentions. Additionally, expanded and proactive scanning capabilities at the National Personnel Records Center facilities would improve VA’s ability to access all veterans’ records in support of claims processing.
  • $2.5 million will be used for Customer Relationship Management system enhancements, which will allow Call Center Agents to complete simple claims over the phone.
  • $10 million will be used to implement an Integrated Hearing Scheduling. VBA handles hearings virtually and in-person, and all scheduling occurring locally to synchronize technology, employees, conference rooms, veterans’ and power of attorneys’ schedules. The Integrated Hearing Scheduling tools will allow veterans to self-request from identified timeslots and would improve the veteran experience for in-person and virtual hearing scheduling.

For more information, visit: https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/

Implementation of the new toll-free number that serves as a “front door” to the VA  1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411) connects veterans to easily accessed information on VA benefits and services and provides an expert who can answer their questions 24/7.

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