No More Unemployment for Most Veterans on the GI Bill

gibill

By Debbie Gregory.

Apparently, Congress was surprised to learn that many veterans were receiving free tuition at school, a housing allowance to pay all their housing costs, $1,000 a year book stipend from their GI Bill, AND unemployment.

This was a loophole in the law that Congress is closing up. Language inserted into the 2016 National Defense Act, approved last December, now prohibits the receipt of unemployment benefits while receiving the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

An exception was carved out for veterans involuntarily separated from the military under honorable conditions.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays not only tuition for student veterans but also a living stipend, equal to the Basic Allowance for Housing.

The Department of Labor is working with state and federal agencies so that they can  identify which veterans are receiving unemployment checks, GI Bill checks or both. But for now, no such central information system exists, in part because unemployment benefits are handled differently in each state.

According to the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report, when it comes to employment and income, Veterans as a whole are faring well, with employment and earnings generally comparable to the non-Veteran population. And while veterans are taking advantage of their GI Bill education benefits to pursue higher education and certification programs, there is room for improvement.

In recent years about half of all servicemembers transitioning into civilian life have faced a period of unemployment within 15 months of separation. In addition, some groups lag behind the non-Veteran population in economic outcomes (for example Veterans over 55).

The new law has not specified the timeline for enforcement of the changes, so individual  states are not required to enforce it until the new guidance from the Labor Department is released.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

SunShot Initiative Creates Jobs for Military Veterans

army-solar-panels

By Debbie Gregory.

In the first workforce training partnership between a civilian federal agency, the Department of Defense and individual military branches, the SunShot Initiative’s Solar Ready Vets program is training our nation’s transitioning servicemembers for careers in the solar energy industry. Upon completion of the program, these veterans are ready for careers as solar photovoltaic (PV) system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related occupations, great jobs for military veterans.

In the U.S., employment in the solar industry has steadily increased 123% over the past five years. Veterans are strong candidates to fill these positions because they are disciplined, motivated, and technically savvy.

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and a major source of new jobs. Employment in the solar industry is expected to grow by nearly 15% in 2016, continuing into 2020 – with rising demand for more highly-trained, skilled workers. With at least 190,000 veterans leaving the U.S. military each year for the next several years, the Solar Ready Vets program matches highly qualified individuals with growing industry demand.

The Energy Department has secured commitments from some of the largest U.S. solar companies to interview graduating military trainees for employment, a step that will help place qualified trainees in the high-paying jobs for which they received training. So far, the program has been hugely successful, with, every graduate of the program having received at least one job offer from a solar company.

During the pilot phase, the program has been tested and designed  at three military installations: Camp Pendleton in California, Fort Carson in Colorado, and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.  The Energy Department is working with the Department of Defense to expand the program to a total of ten military bases by late spring 2016.

Future locations will be evaluated based on the number of exiting military personnel, the strength of the surrounding solar market, and the training capacity of nearby DOE-supported training institutions.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

On-The-Job Training and Apprenticeship Opportunities for Veterans

onthejobtraining

In today’s competitive job market, those seeking employment must create their own career paths by seeking out opportunities to develop skills and experience.

Both on-the-job (OJT) and apprenticeship training programs are available for Veterans using their VA education benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill. These programs allow Veterans to learn a trade or skill through training on the job participation rather than attending formal classroom instruction.

The programs offered typically include a training contract for a specific period of time with an employer or union. At the end of the training, a job certification is issued or journeyman status achieved.

While most Veterans receive a salary from the training employer or union during training veterans can expect that as their skills increase, so may their salaries. GI Bill payments are issued monthly after VA receives certification of hours worked from the employer or union.

There are a wide variety of on-the-job and apprenticeship opportunities available to veterans. Unfortunately, these programs are not available to active duty service members or spouses using a transferred benefit.

Although the participation requirements are the same for all GI Bill programs, the payment amount varies depending on the program. View the payment rates for your GI Bill program.

Post-9/11 GI Bill recipients. The payment rates are as follows:

  • You will receive 100 percent of your applicable MHA during the first six months of training in these increments: •80 percent of your applicable MHA during the second six months of training
  • 60 percent of your applicable MHA during the third six months of training
  • 40 percent of your applicable MHA during the fourth six months of training
  • 20 percent of your applicable MHA during the remainder of the training
  • Post-9/11 GI Bill recipients will also receive up to $83 per month for books and supplies.

All other GI Bill programs. For all other GI Bill programs, the payment rates are as follows:

  • 75 percent of the full-time GI Bill rate for the first six months of training
  • 55 percent of the full-time GI Bill rate for the second six months of training
  • 35 percent of the full-time GI Bill rate for the remainder of the training program

Employers interested in participating in this program should review the Understanding On-The-Job Training & Apprenticeship Approval Guide. Employers can also contact their local State Approving Agency to determine which programs Veterans should enroll in to maximize their VA educational benefits.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Attorney Generals Demand Veteran Education Restored to Defrauded Veterans

predatory

By Debbie Gregory.

Numerous state attorney generals are speaking out on behalf of veterans who were defrauded of their veteran education by for-profit colleges.

The attorney generals (AGs) in eight states sent Secretary Bob McDonald a letter demanding restoration of GI Bill benefits. They allege that the for-profit colleges used deceptive tactics in recruiting veterans that slipped by the VA, denying them the quality veteran education that they would have received by attending non-predatory veteran schools.

Recruiters, who were more like heavy-handed salespeople,  used proven psychotherapy techniques to manipulate veterans into enrolling. Veterans used up their benefits on a worthless “education.”

“Veterans earn educational benefits through their heroic service to our country… They should not return home and become targets of predatory, bogus colleges whose only interest in our veterans is to profit off them,” said Illinois AG Lisa Madigan. “It’s critical that our tax dollars allow student veterans to get a true education and the opportunities it provides.”

The aforementioned colleges provided such low quality educations that other colleges would not accept them for transfer credits. Graduates were promised jobs that never materialized.

To protect veterans education moving forward, the AGs are suggesting the VA adopt four strategies.

Exercise current federal statutory authority to provide relief to these veterans

Trigger Automatic Reviews

Take Proactive Steps To Provide Full and Accurate Information

Increase Cooperation.

For-profit colleges can receive up to 90 percent of their revenue from taxpayer dollars, with the additional revenue frequently coming from veterans’ benefits and private student loans.

These students—including veterans—enrolled to become equipped for the workforce, but often they didn’t get what they need. Instead, they found confusing or misleading information, excessive costs, poor quality, low completion rates, and programs that provide training for low-wage occupations or, in some cases, where there simply are no jobs.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Jobs for Military Veterans Remains a Top Priority

veterans resources

By Debbie Gregory.

Jobs for military veterans is one of the main issues facing today’s veterans, with the unemployment rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan remaining the highest among all American veterans.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the 2014 unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans, although down nearly 2 percent from the previous year, was at 7.2 percent. This was the highest amongst all veteran groups.

But the news isn’t all bad. The Department of Veteran Affairs reports that veteran school benefits, such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, have impacted the unemployment figures as many veterans have decided to pursue an education instead of a getting a job right away. Additionally, female veterans have a completion rate 5 percent higher than female students in the general population.

So while women veterans have a higher unemployment rate, those who attend school and/or secure an employment opportunity are faring better than their non-veteran counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

When it comes to finding jobs for military veterans, Hiring Our Heroes is a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.

To date, the initiative has found jobs for more than 27,000 veterans and military spouses. The listing of Veteran Job Fairs on MilitaryConnection.com includes Hiring Our Heroes on-site events that connect veterans directly with employers, as well as many other resources for employment and education including Post 9/11 GI Bill information, the Annual Stipend for books & supplies , a Job Board with thousands of openings, and our Virtual Job Fair.

But finding a job and staying at that job long term can be a challenge for many veterans. In order to avoid attrition, one of the best veteran job tips is to begin planning for a civilian job anywhere from 10 to 12 months before transitioning out of the military.

When looking for veteran jobs, don’t rule out working for the federal government. According to the President’s Council on Veterans Employment, in 2014, the percentage of veteran new hires hit a new high of 33.2 percent, surpassing the previous mark set in FY 2013, when 31 percent of all new Federal civilian hires were veterans.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

House Vote Reduces GI Bill Housing Stipend for Military Children

bah cut

By Debbie Gregory.

The House of Representatives approved a bill that would cut, by half, the housing stipend for children of service members going to school with transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it would need to pass and then be signed by the president to become law.

The language, part of the Veterans Employment, Education and Healthcare Act, cuts the payment for children of service members using the transferred funding. It would not apply to benefits already transferred or transferred within 180 days of the bill becoming law.

The housing stipend, often one of the most valuable parts of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, is typically calculated based on the Basic Allowance for Housing that active-duty service members would receive if stationed where the school is located. The housing stipend may be worth as much as the tuition and fees the benefit covers, sometimes more.

A spokesman for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said the cuts were necessary to offset, or pay for, other aspects of the bill. He also noted that the cuts were less drastic than those recommended from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, said that while the bill has “absolutely wonderful programs,” paying for those by reducing a benefit that service members have been promised “is an egregious breach of trust.”

“Why come to the soldiers first? There’s no other place in the federal government we can find this [funding]?” Walz asked.

Veteran and military groups seem to be split on whether or not this is a good move.

Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans both wrote letters favoring the overall bill.

The Association of the United States Navy and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are against the cuts.

The measure would not affect the stipends of veterans using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits they earned themselves.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Are For-Profit Colleges the Best Choice for Veteran Education?

for profit schools

By Debbie Gregory.

A number of for-profit colleges have been characterized as preying on those seeing to use their veteran education benefits. These schools are often guilty of inflated job promises and under-delivering on education. With more than 1 million veterans and their families taking advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend college, are for-profit school the best choice?

It’s no secret that the for-profit sector has aggressively aimed its marketing to members of the military. A 2014 Senate report found that eight for-profit college companies received $2.9 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill veteran benefits, approximately one quarter of all the funds spent on GI Bill benefits in 2012-2013.

Further, due to a loophole in current law, veteran education students are unusually attractive to for-profit colleges. First, veterans eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits offer for-profit colleges a guaranteed stream of federal revenue but, unlike the students attending the colleges with federal student loans, do not present a risk of subsequent default.

In addition, the Higher Education Act requires that all proprietary (for-profit) colleges demonstrate compliance with the “90/10 rule” meaning that at least ten percent of revenues must come from sources other than federal financial aid funds authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act. However, as currently written, federal military educational benefits including Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are not counted as federal financial aid and in fact are counted on the “10” side of the revenue calculation.

What makes for-profit schools so attractive to this audience, given the fact that on average, for-profit schools cost twice as much as educating veterans at public colleges?

First off, as previously stated, for-profit schools are the ones targeting and courting these potential students. They make for easy acceptance and easy enrollment in order to cash in on veteran resources.

Traditional colleges and universities should be doing much more to reach out to help those who served reach their education goals. These nontraditional students often come out of the military with unique skill sets. These schools need to let veterans know that they are not only welcome, but they are accepted and valued. Becoming a “Veteran Friendly” or Yellow Ribbon School would go a long way to that end.

Also, transition resources should focus on giving advice to those who want to further their education. Providing more guidance and knowledge on how to make that transition is crucial: when to apply; what kind of credentials schools are looking for; how to package yourself as an applicant. If a veteran needs to beef up their academic credentials, then attending a community college is a great alternative.

The bottom line is that not-for-profit schools need to market their veteran education value. In the long run, it will greatly benefit the schools , the veterans, and the tax payers.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

VITAL Puts Psychologists on Campuses for Student Veterans

vital

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has deployed a contingent of mental health helpers to dozens of college campuses across the country to assist student veterans.

The program, Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership, (VITAL) is designed to make it easier for student veterans to get help transitioning from the military to the classroom.

While veterans and military service members arrive on campus with a wealth of knowledge, strengths, and experiences typically not seen within the traditional student population, they may also arrive with unique challenges. Many student veterans report difficulty adjusting to school after deployment, difficulty managing military versus civilian roles and identity, and difficulty relating to non-veterans.

“VITAL focuses on supporting veterans to address any issues or barriers — internal or external — so they may meet their educational goals and be successful in school,” says Kai Chitaphong, VITAL’s national director. “All of our VITAL coordinators are licensed clinical psychologists or social workers who, depending on the student veteran’s preference, can provide clinical counseling on campus or refer them to our closest VA medical center or community-based outpatient clinic for care.”

Giving schools tools they can use to truly welcome and support our returning service members is one way to repay that debt we owe our veterans, by making sure we are providing our veterans and military families with an education worthy of their exceptional talents and experience.

The program has grown from five locations its first year in 2011 to more than 100 colleges and universities, 23 medical centers and 16 Veterans Integrated Services Network locations.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Veterans Racking Up Student Debt Despite G.I. Bill

 

GI Bill Students

By Debbie Gregory.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is by far the most comprehensive education benefits package since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944. More than 1.4 million veterans and their family members who have received transferred benefits have used the bill for their veteran education.

But despite the generous benefits, many of those attending college for their veteran education are taking out substantial student loans and diving into debt.

Twenty-six percent of undergraduates receiving veteran education benefits, meant to financially cover four years of tuition at a public university, have nevertheless been made to take out student loans to finance their education and living expenses

The average loan was $7,400 — slightly more than for students who had never served in the military. But over the course of four years, this figure could easily grow to more than $25,000.

Veterans groups are concerned about borrowing by GI Bill users, who ideally should be able to graduate debt-free. The GI Bill theoretically covers four academic years of tuition at public colleges and universities, and has programs to cover the vast majority of expenses at many private institutions. Veterans also receive a monthly living allowance — averaging about $1,300, depending on where they live — to help cover expenses while they attend school.

Federal law prohibits colleges and the government from considering GI Bill benefits when determining financial aid. This allows veterans to take out low-interest education loans to use however they want. Some use the money to pay off other debts or educational expenses not covered under the GI Bill. Others use it for bills or to help support their families.

Additionally, beneficiaries at for-profit schools, which have been under fire for their high costs and low job-placement rates, are more likely to take out loans.

The actual benefit amount varies, based on an individual’s total length of service.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Veterans Transition From Military Service to the Classroom

teach

By Debbie Gregory.

Now in its third year, Teach for America’s Military Veterans Initiative, You Served For America, Now Teach For America continues to recruit, train and place veterans in the nation’s highest-need schools.

Close to 300 veterans have enlisted in the program as they’ve made the switch to civilian life. Program Director Eryn Monticure said that these veterans bring a set of life skills that make them among the most effective teachers in the Teach for America program,.

“Veterans know what it means to work towards a common goal, and that, in a mission, everyone has a role to play,” she said.

Additionally, Monticure said vets’ strong leadership skills, organizational ability and experience working in diverse settings mean they are prepared to adapt to their students’ life situations, which often go beyond the lesson plan.

“It’s a hefty job ahead of you,” she said. “It’s a mission — a goal to change kids’ lives.”

It’s also an objective that cuts to the core of national service.

Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, the program recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding individuals of all academic disciplines to commit two years to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the movement to end educational inequity. The two-year teaching commitment comes with full salary and benefits, and opens a pathway into a career in education.

From 500 teachers in its first year, the program has grown today to 8,600 members teaching in 52 urban and rural regions across the country, as well as a 42,000-member alumni network actively engaged in education.

While veterans currently make up approximately one percent of the program, Monticure is determined to increase that percentage.

“In 2012 we began to see a significant growth in veterans’ applications, so we took a close look at that,” she said. “What we heard was that their desire to serve didn’t end with their military service.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.