By Debbie Gregory.
It’s a shame to leave hard-earned benefits on the table. In 2011, a benefit was added to the Post 9/11 GI Bill that gave living stipends to non-students who were seeking on-the-job (OJT) training or apprenticeships. Unfortunately, only about 2 percent of eligible veterans have taken advantage of it.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill was approved in 2008, covering tuition and living expenses for veterans who wanted to attend college. Three years later, Congress added the OJT and apprenticeship benefit to provide transition support for veterans who sought alternatives to education.
These programs typically involve entering into a training contract for a specific period of time with an employer or union. At the end of the training period, a job certification is issued or journeyman status achieved.According to the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) the offer provides a full or partial housing allowance to working veterans.
So why are the other 98 percent of eligible veterans leaving this benefit on the table?
One reason might be that the Department of Veterans Affairs has the tendency to emphasize the educational components of the GI Bill, offering few details on how to access the on-the-job training and apprenticeship benefits.
Another key problem is the administrative burdens that make some employers reluctant to participate, forcing employers to fill out forms and submit them to the VA before participating veterans begin receiving checks. Employers must also agree to incrementally raise the veteran employees’ wages in accordance with the VA plan.
The VA has agreed to develop a guide for employers and apprenticeship sponsors about Post-9/11 GI Bill OJT and apprenticeship benefits.
Benefits may include a full housing allowance along with a small stipend for books or supplies for the first six months. For the second six months, the benefit is 80 percent of the housing allowance tied to the veteran’s location. For the third six-month period, the percentage of the housing allowance drops to 60 percent. For the fourth six-month period, the housing allowance is reduced to 40 percent, and any time beyond 24 months, the stipend is at 20 percent of the housing allowance.