By Debbie Gregory.
When separating from their military service, there are many newly-minted veterans who aren’t desirous of attending a traditional college or university to cash in on their veteran school benefits. A better fitting veteran education option for them might be on-the-job (OJT) training or an apprenticeship program.
Both OJT and apprenticeship programs are available for veterans using their VA GI Bill education benefits, one of the most valuable veteran benefit.
These programs give veterans the opportunity to learn a trade or skill through training on the job participation rather than attending formal classroom instruction. The programs generally consist of entering into a training contract for a specific period with an employer or union. At the end of the training period, the veteran has earned job certification or journeyman status.
Usually, employers pay a reduced OJT/apprenticeship wage, which must be at least 50% of journeyman’s wage, with periodic wage increases, unless it’s a government program. By the last full month of training, the wage must be at least 85% of the wage for a fully trained employee.
In addition to the wages paid by the employer, veterans who are participating in an approved program can use their GI Bill benefit and receive a tax-free stipend equivalent to the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) of an E-5 with dependents. However, the stipend is reduced 20% every six months as the Veteran’s wages regularly increase until the Veteran has attained journeyman status and pay.
If traditional college/university education, OTJ training or an apprenticeship doesn’t fit the bill, one other option is available: beneficiaries can use their educational assistance to pursue accredited independent study programs at career and technical schools that provide postsecondary level education and postsecondary vocational institutions. This change went into effect August 16, 2017.