President Signs Moran, Tester Unemployed Veterans Retraining Legislation into Law

WASHINGTON – This week, President Joe Biden signed into law, the FY2021 Budget Reconciliation bill, which included the Veterans Economic Recovery Act. Introduced by Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) – ranking member and chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) – earlier this year, this bill will assist unemployed veterans receive training for meaningful jobs to support themselves and their families.

“We have made great strides to lower the veteran unemployment rate during my time on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and in 2019 we saw the lowest rate in nearly 20 years,” said Ranking Member Moran. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a setback in veterans' employment, and the unemployment rate for veterans spiked into the double digits in the early surge of the pandemic. That is why I introduced this legislation to provide our veterans with new training opportunities to help them find work during this pandemic. Although, I could not support passage of the final $1.9 trillion package because of the unnecessary spending unrelated to COVID-19, I’m pleased this legislation was included in the relief package.”

“With so many veterans facing unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked hard to ensure that the latest relief package included additional tools to get veterans and their families through this economic crisis,” said Chairman Tester. “I’m proud that we successfully included critical legislation to establish a VA Rapid Retraining Assistance Program that’ll cover the costs of training, to get more veterans into high-demand jobs and quickly back on their feet.”

The language included in the FY 2021 Budget Reconciliation package cut the number of veterans Senator Moran and Tester’s original bill would have served in half – 17,250 veterans instead of 35,000. Sen. Moran introduced an amendment to the package to increase the number of veterans served back up to the intended 35,000, but the Senate did not consider the amendment.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the veteran unemployment rate across the country has risen exponentially—from 3.1 percent in 2019 to 11.7 percent in 2020. To help curb the alarming increase in unemployment, the Senators’ bipartisan bill would create a rapid retraining program to provide unemployed veterans and reservists with 12 months of educational benefits to pursue training in high-demand occupations.

Education benefits made available through the rapid retraining program under the Veterans Economic Recovery Act would be equivalent to benefits provided to veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. To participate in the rapid retraining program, eligible veterans must comply with the following requirements:

  • Be between the ages of 25-66;
  • Be unemployed as a result of COVID-19;
  • Have an honorable or other than dishonorable discharge;
  • Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit;
  • Not be enrolled in another Federal of State job training program;
  • Not be receiving disability compensation for reasons that have led to un-employability; and
  • Not be in receipt of any unemployment benefit when they begin training under this program.

Under this legislation, members of the National Guard or Reserve federally ordered to assist states with the COVID-19 response would also be eligible for the rapid retraining program.

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