VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 – GI Bill for Unemployed Veterans Age 35-60

If you are an unemployed military veteran, you may be eligible for a new GI Bill / career training program: the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was created to help veterans gain marketable skills to more easily find a job. These new GI Bill benefits include education and training for unemployed veterans who are aged 35-60. The Veteran Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011 (HR 2433) is part of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program and was signed into law just before the end of 2011.

Here are a sampling of benefits which will help veterans (we will cover these in more depth below):

  • Up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits to qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors
  • Up to 1-year of additional VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits for disabled veterans.
  • Quicker access to veterans preference rating for civil service jobs.
  • Improvements to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
  • Military skills translation – the Department of Labor is tasked to come up with better ways to translate military skills into the civilian sector.

If these additional benefits seem like something that will benefit you, then please continue reading and we will cover who is eligible for these benefits, more details about the benefits, availability dates, and how you can register to begin receiving them.

If you aren’t eligible to receive these benefits, then please forward this article to a veteran you know who may need assistance qualifying for additional education and training to help find a job.

Expanded GI Bill Benefits for Qualified Veterans

The VOW to Hire Heroes Act will offer qualified and eligible veterans up to 12 months of full-time Montgomery GI Bill benefits at the Active Duty rate. See current MGIB rates for more information.

Here are some additional benefits in greater detail:

Greater education and training opportunities: The VOW to Hire Heroes Act will provide eligible veterans with up to a year of additional MGIB benefits at the active duty rate, in order to help them earn training and certifications in high-demand jobs. In order to receive benefits, eligible veterans must attend a VA Approved education or training program at a community college or technical school, provided the program is working toward an Associate’s Degree, a non-college degree, or a qualified certification in a high demand occupation. Some examples include technology certifications, trucking, and various Associate’s Degrees.

This program also provides disabled veterans up to 1-year of additional VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits, provided they have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Veterans can acquire “veterans preference status” more quickly. There is currently a delay in how quickly veterans can acquire veterans preference status for civil service employment. The new VOW to Hire Heroes Act will help make this transition more seamless by enabling veterans to acquire veterans preference status before separating from the military, which can help facilitate hiring into a federal job. the goal is to reduce the time it takes to hire qualified military veterans — many jobs currently take months to fill, causing many veterans to  file for unemployment benefits while their application and veterans preference is pending.

Transition Assistance Program (TAP) improvements: The TAP program is required by all branches of the service and is designed to help military members make the transition from the military environment to the civilian world. The goal is to help veterans prepare for life away from the military, including creating a resume, interviewing, and getting hired into a civilian position. TAP will be getting as facelift as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, with improvements in career counseling, job searching processes, and more.

Military skills translation. Translating your skills to the civilian marketplace can be difficult. After all, how many civilian jobs are there for bomb loader or artillery specialists? While there aren’t necessarily direct civilian jobs with those job titles, many of the skills you have learned while in these positions are translatable, and the Department of Labor has been tasked to make it easier for military members and veterans to translate their skills into civilian terms, and make it easier to earn licenses and certifications for civilian employment. You can already use the Veterans Job Bank to translate your military skills, but expect more improvements and assistance in the future.

Employment assistance. The Department of Labor will provide employment assistance to each veteran who completes the program.

Veterans Tax Credits: Though this doesn’t directly affect the veterans, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act provides employers with tax credits of $5,600 for hiring an unemployed veteran, and $9,600 for hiring an unemployed disabled veteran. This may make the difference between you getting a job or an employer deciding not to hire an extra employee.

Who qualifies for the VOW GI Bill?

This program is designed to help unemployed military veterans gain marketable skills through training and education.

To qualify for the VOW GI Bill, a veteran must:

  • Be age 35 or older and younger than 60
  • Be unemployed (according to Department of Labor definitions) with special consideration given to veterans who have been unemployed for 26 weeks or longer.
  • Have an other than dishonorable discharge.
  • Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance).
  • Not be in receipt of compensation due to unemployability.
  • Not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program

How to Apply for VOW Benefits

This program will be jointly run by the Department of Labor and the VA. The VA will provide funding for the program, but applications must be submitted to the Department of Labor where they will be processed and approved.

Program start and end date: This program will become available to eligible veterans on July 1, 2012 and is set to extend through March 31, 2014.

Limited availability. Like all good things, there are limits to the availability for this program. The law only provides availability for 45,000 participants in fiscal year 2012, and 54,000 participants in fiscal year 2013. It’s too early to say if there will be extensions on that time frame, as it will likely depend on how the economy is doing and whether there will be funding. (Current funding is already approved and paid for).

Instructions for applying: Here are the details on How to Apply to Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) GI Bill.

Where to go for more information.

This is a joint program sponsored by the Department of Labor and the Veterans Affairs office. You can read more about the VOW GI Bill here: VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 | House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and at the VOW to Hire Heroes Act page at the VA.

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Date published: January 10, 2012. Last updated: November 4, 2012.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


  1. MarciEllen Gerber says

    I want to finish What I started and get my PH.D in Counseling Psychology Or RN in Child & Adolescent Psychology. I’ll be dammed if I will sit on my bumm for the rest of my life. No matter what Is wrong with me GOD nvr intended that path for me.
    MarciEllen Gerber RN/BSN/ Graduate Student Disabeled Veteran

    • Cory Carlson says

      Sorry Marci,

      You are not eligible, I checked for myself also, here is what I found:

      1) Question: Who can use the VRAP? Answer: To use the program a Veteran must:
      ??Be at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
      ??Be unemployed (as determined by Department of Labor (DoL))
      ??Have an other than dishonorable discharge
      ??Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g., the Post-9/11 GI
      Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance) ??Not be in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
      ??Not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program

      2) Question: What can I use the VRAP for?
      Answer: Participants must be enrolled in a VA approved program of education offered by a Community College or Technical School. The program must lead to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certification and train you in a high demand occupation as determined by DoL.

      • MarciEllen Gerber says

        Cory how would you know if I was eligable or not?
        I was enrolled and unjustly lost the benefit temporarily and do not have enough time left. RU a conselor and how did you access my record?

        • says

          Marci, the benefits can only be used for “a VA approved program of education offered by a Community College or Technical School. The program must lead to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certification and train you in a high demand occupation as determined by DoL.”

          If the benefits will help you toward an Associate’s Degree that will eventually lead toward your PhD, then you would be able to use the benefits for a few credit hours. But you would not be able to use them to take you all the way through a PhD program.

          Best of luck in your educational goals, and thanks for your service!

      • Debbra Salo says

        Why does the VRAP require an “Other than Dishonorable Discharge”? That means it excludes “Honorable Discharge”. Why? Most military receive Honorable Discharges.

        • says

          Debbra, “Other than Dishonorable Discharge” means that those with a Dishonorable discharge are excluded from this program. All other discharge types are eligible, provided they meet the other requirements as listed.

          • Debbra Salo says

            Discharge papers state “Honorable Discharge”, “Dishonorable Discharge”, or “Other than Dishonorable Discharge”. To my knowledge. So that leaves room for disqualifying an Honorably Discharged Veteran. An Act needs to use clear terms to be administared equally without subjective interpretation.


    You cannot imagine the UTTER DISAPPOINTMENT, after being so excited and hopeful, about the possibility of retraining to work towards a new life when I saw ‘VOW .. supports Veterans 35 to 60’

    ONLY to read on and discover the ‘must be younger than 60’ caveat!!!!

    How wickedly evil that someone writing those articles about VOW could be so careless and brain dead.

  3. Michael L. Hoenig says

    I don’t understand your complaint…

    You read “…supports Veterans 35 to 60”

    Then said you kept reading and became disappointed when you read “…must be younger than 60…”


  4. Leftydchef says

    I guess if you’re older than 60 they consider you Geriatric. I’ve seenalot of older than 60 people who are in better shape than some younger ones. They should do it on a case by case formula.

  5. Tony Cephas says

    I have been out of this service since 1983..Do I still qualify?
    Does this mean that I can collect unemployment compensation?

    • says

      Tony, Provided you meet the eligibility requirements and will be enrolled in qualified training, then you will most likely qualify. However, the Department of Labor has the final decision.

      Regarding still being able to collect unemployment compensation, I don’t have a firm answer, as each state has different laws for their unemployment benefits programs. I recommend contacting your state employment bureau and asking them how this will affect your ability to continue receiving compensation.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service.

  6. Vic Kirkendall says

    Those of us over age sixty have similar wants, needs and problems as younger veterans. We provided the same services for our country and we are dealing with the same economy. It seems unfair that we should be left out of this program. Is this a form of age discrimination?

    • says

      I agree, Vic, this program would benefit people who don’t fall within the age range. Personally, I believe this program should be open to all military veterans who meet the non age related requirements.

      Some other places you might try include local programs: some states and counties have special programs for former military members, and it might be worth looking into those options if your state or county offers them. Additionally, I recommend contacting local VFW and American Legion posts, as they are often tapped into the local economy very well, and may be able to give you insight into local programs, or other hiring opportunities. Many local posts also have individuals who are experts at deciphering military benefits and may be able to help you find programs you weren’t aware of.

      Another option is to contact your state senator through his/her state office. You could also reach out to a military lobbying group or major organization such as the VFW, American Legion, or a variety of other organizations to see if they have plans to lobby for expanded eligibility.

      I hope these ideas give you other areas to search, and I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for your service.

    • eric says

      People that are older–50’s, 60’s should already be in a career and planning a retirement. If u are 60, and still living like a 20 year old–whar have u been doing for 40 years…

  7. J Marie says

    Hello Ryan, thanks for posting this, but like all VA programs this too SUCKS! Look at how this is package, 35-60 and not starting until July 2012, that means everyone who turned 61 in the prior months will not be eligible. Just like the New GI Bill, the government set a date, and all those who were called to active duty when the Desert Storm began in 1991 were excluded from this as well. Please don’t suggest we write our Congressman/woman, they really could care less, after all they get to double-dip, while the ordinary veterans do not. The veterans just received a raise after 2 years, while Congress continue to get pay raise each and every year. God help the veterans!

  8. Pamela Lyness says

    I just barely qualifed for this program because I will be 37 in June but I can not believe they have put an age restriction on this. Doesn’t this violate our discrimation laws? So all Vets that have been unemployed for the last two years are 35 to 60? Unbelievable.

  9. Daniel says

    I would like to know if the gov. Is going to start punishing companies that fire disabled vet because they need treatment for their military injury? United Mcgill says they are a EEOC employor but if you start having medical trouble and request accomindation because you have to have surgery they fire you. This company lives on contracts mostly from the government! What a shame!

    • Debbra Salo says

      This is interesting. I would assume if the surgery is tied to any Vet Disability condition, then the firing would indeed be illegal discrimination. It is infact. (As for other medical and health conditions, companies squeeze employees out of jobs all the time when the employee starts to actually use the benefit they were promised at the time of hiring, AND for which they shared premium payments. Employers should NEVER have been allowed to be the source of health care insurance. This alone has caused employees to not only lose health care coverage, but ALSO, their source of income.)

  10. Brian Chandler says

    I see good support for the VOW program, on the other hand, what about veterans such as myself, who are STILL seeking work for over 12 months. I’m constantly being denied employment and started going back to school. Why won’t anyone hire vets? I’m a veteran medic but am told that my training doesn’t count, therefore I have no “state” credentials. This is pathetic.

  11. Bernard Lofft says

    This sounds nice, but it virtually excludes all Vietnam Era vets. Most of us are now over 60, some of whom are homeless, many of whom are unemployed, and still need to work to be able to eat regularly. Even those of us who got college degrees with our old GI benefits are woefully out of date in our professional skills as well as older. We need many updated skills and certifications such as LEED certification, PMP certification, MS Office certification, not to overlook many more such as just getting certified training as a welder, electrician or plumber, just to be able to compete in the 2012 job market.

  12. Jim Barker says

    I just graduated from an online college using government loans. I have appliced for hundreds of jobs and only gotten telephone interviews, 2 each. If I understand correctly we as < 60 Vets can use this, if we are selected, to get certified in the area of our education. I agree with those above why not all VETS. We gave up the first 2 – 4 years of our adult lives to serve our country while others got their educations and started careers. I see people my age retiring on good pensions I'll have to wait til I'm 66 if theres anything left. Giving up those 4 years seems to have cost me more in the long run.

  13. Debbra Salo says

    All of this means nothing when Employers have Human Resources posting jobs that require minimum “years experience”. Retraining to a needed field is just throwing away time and money with no honest job match available. Do a percentage comparison to the number of vets your goint to push through this new upgraded training program, to the number of actual jobs offers that require zero years work experience. Unless something changes there too, this is all another boondoggie waste of taxpayer money and falsely raised expectations. The ONLY thing that would make this an honest endeavor to employ veterans, would be to include within the training program co-op and internships for at least one year during the training, so the veteran will be competitive for job postings. (But then, most likely, HR will raise the required work experience to at least 2 years.)

  14. Garcia b. says


    I was recenlty released from my job. I plan to return to college to persue an associate degree in graphic design. I have a 15months of the “post 911 GI Bill avaiable. I also already have degrees but not enough experience to get a job.
    Do I qualify for some assistance from VOW act 2011.

    • says

      Garcia, you will need to use your Post-9/11 GI Bill before you will be eligible to use additional benefits. There are many programs you can use the Post-9/11 GI bill for that will help you find long-term employment, including degree programs, certifications, and more. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  15. Catherine says

    Let me start by saying that I do not support the exclusivity of this Act because it supports such a small demographic of the military; however, it does support the veterans that (perhaps) have the greatest need today. That age group tends to have families to support and can provide a greater return on the government’s investment (however small it may be). I think they are wrong in requiring the Post 9/11 GI Bill to be exhausted first – a better option would be to allow this targeted group of veterans an either/or option (it’s been done before). Using the training you would get from this Act first would put these veterans into the workforce faster (with a quicker return on the gov’t’s money), help them get caught up and stable financially, then begin the higher education with the Post 9/11 GI Bill to continue moving forward. But the Act is passed and we have to abide by it. I just hope that the veteran’s that fit this category take advantage of it- 45k this year and 54k next year. It’s a shame that we would have that many eligible in the first place.

    And in case you are wondering, I am a veteran with children serving and none if this applies to any of us either but we could use the help too.

  16. Michael says

    How can we find out what educational goal is applicable for the needed industries. Is that something there is a list for and will it change with time?

    Thanks for your support!

    • says

      You should be able to qualify. My recommendation is to go ahead and apply and see where it takes you. Worst case scenario, you spend a little time and don’t get approved. Best case scenario, you are approved for the program, get some quality training, and are able to use these skills the rest of your career.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  17. Bernard Lofft says

    Go ahead and try? This sounds nice, but the program still virtually excludes all Vietnam Era vets. Most of us are now over 60, some of whom are homeless, many of whom are unemployed, and still need to work to be able to eat regularly. Even those of us who got college degrees with our old GI benefits are woefully out of date in our professional skills as well as older. We need many updated skills and certifications such as LEED certification, PMP certification, MS Office certification, not to overlook many more such as just getting certified training as a welder, electrician or plumber, just to be able to compete in the 2012 job market. Remember this all vets on November 6th. Vote the bum out of office who cut you off from the benefits he promised you last Memorial Day. We don’t want a draft dodging liar as President.

  18. Frank says

    I have recieved my COE from the VA. The program I want to pursue is a 1 year certificate program in Hospilitality Management, seems like it would fall under Operations Management in High demand list. I am finding it impossible to find someone in VA to tell me if that program is acceptable. Cant risk paying tuition without knowing if program is acceptable. Any suggestions are appreciated

  19. says

    I have a pell grant that I did not satisfie because I foolishly thought I had the computer skills to take online courses. Will that outstanding debt stop me from receive the vrap assistance for a new career in welding?

  20. jane says

    What if you are under 60 – unemployed and have an “honorable discharge”?

    Why would they give this benefit to veterans who were not honorable discharged?

    It doesn’t seem fair.

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