The Veterans Administration launched two new no-cost training programs on Aug. 5 — Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs) and VA Learning Hubs — to help transitioning service members and veterans from all eras learn skills, earn credentials and advance in civilian careers following separation from service.
ALPs and Learning Hubs are part of VA’s Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI), promoting education and employment opportunities for veterans through integrated networks of support in 50 cities.
VA launched the VECI program in response to President Obama’s August 2014 challenge to help veterans and families integrate with their communities and find meaningful jobs that can lead to economic success. Under VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s MyVA transformation, VECI is now in place across the United States.
ALPs offer transitioning service members and Veterans the opportunity to build on their world-class training and technical skills gained through their military service, and earn certifications in high-demand fields.
VA is piloting ALPs this summer with seven courses focusing on building skills and certifications needed to advance in high-demand careers in information technology, as part of the President’s TechHire initiative (www.whitehouse.gov/issues/technology/techhire). Each ALP course is free and includes free referral and support services.
The first ALP cohort includes seven courses covering a range of IT-related topics, including coding/programming boot camps; 80+ IT certifications in hardware, software, networking, web services, and more; network support engineer job training and certification; cybersecurity training and certification; IT help desk job training; and IT boot camps for desktop support and Windows expertise.
Seats in the pilot cohort are limited. Applicants are encouraged to apply early.
ALPs do not involve use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Students are able to participate in these programs while also pursuing other programs of study using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Visit the ALP website to learn more about each program and apply. VA is also launching Learning Hubs in 27 cities across the country this year in partnership with the American Red Cross, The Mission Continues and Coursera, an online education platform.
Upon completion of the program, service members and veterans may elect to receive one free verified certificate issued by Coursera. For more information about the VECI or to learn more about VA ALPs and Learning Hubs, contact VeteranEmployment.email@example.com.
VA disability status review
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Aug. 3 it will begin reviewing the disability status of Marines who developed cancers and other conditions due to exposure to chemicals that contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 years.
A statement from the VA said the move is in addition to the health care it provides for more than a dozen conditions to eligible veterans who were stationed at the North Carolina base for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the good things that can happen when Congress and the VA work together in concert to overcome the agency’s bureaucracy to ensure our nation’s veterans are afforded the benefits and care they deserve when they are harmed while serving our great nation, whether it be through combat or environmental exposures,” said Mike Partain, who was born at Camp Lejeune and who suffered from male breast cancer.
Documents show Marine leaders were slow to respond when tests first found evidence of contaminated ground water in the early 1980s. Some drinking water wells were closed in 1984 and 1985, after further testing confirmed contamination from leaking fuel tanks and an off-base dry cleaner. Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted water.
In 2012, the U.S. House approved the Janey Ensminger Act, which provides health benefits to Marines and family members exposed to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. The bill is named for the daughter of former Marine master sergeant who died from leukemia at age 9.
President signs bill
President Barack Obama signed a bill July 31 after the Senate passed legislation that gives veterans and their families more freedom when saving for health care. The legislation passed by a vote of 91-4. The bill (S.1880) was introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) in the 113th Congress.
These HSA contributions were excludible from income and wages for employment tax purposes. However, under IRS guidance, veterans and their families were prohibited from making and/or receiving contributions to an HSA for three months after receiving health care services through the Veterans Administration.
The Helping Veterans Save for Health Care Act H.R.2514 will ensure an individual with a service related disability is eligible to contribute to a health savings account while he or she is receiving care at the VA for any period of time. The HSA can be used to pay for the cost of health care for the veteran, veteran’s spouse or children.
Similar legislation was approved by the House as part of H.R. 3262, the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015.
Thomas Crisp is a retired military officer from Whitmire. His veterans updates can be found weekly in The Newberry Observer.