Many people associate the GI Bill with paying for formal classroom instruction at a state-supported school or university. But GI Bill benefits are more flexible and provide help for those who seek a variety of non-traditional education options including using their benefits to get on-the-job training (OJT) or apprenticeships.
What does it take to qualify for VA OJT programs and what kind of benefits are offered?
Qualifying For VA Education Benefits For OJT
It’s important to point out that for OJT benefits, the same qualifying service and GI Bill opt-in rules apply as for any other GI Bill benefit. If you qualify for GI Bill benefits in general, you may have the option to apply for more specialized options like OJT support.
If you do not qualify for GI Bill benefits, you cannot receive GI Bill benefit options under the programs we’re discussing here.
The VA official site reminds applicants, “You may be eligible for benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you’ve served on active duty for at least 90 days, whether continuous (all at once) or interrupted (for shorter periods over time), after Sept. 10, 2001.”
VA OJT Benefits Through The GI Bill
OJT is offered in a variety of industries–you will learn as you go as a plumber, a firefighter, and in the service industry. The VA official site states that in such industries there are opportunities to learn on the job while drawing GI bill benefits. This option is open to:
- Spouses and children using the Fry Scholarship or the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program
- Children using transferred benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill / Chapter 33
The VA official site advises that OJT support is not offered to those on active duty or to spouses using transferred benefits.
Those who qualify are offered GI Bill support for books and supplies as well as a housing stipend for those using the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
How The Program Works
There are OJT and apprenticeship training programs offered to veterans allowing them to learn while working instead of taking formal classes at a college.
Participating employers or unions accept the veteran’s application, the employer pays a “reduced OJT/apprenticeship wage” which the VA says must be “at least 50%” of a journeyman wage.
The VA allows those in such approved programs to “use their GI Bill benefit and receive a tax-free stipend” which for Post 9/11 GI Bill users is equal to the monthly housing allowance of an E-5 with dependents.
The stipend is reduced 20% every six months “as the Veteran’s wages regularly increase until the Veteran has attained journeyman status”.
Finding approved programs may be as simple as checking with your state government official site as State Approving Agencies are the authority responsible for listing and approving OJT programs you can work with and receive your GI Bill benefits.
You can also use the VA Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E) OJT/Apprenticeship program and take advantage of additional benefits. Contact the VA Education Call Center at 1-888-442-4551 to learn more about these OJT options and the GI Bill.
The VA official GI Bill Comparison Tool can help you determine if a local OJT option is approved–you will then need to discuss your situation with a local program coordinator and get instructions on how to proceed with the training and with the VA application.
You can also contact the VA directly to learn more about applying once you have found the OJT program you want.
You can apply directly for all VA education benefits at the nearest VA Regional Claims Processing Office, online at the VA official site, or you can get the help of a Veteran Service Officer who can apply on your behalf. No matter how you choose to apply for GI Bill benefits, you will need to have the following ready at application time:
- Social Security number
- Bank account direct deposit information
- Education and military history
- Basic information about the school or training facility you want to attend or are attending now
In general, it takes the Department of Veterans Affairs about a month to make an approval decision on an application for benefits. If you don’t hear back from the VA within thirty days to six weeks following your application, contact the VA at their toll free number (1-800-827-1000) and be sure to have any claim or processing numbers you were issued where applicable.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
|VA Education Benefits||VA Education Benefits For Dependents|
|Coverdell Education Savings Account||Qualified Tuition Program (QTP or 529)|
|Forever GI Bill||Post 9/11 GI Bill|