Mismanagement Turns Vet Program Into Veteran Debt Trap

VRAP Debt Trap

“VRAP screwed me.” Veteran Alex G. wrote in about the ugly reality behind the glitz of the Obama Administration and Congress’s VRAP program, a program designed to help unemployed veterans. What sounded good in theory turned into a veteran debt trap in practice.

Three years ago, Congress and President Obama stood proud after passing the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which created the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP program). They touted the VRAP program as a great initiative to retrain unemployed veterans to get them back to work.

The program is limited to 45,000 participants from July 1, 2012, through September 30, 2012, and 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012, through March 31, 2014. Participants must attend full-time in order to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program (currently $1,473 per month). DOL will offer employment assistance to every Veteran who participates upon completion of the program.

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 Certificate, and train the Veteran for a high demand occupation.

Despite the promises, many unemployed veterans are deep in debt and still jobless.

I received a message from Alex G. yesterday about his story of the VRAP program becoming a veteran debt trap. He commented about his own misfortune, going $12,000 in debt due to VA mismanagement. Bureaucratic hurdles and headaches complicated the process and made him far worse off than before using the VRAP program.

VRAP screwed me. I get into a certified program last year in May. Then I get my allowance up to September 30th and then it stopped. They said the program I was in should not have been certified. After fighting with the VA for 4 months, then I get into a certified program, and it was the exact same classes at the same school, and they started my allowance back up. Then I got a letter stating I owe them $6308.13 because I collected money for a program that was not certified. So I owe them. I owe the company that gave me the student loan and that was to be paid back from the allowance. So VRAP now has me in debt to the tune of over $12,000.00. Has this happened to others?

I have heard similar stories from unemployed veterans across the country experiencing the same issues related to this new veteran debt trap and administrative problems.

Let us know if you are an unemployed veteran and have struggled with the VRAP program. And to keep things balanced, if you are a newly employed veteran who used the VRAP program for retraining, let us know your story.

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  1. Hi,
    I also was screwed by the VRap and now garnishment for owning them $5000 for repayment, even when I passed the classes. I am still fighting them, and it’s just a pain. Still working parttime, and making less than10 per hour, any help would be great. thank you, Chris English

  2. I too had extreme difficulty with completing “1 year; full time” after 35 yrs. of not being in school. I got my grant on a Thursday and had to start Monday. However you have to be tested, see a counselor . . . I started out behind and never did catch up. And then after 2 semesters, I had to change what career I was going for. Oh and I was homeless and in my car with my dog that whole year and the next. It was all screwed up. What I was able to accomplish; was an attempt at all 4 semesters and dropping out of 2 of them. And aquiring debt for 2 semesters that I will be paying off for years to come. I applied numerous times and got VASH for my housing. And after 15 years of filing and appealing for my service connected disability it finally came through; only to have VRAP come in and take the first 2 ENTIRE checks and $181.00 each month for about 6 months. Then I finally had it reduced to $50 a month. And as I said, I will be paying this debt off for years to come. Let me know if they are forgiving the debt. I would really appreciate it.

  3. I asked to have my debt discharged. The program stopped right in the middle of a semester so all of the vets had to stop classes since you can’t collect unemployment while on the program. I have debt collectors calling me all hours of the day. The agency told me they were hired by the Treasury Dept to collect from thousands of Veterans. I was told if I didn’t pay, the money would be involuntarily collected. No day in court for us.

  4. I fully utilized the VRAP and pursued an A.S. Paralegal Degree. Other than Algebra, I made all “A’s”!

    However, the VRAP funding ended before I was able to complete said degree.

    I need to complete 15 more hours to earn said Paralegal degree, but no more VRAP funding is available to do so.

    Based upon my research, there were many millions of allotted, but unused VRAP dollars.

    Why are those allotted, yet unused dollars, not available to help those who diligently utilized the VRAP, but were unable to complete their approved programs within the allotted time? Is that idea too logical and reasonable?

  5. I signed up for the program but after a closer look and with my knowledge of VA practices I never used it.

  6. The VA is an absolute mess and Congress only gives it lip service . It is the worst run department in the government.

  7. I think Alex should appeal for discharge of the debt. Get a congressional member involved. The debt was established through no fault of his. At the time he got the money, the program WAS VA certified. He had no way of knowing it would be “de-certified”.

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