It isn't a secret that I've been pretty much unemployed for a couple of years now. During this time I managed to finish my Human Resources Degree, get the appropriate level of certification, and I went back to a local community college to earn an Associate's Degree in Library and Information Science.
Now this brings me to a total of four degrees: 2 Associate's (Information Systems Management & Library and Information Science) as well as 2 Bachelor's (General Business Management and Human Resources Management). A reasonably smart person would wonder why I would be dumb enough to go back for a fricken Associate's degree when I already had two more (relatively) advanced degrees. If you've already got a BA and a BS, the normal next step is to work on a Master's, not an Associate's.
The simply answer is because I was accepted into the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). I met the primary qualifications:
- Are at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
- Are unemployed on the date of application
- Received an other than dishonorable discharge
- Are 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)
- Are not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
- Are not enrolled in a federal or state job training program
The thing is you have to go to a Community College or Technical School. If the institution offers a four-year degree, you cannot go there. You also have to be working towards a degree that "trains" the veteran for a "high-demand" job. Of course the list of "high-demand" jobs is unwieldy and good luck getting the VA to sign off on your degree because there is almost no correlation between the listed jobs and specific Associate's Degrees. I managed to take the "easy" route and sign up for one of (if not the only) degree(s) of study that the College of Southern Idaho offered that matched up with a listed "high demand" jobs.
Getting signed up for my courses and dealing with the bureaucracy was a total pain, but I had a specific goal in sight. That goal wasn't so much my Associate's Degree, but the promise of employment assistance once I completed the program. In the various VRAP information sheets and websites is the tantalizing promise of help finding employment. Non-specified help, but help nonetheless. The exact words from the Department of Labor website (paraphrased in everything else):
DOL will offer employment assistance to every Veteran who participates upon completion of the program.
That was the possible light at the end of the tunnel. Take some money towards going back to school full-time, work hard, get that degree you will probably never use, and we will help you if you finish the program.
Of course by now if you've bothered to read down this far is that there is no specific employment assistance for those that have completed VRAP. I honestly wonder if there ever was a plan to specifically help these veterans.
I graduated a month ago. I really tried to be patient and wait until my final grades were just not posted, but recorded as part of my transcripts. When that happened on May 30th I expected something...anything from the VA. An email or letter telling me to take a specific next step. Of course I've seen nothing. Of course if you wait for the government to do something you'll be dead and buried before you're even acknowledged.
I got online and looked up who is the DOL Veteran's Representative. I sent a polite email......and got
nothing in return. I had a phone number to call, so I did......that number goes to nothing....it doesn't exist. I called the Department of Labor. The operator I spoke to said they didn't have any information concerning the Point of Contact I had or VRAP, but they'd take my contact information and "someone" would call or email me.
|I Beg to Differ.....|
In the world of bureaucracy "someone" means "nobody".
Ok, a change of plans is in order. I'll get in touch with my local Idaho Department of Labor Veteran Rep. I leave a voicemail....nothing. I send an email....nothing. Oooo! Here is a different email for the first person I had tried to contact so I'll try that....nothing. I start calling every day to leave a voicemail....still nothing.
This morning I drive down to the local Idaho Department of Labor and I wait for one of the receptionists to make their way from the breakroom to the front desk. Ok, I'm making the "breakroom" up......it could have been the bathroom. I'll I know is it took me a while to have anyone acknowledge my existence. It was probably only 3-5 minutes, but when you aren't in the best of moods it feels like 3-5 hours. Not the receptionist's fault, so I manage to politely explain I'm a Veteran who has finished the VRAP program and would like to talk to the Veteran's Rep.
I'm told that he gets to set his own schedule and he isn't in today. She offers to send him an email, but I explain that I've sent several emails and many voicemail messages and I have yet to receive any response. Seriously though, don't people know how to use automated "out of the office" email responses?
The receptionist gives me the number for the Vet Rep in the next city. Imagine my surprise when he actually picks up the phone and talks to me! The good news is he is willing to meet with me next Monday to see what "they" can do to help me. The bad news is that there is absolutely no specific employment assistance available to me because I finished VRAP.
The BS I had to go through to get my AA was essentially for nothing. The resources I invested in order to become eligible for employment assistance was all for naught. Instead of going to school or looking for work on my own I could have simply received some assistance years ago?! This is the reason why I don't know if I'm more disappointed or outraged.