Veterans would see improved infrastructure, more jobs and small business assistance in the proposed American Jobs Plan, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said April 15.
Speaking during a White House press call, the secretary said the plan would give VA more resources to help Veterans.
“It will ensure that we at VA have the resources we need to support Veterans and their families across three key areas,” he said. “We serve up to 9.5 million Vets, and we need the resources to modernize these facilities and deliver care.”
While the median age of U.S. private sector hospitals is roughly 11 years, VA hospitals have a median age of 58 years. McDonough said 69% are older than 50 years. VA is the largest integrated health care system. The department operates more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities, as well as more than 150 national cemeteries.
“A lack of a modern infrastructure actually limits our ability to meet the evolving health care needs of Veterans,” he said.
The plan calls for $3 billion to address immediate needs, making utility and building systems more energy efficient. The plan would also make VA facilities more accessible for disabled Veterans. Finally, the plan would provide upgrades to better serve women Veterans.
The plan also calls for $15 billion to replace 10-15 outdated medical centers. The secretary said annual costs to fix facilities have nearly doubled from $11.6 billion in 2010 to $22 billion in 2020. He said VA needs extra money for modern facilities for Veteran care.
“Investing in the health care infrastructure is about significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the medical services,” he said.
McDonough also said the plan would help give Veterans better jobs. He said Veterans deserve civilian jobs worthy of their service. About 200,000 service members transition from the military each year. He said the March 2021 Veteran unemployment rate was 4.5%, which is down from pandemic peak of 11.7%.
“The jobs plan will ensure we’re creating good, quality jobs for Veterans, too,” he said.
VRRAP applications opening
McDonough also said Veterans will soon be able to apply for the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program starting sometime between May 3-10. The program, known as VRRAP, was part of the American Rescue Plan. Eligible Veterans participating in VRRAP receive up to 12 months of tuition and fees. They also receive a monthly housing allowance based on Post-9/11 GI Bill rates.
The program ends 21 months after enactment. It’s limited to a maximum of 17,250 participants and up to $386 million.
To be eligible for VRRAP, a Veteran must meet the following criteria:
- At least 22 years of age and less than 67 years of age
- Not eligible for GI Bill or VR&E benefits
- Not enrolled in a Federal or State jobs program
- Unemployed due to COVID-19 pandemic
- Not receiving VA disability compensation because you are unable to work
- Not receiving unemployment compensation including enhanced benefits under the CARES Act
Small business assistance
The plan also included $5 billion in federal programs for small businesses, including Veteran-owned businesses. This money is for federal research as well as research and development that could lead to commercialization. About 2.5 million Veterans own a small business. Additionally, Veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-Veterans.
“The American Jobs Plan will create a national network of federally funded small business incubators and innovation hubs to ensure that all Veterans, regardless of race or wealth, have a fair shot at starting and growing their own businesses,” he said.
The investments are part of fulfilling President Joe Biden’s obligation to care for Veterans, said Terri Tanielian, special assistant to the president for Veterans Affairs. The plan will provide both short-term immediate and longer-term investments.
“Veterans and their families have made enormous sacrifices for country, and we need to make sure that we are fulfilling our sacred obligation to serve them with health care, good jobs, business opportunities and more,” McDonough said. “The American Jobs Plan will help us do that.”
Learn about the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program at https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/vrrap.asp.
Learn more about the American Jobs Plan at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/.