Permanent Funding for VA’s Tech Training Program Heads to House Floor

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VA’s VET-TEC pilot ran out of funding last week, but lawmakers on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee have approved bipartisan legislation that would permanently reauthorize the program.

Legislation that would permanently reauthorize the Department of Veterans Affairs’ technology education pilot program is headed to the House floor after making it through a crucial committee last week—a vote that came just days after the program’s providers reported to lawmakers that it had run out of funding. 

During a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee markup on Friday, the panel’s members passed legislation introduced by Reps. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif., that would permanently fund the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses—or VET-TEC—program. 

The five-year pilot program, which was created following passage of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act in 2017, provides eligible veterans with “the opportunity to enroll in high technology programs of education that the [VA] Secretary determines provide training or skills sought by employers in a relevant field or industry.”

According to a March 22 press release from Ciscomani’s office when the bill was first introduced, the VET-TEC pilot—which officially launched in 2019—has an 84% graduation rate for the more than 12,000 veterans who have completed the program. 

“Not only does it create highly skilled workers for a rapidly changing industry, but it gives our veterans the dignity of a successful, fulfilling career,” Ciscomani said in a statement. “By providing permanent authorization for this program, we are creating this same opportunity for thousands of more veterans to come.” 

The bill, notably, is endorsed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who sponsored the original VET-TEC Act that was signed into law in 2017.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill.—who chairs the House panel—noted during Friday’s markup that VET-TEC providers informed the committee earlier in the week that the program has run out of funding and cannot accept new students. 

“This has put about 2,500 students—veterans—in danger of no longer going to school and missing out on a better career opportunity,” said Bost, whose amendment in the nature of a substitute to the bill passed the committee. 

In a press release following the markup—which saw the passage of seven bipartisan bills—Bost singled out the legislation as a “vitally important bill” that will “expand, improve and fund the successful VET-TEC employment pilot program.”

“We will bring this bill to the House floor as soon as possible to ensure that veterans and transitioning service members who wish to use this education benefit can do so,” he added.

In addition to permanently reauthorizing VET-TEC, A summary of the proposal shared by the committee said that the legislation would allow 8,000 veterans to enroll in the program each year and would “make needed improvements to how the program runs.”

“It would also allow institutions of higher education to participate in the program under the same guidelines as current VET-TEC providers,” the document added. “Veterans using the program would also still receive many of the benefits student veterans have under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, such as monthly housing allowances and tuition assistance to ensure that they have the resources they need to successfully complete the VET-TEC program.”

An October 2022 assessment of the VET-TEC pilot conducted by the Government Accountability Office called the program “promising,” but recommended that VA work to better track employment outcomes for veterans who complete the program. 

VA is also working to provide such veterans with additional opportunities to hone their tech skills for future employment. 

In an interview with Nextgov last month, Nathan Tierney—VA’s chief people officer and deputy chief information officer—said the department’s soon-to-launch cybersecurity apprenticeship program would include a more targeted recruitment drive focused on veterans “that have separated from service within the last five years, as well as veterans in the VET-TEC program.”