Five years ago today, President Obama signed into law the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which brought about major changes to help transitioning Servicemembers acquire the training and skills they need to seamlessly integrate into the civilian economy.

President Obama greets members of the audience following his remarks on Veterans at Fire Station 5 in Arlington, Va., Feb. 3, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets members of the audience following his remarks on Veterans at Fire Station 5 in Arlington, Va., Feb. 3, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On the fifth anniversary of the signing of the law, we pause to reflect on the progress the administration has made to promote the economic opportunity of our Servicemembers and Veterans.

In 2011, faced with Veteran unemployment rates that remained high following the Great Recession and a national need for more entrepreneurs and skilled workers, the president signed the VOW Act, which mandated that the Department of Labor (DOL) study the skills that Service members learn in the military and improve the translation of those skills into civilian-sector certifications. The act also authorized VA to provide eligible Veterans with up to one year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits, to extend vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits for 12 months for eligible Veterans, and to expand the Special Incentive Program to employers who hire and provide on-the-job training for eligible Veterans.

At the same time, the administration brought together a diverse group of government partners charged with redesigning the decades old Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to ensure separating Servicemembers are prepared for educational advancement and meaningful career opportunities after transitioning into civilian life.

Together, the Departments of Defense (DoD), Education, Labor and VA, as well as the Office of Personnel Management and the Small Business Administration, and others, oversaw the creation and implementation of a framework to instruct, gauge and enhance Servicemember career readiness through the redesigned TAP.

“For many Servicemembers, TAP is the first encounter they will have with VA,” said Curtis L. Coy, VA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity.

The interagency collaboration improved communication on the topic; better leveraged federal tools, processes and limited resources; and resulted in several enhancements to the transition process, including the following:

  • A redesigned curriculum that is mandatory for all separating Servicemembers and available to all military spouses
  • Additional “career tracks” for those wanting to start a business, seeking job-ready skills and those pursuing higher education
  • Smaller class sizes to provide individual attention
  • Individual transition plans that are customized to each Servicemember’s personal goals
  • Completion based on achieving career readiness standards, not simply attendance

The program concludes with a capstone event, verifying that each Servicemember has met career readiness standards and has an actionable individual transition plan.

The enhanced TAP also equips Servicemembers with skills and resources to cope with the stress of separating from the military; how to identify and promote translatable employment skills, training and pre-transition activities to help them obtain meaningful civilian employment; and information on how to capitalize on all the VA benefits earned through their military service. An additional congressional authority called SkillBridge complements TAP by allowing eligible Servicemembers to obtain civilian job skills training from employers beginning up to six months prior to separating from the military.

To further improve transition, an online curriculum was made available to Service members, Veterans, and their families. Participants can access the courses and review the training at their preferred pace. Veterans who transitioned before the enactment of the redesigned TAP can also take advantage of this online curriculum at any time. This curriculum is available here.

President Barack Obama signs the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (VOW to Hire Heroes Act), that provided tax credits to help put Veterans back to work. First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend the ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Nov. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (VOW to Hire Heroes Act), that provided tax credits to help put Veterans back to work. First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend the ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Nov. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Since the implementation of the VOW Act:

  • More than 1 million Servicemembers have transitioned into civilian life
  • The unemployment rate for Veterans has been reduced by more than half, falling from a high of 9.9 percent in 2011 to 4.3 percent today. In addition, the Post-9/11 Veterans unemployment rate is 4.7 percent today, down from a high of 15.2 in 2011.
  • VA has deployed more than 300 benefit advisors worldwide to provide information on the benefits and services VA provides

Every year, roughly 200,000 Servicemembers separate, retire or are released from active duty, and we are excited about the progress that has been made in preparing them for success. Moving forward, the agencies will continue to work to ensure Servicemembers, Veterans and their family members are provided the opportunity to fulfill the American dream.

  • To learn more about DoD’s curriculum and transition resources, visit:
  • To learn more about VA support under TAP, visit:
  • To learn more about DOL’s employment resources for Veterans and more than 2,400 local American Job Centers across the country offering in-person assistance, visit:
  • To learn more about OPM’s resources supporting the employment of Veterans in the Federal Government, visit Feds Hire Vets:
  • To learn more about the federal government’s Council on Veterans Employment efforts to assist Veterans, transitioning Servicemembers, and their families with federal careers, visit Feds Hire Vets, the federal government’s one-stop resource for federal employment information at:

About the author:  This article was submitted to VAntage Point by the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force.

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Published on Nov. 21, 2016

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  1. Tino Abila November 27, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Mission Career College a Vet owned vocational-technical college supports our veterans and their families.

  2. John Voss Brummal November 25, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    Don’t trust the Government to keep its promise about a job for veterans. When I got out of the Marine Corps in 1971 after four years and a tour in Vietnam, I went to work at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas under The Veterans Rehabilitation Act. Under this program I started as a GS 1, with a promotion to GS 2 after three months, then another promotion to GS 3. We couldn’t live on GS 1 or GS 2 but could on GS 3. We had some savings and could pay our bills with GS 1or 2 and dipping into our savings. The week before my promotion to GS 2 President Nixon froze all civil service pay increases and that included me. The savings we had was almost gone so I was forced to drop out of the Veterans Rehabilitation Act so we could pay our bills. This was a career that I had chosen and I wanted to do until retirement.

    What happened to me was typical for Vietnam Veterans, screwed again, there was not a grateful nation back then, not a desert hero just another Vietnam Vet.

  3. ROBERT OLIVER DUNCAN November 25, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    I’m a ‘Nam decorated combat wounded VA 100% service-connected disabled Vet now supposedly part of the Vet Choice Card cluster f***. I’m also the invisible man as far as the VA’s concerned. It’s clear that Obama signed this law into service 2014 to benefit nobody but his cronies: the large and elaborate, go between Tri-West Ins. Co., “Let’s change the rules when we feel like it and see how much harder we can make it for the vet to access healthcare”. I jumped through hoops with Feinstein’s office to file a letter of complaint. Months later she says that my case has been solved and drops the ball. I reply via email: In no way has my problem been solved to never hear from her again.
    I can’t get anyone from the VA to return calls, good luck and outta gas, Sin Loi ma boy. Just die and eat crap.
    “The silence is deafening.”
    First Gun

    P.s.: If you new guys don’t fix this, it will some day be all over you like stink on s***.

  4. Joseph West November 25, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I transitioned from active duty prior to the new TAP and then after returning to duty, I transitioned under the new TAP and the new program is a Godsend. I don’t have to imagine where I’d be without it. Under the old plan I was unemployed for four months and finally got a job paying $22K per year. Under the new program, I used my earned VA benefits and found a job while I was on still on active duty. This time when I left duty my standard of living went up instead of down. God bless President Obama and the Agencies and workers that made this program happen. It really helps vets.

  5. Deborah shipp November 25, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    This is absolutely amazing.
    I am a Gulf War Veteran. I am 46 years old.
    I returned home to a few different obstacles.
    1- All of my money had been spent by my partner.
    2- I no longer had a home.
    3- I had somewhat of a car.
    I had a default on a student loan as I was in college at the time of deployment.
    4- I also had an unexplained illness that I wAs told to say nothing about if I wanted to see my family and not be “held up”.
    That was in 1999, I was 20.
    By 1999, I was on drugs and going to prison.
    Released in 2005, I fought my way up the corporate ladder of the energy efficiency business of HVAC. I was certified in Prison.
    I was never offered any programs or training. Maybe my llife would be different,
    It is now 2016. I was an accounts Manager for Southern California. Managing several companies and training technicians on some of the most advanced technologies that are in the HVAC BUSINESS TODAY. I was making 80 plus a year.
    I got hurt last November at work on the job.
    They terminated me in January.
    I am getting ready to have surgery on my neck to replace 4 vertebrae. I do have an attorney.
    However, I will not be able to continue with this line of work.
    Are their any options for someone like me to be retrained? Once I am recovered? I am on the verge of losing my home, it’s a VA LOn.
    Never missed s payment. Until this happened. I’ve filed bankruptcy and basically I have nothing. I am receiving money through workmans compensation and they are working to refinance my home to affordable payments, however I need a plan. I wanted to start my own consulting business for a while.
    Basically it is what I do now. Maybe I could get help in that direction?

  6. Claude Roberts November 25, 2016 at 1:28 pm


  7. Robert S. Keystone November 21, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    I know our country has been under what has seemed to be division in the past year, but more importantly we need to remember what unites us. It it highly important that this fall’s transition happens as efficiently as possible, so our former president’s work is recognized, and our next president’s projects can come to fruition peacefully. God bless our vets.

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