VA leader visits Sill transition program
December 6, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (6 Dec. 2012) -- A former Army Ranger who is now an undersecretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs visited Fort Sill to check out the updated Transition Assistance Program for Soldiers, who are leaving the service.
Dr. Tommy Sowers, assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, addressed Soldiers taking the TAP training Dec. 3 at Building 4700. TAPS is part of the new Veterans Opportunity to Work Act to assist veterans to find employment.
"We're making sure servicemen and women know of their eligible (VA) benefits when they leave the service," Sowers said. "The benefits are substantial whether they are education, health or job related."
In the past, transition programs were voluntary, he said. Now as part of the VOW Act, programs like the 40-hour TAP are mandatory.
Sowers urged Soldiers to become familiar with VA benefits while they are still in uniform.
"When we need to get hold of military records to make a quick transition there's no time better while they are still in service," said Sowers, who spent 11 years as a Special Forces Soldier, including two tours in Iraq.
It was three years ago when Sowers was preparing to leave the Army that a former battle buddy told him he should get his body's "snaps, crackles and pops" checked out. As a result Sowers was determined to have a service-connected disability and qualified for VA health care for life.
In addition to TAP, the VOW Act enables 100,000 unemployed veterans to get training through the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, Sowers said.
VRAP entitles eligible unemployed veterans, 35 to 60 years old who have already used up their G.I. Bill, one year of training benefits in about 200 skill fields, Sowers said. It is a time sensitive program with about 50,000 vouchers remaining.
Sowers told the Soldiers they have a brother at the VA.
"I work for you now," he said. "The entire department works for you."