House Republican leaders want to extend a job training program focused on helping veterans get employment in high-tech fields before it expires at the end of this year.

The Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) program was launched in 2019 as a five-year pilot. It covers tuition costs and a monthly housing stipend to veterans who qualify, to study subjects like software development, data science, network security and web development skills.

More than 12,000 veterans have taken part in the program, with about 8,000 finding full-time jobs in the technology industry, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The training is so popular that applications regularly outpace available slots. Originally allotted only $15 million annually, lawmakers boosted that amount to $110 million because of that increased demand.

A proposal introduced Monday by Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., would permanently extend and expand the program, allowing 8,000 veterans to enroll annually.

“The VET TEC training program has empowered thousands of our veterans in their transition from the battlefield to the workforce,” he said in a statement. “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.”

The legislation is backed by two powerful Republicans — House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. — and is co-sponsored by California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna.

Some Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns about expanding funding if other areas of the budget are trimmed by Republican leaders who are pushing to reduce federal spending.

The program is free for veterans, but training companies receive only half of their costs when students enroll and complete the courses. The other half are delivered if participants find full-time jobs after the training is complete.

Last fall, researchers from the Government Accountability Office cast doubt on the success of the program, saying that job placement rates may be inflated because of different methods used by VA to calculate those totals. By their count, fewer than 6,000 participants successfully found full-time employment.

But the report did little to dampen enthusiasm surrounding the program from VA officials and lawmakers.

“Simply put, this job training program helps veterans — and their families — live out the American Dream,” Bost said in a statement.

Similar legislation has not yet been introduced in the Senate. Both chambers would have to adopt the proposal by the fall in order to send the measure to the White House to become law, allowing new program applicants for 2024.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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