WAKE FOREST — A new town program is helping military veterans access their GI benefits while in training for a position with the public safety department.
Under an apprenticeship program, new employees who are veterans will be able to draw a monthly stipend from their federal GI benefits in addition to a salary from the town while training to become police officers. The length of the GI benefits varies for each individual.
To implement the program, town officials had to develop a curriculum for trainees that would win the approval of the N.C. Department of Labor. Once state officials signed off, the federal benefits could kick in. The town takes on no additional costs.
“It’s just a matter of having people who are interested in carrying out the program and implementing it,” said Virginia Jones, human resources director for the town.
In Wake Forest, town officials developed the program after being tipped off by a new police recruit that he would be eligible if they completed the paperwork. Jones said it was an easy decision to move ahead.
“Why wouldn’t we since it could benefit so many others?” she said.
Veterans with no more than two years of police experience are eligible to participate. They complete the same Wake Forest training program as other new recruits.
Wake Forest joins the Raleigh police and fire departments, the Wake County sheriff’s department and many private companies in offering apprenticeship programs for veterans, said Victoria Knott, an apprenticeship consultant for Wake County at N.C. Labor. Non-veterans also are eligible to participate in apprenticeships across the county.
Knott said that one of the keys to expanding the program further is making sure veterans know they’re eligible. Once they’re signed up, the apprenticeships are a plus for the individual, the employer and local businesses.
“That’s money going right back into the economy,” she said.
In Wake County, during the past 12 months, 697 people were enrolled in an apprenticeship program of some kind, including 158 veterans. Of those 158 people, 116 had applied to access their GI benefits at some point during their apprenticeship, according to state records.
Jones said the town is considering ways to expand the apprenticeship program for veterans to other departments.
“If we can develop a curriculum, we can make it work,” she said.