RI Veterans: Did You Know? – 20 May 21 – John A. Cianci

by John A. Cianci, Department Veterans Service Officer, Italian American War Veterans (ITAM)

“Free Job Training Certificate Training for Veterans”

Veterans Benefits… Did you know?

Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP)

Did you know eligible veterans who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19 could obtain FREE job training and certificates in high demand occupations——and get paid a monthly tax-free housing allowance.

Layman terms for eligibility, you must be an honorable discharge veteran who is unemployed, be between ages of 22 and 66, have not eligible for GI bill or any other VA benefit for education, not rated total disability because you can’t work, and not collecting unemployment (although you can terminate unemployment before applying and getting accepted).

If you believe you are eligible, VETUP, and take charge of your future and do tomorrow the following:

Step 1 – What career did you always want or would like to do?? Veterinary assistant? Massage Therapist? Medical Assistant?

Step 2 – Go to internet, type in VRRAP VETERAN for a search; you should see links for Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program, https: , click on it, and you should get VA webpage titled Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program.

Step 3 – Read eligible, if you think your eligible, go to the section What types of education and training programs does VRRAP cover? Click on it to view the list. Anything on list interest you (don’t get turned away on location—–think of it like going back to basic training). Remember, you will get a housing allowance, and the ITAM organization will assist you in locating a veteran organization sponsor for local housing.

Step 4 – You VETUP, and call the school (not the VA), and ask for the schools’ veteran representative. Discuss the program, most of the time the institute will take care of all the eligibility requirements with the VA.  Ask the school is the course online and in person—you will find most our online, with classes being scheduled by Zoom, Webex, etc… If in class required, ask the school if they have any partnerships with local hotels, etc.. If housing is an issue—remember, you are getting a housing allowance which should cover most of a rental or hotel. The Italian American War Veterans will assist you in obtaining needed housing to attend the schooling or training you WANT TO DO. VETERANS WILL HAVE YOUR SIX.

Step 5 – If interested, ask the school to start the paperwork to enroll you in VRRAP program. Remember this is a FIRST COME program, and if life events change your ability to attend the course——no penalties to you.

Now, to get back to the program.

The funds are FIRST COME, estimated $365 million allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, which for a new job training program to assist veterans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program offers up to 12 months of cash payments to eligible veterans who enroll in job training programs for high-demand jobs.

Veterans who participate in the program will receive a monthly housing allowance roughly equal to the military basic allowance for housing for a married E-5. For example, I’m attending Gateway Community College in New Haven Ct, and received almost $3000 a month, tax free, housing allowance. Equate that to taxable dollars, that about working and making $1000 a week before paying Uncle Sam.

Under the new program, the Department of Veterans Affairs will pay any tuition costs directly to the school, leaving the veteran with no out-of-pocket expenses.

For example, the Italian American War Veteran, Inc, Veteran Service Officer contacted an approved program in New Hampshire, Heavy Construction Academy (HCA), Brentwood NH, for a veteran. The Heavy Construction Academy (HCA) offers a 6-week training course resulting in lifetime, nationally recognized, certification on 8 pieces of heavy construction equipment. Unlike other heavy equipment schools, HCA has a 1:1 ratio for student to equipment and provides a construction site atmosphere for the training.  HCA networks with employers nationwide and provides lifetime employment assistance.  Transportation, lodging, and PPE (hard hat, safety vest, safety glasses and earplugs) is provided by the program. 

The veteran ITAM assisted had been homeless on and off the last 3 years; recently, with assistance from Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services, the veteran was connected thru the RISERVE network to agencies to obtain a place to call home; veteran was issued a HUD voucher and with assistance now has a place he can call home. However, this did not solve the root cause of being homeless, unemployed. remains unemployed.

In the training program at HCA n NH, included will be lodging ay a contracted hotel for veteran students. In SIX weeks, at about a quarter of the cost to attend a university for a degree, the veteran will be ready to enter the workforce. Over 80% of all graduating students find jobs quickly. If you wished to go to this program as a civilian, it would cost you over $18, 000.

In the HCA Heavy Equipment programs, you’ll learn core skills that include:

  •  Basic and Advanced Operational Techniques
  •  Safety Precautions and Preventative Maintenance
  •  Reading of Blueprints, Site Layout and Survey
  •  Excavation Formulas
  •  Grade Calculations
  •  Introduction to Project Management

You will be certified on the following equipment:

  • Skid-steer
  • Front end Loader
  • Articulating Dump Truck
  • Backhoe Loader
  • Excavator
  • Bulldozer
  • Motor Grader
  • Vibratory Roller

If interested in Heavy Construction Academe call Derek Alsup, Career Transitioning Specialist, US Marine Corps Veteran, Cell: 603-395-3646 or email Email: [email protected]. I have personally spoke to Derek and he will answer any questions.

One program, and the only program, as of May 14, 2021, in Rhode Island  participating in the program, STARC program. reached out to the Office of Veterans Services for the State of Rhode Island for explanation of why only one facility participating in Rhode Island (New England Tech School? CCRI?), and the office response was the program is a VA federal program. In this Veteran’s opinion, an unacceptable response, as Veterans living in Rhode Island are entitled to both federal and state benefits, as unlike other States Veterans Offices I communicated with, the VRRAP program is unique program offering MILLIONS of dollars of training and certificate programs to Veterans unemployed and having NO OTHER opportunity to pay for training in these high demand trades. Moreover, this offers the State of Rhode Island opportunity to capture millions of additional dollars for training veterans.

The STARC program is a dual -focused electronics certification program teaches students a variety of skills. STARC students learn to master soldering, building and assembling techniques of manufacturing side, etc. Numerous industry recognized certificates can be earned in this 4-month program.  The estimated housing allowance for this program is at a minimum online, around $1000 a month, and could be as high as $1800 if attending in person.

If interested in the STARC program in Rhode Island, call Lisa Smith, (401) 369-5999 she is the Director of Administration, and I personally spoke with her the day writing this article.

The VA website has a VRRAP Approved Educational Institute listing of all facilities participating in the program, included are training and certificates in the following (lots more on VA website, web page VRRAP:

Commercial Truck Driving (CDL)

Tractor Trailer Driving Certificate

Advanced Web Design


Major Appliance Technology

Plumbing technology

Automotive Maintenance


Nail technician

Medical assistant

Plumbing technician


Computer repair

Medical assistant

Dental assistant

Legal assistant

Massage therapy

Veterinary assistant

Heating refrigeration technician

Personal trainer

Microsoft certifications, etc…

The PDF file is 10 pages long, and lots of training and certificates opportunities. For the entire list by school,  VRRAP_ApprovedEducationalInstitutions.pdf

VETTIP – Take charge of you future and follow the aforementioned recommended steps listed, don’t get caught in VA bureaucracy as a result of staff shortages.

Any questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci, [email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 Am I eligible for VRRAP Training?

  • To be eligible for this program, you must meet all the requirements listed here. 
  • All of these must be true. You’re:
  • At least 22 years old, but not older than 66, and
  • Unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and
  • Not eligible for GI Bill or VR&E benefits (or, if you’re eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you’ve transferred all of your benefits to family members), and
  • Not rated as totally disabled because you can’t work, and
  • Not enrolled in a federal or state jobs programs, and
  • Not receiving unemployment benefits (including CARES Act benefits)

Q2 What types of education and training programs does VRRAP cover?

VRRAP covers education and training programs approved under the GI Bill and Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) that lead to high-demand jobs. These include associate degrees, non-college degrees, and certificate programs. The Department of Labor determines what’s considered a high-demand job for VRRAP.

Q3 What benefits can I get through this program?

If you’re eligible for VRRAP, you can get:

  • Up to 12 months of tuition and fees, and 
  • A monthly housing allowance based on Post-9/11 GI Bill rates

Q4 What should I do if I received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge?

If you’ve received one of these discharge statuses, you may not be eligible for VA pension benefits. Operation Stand Down, (401) 383-4730, provides free assistance to apply for a discharge upgrade or go to

Q5 How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade

Answer a series of questions to get customized step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction. If your application goes through and your discharge is upgraded, you’ll be eligible for the VA benefits you earned during your period of service.

All branches of the military consider you to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if you can show your discharge was connected to any of these categories:

Mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Sexual assault or harassment during military service (at VA, we refer to this as military sexual trauma or MST)

Sexual orientation (including under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy)

Can I get VA benefits without a discharge upgrade?

Even with a less than honorable discharge, you may be able to access some VA benefits through the Character of Discharge review process. When you apply for VA benefits, we’ll review your record to determine if your service was “honorable for VA purposes.” This review can take up to a year. Please provide us with documents supporting your case, similar to the evidence you’d send with an application to upgrade your discharge.

You may want to consider finding someone to advocate on your behalf, depending on the complexity of your case. A lawyer or Veterans Service Organization (VSO) can collect and submit supporting documents for you. Find a VSO near you.

Note: You can ask for a VA Character of Discharge review while at the same time applying for a discharge upgrade from the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Coast Guard.

If you need mental health services related to PTSD or other mental health problems linked to your service (including conditions related to an experience of military sexual trauma), you may qualify for VA health benefits right away, even without a VA Character of Discharge review or a discharge upgrade.

VA Providence Medical Updates


COVID-19 vaccinations are available on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday 8am-2pm on the second floor C wing.

For more information please call (401) 273-7100 ext. 16226.

There’s been a lot of news reporting about reducing or eliminating the need for face masks, HOWEVER, the Providence VA Medical Center still has a mask mandate in effect. If you plan to visit us here at the VA Hospital, please wear an acceptable mask or cloth-face-covering while on the grounds or in the hospital. Please check back often for updates on this policy – but for now, keep that mask on!


Thursday-May 20, 2021, 6:00pm.  Vietnam Veterans of America #818, Lincoln Senior Center, 150 Jenckes Road, 6:00PM, meeting starts at 7:00PM. Nominations and election of Officer, COVID-19 rules in effect

Friday  Sunday, May 28th – 30th, 8AM – 8PM, and Monday, May 31st, 8AM – 6PM, 4-day event, “The Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial”, Fort Adams State Park, Harrison Avenue, Newport.  Free admission for all.  Masks are required.  To become a sponsor of the memorial please visit

Saturday, May 29th11AM, “Military Women’s Wreath Laying Ceremony”, Women’s Monument by the Chapel, Rhode Island Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery, 301 South County Trail, Exeter.  Point of contact is Gina Marie Doherty at 401.500.1721, or via email at [email protected].

Monday, May 31st, 830AM, “24th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony, Special Forces Association, Chapter 48”, Special Forces Monument, Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 301 South County Trail, Exeter.  Point of contact is Retired Colonel Steve Kelley at [email protected].

Saturday, June 12th9AM Refreshments, 10AM Speaker, “Rhode Island National Guard Retirees’ Association Quarterly Meeting”, Schofield Armory, 705 New London Avenue, Cranston.  Point of contact is Bob Urquhart at [email protected].  Guest speaker to be determined.

Saturday, June 12th, time currently unknown, “Brian’s Ride 2021”, 15th Anniversary Memorial Ride.  For more information and/or questions, call 401.837.7331, or email [email protected].  


Friday, August 6th11AM, “Rhode Island National Guard Summer Reunion”, Quonset Officers’ Club, 200 Lieutenant James Brown Road, North Kingstown.  Point of contact is Bob Antonelli at 401.996.3764, or via email at [email protected].  Cut-off date is Tuesday, August 3rd   

September 15-20, 2021, USMC Tankers Association Facility: Crown Plaza Providence-Warwick, 801 Greenwich Ave., Warwick RI 02886. Point of Contact Name: John Wear. Point of Contact Telephone: 719-495-5998. Point of Contact Email: [email protected] . Comments: The USMC Vietnam Tankers Association will be holding our 12th biennial reunion. Anyone who served with any of the Marine tank battalions or Ontos units in Vietnam . . . in any capacity is welcome!!!


John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp For Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.