Military Veterans Eligible for FTO/PTO Education Benefits

Military Veterans Eligible for FTO/PTO Education Benefits

Over the years, countless military veterans have traded in Uncle Sam’s uniform for a law enforcement one as they’ve continued their commitment to serve the community they call home.

Many veterans who answer the call of continued service for their community are eligible for GI Bill benefits for law enforcement basic training as well as follow up Field Training Officer (FTO) and Police Training Officer (PTO) training.

But according to Gwen Hacker, director of Kentucky Approving Agency for Veterans Education, many are not taking advantage of the education benefits with FTO and PTO simply because they are unaware they are eligible to do so.

“We get several calls on this,” Hacker said. “Sometimes they find out through another trainee or word of mouth. A lot of the time, they’ve been in (FTO or PTO) training a year or so before they find out. It’s a hard program to advertise.”

The gist of the program is this: any military veteran who has received a general discharge or higher is eligible for the benefit, Hacker said.

When a veteran contacts her office, Hacker said the ball starts rolling.

“The first thing we do is check to see if their agency is approved through us,” Hacker said. “If they’re not, we contact the agency and let them know they have a veteran who wants to use their benefits during FTO or PTO. We provide the agency with the application to become approved, and we can do that fairly quickly.”

Additionally, even if a veteran has been in their agency’s FTO or PTO program for several months, Hacker said once the paperwork has been processed and approved, the individual would receive retroactive payments from the VA.

Once the agency’s application process is approved, a local point of contact, known as a certifying official, will be trained to process the paperwork at the agency level.

“They are responsible for reporting the trainees’ hours each month to the VA,” Hacker said. “The veterans are paid a portion of their stipend, depending on how long they are in the program. As their wages increase, the payments from the VA decrease, but it’s tax-free.”

With the August 2018 passage of the Forever GI Bill, certifying officials will have to undergo yearly training.

“It’s never been mandatory before,” Hacker said. “Those agencies who are already approved and have a certifying official trained will not have to do it until 2019. For those (agencies) who are new, they’ll have 14 days for the certifying official to complete the online training module. Online training will take about three or five hours to complete.”

The benefits to the officer collecting the benefit are obvious – every month he or she will receive a GI Bill stipend. The amount of money they receive depends on variables such as if they have used any of the benefits prior to FTO or PTO.

Once the paperwork is processed, the officer will receive a letter letting them know their monthly reward.

Many agencies across the state are currently approved, but there are some that are not, Hacker said.

“Every year, we get three or four that have to become approved because they’ve never had a veteran inquire about it,” she said.

Veterans wishing to know if they are eligible for the benefit can visit and complete the online application, Hacker said.

“If they haven’t used up their benefits at the academy or elsewhere, they’ll be eligible,” she said.

The online application takes about 10 minutes to complete using information from the veteran’s Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, commonly known as the form DD 214.

“It also asks about their bank account information so they can get it direct deposited,” Hacker said.

Once the process starts and an agency is approved, it will take about 30 days to begin receiving stipends.

“Once the VA receives the report on the monthly hours from the certifying official, (the veteran) should get paid the first week of the following month; it pays in arrears,” Hacker said.

Agencies or veterans interested in more information can contact Hacker at 859-256-3352.

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