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Advance Your Nursing Career, Debt-Free with the VA

Nurse and Patient

Given the last year or so of our lives, many front-line heroes have emerged to help us manage life in the pandemic. From our teachers learning to offer education remotely, to the personal shoppers who are always on call to bring you food, personal necessities, and even a tall, double-dark, double-skinny, mocha frappe thingy. 

There are also those who work in the medical field. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff all over the country, even the world, were essential to the millions affected by the coronavirus. It is no surprise then that the Nursing career field is direly shorthanded. 

VA Financial Support for Nursing Careers

Most people know that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides an outstanding education benefit to our nation’s military and veteran communities. What most people don’t know, however, is that the VA prides itself on helping their own employees advance their education and careers through programs like the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI).


Through the NNEI program, Registered Nurses (RNs) who work part-time or full-time at the VA for at least one year can receive up to $41,572, tax free, toward the cost of higher education. This scholarship can be used to cover tuition, books, or administrative and registration fees. In return, scholarship recipients agree to work in a VA career for one to three years.

RELATED: Nursing Careers for Veterans and Military Spouses

Other NNEI Requirements

In addition to working for the VA for at least one year before applying, the applicants must also meet the following requirements:

  • Be accepted in an approved academic program required for a Title 38 and hybrid Title 38 occupation
  • Remain within credit limits of the Employee Initiative Scholarship Program (90 hours for undergraduate courses and 54 for graduate courses).
  • Be in permanent position with the VA at the time of application and during the time they would participate in the program.

More Scholarship Opportunities at the VA

In addition to the NNEI, the VA offers the following scholarship programs to VA employees:

  • Employee Incentive Scholarship Program (EISP)
    • Serve and care for the nation’s Veterans and continue your healthcare education with a scholarship through the VA Employee Incentive Scholarship Program.
  • Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP)
    • “HPSP awards scholarships to students receiving education/training in a health care services discipline. Awards will be offered on a competitive basis and are exempt from federal taxation. In exchange for the award, scholarship program participants agree to a service obligation in a VA health care facility.”
  • VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP)
    • “Choose a career that lets you stay on firm financial footing as you pursue first-time clinical licensure through the VA National Education for Employees Program.”
  • Visual Impairment and Orientation and Mobility Professionals Scholarship Program
    • “VIOMPSP awards scholarships to students seeking a degree or certificate in visual impairment or orientation and mobility. Awards are offered on a competitive basis, provide for the payment of tuition and required fees, and are exempt from federal taxation. In exchange for the award, scholarship program participants agree to a 3-year service obligation in a VA health care facility.”

RELATED: Great Degrees for Portable Careers: Nursing

Already Have Student Loan Debt?

If you’ve already finished a nursing program and have, as a result, accumulated student loan debt, the VA may have a solution for you. Check out these three programs:

  1. Education Debt Reduction Program – “Choose a healthcare career providing top-notch care to America’s Veterans and receive student loan repayment of up to $200,000 through VA’s Education Debt Reduction Program.”
  2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – Because the VA is a federal government entity, VA employees with federal student loans may be eligible for this national loan forgiveness program.
  3. Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) – Through the SLRP, employees in certain occupations may be eligible to receive up to $10,000 per year (with a lifetime maximum of $60,000) to help repay student loans. Request more information on the availability of the SLRP when submitting your VA employment application.

RELATED: Bill Would Erase Student Loan Debt for 100% Disabled Veterans


As the need for medical professionals continues to grow, programs and scholarships like those above will become ever more vital to filling the shortages we have in the medical field. 

If you have ever considered becoming a nurse, but have put off that idea due to funding, then please know that there are amazing programs out there that can help you get the education you need to get into the nursing field.

 (Image courtesy of MBI via Shutterstock)