Thousands of disabled veterans apply for Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation every year. Some are successful in getting the benefits they deserve and some are not. In my time researching and writing on the subject, there seems to be a common theme arising: lies. This leads one to conclude that either there are guidelines to excuses somewhere that Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors live by, or there is an underlying discussion between offices as to what excuses can be used to keep deserving disabled veterans from their benefits.
It reminds me of a period of my life when I spent a great deal of my recreational time researching the Bible. Living in England at the time, I used the ESV Bible, the Cambridge Companion to the Bible, the Nag Hammadi Scriptures, and a copy of The Living Buddha, Living Christ that my grandmother sent me. Over the years, scholars have found there to be such commonality between the New Testament Gospels that they came to believe there existed a fifth text referred to as “Q.” Q is believed by many scholars to be the first written gospel that contained many of the quotes and anecdotes of Jesus’ time on Earth.
In a similar way, one cannot help but speculate that there is a similar text that creates a common set of lies Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors tell disabled veterans when denying claims. Yet in my searches for it, I seem to only find regulations that support veterans’ claims for benefits — strange.
Background.The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (DVA OIG) ordered an audit of the VR&E program in 2007 and a subsequent survey sampling of 80,000 veterans to find out why so many disabled veterans never complete the program. While VR&E boasts a success rate of close to 75 percent to the U.S. Congress, the real number is much lower. According to the DVA OIG, the true success rate is closer to 18 percent. Most qualified veterans drop out of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) prior to developing an Individual Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP). Many more drop out prior to finishing the program. VR&E has not been including these cases in their reported success rate.
In Corporate America, this is called “cooking the books,” for which people have gone to jail and been sued. Lucky for VR&E, the officials of this ENRON of the federal government are largely blanketed by sovereign immunity. The government has to agree to let you sue the government. Convenient.
The following is a list of a few of most common fish stories given by Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors to deny veterans access to Chapter 31 benefits:
1. Veterans with high disability ratings usually fail to complete their training.
2. You cannot use Vocational Rehabilitation if you are Individually Unemployable (IU).
3. Veterans with families have a harder time completing their programs.
4. Vocational Rehabilitation will not pay for graduate school.
5. If you have a job, you do not qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation.
Lies – all lies. In a VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Training Module Study Plan you can get plenty of valuable information about the program. Combined with the audit and survey linked above, the majority of truths to the lies can be found. So let’s raise the curtain a bit to reveal the great Oz.
Lie #1 – Veterans with high disability ratings usually fail to complete their training.
Truth – The survey states that veterans with a higher disability rating also have a higher likelihood of successfully completing their program. This includes veterans with VR&E ratings of “serious employment handicap.”
Lie #2 – You cannot use Vocational Rehabilitation if you are Individually Unemployable (IU).
Truth – According to the training module, veterans with a 100 percent disability rating can and do use VR&E for retraining purposes to obtain jobs, if possible. Additionally, veterans with an IU are also allowed to use the program. Further, finishing the training program does not automatically result in a reduction of IU. Supposedly, it cannot be reduced for a year following employment.
Lie #3 – Disabled veterans with families have a harder time completing their programs.
Truth – There is no significant effect on program success rates when comparing veterans with families to those without families. This includes a comparison between veterans relating to spouses and veterans with children.
Lie # 4 – Vocational Rehabilitation will not pay for graduate school.
Truth – I used VR&E for my undergrad and now have an Individualized Written Rehabilitation Plan stating I can attend law school in the program. ‘Nuff said. VR&E will send people to graduate school, to include law school, medical school, dental school, and airline pilot training. It can also pay for starting small businesses and allocating in excess of $100,000 for the start up, according to participating SBA Veteran Business Counselors working with the program.
Lie #5 – If you have a job, you do not qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation.
Truth – Over 42 percent of all disabled veterans using VR&E services are employed at the time of admittance. Thirty-five percent hold jobs throughout the period of retraining. Of those, over half of them felt their current job was inline with their military and/or civilian training. So, 28,000 veterans who used VR&E for retraining were employed at the time they entered the program.
That’s the truth about the VA, according to the VA. The information is out there, but it’s not presented in way that is readily accessible. Plus, it’s hard to pick your head up to do the research when your horns are locked with your Voc Rehab Counselor.
To the quality counselors out there, thank you for your diligent efforts to support disabled veterans in their quest for purpose and success outside of the green uniform. And to those who dish out fish stories, I for one have had it up to my eyeballs with you. There will be a day of reckoning, in this life or the next. Accountability will come for all the lives that have been hurt by the renegade behavior of some Voc Rehab Counselors. Many media outlets have begun to investigate the actions of the VA, including the actions of Voc Rehab officials. To you who do harm to vets, it’s time to be on the right side of this story.
Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.