Vocational Rehabilitation

Benjamin KrauseMany veterans fight with VA Vocational Rehabilitation for years before figuring out that program administrators are straight up lying to them about what the program can do for any veteran.

Want to know what those lies are before you fall victim?

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. Many veterans are misled about what Voc Rehab can do for them even though policies exist that contradict what counselor say.

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. In my searches for it, I seem only to 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) before developing an Individual Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP). Many more drop out before 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 more than $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 in line 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 a 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: [email protected]

Thomas Nelson

I was told today, just two hours ago that the VocRehab will NOT pay for Commercial flight school. In fact the VocRehab counselor said” that who ever wrote that is a lier” What can i do? He suggested that I use the G.I.Bill, but that only covers so much. Any suggestions?


Take the time and research 38CFR. There is a section on chapter 31 and that section discusses commercial flight school.

Kelly, I researched the issue for you; you can do the same. Please see 38 CFR section 21.134. You can google the section on line and this will give you the pertinent information. For example, you noted that your counselor said that VA will not pay for commercial flight school, based on this section, they do pay for flight training. However, it is limited to the flight training criteria under chapter 30. Both Chapter 30 and 31 are online; therefore,… Read more »
Eldon Martin
My VA Voc Rehab counselor told me the program wouldn’t pay for graduate school. When I basically demanded she show me the regulation governing the issue, I was magically authorized for “some” graduate school because I am 100% disabled. My “some” graduate school was an MBA. After I completed my MBA I was hired almost immediately for a job that required that level of education. I worked the job for six months and had to resign due to health problems.… Read more »
Quinton B. Butler (Retired)
Quinton B. Butler (Retired)
Recently I wrote a letter to the Vocational Rehabilitation Dept. at the VA office in Decatur, GA., and I never received a letter or a phone call concerning mt request. Due to our economy I am forced to go back to school to receive my technical diploma as a HVAC Specialist. Don’t get me wrong concerning the Voc. Rehab. program; they did assist me with getting my Carpentry diploma, but as you know, no one is building anything at the… Read more »
Ian Wilson (disabled combat medic)
Ian Wilson (disabled combat medic)
Hey Ben! I have a 50% disability rating and I have completed half of my VocRehab training. The second half of my education will come from a university that I must move near to attend; it is over 2 hours away. Will VocRehab pay for my move or assist me with moving? This is the closest university to me that teaches my major, and going to this school is on my education contract with VocRehab. What do you think?
Curtis Wollam
I am a 100% disabled veteran and have applied for Voc Rehab to pursue a degree in Commercial Flight. The VA APPROVED me in August of 09. The contractor the school uses was not VA approved at the time so they put me in a certificate program until the approval came for the contractor. Two officials at the school were verbally promised, as was I, that when the contractor received their approval I would get my funding and put back… Read more »
awesome stuff, 90% SC and I will be graduating from a pretty good school this fall. Sure, they haven’t finished paying the bill but I am still happy I got what I could (the education). What I learned from dealing with voc rehab and attending school: You can do whatever you want in life You can inspire others to do the same Take nothing for granted Look between the lines Always second-guess second guess the second guess Show up in… Read more »


Thanks for the encouraging words.


I have always had a dream of becoming a Gym teacher. When I was injured, I was discharged and subsequently enrolled in the Ch. 31 program. Because of the severity of my disability (wheelchair user-Spinal Cord) I decided I couldnt be a gym teacher. I enrolled in a program to get a degree in Art and humaities, just so I could get a teaching certificate. I did… FAST FORWARD 8 years I am now a lot more accepting of my… Read more »
patrick Wissinger

i had a VRE counselor tell me he couldn’t do anything since even though I had some ratings, that there were too many deferred (including TBI) to be entered into a program. Took me 6 months and a couple congressmen and senators to get my case switched to another office.

Douglas Helliesen
Ben, You have given a lot of D/V some hope, it is a shame all Voc Rehab counselors are not as helpful. I am a 40% service connected and my condition is deteriating. 10 months ago Voc Rehab sent me to school to help me get some sort of desk job. I live 4 hrs away from their office so we have done a lot of the paperwork by fax, etc. as they do not want to pay travel. anyhow… Read more »

I need to get my packet to another counselor my counselor won’t let me even finish my BA Degree. I need help He says counseling alone is enough for me because I have marketable skills. I need to get my packet to another office/counselor…

art morrison
i have the skills to teach phys.disabled how to make from chair , i have been disabled 44years i would love to assist anyone who would like to learn how to be self sufficient , i will show you how get over the hump the old fashion way you do not have to be smarter than are, just ambitious & make your future # 1 priority . I GOT HURT BEFORE HIGH SCHOOL, & never made it thru the 9th… Read more »
donna king

we were told if my husband increased his disability from 70% – 100% he could not finish is training that he has started at alocal school and he could never work he wants to go back to work and we are really suffering

Jeffrey Crockett
I had originally entered the Voc Rehab program working towards a nursing degree. I had to stop that program due to an increase in my injuries, which in turn led to a 100% P&T rating. A few years later I have returned to try and use my Voc Rehab benefits to attend culinary school. My counselor told me that they would not approve the program because I have back problems that would not allow me to stand for long periods… Read more »
Sarah Lydon
I just filled out my application today to use the VR&E benefits. I’m a young woman who was going into nursing but I will be unable to persue this career due to lifting requirements. I have back, knee and hip issues, so I did a little research and Surgical Technologists don’t deal with lifting at all and are about the same line of work that I wanted to be involved in. I spoke to someone on the phone today and… Read more »
I was told that I cannot continue to pursue my Criminal Justice degree which I currently have 49 credits with (before I became Voc Rehab approved). Per the Dept. of Labor “The outlook for future Employment of private detectives and investigators is expected to grow 22 percent over the 2008–18 decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.” My counselor said that the outlook for employment is not good….then why have me do the research if they are going… Read more »
LV Henson
This article is so on point! They told me that my disability disqualified me from Voc Rehab; limited my hours and added the stipulation that I would be kicked out of the program if I made less than a ‘C’ in any course. They tried to force me to take a major in a field that they wanted. I had to sit out an entire semester because they did not pay the university after I attended classes for two months!… Read more »
Mike J
After being told I qualified for voc-rehab, I asked to be allowed to pursue a masters degree onlone. I was told, “no.” The “counsellor” then offered me a B.A. degree from a local university. I told him I already had a B.S. degree but needed a masters to succeed in my field (Management Information Systems). After a couple of months he called to offer me an associates degree from a college 2 hours away. I restated my case that I… Read more »
JM Brown
First and foremost, I must admit to attending school (off-duty education). Secondly, I accumulated much education… I am rated at 100%. I have four eye-conditions documented by the VA stemming from active duty. Vision in the right eye = 800/20. Everything is documented — all testing done by the VA. In fact I have had such problems with my eyes, that I have receieved 10 pr of eyeglasses in the last year… I went to Voc Rehab in hopes that… Read more »
Chalena Mack
I am a disabled veteran rated at 70% for Retinitis Pigmentosa. I was denied my educational benefits under chapter 30/34 as I had a break in service and then the VA reduced my time for receiving my education benefits under chapter 30. I then tried to get educational benefits under Vocational rehabilitation only to be denied in writing because I have part-time employment (17 hours a week) I recently called the Voc Rehab counselor and ask if I could re-apply… Read more »
JM Brown

Chalena Mack — I am sorry to learn of your condition and poor treatment. When one veteran suffers, we all suffer. As this is not my web-site, I need to ask if it is OK to post comments to each other here. I am more-than glad to recommend education that would meet your needs, and also that of an organization and position that you would like to apply for.


Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! May you continue to be successful and blessed!!!

Cartney ezyk

I’m a 60% SC disabled Marine VietVet. I am ssigned up with Chapter 31 and, thanks to it, will receive a BS this coming January. Halfway through my courses, I obtained a job, earning less then half of what I used to earn and completely out of the field I came from and wish to return to. I believe that a Masters degree will help me reach my goal. Will my current employment disallow me from pursuing the Masters?

Charles Parson

My problem is that I am rated 60% and I am attending school via the chapter 31 program, but I am trying to get Individual Uneployability my counselor tells me that I can’t file for the IU. I get good grades only because the instructor passes pretty much everyone. I am not learning anything from this course (Graphic Design) because I cant concentrate. Please help!!!


Honestly that sounds like great news. Pass the classes, get the degree, utilize alternate resources. It’s more about self study anyway, especially that kind of major.


I guess the most important thing to do now, is pray that the doctors, workers, are put into the same situation as we are right now. Then perhaps there will be some compassion.

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