4 Fibs VA Vocational Rehabilitation Tells Vets

Kick it into gear before your first Voc Rehab meeting.

I love talking about Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment. Not because I have nothing better to do. No. I’m currently on vacation with my 9-year-old and writing this post (she’s sleeping). But the reason is because no one, including the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), talks about Voc Rehab beyond vague comments about the benefit. It’s like that one odd uncle no one talks about at Christmas.

Better yet, it’s like listening to the President talk about the Libyan (soon to be) War. Is it a Kinetic Action? Is it a Humanitarian Mission? Is it a… War? As with Vocational Rehabilitation, many folks tell disabled veterans different stories about the program. This article will help you sift through the BS to get your veterans benefits.

Part 1: Voc Rehab Tricksters

Here’s the first part of this post; it’s your orientation. The Dept of Veterans Affairs has no issue with slamming on other websites and on authors selling books. On VAntage Point, the VA’s newest attempt at putting lipstick on the pig, the Veterans Administration employees tell you what you need to think about other sources of information.

Here is a recent quote from their website:

‘One of the most common things I hear from fellow Veterans is “I don’t know what benefits I qualify for.” VA.gov is admittedly clunky and confusing (something we’re looking to fix), and there are many websites that promote bad or inaccurate information about Veterans benefits. It’s no wonder that many folks have questions about what they’re entitled to after leaving the service.’

I underlined the “bad or inaccurate” part so no one misses it. Now, not to be a dick, but perhaps the Veterans Administration should spend some of their $3.2 billion annual IT budget on making their websites and blogs more helpful and less “clunky and confusing.” Or, maybe they could stop misleading vets when we try to get our benefits. But I digress.

Let’s test their words. Click here download their new VA benefits manual PDF. Go to the bottom of page 29 to read about Vocational Rehabilitation. The VA spent a whopping 2 pages on the subject.

The guide I wrote, Voc Rehab Survival Guide, which just focuses on VA Vocational Rehabilitation, is 60 pages. Well, I’ll bet you’re thinking, “That VA guide must have a really jammed 2 pages,” right? It’s not. But you should look anyway. After all, I’m not here to see who has the biggest tractor. I’m here to see which tractor works best.

Take a look at their veterans benefits guide and see if it answers any of the following fibs Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors tend to tell disabled veterans. Of course, these counselors tend to rely on veterans not knowing anything about the program.

Why is this? It’s because the Veterans Administration tells you nothing useful about the program on their “clunky and confusing” website. That way, they can get away with telling you BS and keeping their backlogs artificially shorter.

Always remember, many counselors don’t lie or intentionally mislead, but you want to be sure yours is being a straight shooter by being armed with the facts yourself.

Part 2: Voc Rehab Truths

Lie #1 “We won’t pay for more school.”

This comes into play when you’re about to finish your educational track or training track and realized you cannot find a job with your degree. A typical example of this would be someone who got a degree in Psychology or Sociology, degrees with no real tangible skill that helps you find a job directly translatable job. A degree in Accounting would be the opposite, where you can usually find a job as an accountant.

Truth: Notice the grammar, “We won’t pay for more school.” When I heard this when I first applied, I took it to mean Vocational Rehabilitation “could not” pay for school beyond an undergrad. Won’t  Can’t. It can pay for much more than you may think. Keep reading.

Lie #2 “No more benefits beyond 48 months.”

Many counselors flat out tell this to vets. Meanwhile, the Veterans Administration guide does mention that limitations can be extended but doesn’t tell you how to get it done. One has to wonder why that is. I mean, with a pretty healthy budget, and the VAntage Point telling you the VA wants to do more, why can’t the VA do more? Can’t the VA be more specific about getting more than 48 months of educational benefits? The answer: it’s because they won’t, not because they can’t.

Truth: The 48-month limit can be extended if the veteran is deemed to have a “serious employment handicap.” This can be found in 38 CFR Part 21.52 “Determining a Serious Employment Handicap.” Beyond this, a counselor told me that they could increase beyond 48 months for other reasons based on the need for “additional schooling.”

Lie #3 “Voc Rehab only covers practical degrees.”

The above veterans benefits guide touted by the VA above gives no mention of the types of degrees a veteran can obtain. During most initial meetings with Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, veterans are told what types of degrees they can obtain. As a general rule of thumb, the counselor will steer them in a direction the counselor feels the most comfortable with, not always what the veteran wants.

Truth: I know of quite a few disabled veterans who were approved for very obscure degrees. One woman was approved for a Masters Degree in Theology. Another veteran received funding for a degree in Music and another in Art and still another for a Masters of Fine Arts. I was approved for a Juris Doctorate.

Lie #4 “Chapter 31 will not cover graduate school.”

This is a biggie. I was told this. Many veterans are told this. Is it true? No.

Truth: A veteran can obtain a graduate level education through Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation, period. There are many Board of Appeals claims you can find online where the veteran won his or her claim requesting payment of a graduate degree. It happens, just not that often.

There, that’s enough to get things moving. Again, not all VA employees are bad; however, when it comes to my hard earned benefits, I always like to get the facts first. Better you go in armed than ignorant. Remember: be wise as a serpent, innocent as a dove.

What do I know? I have used Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation twice. The first time around, they told me Voc Rehab would not pay for law school. So, I was only approved up to a Bachelors degree in Economics. The second time around, they told me Voc Rehab would not pay for law school because there are no jobs for lawyers; but Voc Rehab would pay for me to get an MBA.

I pushed, and they approved me for law school. Then, I decided to write about Vocational Rehabilitation and Disability Compensation Benefits. To do this, I bought the domain www.disabledveterans.org with my disability back pay, in 2010. The site has now helped hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans get better access to their benefits since it’s been up.

The most recent “win” happened today. One resourceful veteran received funding for Medical School at one of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. after he was initially told “Voc Rehab won’t do that.” Then, he emailed me for what I call, “strategic self-help.” In the end, he got it done.

I don’t pretend to know everything about VA Vocational Rehabilitation, but I do know how to find answers and how to win. So, what do I know? Enough to get the job done.

Good luck!

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Here’s a good question? The reg doesn’t say what to do if you haven’t used 48 months yet and you have 9 months left of the 48 months (because they jipped us on break pay). My counselor is trying to make me give up that 9 months, and not use it on my masters, the counselor before her said it was fine (WTF). He was cool and we had it all planned, because they found a brain tumor 6 months before graduation, but didn’t know what to do with it, VA’ said they wont fix it. (They don’t want to kill me)- thats a first.

  2. Lot’s of good comments.

    It’s interesting to see how the V.A. is treating Veterans.

    Has anyone sued the V.A. for not following thier own procedures? I’m considering it…

    (dates are approx.)
    In about 1981, received 0% disability rating for Migraines (7-11 weekly)
    In about 1982, received 30% disability rating for Migraines (7-11 weekly)
    In about 2008, received 50% disability rating for Migraines (7-11 weekly)

    Recently, I found a document that shows how the V.A. rates for Migraines:
    - average 1 or less “prostrating” Mirgraines a month rated 30%
    - average 2 or more “prostrating” Mirgraines a month rated 50%

    Based on V.A. guidelines, I should have been rated at 50% in 1981. That seems like a procedural error. Since I just came across the information, there was no way for me to know I wasn’t being treated fairly… until now.

    Also, when I received the increase I was told I was not eligible for additional benefits. This week I was told by a CalVet representative that I “MAY be eligible” for additional VocRehab benefits because the increase was greater than 10%.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the V.A. to start giving benefits out unwarranted… but I want them to be honest and not secretive. When a Vet receives a disability rating, the V.A. should not only show how they came up with the rating but show the guidelines for the rating.

    In my case, I would have seen the guideline is 1 or less is 30%, 20 or more is 50% and challenged it immediately. I have had financial hardships most of my adult life. While this may not have solved the all the issues, it would have minimized them significantly.

  3. This article does nothing to address the status quo. How do vets get help when their vocational stipend goes unpaid, or when their books & tuition get ignored by the vocational counselor? Who to they go to? Where do they turn? How do they report bad practices by regional offices? What can can veterans do when gov. employees don’t do their job? Does the IG get involved? If the VA is not doing their job, they are steeling from the tax payers. How can a vet contact someone with authority on these matters? Is there any oversight? Who does the VA answer to on Voc Rehab matters? Is there an 800 number?

    • Frank, this is a blog post with a specific purpose – to expose lies. There are many other posts on here that address your questions. However, if answers to all of your questions were answered in just this post, it would become a book – not a blog post. Feel free to research those questions and get back to me if you’d like to help the cause. Good luck!

      • Hello Mr. Kraus,

        I first started getting voc rehab in college. My counselors were nice and informative, told me about the benefits and put in paperwork for my grad degree to be paid for. I wound up going to another school for grad school and in a new office. They have different rules, wouldnt pay for a new computer after mines crashed (8yrs old). My counselor told me they would not pay for a new one only replace it with the same old one from 2005. I was very upset. I felt like I was a welfare recipient begging for something. I was told that benefits come from the state and they need money for other vets like I didnt work hard for my benefits. The ppl at my former office told me they were wrong but I needed a computer desperatley and arguing with them just made me more frustrated. I lost half of all of my work, resumes, and pictures. Im now looking for employment. I have been out of work for almost 6 months. I asked my counselor if they would pay for more training such as certification training and she said no, I dont qualify for nothing else since im in the job ready status. Could you help with info. Is this true?

  4. Great article Ben, thank you. I’m a 40% disabled vet who was just approved for Voc Rehab. I have a BS in Psych and my goal is to become a teacher. I want to get my master’s in education obviously because it pays more and I’ll be more marketable long term but the problem is that my counselor wants me to give 5 job listings that clearly show what qualifications are required for a teaching job. Most of them show that a bachelor’s in education is required (not a masters) and I’m afraid that they’ll just try to get me to go back to school for another bachelor’s degree instead of the grad route. Any thoughts? I’ve read all of the comments and couldn’t find anything. I’m thinking I should just apply for University jobs since all of them require a Master’s degree????

  5. Brian Walker says:

    I believe something to take into consideration is the subjectivity behind the VR&E program. Just because someone else who has xx disability rating and gets accepted/denied doesn’t mean the same will happen to you. The VR&E counselors look at each individual on a case-by-case basis. If you want to go to school, earn an advanced degree, pursue another career, etc. I would HIGHLY recommend to do some research beforehand. Additionally, I would highly recommend to bring extra copies of your resume/CV, transcripts, etc. that you may include with your mailed information packet, with you when you see the counselor.

    Here’s my brief story:

    I served in the Navy for 8 years, was honorably discharged and received a 30% rating. After getting laid off from a job after a year and a half, I pursued a B.A. in Psychology under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. After I graduated, I was offered a job as a full-time Research Assistant for a VA hospital on a 2 year grant (e.g. I am unemployed once the funding expires). Because I am limited to what I can do with a B.A. in Psychology and am required to get a Master’s or PhD to become a counselor/therapist, I decided to apply to VR&E since I am eligible for the program. I did my research on some local universities that offer the Master’s degree I’m interested in–and they are all privately funded. I drafted a Personal Statement and researched the specific programs that I’m interested in (including available scholarships, grants, assistanceships, etc.)—all of this to show the VR&E counselor that my desire to go to graduate school is not contingent upon a decision of yes/no but that I want to go regardless and am willing to do whatever it takes.

    So I went to my initial appointment unsure if I would be found entitled to benefits because technically I am employed (albeit temporarily). Fortunately I brought a copy of everything I had mailed to them because I found out that they never received the packet of information. I handed my counselor the paperwork I had brought with me, and later that afternoon, I sat down with her. After telling her my story, she found me entitled to the benefits based on everything she had seen and heard. I now am able to attend graduate school next year 100% paid for + the monthly stipend (because I had time left over from my Post 9/11 GI Bill).

    All this to say, the worst that can happen is they say “no” which in that case, you have the right to seek an appeal or further opinions…..because that’s ultimately what it is: an opinion as to whether or not you’re entitled to the benefits. As long as you show clear intent and have a career trajectory that makes sense (e.g. a previous degree and/or work experience that are aligned with the direction you want to go). VR&E is a CAREER based program first and foremost, NOT an education program. Yes, they will pay for your education only if it makes sense to them as they would be investing both their time and money in assisting you with finding suitable employment.

    Lastly, if you do not have a bachelor’s degree, I would highly recommend using the Post 9/11 GI Bill (or GI Bill) first and attending a public university to obtain the undergraduate degree….but make sure to finish your undergraduate degree within 36 months. Then, apply for VR&E so that if you’re found entitled to Ch. 31 benefits, you can attend graduate school for free.

    I wish everyone luck and success!

    • Charles Momon says:

      Brian,
      This is a great success story from VR&E, and I’m glad that you are moving forward in the direction for success. Well back in 2008, VR&E informed me that they couldn’t assisted me to pursue an advance degree (doctoral). The reason individual informed me of this, is because I had a master degree. I have been out of work for thirteen months, and now I would like to finish my doctoral degree so I can be competitive in today’s market. I have just discontinue my education with Northcentral University for my doctoral degree due to financial reasons. In reading the information you presented, now I know that I can pursue my doctoral with the support from VR&E. The job market have been so difficult that I was pursuing an technical certification with the support of the VR&E to obtain employment. Do the VR&E give you an opportunity to pursue both? Thank you again for the great information, and great success in your new endeavor.

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  7. Would love to know how that veteran managed to get into medical school. They keep telling me they won’t pay for it, especially due to my limitations and the fact that the school i’m trying to get into is John Hopkins, which i think is BS.
    Also, I recently applied for a computer package (don’t have my own) but have no idea how long the waiting period is. any ideas as to when I should get it? assuming i’m approved.

    100%SDV
    Purple Heart

  8. Yes it’s true my husband went in to get benefits for voc rehab after exhausting his GI Bill to go to UC Berkeley, he’s about to graduate and ran out of benefits. His appoinrment was yesterday, he esd only trying to get approved for philosophy since they only let you do “practical majors”. Not only did he get approve for that but hes getting law school paid for after he graduates from cal anywhere got up tip 50k a year. It’s a blessing.

  9. Some lowly guy says:

    Do you have to be a veteran to get graduate school (law, medicine) benefits? I’m with VR. Thanks.

  10. Just had a voc rehab appointment, Requesting Independant Living Plan. First thing out of the counselors mouth.. Can’t do that … boss won’t let us…. this is in San Antonio. If they can’t do an ILP in San Antonio why does the program exist… Finally, the counselor agreeded to start a study of my independant living needs, still waiting to be contacted by the person doing the study. Ought to be an interesting experience.

  11. Wife of a Veteran says:

    So my husband’s voc. rehab counselor says that Voc. Rehab will not pay for his education unless he provides 5-10 job postings that actually list his degree is going for (bachelor of social work, emphasis with substance abuse counseling) AND the actually salary. She says that without these job postings, she can’t approve his education stipend. Has anyone else had to deal with this bull??

    • @Wife of a Veteran… yes I had to do the same thing but it was easy to do, just go to usajobs.gov find the jobs that you need education on, then copy the job posting, paste it to word, print, then show that to Va counselor, along with a letter of intent…

    • I am a disabled veteran and have been dragged through red tape over and over. Yes I have been through the same thing…find jobs online, salary and experience to submit for my education stipend. Thing is, there aren’t many jobs on the market. The VA should already have this information for vets. It is unbelievable that the VA makes the veteran do all the work for applying for school and disability. The VA is quick to say no….good luck.

    • This is an easy fix. Just get the job listings requested. This should be easy to do for the social work degree, given that it is a highly marketable credential. Good luck.

  12. Hi,

    I am trying to establish this benefit now and I am just curious what is considered entitlement based on a service conected disability? I enlisted at 17 and did not have a career prior to going into the military. I am looking to get a police academy covered since the Post 9-11 is saying they will not. What should I be saying in my entitlement meeting that helps establish this? I am 20% through VA.

    • Hi Keith, I too am a disabled veteran. Your school entitlement is NOT based on your disability rating at all!!! Do NOT let someone tell you that. You can apply online for school benefits through the VA. You will then be given a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) who will go over what schooling you are eligible for. Good Luck.

  13. Juanita Schmitz says:

    I went through a royal battle just trying to get my counselor to answer the phone, return a voice mail, or respond to an email. I finished my Bachelor’s in 13 months and she had previously told me that they would pay for up to 48 months of education. When I asked to continue on to my Master’s, she said NO and wouldn’t talk to me anymore. I had to go to her boss and fight the issue outm, but I won and am currently enrolled in my Master’s Degree in Accounting/Auditing.

    I hate having to deal with those people, but they don’t really leave you much choice when your future is riding on their decisions.

  14. I HAVE HAD THE SAME ISSUES WITH THE VR&E PROGRAM AND THE COUNSELORS. THEY TEND TO BE UNREACHABLE, BUT IF YOU EMAIL THEM CONSISTENTLY, SUCH AS TWICE A DAY, MORNING AND AFTERNOON, THEN THEY WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO RESPOND. ALWAYS BE MINDFUL THAT THEY ARE LIKE FRAIL LITTLE CHILDREN, THEY NEED TO BE PULLED BY THE EAR AT TIMES, BUT IN A MANNER THAT THEY ARE STILL WILLING TO HELP YOU. EMAIL THEM. I HAD MY SUBSTINENCE WITHHELD BECAUSE I MISSED SCHOOL BECAUSE I COULDNT CONTACT THE COUNSELOR TO AID ME WHEN I WAS ALMOST HOMELESS. ITS WAS A CRAZY TWO MONTHS, AND I AM STILL REELING FROM IT. BE PERSISTENT, BE MINDFUL THAT THEY ARE CIVILIANS, AND NOT USED TO OUR WAY OF LIFE, AND OUR WAY OF GOING ABOUT THINGS. HOOAH!

  15. Oh MY GOSH HELP! I have been in a desperate battle with VR&E since day 1. I was ignored to the point I lost a whole semester of college, then I was almost prevented from attending this semester as well, simply because my counselor didn’t want to do his job and file the paperwork with the school. My counselor refuses to answer any phone calls or emails, when I tried to get help from his boss, his boss told me he was going to take away my Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits because I was, ” irrational and unreasonable”. Mind you, I have spoken in a calm voice and only asked reasonable questions, such as… ” “The school says they do not have my 1905, how can we get this taken care of so I can attend classes?” I have many specific references how my particular counselor has failed to do his job and bold faced lied to me and to his boss. I sought help from the DAV, only to find out that I wasn’t actually speaking with a trained DAV counselor, the secretary at the DAV is “friends” with my counselor and apparently has been running interference with him. So now, I’m prevented from getting help from the DAV, from my counselor, from his boss, and as his boss said, “dangerously close to losing my benefits” all because I was simply asking for my counselor to do his job. I have no intention of going into “the bosses office” without “backup” so who do I turn to now? And where/what are the regulations regarding voc rehab? everytime I have asked that question of my counselor he has been completely unable to answer it. Any help will be greatly appreciated thank you! Sincerely, One more Disabled Veteran in the process of being further Disabled.

    • @Jessica call your state rep, and drop a pound of whoop butt on them make sure to include the VA office ID number, counselors name , and phone number, you’ll get results in less than 72 hours…

  16. Please help
    Looking at becoming a helicopter or private pilot instructor. Will vo-rehab pay for this?
    I used my Mont GI Bill for a Masters degree already. Still not in a good job situation, contract work.
    Retired USAF, 40% disable, looking to go to 50 or 60%, Appeal is at BVA with remand already completed.

  17. Hi there:

    I retired from the CG in Jan 2004 and was approved for school which I began in Sept 2004. I received my BSN. The even gave me a computer and a printer. I found it to be a pleasant experience. I did start the process prior to being released from the military. I talked to other Vets, researched and all that stuff. The toughest part was the evaluation. The CG gave me 30% and the VA approved me for 40%. Mine was for a mood disorder and chronic sinusitis. The mental stuff is important but I felt the fact that my joints hurts so bad sometimes I cant turn a doorknob or hold a plate should have been approved over the sinusitis but the key words they look for in your record is “Chronic” “ongoing”. If your doctor writes acute anything, forget it. If you are ill get it DOCUMENTED and by an outside physician if you can.
    Maybe I am preaching to the choir, I don’t know why my process was easy. Easy being a relative word here, especially after reading some of your stories. I emailed and called my Rep with my concerns and though she was busy, she really cared and helped my out. They missed a few payments here and there but I was lucky to be living with my sister at the time. When my original Rep left, she was replaced by a grumpty old guy, I told him straight up that he was being extremely rude to me, and after that he was pleasant. I think the difference between mine and some others may have been timing (the VA was under heat for many things at the time and were trying to be accomodating), area and the counselor. A good Rep will want you to succeed. Also I applied at a time before all the Vets were returning, I think.

    Ironically, I am now not working and am hoping that even though I used up my 48 months, the VA will pay for some certifications so I can be more competitive. Good Luck all.

    Andrea

  18. I left the military in 2007, and in October of that year applied for benefits through the local VA, i was homeless and couldnt find a job. They told me my benefits claim would take some time. i waited 6 months in the streets, looking for work,living in my car, with no support. I called the VA Regional Office in St Petersburg, FL and was told that the papers were sent and the claim was dropped because they never received the supporting documentation from the Benefits Counselors office. I called the Miami VA office and was apologized to by mr Ricardo Gonzalez who had initially taken the claim and forgotten to send up the paper work, he resent the paperwork that month along with a request for review. I was told to wait again. Then the “appointments” started coming in but i failed to receive ANY C&P Exam appointments because i was homeless. To make a long story short, after numerous battles with the VA, i won in October 2010 when i was awarded my backpay and my rating. I was able to find a place and afford a downpayment on a vehicle. On Jan 2011 i applied for VocRehab when a VA counselor recommended it to me since i couldnt find a job. The Voc rehab counselor was great, though an intern and left 4 months later, but she was able to place me in school and was told that i had education for 4 years, and was deemed an exception so could continue after. Now shes gone and i cant ever reach my current counselor, I dont konw what to do about it, i dont know what the VR&E program covers, if i can continue my education in another country. I am in a culinary program that ends this December. I will have an AS Degree, WHICH IS THE NEW high school diploma, so i want to continue my bachelors in France, at the culinary school there. Once again its IMPOSSIBLE to reach my counselor. Any thoughts?

  19. Adolfo Barros says:

    Does anyone knows if Voc Rehab pays for a PhD? I am still utilizing the post 911 GI bill, and I am 100% service connected vet. Can anyone give me guidance. Apparently the VA is too busy to response emails, calls and of course you can’t find them on their office.

    • Brian Walker says:

      It depends Adolfo on if they find out if you have a serious employment handicap and are able to do the job requirements of someone in the field with that PhD. For example, if you want to go to school to become ______ and it requires lifting heavy equipment, but you have disability for a sustained back injury, then they may conclude that your disabilities would impair/impede your ability to do that particular job. For VR&E it’s all about level of investment. If your career projection/professional goals make sense and your disabilities don’t impede your ability to succeed in that particular career, they will be more apt to approve you. If you are found to be entitled to VR&E and have a serious employment handicap, they will grant you benefits beyond the 48 month limit—this might include a 6-8 yr PhD program. Now since you are utilizing your Post 9/11 GI Bill, you need to finish your current degree before the 36 month mark, otherwise you won’t be eligible for the monthly E-5 w/ dependents stipend.

  20. David A Castaneda says:

    For those of you who have read my previous post, I want to apologize. For those of you who have not, I want to apologize in advance should I say something that sounds insulting. Here goes.
    I am relatively new with the Chap. 31 program. I had more than my share of injuries occur to me during my stint in the military and at first I saw this as a wonderful way for the VA to assist me in regaining my opinion of myself, get back my self esteem and once again enter the workforce with as few minor accommodations as possible. In a way, I saw this as a second chance to be somebody. At my age, One seldom would ever expect another shot at the brass ring. Three years I fought and argued with my VRC, sending in countless and relentless requests for doctors orders and psychiatric evaluations and class schedules and income estimates and a whole slew of other paperwork. I have finally convinced him to allow me to attend the local college in hopes of attaining an RN degree. I find my classes delightful, interesting and the instructors helpfully patient with me as an older student. I think I have managed to fit into school life fairly well. then the Voc Rehab office drops the ball.
    Like all chap. 31 program vets I was promised a stipend to assist my family’s living conditions while attending class . I was told by my VRC that everything was set. An advance payment was submitted to ensure that my car was drivable and there would be enough food on the table and the bills paid. All these requests were submitted months ago. I have yet to see a dime! Now, my light are being turned off, I have no gas or food to feed my kids and my wife is about to leave me. I have begged, borrowed and Yes, even stolen to be able to get to class. I have managed to convince a friend to lend me their extra car, a 1984 Ford Taurus? 20 mpg but two quarts oil a month during the cold weather (I don’t recommend them with over 350,000 miles.) But mileage be damned, I have no money to put gas in the tank! I have drained everyone of my bank accounts and even had to cash in my daughter’s savings bonds. I have sold everything that anyone would buy. There is some good to it, though not as voluntarily as as I would have hoped. I’ve quit smoking and drinking and have just about become a vegetarian. My weight loss is progressing and I have lots of time to hit the books since they turned off the cable?!
    Where are these guys? I Can’t even get them to return my calls? I have done my best to make them happy and I don’t know what else to do? Is this a common thing to happen to other chap. 31 recipients? Do they also have to fight tooth and nail to obtain the benefits they’ve earned with the very flesh on their sometime previously broken bones? Granted, I was less than professional with my own money schedule but after a few surprise hits from the medical department (Daughter = Broken arm)and some in the automotive field, (Car = new differential) I was not prepared for Voc Rehab’s “Sorry about that Dave, We’ll get that to you asap!” (By the way, “ASAP” in Voc Rehab terms is juuuuuuust over seven to ten weeks!)
    I left a good, albeight part time job to attend school full-time which supplemented my disability pension so I was content. Now since I am a full-time student, I am no longer able to receive partial unemployment which to tell you the truth, was carrying the lion’s share of my budgetary requirements for the last few weeks. I have applied for the presidents Training Unemployment Initiative (Something I thought should have been done long ago!) but have not heard from them yet. Fafsa paperwork all finished and no answer from them yet either. I go to every food bank in the county as often as they’ll let me and have worn out my welcome at most if not all of the local churches. I need the help that the people at Voc Rehab promised me and I need it NOW! I can’t even get them to acknowledge that this is an issue? WTH!

  21. Very helpful information – after getting denied yesterday for two of the reasons listed above, I am hoping to be able to politely convince my voc rehab counselor to look at the CFR regulation to determine if my benefits may be extended to cover training.

    As I will be unemployed by 1 Jan, I told her that I was looking to gain skills that would translate to both getting a job to pay the bills, and set me up to be an effective CEO for my small business. Unfortunately, I got stopped at the “since you only have 12 months eligibility remaining, and it won’t be enough to cover a master degree, I have to deny you”. However, she was willing to offer assistance with an “ergonomic assessment” of my home office since I am 50% disabled and to speak to a self employment counselor, but I am concerned that having a nice chair and desk won’t really help me reach my goals of becoming a CEO, especially if I can’t get a job in the mean time to fund my business.

    Nice lady and hopeful that she will take this under consideration~
    Thanks for writing this blog Krause!

  22. Can you get qualified for VR&E if you are currently holding a job?

    • Brian Walker says:

      It depends on the type of job that you’re holding. For example, I currently work in a grant-based position that, though full-time, will end in 2 years. Because of that, I am not gainfully employed next year. Furthermore, I require additional training (e.g. Masters Degree) to gain a permanent job in my field of Psychology/Counseling, so I was approved for VR&E and they will pay 100% of all graduate school expenses. This is a huge blessing because I live in Boston and grad schools are not cheap here!

  23. Tameika Prothero says:

    I am a Veteran and am service connected at 100%-that is 90% for knees and 10% Individual Unemployability. I was recently denied Vocational Rehabilitation by my counselor in Ft Lauderdale, FL because they stated that I was unemployable and thus ineligible. They also said that my Husband, Quanell, was ineligible because he smoked Marijuana. Can you please assist me with advice on how to get my Chapter 31 benefits.

    • Brian Walker says:

      Unfortunately Tameika the decision for entitlement to Ch 31 benefits rests upon the shoulders of the counselor. Similar to your service-connected disability claims, you have a right to file an appeal and speak with someone else there.

  24. I was in the US Army for 12 years. I absolutely love being part of something that in my eyes was something to be proud of. I loved the rigid lifestyle and the way civilians tipped their hat and acknowledged me as being part of something that they were not part of. How they looked both proud of me and ashamed of themselves for not doing what I was doing. I served proudly. Even after the injuries began to mount up.
    I was trained to fly one of the most sophisticated aircraft in the US military inventory but afterwards lost my flight certificate due to an injury suffered while in the US Army. In 1984 I lost the vision in my right eye in an aircraft accident. One of three I was involved in. While serving in the US Army. I crushed my spine and broke my neck. While serving in the US Army. I almost lost my right leg and have a crushed hip and pelvis. While serving in the US Army. I almost lost my three lower left ribs. While serving in the US Army. I lost the full use of my left arm. While serving in the US Army. I lost half the sensitivity in both hands and have trouble doing the simplest of tasks. Velcro has become a wardrobe necessity. Again due to injuries suffered while in the US Army. I lost more than my share of good friends, one of them was my roommate Jerry Court. While we both served in the US Army. I am about to lose one of my testicles and the ability to procreate due to injuries suffered while serving in the US Army. I have lost my job and the ability to support my family and loved ones due to my not being able to work or being limited due to injuries suffered while serving in the US Army. Then I lost my house. Next to go was my wife and kids. All somehow, I believe, connected to events that happened to me physically and mentally, while serving in the US Army. I lost my youthful outlook on life and my enthusiasm and the golden gleam in my eye. I walk with a permanent limp and look at life through a head down dim monocular point of view. I have been working with a VRC. by the name of Clayton Salewski here in the Portland Oregon VA for the last year and another for the two years prior to that. We were talking about all the programs that I am qualified for and how much my service in the US Army was appreciated. I did everything he asked. Everything! I scheduled and applied for every program he asked me to. I submitted all the paperwork and every form he asked for. Things were beginning to look up? I was ready and scheduled to start schooling the January 2012 term. And just when I had it in my heart to begin planning for a new bright future and a second chance,..
    The US Army loses all the paper work…!
    Now I have lost my patience and going downtown to sit face to face with these people and get what rightfully belongs to me. Wish me luck. No,.. wish me good fortune and success. I am not a volatile man but,.. No that’s not true. Actually I am a very volatile man. And while I do have a long fuse, There come a time when after all the politically correct and peaceful options have been exhausted, The only reliable solution is a plain old ass kicking. I do hope to not have to fall to these measures but as I said. Sometimes there is no other option left.

  25. Hi there, I am a disabled veteran at 20%. I got out in feb 2011. When I first applied for Voc Rehab I was rejected. Now I hear that they may approve me because of the changes of their qualificatins. The past month I have been researching about voc rehab programs and what I exactly qualify for. To be honest it is overwhelmming. I have an associates and want to get my masters, hopefully in film and theatre. It is something I love to do and I don’t think a business degre would suit me best. Is there any input you may be able to tell me that get help with voch rehab or additional living assistance while I attend school?

    Thank you.
    Jason

  26. I was found previously rehabilitated, have have been working in IT support for the last few years with my B.S. I was recently rated for 30% for depression from chronic pain. My current employer makes a lot of allowances for me due to pain and depression that the general support team doesn’t have to follow, but that I would be subject to if I applied for a different job elsewhere, so Im kind of pigeonholed where I am.

    Im currently in my 2nd term of graduate school for Information Security in a Federally approved/DOD approved Info Sec program, but im paying for it on my own and with loans. Would my new rating/increase of total disability provide the possibility of applying for Voc again? I finished Voc Rehab in 2008 at 50%, and im currently rated 70%.

  27. Sherry,
    I looked at the back of the form and Michigan was not included in the list of states. What do do then?

  28. Josh lasco says:

    Hello, i recently was discharged on tdrl through coming home to work program from the marine corps. This spring will be my first semester back at school and first time using my benefits under ch. 31. I want to try and get my
    MS of science nursing/anesthesiology but my voc rehab counselor keeps tryin to get me to settle for the BS in nursing and that the va wont pay for my graduate school. Please can someone help me with some advice on what to do? I really am trying to go for the masters and become a crna so any advice would help, thankyou.

  29. Coast Guard Kelly says:

    I want to know more about the origin and meaning of the symbol of the hand print with vacant diamond inset – I first saw the image on a custom painted motorcycle and thought it must refer to the warriors who put hands on the wall – now I see it here on this web site and I want to learn more.

    • This one is my brain child but many people use the hand to symbolize many things. The square in the middle is the promise all military are given when we enter service – a promise of a square deal when we get out. We were told our benefits would be there to take care of us if we are damaged permanently after separation. This site is all about helping veterans get their benefits – and their square deal.

  30. Law degrees? Master of science? Are you people kidding me? Why don’t you just ask for a free income that is above double, triple or even four times the amount the average veteran makes? I have been fighting with the VA about my benefits for a long time and you know what? I would be very happy with a A.A.S. or B.S. and a job! Sorry but I didn’t start hitting the VA for benefits as soon as I got out of the military as I had to do some other things first. Like go to work! Not all, but some of you are the reason some of us are having so much trouble getting the funding we need to get our share of the Voc Rehab funds!! I don’t care how much their office has! It’s the idea of people taking the lions share of whats available and leaving the rest of us shortchanged! You wonder why the VA has so much red tape to go through before they award a benefit program? It is because of the people who keep on working the system and misuse the benefits available! Those of us who really deserve it? Kudos to you. Those of you who are just working the system for a free education should be ashamed and I find that I at this time no longer want to be associated amongst your ranks.
    Sour grapes? Well,.. Maybe. Angry? Hell yes! But say what you will, no matter what the reason. There is no excuse for relying on the government to make up for our boo boo’s the rest of our lives. At some point, we are all going to have to realize that we all signed on the dotted line (Draftees not included for sure!) and we all knew that the job was dangerous when we took it! Hell! That was most of the allure and reason why we signed up in the first place. We were all Solders, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsman and Sailors. That’s what they do and that’s what we did and that’s what happens to military personnel,.. We get killed and we get hurt.
    No offense intended but sometimes we all need a kick in the pants to focus our attention before we get squared away. Some more than others.

    • Go fuck yourself.

    • David:
      Let me preface this with “no offense intended”:
      It’s unfortunate that your counselors have been giving you the runaround or whatever you wish to call it, but I also think it’s unfortunate that you feel that veterans should take the least/ receive minimal training because that’s what you feel they deserve (despite the fact that you know nothing about any of the individuals seeking these benefits). It’s upsetting to see that because someone wants to continue schooling, possibly receive an advanced degree, and be able to hold a steady job in this current market, you feel they are milking the system. I read that you applied for FAFSA. How dare you seek assistance from the governme–oh. wait…yeah. (Granted the max for a Pell grant is like $5500 but still, how dare you request government funding for education?!) I’m obviously being facetious there but you get the point…

      That aside, I have to say, it’s rather [expletive deleted] to take out your anger at what may appear to be an inefficient system on the other veterans. If the individual is fortunate enough to be in an area with a counselor that is willing to listen and approve advanced training, how is that their fault?

      Maybe it’s just a difference in our training backgrounds, but I’ve never had a superior tell me to strive for the bare minimum. It seems ridiculous to actually ask that other people do so. What would be the point? So we have a generation of veterans that have jobs that they can’t sustain because of the changing job market? So we have veterans that discover later that they needed some extra schooling to flourish in their respective fields? The program is called Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, not Vocational Rehabilitation and Shitty Jobs.

      **Note: For anyone else that reads this, I am aware that not every job that doesn’t require a higher degree is a “shit job.” I worked for years as a nurse like that, actually. I’m just making the point that people shouldn’t feel obligated to sell themselves short because someone else is disgruntled.

      While I find It is disheartening to hear that some of you are struggling and having to track down and fight your counselors, I find it hard to point fingers at the individual veterans that are receiving benefits. Be angry at the counselor or the regional office or the system itself, if it makes you feel better. That at least makes more sense than being bitter/ jealous of other veterans, because they aren’t the ones signing and stamping your paperwork.

  31. I read that first comment that stated not to believe what is written here and it angers me. People can have great experiences as he may have had, and other as myself less than optimal. I’ve been getting run-around by my Voc rehab for almost a year (farmed me out to private case worker to stay in the program), first denying my after I was accepting in a Master’s program in Education and now denied for a Master’s in Occupanional Safety and Emergency Management. Both times stating that they will not pay for a MS degree even though it would be cheeper than a second BS degree, shorter time, less stress, and income potentional greater. So email me Douglas Henderson or anyone else; apparently things are different for different people in different places.

  32. DOUGLAS J HENDERSON says:

    The VA is currently covering my law school degree plus all assistance. Call me if you question this. Don’t believe what has been written here. 513.946.3850.

  33. This is my second year of Chap 31. My counselor has been pretty great, no horror stories there but we’ll see what is said if I ask for more than a two year degree. My counselor told me he’d get me a laptop, never, ever would have asked.
    The school VA office does everything they can to make life difficult but thats another show.
    Only thing was that info about Chap 31 was very oddly sparse before being accepted. There was very little info about what the program did, who it did it for, etc. I just applied and got lucky, being it’s a really good program, no, it’s a fantasic program. They even help with the tools of your profession.

  34. I have to say that my counselor was very different from the experiences that most vets are having. I told her what I wanted and where I wanted to go and she said ok. She is the one that told me they would pay for my CPA exam, GMAT and grad school. I have had nothing but a positive experience.

  35. My question is regading vocational rehabilitation. I am currently 100 percent and would like to pursue a certification in massage therapy. I already have a bachelors in construction management. First off, I applied for voc. rehab and post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Do you know which i will be elgible for? Second, are your disability ratings dropped since you are in school?

  36. raul heredia says:

    Hey there:
    I am returning to the voc. rehab. chapter 31 after 10 years due to on the job injuries worsening my vet. injuries. Im at the point where i have to research all the colleges and for profit colleges to find out how many graduated and how many actually got emplyed in that job field etc… Hard thing to do and the colleges keep their secrets.

    The reason why im writing this is because it tool me a year or more to get to this point without the help of anybody; no attorney or veteran agancy would help me and its nice to know there is some out there as yourself who wants to help. I stll have an uphill battle to get my 30% upgrade going the normal route and i know it will get raised anyway through voc. rehab. good job and good luck to everyone DON’T GIVE UP AND KEEP RE-SEARCHING!

  37. humberto rodriguez says:

    I worked for the VA working with PTSD veterans and in the process with their benefits.I was written up for having no boundaries meaning that i worked with any veteran that walked into my office.I was assigned with a list of veterans to work with and in my free time i worked with the walkins .I was harassed from my supervisors and the program director.I resigned before i was fired.

  38. Sarah Bonner says:

    THANKS for posting this. I learned a lot by reading your blog. I’m up the damn creek with Voc Rehab and this all fits me. Please tell me how to get anywhere with Voc Rehab!

  39. Hi Ben,
    First of all I wanted to say thanks for all of your help. Your diligence in helping to combat a system that has failed to support Veterans time and time again can only be commended. The VA Voc Rehab Counselors and the State representatives that are suppose to help us free of charge have failed to provide us with the necessary information needed to win our claims. Instead, we are stuck with people that push us through the system with no real passion for helping us to get the benefits that we earned and deserve. It takes dedicated, passionate Veterans who have researched and tried the system and won to help those that are struggling prevail. I myself am 100 percent service connected and trying to attend law school to hopefully follow in your footsteps. Voc Rehab has paid for my BS in Psychology and then kicked me out of the program by stating that my disability was too limiting. They asked for impossible information to continue, such as 12 months of no symptoms. That will never happen. I completed my BS with the same service connected disability. I am a former VA employee who helped to write the federal regulations for disability entitlement, so I am very much aware of the rules. I purchased your guide to help the cause and will continue to support your efforts. I am currently, trying to get Voc Rehab to pay for my law degree as well. To others out there who may need assistance and the real truth keep posted to Ben’s site. Thanks again for all that you do!!

    Denise

  40. Thanks for the info Ben! My Post 9-11 GI Bill is running out in December, thankfully I will only have 1 class left to complete my undergrad. But I plan on going to grad school, and would like Voc Rehab to assist. When I went to apply the 1st time the counselor told me I have my post 9-11 benefits, so use those up first. I’m hoping to get approved for grad school studies.

  41. Thank you for all your help Ben

  42. Hi! My comment is not on the article I just clicked on but on a previous article that you wrote, which was forwarded to me. In it you suggested that veterans obtain a representative: either paid or pro-bono. I wanted to let you know that representation is available FREE OF CHARGE by accredited representatives nationwide: every state has service officers, as do a multitude of Federal veterans’ service organizations. To look at the list, just pull up a VA Form 21-22 and look at the second page. We provide services to veterans and assistance w/all Federal & state benefits, including filling out forms and adjudication all the way through the process from the initial claim all of the way through the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. A lawyer is required ONLY in the Court of Veterans Appeals. We are NOT PRO-BONO & we NEVER CHARGE a penny! To find out more, check out our state website.

So what do you think?