Here are two questions from readers that came in last week. The first involves whether or not a mother can use Voc Rehab while her son, to whom she transferred her GI Bill, is using the GI Bill for school. The second involves documentation proving substandard living quarters for the purpose of getting a disability rating.
Veteran 1: Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
Question: I am trying to find out information regarding Voc Rehab and Post 9/11 GI Bill. I transferred all of my Post 9/11 benefits to my son who is currently using it at Towson University. Will I be able to get Voc Rehab benefits at the same time that he is using the Post 9/11 benefits? If you could point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it. I’ve tried different search engines and different wording to get an answer; however, most post that mention Voc Rehab and Post 9/11 together refer to the veteran using both. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Answer: Thank you for writing in. This is a good question, and I am sure there is a great deal of confusion out there on the issue. Rest assured, if there is confusion amongst veterans, there is likely confusion within the Department of Veterans Affairs about it, too.
The short answer is, “probably yes, you can probably both use the benefit at the same time until you both hit the 48 month mark of benefits when you combine your total usage.” This means that your son gets up to 36 months. What your son does not use, you get to use, up to 48 months total. This answer assumes a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will find that you are both eligible and entitled to benefits through the program.
(Shameless plug: Here is a link to the book we sell on the subject of Voc Rehab if you decide you would like to go down that road: http://www.disabledveterans.org/the-how-to-guide/. Proceeds from book sales help us fund this website and my investigations.)
Here is my long answer and explanation. In this instance, the answer to whether or not you can both use the program at the same time is, “it depends.”
Here is what I know. A veteran is limited to only 48 months of educational benefits from the Veterans Affairs. You can combine programs and even use both the GI Bill and Vocational Rehabilitation at the same time, if you are a veteran. Regardless of the combination, most veterans will never get more than 48 months of educational benefits from the VA. You MAY be eligible for benefits from other sources, but the VA will tap out at that point.
There are certain situations where the 48 month cap on veterans educational benefits can be lifted. As far as I know, your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor is the only person who can make that determination. The determination that is required to usually allow the extension is a determination that the veteran has a Serious Employment Handicap.
Usually, if your disability is higher than 30% you will stand a chance of getting an SEH determination. The disability must be relatively serious when compared to the type of work you were trained to perform in the military. AND, it must impact your ability to do that work now. Last, that injury must have occurred while in the military. Life after the military can make it worse, and that would be considered, but the initial injury must be “service connected.”
For example, if you now have a bad back that keeps you from lifting or will eventually keep you from lifting unless you change careers, and your previous job in service required a lot of lifting as a flight line aircraft mechanic, odds are you will have a serious employment handicap.
That said, a person with a serious employment handicap can get more than 48 months toward their education. That means a person can get multiple degrees through Vocational Rehabilitation if their counselor agrees that the education is necessary to find suitable employment that the veteran agrees to.
To this veterans question, you will never know if you can be more benefits beyond what you transferred to your son unless you ask.
Veteran 2: Sinusitis and documenting condemned dorms
Question: I am an Air Force Vet who has a sinusitis claim pending with the VA, and would like to know where I could find the Congressional Record concerning the HVAC at Keesler. I spent 9 months there from Sept 1987-May 1988.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Answer: I just received service connection for sinusitis because of my exposure to raw sewage, mold and asbestos while stationed at Keesler AFB. I was stationed there from 1996-1997. Around that time, the EPA threatened to fine the base because it was still using condemned dorms to house us during training.
I found reports from the House Appropriations Committee that talked about the destroyed dorms and the conditions there during my stay. It is titled, Military Construction Appropriations 1994. The document is 1300 pages but you can find the document quickly by doing a Control + F search for Keelser. You will eventually find what you need.
While I was stationed at Keesler AFB, I contracted walking pneumonia and was eventually bedridden for over a week. After that point, I was susceptible to allergies and such. Since this was all documented in my service medical records, I received service connection for my current Sinusitis and Allergic Rhinitis, both.
Any veteran with similar conditions who also stayed at the base during that time may also be able to prove service connection based on the reports I found.
I have also written the following, Sample Disability Compensation Letter, to help in your own disability claim. Feel free to check out that post here: http://www.disabledveterans.org/2011/01/26/sample-disability-compensation-letter/
For the Appropriations document:
http://www.disabledveterans.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Keesler-Dorm-Construction.pdf. I just uploaded the document to my site for you to download.