VA Voc Rehab and GI Bill

I keep getting letters from veterans about this issue and thought I should write a quick post about it.

The short answer is that for most veterans and disabled veterans, you will be limited to eating a 48-month education sandwich, like the picture above.

I talk more about this in my guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, but I thought I’d do a quick write up below for those of you just looking for a quick answer.

UPDATE: A new decision in December 2015 changed the nature of this question. VA Office of General Counsel concluded using VRE first will not result in any deduction against the GI Bill.

The caveat with the new decision is that VRE must be used first. If it is used second, the entitlement will be limited based on the new decision and based on my assessment of the data available now.

READ UPDATE: New VRE Decision Changes Education Entitlement To GI Bill Later

GI Bill + Voc Rehab = 48 months, usually

The general rule of thumb, according to the 38 CFR, is that the total amount of VA education benefits any veteran can use cannot be greater than 48 months.

38 CFR §21.4020 states, “The aggregate period for which any person may receive assistance under two or more of the following laws may not exceed 48 months.”

It does not matter if you use just one program or a combination of programs. This is the case for Chapter 30 GI Bill, Chapter 32, Chapter 33 GI Bill, Chapter 34, Chapter 35, Chapter 36, and Chapter 31 VA Voc Rehab (except for certain situations).

Where we get into muddy water is Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment – aka VR&E, aka VA Voc Rehab, aka Chapter 31.


Specifics on VA Voc Rehab

VA’s Chapter 31 Voc Rehab is government by 38 USC §3100. This section of laws is part of the United States Code. These are the laws that are created by Congress and then codified into statutes.

VA interpreted the statutes into regulations, which are 38 CFR Part 21.1-430 for Voc Rehab.

Generally, VA Voc Rehab benefits are limited to 48 months, as stated above.

The program is only available for disabled veterans who qualify. Most disabled veterans will have what is called an “employment handicap.” This means they will have an impediment caused by a service-connected disability that impairs their ability to hold and maintain suitable employment.

Veterans with more serious disabilities will sometimes be determined to have a “serious employment handicap.” If the veteran has a serious employment handicap, the counselor can waive the 48 months cap.

Thus, a disabled veteran could get more educational benefits if necessary so long as they have a “serious employment handicap.” This classification would effectively waive the 48-month cap, so it may not matter if the veteran depleted their GI Bill first or not.


When VA education benefits are combined

THIS SECTION IS UPDATED – July 27, 2016 – to reflect new information.

When a veteran uses VA Voc Rehab, it will not pull away from their GI Bill entitlement. When the veteran uses the GI Bill, it will pull away from their general entitlement to educational benefits, including VA Voc Rehab.

Pre-2015 Rationale

For example, I used the GI Bill for 4 months and then qualified for Voc Rehab, which funded my undergrad. I used a total of around 45 months of VA educational benefits by the time I graduated.

I thought I still had 32 months of GI Bill entitlement. However, when I called in, they recalculated my entitlement and then reduced my GI Bill entitlement to 3 months. I still think this is a raw deal given that I paid into the GI Bill, but VA thought otherwise.

This left me with a couple months of GI Bill that I did use in Grad School after VA refactored in my usage of education benefits. This makes sense if you think about it this way: 36 months GI Bill = 48 months combined benefits. Thus, 9 months of GI Bill benefits equals 12 months of VA Voc Rehab usage.

No matter what, you will almost always be limited to 36 months of GI Bill entitlement under normal circumstances.

In my situation, VA Voc Rehab found I had a Serious Employment Handicap when I reapplied for benefits. VA Voc Rehab then approved for me to have a training goal of “lawyer,” which required that I attend law school. In total, I received over 80 months of VA educational benefits.


Conclusion on VA Voc Rehab and GI Bill usage

If this confuses you, I suggest you contact VA or a VSO who can explain it in person.

Also, keep in mind that there may be some caveats that would allow you to squeeze some additional benefits out of the system.

Each situation is different, and I suggest that all veterans seek a second opinion on their situation when possible.

Good luck!

Brad Herron

Great article Ben. My question is this: If the Post 911 GI Bill (Chapter 33) is used up completely, the Veteran will receive the $1200 they paid into the Montgomery GI Bill at the end of their educational entitlement. However, if they use up all of their remaining months of entitlement under Voc-Rehab, do they still receive that $1200 lump sum payment they would have received if they utilized the Post 911 exclusively?

Cameron Savage
Hello All, Is there an answer to the above question from Brad Herron, Oct 30, 2013 at 1:32pm? I have the same concern. I was using Post 911 to complete my undergrad. After graduating, I had 12 months and 12 days of benefits left. I later applied and was accepted into VocRehab (Chapter 31) to complete my masters. After completing the masters, I had used 48 months worth of benefits (Post 911 and Chapter 31 combined); however, the GI Bill… Read more »

Hi Cameron,

It’s Brad again. I had the same difficulty in determining how many months of eligibility I had remaining, even though I had zero months of entitlement due to Voc Rehab which I knew for a fact. I still have not received my $1200 contribution others that used 9/11 solely have received. It’s apparently an unfortunate loophole that nobody else really makes a fuss about, which is pretty disappointing.

Cameron Savage
Hi Brad, We are not the only veterans facing this challenge…I’ve run into many. As for determining “how many months of eligibility remaining”, that was easy. Here are the steps that I used. 1. Log into eBenefits 2. Click on “Manage” 3. Click on “Education” 4. Click on “Post-9/11 GI Bill® Enrollment Status” and you will see something like this:(I removed some of the information for privacy reasons) Education Enrollment Status Entitlement Information Name: (Removed) Date of Birth: (Removed) VA… Read more »
Etonno Jones

To be eligible for the refund of the $1200, you have to:
1st – Have contributed to it
2nd – Relinquished chapter 30 to receive chapter 33
3rd – Been in receipt of BAH while using CHAPTER 33 to qualify for a refund.

Exhausting your benefits while using Voc Rehab does not qualify you for a refund of the $1200.

Cameron Savage
Hi Brad, We are not the only veterans facing this challenge…I’ve run into many. As for determining “how many months of eligibility remaining”, that was easy. Here are the steps that I used. 1. Log into eBenefits 2. Click on “Manage” 3. Click on “Education” 4. Click on “Post-9/11 GI Bill® Enrollment Status” and you will see something like this:(I removed some of the information for privacy reasons) Education Enrollment Status Entitlement Information Name: (Removed) Date of Birth: (Removed) VA… Read more »
Elvin H. Jenkins

How long does it take to get retroactive disability compensation? It’s going on a year know.


I am on VRE, can i still use gibill for classes not covered under my va major ?

Daniel sanders
I’ve been trying to figure this out..vocal rehab..I paid int the gi bill and received a general under honorable discharge..I lost my education benefits although I paid into them the decision is in for disability..I have 48 months of voc rehab.. Understand that with Voc rehab I have the ability to draw a stipend for living expenses due to the fact training is not offered in my state..of I need to use gi bill for training I can use… Read more »
I am currently on VRE, but was on Post 9/11 prior to that for 12 months. So when I started VRE I had 36 months worth of benefits left. I was found to have a severe employment handicap and my counselor aprroved an additional 12 months of educational benefits under VRE. My question is, will I receive the Post 9/11 BAH rate all the way through until the end of the 48 month VRE program, or will that stop at… Read more »

I have the EXACT same situation and question!

Except I only have 3 months left on my post 9/11 g.i. bill but was recently approved for a 36 month training program to achieve a bachelor’s in computer science. Have you found the answer??? I am wondering if I will receive post 9/11 BAH for the whole 36 month Voc Rehab training or if I will revert to the Voc Rehab stipend after 3 months into the program.


Nope no reply yet. Guess you can let me know in 3 months what happens to you.


I have an appointment in less than a month with my Voc rehab counselor. I will ask specifically how this works and let you know what I find out.


Great. Thanks a lot man. If I hear anything before then I will post as well.


Hello fellow Vets, I am currently on the Post 9/11 GI bill and I have 10 month left before it is exhausted. I was looking into the Voc Rehab program to get more month for college. What do you guys think is the best thing to do if you guys were in my shoes to get more months for college?

Etonno Jones

Because the chapter 33 record hasn’t been updated to reflect the amount of entitlement used under Voc Rehab, then the remaining months will remain inaccurate. You are correct that the refund is paid when you have exhausted your Post-9/11 GI Bill. But this isn’t the case. The system doesn’t automatically refund the $1200, the case managers or processors refund the payment to you.

James Roberts
Awesome information for sure! The only issue with the “48 month sandwich” is I PAID $2,700 for a benefit I never used. I would have qualified for VOCRehab with or without making this payment. VOCRehab is a great program and I took full advantage of the opportunity to earn my degree. The VA should refund this money since it wasn’t used for my education. It seems a bit convenient to claim 48 months of eligibility in ANY VA educational program… Read more »
Hello, The job I currently have is, let’s just say, making it pretty tough for me to continue my education. I am using my Post 9/11 GI Bill and we all know that there is a limited time before it runs out. My question: is there anything (federal law/mandate, state law/mandate, etc., etc.) that protects the veteran, and essentially forces the employer to allow time for school? If there is – what is the reference and where can I find… Read more »

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I have a question:
My daughter is using my GI Bill now. When her GI Bill kicks in (she is a Reservist), she will switch to hers.

I did not pay into the GI Bill when I came in. I served 22 years and retired, got 90% disability when I got out as a court reporter.

Can I use Voc Rehab and how much?