For Sleuths: Just what did VA Vocational Rehabilitation Leave Out?

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VA Vocational Rehabilitation Sleuths

I snagged this FAQ sheet from the local VA Vocational Rehabilitation office here in St. Paul a while back that is chalk full of BS and legal angling. After reading it, and watching their infamous Intro to Vocational Rehabilitation video, I thought it was high time to circle back around to see what you all think by posting the full document below.

VA Vocational Rehabilitation is well known for its lack of transparency when it comes to learning about your benefits. They believe that a disabled veteran will manipulate the facts of her case is she knows the full scope of the benefit up front. That is right, in a country where criminals still are innocent before proven guilty, VA has already concluded disabled veterans will lie and therefore cannot be trusted with the truth up front. Instead, the Voc Rehab Counselor is to serve as the equivalent of a “gatekeeper” to answer the veteran’s questions with cryptic responses that evade legal meaning.

Countless veterans have emailed me through the years for input about obvious issues when they get stonewalled by their counselor about simple questions like, “Will VR&E buy me a computer?” Veterans usually get this response, “It depends on if you can prove it is required for college.” Duh, college and training of any kind is so technology dependent that no one can get by without a computer. However, VR&E would rather pretend we live in the stone ages unless you know the secret words.

So, I think it is time we start breaking down those walls and call out the “gatekeepers” of VA as the power made bean-counters they truly are. Counselors in VBA are not functioning like they should and in accordance with CRC Ethics Rules. Until they do so, VA Voc Rehab Counselors are mere bean-counters.

Take a look at this handout from VRE below. It is the “Frequently asked questions” Voc Rehab Counselors hand out to curious disabled veterans. What do you think it is missing as far as REAL FACTS YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW? There is some BS in there, but I will circle back around next week to call out the issues.

[Download the VR&E FAQ Document here.]

Here it is in HTML:

 

Frequently asked questions

What is vocational rehabilitation?

Vocational rehabilitation refers to all services provided to restore the eligible veteran to employment or increase his or her independence in daily living.

How do I qualify for vocational rehabilitation?

The entitlement determination is an individualized decision, however, there are a couple of guiding principles applicable to every case:

  • Have you been or will you be discharged under honorable conditions with a service-connected disability?
  • Does the service-connected disability substantially contribute to an employment handicap? That is, are rehabilitation services necessary to restore you to suitable gainful employment; or, if employment is jeopardized, maintain that employment?

It appears I’m entitled – what am I entitled to?

That is dependent upon what services you need to return to or maintain employment.  Rehabilitation services can include direct placement assistance, job site modifications, skill training, medical services, etc.

Who decides if I’m entitled and to what?

A Department of Veterans Affairs Counseling Psychologist or Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will review your situation and make the entitlement determination. If entitled, the evaluation will continue to identify a suitable vocational goal and the services required to obtain that goal.  Our mandate is to restore the entitled veteran back into the workforce as soon as possible.  In all cases we rule out direct placement services prior to considering skill training.

What do you mean by “Suitable Employment”?

Suitable employment is a term meaning entry level employment which is not inconsistent with your general pattern of interests, aptitudes, and abilities; is not contra-indicated by your service-connected or non service-connected conditions; and is generally available in the area you live.

What?

Is it a real job not jeopardized by your service and non service-connected disabilities?

I have some post high school training but feel I need more to advance or change jobs. Can vocational rehabilitation help me?

First we have to establish if rehab services are necessary.  Is your current job unsuitable or jeopardized?   If not, then you would not be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services at this time.  If so, we would analyze what skills and training you bring to the job market and, if sufficient, assist you in marketing those skills to a suitable position.  If additional skills need to be developed, a goal would be agreed upon and a plan of services developed leading to that goal.

My disability is so severe, I don’t think I can return to employment. What can vocational rehabilitation do for me?

First of all, apply. We can do extraordinary things to assist the most severely disabled veterans become gainfully employed. If, however, employment is not reasonably feasible, there are many services we can provide to help you become more independent in your daily living.

What is the process?

Upon receipt of your application for vocational rehabilitation and confirmation that your are an honorably discharged veteran with a service connected disability, you will be scheduled for evaluation and assessment services, either with a VA employee or a rehabilitation professional under contract to the VA.  The evaluation will consist of your history; assessment of your aptitudes, interests, and abilities; your current state of job readiness; and limitations imposed by your service and non service-connected disabilities.

A report is prepared and reviewed by a VA rehabilitation counselor who then makes the entitlement determination. If entitled, additional counseling is provided to assist in identifying an appropriate goal and developing a plan of services to achieve that goal.

How long does this take?

Assuming that a rating has been made on your service-connected disability, you should receive an appointment within 30 days of your application.  You should receive a decision concerning entitlement within two months of your first appointment.

But I want to start school now – can’t I expedite this?

Only if we bumped some other disabled veteran. Also, even if entitled, schooling may not be the required rehabilitative service. Unless you have other funding available, do not start a program assuming it will be covered by vocational rehabilitation. You must be careful – remember, we can’t train you for an unsuitable vocation nor provide training services if you are already qualified for suitable employment.

What effect does all this have on my disability rating?

None. Participation in a vocational rehabilitation program will not trigger any rating action, nor does the percentage of your rating.

 

 

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minman52709
minman52709

Sounds EXACTLY like our VA at Bay Pines ( Fl. ) All Veterans who either 1 Are lucky enough to receive domiciliary services or 2. Seek V.R.E. services on their own, totally take the Veteran through a world where the requirements they insist upon take many months, usually more than a Veteran is granted to accomplish the task, especially if the Veteran is in a ” Homelessness ” program, after 4 months tops you are dumped back into the system ( the civilian system ) now find housing, job, food, etc..etc.. and unless you qualified for Social Security and/or Service connected disability, and have begun to receive it, you almost certainly CANNOT finish the program laid out by V.R.E. in the time allowed. What they do seem to forget or simply not concern themselves with is WE ARE PEOPLE, WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS, WE ARE VETERANS…..not simply a debit to be dodged.

Lawrence Kelley III
Lawrence Kelley III

I tired to go through Voc. Rehab. at Bay Pines back in 2006-2007 and all I got from my counselor, Joy Currie, was run around and all kinds of B.S. She even went so far in one interview to ask me if I was “romantically involved with anyone.” When I answered maybe, she asked the gender neutral question: What is the persons first name? She had made several statements that made it clear to me that she was a practicing Lesbian. I finally told her that my personal social and private life had nothing to do with Voc. Rehab. She then tried to claim that VA requires her to ask such questions “to get a good insight into the ‘whole person.'” If you can believe that. That whole VA regional office at Bay Pines/St. Pete, FL is a screwy rats nest of gay and lesbian Voc. Rehab. counselors. And most of the lesbians already dislike men. You’ll figure the rest out.

minman52709
minman52709

Hey Larry, I know of whom you speak, very well. Did you ever wonder how a supposed professional who says ” Libary ” not Library, has managed to acquire a position where ” her word, her ok…wink…wink ” could be what separates you the Veteran with housing, an A+ towards your “compliance ” with VRE which unfortunately for ALL CONCERNED VETERANS who seek help through B.P. MUST go through, MUST COMPLY or you probably will never see your svc. connection, never see VRE as it is truly written, what it was truly meant for…..Heaven help me, I thought I was the only one, I was basically called a liar last yr when I wrote about how much corruption ( whether benign or malignant ) Bay Pines has under it’s skin. Thank You Lawrence. Charlie

Mark B.
Mark B.

Can’t talk like that in this society, Larry (dripping with sarcasm). I guess you’ll have to suck it up and salute. While we swap terrorists for deserters there are those inside the VA, like Ms. Currie, who are INTENTIONALLY LYING everyday. Everyday. What a sad society to return to after so much given. It makes me sick inside on a daily basis.

Dennis
Dennis

I think it’s a lie when they say VA Voc Rehab won’t effect a veterans disability rating. I’ve heard of a few cases where the VA went ahead and reduced or terminated a veterans disability rating once the veteran started the Voc Rehab or completed it. I even had a VSO to warn me one time about that!

minman52709
minman52709

Absolutely Dennis, couldn’t agree more !! I receive a letter every 6-9 months or so asking me to attend VRE, ” there is just so much they can do for me ” now I am 100% svc. connected, what do you REALLY think you can do ? This yr they used a different strategy….sent me a 1099 form ( IRS form for self employment ) I have had over 35 surgeries, tri-level diskectomy, 41/2 in. of bone out of my hip to graft into a 500+ stitch surgery down the spine to replace the shoulder blade…etc..etc….The VA, the US government seem to try their best NOT TO GRANT service connection, and if they do regardless of the damage do their BEST to take it from you. Momma didn’t raise a fool !

J. EDWARD VERNON jr.
J. EDWARD VERNON jr.

GETTING A SVC CONNECTED RATING THAT IS “FAIR” IS LIKE PULLING HEN’S TEETH, ONCE YOU QUALIFY ,IF YOU EVER DO, THEY “SHORT” YOU AND SAY YOU CAN APPEAL AT A LATER DATE FOR INCREASE, THEN THEY RUN YOU AROUND UNTIL YOU DIE, WHICH WAS THEIR GOAL BEFORE YOU WERE DEEMED ELIGIBLE.
THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE CROOKS OVERSEEING THEIR OWN “MISDEEDS”. WHEN YOU APPEAL, WHO DO YOU APPEAL TO ?(A LIGHT BULB SHOULD POP ON).
I HAVE DONE “TIME” FOR MY CRIMES, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE ALL THEY GET IS “EARLY RETIREMENT”, NOT EVEN A “WRIST SLAP”, ANYMORE. I SAY AGAIN, THE “TIME OF TRUTH” IS A COMIN’.

Stephen J MGeady
Stephen J MGeady

I was to start this past Spring Semester,and all was well until the Day Before Classes were to start. My Counselor told me that since I had waited too long they would have to review my case. Wait too long refers to my miissing the Fall Semester due to breaking my Hip. I sent all the Medical Documents from the VAMC and everything was fine. Now I have been accepted to the Same College for the 3rd time,we will see what happens now. It is Like Pulling teeth with these people. Will Let you Know waht happens.

figure8fan
figure8fan

I started the VR & E system of games and I must say the only part of it that was god was my counselor. he was a disabled vet as well and told me many things to help me and showed me how to help myself to increase my rating when I was ready to do so. I started out in a field in which I thought was along my line of work that I had done but I found out quickly that it was not. I ended up using all of my allotted time to come away with two certificates, one in Graphic arts and one in Adobe. And those were micro certs which only kept me out of work for six months while trying to get a job with those certs and I received no unemployment payments. So I found my own job at a factory doing a job that I was not supposed to do but I had to put food on the table so I did what I had to do. The VR&E put it down as gainful employment because I was still under a “general electrical degree” and this job was in the electrical field and it did not matter to them that I was on my feet all day, everyday, 50 hours a week. Killed my knees and caused me to miss a huge amount of work and I was finally let go after 16 extremely painful months. It caused me to go to Chronic Pain Management classes and be put on narcotic pain meds. And now I can’t get a job because no one wants to hire someone who is my age and is taking the meds. I am taking. So I have no future at all. I am now at a 40% disabled rate that I just won after six years and the VFW that was supposed to help me did not even care at all what was going on and about the whole VBA hearing. She even had one of my exam dates wrong (she had July 4th as my date) and when I pointed it out to her she said it was probably the 14th or something (it was June 16). This was right before the hearing and she handed me a list of questions that she was going to ask and told me how to answer them. I told her this was a waste of time and a bunch of BS. I had to appeal and won myself by becoming my own lawyer (kind of) and I am still waiting on a couple of decisions. Sorry got off the subject on the last part but the whole thing makes me mad and has made it very hard to get a job and I am at the point that I will be homeless soon if nothing shows up. I can’t be standing all day so I am now so limited that it is hard.

Skywalker
Skywalker

Yes, Voc Rehab is another arm of the VA where I’ve seen some pretty sketchy behavior. Interesting that they encouraged everyone to apply; my husband left his job of nine years due to a SC knee disability and the VA counselor we spoke with was all, “Oh, I don’t know…I have to think really carefully about this. We don’t approve just anybody,” even though he was basically a model candidate at that point.

Out of the three Voc Rehab counselors I’ve had, only one has really had integrity. He was wonderful, and told me about my rights up front–the advanced degree, the software, the computer, everything. He’s the rare type where we’re lucky if we ever get the opportunity to work with them.

The other two Voc Rehab counselors were either evasive, non responsive to my inquiries, or just fought me on every turn over the smallest shit (like a school parking receipt).

minman52709
minman52709

Amen Mark….here, here. You are correct, what message does this send soldiers, recently eos’ed soldiers, soldiers who are currently going through transition, Veterans who have been out of service long enough see what works and doesn’t, veterans who have finally received svc. connection, disability, or both and those who were denied, and those veterans who have been out, retired, disabled, svc. connected for yrs. I suppose what I am pointing out is that these decisions both correct , incorrect, and downright lying, cheating, and….other by our Gov-M.I.C. are now seen by all and will begin to be voted on, will be cause for revolutionary THINKING with regard to how do we, how does our country, care for those who were once promised x, and are now one of the major voting groups in the country….that is truly when trouble will start.. my thoughts, nothing else…

Julius Lenon
Julius Lenon

I was completely honest with the counselor about my situation. He said that I do not qualify since I already have a job.
Here’s my situation:
I’m a 21-year Air Force veteran. I was in the I.T. field however my last 5-years before I retired was spent being more of a manager so my hands-on time with the systems were limited. To make the story short; it took me over six months to find a job after my retirement eventhough I have a degree and several certifications to go with it. Most civilian employers (at least in my area) are looking for more recent hands-on experience. I finally accepted an I.T. job as a contractor. It’s a job that didn’t require a lot of experience. I’m not complaining at all, I actually feel blessed just to have a job. The job I have, at least in my belief, is not commensurate to my experience and training. So I told the counselor that I’d like to go back to school and get some hands-on training or refreshers to make myself more marketable and he said that he can’t support what I want to do since I am already employed. He said that I will receive a letter denying my request for Voc Rehab.
I just received my official denial Voc Rehab letter from the VA two days ago.
Do I have options? My counselor said that I can always re-apply if and when my situation changed (become unemployed).
I did forget to tell him that since I am in the I.T. field, I have to maintain my competency and certifications to keep my job. I do not know if that would have mattered.

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