Nervous about your first Voc Rehab appointment?
Don’t be. Check out the first chapter of our guide to help get the ball rolling.
I appreciate that you are taking a minute to read about the Voc Rehab Survival Guide. If you are reading this page, you want to learn more about the guide and what to expect.
This is the introduction chapter. I use it to set out the Vocational Rehabilitation system and our table of contents. After you read this, you will know the big picture of Voc Rehab, VR&E head Director Ruth Fanning, and how Economic Game Theory is used to keep veterans in the dark.
I do guarantee your satisfaction with the guide. Disabled veterans who want to go into Voc Rehab with confidence – (you get over 100 pages of explanation and strategy based on my 10 years of experience) – will get exactly that from their purchase.
Please read on.
Voc Rehab Survival Guide
Part 1: Introduction
Focus: Who this research guide is written for and why.
It’s written with the soldiers in mind, first, foremost and forever.
This guide of examples and templates is designed to give you some of the information you need to execute a well formatted claim for benefits that could get approved the first time around.
Appeals take forever. Ensuring your claim does not make it into the “round file” (the garbage can), or to the appeal level is vital for success. This guide will help you get it right the first time around.
According to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, most disabled veterans apply for Chapter 31 benefits without any understanding of what the program can do or whether or not they are qualified.
This Voc Rehab Survival Guide will give you the tools you need better navigate the process. Doing this could help you get the benefits you deserve.
Washington D.C. has no clue about veterans.
That’s me. I know what you’re probably thinking, “He looks like a really damn serious guy.”
This is my “stop screwing with veterans” look that I put on when I travel to Washington D.C. to advocate for all of you. There is a reason for it.
Your elected officials are so removed from all of you that it takes guys like me to tell them about issues veterans face. Those on Congress are putting out numerous fires, and keeping track of every group’s issues can be and is overwhelming.
For example: one legislator’s office on a Veterans Committee told me they had around 30,000 veterans in their state. In reality, the number was 700,000.
In that same state I just talked about, the VA pays $1.5 billion in just disability compensation & pension payments. That money stays in the economy. It doesn’t go to foreign banks or offshore investments. It is spent in the local economy. Knowledge of the veteran population in that instance could sway how the senator votes.
In D.C., numbers matter because they mean votes. The more votes there are, the more that group can leverage them in exchange for attention on Capital Hill. In that state, they had no idea about vets because they were unaware of the leverage vets have. I am changing that paradigm.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is the same way. Similarly, it seems shocking that the same agency in charge of veterans benefits has little to no understanding of the day to day grind veterans face when trying to get our benefits.
These people are dealing with huge budgets and millions of you. As a result, just as in war, the veteran is pushed into a numbers game. They cannot save us all, even if they tried.
This why you’re here. You are here to learn how to advocate for yourself. Knowing your rights is the only way to ensure you are getting the benefits to which you are entitled.
You have an opportunity to change your life with a free education, Independent Living money, or funding for a new business. These benefits can be in access of $100,000. Only a fool would squander this opportunity. Do not be that guy.
How DisabledVeterans.org got started.
This is important:
That is a picture with Director Ruth Fanning in Washington D.C. in March 2012. Ruth is the head of the entire VA Voc Rehab program. Yes, she is the Grand Puba of all things Rehabilitation and is your overlord for the next few years.
She is a great person, and, like most people within the VA, is dealing with mountains of regulations and other requirements before she can even address specific issues for veterans. Despite this, she does have time at the end of the day to pick up the phone or send a concerned email back to a frustrated veteran.
Looking back to the picture, we probably look somewhat chummy right? Well, it wasn’t always that way.
In 2010, I started a CBS Evening News with Katie Couric investigation into Voc Rehab. Their report started off like this:
[quote]A two-month CBS News investigation of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) most important benefit program helping disabled vets return to work, a benefit most vets call “Voc Rehab,” revealed a program which is beset with contracting and staffing problems — which often throws needless roadblocks in front of eligible veterans, and which either tolerates or can’t prevent wrongful benefit denials for some of the nation’s most deserving former warriors.[/quote]
Needless to say, I didn’t win any friends within the VA at that time. However, within days, I did get immediately approved to attend law school and my disability compensation appeal was approved. Both of which were in the appeals process. Magic.
Like many of you, I do not give up when it comes to my benefits. It took some oversight from an outside media source to get the VA to take immediate action. While not perfect, at least it worked.
Like CBS, I try to help all veterans get the most out of their benefits using journalism to expose issues within the system. It works.
Does the VA abide by these words?
“A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled, and less than that no man shall have.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt, 1903
The Voc Rehab Survival Guide gets veterans the promise of their square deal.
Why I Wrote this Guide
How can you know what you do not know?
I wrote this guide for two reasons, for both veterans and lawyers. First, I wanted all veterans, college educated or not, to have equal access to their benefits. Second, most lawyers and VSO’s know very little about how to get things done in Voc Rehab. Plus, as one lawyer told me, there’s no money in it. So, finding a lawyer to help with your disability claim is one thing. When it comes to Rehabilitation, you’re on your own. That’s why I made this guide.
This 4th Edition is a complete revision of the Voc Rehab Survival Guide, re-written and redesigned. It incorporates basic principles of research pathfinders and legal writing into lay terms that most veterans can understand. After all, if few lawyers will represent veterans on this subject during their appeals with the VA, then we, as veterans, need to rely on ourselves.
After publishing some articles on Military.com in 2009, hundreds of veterans emailed me with questions and comments about the program within one week. No one at the time was writing about Voc Rehab. The VA was no exception. At that time, only a couple disability benefits guides even touched on the program, giving the subject at best 3 pages. Sadly, not much has changed since then.
The big problem? Many vets have no idea what the program can do for them. Some had the same problem I had during my first meeting. If you don’t know the rules, you can’t play by them. Worse yet, the rules can be used against you.
I take a different approach with this guide than some other veterans advocates. Rather than telling you the black letter regulations, I make a point to make a point. My goal? To not only help you get your benefits, but to help you get the most out of those same benefits. Rather than becoming a desk jockey, many veterans use the guide to attend law school or become doctors.
If I can teach you to think like those same leaders who caused the current mess in DC, you will not only learn how to win by playing their game, but you’ll know how to spot those jokers a mile away.
What’s their game? Use the laws and rules to their advantage to take your home or run your business into the ground or outsource your jobs. Mega lobbyists write legislation Congress signs without much of a thought of the true impact on Americans. Laws are created that benefit only a few power brokers. Meanwhile, the rest of us fight it out for jobs at Big Box Mart. This needs to change and you’re going to help me do it.
Hopefully, this guide will in some small way keep them from selling you their snake oil. Veterans are great at spotting trouble. Once you have a great education or business or career, you’ll be able to do something to help our whole country, whether by getting into the political system or becoming a “job creator” yourself.
Here, I will reorient your perception of your benefits so that you use them to their fullest extent, the way Congress actually intended. The more you utilize your benefits, the better our country will be.
The Solution: Educate Veterans About the “System.”
The solution. Well-educated bankers and businessmen know how to play the game.
Here’s your first lesson. In reading through the guide, take note between the information Vocational Rehabilitation supplies you with on the Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation home page compared to this guide.
Does their information answer:
- What can I fully expect and accomplish with the program?
- What training can I receive?
- What are the regulations?
- What have others done?
Immediately, you should notice that this course is over 100 pages. The VA’s page on Voc Rehab is only 1 page.
Here is my take. That website provides no specific answers. It encourages you to just trust the VA to do its best.
You’re here because you know better then to trust the system. You are here to become your own best advocate, and hopefully the VA will also help you do that. Maybe not.
The VA is using a form of Game Theory. Yes, it’s a psychological “game.” The VA believes if veterans know the rules, then those same veterans will lie, cheat and steal to get benefits they don’t deserve.
How does that make you feel? You are guilty of being a liar and a cheat with no trial. Meanwhile, felons in prison are at least innocent up until they are convicted.
But you, you are a veteran. For some reason, you deserve less consideration than a felon.
If you disagree with my opinion, take a look at VetSuccess.gov Chapter 31 page and ask yourself “why is this so vague?” Read the excerpt on the next page and you’ll learn way; it’s vague on purpose.
Watch any hearing at the House Committee on Veterans Affairs when they discuss changes to the disability system.
Witnesses to Congress say veterans should not be trusted because of the risk of fraud.
The VA is afraid that veterans (those formerly trusted with the most sensitive secrets of our nation’s security) will cheat, steal and be generally dishonest when it comes to getting the benefits we already earned.
Basic VA Facts Sheet
Voc Rehab & Employment: The 30,000 Foot View
The purpose of this facts sheet is to scare the hell out of you and to serve as a call to action for any veteran advocate or lawyer reading over this material.
The fact is this, the VA has struggled for years to properly implement this benefit the way Congress intended. Instead, come Voc Rehab officials hold many benefits out of the reach of deserving veterans. Other veterans are forced to sign up for training tracks in which they have little to no interest. This is why many drop out.
Voc Rehab Data Sources
This guide collates data from 4 primary sources:
- The Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program for the 21st Century Veteran, 2004.
- Audit of Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program Operations, 2007
- 2007 Veterans Employability Survey
- VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: Better Incentives, Workforce Planning, and Performance Reporting Could Improve Program (VERS), 2009
Check these out over the next coupole days to read the facts about the VA and Voc Rehab yourself.
Game Theory and Acoustic Separation
I recently researched an area within Game Theory & Economics about Decision Rules published in the Harvard Law Review. The title was Decision Rules and Conduct Rules: On Acoustic Separation in Criminal Law, written by Meir Dan-Cohen.
What it is. Imagine a world where there are two kinds of rules. Decision rules and conduct rules. Most everyone knows the conduct rules (thou shalt not kill) but few know the decision rules (how judges decide punishment for things like murder under duress).
Decision makers (like judges and Voc Rehab Counselors) keep the rules vague so they can have maximum flexibility. This flexibility gives them the power to make decisions on an individual level without needing a great deal of oversight. But, a lack of oversight can result in abuses of power, which accounts for many problems within the VA system.
Acoustic separation is the divide between the deciders and everyone else – researcher Dan-Cohen likened the separation to the one way glass used for interrogation. While the decisions makers can see and hear us, we cannot see or hear them.
What this means. In Voc Rehab, the rules are vague on purpose. It allows the counselors a great deal of flexibility. The VA does not provide candidates with a rule book, and a common Google search reveals laws and rules that are difficult to find much less interpret. In a perfect world with perfect people, that would be fine and counselors could make great decisions to help veterans. Knowledge of the rules would not matter.
Unfortunately, a lot of veterans have rather antagonistic experiences with their counselors. Some counselors are racist. Some are anti-veteran. Some are just inexperienced. Regardless of the background issue, once the decision is made, it may be final. If the veteran does not know what the rules are, they can be misled by a bad actor and needlessly accept an unfavorable decision.
The reason for the ambiguity is simple; the VA is worried that veterans will manipulate the system if they know the rules. While felons get the benefit of the doubt, veterans do not. Veterans are not informed of their rights or that anything they say can be used against them.
To the VA, the risk is that the veteran gets into a program of training that is ill-suited for that person. Instead, they want the veteran to rely on the VA being the good steward with American tax dollars. Seem like a good idea?
It’s time to make a decision.
If you have read this far, you are now aware that a battle may await you for the benefits you have earned. If you want years of work and experience on your side, buy your copy of the Voc Rehab Survival Guide now.
Ready to take charge of your benefits?
Ready to take control of your future?