Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation is the best and most comprehensive benefits programs for disabled veterans from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Yet, Voc Rehab Counselors tend to be shorthanded in approving veterans for some of its most basic benefits – Self-Employment funding.
This summer, I met with VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich on the subject of Self Employment. Mr. Gingrich said the Department of Veterans Affairs is looking to help veterans through what he called the 3 E’s:
At that same expo, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation, Ruth Fanning, stated self-employment and entrepreneurship are areas the program is considering for disabled veterans. She stated some veterans have been approved for up to $100,000 in supplies, equipment and training toward starting their respective businesses. Normally, veterans can be approved for up to $25,000 with little or no problems.
Still, disabled veterans are being blocked by the system from accessing this great benefit.
- Gary Parks has been waiting 8 months for his supplies and equipment after being approved. His counselor will not return his calls.
- Aaron Brase had a similar problem – no response from numerous counselors to get his business going. They later informed him that they dropped his claim without providing Due Process after an alleged “no-show” appointment Brase claims he was never informed of.
- Another veteran was told he was not disabled enough and needed a 100 percent disability rating.
However, there is a sticky point in the law after a change two years ago to 38 CFR Part 21.157. Prior to that point, only the most severely disabled veterans were allowed to access that part of Voc Rehab. After the law, there were two tiers: One for disabled veterans and the other for the most severely disabled veterans. Unfortunately, many Voc Rehab Counselors still try to keep veterans out of the program or are reported to disallow approval because of the excessive documentation required.
Disabled veterans with problems accessing the Self-Employment benefit are encouraged to respond to this survey. The results will be forwarded to the Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress with the goal of “inspiring” action to increase access.
Our veterans deserve the benefits they have earned.