This is the top problem disabled veterans have with VA Vocational Rehabilitation. I made this mistake. Many of you have made this mistake. Blind trust can get you bounced out of the Voc Rehab Counselor’s officer with a firm denial quicker than [insert your favorite metaphor].
Today, I just read a message from a veteran on the subject:
“Hello Benjamin I would like to talk to you about how unfair I was treated while trying to apply for Voc Reb. I am qualified but the Voc Rehab counselor did everything he could to undermine my interest in the program. In his reports he told lies. He was a very angry man and he was unprofessional. What recourse do I have?”
How Trust Can Kill Your Voc Rehab Claim
This disabled veteran went into the meeting fully trusting that that Voc Rehab Counselor would treat her fairly. She expected him to be kind, to listen, and to treat her like a client. This is where the veteran went wrong.
There is a dirty little secret about the first Vocational Rehabilitation meeting. While veterans think the meeting is supposed to be all about them, the reality is even closer to the truth. The first Voc Rehab meeting is a forensic examination – not a warm and fuzzy meeting to talk about your dreams.
In my guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide, we talk about the need to do your research prior to the first meeting. The dirty secret – the forensic meeting – means that the first meeting is conducted with the purpose of creating a legal record about the veteran that can be used for legal purposes.
The Voc Rehab Counselor, usually a clinical psychologist, will intentionally push the buttons of the disabled veteran during the meeting almost every time. The veteran writing in above was caught off guard by her counselor. My old counselor caught me off guard. It happens all the time.
A forensic examination is an exam that is allowable, but it should be conducted only with the consent of the person being examined. Unfortunately, the Dept of Veterans Affairs has not yet decided that they need disabled veterans to consent to examinations – or at least with informed consent.
Informed Consent and the Commission on Rehabilitation
What the Veterans Administration does not realize is that I figured out a way to push back. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselors Certification is given by an organization that governs Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors by providing a certification process. Once certified, the counselor is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. This certification requires the counselor to abide by the Commission’s CRC / CRCC Code of Ethics.
While the Veterans Administration may refuse to take action against bad counselors, the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselors may investigate a well-grounded claim. In Code of Ethics page 15, the Code explains the rights of evaluees, which includes a requirement for informed consent. So, the veteran who wrote in today complaining about her counselor may have grounds for forming a complaint with the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselors.
When it comes to trust, never trust anyone when it comes to your VA benefits. Always take ownership over your own claim and do your own research on everything. The only person who has to live with the result of your claim is you, not the veteran service officer and not the VA employee. Trust yourself and your own mind to made decisions that are best for you.