One veteran writes in at the tail end of his GI Bill entitlement wondering “now what?”
With a rating of 100% for PTSD, this guy is making hay while the sun shines. Instead of giving up after earlier scholastic failures, this veteran persisted. His drive will suit him later in life.
All too often we hear of veterans burning through their educational benefits prior to getting a handle on their disabilities. Once the money is gone, it’s gone. This veteran was successful in pulling it together and writes in about next steps for a Master’s Degree.
He writes in with two questions:
- How do I get VA Voc Rehab approval?
- Will success in this direction result in a lower disability rating?
Here’s the drill: I include this for all newcomers. Each week, I take an email from a veteran that would have broad appeal to many veterans. Questions are usually about the GI Bill, VA Voc Rehab, or Disability Compensation.
I then analyze the veterans benefits issue for a bit and post my input here in our weekly segment: Mailroom.
Basically, I take out all of the veteran’s identifying information from the best email and post it here with my answer.
If you have a burning question about your veterans benefits, sent me an email by selecting the contact tab at the top of this page. If I think your situation will be helpful for other veterans, I will re-post it here.
* If you do not want me to write about your veterans benefits situation, please feel free to let me know within the email. I have no problem keeping a lid on the situation, too.
Letter from Disabled Veteran:
I am a veteran of Iraq and have been 100% Service Connection for PTSD since 2007.
I don’t desire to do this forever. I want to be more than just a dude who sits back and collects a check. I have been trying to finish school for a long time and have failed multiple times due to my disability.
I’m back in school this semester and doing good, and am looking to transfer to a university October 24th, an accelerated program that will take the units I have and apply them to a BA in Organizational Leadership.
I won’t have enough of my post 9-11 GI Bill to cover the whole program maybe half. After that I will be on my own. However, I’d like to get VA Voc Rehab to cover the rest and then pay for my masters degree in the Organizational Leadership.
I don’t know what to do. I read a lot about you and the lies the VA tells, so I think I might have a shot.
But if I’m 100% service-connected for PTSD, will I get turned down and will I be reduced? I want to get a job with Veterans Affairs in some capacity, but want to go in with a masters degree to increase my position and earnings potential.
What do you suggest I do? I really need your help. Your story was an inspiration to me and I would like to emulate your success. Please get back to me at your earliest convenience.
Letter from Benjamin Krause (me):
Good questions. I’m glad to hear you have a handle on your PTSD.
Before I dive into advice, here are some areas where you need to be more specific if I was giving more than general input:
- What type of 100% disability rating do you have: TDIU; P&T; or regular?
- What type of employment goal do you have if you work for VA?
For the sake of this post, I’ll assume you are 100% Permanent and Total – this generally means VA is done with you and they have not scheduled future evaluations because they do not foresee you getting better.
However, if you have any future evaluations scheduled, it is possible for it to be lowered if you have TDIU or a regular 100% rating.
First, I have been told by VR&E that veterans with 100% ratings are automatically deemed to have a Serious Employment Handicap. My own Voc Rehab counselor told me that their system automatically tags veterans with this kind of disability. Thus, you would be likely entitled to all of the extensions and additional tuition support VA can offer.
That said, a VA Voc Rehab counselor will assess your disability in light of your educational capabilities and employment capabilities. Once they do that, they will give you an answer regarding your education and employment opportunities – at least the ones they will support.
If they determine you need additional education, you will be approached with this option.
For you, in light of your disability rating, I assume you would need at least a Master’s Degree to be competitive in the labor market.
This assumption is dependent on the local policies and job markets. However, I have been told that the overall approach of VR&E lately has been to approve advanced degrees for people with Serious Employment Handicaps.
There is something I am concerned about regarding your degree type.
Your degree type may be difficult to market depending on your occupational goal. Even if you get hired into VA, they may reward you more, i.e. higher pay/promotions, if you have an MBA.
If I were you, I would map out my ideal job at the VA first. I would then ask someone who is already doing it for an informational interview. This way, you can get an idea of what the best route for education would be before you commit to a plan.
This is a wise approach for most people, veteran or not.
An informational interview is merely getting coffee with someone to talk about a particular issue. For you, the talk would be about the job type and working for VA generally.
These issues aside, it sounds like you are on the right track. It may not be a bad time to speak with VA Voc Rehab about your options before your Post 9/11 GI Bill money runs out.