Many veterans using the GI Bill may be unaware they are qualified for thousands more in benefits through Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment.
The GI Bill is a fantastic benefit where many veterans receive a subsistence payment plus coverage for tuition at a state university for up to 36 months.
Yes, that is fantastic. But is it the whole story?
It is for veterans without qualifying disability ratings.
Veterans with disability ratings of 10 percent or higher should consider using VA Voc Rehab based on a little secret about that program that many Veteran Service Organizations fail to understand.
They keep telling disabled veterans behind closed doors that the Forever GI Bill is the only way to go while leaving out one key detail.
<< Disabled veterans with an Employment Handicap or Serious Employment Handicap may be approved for training in professional careers where the training lasts longer than 36 months in total. >>
What does that mean and why does it matter?
For disabled veterans entitled to Voc Rehab benefits, these veterans may receive well over 36 months of benefits including subsistence payments.
Veterans with remaining entitlement to the GI Bill may then opt in for the higher subsistence payments at E-5 rates equal to those of the GI Bill while also getting all tuition and expenses paid for well over 36 months.
You know how much that can add up to for some veterans in their undergrad who want to become doctors or lawyers after they graduate? A lot of money.
These points aside, the payment rates for Voc Rehab have gone up whether or not you are entitled to BAH subsistence at the GI Bill amounts or if you receive the significantly lower standard Voc Rehab subsistence payments.
Each year, VA cranks up its monthly pay (aka subsistence payment, stipend, etc.) for veterans using Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment. Here’s the fiscal year 2019 numbers and how it could impact your pocketbook each month if you qualify.
RELATED: Free Voc Rehab Intro Videos
Higher E-5 BAH Of GI Bill vs Standard Voc Rehab Monthly Pay
The cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase for the standard monthly pay for Voc Rehab is only $644.74 for veterans with no dependents who are in full-time training. Veterans eligible for the higher Post 9/11 subsistence allowance (P911SA) rate is around $1,500 without dependents.
Why the difference?
Veterans who are not entitled to the GI Bill but who use Voc Rehab only receive the lower rate for monthly subsistence. Those veterans using Voc Rehab with GI Bill entitlement can opt-in for the higher subsistence payment for the duration of their Voc Rehab training.
Is this a good deal?
Big Money In Voc Rehab Benefits
It is not only a good deal, but veterans who opt to use Voc Rehab with GI Bill entitlement remaining can receive more than 48 months of support in certain situations and receive the higher subsistence payment the entire time.
The option is quite valuable for those veterans in high-cost areas like Los Angeles or New York City. Veterans qualified for an advanced degree after completion of an undergrad while in Voc Rehab could receive extended subsistence payments.
A good example is any single veteran approved for a medical doctorate in New York City would likely receive over $3,000 per month while in training. For a three year medical doctorate, the veteran would receive around $100,000 in just monthly payments not to mention tuition, books, and fees.
Here is the agency’s breakdown of the subsistence increase.
VA Policy Document On Subsistence FY 2020
On October 1, 2020, a 2.8 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to traditional Chapter 31 subsistence allowance rates will go into effect. The remainder of this post highlights the following:
- The new Chapter 31 rates and the first increased payment date
- Processing subsistence allowance in Corporate WINRS Subsistence Allowance Module (SAM)
- How running Chapter 31 awards will be adjusted
- How Veterans will be notified about the Chapter 31 COLA increase
- Election of alternate subsistence allowance under Public Law (PL) 111-377
- Who to contact with Chapter 31 subsistence allowance questions
1. The New Chapter 31 Rates And The First Increased Payment Date
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Service received confirmation from Hines Information Technology Center (ITC) that the FY 2020 COLA rates were installed for the traditional Chapter 31 subsistence allowance rates. This COLA affects traditional Chapter 31 subsistence allowance rates where the award period ends on or after October 1, 2019. Post-9/11 subsistence allowance (P911SA) based on Department of Defense (DoD) Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates is unaffected by this COLA.
The enclosed table reflects the new traditional Chapter 31 subsistence allowance rates that are effective October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020. Since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays subsistence allowance for training that has been completed in the previous month, the first payment at these rates will be reflected in the November 1, 2019 subsistence allowance payment/disbursement.
RELATED: Ben’s First Voc Rehab Appointment
Type of Training
Each Additional Dependent
Institutional; Nonpay or nominal pay work experience in a facility of a Federal, State, local, or federally recognized Indian tribe agency; Improvement of Rehabilitation Potential:
Nonpay or nominal pay on-job training in a facility of a Federal, State, local, or federally recognized Indian tribe agency; Training in the home; Vocational course in a rehabilitation facility or sheltered workshop; Independent instructor:
Farm Cooperative, Apprenticeship or other On-Job Training2:
Combination of Institutional and On-Job Training (Institutional Greater than One Half);
Non-farm Cooperative Institutional Training and Non-farm Cooperative On-Job Training (FT Non-Farm Coop/Institutional):
Combination of Institutional and On-Job Training (On-the-Job Greater than ½); Non-farm Cooperative Institutional Training and Non-farm Cooperative On-Job Training (FT Non-Farm Coop/On-the-Job):
Effective 10-01-2019, the maximum monthly rate for Chapter 31 Subsistence Allowance is $2,7283.
 The quarter-time rate may be paid only during extended evaluation.
2 For On-Job Training, training wage plus subsistence allowance cannot exceed the journeyman wage.
3 This maximum rate was calculated based upon full-time enrollment for a Veteran with the following dependents: spouse, mother, father and 25 children.
2. Processing subsistence allowance in Corporate WINRS (SAM)
Traditional Chapter 31 subsistence allowance rate awards already entered into SAM have been automatically adjusted with the COLA rate effective October 1, 2019. New award entries will display the COLA adjustment effective October 1, 2019.
Post 9/11 subsistence allowance rate awards require no additional action in SAM at this time. The revised rate for P911SA rates will be available later this year.
3. How running Chapter 31 awards will be adjusted
In early October 2019, a batch computer program will identify and automatically retroactively adjust awards that include an effective date of October 1, 2019, or earlier.
The automatic adjustment to Chapter 31 awards will:
- Generate online notice of exception messages for cases that could not be adjusted by the batch process and that require regional office action to manually adjust the subsistence rate.
- Generate a report of all SAM adjusted and non-adjusted cases in early October 2019.
- Generate award letters to Veterans notifying them of the change in their subsistence rate(s) effective on or after October 1, 2019.
4. How Veterans Will Be Notified About The Chapter 31 COLA Increase
All Veterans receiving the traditional Chapter 31 subsistence rate at the end of September 2019 will receive notification of the new rates by VA Form 28-0347, which includes a copy of the traditional Chapter 31 subsistence allowance rate table enclosed with this letter.
5. Election of Alternate Subsistence Allowance under Public Law 111-377: Post 9/11 Subsistence Allowance (P911SA) Rate
As an informational addendum to this form letter, the following subsistence allowance option has been included. The law implementing this allowance option became effective in late fiscal year 2011, and is included here for use in comparing options for subsistence which may be open to the Veteran participant.
Public Law 111-377, Section 205 amended Title 38 of the United States Code, Section 3108(b), effective August 1, 2011. This change in the law authorizes VA to allow a Veteran, entitled to both a Chapter 31 subsistence allowance and Post 9/11 GI Bill Chapter 33 educational assistance, to elect to receive a payment in an alternate amount instead of the regular Chapter 31 subsistence allowance. To receive the alternate payment, referred to as the P911SA rate, a Veteran must make an election of benefits with an effective date on VA Form (VAF) 28-0987, Election for CH 31 Subsistence Allowance (CH31SA) Rate or Post-9/11 Subsistence Allowance (P911SA) Rate. The alternate payment will be based on the military basic allowance for housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents residing in a military housing area that encompasses all of, or the majority portion of, the ZIP Code of the training facility, agency, or employer providing the rehabilitation program. Training in foreign institutions and training that is solely on-line or in-home will be based on the BAH national average.
Calculate BAH Rate
The Department of Defense (DoD) sets BAH rates each calendar year, therefore, new BAH rates are effective January 1st each year, not October 1st. BAH for full-time attendance (or rate of pursuit) may be calculated at the DoD website:
- Enter year (“2019”), ZIP Code of the training facility (school, employer for OJT programs, or agency approved for work experience programs), and “E-5”
- Click “calculate”
- Use rate for “E-5 with dependents”.
- Per Public Law 115-48, participants who used entitlement to Chapter 31 benefits and services on or before December 31, 2017, will add an additional amount to this rate. The additional amount will be published in January 2019.
For training at a facility within a United States (U.S.) Territory (not solely online), identify the appropriate locality code (similar to a U.S. ZIP Code) where the Veteran is enrolled in training.
Verify that the site is located in one of the U.S. Territories under which the Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) under the Post-9/11 Chapter 33 is payable: American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam.
Go to the Department of Defense website:
- Enter the year, month and day. If the term starts prior to the 15th day of the month, use the 1st day of the month in which the term begins; if the term starts
on or after the 16th day of the month, use the 16th day of the month in which the term begins.
- Choose the correct location from the drop-down box.
- Choose pay grade “E-5”.
- Choose “Yes” in the dependents box.
- Click “Calculate” to obtain the rate.
- The correct rate of pay for P911SA is titled “OHA Rental Allowance”.
The following table specifies payment of the alternate subsistence allowance that VA is calling the Post-9/11 subsistence allowance, as governed by Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 21.260(c).
|PAYMENT OF POST-9/11 SUBSISTENCE ALLOWANCE IN ACCORDANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 111-377 (EFFECTIVE AUGUST 1, 2011)|
|TYPE OF PROGRAM||BAH PAYMENT INCREMENT|
|Full-time||Entire BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|3/4 time||¾ BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|1/2 time||½ BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|Non-pay or nominal pay on-job training in a Federal, State, local, or federally recognized Indian tribe agency; vocational course in a rehabilitation facility or sheltered workshop; institutional non-farm cooperative:|
|Full-time only||Entire BAH of agency or institution ZIP Code|
|Non-pay or nominal pay work experience in a Federal, State, local, or federally recognized Indian tribe agency:|
|Full-time||Entire BAH of agency ZIP Code|
|3/4 time||¾ BAH of agency ZIP Code|
|1/2 time||½ BAH of agency ZIP Code|
|Farm cooperative, apprenticeship, or other on-job training (OJT):|
|Full-time only||Entire BAH of employer ZIP Code|
|Combination of institutional and OJT (Full-time only):|
|Institutional greater than 1/2 time||Entire BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|OJT greater than ½ time3||Entire BAH of employer ZIP Code|
|Non-farm cooperative (Full-time only):|
|Institutional||Entire BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|On-job3||Entire BAH of employer ZIP Code|
|Improvement of rehabilitation potential:|
|Full-time||Entire BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|3/4 time||¾ BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|1/2 time||½ BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|1/4 time4||¼ BAH of institution ZIP Code|
|Training consisting of solely distance learning:5|
|Full-time||½ BAH National Average|
|¾ time||⅜ BAH National Average|
|½ time||¼ BAH National Average|
|Training in the home, including independent instructor:|
|Full-time only||½ BAH National Average|
|Training in an institution not assigned a ZIP Code, including foreign institutions:6|
|Full-time||Entire BAH National Average|
|¾ time||¾ BAH National Average|
|½ time||½ BAH National Average|
1 Effective August 1, 2011, the Post-9/11 subsistence allowance may be paid in lieu of subsistence allowance authorized in § 21.260(b), and is not adjusted to include dependents.
2 For measurement of rate of pursuit, see §§ 21.4270 through 21.4275. Payments for courses being taken simultaneously at more than one institution are based on the BAH of the ZIP Code assigned to the parent institution.
3 For on-job training, payment of the Post-9/11 subsistence allowance may not exceed the difference between the monthly training wage, not including overtime, and the entrance journeyman wage for the veteran’s objective.
4 The quarter-time rate may be paid only during extended evaluation.
5 Payment for training consisting of both distance learning and courses taken at a local institution is based on the BAH of the ZIP Code assigned to the local institution.
6 Payment for training or OJT in an institution outside the US, but identified as a U.S. Territory, is based on the OHA rate for the locality code assigned to the institution.
6. Who To Contact For Chapter 31 Subsistence Allowance Questions
Please refer to M28R, Part V, Section B, Chapter 8, located on the Knowledge Management Portal (KMP), for additional procedural guidance on the authorization and processing of subsistence allowance payments.
Questions regarding subsistence allowance award processing may be directed to your district VR&E Field Liaison at the e-mail address listed below.
So, if you run into issues apparently you can contact any of the above-listed individuals based on the area where your regional office is located. Agency emails are simple enough to figure out, usually.
For example, the email for Lynn Horwatt is likely [email protected] Send her a note if you have issues and use a Regional Office assigned to the Pacific.