VR&E Veterans: 3 Things To Do Before Graduation To Avoid Getting Screwed

VRE QA Graduate School Plan Change

Ambitious veterans using Veteran Readiness and Employment (VRE) who want additional training after graduation need to take these three steps to avoid getting screwed. And, by screwed, I mean getting wrongly denied sponsorship of graduate training toward the job of your dreams.

Hey there. My name is Benjamin Krause. I am a veteran turned journalist turned attorney. I’m not just an attorney, I’m a disabled veteran who used VRE to pay for my undergrad, law school, and for start-up equipment for my law practice.

When it comes to VRE, there is one thing I see frequently. It is veterans trusting the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) to do what they say or trusting the VRC to provide truthful information.

Many veterans seeking a professional career like lawyer or doctor who use VRE during our undergrad tend to ask whether VRE will cover law school or medical school later. I know this because I was one of these veterans, and many of my clients also have this kind of conversation at some point.

The screw job comes when the VRC tells the veteran, you, to WAIT.

Possible Block And Tackle Tricks VRCs Use

Before processing such a request, a VRC might say, “We first need to see how you’ll do in your undergrad. After you graduate, then we will look at approving your request.”

Or, the VRC might say, “You cannot make that request now. We can only process that after you graduate.”

In a third scenario, we will see veterans verbally approved for the additional training, but there is nothing written down in the record to show it was approved.

Regardless of the strategy employed by the VRC, the end result if frequently the same.

The veteran graduates. After graduation, the veteran mentions the prior conversation about going on for graduate training to become a lawyer or physician… and then?

The VRC tells the veteran additional training can’t be approved.

The VRC then pushes the veteran into Job Ready status, which makes it harder to get back into a training program. Maybe the veteran finds a job they like. Maybe they self-fund the training.

Either way, the outcome is not ideal because the VRC did not adjudicate the matter properly.

Is Request Documented?

Here is what happened and how you can avoid getting screwed in case you find yourself in the same situation.

You may have noticed a common theme in each part of the transaction. The VRC did not provide the veteran with a written decision about the request. Instead, it almost seems as if VRCs avoid the work of documentation, proper evaluations, or formal adjudications whenever possible.

This has been a problem veterans face and have faced since well before my time, and I’ve been involved with VRE both as a client and later as an attorney for nearly two decades.

Sometimes the VRC will not write down. If there is a writing, sometimes the VRC will magically omit it from the VR&E file or CWINRS. And, other times, the VRC may mention it within a CWINRS note but do nothing.

Why does this happen and what is the VRC supposed to do?

Time To Get Smart

There are three culprits that allowed this kind of behavior to persist or cause it. VRC’s have caseloads that are too high. The bureaucratic processing requirements for even the simplest of adjudications are very burdensome. When VRCs fail to provide veterans with notice, the accountability for such an oversight is weak at best.

It is unlikely these three culprits will get resolved any day soon, so it is up to us to get smart on the nuances of VRE benefits and those like it to not get screwed out of benefits.

What Should’ve Happened?

It is important to know what should have happened so you can tell if you were duped.

VR&E should have processed your request by helping develop the request and then adjudicate the matter by providing you with an administrative decision on VA letterhead explaining your rights.

Such a request should be processed as a change request (38 CFR § 21.94) to an existing plan because the veteran is likely seeking to change an inferior vocational goal with a more appropriate vocational goal. But, VRCs often fail to adjudicate the matter, at all.

If they do adjudicate it, the VRC might adjudicate it as if the veteran was simply seeking additional training as part of a new claim. The error is then compounded by a finding the veteran is qualified for employment based on completion of an undergraduate degree at some point in the future. But, the evidence of graduation does not exist because there has been no graduation. And without graduation, a person cannot be qualified for employment that one can only get through graduation, which was the point of the VRE vocational plan.

In the latter, the VRC often will fail to conduct an evaluation.

RELATED: Get Your Claims File

3 Steps To Preserve Your Change request

If you want to avoid getting screwed out of benefits in this scenario, there are three things you can do. These steps in no way guarantee that you will win.

Instead, the steps help to make sure you preserve your right to fight an adverse decision with proper documentation, which is a hell of a lot better than many veterans without this information.

Step One – Write It Down

Write it down. Make a decision to write down the claim. Do some research. Figure out what you want and the basic regulations you are trying to trigger. Be sure you include the vocational goal you want. The vocational goal you want is the actual job plus the training you need to qualify for that job.

Perhaps put this into a Word document to edit. An example of what I might write is, “I want to change my rehabilitation plan goal from [Goal X] to Lawyer to include sponsorship of law school.”

Step Two – Use A VA Form

Over the past decade, VA has become much more formal and complicated through the use of lengthy and sometimes confusing forms. VRE recently rolled out the VAF 28-10212 to request assistance.

Since VA is constantly changing forms, be sure to check with your VRC or a Veteran Service Officer to ensure you are using the right form. For now, the VAF 28-10212 can be used to request help with a lot of things. If the thing you want help with is not listed in the check boxes, then you might want to select “Other.”

If you use the wrong form, or you make the request verbally or in some writing that is not on the right form, VRE should help you by giving you the right form. But, be sure you follow up with your VRC right away to verify. If you wait too long, and you used the wrong form, you may run into problems.

Anyway, so the point here is to use a form. Make sure it is the right form at the time in case VRE changes its forms at any point after I published this article.

Step Three – Send And Confirm Receipt

The last key step here is to send the document in a way that will allow you to prove it was sent and received. Your options to send are through US Mail, electronic mail (email), or direct upload to VA.gov.

After you send it, send your VRC an email to tell him or her that you sent in a plan change request by whatever method. Ask that the VRC confirm the request was received. They usually will.

Next Steps For The Brave

I hope this helps. Year after year, I see the same issues that, despite supposed changes to VRE training, seem to persist. I suspect it has a lot to do with the three culprits I mentioned before. You just cannot train away the effects of poor staffing and lack of adequate accountability.

I have dedicated a large part of my law practice to helping veterans ambitious disabled veterans become leaders in law, medicine, and academia by maximizing their VRE benefits.

America wins when those who borne the battle are elevated into leadership roles in society.

There are a lot of resources to help with VRE issues. Your VRC may be able to provide answers or a VSO. You can also ask general questions here on the blog or elsewhere. Just be aware that information conveyed here is educational information and not legal advice.

If you are really in the weeds with a specific question on this complicated issue, feel free to send an email to my law practice at: [email protected]

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18 Comments

  1. I learned that sending them anything by certified mail/return receipt won’t prove that they got your letter. The post office cannot track it arriving to the final destination. They can only track its arrival at the post office, that’s all. The return receipt signature means nothing. They just shit can it along with your letter when they get it.

    1. Dennis you are absolutely correct. And some companies and government just let it sit there. Some claim they cannot find it particularly with all this remote working. Remote working just increases the opportunities for more negligence particularly when these specific tasks involve the consumers. Sometimes remote working can be considered in best interest of the company or the institution in relation to the employees. For the consumers, the remote working creates more disasters than it’s worth. The red tape is seriously problematic in every industry and in every institution. The lawmakers, the regulators, the politicians, the lobbyists, the companies, and others all have their hands in the process of the profit being the product. Here is the problem front and center in society. I can break it down piece by piece to illustrate why everything is crumbling. This is the reason, i.e. profiteerism.

      1. Things to do before Graduation? Graduating? Continued!!!!!!
        Maybe graduating from the school of hard Knox, i.e. the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      2. Yeah! Tell me more about that! But listen, isn’t there another way to mail and track a letter to its destination and not have to use the regular postal service?

    2. Benjamin
      the bureaucratic processing requirements are very burdensome even for the simple adjudications. I agree.

      You are so correct.

      Why has this been like this for years and years? What do they hope to accomplish from this? This did not used to be this extreme.

      Other than these people are just so disconnected from life itself.
      Real Lifers vs bureaucracy
      Doers vs management class
      Freedom vs tyranny

      Benjamin, graduated?
      I have not graduated from any new updated degree.

      My degree was earned before I entered the Navy.

      I was denied Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation Summer 2015. I have been denied Chapter 31 for years. I was denied transfer of VEAP benefits to the Montgomery GI Bill. Kicked down the road with care.

      From that point on, the shit coming at me arrived bursting at the seams.

      But it actually started when I arrived into VISN 8 year 2000 excluding the Lake City VA.

      And then in 2008 and in 2010 after the VA physician wrote positive letters for the Elly Lilly Scholarship, on my gosh the sky fell. I mean down from the leadership. This was shortly after Obama was elected. Veterans died, became homeless, committed suicide, over dosed. The VA tumbled into despair. Many VA employees retired or left. What a mess in my opinion.

      Although Benjamin thank you for the reminder of the strategies. Though nothing hardly can move through that system. Because they spin and spin.
      They never make a decision. Although never making a decision is a decision.

      I am unemployable on paper because they triumphed over me. I have spoken about it so much that I am a broken record.

      From 2015 on with the exception of a class in Spring 2019 and a Calculus Class online in summer of 2019 while a caregiver and care deliverer, nothing else is documented.

      Oh I did get hired helping a business stay open at the start of COVID March 2020.

      I have functioned as my own boss. My own boss has involved cleaning up all these situations. I can prove it all.

      The system is so lawless. I don’t know how even with the information you put out the process can move forward.

      Creating tangibility in this VA process is going to rise to level of abstraction that will surpass positive infinity. Should I reapply? They are not going to know what to do. Benjamin when I have been correcting behind them, there is no way they will be able to direct me.
      In my communication, I establish accountability and they don’t. Although they might.
      When I ran into the VA physician he did not know that I was a veteran until we were well into the conversation. I was speaking as an intellectual equal in the conversation. Direct communication. I believe he may have thought I was someone in the public and just being friendly. My point Benjamin in this situation he could not apply the tyrannical approach because I was on the outside and not under.
      This is going to be interesting should I reapply?
      I left the VA 2016. I have been gone for 6 years. If still there those who knew jaws will drop? Of course here will come the tyranny. Although I see right through it. Knowing is power in itself. Of course all your information helps too. Ducks in order really establishes the position to where the group think cannot survive.
      Individuality vs Group Think
      is what is going to show up.

      1. Besides using your information, due to this system being so over regulated and so compartmentalized it is going to require conceptualization to the max because of their spinning. In other words problem solving in the moment because they are so non transparent even with the statutes to go by. They find loopholes in those statutes or make up their own loopholes. This is too why I used the word conceptualization or really a Maze.
        Although their non transparency can be flipped out of them. Benjamin when you were writing about the attorney that is soon to represent President Biden, I am not sure if you noted this. This attorney uses the same skills. In other words when the VA employees claim to veterans or debunk veterans veterans can stand up to point out the obvious.
        In other words in some of those cases that this attorney represented he often took the position of no evidence or evidence of only this or that. Oh yes he is a defense attorney. I could automatically see that.

      2. When I say unemployable or could not work, that was my status years ago particularly when the Navy retired me and years forward. And when the VA VBA made the first decision. The VA denied unemployability and said I could work. However, the VA determines this after veterans have lost many jobs. Though what if the veteran cannot hold the job to lose the job Or even get hired or could not manage alone to do the job? Or even do basic Math or speak or write when I entered the military with a college degree. And I was in the National Beta Club, Honor Roll, and earned A grades in Physics while in High School. This is where the VBA was wrong years ago. Am I employable today? Yes but off paper.
        I wonder why that is Attorney Krause. Yes I will address your title.

  2. My name is Wesley Guthrie. I am currently a veteran in the VA’s Voc-Rehab program. Bought your book on the Voc Rehab program and it increased my confidence in applying for the program. I was approved 2 years ago and just wanted to get on here and say thank you!

    I am also on schedule to apply for a doctorate of physical therapy program next month. This is a hybrid program, where I learn online then drive to the school and have to stay in a hotel for maybe a week or two.

    How do I get the Voc-Rehab to reimburse for gas spent and the hotels stays? I suppose I just give my counselor the receipts. That’s my only question

    1. That’s great news Wesley. Glad it worked out. The first step with anything like this is usually to check with your VRC. If it is an approvable expense, the VRC should provide you with whatever form he or she wants the requested documented on. If the expense is denied, then you can obviously weigh your options on whether to contest the matter. It is possible for necessary expenses to be approved so long as the process is followed when making the request. Sometimes it is possible to get things reimbursed even if you did not ask for permission in advance, but I would not encourage that approach. Check back in to let me know how it goes. Hope that helps!

  3. I am a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who served 2 deployments in OEF during my enlistment years of 2008-2012. I finished my undergraduate degree in 2017 through the VR&E program and found myself in this EXACT situation that Ben speaks of. My counselor tried her hardest to prevent me from attending graduate training even though I had proven my capabilities through my undergraduate GPA. I was forced into the Job market and found myself in a pickle. Long story short, I hired Ben and although it was an uphill battle we won our case again this evil spawn of satan of a woman and obtained the benefits that I was rightfully eligible for. I am now attending a Doctorate level program for Physical Therapy at one of the top private schools in the Nation. Lastly, no this isn’t some fake advertisement. I am a real veteran who legitimately went through this experience. I found Ben through doing research online and was hesitant at first, but committed as the VA makes the paperwork and battle difficult for non law professionals to navigate. Anyway thanks again Ben. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  4. While I can relate to John B and his sentiments regarding Ben Krause, I cannot say Ben ever failed to respond. I will say I do feel Ben can be extremely dismissive, and he like any Attorney are selective in who they help. Not all veterans are the same, and the VA treats veterans just like Attorneys do, they are very selective.

    Ben Krause is a unique case in having Law School paid for, but his advice is not wrong, it can happen.

    Overall I wish there was more cohesion in the veteran community in that we all took the same oath. Hope springs eternal.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Armando G. Not sure what you mean by “extremely dismissive,” but I am extremely selective in the cases I accept, which is likely true for every attorney in private practice. I agree that more cohesion in the veteran community would be beneficial.

  5. Hi John B. I am not sure who you are. I spent a considerable amount of time searching for emails from you in my database but found none. Perhaps it was sent to the wrong person or entity.

    First, if you feel VA is providing inadequate or abusive health care services, it may be time to consider receiving health care from a different provider or to seek VA Community Care.

    Second, there are third parties who are paid to handle benefits problems like yours called VSOs. DAV has a huge budget and lots of help. I cannot speak to whether they will help you, but that is a free service.

    Third, there are attorneys who specialize in federal law health care related matters who may be able to provide you with legal advice or representation. Check their website to see if they have a relevant practice area for the thing you are trying to accomplish.

    I hope that helps, John B, whoever you are.
    ________________________

    For anyone else reading this, remember, this website is all about publishing news, opinion, and educational information about VA and its benefits systems. It is not a place to seek legal advice.

  6. Well the truth be said, YES the VA never wants to put anything down in writing, they want to talk to you over the telephone but when you write a letter or request the conversation to be in writing the person the department simply does not respond to your request or to the letter you send to them as certified mail or registered mail. I can personally attest to this with the Ft Harrison VA Director, Patient Advocate, the Secretary of the VA, the VA OIG, the offices of the House and senate elected representatives of my State. This has become the SOP for everyone, government, private entities, even households wives and husbands do this. They REFUSE to do their job, or to stand behind what they say mainly by not saying anything. Basically NON ACCOUNTABILITY for their actions, So what is a Veteran suppose to do, accept this or??????
    P.S. Ben Krause has even done this to me personally when I sent him several emails requesting help with my refusal or my medication, medical care as well as the Six violations of Federal law by VA Personnel and staff,
    He never answered my request for assistance by never responding, so why is he now writing all this information if he does not apply it to his own organization. Curious how this comment will be addressed? Or like Twitter and Facebook will I be removed from making comments in the future.

      1. Ben Krause, Thank you fort your information, If you were using the email address on my comment post only use that one public comments. I use a different email for when I contact people directly which what I did with your organization, The First emails were stating the issue, the last one came from you stating you would take a look but never heard back, this is not a pissing contest with you please do not take it that way. As for me I am a 100% Permanent and Totally Disabled Combat Veteran, served from 1966 to 2003, US Army, National Guard and Army Reserve and related theaters of operations for those dates. I also contact DAV, no response at all, Sec VA 57 letters, 65 comments with the Veterans helpline, Complaints files with the VA OIG, the State VSO, the VA Patient advocate over sixty written letters to the VA Patient advocate and the VA Director DR Hayman, the VA Ft Harrison Legal Counsel, which no longer exists, the Governors Office, enator John Tester, Senator Daines, Congressman Rosenburg, Your organization, the Nurses (2) of them at the Behavioral Health Group, the so called Team that I was assigned to but they no longer have any doctors to service veterans, Yes this all sounds weird and I will be the first to agree with that this should not be happening. I have been removed from the Secure Messaging system because I used the Phrase that the access to Ft Harrison is operated with Gestapo Tactics interrogating Veterans before the even enter the VA Grounds at the very gate entrance. Sorry allI have stated is FULLY documented, copies are on hand, all emails are copied back to my email address for proof of sending. I have always stated facts no theories, just express clearly how I feel and am treated at the VA. As for community service they would not give me a referral for a Primary Care doctor even though have not had one for almost three years because I quote I do not qualify, I have been able to get outside dental care. but not medical referrals. Once I spoke with the Regional Doctor in charge of the Western States that stated I was assigned to a doctor that was coming on board, two days after that doctor was to come “on board at the VA” that doc tor left back to square one. I also file a 60 page written VA complaint several times they do not address the complaint they just ignore it, they ignore the Federal Code Ethics and the US Constitution they ignore the published RIghts of a VA Patient as posted inside the VA facility, so I am stuck up the creek without a paddle, basically like our entire Country is with the Biden Administration. SO???????????????????????????????????

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