Voc Rehab GI Bill

My First Voc Rehab Appointment

Voc Rehab

Benjamin KrauseI decided to write a chronological summary of my time with “Voc Rehab.”

Summary of Day 1: When meeting with the Chapter 31 Voc Rehab Counselor, be sure you know what you’re talking about.

Do not accept simple “we don’t do that” explanations at face value. Regulations govern the decisions of Voc Rehab. Know what they are before meeting with the counselor.

I drove down to Eau Claire, WI to meet with a Counseling Psychologist from Chapter 31 Voc Rehab after applying for the benefit a month ago.

My disability rating at the time was 20% combined for TMJ of the Jaw and Limited Range of Motion for back (lowball rating for sciatica).

The Voc Rehab Counselor sat me down and said, “What would you like to do?”

I responded, “I want to become a lawyer.”

He shifted in his chair and flat out told me “Voc Rehab will not pay for law school.”

“I’d like to attend a four-year college at The College of St. Scholastica. I’ve been taking classes at LCO Community College, held a 4.0 and am ready for the next step. If I do well, I’d still like to look into law school after college.”

“Well, Voc Rehab will not approve private colleges when the same program exists at a public school.”

I paused for a moment and realized he did not ask me what I’d like to study.

After remembering that St. Scholastica has a hybrid Business Communications major, I told him I’d like to study that versus just Business, which they have at both schools.

To this, he shifted in his chair a bit. Notice, rather than telling me what is possible, the counselor started off by telling me what I could not do.

“Well, private schools are hard to get in to.”

“It so happens I just received my acceptance letter last week with a scholarship attached.”

After conceding, he had me take a quick aptitude test. Since I already had a 4.0 GPA and was accepted at St. Scholastica, the need for further testing wasn’t warranted at the time. With little difficulty, I was approved and my case was transfered up to Duluth, MN.

Note: Five years later, in 2008, I requested a copy of my file from Voc Rehab under the Freedom of Information Act, on a whim.

Within the file, I found an email chain between 3 Voc Rehab Counselors talking about whether or not they would approve me with a goal of Lawyer. I learned they could have worked it out, despite me only have 48 months of entitlement.

The Trick: Voc Rehab would follow my progress for two years while I did not use the benefit. If I did well, they would pick up my claim midway. Then, approve me for law school and get the extra 12 months needed for the law degree via the “Additional Schooling Clause.”

Unfortunately, I did not know this was an option and missed three years between 2007-2010 while I fought for the benefit after the fact. Regardless, I won in the end and even received funding support for my law firm after law school.

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  1. I am trying now and they denied my application… i am currently inschool for esthetics and it directly is in line with me not standing all day because of ankle deformity disability. I choose this career to have a skill and be self employed become a business owner so i don’t have to keep relying on federal govt furloughs, hiring freezes or loss of work in temporary positions which i have experienced all 3. Thank for the article… i will try again.

  2. I’m on 70% for PTSD and 10% for a messed up back. I haven’t been able to keep a job for longer than 2 years. I have used my GI Bill at several different colleges but never could stay at a college due to my PTSD stuff. I have a VOC Rehab appointment coming up in September. I’m nervous but I think I need this program to get stabilized in a career or good job. What should I do to make sure I don’t get denied? Thanks!

  3. I recently was found entitled to VocRehab in May, however I haven’t signed my plan yet and my counselor’s communication is almost non-existent. What should I do? How long before you get the verbal approval should you start getting benefits? Is my effective date when I got the verbal approval during the 1 day on-site at the VA?

  4. Great article and thank you for the insight. Question for you…I’m currently using Ch.33 and have one semester (4 months) until I finish my bachelors degree with only 2 months left of benefits, will Ch. 31 cover the rest of my tuition? WIll it give me a living stipend and how much? I’m 30% service-connected.

    Semper Fi

  5. I have spent a lot of time reading the article and the replies. I support every last one of the “reply” authors and praying that the issues they are challenged by get resolved ASAP. Our government can most certainly do a better job helping the process run smoothly. The reason I am writing is to pay homage to a young man — Staff Sgt Gene Smith — whom I met yesterday, Saturday, July 27. 2913. I asked questions and was so touched and informed by what he told me about himself. He has been through so much and without knowing it, he inspired me. I told him my brother was a disabled veteran and he spoke right up and said, “Tell him ‘thank you’ for serving.” It took my breath away. I don’t know that Staff Sgt Smith realized the impact he was having on me, but I just want to acknowledge him, his service to our country, his courage, bravery, and dedication; I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that after our meeting I walked away feeling that I had been blessed. I was in the company of a man with grace. Thank you, Staff Sgt Smith, for that divine meeting. I will always remember you and pray for you. Thank you for your time. Because of Staff Sgt Smith, I went to this website for disabled veterans and entered a whole new world. I hope this message gets to him but, if not, it’s okay because of all that I learned. Mrs. Tommye Anne Hawkins

  6. I’m seeing my voc rehab counselor tomorrow, has anyone filled out the SERIOUS EMPLOYMENT HANDICAP (38 CFR 21.52, M28.IV.2.2) form before? Is there anything I should know before filling it out!

  7. On my way to Law School or so I thought. I had my first meeting with my voc rehab counselor today and followed the survival guide to a “T” and got shot down. What happened I don’t know but hopefully I can get some feedback here on what my next step should be?
    Here is my story; I am graduating this June (2012) with my undergraduate degree using my GI Bill benefits which I have 16 months left. Anyway, I wanted to go to law school using Ch. 31 (voc rehab) and have heard of all the horror stories so I thought that I better be prepared going in. I studied and took the LSAT’s and have put in numerous applications into different law schools (no news yet). Next step was to get the voc rehab ball rolling. I went into my first meeting today with law school in my sights plus two additional options; social worker (MSW) and masters in management (MBA) and much to my chagrin I was told that I couldn’t do any of these. I lobbied hard for my case but my counselor just keep telling me that I only had 16 months left and if I wanted to do any advanced schooling that it had to fit within that time period. I asked them if they were referring to my GI Bill benefits because I thought that was separate from voc rehab. I was not able to ascertain a straight answer and asked repeatedly where it was that they were getting this information. Still no luck, talk about ridged and robotic, I could tell they were B.S’ing me just by the look on their face, worse yet they knew that I knew. Ultimately they referred me to some fly by night one year school’s that I have never even heard of and to research what master’s program there that I might be interested in.
    What a crock, I didn’t want to slam the VA voc rehab door closed so I acted like I was interested and scheduled another appointment with the counselor to report back with what I had found. I still haven’t given up on my goal of law school, heck I was even interested in the social work (MSW) degree. So, maybe I need a new approach or some other information that I am not privy to yet.
    Any feedback would greatly be appreciated!
    Have a good day and good luck in all your endeavors.
    Dan Smee
    By the way I am 70% service connected if that matters.

      1. Dan how did you get your MSW at USC approved? My counselor here in Oregon is saying its too expensive and not approved. I asked what the next step was since she denied. She then said it wasn’t denied just not approved. Still waiting. For 18 months I have told her my intentions and provided financial comparisons to a state school. Thanks

  8. Are there any exception for applying for Voc Rehab outiside of the 12 year period. I have PT which they did not even recogize at that time, due to an injury while serving in Honduras. I apply in 2005, but was swept outside because I was working a min. wage job by a counselor who was busy trying to make his lunch appointment or leave the office early. He did not even listen to my circumstances.

  9. Hi. My name is Kim and I was a corpsman in the navy for five years. Honorably d/c in 01. Dx with depression and asthma and got 40% from the VA. applied for voc rehab in June and was quickly denied by a guy who said that because I was too stable. Denied me even after I explained that I couldn’t take psych meds while breast feeding. He suggested that I go back to school during our 5 min interview. I complained to the nonexistent supervisor and the same jerk counselor called me back to ask me if I understood why I was denied. He said that if anything changes within 6 months call him to see what could be done. I was disgusted and unemployed after all that I have done for this country. I called him back in december and told him that I was still unemployed but now back on meds. He said that now I was too stable. I should go back to school and maybe reapply later. I got the denial letter in the mail two weeks ago and then last week I got an appt letter for voc rehab. I don’t know why but I went. Met a great counselor and got approved. Now is the part that I need help with. I want to be a nurse and am currently in school for my associates inrn, which I did not tell her. She states that I shouldn’t have patient contact. I agreed and stated that I have job offers for quality improvement RN and hospice administrator if I get a MSN. she told me to develop a plan and we’d talk about it on march 8. I need to be approved for this career track so any insight that you can give me would be helpful. Also I would like to go to Kaplan or chamberlain for my msn so that I won’t have to be on the endless waiting list for nursing programs after I finish my associates in nov.

  10. Hey, I’m a 30 % disabled army vet. I was medically retired in 2010. As soon as I could, I returned to college at a small Penn State campus. My ultimate goal was to be a CPA. I used the 9/11 GI bill to pay for the schooling. I graduated in December 2011. I am lucky to have been hired to a financial advising firm in the DC metro area. However, The campus I attended did not offer an accounting major. In order to be affective at this job I am going to need more accounting courses. It’s my first week and I am definitely over my head. I know that the GI bill will not pay for them since I have already completed a BS degree.. I do qualify for vocational rehab if I can come up with some reason why my current job is inappropriate for me. I really want to further my career and make something of myself. I have perminent neuropithy in my neck and left arm. I also underwent two surgeries to replace discs in my neck (to make my arms work again) I am not allowed to lift over 25 pounds. Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

  11. You don’t need to be unemployed in order to use Ch 31 you just need to show that due to your service connected disability that your current job is not right for you somehow

  12. My friend, who used chapter 31 said:” you need to be unemployed to apply”.
    Do I need to be unemployed to apply? My goal is to become a high school math teacher and soccer coach. It will take a second B.S. in math education, which would take at least three years to complete. Working at post office as a temp. thanks, b

  13. Ben I requested my FOIA over two months ago. I haven’t heard anything thus far. Is there a time limit?

  14. when i served in the army in 1968 i had a medical profile which restricted my duty
    ‘no running jumping no bending stooping prolong standing marching or heavy lifting. i had this profile since than. i never finish boot camp in fort Dix. i spent months in as clerk in the orderly room and than they decide to make me a clerk and sent me to a i t . after i finished ait i was sent to Germany
    spent the rest of my time. about a month or two before rotate from Germany . than they provoked my profile. i still suffer from that injury with a comperes vertebra in my lower back. the v.a. about six years ago gave a disable pension. not for my back but my arthritic knees. do have a claim as service related injury. thanks for reading this

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