How Employed Veterans Win VR&E Benefits (Even If VRC says ‘No’)

Employed veterans with disabilities are often wrongly denied benefits by Veterans Readiness & Employment (VR&E). But, with a few tips and a healthy mindset, veterans can approach the program on the right footing.

When it comes to VR&E, also called Voc Rehab or Chapter 31, there is a constant tension between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veteran Readiness Counselors (VRC), and the latter’s ethical obligations to the veteran clients they serve. Frequently, VRCs are overworked and improperly incentivized by VA resulting in wrongful denials of otherwise qualified veterans. VA meanwhile does a poor job of educating veterans despite vast resources earmarked for that purpose.

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One group of applicants that most often gets shorted are employed veterans with disabilities. Due to the agency’s failure to adequately educate veterans about the program, many veterans apply for benefits who would not if they understood the entitlement criteria, first. Some other veterans run into challenges where the VRC wrongly denies their claim due to a perceived lack of qualifications without conducting a proper evaluation.

RELATED: Chapter 31 Definitions You Need To Know

For these veterans, it is vital to consider the evidence supporting your claim and to understand what information is relevant for VR&E purposes. This office hours talks about what employed disabled veterans need to know when considering whether to apply for VR&E benefits.

RELATED: Quick Facts On Applying For Veteran Readiness And Employment

[As an aside, if you are seeing the terms but confused about what the program is, that could have a lot to do with VA changing its name from Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment to Veteran Readiness & Employment. The new name tells you even less about what the program does.]

Today, I held an office hours addressing the program of employment when disabled veterans request VR&E benefits. What follows is a transcript of the talk with light editing. For you grammar snobs out there, no judging.

VR&E Office Hours + Transcript

Hey there. Today we’re gonna do office hours and we are gonna be talking about the Fantastic VA program called Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E), Chapter 31 Voc Rehab, whatever it’s called. It’s got a bunch of different names. Anyway, we’re gonna be talking about these programs and I’m using a little bit of a new system please bear with me while I figure out how it works.

Anyway, today’s topic is going to be about. Not only VR&E, but it’s gonna be addressing whether a veteran in certain circumstances may qualify for veteran readiness and employment benefits even. If they’re currently employed now, it’s been a, long known issue. I’ve represented a bunch of veterans when it comes to fighting against wrongful denials against the Department of Veterans Affairs as a VA accredited attorney.

And I can tell you not only do a lot of veterans wrongly get denied when they are employed seeking benefits from VR&E, but it, isn’t sometimes that hard to get their cases turned around. So I wanted to talk a lot about that. In our office hours here, I’m using new software. Please bear with me while I figure out how it works.

If you happen to want to ask a question or do a chat. Hey Alex, good to see you buddy. If we gotta catch up, man, it has been far too long. Anyway gonna be talking a bit about this particular benefit, talking about how it can really change your life. How it’s changed the life of many of my clients myself included.

I’m not just an attorney, I am also a member of that same club. I myself, My name is Benjamin Krause. I am a veteran’s rights attorney and investigative reporter. I’ve been reporting on Department of Veterans Affairs issues and working as an advocate. For a very, long time since I wanna say around 2009 is when I got my start.

And things have, gone to the moon from there. I haven’t always been an attorney. I am a disabled veteran. I. Do journalism work and I represent veterans against the agency. The agency paid for my undergrad at Northwestern University and Law School and University of Minnesota and even help fund part of my law practice to then help veterans sue the agency to get their own benefits.

So anyway, that’s a little bit about me. Today we’re gonna be talking about VR&E applications. So this is a program predominantly. Disabled veterans and so disabled veterans at a certain rating. Generally, 10% is understood to be the, low bar. For those of you that are not familiar with it, 20% will get you in whether you have what’s called an employment handicap or serious employment handicap.

Now, today we’re gonna be talking about those veterans that are amongst you that may have a job, right?

Within this nuance of being employed, but having the misfortune of having your disabilities affect you in a way that prevents you from thriving in that particular job. Primarily the language that we wanna look for is whether your service connected disabilities are aggravated by your type of job.

That’s what we’re gonna be talking about. Having said that, When veterans apply, the most important thing to do is to think about how your service connected disabilities, as well as your non-service connected disabilities may impact your ability to. Maintain employment. Again, the criteria here that VR and D is looking for is whether the veteran is qualified for or able to gain and maintain suitable employment.

Suitable employment is employment that’s consistent with your aptitude’s abilities and interests. The component of abilities. Being of course not inconsistent or contraindicated by your disabilities. That basically means in a nutshell, if you have PTSD as an example, and you are being pushed in the direction of, or working in a management type of role.

This is just a generalization, but I’ve seen this enough times to bring it up that anyway, if you’re working in that type of field or you’re being pushed in that direction, where. Management or something that’s high stress with quotas, things like of that nature. It, is high odds that if your PTSD is being aggravated, that you really should consider a change.

That’s something that VR&E can help with so long as, of course, the PTSD is service connected. Other examples would be types of jobs that aggravate your musculoskeletal disabilities. And related issues that come up from both physical as well as mental handicaps. So what veterans, If you’re watching this and you’re in a job and the job aggravates your service connected disabilities, which can be a variety of different things, it’s important to consider your options.

In my opinion, Veteran Readiness and Employment’s one of the best programs that’s out there that can help you not only get into a great school or into a good training or into a certificate program or some other kind of thing, but it’s also a means by which you can have a total change to your life situation, especially if you’re in a dead end job that is driving you bananas or causing your disabilities to flare up on a regular basis.

So in this context, the takeaway is if you’re a disabled veteran with a service connected disability, Even if you’re employed, but if your employment aggravates those disabilities, you should consider applying for veteran readiness and employment. It’s not the most exciting topic, but it could be for some of you that really need a boost and type of training that, especially if you’ve been out of the military for quite some time, your disability’s got worse, significantly worse over say the past 20 years, and now you’re.

Position where your, job performance is, affected because of your disabilities. So anyway, that’s what I wanted to talk about today. This is what. Starting up again, office hours. I’m trying to use a, software called Restream, so I’m still learning it. My presentation may be a little bit off, but hey what do you do?

You gotta start somewhere. So anyway, if you have any questions while I’m talking about this, you can definitely jump into your respective chat spot. Put in your request for information, whatever. I’m happy to provide that feedback in real time, if possible, while we’re doing office hours. The let’s see here.

So the the whole point here is to talk about give information to those veterans that are employed. Currently, but their service connected disabilities are aggravated by the type of employment. Very frequently these veterans don’t believe that they are able to seek help from the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially if they’ve been out of VA for a very long time.

And by very long, 12 years, 20 years, 30 years for quite a long time out of the military. And. Really need a boost and need help. That’s exactly what VR&E is supposed to do and what it’s there for. You may run into some snags where a, counselor may see that you have employment and they frequently are known to tell veterans that because you have a job, you don’t qualify and you’ll get a denial in that instance.

It’s important to definitely read the denial, make sure you understand the, basis for it, and if you happen to disagree. Take that denial to your, VSO or someone else that you trust who can provide you with feedback about the best next step for you.

That’s something that I do on a regular basis through my law practice, Krause Law, PLLC.

But it’s just something that a lot of veterans really should be doing more of, especially as we are moving into a direction of with. Potential economic downturn and employers drawing back on their, workers things like that. I think that we’re gonna see a tremendous need for this program and for veterans to be more aware.

I ran a poll in my group.

So we have a group on Facebook about Voc Rehab, which is also known as Veteran Readiness and Employment, and I wanna say 53% of the veterans poll at the time said that they’re still confused about what. VR&E actually does. So if you can imagine this, they’re in our group.

The VA has tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at topics where people lack understanding and try to bring greater awareness. And yet these veterans are still in our group and, elsewhere, despite all these resources and still don’t fully understand what VR&E does, which is, not a surprise.

It’s unfortunate. But again we, pulled people in our group, the, that Facebook group has over 37,000 veterans who are members and, relatively active there. We. Asked the question, it wasn’t the turnout that I thought most veterans responding to the poll would’ve had some other feedback related to difficulties such as job placement or how to do job searches or things of that type, how to qualify for the program, but, The re the vast majority 53% of those that responded felt that the program was just confusing and they didn’t even understand what it does.

So if you’re watching this and you’re like, Krause, you’ve been talking about veteran readiness and employment over and over again. I don’t know what it does. Okay, Here’s what it does. So the program for veterans that have disabilities, where they are confirmed to have an employment handicap potentially serious employment handicap, and I can explain what that means in a bit if somebody has a question about that in the chat.

Basically, what it will do for these qualified veterans is that it’ll either, there’s five tracks. Two of them basically deal with re-employment, so basically helping the veteran get job services and then get into an appropriate job. They call it suitable employment. The, That’s two of the, fields.

The third is getting services through long term training. And so what that means is they’ll pay for you to get if it’s necessary, they’ll pay for you to get, Let’s see here. There’s some kind of issue with the connection. They will. Pay for you to get long term training, which means usually academic training associates, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate.

So I received a doctorate doctorate in just doctor. Other people that I’ve helped as an attorney have been able to achieve medical doctor. Psychologists, a lot of different fantastic goals. The other parts of the program are helping somebody set up a business, so small business set up assistance.

And then the last is independent living program. And so independent living program is for veterans that wanna be active, but our significantly disabled to the extent that they. Obtain or gain suitable employment, but they wanna be active. And so VA luckily has resources for them too. So that’s the general gist of what the program can do.

So to break it down again, for those watching this, you don’t know what VR and e is. It is a program within the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. It has a budget of about 1.8. Or a billion rather with a B. With a B, Okay. It’s a, it’s got a lot of funding, but there’s not a lot known about the program. And so veterans go into the program, they tend to be very confused.

53% of our members are confused about what the program does. The The program will help you with retraining certificates whatever you might need to get you to the point where you’re qualified for suitable employment and then assist you in finding work. For those that don’t need training, you get at least get some kind of help with job readiness.

But the program itself will fund all of your tuition if you have GI Bill entitlement remaining. You should consider using VR&E first, because that’ll preserve your GI bill later. But they will, the VR&E program will pay for your tuition. You’ll get a subsistence payment if, that makes sense for you.

And again there’s the sky’s the limit on the program. I’m living proof. I’ve helped a lot of veterans get approved after they’ve been denied through my law practice. And we have a huge Facebook group. That addresses this. I, on my blog disabled veterans.org. We have a lot of information free and low cost information for veterans who get more educated about what the program can and can’t do.

And then we have a bunch of videos. These videos are available for those that join the Facebook group that I’m referring to. You can go check out disabled veterans.org to learn more about the Facebook group. Or in the alternative just go on to Facebook and type in disabled veteran dash VO Rehab, something like that, and that should get the group to pop up.

It’s the largest group, an oldest group of its kind on Facebook, and I believe on social media that I had started back in 2009. To educate veterans about what the program can do. So there’s, a lot that can do the veterans can get accomplished with the program. So anyway this, is an example of office hours.

I used to do this within that group and using restream, I’m gonna try to test this out on different social media platform so I don’t have to replicate the office hours endeavors. But anyway, having said all. That’s what this was all about. Talking about how some veterans who are employed could apply for.

VR&E benefits, and even when, even if the VRC says no it’s very important that if you’re a veteran that’s employed and you’re trying to go back to VR&E for assistance, that you focus on explaining to the VRC exactly how your disabilities are aggravated by your current occupation. That’s key.

And that’s where a lot of veterans make a mistake and they don’t know. How to explain their situation. And oftentimes the VRC won’t follow through with their duty to assist either. So it’s really important that you understand your disabilities, how they’re affected by the job. A couple things to note though is that the program isn’t there to.

Just provide you with an additional degree. It has to be connected with your service, connected disabilities, and getting you qualified for an appropriate job. So that’s what I have for you today and thank you for those that tuned in. And otherwise if you want to come. Have questions or whatever else you can reach me at DisabledVeterans.org.

There is a contact form there. Just make sure that if, you have a question that’s more legal in nature that’s not the right platform for that. Check out my law practice and reach out there. That’s more appropriate if you have actual, specific legal questions. But for general educational information about benefits and everything else, or just news about va.

That’s where you go DisabledVeterans.org and you can hit me up with a contact. Otherwise have a blessed day, a great weekend, and we will be in touch. Take care.

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One Comment

  1. I find myself slipping between the crack: I am too old to employ at 62 and am 90% disabled by the VA that refuses to give me 100% due to my combat related injuries. I applied for various programs after being laid off, but at 62, no one will hire you for physically demanding work. I decided to get training for another occupation that I could perform, but have been rejected by every VA program. I retired from the army and none of these programs will invest in older veterans. It is a shock going from $125K to living off of disability and losing everything I worked for. I am willing to do anything, even physically demanding work that will injure me further as I must provide for myself, wife and retirement.

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