Mailroom: How To Get Around The Voc Rehab Time Limit

130430 Mailroom

Veterans write in all the time about the 12-year time limit for VA Voc Rehab. In many situations, the 12-year limit can be a tricky roadblock.

For this post, I’ll answer the below question on the 12-year time limit and ways to work around the blocks and tackles of a Voc Rehab counselor.

I will also include an explanation of when a veteran could be entitled to more than 48 months of educational benefits.

Veterans wanting additional information to check out my guide, The Voc Rehab Survival Guide.

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. They are usually about the GI Bill, VA Voc Rehab, or Disability Compensation.

I then analyze the benefits issue for a bit and post my input here in our weekly segment: Mailroom. Basically, I take out all the identifying information from the best emails and post them 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 repost 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 Veteran:

I had one follow up question. Does the 12-year Voc Rehab time limit start when you leave active duty or reserve (I.e. Individual ready reserve)? I did, however, receive my 60% disability immediately after active duty.

Please let me know. I believe my 12-year mark for Voc Rehab ends on July 31, 2014.

Thank you for your time and your help.


Letter from Benjamin Krause (me):

Great question. This is an oldie but a goodie that Voc Rehab counselors trip up veterans all the time.

There are two answers that veterans can rely on. Generally, the 12-year clock starts ticking from the later of two points:

  1. The veteran’s separation from the military, or
  2. Whenever the veteran would have first qualified for Vocational Rehab benefits from VA.

For the veteran above, he would need to enter the Voc Rehab program within 12 years of his disability award.

This would normally be the answer – you must use it within 12 years of the disability award. However, let’s remember the adage, “Ask and you shall receive.”

Many times, veterans have higher disability ratings that allow the counselor to have a lot of leeway. When the rating is higher, the veteran could have a Serious Employment Handicap (SEH). If the veteran has an SEH, the rules no longer apply an immediate bar.

Here is what I mean. The veteran who wrote in above would likely have an SEH because of his 60% disability rating. This waives two things.

First, it likely waives the 12-year time limit. Many Vietnam era veterans are entitled to VA Vocational Rehabilitation for that reason. Beyond this, a veteran could be entitled to benefits a second time, if a veteran’s disability rating increases.

Second, it also allows the veteran to receive more than 48 months of educational benefits if the counselor decides it is necessary.

The moral to this letter is that Voc Rehab counselors are able to do a lot of things with the program. The reason for this is because the regulations are extremely vague.

Unfortunately, this knife cuts both ways. Because the regulations are vague, veterans have a tough time knowing what the rules actually are. Sometimes, anti-veteran counselors will use the rules to withhold benefits.

For that reason, all veterans must be educated about the process and the rules.

Your first stop should be 38 CFR Part 21, Subpart A. There are numerous other posts on this website on the subject.

If you want my take on the process, soup to nuts, you can always check out my Voc Rehab guide, too.

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  1. Hello Ben,
    I exited the service Mar 2001. Was approved 30% disabled May 2001. Approved for Voc Rehab May 2004 and used it through Dec 2005. I jumped out of school and headed overseas as a contractor for 3 years in Afghan and Iraq. I came back and went through 2 periods of unemployment lasting over 2 years combined. I am currently employed but my job is aggravating my knee conditions and I am trying to get back in school since I can’t promote to a more suitable position without the degree. I am looking at going into the medical field as a nurse and then ultimately a nurse practitioner. I have reapplied to the VA for Voc Rehab but am sure I am going to get the 12 year answer since I just hit that a few months ago. Is there anything I can do to help my situation since I pretty much have to go back to school, it will just be 100X harder without the help from Voc Rehab. Thanks for any advice in advance! And thank you for operating this blog and helping knuckleheads like me! Dan

  2. Tanya and Cheryl,

    Which is true? The twelve years starts over or not? This is of particular interest to me because I recently had my rating raised from ten to thirty (pending higher) and my husband (also on Voc Rehab) is extremely sick and will likely go from ten to seventy or higher. I would like to know what type of longevity we can expect out of our Voc Rehab program. We got out of the service in 2001 and started Voc Rehab in 2010

    1. Hi Jen, sorry I just saw this. I personally had my 12 years start over when I was upgraded from 10-30% several years ago and then again when I went up to 100%. I have heard from many other vets the same thing.
      I cannot find the actual law on that however.

      Sounds like you both still have 9 years left on your initial 12 years so you may not need it to start over?

  3. I haven’t been in school sencn 1979 and I’m not doing good in my first classes because I don’t know how to use a computer very well. Will they drop me if I don’t do well? Will they give me another chance.

    1. Don’t give up. I have major depression and was able to complete my education. I do not know what your disability is, but I will tell you as a Veteran do not give up find someone to tutor you or some kind college assistant program

    2. William, Vocrehab will pay for a tutor or whatever you need to succeed. Talk to your counselor about it. You can also find help in the computer lab usually. Plenty of computer geeks who will be glad to help you with that esp if tell them you are a vet.

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