Mailroom: Veteran Shortchanged by Six Voc Rehab Counselors
There was once a man from Nantuket, whose Voc Rehab counselors were so dumb, he said… Well you know the rest.
Welcome to another weekly edition of Mailroom. This week’s Mailroom is about a veteran who was pressured into taking a job that was not a good fit. While the Voc Rehab counselors had no problem cashing their paychecks, this disabled veteran has struggled for many years.
Due to staffing problems, VA was unable or incapable of providing this veteran with the direction they are required to provide. Instead, he was threatened and pushed into taking a crappy job and was not rehabilitated.
I’ll get to his letter in a second.
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. Questions are usually about the GI Bill, VA Voc Rehab, or Disability Compensation.
I then analyze the veterans benefits issue for a bit and post my input here in our weekly segment: Mailroom.
Basically, I take out all of the veteran’s identifying information from the best email and post it 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 re-post 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 Disabled Veteran:
I first started Voc Rehab back in 2005 right about the time my child was born.
In the next 3 years I had 6 different case managers, many of whom the only way to get a hold of them was to show up at the office unannounced. While dealing with all the case manager changes, going through a divorce and the VA Mental Health misdiagnosing me and giving me the wrong medication my grades ended up slipping.
My last case manager (whom I never met) called up and told me he was dropping me because he thought I was scamming the system. I made the mistake of saying that I’d have to accept a job transporting patients (something that is counter to my disability). Low and behold he put me down as being rehabilitated.
I worked that job for a few years then moved to an office position. After being an office peon for 3 1/2 years and having HR tell me I could not move up because I didn’t have a degree a reapplied for VR&E. That’s when I found out that I had been put in rehabilitated status and was told that since I had a job I did not qualify.
I soon left my job and tried to go back to school on my own. This didn’t work out very well and after trying VRAP (which was useless), I am once again trying for VR&E. Once again I’m told that I had been rehabilitated and I have to prove that the job I had was making my disability worse. I personally don’t believe I ever should have been put down as rehabilitated but the case managers I keep talking to don’t seem to care.
How do I fight this, or can I?
Letter from Benjamin Krause:
First of all, on behalf of all Americans, let me apologize for the poor treatment you received from VA. VA is an extension of our will to help or harm our nations veterans as good Americans.
We have allowed VA to get out of control. I am sorry we have failed you. Now, let’s kick some VA butt.
Before I dive into it, let me say that I do cover most of what you need to do in my guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide if you want more details. However, what follows is generally what you and other veterans in this situation could do.
First, request a copy of your file. Your Voc Rehab file is different from your Comp & Pen file, so you will need to request this from the Voc Rehab office. Once you get it, you will help you understand how they justified you being rehabilitated. I will explain how to get it at the end of this post.
Second you will need to hone in on why you were deemed rehabilitated in your file. Generally, a veteran must have completed his/her training track and then gain substantive employment in a job that is in line with that training. Once that happens, the veteran will be deemed rehabilitated.
Veterans who are unable to gain employment within the field of their training can still be deemed rehabilitated. This can happen if the veteran responds affirmatively that they like the employment they have even though it is not in their field.
You will need to read through your file to see what VA actually claims happened in your file. Many times, this part of the file will contain errors. Mine did.
Third, odds are that you are not and never were employed in your field, judging from your email. The following is why this is important.
In order to get back into Vocational Rehabilitation, the veteran needs to show that their training is insufficient (ie changes in technology or employment requirements), or that their disability has gotten worse.
So, you may have two options to push back on the VR&E counselor. To my knowledge, these are the two only real ways a veteran can get back into the program.
Here’s where the rubber hits the road. You will need to look through your file to see what the justification is for keeping you out. You will need to read it carefully.
Sometimes, Vocational Rehabilitation counselors will bend the rules when a veteran persists. The double-edged sword of Voc Rehab is that the program is vague. This vagueness is supposed to be used to help the veteran. Sometimes it does not, as seems to be the case here.
In your situation, you will need to persist. Show them that you will not take no for an answer. You will also need to get a copy of your file, as mentioned before.
Here is a very helpful blog post on this site that helps veterans get a copy of their file. You can use the Freedom of Information Act to get the file in about a month. Follow that link.
Once you review your file, if you disagree with VA’s current decision, you can file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). The NOD will start the process of review for the denial. With any luck, your claim will not need to go any further than the counselor.
It should take 1-2 months to get a full copy of your file.
As far as I know, the only veteran organization with training in Vocational Rehab is DAV. So, you should also make a point to speak with them for any insight.
I am currently in a bind with my current Rehab Counselor also. I was already in School and am a senior. I have only been in the VR & E program for one semester. I have my heart set on going to Graduate School so that I can get a better job in a fast-paced field. Computer Science and Software Engineering. My Rehab Counselor refuses to hear me out, and even yells at me over the phone when I “check in”. I don’t know who to turn to or who to call to get things fixed, and now I worry that I will be dropped from my benefits after I graduate, an will have to take out expensive student loans to cover Grad School. I am a Dean’s list student with a good GPA, but am stuck with a bad counselor with a god complex. I will include my email, If there’s anyone who can help me, I’m open to any advice or help that can be offered.
Thank You in advance,
I’m a DVOP in PA. Are you presently in CH. 31 and using the VA Work Study program or did the VA do a VRA appointment to get you in a clerical position? If you are are CH. 31 on VA Work Study, you can go to your local employment One-Stop (State Career office) and request to be the VA Work Study for the Vet Reps. Depending on the Vet Rep, you may push papers… or they could be like me and take you on outreaches and meetings with employers in between working with the vets. It’s a great place to become a “professionally networked veteran”.
I have 13 years experience serving veterans who are homeless, addicted, dual diagnosed, and incarcerated. This work has been my passion. When I went into Voc Rehab as a Chapte 31 vet, they put me in the L.A. VARO pushing paper. And while I keep trying to return to my passion, my counselor is totally unresponsive. I’m still trying to figure out where to go from here. Respectfully, Matt Davison
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