Mailroom: Veteran Writes In About Using Voc Rehab To Be A Nurse Practitioner

Tuesday MailroomSummary: The veteran had a degree and was worried that he would not have an employment handicap. He wants to study to be a nurse practitioner, but has certain physical handicaps that might be a problem.



I have an appointment with a Voc Rehab counselor in a week for my initial interview. Your Voc Rehab Survival Guide was a big help, but I have a couple questions.

I’m concerned about the employment handicap when it comes to my Voc Rehab meeting. Can you explain it a little more for people like me?

I am 60% disabled for conditions to my knee, back and shoulder. I also get migraines.

Here’s my situation. When I got out of the military, I didn’t go to school. I got a good job and just kept doing it until I couldn’t work anymore. In the military, I worked on planes. After the military, I worked on power plants. After that, I worked in sales and hated it. Now I’m unemployed.

I’ve actually made up a 3 ring binder divided into sections with my letter, DD-214, transcripts from military classes, interest inventory results, occupation outlook, job postings for position and qualifications needed, prerequisites and class schedule for BSN and then MSN and the Obama Administration’s record on supporting the nursing workforce.

My 2nd play is going to be to go for just the BSN if they won’t approve the master’s. Any thoughts, suggestions or advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

I’m not a rocket scientist but I am intelligent and don’t feel like anything I’m tackling will be beyond my capabilities I’m just unfamiliar with the VA process, I’m a bit nervous, and don’t want to screw this opportunity up.


My Response:

Interesting situation.

While each veteran’s situation is different, I can tell you about some hurdles veterans have run into given a situation like yours. If you want to be a Nurse, they will look at your conditions to see if they might be a limitation. So, getting an immediate approval from the Voc Rehab counselor for that purpose might be tough.

On employment, if your disabilities in their current state are worse and prevent you from working on planes, then you might have an employment handicap. I suggest really focusing on how your disabilities keep you from getting a job that fits within your training.

One technique that works is to show how these other jobs do not fit with your current level of training. If nothing else, this helps you support a claim for some form of training. It would also help if you have any applications for work where you did not get a call back for an interview.

Here are my comments on your career choice. My concern would be that VA may give you a hard time because the disability you claim is preventing you from working in an aviation setting would also come into play as being a nurse practitioner. Though, perhaps being a nurse practitioner is as sedentary as a regular desk job? I’m not sure.

To become a nurse practitioner will require more than 48 months of schooling with no degree. To get a BSN with a regular degree already, I believe you only need 2 years of schooling. So, this would cut your training time to 48 months. To get any additional schooling, you may need for them to conclude that you have a Serious Employment Handicap.

Good luck!



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  1. The VA Vocational Rehab program covers 48 months total of schooling. That is typically equal to 5 years of school, not two as posted in this article. There are about 9 months in a school year (depending on the institution). BSN is most certainly possible, and for those who are dedicated, MSN can be as well.

  2. The nursing profession is very hard on our bodies, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is a wonderful career choice but I am not certain that it is the right choice for this veteran. Given this veteran’s physical limitations, I think a career in health care is possible but nursing would be very tough. I would recommend the veteran consider other career options, like mental health care. The demand is huge and if he wants to practice at an advanced level, he could earn a graduate degree and work as a licensed clinical social worker or a marriage and family therapist. He could consider neuropsychology or clinical psychology. If working with children is of interest, he could consider child or adolescent psychology. As a disabled veteran and a RN, it is very tough, even with the experience I have, to get employers to look beyond your disabilities and that even includes the federal government, ie VA and DOD. I interview well, I have outstanding references, I’ve published extensively and I have a great resume but my disability is obvious. When I go in for a second or third interview for a job in person, I do not get called back for a third interview. That is my reality as a former Army Nurse Corps officer with a service connected disability. Other disabled veterans have experienced similar issues to mine and I can provide specifics if you wish. Take my advice for what it is worth. I am only one veteran’s voice. I wish this veteran well.

  3. I have to agree with Ben on the physical demands of being a nurse or nurse practitioner. I was a Chief Hospital Corpsman and worked 30 years as medical technologist. Nurses are constantly on their feet. Even in pursuing a BSN when you do your student nurse practical internships you will find your back will give you problems. Most entry level jobs for an RN are as a floor nurse in a hospital. There a few RN positions at insurance companies and help lines. However the medical field occupations will always be in high demand and usually pay well.
    You might want to expand your research into other medical areas: social worker, hospital administration, environmental health, medical information systems or psychologist. One area that might be a good fit is medical repair as these people not only design X-ray, Lab and other medical instruments and analyzers but also do on site visits for repair. Hospitals also employ medical repair techs. I would suggest pharmacist but they also spend many hours on their feet depending on where they are employed but earn starting salaries of $60k+. Some are employed by drug companies doing research which would be more of a sit down job vs working at a retail pharmacy.
    Good luck!

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