Rehabilitation Program Blocks Many Entrepreneurial Veterans

Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation is the best and most comprehensive benefits programs for disabled veterans from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Yet, Voc Rehab Counselors tend to be shorthanded in approving veterans for some of its most basic benefits – Self-Employment funding.

This summer, I met with VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich on the subject of Self Employment. Mr. Gingrich said the Department of Veterans Affairs is looking to help veterans through what he called the 3 E’s:

  1. Employment
  2. Education
  3. Entrepreneurship

At that same expo, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation, Ruth Fanning, stated self-employment and entrepreneurship are areas the program is considering for disabled veterans. She stated some veterans have been approved for up to $100,000 in supplies, equipment and training toward starting their respective businesses. Normally, veterans can be approved for up to $25,000 with little or no problems.

Still, disabled veterans are being blocked by the system from accessing this great benefit.

  • Gary Parks has been waiting 8 months for his supplies and equipment after being approved. His counselor will not return his calls.
  • Aaron Brase had a similar problem – no response from numerous counselors to get his business going. They later informed him that they dropped his claim without providing Due Process after an alleged “no-show” appointment Brase claims he was never informed of.
  • Another veteran was told he was not disabled enough and needed a 100 percent disability rating.

However, there is a sticky point in the law after a change two years ago to 38 CFR Part 21.157. Prior to that point, only the most severely disabled veterans were allowed to access that part of Voc Rehab. After the law, there were two tiers: One for disabled veterans and the other for the most severely disabled veterans. Unfortunately, many Voc Rehab Counselors still try to keep veterans out of the program or are reported to disallow approval because of the excessive documentation required.

Disabled veterans with problems accessing the Self-Employment benefit are encouraged to respond to this survey. The results will be forwarded to the Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress with the goal of “inspiring” action to increase access.

Our veterans deserve the benefits they have earned.

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  1. I enrolled in Voc Rehab in 2011. For several months my counselor tried continuously to push me towards a job in law enforcement. I was (still am for now) in law enforcement on the federal government. I was told by my civilian orthopedic that I needed to change careers because the equipment I had to carry on duty would continue to aggravate my knees and back (which are the main disabilities I have from the military). I went into the program knowing what type of training I wanted and that I wanted to start my own business. It took me several months to get him to approve me to do auto body, which I already had a background in but just needed some more training. I attended a school in 2012 but because of some things they were doing they lost their accreditation with VA and never got paid. Luckily I was not required to pay for the training. It was a 3 week course but it is difficult to grasp everything need to successfully run a business in that amount of time. Since that time I had tried getting my counselor to allow me to go to another school. A few times he would look for the information but because the new school was not in the Voc Rehab program he said that they could not pay for it. I had all intentions of running my business full time, but like I told him, I cannot quit my job without first getting clientele so that my business will survive. I have a wife and kids that count on my pay check to live on. Because I had not quit my full time job and my department was accommodating me for an injury I received while at work and because I was not working my business full time he closed my case about 2 months ago. He said that when I no longer have my full time job I can re-enroll in the program. 2 weeks ago I was pulled into my supervisor’s office and told that they had accommodated me as long as they could. I was told that they will look for another job for me to transfer to and if they cannot find anything I will be let go with disability retirement.

    Now because I was kicked the program I will have to start all over. And now I will have to go through the same BS of trying to get another counselor to let me do a trade that I am happy to do, not one they WANT me to…. When you do a job you enjoy it really does not seem like a job. And I am passionate about the trade I do but still need a little more training

  2. Same old song and dance from a VA program, I recently started my own business after being approved by Voc. Rehab. but when I received my plan to sign from my counselor it was only for one course and not for the two required for me to keep operating by law. The answer to why i was disapproved was that the second course I requested was not feasible with my injury. This is all too funny since VA has me rated at 10% for this injury, but yet I have a Army buddy that I am partnering up with that has been approved for the same course at a 100% rating. For those of us that want to stay in our Countries workforce, grin and bear the daily pain we have and not appeal or beg for a higher rating we get the door slammed in our face.

  3. What has become of our society that cannot come to help our veterans.
    My son, disabled Marine, cannot seem to get the doctors pay attention to his pain and depression. I was sitting along with him in doctors office in Omaha, Nebraska and him saying he demanded something for pain. Nothing more than these words said and the doctor called security on him. I was so upset with the system. I could see if he made threats for said any else, but this doctor needs help with better understanding of what our veterans are experienceing. I am keeping our military and veterans in prayer for support and help in every way they need. Thank you. Linda Runge

  4. It is another case of the people at Voc Rehab acting as a child given a bag of candy by their mother and told to go share with their siblings. “No! It’s mine! You can’t have any!” I read somewhere that a director in the Voc. Rehab program was asked “Why is it so difficult for disabled veterans to get thru the paperwork for the programs?” His response? “Well, if we made it easy, then everyone would be doing it!?” That kind of stingy mentality has got to stop. We, the people of the United States have a responsibility to care for the young women and men who heard the call of the our military and answered without question. If that means that they require resources to become viable as a private citizen in the US economy? Then that is what we have to do! The promises made to our military should not be dismissed as the ramblings of miscreants and troublemakers. The US has already learned that lesson after the great war, WW I. It must be taken to heart and realized as a problem by the powers that be.

  5. This article answers quite a few questions about my experiences with VR&E. I have been in the program since May of 2009. Still no results, but the overdue bills and utility cut off notices keep coming. My counselor is Regina Eagle at the Winston-Salem Regional Office. I have tried to contact her with multiple emails and phone calls , and even found her Facebook page, but she never responds. I was successful at getting one email response from her after using IRIS to find out about my status. This is unbelievable! We had to go and start the business without her so we could attempt to survive, but without the promised financial backing from VR&E, our business failed. Now I sit at the house still trying to make a living with what is left of the business. Needless to say, this has done wonders for my Major Depressive Disorder and my PTSD.

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