Self-Employment Approval Easier

Until recently, the Chapter 31 guidelines for Self-Employment were all but impossible to qualify for. If a disabled veteran was so disabled that regular employment was not an option, then Vocational Rehabilitation would consider setting up a veteran to run his or her own business.

Last January, this all changed with the stroke of a pen. According to the Federal Register, new language adopted by the CFR will open the opportunity to more disabled veterans, perhaps to help reach the disabled veteran contractor requirement that the VA has failed to meet over the past years. The summary reads:

[W]e are amending our regulations regarding the approval authority for self-employment plans to make certain requirements less restrictive and less burdensome, to remove a vague and overly broad requirement, to make changes to reflect longstanding VA policy, and to make nonsubstantive clarifying changes.

While this may appear to be a slam dunk for some of you looking at this option, do not believe the hype. Many Regional Offices will not be proactive in implementing this change or even be privy to it. Prior experiences with failure have caused Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and Counseling Psychologists to automatically disallow veterans from proceeding in this direction. Without such approval, your plan will be dead in the dirt.

To avoid this, be sure to have a clear presentation developed prior to your first meeting. This is key. Most disabled veterans are totally clueless during their first meeting. Having your ducks in a row will differentiate you from your peers and perhaps give you the edge necessary to turn a “no” into a “yes.”

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  1. I found out I qualify for vocational rehab about a year ago. I have been racking my brain about what I could do. I have come to the conclusion of doing something I always loved. Knifemaking. But being realistic the cost is about 57k for the basic tools, stock. That does not even include the cost of more advanced classes any advice

  2. You may be eligible for entrepreneurial training under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) through your Workforce Centers and as for financing, look into the Patriot Express SBA program for veterans.

    As an agency that contracts with the state VR agency, we have been successful in getting RS Counselors to refer and pay for self-employment as part of an ‘action plan’. Funding assistance for our clientele include purchasing a vehicle, tags/insurance/registration, tools & equipment, marketing/legal/accounting setup, uniforms,,,,

    The US Dept. of Labor has issued many Training and Employment Guidance Letters regarding the support of entrepreneurial training/self-employment and its funding under WIA for the low-income with barriers to employment such as disabilities, and ex-felons.

    I will even be willing to help anyone interested in establishing self-employment programs and contracts with their local or state agency.

    “Be the change you want to see”

  3. I am rated at 100% Service Connected, Permanent and Total. I was told by the Regional Counselor that I qualify for Voc Rehab, but at 100% I don’t “need” to work. I want to pursue self employment and just used the last of my savings to send myself back to school. What I’m doing is also part of my Recreational Therapy (Applied Art in leatherwork). I can’t risk losing my 100% Disability Compensation – especially since I have an Autistic son who won’t be able to live unassisted (he is 18 and I have legal guardianship), and I can’t afford the start up costs for my “business”. Part of what I want to do includes helping with the “Horses for Heroes” program by doing tack repair and even designing and making tack for a Vets’ specific disability to help them enjoy riding or driving horses. I have a good plan and the skills but MUST be able to work in my own space at my own pace. I don’t know what my options are. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  4. Ben,
    I just met with my newly appointed VA Voc-Rehab counselor regarding self employment and he shot me down. When I sited the changes, he told me not to question him. When I persisted, he said that was for the “severly disabled” and that I was only 20%. He insists I get a college degree audit and finish college. I recently acquired some money ($38,ooo) I would like to open an Area Fitness center to support the community and especially Vets. My business plan supports the idea. In fact the YMCA has wanted to raise money for over ten years for such a project, so the need is there. The Y wants $7 million to open. I’m prepared to do it for less than 1% of that (minus the pool). I have worked in the fitness industry in the past. My concern is; now that I have the building site approved, the equipment (over $100,000 value) purchased used, marketing planned… that I will not be able to go forward with this without some help . I’m looking to get some operating capitol to enable me to get off the ground and stay afloat until membership supports itself. The amount needed would be far less than that of going to college. I’m intending to contact his superior as far up as the director of VR&E if needed. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. PS. I will be searching for additional money sources to help with this endeavor such as the local Urban Developement Agency…

    1. If you had any success here, please let me know. I am interested in opening a fitness facility as well.

  5. I was approved for Self-Employment by my VA counselor. We have finished a business plan but there were misunderstanding between the Contractor and my understanding of what the VA would provide under Chap 31. The contractor is saying I must pay for most of the minimum equipment to support the start of my business. I am not working and have no money. The counselor is saying the contractor was paid to do a job and seems to be siding with them.

    Is there a recourse here that I can use to help layout what I am eligible for based on Chapter 31 and my placement under the self-employment program? I can’t remember the catagory I am in but it includes training and equipment necessary to support the business. Cat 2? The VA paid for the training and for the equipment to get me through the training. However, I do not have the minimum needed to support operations. My counselor actually told me I need to get another contractor to refute what the first contractor stated or I am stuck. Agian, I have no money and he knows this. Very frustrating considering I thought they would support me fully in this.

  6. Dean, before you basically had to be totally screwed to get approved for self-employment. Before, you must be virtually unable to work with people. Ironically, if you’re totally screwed, working for yourself can be even more prohibitive than working for another party. So, Congress made the regulation “less restrictive” at the beginning of this year.

    You’ll have to read the whole thing for yourself and compare it to the regulation in place last year. Counselors don’t like setting veterans up with the program because it is a lot of work and the veterans usually fail to succeed, so I’m told.

  7. I have applyed forself employment with voc rehab, because I have coking skills and I graudated from culinary school. I aso worked prior a the ritz carlton hotel as one of the top chef. Do to my disiabilty I can only work at my pace, because I have axniety. The voc rehab ben bulter thinks he is the voc rehab czar of Pittsburgh and ther is no resovle.

    1. It is very tricky getting approval for self-employment. I would say this is further compounded by the impacts your anxiety probably has on workplace pace. Within that industry, working for yourself can be even more stressful. But, since you were denied for self-employment, I would appeal and then request additional training in an area that would be sure to match your abilities with your limitations.

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