Template to Investigate Your VA Voc Rehab Denial

Investigate VA

VA Voc Rehab is moving further and further away from giving veterans proper notice following a denial. This post will help you sort through the red tape.

Back in the day, veterans used to get a reasonable explanation about the facts of their case, the law, and why the facts and law work against the veteran’s claim. After 11 years in the system, I have seen the policies and procedures change quite a bit.

Now, Voc Rehab Counselors seem afraid to make decisions. When they do, they only write their conclusions while omitting any direct reference to the specific law and regulations. Instead, if you are lucky, they may quote a regulation or guidance without telling you which one they are referencing.

But the matter is really quite clear. 38 CFR § 21.420 explains what is required to be in a denial letter to the veteran. This includes the conclusion, the facts, the law, and the appeal rights. 38 CFR §21.1 explains the maximum and ideal level of benefits qualified veterans are entitled to receive.

At least at the St. Paul Regional Office, VR&E Counselors have been omitting the required language from their denial letters. This creates a real problem for veterans when it comes to fighting for their benefits because they will not know what they are fighting for. Information is king.

Because of this, I came up with a couple ideas veterans can use to help get the information they need before they decide to do any of the following:

  • Request for Reconsideration
  • Administrative Review
  • Notice of Disagreement – Appeal


When VA official denies you anything

Use this response when a VA official denies you access to something or flatly denies a request without citing any source of authority for their decision.

Please provide the policy, procedure, guidance or regulation you are citing regarding my ability to review my file prior to filing an appeal following an adverse action.


Request to view your VA Voc Rehab file

If you receive a denial letter that gives you 30 days to provide additional information, this template could help. Use this request in a letter or email back to your Voc Rehab Counselor. It says you intend to seek access to your file and to review it during an informal meeting. Within your file, you will likely learn how the VA Counselor made the decision and if they were wrong.

There appears to be some confusion here. I have indicated that I do disagree with your adverse action to [VR&E Counselor Name]. For that reason, I request to meet informally with a counselor to review the basis for your decision to include a review of any relevant written documents or materials prior to me making a decision as to how to proceed, per 38 CFR §21.420. Your letter was a notice of an adverse action which memorialized your denial of my claim. The letter to me contained only a decision about my case and conclusory statements to that end, but it did not contain any facts or law on which your determinations were based. Since it does not contain the requisite information I need to make an informed decision in line with the requirements of Due Process, I cannot proceed until I am allowed to meet with a counselor to review the documents and materials germane to the adverse action. Please note that [VR&E Counselor Name] promised to tell me today whether or not she would affirm your decision but she failed to call me. See 38 CFR § 21.1 and 38 CFR §21.420 with any questions.

Veterans having problems with their denial letters being vague should send me a note. We believe this is a violation of the law and are looking at options to encourage VA to follow its own regulations.

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  1. Please let me know how to contact you or someone in Ohio for representation on independent living. I was denied the program and I am 100% permanent and totally disabled. I just got off the phone with the DAV and the representative sounds lost and knows little or nothing about the program and to go into my feb 6 meeting about my letter of disagreement is just asking for failure. In fact he said come in early beforehand and we’ll see if we have someone available to go with you, very sad! So if you can give me a way to contact you or someone in Ohio that can help I would appreciate it

  2. How do we send you a note other than this?
    I was denied long track VRE to “education”. Ouch, should have lead with the end goal and not the path, but my situation is very complex and I was denied in about 20 mins. She refused to tell me what regulation I did not meet, but instead just said I had “too much training already” and would only be aloud to do employment. All my schooling is directly linked to my job which I can no longer do, because, in a separate incident, I filed an EEO complaint against a government employee for EEO on disability and my company fired me a week later for rocking the boat. She claimed that did not matter in my case. Even though that will likely go to court if anyone involved is objective (I hope). The EEO compliant is still in the informal phase. I got out in feb 2015 and was in school trying to make it through my recovery, post deployment, etc when my wife left me for someone else due to in her words”me being invalid”. I floundered until I found work here in D.C., the job I just referenced were I was “laid off due to the governments request for your removal” that’s it. The only thing my company said after I filed the EEO. I have 60% disability that is going to rise to 80% and possibly higher as all shit settles to the bottom (when o god when). But somehow after all this I cannot be retrained. My field is niche and small and super specialized; intelligence applied sciences. With my disabilities I am pretty much screwed without going for retraining and earning a certificate in something more hospitable — my psychologist thinks attorney would be good lol! hospitable! How do I reverse her decision? I am going through the bylaws and since its taken me hours upon hours I know there is no way that 20 mins would suffice to make a proper judgement in a case like mine. Do I ask for her email and politely send her a draft of my thought process backed with every doctor that I have? Is that a way to do it? She flat out said no and would not give her reasoning except that the employment specialist will work with me. To find a job with my undergrad possibly (international relations online degree, lol) and that suitable employment was an entry level position. What bagging groceries? what does suitable mean? I looked up the legal definition and it seems to say commensurate, alike, similar, worthy, etc. I even gave her an example of taking a 70% decrease in pay working a 30k a year job and she said “yes, that is suitable. we only do entry level employment” I responded with “my job was entry level employment.” She said nothing.

    1. I sound angry because I am I apologize. right now she stated that I would have to stop using the GI bill for online classes which is helping me be stable right now during the unemployment to go on the 18th month job plan where I wouldn’t get paid anything and could not use the go bill. so either I can use the VRE for employment or I get the GI bill. I am angry because I have tried to do all the right things and I am being penalized for it.

  3. Looking for some help. Here in Alaska and the VRC is not providing any fact or law in the decision for me not to attend a class, stating she doesn’t think its a good idea. As far as I know personal opinions do not matter so why am I being denied school because of a personal opinion?

  4. I was denied my VR&E claim because i’ve had a job for several years, is that really grounds to deny a claim? My GI Bill ran out and I have 1 year left of school that I need help paying or I won’t be able to complete.

  5. Sir I appreciate all you have provided as far as information on how crazy the vocational rehabilitation counselors treat vets. I have been in arguments with my counselor for over a year and was just recently told my file was closed because they were running out of time because of the status I was in the E & P I believe. Could you please send me some more guidance in my case regarding filing an appeal? You site is a great help.

    1. I’m in the same boat as you Tom. My VRC is fighting me tooth and nail…it’s like a game for them now. John

      1. All I know to do is to keep gathering and sharing information to fight for your benefits. Its pretty ridiculous. You just cant give up.

      2. Hey guys why is it so hard to get benefits? Really? I think its time we start asking someone like the DAV to start getting involved in Voc Rehab stuff. It makes no sense?

        Even if you get approved, and then have to go to another counselor, then you start all over again? Like for me I got approved for reduced work allowance, and its in my file, along with a doctors note that says this, but then.. The new lady Nicole Green at the Oakland VA office is still doing the same song and dance and is telling e she can’t find it and even asked ne to get a new copy of the letter cuz she does not have time to go through my record that was transferred to her office?

        Dude, its like they really REALLY do everything they can to fuck you over.

        OKay for example, she knows I start school, then she goes, you have not been there in 7 weeks? SCHOOL JUST STARTED 1 WEEK AGO? How is that possible? Of coruse no answer.

        Then while in the program, she tells me I am acepted, then goes back on that. THen says that I am not eligible, and she wanted me to use ALL of my 33 days of Chapter 33 benifits, and lied to me that she did not follow up on it WHEN I WAS IN THE OFFICE WHEN SHE CALLED AND SPOKE WITH THE CAMPUS VA OFFICE WHILE I WAS THERE??

        Guys I have no idea what they are doing there. I really don’t. I can’t even figure out why the hold up? I mean they tell you : ” I have concerns about you living in your car” THen they do everythin gthey can to make sure you don’t get any BAH or Money or even get approved for classes that you are taking? What gives?

        I mean I am sorry, but they really make this whole thing Impossible for anyone who really had any sort of cognitive error. Its like you spend so much time just trying to make sure you have benefits, that you never even have time for course work? Its silly!

        And have you noticed that there are ZERO organizations that are willing to even deal with it. You have to get your own lawyer or PRAY that you have someone from Swords and plowshares there to help you. And you need to contact these folks everyday until you get help to just keep them informed about your case.

        Honestly, you better have a under the table job that pays the bills while you fight for pay.

        If not, YOU are SCREWED!

        Honestly, you have to BE a lawyer just to GET your benefits. Or have a person that is one come in with you just to make sure you are all set. Its that outrageous!

        And believe it or not, even your state representative has a hard time figuring out what is going on.

        IT IS CRAZY. .

        It really is about time for change.

      3. Ill put it like this. Im in Oklahoma. I was denied originally I filed a NOD and was found eligible. The case worker was Sharron Caldwell and her supervisor was Dianne Dooley. They both did nothing but sit on their hand and build a case against me. I have filed another NOD when they closed my case (based on the rules) illegally. I have a job but they didnt like that. All I wanted was to go to school to get a new career and be productive. If your in Oklahoma and you run into these goons be careful about what you say to them. Also they sent me to a state employment agency case worker named Bill Jobe who did absolutly nothing except retire in the middle of me working with him. I wouldnt be surprised if he is working for the VA now. It is horrible they way I was treated. Good luck to you guys who are trying to better themselves. On a side note I hope you see this Sharron, Dianne, and Bill I am still working on outing you for what you did.

  6. Mick, I work with veterans almost daily and can show you stacks of papers where things like this are used to deny legitimate claims or to low ball rate a valid claim,

    By stating I or anyone else is rehabilitated, when there actually has been no change, on an official form it opens the door for any and all associated claims to be considered for reduction or a lesser award for a new claim…. Funny that once I talked directly with my Counselor and the Senators office I have not heard anything else and the last letter issued states “Case closed with no further services available through VR&E…

  7. m already In The VR&E program. Unfortunately I broke My Hip prior to enrolling in college this Fall. I re applied to the same school and was accepted again. I let my VA counselor know this in Oct. In December I was notified that I was taken off the case due to inactivity. I sent the appropriate Medical reasons from THe VA hospital and private doctors.They told me They would get back to me,So far I have missed the Spring semester. It is very frustrating,and I wish there was something I could do. Thanks.

  8. Benjamin, Another issue that I encountered was this, I was denied VR&E services stating that I had a Severe Employment handicap and retraining was infeasible as was gainful employment, I was then given Independent living services after a home evaluation, All of that went by the book until I had completed getting everything and they had documented I needed no further assistance, At that point I get a letter stating they intended to close my file. I agreed that there were no further services I could think of so closing my file was the proper thing to do, Then I get a letter stating my case had been closed because they determined me to be Rehabilitated and not in need of further services…. There was no change in my Medical conditions and I am still unemployed as well as disabled… You can see where I had issues with their handling of this, To state I am Rehabilitated indicates that I have recovered which is far from true….I resolved the issue by filing a notice of disagreement and received a letter with different wording, Then a Short while later I got another notice of closure again stating Rehabilitated, I repeated the NOD process and have yet another letter with the wording changed to closed with no further services available. I received a 3rd letter stating rehabilitated and I again did the NOD but this time stated without any ambiguity that I believed someone had a hidden agenda with the repeated attempts to note my file as Rehabilitated and I filed a formal complaint with both the Counselor and My Senator…. I have heard nothing from them since….

    1. Wendell, that is pathetic but comical from the outside. Really, I’d guess a computer programming error which generated the wrong closure letter. The fact that it kept reoccurring just shows that the letter was generated and mailed automatically. I doubt any “hidden agenda”.

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