Veterans Wonder, ‘Is Voc Rehab Better Than The GI Bill?’

Voc Rehab GI Bill

A common question veterans have asked me whether they should use Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (Voc Rehab or VocRehab or Chapter 31 or VRE) or the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

There are at least five different abbreviations or slang reference types to the program, but they are all referencing the same Chapter 31 Voc Rehab.

Since college will be starting back up in 2 months, it seems to be a good time to address it. Over the years, I have used the GI Bill and Voc Rehab. When it comes to this question, the answer is not as clear as most people think.

Hell, little within VA is clear these days, which is a large reason why I resorted to writing the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for veterans in the first place.

About Chapter 31 Voc Rehab

First of all, you need to qualify for Voc Rehab.

While most veterans asking this question are already qualified, some are not. So we’ll start from this understanding. In order to qualify for Chapter 31 Vocational Rehab, you’ll need to have a 20% disability rating. Or, you’ll need a 10% rating that the Voc Rehab Counselor feels seriously prohibits your ability to have or maintain employment.

The determination needed is called a “serious employment handicap.”

Once you apply and are accepted, then you’ll have to make a decision.

Changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill

Recent changes to the GI Bill make this decision a little easier as of August 2011.

According to the VA, disabled veterans who qualify for Chapter 31 will be able to opt for the GI Bill stipend while enrolled in training or college. This option is available so long as you have some entitlement to GI Bill remaining when you make the switch, and the stipend amount is substantially higher through this new option.

While this seems to make the decision easier, it may not. Disabled veterans may wish to have greater flexibility in selecting their training than Voc Rehab allows. For example, if you want to study Art or History, many counselors would not endorse that goal due to perceived problems getting work after college.

If you’re in Voc Rehab, the counselor is almost god over your training, and they will steer you in whatever direction they think makes the most sense for achieving employment later.

Sometimes this is good, but sometimes the “one size fits all” approach is inappropriate. After all, the veteran is the one who needs to live with the decision, not the Voc Rehab Counselor. Veterans wishing to have greater flexibility will then need to use the GI Bill.

After all, the veteran is the one who needs to live with the decision, not the Voc Rehab Counselor. Veterans wishing to have greater flexibility will then need to use the GI Bill.

Veterans wishing to have greater flexibility will then need to use the GI Bill.

The Voc Rehab Switcharoo

Now here’s where things get dicey. If the veteran runs out of entitlement under the GI Bill, they are not automatically entitled to use the remainder of the program when they apply.

Generally, veterans get up to 48 months of entitlement with Voc Rehab. However, that is not a sure thing, as it is with the GI Bill for the 36 months.

You will need to be found to be both “eligible” and “entitled” by the Voc Rehab counselor in order to use the remainder of the benefit once you use your entire GI Bill entitlement.

And one more caveat. Some veterans with “serious employment handicaps” can be found to be entitled to even more than 48 months of training.

Here’s a hypothetical: Veteran Bob decides to get an undergrad in Art using the GI Bill. After receiving the degree, Bob realizes he should have studied Business as a major because he can’t find a job. So, Bob applies with Voc Rehab.

Assuming Bob has a “serious employment handicap,” the Voc Rehab counselor may allow Bob to get a Master’s in Business Administration, Law Degree or something similar. Always remember, the goal of Voc Rehab is to get disabled veterans to the point of employability in a suitable career field. Once Bob is in the program, he gets an additional 21 months to complete the degree (or however long it takes for the respective degree).

It can be much more tricky than this hypo, but that should give some of you the gist of what to expect if you need or want more training/schooling after using up your GI Bill through Voc Rehab.

If you get caught up in the process, I would suggest checking out my Voc Rehab Survival Guide for veterans. This is a good next step after doing diligence online.

Summary: the only clear choice is to opt for the GI Bill stipend while using Chapter 31 Voc Rehab if you decide to go that route. However, if you need additional schooling, be prepared for one heck of a fight with the VA Machine to get your square deal.

Good Luck!

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  1. I have almost completely used up my Post-9/11 GI Bill and recently was rated at 10%. Is it possible to now use voc rehab benefits to continue my education?

  2. you need to apply at the 10 year window if you apply at the 11 year window you will be denied and this is how it works you take a test at the voc rehab then when the score comes back you are given an option as to the area of intertest they hopefully the school you want to go to has the program schools will change in the window given with constant change an example is ITT offered paralegal program all ITT Techs shelved the program to include other shcools that offered such programs the best part is that voc rehab is 4 year vice 3 years with the Gibill
    hance 4th you must have a rating of 10 precent and higher and meet the window in terms of the time frame to use it if you waited beyond the time frame alloted they it is a go for no go and you must be rated via the VA and not by your branch of service an example if you had a medical borad rating of 10 or higher they it is a no go if the va rated you at 10 precent and higher then it is a go provided you were in the prespective windo of time if you were discharge with a va rating 10 precent and higher in 1980 and you dicided to apply for voc rehab which was 33 years ago it will be turned down you wated way too long to decide this is not a VA policy this comes dierect from congress congress establishes the time limits on all and every so called beneifit

  3. I have a question regarding eligibilty. I read that the eligibility period is 12 years following separation date. Do I have within 12 years to use the benefits if I qualify, or do I simply need to apply for the benefits by the end of the 12 years. I’m asking this because 4/30/2012 will mark 12 years from my separation from the Marines(20% rating). I have an appointment with a vocab councelor on 4/3, but if my eligibility is about to end, it makes no sense in going.

  4. I used Voc Rehab toward a goal of becoming employable, as it was designed. I was so thankful since there was no Post 9-11 at that time and I had opted out of GI Bill programs while active duty due to cost. (Family first right?) I was periodically reminded that the Voc Rehab was intended as a means of getting me EMPLOYED not an Education Program, however, that the education would be paid for IF required as part of the agreed upon employment path through the VA. When Post 9-11 was created and I did become eligible for benefits (Oct 2009 I believe) and AFTER more than two years of Voc Rehab, I opted to stay the course and not use Post 9-11 benefits. I wanted to save it for a higher education after I did get employable! I did finally end up using Post 9-11 to complete requirements for a Masters program…but used only 3 months worth. I was even sent a letter from Post 9-11 GI Bill cadre indicating I had 33 months remaining in benefits. Now I find out I have only 10 months of Post 9-11 benefits left, because Voc Rehab and Post 9-11 are now both looked at as “education benefit programs”. I don’t want to get more than my fair share, it wouldn’t be right….but I seems fair to me that if my benefits are going to be reduced, they should only be reduced the amount of time I was actually eligible for BOTH Voc Rehab and the Post 9-11 GI bill which was from Oct 09 to Feb 2011. …not retroactive back to when I started an “Employment Program”.

  5. Ben,
    I am 60% SC. SSA considers me totally disabled. I am currently using chap 33 to finish a POL SCI bachelors degree. When I complete it I should have 14 months of eligibility left.
    My current plan is to use the remainder to get an MPP and then use VOC Rehab to pursue a JD. I know this is a difficult task but I plan on being well prepared and have everything in order (acceptance letter, grades, LSAT scores etc..) before I even go in and apply for Voc. Does this approach make sense to you?
    The alternative I have been eyeing is to go all in and enter a joint APP/JD program.

    Any and all advice is greatly appreciated.

  6. Question…….

    I have been accepted for Voc Rehab……

    1. My case worker told me you can draw either voc rehab rate (wo Dependents $828.76), the E5BAH post 9/11 money amouont (With Dependents $1257) but
    I’m not 100% with this, I think it was like 80 I served until 31 Dec 2003.

    2. If I use the voc rehab rate for say 2 years, then do I have two years left on the post 9/11 gi bill? or would it be 48 months remaining? I’m just trying to see if there is a difference by taking the lower amount of money offered because I would like to use the post 9/11 gi bill after voc rehab for a higher degree.

    3. First and formost I wanted the worker (non pay work) program, I might do well in school but I feel very disorganized.

    4. I’m looking at information systems, information technology. The only schools in our area (29456) I could find are ECPI, ITT Tech and others like that. Any thumbs up, down, sideways for these and any suggestions.

    5. Physcial limitations. I have carpal tunnel (sc’d) along with other spinal issues and rated 50%. Bilateral braces are worn and I’m not sure how this will limit me in school. My CT rating is only zero percent and I’ve been trying to increase it but unsure of what the C&P examiner sees, however, I did not have braces during the other increase exam. For an increase it says my conditions must be as “Mild”, I’m unsure of how the VA sees this condition as “Mild”.

    6. What happens if I start school and unable to finsh due to medical or other issues? Will this stop me or family using the rest of my post 9/11 gi bill or anything.

    Thanks in advance,

  7. Can I use Montgomery GI Bill benefits with a kicker at the same time as VR&E? I had $40,000 promised at enlistment. If I can use both at the same time, I think the best route would be to use VR&E with MGIB and once the MGIB is exhausted (or my 10 year limit of 2016) then try to use VR&E with the remaining Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit. I’ve been researching this for a while and can’t find answers. Thanks for your help.

  8. Do I qualify for 100% post 911 gi bill? I am 100% sc p&t I qualify for post 911 benefits but at 70% rate. Under new voc rehab pay option is that 100% rate or my 70% rate?…

  9. I know it’s kind of late Cantu, but I know for a fact you have to go through VONAPP to be certified for Post 9-11. Once you recieve your Cerificate of Eligibility then you have to send that to your counselor. I’m sure she told you this by now, if not she/he isn’t doing their job and I would seek for another counserlor. The current waiting period is 41 days. How do I know? I just filled out the VONAPP form on the 17th of August. I know it takes time but I am a huge fan of the VA. Without the VA alot of stuff I am doing today would be impossible. The VA is like my big brother. You know he is gonna come through it just takes a long time for him to arrive…LOL The only catch is you MUST meet the qualifications for the Post 9-11 GI Bill, which you can google yourself. Anyway hope this helped. I know to get the 100% rate you need 3 years of active service after 9-11.

  10. Im a disabled veteran currently using Ch.31 Voc. Rehab. benefits. How do I apply or opt for the new GI Bill stipend? Do I contact my VR counselor?


    Add’l. question: If I have a “contract” with Voc. Rehab. for a Bachelors degree, do they have to honor that even if it takes longer than 48 months to achieve the degree?

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