VA Vocational Rehabilitation Notice Letters

VA Vocational Rehabilitation Not Issuing Written Notices Of Decisions

A majority of veterans surveyed using VA Vocational Rehabilitation confirmed that many agency counselors are not properly issuing decision notice letters.

The majority of veterans who responded to our survey indicated Chapter 31 is not issuing written notices of adverse decisions as it is supposed to by law. 38 USC § 5104.

The impact of the refusal to document is two-fold. First, veterans are unable to appeal denials properly if they do not have a written decision. Second, it allows counselors to steer veterans in adverse directions without due process of law.

The impact of the maneuver is less work for the counselor.

Many of you know I have been tracking trends in Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (Voc Rehab) for over a decade. In a recent survey of members in our 32,000 Facebook group, we confirmed an alarming trend in the direction of due process violations.

Within my law firm, I’ve been receiving inquiries from veterans seeking help with appeals who had not received the required written notice of denial. Before Appeals Modernization impacted VR&E, it was not as common.

However, since February 19, 2019, I have received more questions from veterans who were verbally told they were denied but who were not given written notice of the denial decision. My non-scientific survey in our group confirmed my broader suspicions.

VA Vocational Rehabilitation Examples

Frequently, the agency’s move takes on the following forms. These are hypothetical but based on stories I hear on a regular basis from veterans in our Facebook group.

Veteran 1: During the initial appointment, the counselor learns of the veteran’s goal that requires higher-level training of some kind like a Masters Degree. The counselor tells the veteran the will deny the claim. The veteran leaves the appointment believing they were denied properly but never receive a written denial in the mail.


Veteran 2: The veteran asks for a vocational goal requiring an advanced degree type such as Medical Doctor. The counselor tells the veteran Voc Rehab does not pay for graduate degrees without issuing a decision to that effect. Instead, the counselor offers to cover only an undergraduate degree. The only written documentation of the transaction is the final goal the veteran agrees to without due process or at least a written explanation.

Doctorate Example

Some veterans reading this know Voc Rehab does cover graduate training including qualified veterans seeking the vocational goal of physician – – where a Medical Doctorate is necessary.

So why do counselors still falsely tell veterans the program does not cover advanced degrees? It is written into the regulations for Pete’s sake.

Well over a decade ago, during my initial Voc Rehab meeting, I was told the program would not pay for me to become a lawyer.

I am now a lawyer.

Voc Rehab did pay for me to become a lawyer after years of fighting.

The program even paid for the equipment my firm needed to help me help veterans fight back against the agency.

Over a decade later, Voc Rehab is still telling veterans the program does not pay for graduate degrees. And, I still help my clients win approval for graduate degrees.

Why the lying? Is there a fix?

Maybe not or at least not one within the agency. The counselors have advanced degrees themselves and can read the same regulations I can read. The agency does not hold its employees accountable for misleading veterans.

Instead, I have spent a decade honing and tweaking our own Voc Rehab Survival Guide to help veterans push back against unscrupulous counselors. And, the word is gradually getting out.

GET IT: Voc Rehab Survival Guide

Hopefully, you are reading this if you are a veteran looking to push back using facts and the law.

But you cannot do much if Voc Rehab does not provide you with written notice of its decision. If you have not received written notice of the decision, be sure to write an email to your counselor professionally demanding the required notice.

Then cite 38 USC § 5104. Below is the current version of the statute.

38 U.S. Code § 5104. Decisions And Notices Of Decisions

(a) In the case of a decision by the Secretary under section 511 of this title affecting the provision of benefits to a claimant, the Secretary shall, on a timely basis, provide to the claimant (and to the claimant’s representative) notice of such decision. The notice shall include an explanation of the procedure for obtaining review of the decision.

(b) Each notice provided under subsection (a) shall also include all of the following:

(1) Identification of the issues adjudicated.

(2) A summary of the evidence considered by the Secretary.

(3) A summary of the applicable laws and regulations.

(4) Identification of findings favorable to the claimant.

(5) In the case of a denial, identification of elements not satisfied leading to the denial.

(6) An explanation of how to obtain or access evidence used in making the decision.

(7) If applicable, identification of the criteria that must be satisfied to grant service connection or the next higher level of compensation.

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  1. In my experience with the VA Vocational rehabilitation (chapter 31), they are a whole bunch of liars who could care less whether we vets succeed or fail.

    They already have their degrees and a job. We as vets are being treated as 2nd class citizens. That’s in every VA around the country. We fight the wars our political leaders pick with order countries and we’re the ones left to suffer the aftermath.

    Look at the Vietnam vets. How many of them are still fighting for benefits and it’s been the 1960’s that war was fought. Veterans are dying waiting for benefits they’ve already fought for.

    We need people in congress who will fight for us veterans and stop getting their bank accounts fat off the backs of our American people.

    Enough of this shit. We veterans had it with this type of treatment “2nd class citizens and hand me down” as they would call it.
    An illegal alien gets more help than we do when they come to our country.
    Go figure! ?

  2. I’m my experience with the VA Vocational rehabilitation (chapter 31), they are a whole bunch of liars who could care less whether we vets succeed or fail.

    They already have their degrees and a job. We as vets are being treated as 2nd class citizens. That’s in every VA around the country. We fight the wars our political leaders pick with order countries and we’re the ones left to suffer the aftermath.

    Look at the Vietnam vets. How many of them are still fighting for benefits and it’s been the 1960’s that war was fought. Veterans are dying waiting for benefits they’ve already fought for.

    We need people in congress who will fight for us veterans and stop getting their bank accounts fat off the backs of our American people.

    Enough of this shit. We veterans had it with this type of treatment “2nd class citizens and hand me down” as they would call it.
    An illegal alien gets more help than we do when they come to our country.
    Go figure! ?

  3. Virtnam Veteran and served around15 years of active duty and reserves. They told me I was too old for the Rehab program back in 2014 and it did not cover Vietnam Veterans even if we wanted to go back to work. Have been asking for it through the years with different counselors and got the same answer. Did not know there was a difference and discrimination that it does not cover all Vetetan Groups. Explain

    1. It covered Vietnam vets when I applied in 1987. But not TBI. Only loss of limbs or very serious disabilities. If you were anywhere near functional no help. I was approved by the CA Rehabilitation Department for their Coast Line College TBI program but the VA wouldn’t approve. Ended up suffering from progressively worsening temporal lobe seizures until they were finally treated appropriately in 2015. Lived poverty stricken and homeless at times until 2011 when I was granted 70% from July of 2009 which eventually became TDIU in 2017.

    2. Frank, age is not a factor. Though, the federal government makes as a primary factor. There are many young people who cannot stay out of the hospital and have medical withdrawals galore. I have witnessed them. Age really has little to with health, though, the government claims it does. Proof in the pudding. Federal government engages in discrimination; but, has all these laws against discrimination.

  4. Counselor, you’re doing a great job with the current VR&E great job! But, its too late for vets like me, VR&E has been doing this for more than the decade you’ve been fighting them. Back in 2005 there was really no place a vet such as myself could go or turn to. They talked a good game about helping us learn to do something else, then when the time comes to put words into actions, just turn us out and do didley squat. Its been 20+ years now since VR&E screwed me and other vets over. We’ve either gotten an increase in VA disability(I did 80% I’m not griping about anything now), are slaving over a McDonald’s grill barely making ends meet or have thrown our hands in the air and given up. For those that has given up I’m praying that they didn’t do anything drastic and become a frightening statistic.

  5. I’m beyond help by rehab. When I needed it Ben wasn’t around. Application totally ignored as my record shows. One appointment set up but no rehab official showed up.

  6. Sounds like another day with the VA. Who would expect anything more from this corrupt government agency!
    Betcha, they’re laughing all the way to the bank! Because VA employees believe tax dollars belong to them!

  7. You do great work, counselor. Thank you. Have you considered that when they do not comply with the law and issue a denial that they have in fact, (especially if they have passed the time limit) have actually approved instead of denied. In a test case, they can be held liable for malfeasance/misfeasance to the detriment of the veteran, Another idea is to geat a Writ of Mandamus forcing them to issue a written decision withoin a short period of time, wherein they must surely screw up. In any case, making a test case by putting these weasels and lazy bastards on the spot might wake up the rest, especially if the veteran suffers damages, and the “career” of the employee will suffer. They have been bull shitting the troops so long that they get overconfident. As well, whoever is the big cheese in this particular department needs to be called on the carpet and told to do his job, NOW.

    1. Benjamin, in July of 2015, the VA Box Rehab did send me written denial letter stating they did not believe that I could work and is not feasible at this time. In September 2015, the VA Voc Rehab Counselor sent me the letter in writing to where Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation closed my case. I realize a year to appeal or counter act the decision; but, there was no way that I could. In November of that same year into December 2015 and on into the end of February of 2016, I had to step in to take over my sister’s care. I had to stay in Atlanta because she almost died and her husband had left after 27 years of marriage. I walked into her life without knowing any details of all. So Ben Chapter 31 denied me in 2015. The VA physician would not provide any documentation to the VR&E counselor at all. He said he was not sure if I could handle it to sustain. Ben, I want to dive into this topic to totally illustrate that how the VA has their programs set up with the laws and regulations, the VA system is set up to sabotage the veterans. I will come back to tell you the insight. Just picked up my car from being serviced. Ben, all happened in 45 minutes yesterday, I broke down, pulled over out of traffic, and called a tow truck and rented a car and we delivered my car with me riding in the front seat of the tow truck to the dealership all in 45 minutes. Had to move fast because rental car agency closed at 6pm and so did the dealership. All time perfectly. I bet a VA employee cannot move that fast in the decision making process to problem solve to generate successful resolve. I will return. Yes Ben the VA needs to step up to the plate to retrain me. I will come back to finish my comments.

      1. Above all, being the Federal government say they stand for equality, maybe the VA employees should have their free speech revoked just like they are revoking the veterans’ free speech by not providing the denial letters. Then the VA will receive a dose of their own medicine. Here is how it could happen. Supreme Court ruling with Executive Branch shutting down the AFGE Union. If this were to happen, then government employee would then be equal to the veterans and non veterans by way of no protections. They would not have a voice. They would not have a defense to protect them or to hide behind.
        Ben, I am just saying what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
        Since they pretend to love equality. Equality is a false reality that they claim to support. Equality of outcome is never feasible in my opinion.
        Though, equality of opportunity is feasible but most govt types does not like this concept.
        Back to me Ben, when Chapter 31 denied me in 2015, Voc Rehab counselor was correct to a degree. Though, counselor did a half assed job. There are several reasons why I say this. However, Ben, during 2014 and 2015, I was still not in full play with my functioning even after being out of the military since 1996. See the VA only allows a 12 year or 14 year eligibility time period to be eligible to apply to Voc Rehab. Otherwise, vet has to be determined with serious employment handicap. Back to my point, Ben, my leap in functioning occurred after the Voc Rehab denial in 2015. This change included my speech. During 2014 – 2015, I participated in an informational interview with the College of Health Professions to inquire about a PhD program. Well, I had difficulty speaking in the interview due to the thought processing. Well, it is true my interviewing for more substantial employment would not have been feasible during 2014 and 2015. I would not have even been considered. I had applied for employment with the Social security administration and had interview with the District Manager of the Social security administration but of course they did not hire me as you can see. Ben, denial of my Chapter 31 happened 4 years ago and I am running into 5 years now. During the Fall of 2014 into Summer 2015, I had participated in the Extended Evaluation portion of Voc Rehab. I have never been approved for Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation. I have been denied for 24 years. So here is the deal though, age in my opinion has little to do with health although the federal claims it does. I have witnessed many millennials who cannot stay out of the hospital or who have medical withdrawals galore. So Ben I witnessed many older people who are healthier and harder than the generation these companies are desiring to hire. See my point. VA does not look at it this way because it is going against what they put out and want people to believe. More propaganda. My final note here is my physical and mental state are much improved compared to 2015 when the denial took place. To add to my final note, the VA system does not align with positive change. Actually, the federal government itself does not align with positive change. Trump has helped generate some improvements but still a long way to go to recover from the devastion ignited by the Obama administration. Though, my employment is in play now. I am returning to the workforce regardless of VA position. I do not care what the VA thinks about me. The VA does not define me. I define me. Thus and furthermore, the Voc Rehab Counselors need to cut out the crap. Ben, they don’t desire to move fast is the problem. Have a great weekend. ?????

      2. Ultimately, the VA does not follow their statues. However, if the situation involved a veteran patient, the veteran would be prosecuted. So Ben where is the equality the federal government claims to stand for and by? Some other points how about the Code of Ethics for Rehabilitation Counselors? Aren’t they licensed just like LCSWs? Ben, the actions they are taking are against their Code of Ethics. Maybe they should lose their jobs or their licenses or professional statuses suspended? Ben, I am just commenting on your blogs. My comments blow in the wind. Put it like this, the cultural pride today is lacking as compared to the time period under the Reagan Administration. Saddening. And Trump did not cause this. All this crap has been festering under the radar for years. Another agency could have say. Consumer Protection Agency…. Ethics…. Maybe they should have their bonuses taken away for them to witness what it feels like to be denied due process. Out of my realm. I am not an attorney or an AG…so it is what it is.

      3. Made comments about worldwar III. We have already been in wars forever begin that the politicians seem to strive for at every turn. Military personnel fight wars to protect freedoms and protect country; and, then many leadership types forget veterans when they come home. Turn backs on veterans as evidenced by no written Voc Rehab denial letters given to vets.
        SAIC is working with VA as a consultant.

    2. Benjamin, let me ask you a question?
      Since this has to do with the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, why can’t each of the veterans who have not received a written denial letter stating all the details behind the denials file a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General of the United States? Afterall, the DOJ audits and investigates abuse and misconduct. Each of the employees per each veteran who are involved, veterans let the complaints fly with transparency documenting the situations. Why do veterans have to go up from the bottom in dealing with this agency particularly with this happening Ben. Ben, the VA Voc Rehab employees should not be sabotaging these veterans and not even me. Benjamin, the VA is not honoring human rights. VA is shutting down free speech by not allowing due process to where the veterans can present their cases. By the VA not issuing the written denial letters, veterans cannot defend their cases. Communists in the VA are doing this in my opinion. Same as their patient flag system. Actually, probably all VA employees maybe engaging in these actions regardless. Ben, this is not right.

      1. And all of you know this…What the VA is doing is unconstitutional. Violation of Constitutional rights. Benjamin, file complaints with the DOJ, EEOC, ADA, Judicial Watch, Project Veritas… submit complaints by the thousands to the OIG of the United States. Not the OIG of the VA. I am sure Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsich would like to hear all. Do you know why? Because he is an Originalist, Textualist, and a Constitutionalist. He stands by our Constitutional Represented Republic. Often, people think we are a Democracy. We are not a Democracy. Now, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts would not hear the cases. He is truly partison in my opinion. VA is not acting in good faith with the veterans at all particularly when denying the cases to be viewed.

      2. My choice of words was not good. I meant not hearing and viewing veterans cases due to VA obstruction. A pile of crap.

    3. Benjamin and everyone,
      what is the difference in permanent and total; Total and permanent???
      Does each designator have a different meaning?
      Also, I do not care for the Ticket To Work Program. Here is why; the ending age is 65 years of age.
      This should be not limited to 65.
      Put it like this if I can be hired into employment to progress to substantial employment, I be damned if I am stopping at age 65. I hope to go from employment to the grave. Not from a nursing home or a hospital to the grave.
      If I were in a position to improve, I would be joining the ranks with the President to contribute to the efforts. I would be changing many areas. For one the Ticket To Work Age. I would change it to open ended.
      Plus, I would revamp Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation. I witness many aspects of Voc Rehab that I would improve. So federal government stay tuned….VA has me calculated wrong today.

    4. Oh yes, Benjamin you are a VOC Rehab success in the recent years. However, in the recent years there are very few veteran Voc Rehab successes as compared to back in the late nineties and early 2000s. I have witnessed many more denials than approvals. This statement is not even about including me. This is with other veterans. This is true from what I observed basically from the Obama administration forward. I would like to know the numbers on this though to actually see if it is by certain areas of the country. Best.

    5. Benjamin, I want to bring some more points to your attention. Listen, because they have Master’s degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling does not make them qualified to do the job. Benjamin, and I know you know this but just book knowledge alone is not an advantage and really says little. Yes, they could read and write I hope and pass exams. Theory and more theory in which this is what the educational system in this country has almost become. Many universities but not all. Learning and passing tests and passing their certification exams shows they know how to learn maybe or can learn. But for a person to really understand the development stages of recovery and of the retraining process, one has to have somewhat walked in those shoes. Ben, life experience in my opinion is the greatest teacher and is God’s greatest gift. It is life’s experiences that will lead us to seek him. Not sure how this statement came out but it did. Now, I am sure maybe there are a few good VA Voc Rehab counselors who may have recovery stories. Lived experience is a major plus. Brings forth insight. Some may disagree with me; but, when it comes to applying the know how and leading the way, it is the wisdom that speaks the loudest. Problem solve in the moment deriving from intuitiveness. In my opinion to many it is just about status. Here are some other points. The way the situation is with healthcare everywhere and government overeach everywhere, in my opinion, even if a handful of VA employees desire to make a difference, Ben, they cannot. Too many laws, too many regulations, and too many hands. I am telling you the system is difficult for some VA employees. Many hide behind the VA laws. I noted this myself recently when I had took the medical record form in and noted it from some other veterans speaking on some issues. The VA employees are told what to do constantly. I am not so sure they can think for themselves. The bureaucracy sucks them up into almost like robots. When witnessing the conversations, one cannot help but notice. I am not so sure they know how to do their jobs if they cannot think on their own. Not only the paperwork involved but knowing how to engage with another human being is important. My comments leading to the core of the problem. I had spoken about how sick my sister was a couple years ago in a previous post. Well, here it is and this applies to many Americans. Unless one is a billionaire, people can forget decent medical care. When I say age has little to do with one’s health, there is a lot of truth in this. For example, my sister is 7 years younger than me. See my point now. Now here is the disgraceful piece of information. Do you know why and how she had become so sick? The fucking shitty medical care with shit product. And too, a big well known hospital did the procedure in Atlanta. I do not have to say who you already know what is located in Atlanta. Look at the millennials, reports of them not being too healthy. All due to high cost and poor quality medical care. So Ben who knows honestly with the Voc Rehab counselors? They may be scared to make a decision. They may not be qualified to the extent they need to be. Or their actions may just be hate and discontent targeted at the president. Who knows??????

    6. Thanks Benjamin once again.
      Put it like this and my statement applies to everyone including me. If any person does wrong, it will catch up with them including me. If these Voc Rehab counselors are knowingly and willingly acting with malice and harm towards the veterans, this will come back to haunt them. Just a matter of time. Many many not believe in God and the Ten Commandments. It is up to them. It is not for me to judge one way or the other. Ben, what is going to be is going to be. All we all have is today; and today is all we have. God likes to be thanked every day. In reference to the VA employees if they are knowingly contributing to injustice against the veterans, these actions will come back to haunt them. Something may happen to them with the same similarities. In my opinion, when people are harming others, thankfulness and goodness does not exist in their hearts. People cannot have both states occurring at the same time. PRAY everyday. Pray for all. God Bless ? America. ???????

      1. Benjamin, I was writing the post as part of what has happened in relation to the VA obstruction in regards to my own recovery path regarding education and training to re-enter the workforce into a profession. So I guess you did not want to hear it. Because you deleted it. All is true. So see you. All part of the retraining Ben of where the VA threw me under the bus. I guess you did not want to hear it. Take care.

    7. Of course, the B-52 bombers go in and out of there all the time. I am aware.
      Routine. They are hyping it up.

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