Voc Rehab: Counselors pushing vets despite not finding full-time work

The promise with Voc Rehab: Chapter 31 is that it will retrain disabled veterans into a vocation or profession, and the veteran will find substantive employment. When you find that job, after working successfully, you will receive 2 months of stipend money from Voc Rehab. After 60 days on the job, Voc Rehab will declare you to be “rehabilitated.” According to 38 CFR Part 21, “rehabilitated to the point of employability” means the following: “that the veteran is employable in an occupation for which a vocational rehabilitation program has been provided under this program.”

This seems rather straightforward for anyone reading the regulations. Chapter 31 Voc Rehab Counselors should be on top of what the regulations mean. The benefit to the counselor once “rehabilitation” is reached: they get to check off the case from their totals. Each Regional Office gets dinged for open cases, so there is a push to close cases out. Again, this seems pretty simple to most disabled veterans, counselors and anyone reading the definitions.

However, in reality, many counselors are using the small stipend amount as a carrot for disabled veterans to rush out to find employment in any field, both part-time and full-time. Doing this prevents veterans from taking the time to find appropriate jobs for which they trained and can damage their ability to have rewarding careers in the long run. And, more importantly, it can cheat many qualified veterans from receiving further educational benefits that would make them more competitive in the labor market.

Options. If there is a need for additional training for the veteran to become competitive in the field outlined within their IWRP, the counselor has the ability to approve the new plan. Recently, I received another email from a disabled veteran struggling to get answers from his Voc Rehab Counselor. The counselor was using the stipend to push the veteran into finding part-time work in an unrelated field, contrary to the intent of the program. The program is supposed to help the disabled veteran find substantive work in the field, or related field, for which they received training. If the veteran is unable to achieve this, they can accept work in an unrelated field, and be deemed rehabilitated, so long as the veteran agrees with the decision and says they like the job. Read over 38 CFR Part 21.283.

Silver Bullet. Yes, you have the ability to control the direction of the Silver Bullet. We all need money to live on. If the only job you can find is unrelated to your training, you must tell the counselor that the new job fits within your “aptitudes, abilities and interests.” If you tell the counselor you hate the job, guess what? The job does not fit with your interests. Thus, you cannot be deemed to be “rehabilitated.”

If you are being pushed, you need to read over the regulations. I successfully appealed a wrongful determination of “rehabilitated.” To read how I did it, view our Appeals Guide #4. This walks you through what I did. Now, Chapter 31 Voc Rehab is paying for me to attend Law School to become an Attorney. You are your best advocate. Don’t get pushed around. Click here to read how I pushed back.

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  1. My voc rehab counselor took 3 months to get back to me. First she mentioned a non paying internship with the VA medical center but that fell through. Upon our meeting when she mentioned the internship she explained that if it didn’t work out we would explore school. I am currently enrolled in a university using my post 9/11 which will be end come Dec 2015. I am also a licensed X-ray tech but can’t find employment anywhere. I was deemed eligible under Chap 31, now my counselor is telling me that my degree tract in Health Administration is difficult for her to justify voc rehab paying because veterans in the past with this degree couldn’t find work. She now wants me to get info from my school with stats showing how many graduates with that degree hold jobs and where. I contacted the program dean and she expressed how they wouldn’t have that kind of info. She keeps giving me the run around and I’m getting extremely fed up! Please help

  2. hi im an air force guy high voltage line man no boom trucks then only spikes also i was in charge of flight line light and tranformers and strobe housing baricks offiscer club i had put a red tag on air condition control i was checking the power and the panel blow right off the wall kick me back about 15 feet some officer tock the tag of i have damage to my eyes could not see for about 6 weeks also i had to get above a trans former so i had to take my safety harness off ii got around the other side to get up higher so i could put my harness on my right spike from brogans sliped out i fell about 55 feet i have a scare on the back of my neck i was flown to the phil navel hospital the did a milagram put die in my spinal the mised hit another nerve my left leg jerked at that time i heard the doctor say ohoh i was on the table about one and a half hoursi have migrans all the time can not turn with out servie pain totaly blow out my right knnee had and out side doctor put a complete knee in iv had 3 operation on my knee i get electric shocks all the time in my foot both sholders hurt nerve damage so far they have given me 243 dollars a month 20% i sent an nod they say they lost my paper work they have my medical also my mother paid for my neck operation and my 2 right operations thanks for letting me talk god bless

  3. 1st off I should have done this 20 years ago and said the hellwith it to my wife and kids and followed my dream and become a chef something I have wanted to do all my life. At 58yrs old
    I had surgery on my right shoulder rottor cuff well what was to be a2 hous surgery trrned into
    5.5 hours and in Dec, 08 I applied for SSDI with all the PT we could not build up any strength
    up in my arm I worked like a dog to build the mussels up My wife got so pissed when I put a brackett in the celing and attached a pully on it so I could watch TV and work out with a 5 gal
    jug of water ( 8.0Lbs). Then I became a house wife and babysitter for my 2greankids. by Apr of 09
    I wanted out. So I went to a friend who was a chef and we talked and he hired me part time and
    finally I decided to go back to school and become a chef. I did not do many dishes because of the
    kitchen he worked out of and the Bar owner we didn’t see eye to eye so I would not wash her dishes. Tom and I and he said if you go to school there is only one cooking school in the world worth going to and that is the Culinary Initintute of America. His school. So I went to the Volk
    Rehab. people and because out of our jurisdiction she made a few phone call and the finaceing was taken care of. And NO these Counsellers are Not Easy to get money out of. I know I tryed.
    I applied to the CIA and was accepted and on Nov 15, 2010 I Started Classes and I have never been happier . My Dr has been able to get me off the anti depressents that I have been on for 7 or 8 years I am waiting for Buffallo for an increase in my disability because of the problems that
    come up with my back and sinc shoulder surgery in the wording of the sections of the back. I
    am very greatful to the Rehab section and what they have done for me . What will happen when
    I am rehabilitated Well 1st off I have 3 job offers now 2 priviate restronates and the Turing Stone
    Raymond W. DiPietro

  4. Hello, I was recently approved for Voc Rehab,, My disability rating is only 10%, though I have other disabilities that are currently in the system. In order to be eligible I was found with a severe employment handycap. I am most interested in my own business or schooling. I have an extensive employment history but am lacking formal education. I was told that it is too late to apply for school. My counselor sent me to opportunity villiage. I have been here a few weeks and am disappointed. There are severely metally challenged individuals here and I am under the same rules and regs. I feel this is a complete waste of my time and feel betrayed that I am going thru this type of indignation. My counselor says I am being evaluated to see if I can maintain a work environment. My history suggests I can. I have expressed my dimay to my counselor and she who is part time, says I must fulfill an evaluation here for another 3 or 4 months or she will take me out of the program. This place is not for me , they talk down to the few vets here and use them to make monies for their organization. I am looking for work and was under the guise that I would be assisted in my search. (not).I need recourse. I am considering opting out of this waste of time malarkey. Please advise. Anywhere but here.

  5. I have a Question, Currently I am a Disabled vet. my rating is at 70% with 100% Unemployablity . I completed College via Voc Rehab and now am being sent to a counselor of some type to find a job. The last year of College my health declined even further and I know longer think I can work a full time job. I would rather stay on the disability and use my education to get a part time job that doesnt take me over the max. amount one can work and still get disability. I haven’t met with the person who is suppose to help me find a job yet. What should I tell them and If I choose to not want to work what would be the fallout or repercussions?

    1. Well, if you don’t find work you don’t find work. Part time will be tricky since you need to still stay under the $9k limit for the year. If you’re at 100% TDIU, you may want to consider talking with a Social Security Lawyer about getting onto SSI. If you believe you’re basically unable to work full time, this may be an option. I would strongly suggest not applying for SSI without speaking to an attorney first to find out about the process and such.

  6. I just want to make sure I understand correctly. I was in the Voc-rehab program and completed my BA degree in management December 2009. I was working for the Census as a supervisor, temporary job which ended in May of 2010. However, I was told I was rehabilitated and completed the program. Since then I have be unable to find work as a manager, which was my planned program. I only used 15 months of the program. I have been applying for jobs as a manager and unable to gain employment as a manager, although I have a job as an office assistant.

    I can appeal my rehabilitation, correct?

  7. Michael, it’s really hard to say without knowing all the facts of the situation. The regulation that applies is 38 CFR 21.284. This is the pertinent part of that:

    21.284 Reentrance into a rehabilitation program.

    (a) Reentrance into rehabilitation to the point of employability following a determination of rehabilitation. A veteran who has been found rehabilitated under provisions of §21.283 may be provided an additional period of training or services only if the following conditions are met:

    (1) The veteran has a compensable service-connected disability and either;

    (2) Current facts, including any relevant medical findings, establish that the veteran’s service-connected disability has worsened to the extent that the effects of the service-connected disability considered in relation to other facts precludes him or her from performing the duties of the occupation for which the veteran previously was found rehabilitated; or

    (3) The occupation for which the veteran previously was found rehabilitated under Chapter 31 is found to be unsuitable on the basis of the veteran’s specific employment handicap and capabilities.
    Bottom line is that either your disabilities have worsened as evidenced by a rating increase or the occupation you trained for is no longer suitable. This does not mean “unsuitable” because others want your job or your company is laying off people.

    Like I said, though, there are other considerations, such as was there a find of a Serious Employment Handicap, remaining number of months entitlement and Basic Termination Date. But these only come into consideration if you reopen or reapply and at this point would only confuse the issue.

    However, don’t take my word for anything. It’s not my decision to make. For a definite answer, apply to the VR office in your area. Get something in writing from there and appeal their decision if you don’t agree with it.

  8. Hello, I was considered “Rehabilitated” at the beginning of 2010. I am a 30% disabled vet and voc rehab paid for 2 BA degrees, but I spent almost 6 months straight trying to find a career in the fields that I went to school for, but I found no employment. I currently work full time for a company where I make my disabilities are severly effecting my work (I can no longer lift heavy objects, squat for long periods or stand for long periods )( Herniated disks in my upper and lower back along with arthritic knees) I asked my counselor if it was possible to keep going to school to help my chances of getting a job that does not affect my disability, and I was told sorry the VA had reached its limit on funding for me. I also asked about gainfull employment and was told that sorry because you have a good paying job now there is nothing we can do. I am going to have to have my current company make reasonable accomodations, but that will lead to a layoff or closing that position. Is there anything I can do? Should I file an appeal on my case and try to go back to school to help out my situation?

  9. I went through the Chapter 31 Voc Rehab program, and am now working in an unrelated field and deemed rehabilitated. Is there a way that I can go back and get a graduate degree, the job market is so competitive that there are people with graduate degrees and higher trying to get the job that I have now. DO I have any recourse?

  10. I am a retired Chaplain (8 years chaplain,8 years line officer, 4 years enlisted) who took a job upon retiring that is not panning out. I have a 60% disability rating (paratrooper back injuries) that is precluding me from fully doing the job I am currently holding. I got out in Aug 2002 and would like to pursue a docotorate to position me to teach. Could VOC rehab be used to pay for this? Thanks so much for your help to other veterans.

    1. They have approved PhD’s for other veterans. I would apply and see where it goes. It really depends on how your disabilities are impacting your current job or your ability to find work.

  11. I recently completed a Bachelor Degree from an accredited university and was employed full time with a private company outside of my degree field but now I am being laidoff or downsized. My question concerns additional training in the field of my degree. It appears a master’s degree is substantial in this field. I applied for government loans to attend a master’s degree program and the cost of repay is extremely high interest rate. Is there anyway Vocational Rehabilitation can or would pay for this additional degree? If so, what is the process for this to happen?

    1. It’s tough to get back into the program unless your disabilities have gotten worse, or you no longer can find employment because your skills are outdated.

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