Voc Rehab Uncorked – Abused Veterans Turn To Social Media

Abused Veterans

Benjamin KrauseVA Secretary McDonald and Under Secretary Hickey better listen up to the voices of abused veterans getting hammered by unethical VA Voc Rehab Counselors nationwide.

“Where do they find these people that work as [Voc Rehab Counselors]?” asked veteran Carla Wiley-Coakley. “My 1st meeting with my [Counselor] was horrific. She was 100% negative about me qualifying for [Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation benefits]… I feel like I’m on an uphill battle.”

Is the process of any benefit supposed to be an uphill battle if you are qualified? Absolutely not, and if you keep reading, I will reveal a proven insight that will keep you from an uphill battle.

Here, Carla has a 100% Permanent and Total disability rating from VA, but when she tried to get fundamental retraining benefits she left the meeting feeling beat up, “Basically she bullied me, disrespected and humiliated me.”

According to the group response on Facebook, Carla’s experience seemed on par with others. She provided specifics that evoked outcry from the DisabledVeterans.org online community, “From the moment I sat down I was very uncomfortable. She felt that I shouldn’t have VA Disability that I waited over 30+ years for or apply for SSD. I literally had a severe panic attack when I got to my car after the meeting.” Learn more about Carla’s story is below.

In practice, a Vocational Counselor is required to review the veteran’s file prior to the first meeting. These counselors receive extensive training from VA and college in how to communicate with clients in a professional and courteous manner in light of any disabilities. So why did this Voc Rehab Counselor, knowing what she knew about Carla, induce a panic attack vis-à-vis rude and aggressive?

Great question, someone with that kind of knowledge and training would likely know their abrasive technique would induce panic leading me to wonder if it was intentional.

An even better question is this: Will VA do anything about it after they read this article?

In a perfect world, VA Vocational Rehabilitation (VRE or Voc Rehab) helps a veteran get retrained in a suitable field that is within the veteran’s interests. It can help you start a small business, go to law school, become a plumber, or practically anything else within reason, based on its regulations.

Yet, the legal reality is that the program is the Wild West of VA benefits.  Voc Rehab Counselors can run rogue with little to no accountability. Lawyers usually will not represent in the area because veterans cannot pay fees and there is no back pay like Disability Compensation for traditional contingent fee work. As one example, in the VRE universe, I am one of the only lawyers with Voc Rehab experience. And, I got that way because I had to fight the Voc Rehab program to get my own benefits for 11 years.

It was a kind of “trial by fire” for me versus a walk in the park for veterans like Senator Jim Webb who also used Voc Rehab to fund law school three decades ago after Vietnam.

But beyond poor ethical accountability, the regulations are vague enough to enable counselors to manipulate veterans out of needed and earned benefits. That is, unless the veteran knows where to look for the right answers.

Regardless, the point of this article is to help you avoid the VA red tape and manipulations. And if you are as disappointed and saddened as I am about VRE abusing veterans, send McDonald and Hickey an email with a link to this article with an explanation of your feelings. Tell them “hi” for me:

(NOTE: This article is long but you get proven VRE tactics below.)

Problem Background

Here is a little background. Disabled veterans struggling to make ends meet have been writing in to me at a rapid pace with story after story of Voc Rehab Counselors turning them off from successful rehabilitation.

These veterans send reports of Voc Rehab Counselors behaving in an abusive and abrasive manner, and contrary to the law. So not only are the counselors unfriendly, but they also violate their own laws in the form of statutes and regulations.

Today, I grabbed a great Facebook thread about this kind of issue so you could read what veterans are facing, but more importantly what veterans are doing about it.

Here is a quick primer on what the program is supposed to do according to its regulations. This will help you avoid Voc Rehab manipulators.

Voc Rehab History and Purpose

VA Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VRE) is one of five channels of Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) programs designed to help veterans succeed despite their disabilities. Around 700 Vocational Rehab Counselors, who are trained through accredited masters degree programs and who have a certification from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certifications (CRCC), largely administer the VRE program.

Federal regulations drafted by the Department of Veterans Affairs clearly lay out the purposes of the program. These stated purposes create the lens through which all subsequent regulations are supposed to be interpreted.

I will break this down in two different ways to give you a solid understanding as to why abusive behavior does not jive with the law.

According to 38 CFR § 21.1, the purposes of VRE are:

The purposes of this program are to provide to eligible veterans with compensable service-connected disabilities all services and assistance necessary to enable them to achieve maximum independence in daily living and, to the maximum extent feasible, to become employable and to obtain and maintain suitable employment. (emphasis added)

Voc Rehab Program ‘Purpose’ Expanded

Let me draw your attention to a few of the terms and clauses used within the above VRE purpose paragraph. First, you obviously need to be entitled to the program (ie a service-disabled veteran whose employment is impaired by that service-connected disability). Next, you need to keep the word “purpose” in mind as you read on. Also, pay attention to the use of the word “and”:

  1. “to provide… all services AND assistance necessary” – Here, I interpret “all” as meaning “all” help necessary to get from point A to point B.
  2. “to enable them to achieve maximum independence” – Maximum independence must mean “maximum independence” versus “somewhat independence.” If a person is wheelchair bound, then my guess would be that the help provided by VRE would focus on making the person as free as possible despite the wheelchair through prosthetic and relates assistance and services. Some examples might be a modification on the truck so the person could still drive. Or, VA might install a special lift for the bathroom or an in-home elevator depending on the circumstance.
  3. “AND, to the maximum extent feasible” – This presents a modifier. It means the goal related to employment is modified in that it must be realistic. Certain people should be doctors and certain other people should not. Certain people should be accountants and others should not. Nonetheless, the services must be the maximum up to whatever that employment goal cutoff might be ie it must be feasible meaning accomplishable for that person. For example, a person cannot be a lawyer without passing the bar. If VA failed to support the person through the Bar exam after law school, and the person showed they could achieve that goal, VA would fail to provide help to the “maximum extent feasible.”
  4. “to become employable” – this last set of clauses are modified. The person must receive feasible services to the point of becoming employment, but that is not enough when you consider the next two conditions.
  5. “AND to obtain – Here, the veteran must actually receive assistance to obtain employment, but mere employment is not enough.
  6. AND maintain suitable employment” – The veteran must be able to keep that job she obtains, and the type of job must be “suitable.” The employment type is thus modified. This means it cannot merely be any kind of employment. For example, VRE cannot satisfy its requirement by forcing a veteran trained as a lawyer to accept work as a forklift driver and then claim VRE did its job. According to VRE guidance in M28R, “suitable” modifies “employment” by requiring the employment type to be within the veteran’s abilities, aptitudes, and interests.

If I rewrite this in normal American English, it would read something like this:

VRE must provide support to qualified disabled veterans in all necessary ways to find employment and stay employed in a field suitable for the veteran.

If I rewrite this as a butchered math equation, it might look like this:

VA Obligation = (all services costs + all assistance costs to reach Max. Independence) + (all services costs + all assistance costs to reach feasible Max Obtain/Maintain Suitable Employment) = Taxpayer Obligation

Based on this premise according to VA regs, it is inappropriate for a Voc Rehab Counselor to push a veteran into a field of training for employment the veteran is not interested in. It is further inappropriate for a Voc Rehab Counselor to deny necessary services required for the veteran to achieve their reasonably achievable vocational goal. And, VA Voc Rehab Counselors must adhere to their own VA regulations. It is not an option.

If you want to be a lawyer, and you do well in your undergrad and law school entrance exam, VA should consider this. The same holds for an accountant, doctor, plumber, entrepreneur, and pretty much anything that fits the above purpose regulation.

That’s what I did. VRE paid for me to attend my undergrad and then law school. I even wrote a book about it called, The Voc Rehab Survival Guide, to help veterans  having a tough time encouraging VRE to follow its own stated purpose.

Remember: MAXIMUM, MAXIMUM, MAXIMUM. With this information, you will now be able to spot a Voc Rehab Counselor who is trying to manipulate you by approving anything less than the “maximum.”

Now let’s consider reality for many veterans.

Voc Rehab Horror Story

Here is a recent example on our Facebook group of things not going in the right direction and what a lot of veterans suggested on how to fix it based on person experience:

Carla Wiley-Coakley

Where do they Find these People that work as VRC’s????

My 1st meeting with my VRC was horrific. She was 100% Negative about me qualifying for Chp.31. I’m 100% total permanent disabled by the VA. From the moment I sat down I was very uncomfortable. She felt that I shouldn’t have VA Disability that I waited over 30+ years for or apply for SSD. I literally had a severe panic attack when I got to my car after the meeting. Basically she Bullied me, Disrespected and humiliated me. I want to switch but don’t want to hold up the process even longer. I fell like I’m on an Uphill battle.

Oisin Willis That’s such bullshit, she is in no position to look down on you, she is not a doctor!!! I had the same problem with the woman who processed my claim, she marked me absent for multiple appointments (when I called her with at let 24 hours notice that I would be unavailable), she also sent my claim off prematurely saying that she could not wait any longer. One day I was scheduling an MRI and she said don’t worry about it “you look healthy, you’ll be fine.”

This is not her place to make remarks and although I’m unfamiliar to the Chp.31 I would suggest reporting the said person and requesting someone else. These people are here to help us not to humiliate us or make remarks about our health!!!

Oisin Willis This makes me so angry because I feel like there are more veterans than just us two dealing with issues like these that may not be able to speak up for themselves and in turn walk away from the benefits that they DESERVE. There needs to be someone that can hold said individuals accountable

Sarah Grant Switch! If you are being treated poorly now it will not get better.

After watching my husband fight with a bad counselor for 2 years I can say it would be better to slow down the process and have someone truly on your side than fight an uphill battle for the next year or more. You have enough to battle. Thank you for your sacrifice and you deserve better.

Carla Wiley-Coakley Oisin Willis Thank you for your understanding. It means a lot

Carla Wiley-Coakley Sarah Grant sorry to hear about your husband. Being in this situation fees so lonely and not knowing who to contact about this makes it more frustrating.

Todd Millsap That’s discrimination and I’m dealing with exactly the same thing .

Carla Wiley-Coakley Todd Millsap, I don’t understand the negative attitude from the VRC’S. As veterans we are trying to better ourselves. We aren’t looking for handouts

Nancy Bryant What’s a VRC? Never heard of that?

Roy Ingram Your VRC needs to be slapped…. Very Unprofessional

Roy Ingram Voc rehab counselor

Carla Wiley-Coakley Nancy Bryant VRC’S Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. They qualify you for money for college, trade school etc.

Nancy Bryant Ahhhhhhhh, I was denied services by them 3 times, was told since I’m 100% Permanent & Total that it should be assumed I’m IU even though it’s a moot point for them to officially document I’m IU since I’m 100% without it…

Ben Krause Your Voc Rehab Counsel behaved in an abusive manner against a protected class person likely with the intent of causing emotional distress. It might be called IIED because she is likely trained, certified and knows how to communicate properly but chose not to.

Todd Millsap I don’t get it either? From day one almost two years ago now I feel like my VRC is completely against me and other than determination of the barrier to employment and a certificate of eligibility, I’m avoided like I have a disease or something , I’ve been lied to given the run around and my VR&E experience has been less than desirable and I generally dread have our meetings not to mention any email correspondence I initiate has all been ignored. I think I’m gonna just get a lawyer and let them deal with it. It shouldn’t be like this for any of us that are eligible for VR&E benefits? Frustrated!

JM Jimenez At VA today..gonna get MH doc to write a note in the system to tell my VRC her testing my feasibility for employment is a waste of time…and then I am walking next door to the RO to surprise the CH 31 crew. Plus I have emailed everyone and all evidence to all parties. No more damn excuses.

Rick Taylor I recently went through a similar issue. I am in Voc Rehab going to college. I was reassigned to another counselor because the one I had retired. I did not know she retired until I called t ask why she had not been responding to my emails. That’s when I found out she retired. It took them 3 months to assign me someone else. When I finally had a new rep, it took 2 months to get her on the phone. When I was talking to her, I told her that I had talked to the other one and was thinking about changing my degree. Well here is where she treated me like I was just coming into the program. She wanted me to fill out paperwork like I was just now entering the program. She tried to dominate the phone conversation, and when that happens my voice tends to escalate, and she told me not to raise my voice. I explained to her that I was not yelling. I am trying to get my two cents into the conversation that you are trying to rule. She said we needed to have a sit down in her office and for me to bring the paperwork that she had sent me via email. I called a few weeks later and asked to speak to her supervisor. They put me to her voice mail. I left a message and she called two days later. I explained what I was trying to tell my rep, and for some stupid reason she agreed. Why should I have to redo my paperwork because I was thinking about changing my degree program? When I finally got my appointment to see her, her tone had changed, but she still tried to dominate. This is where I had to lay it on the line. I told her that her job is to assist me and I was not going to put up with her attitude. I told her I have been in this program since August of 2012, and she would know this if she would take the time to look at my file. She now understands where I am coming from because she cannot bully me because I fire back as quickly as she starts her crap. The one thing that pisses me off about the VA. Most of the ones that work there haven’t served a day in the military and are CLUELESS as to what we’ll put up with during our time in the military.

Juan D. Reyna Do some research, as I understand it, if you’re at 100% disability rating and unemployable, you might lose that rating once you complete your course of study!!!

Carla Wiley-Coakley Juan D. Reyna I’m total permanent and don’t have any restrictions on working. Now I’m really confused.

Nancy Bryant Carla, he said unemployable, not permanent and total… They are 2 different things. Don’t be confused.

Nancy Bryant Permanent & Total means your medical conditions are just that: Permanent and total, for the rest of your life, it doesn’t mean (for some) that you can’t work. On the other hand, Unemployability, is supposed to mean you aren’t able to work. With that said, Voc Rehab is to help get you back to work, so if someone is currently IU, but partaking in Voc Rehab and successfully completes it, they won’t keep that IU rating once employed.

Nancy Bryant I don’t think they should keep it IF they successfully completed the Voc Rehab because it shows they are capable and they used a service another Veteran could have used… Just my opinion.

Jerome Kelly Williams Now I know all counselors are not the same but the stories I hear have me believing there are few that care. I have been going through a nightmare case for 4 years. My first attempt I was denied without even being given an initial eval. They claim to never receive my appeal. I have proof of delivery. The second one I was denied then offered testing…go figure….my appeal was never forwarded. Third one denied quickly….filed an appeal that again vanished but I again had proof of delivery. Sending an email to Allison Hickey got the ball rolling and I finally got my SOC. For course that is because the head of the VA regional office in my area required the VRE office to keep him updated on the status of my claim.

Nancy Bryant I never got evaluated… I was told… “WOW, 2 70% ratings, a 50% rating, 40% rating, 30% rating, 4 kids at home and you WANT to work?” He then suggested I had too much going on medically, that it was a full time job just caring for myself, then add 4 kids into the mix, he felt I wouldn’t finish a program… DENIED! Oh, and he said I never had a thorough Neuro work up following my accident that he’d consider valid, so I’d have to get one done, then MAYBE he’d consider me… The VA, nor Tricare will do the work up and if they do, what do they have to compare it to?? SMH

Ramona Alys Carla Wiley-Coakley, if you are completely unable to work, and have no desire to work, then the program for you would be the Independent Living program. The VRC would have to determine your eligibility. I always suggest that following all meetings you send an email with something like, “It is my understanding that this is what I was told in our meeting. Am I correct?” Basic info is on here, and more involved info:



Ramona Alys As for VRCs, they are required to have their Master’s Degrees. There are some that are wonderful, and ones that act like the benefits come directly out of their pockets. I’ve had both, but it took going over the bad VRC’s head to get a new VRC and get what I needed.

JM Jimenez ^^^ That’s what I have been trying to convey. I just finished explaining to my MH doctor why CWT is not good option…he agrees, but realizes the protocol. I am now at the doorstep of CWT coordinator to state my case of why I am not participating. I have enough to do to take care of myself and all ailments…who has time for experimental Shit. VRC wants me to do this before I get ILP.

Ramona Alys Besides, if you were working we’d miss your presence on here!

JM Jimenez The only reason I need ILP is so I can get a massage chair and recumbent bike….nothing else…not given through VHA.

John Dixon From now on record your conversations. Let them know you have anxiety and want to ensure that you get all of the information that she is giving you! You’ll see a quick turn around in their attitude! It’s a viable and feasible request to record them!

Todd Millsap I do the same thing JM Jimenez. Lol Just a record to fall back on .

Nancy Bryant A massage chair and a heated, jetted bath or hot tub would be like HEAVEN for me and my pain. I just wouldn’t know what to do with myself!

Carla Wiley-Coakley I’ve been a licensed practical nurse for 16 years I usually work part time. I was working part time when I applied for VA disability and they knew that. My dilemma is hospitals don’t hire anymore in my area. I need a Bachelor degree in nursing to get hired. I’ve tried other areas of nursing but just wasn’t a good fit for me. I only have hospital experience. I want to be a Registered Nurse. I know I would be hired as soon as I graduated. I can’t find work here.

Carla Wiley-Coakley Oisin Willis I’m sure we aren’t the only 2 going through this. I always have a positive outlook on things but this person sucked all that right out of my soul. I have at least 50% complete but can’t the other half of my education. It’s taken me nearly 5 years to pay as I go before granted my VA disability.

Tammie Montez Delatte Get her name and report it there is no place that one should treat us with disrespect

Sarah Grant Carla he is done now and at the end was switched to an awesome counselor but wow it was frustrating:)

Kevin Browning I have gone through the Voc-Rehab program and I had the misfortune of getting a new counselor right in the middle of my degree. My first counselor informed me that even if I got social security that I could still go to college because she has people who have retired and only want a degree so that they have something to do. However, when I got my new counselor, she was like no way, if you are not able to work, then I need to withdraw you from the program. Needless to say, I did graduate, but shortly after I got a job, I had to resign. Also, VA will not pay for a pool, sauna, or jetted tub. I was also referred to the ILP, but that was back in April and although I have spoken to my counselor and she has even followed up with whoever does the program, I still have not heard anything else.

Conclusion – Despite VA law, are VA benefits meant to be maximized?

After reading this, you may be asking yourself, “How can counselors be so bad in light of pro-veteran laws?” My guess is because some VA employees do not like veterans and let their bias affect their decisions to the extent that they will disregard the law.

I wish I knew the true reason VA allows this to go on, but I have an idea. Now, as a disclaimer for my upcoming hypothesis, I did offer to work for VA while finishing law school to write benefits guides that veterans would actually use. I flew to VA on my own dime, met with Under Secretary Hickey and told her she needed to hire me to fix her stuff.

They humored me for the moment but the offer went nowhere. My only conclusion based on the evidence and my years writing to veterans is that VA, by and large, does not want you to utilize your benefits to the maximum extent feasible. If it did, VA would eliminate all obstructionist employees and that would be the end of that.

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  1. So I have been in Chapter 31 for nearly 8 years. While, I have completed an abundance of training, I have not been able to get a job using any or all of the training that I have completed which is why I requested to be self-employed 8 years ago. As of now, I am still not self-employed after 8 years. Ch. 31 forced me into homelessness due to the long subsistence allowance payments and I am not outside of my entitlement which has been requested and processed nearly 8 months ago. For the last 8 months, my life has been hell once more as I have not been paid for at lest the 4 months of entitled time. While, I was in my program unsuspecting of what was going on, I was left holding the cards as I finished the 2nd to the last part of my contract under my current program. There excuses and delays are so bad that even with a read receipt, I may not get a response for up to 6 months. Even worse, I have paid for my college degrees on my own because of lengthy delays or poor responses. I was talked out of law-enforcement and told to take IT which has left me jobless for extensive periods of time. To make things even worse, the VA called themselves reimbursing me for my masters to only mess that up and over pay my university leaving me in debt to the university and 1 class short of completing my PhD. So far, Ch. 31 has left me standing in the cold with no food, no place to go, and constantly stressed due to poor professionalism, bad management and leadership, and a dream nearly ripped away from me. To date, I am once more behind on all of my bills due to false promises, misleading conversations, and untruthful explanations. I don’t know who to turn to as the Regional Director of the Los Angeles VA wouldn’t even comment on it after I sent him a personal email. That to which, he gave me his business card and told me to let him know if I ever need help. So, promise that was…

  2. Firstly, to every Veteran reading this, thank you for your service.

    I myself am not a Veteran, but I am engaged to one. I am writing this because my Veteran is rated 100% for PTSD & combat related back issues and currently is attending a University. Last semester he made the Dean’s list, this semester, we encountered many issues through the VA to keep him on his medication and his grades started to suffer. Beyond that, I recognized that the PTSD symptoms were spiraling out of control and although I made many attempts to assist him getting back on his meds or even dealing with the VA myself, he unfortunately hit “rock bottom” and considered suicide and ultimately checked himself into a private Psychiatric Hospital after I made him the initial appt. (Side note, very proud of him for willingly seeking help)

    Now, he is currently in an inpatient program of 28 days and I am here trying to manage everything from rent, to dealing with his University and of course, Voc Rehab. What I’m finding is because he sought help for the very reason he is disabled, she is warning me that he may no longer be eligible for the program because it’s “not an education program, it’s ultimately a work program” and he’s not holding up his end of the bargain. No kidding, how is someone whose having thoughts of suicide and bouts of anger, supposed to be able to focus on a full class schedule? Bottom line, he couldn’t. Naturally, he also cannot attend classes while he’s “inpatient”. She’s threatening him being deemed ineligible because his disability of PTSD proves that he cannot/will not be able to find employment. Essentially, he’s being penalized for seeking help, furthermore, will have to repay the housing substinence portion. So here I am terrified that if he doesn’t receive it or he has to pay it back, once he completes the 28 day program, we might not have a house for him to come home to because we cannot afford the rent on our house without it. In addition, his ex wife took him back to court and he pays child support based on the Chpt. 31 income as well. Not only are we in danger of losing the house because I cannot come up with rent by myself (I receive SSI disability for migraines and it’s a measly amount), he still has to pay the same amount of child support as if he were still receiving it (until we can get child support recalculated after proving he no longer receives it as income, which could take months, I’m told).

    Here’s the kicker, while completing his 28 day stay and evaluating all aspects of his life, he decided he might want to ultimately “give back” and work in a similar hospital or environment as a counselor or aide instead of pursuing the Business degree… Great! Almost all of the employees at the hospital he’s at, have been in his shoes before and have overcome and are successful today, BUT his Voc Rehab counselor informed me that they WILL NOT allow someone with his disability, especially after he’s had an inpatient hospital stay, go into that line of work via the program…so forgive me, but what the hell does she want him to do? She’s ready to deem him ineligible, and quite frankly, unfit to work because he tried to better himself.

    As I lie here in bed by myself, (he still has 21 days to go) I can’t help but feel overwhelmed and disappointed in the system that is supposed to be helping my beloved Veteran.

    My question is, if he is no longer eligible, then what?

  3. Wow!

    I thought I was the only one to experience such terrible Vocational Rehabilitation experience. It appears that its endemic across the VA.

    I too experience the negativity from veteran employees at the VA, but also the very positive ones too. The employees that have not served seem to look at me as if I were a venomous snake about to strike. All the non-verbal communication is written throughout their demeanor, and responses. Some even appear to be zombies being forced to work at hard labor.

    If the recruiter had explained it to me how it was going to be after I got out totally and permanently injured in 1973, I would not have believed it, I would have thought that he was a communist plant, and now they are our allies on the war on something or other.

    Thank you for all the pointers in this blog of threads. I’ve experienced about 80% of them dealing with the VA for the last 40 years, and their incompetence still never seizes to amaze me how we ever won the war, or did we? I think the real war is at home and it starts with the VA as we fight for our rights and benefits promised and stipulated into the “law”, but sabotaged by those we fought to defend their freedoms and way of life; some before they were even born.

    The irony now is when they tell me “Thank you for your service, and here’s your 10% military discount.” I then tell them that I am 100% totally and permanently military disabled, and therefore i should get a 100% discount. I end it with “Did you serve?” Very very few answer with a yes, and those that don’t answer have the same look on their face as many that work at the VA. Coincidence? I think not! But a sign of the times.

    I’ve tried getting on Voc Rehab many times, but the counselors keep wording it that it would not be feasible for me, yet i keep getting small, and seasonal employment gigs, but none are considered gainful employment. I would trade my whole 100% rating for assistance in getting training and obtaining gainful employment, but I guess my down side is that I do not look at the world as pessimistic as the VRCs.

  4. I just received my Bachelors in Physics thanks to Chapter 31. My counselor never told me that voc rehab would pay for an advanced degree, nor did she say anything about how messed up the stipend pay schedule is.

  5. I knew I was not the only one who got the shaft from Voc Rehab. this is so common and sad. I am going to fight for mine. I was naive when I went through the program 15 to 20 years ago. They said I have suitable employment when I am not even working in the so called voc. training they forced me to take. Thank You counselors bullies. I started fighting back by writing my congresswoman; boy they got back to me fast. They begged my to recant and retract my letter. I was so mad, upset, tired, of the whole VA system that I got myself out of the system because of the frustrating Bullying system of being treated like crap. I was stupid for giving up but hey I am back and I am fighting for my benefits as a disable Vet. Thanks Ben for your advice and enlightenment. Thanks fellow vets for speaking up! It gives more courage.

  6. Michael – did you request your VR&E file using a Freedom of Information request?

    By the way, as far as “Veterans screwing veterans”. No doubt this does happen. However, the last statistics I saw showed that only 30% of VA employees are veterans. Can you believe it??!!!

    This happens because most of the large VA hospitals are close to large Universities. The VA offers internships to university students and then, upon graduation, hire those who have done a good job for them. This practice gives the upper hand to a college kid fresh out of school and frat parties being chosen over Vets, even though there is a so called vet preference in hiring. Many of these college kids look down their noses at vets, thinking them to have been in the military only because they weren’t smart enough to get into college.

    The other problem is that the turnover at the VA is out of control. There is a constant turnover of employees causing a lack of experience and the mentality that they will approach each case from a very conservative standpoint and “let the appeals board make the final decision if benefits should be granted.”

    Is it any wonder that this type of treatment occurs?

  7. I work with a vet who lost a leg in Iraq and had the other leg mangled. He requested that they remove that leg, too, but the VA denied his request.

    He has a 100% disability rating from the VA. Voc Rehab approved his request to become a Physical Therapist, which requires a PhD. While he was working on his Bachelors Degree he decided he would not physically be able to work as a Physical Therapist and, as a result, he decided he wanted to work in prosthetic’s and orthopedics, which only requires a MBA instead of a PhD..

    After he completed his Bachelors Degree the VA refused his request to continue his education so he could obtain his MBA. They told him he could become a Physical Therapist Assistant with his Bachelor degree and that would suffice as “suitable” employment His appeals of their decision were to no avail.

    At this point Ben provided him some information on the VA tactics and his rights and the vet is once again trying to work through the process with the VA to obtain his graduate degree. Now that he knows his rights and is more familiar with the tactics of the VA his approach has changed, he has requested a new Voc Rehab counselor, his case is now being reviewed by the original counselors supervisor, and he feels he is actually making progress. He is optimistic he will be granted approval to obtain his MBA.

    It is a crime that veterans who are not lucky enough to somehow find Ben’s blog have no idea how to fight the VA machine. Thank you, Ben, for what you do for all veterans, and particularly what you did for this vet.

  8. It might already be in all the stuff Ben said or somewhere in all the comments, but, and this is a huge but to all of this, there are at least two kinds of voc rehab. One is for the purpose of rehab with the goal of you going back to work. The other, though it may be called something else, is for the purpose of social readjustment to help you attempt to function in the outside world, meaning doing anything but sitting alone in your home, or in the worst cases, alone under a bridge as one of the many thousands of homeless vets who have been herded into that category by the sociopaths that still hide by the thousands inside the VA staffing system, especially in the ranks of the voc rehab program. ask Ben or some expert you can trust like him, but i am pretty sure you can go through the social readjustment program for the sole purpose of trying to better adapt to the world after military service that often includes a service-connected disability. it is the same stuff, going to college, taking classes, maybe even some kind of occupational therapy or maybe even actual training to do some profession, but of course if you are actually so disabled by the military stuff you went through you will not actually be able to go back to work, maybe never. the VA is full of sneaky manipulators who will try to shaft you on this whole thing. they are so messed up that when I went through the social readjustment form of voc rehab several years ago my voc rehab counselor at the county level VA helped the college sabotage the living daylights out of me. he was and is totally incompetent beyond belief. no one, not even the biggest corrupt ass at the VA would have ever claimed I failed miserably in the social readjustment program of voc rehab especially since campus police stalked me severely, hid around campus, popped out with their guns in front of me and my wife several times, endless drama because my voc rehab VA guy was a total idiot as was the campus disabled students services program. if you are going for social readjustment within voc rehab, know this, if you are 100% for ptsd or anything like that you will be considered armed and dangerous to the college you go to most likely. that is what butte community college did to me in northern California and that was over ten years ago and it has never stopped. so be careful if you go for social readjustment, because your VA voc rehab guy or gal will quite possibly, in the end analysis, get you shot on campus or help the authorities set you up. college all across america love the attention they get when they have a campus shooting, as crazy as that sounds. there is never an excuse for violence, but they will provoke you even with help of the VA when they are all supposed to be trying to help you readjust to the civilian world. be careful, and don’t give anyone an excuse to shoot your ass.

  9. And think, Benjamin. You have not even touched on the insidious treatment accorded us under 38 USC 3120. They cannot seem to find 2,700 severely disabled Vets across our fruited plain. Wyoming, Vermont and Manila have never seen one in over 10 years in spite of the recent 13 year war(s).
    alex sends

  10. To all veterans when I got out of the Marine Corps in 1974, I checked for my GI benefits, went to American Legions of who I though would give me and idea on Educational benefits, and how I could progress from my present state of unemployment, and were destroyed, the person I talked with though, I wanted a new car at the government expense. And the rednecks said boy you can’t get a new car under the G.I. bill, I weren’t asking for anything of the kind. And made me feel stupid, for going to the American Legion. I never went back. The VA as I see it is to discourage a veteran, and to violate veterans rights. Once I tried to apply for a job at a VAMC, even though I were a certified police officer in the state of North Carolina, I never got a call back. Federal Government, keep your jobs because I don’t want to work for someone, who is hiding the truth, and treating veterans like trash.

  11. When is Vocational Rehab going to be investigated? As you said, the worst part is that smart aleck VA employees are often veterans themselves. Where’s all this hostility coming from? If these folks hate their brothers and sisters so much, they should find another line of work. Like the DMV.

  12. I sent a lengthy email warning everyone to ensure they get a copy of their VR & E file. You’ll be surprised at the shit they put in it. It took me 1 1/2 years to get mine. Can you believe that? Tell me that isn’t breaking the law!!! Secretary McDonald’s office helped me after I emailed him. He’s got my vote!!!! Now I’m raising hell because they say they don’t have my NOD for a DRO De Novo review. Right, I believe that one. What a shameful bunch.

    Sad part is, some of them are veterans screwing veterans. I don’t consider people like that veterans anymore. I call them Rodents El Maximus!!!! Or, just plain old large rodents on two feet. I have no respect for them whatsoever. They should bow their heads to reflect their unworthiness to help other veterans. Hope that cheers everyone up!!!!

  13. The anchorage area in Da Nang Harbor is within “AN” estuary that consists of the Cu De River and the Han River (;) the anchorage area within THE ESTUARY is surrounded by 3 shore lines (;) the anchorage area is well within the geographical territorial boundaries of Vietnam. The definition of “estuary” and the contents of “THE ESTUARY ” is “OF” that which is “OF” the 3 shore lines “OF” the land mass surrounding the anchorage area; well sheltered from the open sea. The scientific evidence of exposure to herbicides, pesticides, chemicals, and other pollutants is that the anchorage area within Da Nang Harbor is within “THE ESTUARY” consisting of the Cu De and Han Rivers. The USS Newport News ALSO operated in the Vinh Binh Province December 1968. The DVA’s Jan. 2010 Compensation & Pension Bulletin infers that THE CREW of ships that operated on “rivers” and “DELTAS” are …presumed exposure to herbicides…without further development. The Newport News is on DVA”s June 2010 Compensation & Pension Bulletin ships list for operations :Cua Viet “River” April 1969. Early 2013, I sent the Buffalo DVA a list of ships list (derived from the internet) that operated on the Mekong Delta. July 2013, The USS Newport News was on The DVA’s ships list for operations in the Vinh Binh Province in the Mekong Delta, ONLY ! Yet, Dec. 2013, The Buffalo DVA denied my claim(s) for compensation and health care; after 5 months of being on the DVA’s ships list. The USS Newport News was placed on The DVA’s ships list Instead of getting a lawyer, I contacted the DVA ATTN: Nehmer Working Group (211A) 810 Vermont Ave. N.W. Washington D.C.. (;) The Nehmer Training Guide Feb. 2011 (211A) / Feb. 2011 revised states: VA compensates class council for all of it’s work on Nehmer Claims. The “log jam” of my claim has been broken. Likewise, delay…my claim(s)… has been sent to the Board of Veterans Appeals: to have my claim processed to the Nehmer Court Order (The Nehmer Training guide (;) the Buffalo DVA’s examiner made diagnosis of my ischemic heart disease to as early as 2000 (:) And, Nehmer clearly indicates that compensation must be paid within 21 days. Yet, the Buffalo DVA defies strict compliance to the Nehmer Court Order (:) The Nehmer Training Guide (211A) clearly indicates that a claim by VA during review is a valid claim …without a formal claim ever being made; and, the Buffalo DVA did not rate my aneurysms. ETC. .

    1. I am a Masters-prepared rehabilitation counselor with 18 years of experience. I applied to be a VA VR counselor but was not hired. Could it be that my former supervisor who loathes me to this day & who is now a VA VRC disparaged me, putting her own needs ahead of veterans. Efforts to pursue this matter have been unsuccessful.

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