VocRehab Counselor

VocRehab Counselor Speaks Out Against Changes

VocRehab Counselor

Benjamin KrauseUnannounced changes to Vocational Rehab have one VocRehab Counselor speaking out against changes to claims processing that harm veterans seeking benefits to rehabilitate from their disabilities.

According to counselor Merri Busch, a new plan within VocRehab is causing a “delay in dispensing benefits” possibly leaving some veterans “waiting [for their] subsistence award” without notice.

[Busch is a fervent advocate for veterans, and her comments were made as a citizen and not on behalf of VA.]

Most veterans would characterize this as VocRehab restricting access to benefits while changing program procedures for the benefit of the bureaucracy. This is compounded according to a some veterans writing in who have simultaneously experienced their counselors pushing them out of the program if their award is open with the encouragement of VA leadership.

RELATED: Check Out VocRehab Facebook Group

Is this the way VA is supposed to run? Screw the veteran so bureaucratic programs can experiment with how we get back on track for employment?

Here is what VocRehab Counselor Merri Busch had to say in protest, speaking out for veterans stuck in the mess:

Ok, CH31 awards…here is the scoop. Over the summer, VR&E started beta testing entering awards via a new system tied to our case management software and, once it is in place, will dramatically ease the work of entering awards. And there will be a 3 day turn around on retro payments and EAAs instead of 7-10 days for awards or 30-45 days for EAAs.

However, the hitch is having to switch all the thousands of ‘pointers’ (each case has to be switched individually be CO personnel). They can’t be switch while there is an open award. They have to be special entry for ch33bah rate. All dependents for vets with less than 20% has to be reentered by hand.

The VRC has to submit a list of vets on their case list to the AVREO, who reviews it and sends it to CO who does the switching. Then the AVREO notifies the VRC of the switch. Then the VRC can enter the award. All this takes place over several days or weeks.

The VR&E service didn’t notify vets of this a head of time. They didn’t give the VRCs any info to share with vets. They can’t tell us how long this is going to take. And there is no back up plan to cover the delay in dispensing benefits. We were told to stop entering all awards in the old bdn (benefits delivery system) as of 7/1/15.

It is incidents like this that frustrate me. I know the VA is trying to do better, but this is NOT good customer service. I know it is hard on all you vets waiting the subsistence award. And it takes my time answering emails with “I don’t know.” (And y’all know I HATE not knowing anything and especially when I can’t address a vet’s needs).

UPDATE: Merri Busch contacted me about the paraphrase and quote above. Instead of paraphrasing her statement where I wrote  “According to counselor Merri Busch, VocRehab is restricting access to benefits while changing program procedures,” she preferred I provide a more literal quote. See above edit, “According to counselor Merri Busch, a new plan within VocRehab is causing a ‘delay in dispensing benefits’ possibly leaving some veterans ‘waiting [for their] subsistence award’ without notice.”

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  1. *Bump* I can’t believe on this crazy informational highway, that I am having such a hard time learning more about VR&E. I have applied via ebenefits, I am qualified at 30% and have valid need for vocational rehabilitation as a result of my injuries sustained while serving in OIF/OEF. The only message I got was “Your application has been accepted, we will contact you to discuss next steps.” Last time I heard “Don’t call us, We’ll call you” was in Phoenix, Arizona at the VA Hospital. You all know that story. My question is, can the DAV or a veteran representative help me to prepare for my meetings and or help to expedite the process? I have been run ragged by the VA, and I don’t have a great impression of them, but there is always an angle to get what you need. Remember you have to fight for it.. Cheers. Any advice greatly appreciated.

  2. I applied through Vonapp over a week ago. Or I should say signed up for info. How long does it take for Voc Rehab to contact me. I got the confirmation back saying they sent it to Waco which is about 60 miles from me so how long could it take.? Thanks.

    1. Also the facebook link you posted goes to a unknown page not found. Is there a facebook Voc Rehab group. I can not find one.

  3. Nothing new with the VA when it comes to VOC-REHAB! They simply do not care about the veterans they are suppose to serve. As one counselor told me, one out of ever four are good counselors and they care. The other three have no business being employed by the government.

  4. I enrolled in Voc Rehab in 2011. For several months my counselor tried continuously to push me towards a job in law enforcement because that was my current job and what I was trained for in the military. I was (still am for now) in law enforcement on the federal government. I was told by my civilian orthopedic that I needed to change careers because the equipment I had to carry on duty would continue to aggravate my knees and back (which are the main disabilities I have from the military). I was 35 at the time and needed a knee replacement, but because of my age the orthopedic wanted me to try and wait a little longer because of the extent of the surgery.
    I went into the program knowing what type of training I wanted and that I wanted to start my own business. It took me several months to get my counselor to approve me to do auto body, which I already had a background in but just needed some more training. I attended a 3 week course in 2012 but because of some things they were doing they lost their accreditation with VA and the school never got paid. Luckily I was not required to pay for the training myself. It was a 3 week course but it is difficult to grasp everything need to successfully run a business in that amount of time and I was requesting additional training at a different school that was VA accredited. Since that time I had tried getting my counselor to allow me to go to another school. A few times he would look for the information but claimed the new school was not in the Voc Rehab program and because of that he said that they (VA) could not pay for it. I had all intentions of running my business full time, but like I told my counselor, I cannot quit my job without first getting clientele so that my business will survive. I have a wife and kids that count on my pay check to live on. Because I had not quit my full time job and my department was accommodating me for an on duty injury I received while at work and because I was not working my business full time my counselor closed my case in May 2015. He said that when I no longer have my full time job I can re-enroll in the program. 2 weeks ago I was pulled into my supervisor’s office and told that they had accommodated me as long as they could. I was told that they will look for another job for me to transfer to but if they cannot find anything I will be let go with disability retirement.
    Now because I was kicked the program I will have to start all over. And now I will have to go through the same BS of trying to get another counselor to let me do a trade that I am happy to do, not one they WANT me to…. When you do a job you enjoy it really does not seem like a job. And I am passionate about the trade I do but still need a little more training. Plus because I am coming up on my 12th year since I got out I may not be approved for the program this time around. The VA didn’t pay ANYTHING for the class I attended. I never even got a stipend or whatever other things my counselor said I would be entitled to because I went out of state for training.
    Any information for me to take to the VA for my case would be greatly appreciated. I believe I have a right to appeal the decision but it almost seems hopeless that they will do anything about me getting the training I am requesting.

  5. namnibor, I found the article where VA wants that $600 million more. It was on the “military dot com” website. The title is;

    “House Veterans Chairman: VA Should Fire Bad Workers Faster”

    written on August 11, 2015
    associated press | by Dan Elliot

    Question, does anyone have a “rail, tar and feathers” handy?

  6. To everyone, like 91veteran said, “Simply because so many other parts of the VA are such a disaster.”
    Y’all don’t know the half of it. Go to the previous “Blog” where I just put two new stories that have just surfaced.
    1.) “VA Backs Down on Threat to Take Veteran’s Guns”
    This aricle starts on July 30 and culminated on August 6th or 7th. What VA tried to do was – again I have no words to describe my disgusting feelings towards VA!
    2.) If you can find it, the story is about Miller and McDonald in Denver recently discussing another shortfall to the DAV! Seems they want another $600 million to keep the construction going on the Aurora VA hospital. It was suggested to gut other VA programs.
    How’s that for incompetence !?

    1. I found the second story on either “VAislying dot com” or on “VAwatchdog dot com”

      Both are excellent sites to get current information of what VA is doing to veterans.

      Have y’all seen the “billboard” sign someone put up on I-64? It says, quote, “VA is lying, Veterans are dying”. Google it and watch the “news medias video”!

      1. Well hell namnibor, don’t you remember the begging they did to get millions more, because they forgot to add parking lots. That came out in the Denver Post I believe.
        So, I guess maybe they forgot the medical equipment lmao….

    2. So, yet ANOTHER shortfall of cash when the ink was barely dry from the $3.4 BILLION they STOLE from Choice Program and the VA wants to throw an ADDITIONAL $600 MILLION at the Denver VAMC?????!!!!!
      What is that, even above and beyond what the original contract to build that money pit cost? I thought that LAST $$$ the VA STOLE was for both the Denver VA and Hep C Drug?

      What’s next? An additional $600 MILLION for the Hep C Drug because it’s NOT $1000. per pill, WE MISSPOKE…Rumsyfield wants $3000. per tablet now??? Yeah, I am being a bit fictitious, but HOW is that so much over the top as not even a week and half has gone by where the VA got $3.4 BILLION and now they WANT MORE??

      I will say it again: The VA and all the sticky fingers involved have had their tongues hitting the pavement and almost drowning in their own saliva in their LUST FOR THE CHOICE CA$H. I even predicted the VA would be back way before October for MORE CA$H but this is even more over the top and sooner than I could even have predicted.
      (perhaps I should have consulted the VA’s personal ‘psychics’ In-Residence at the Philadelphia VAMC??
      By the way, my brother still cannot qualify for the Choice Program and still has to drive over 60 miles ONE WAY on his dime for ANY VA appointment…he was told he did not meet the criteria for the “Choice Program”, as get this…he was actually told that, “since you have no obstructions in preventing you from driving 60+ MILES ONE WAY to get to your appointments, then THERE IS NO HARDSHIP SEEN TO VETERAN”!!!!! Fucking bastards!

      This Choice Program has been a slush fund from the start and a sham and shaft to Veterans. How could anyone construct ANY program with as many obstacles as the VA has with this Program?

      Anyone tell me WHY the VA had to contract out TWO different companies to act as a BUFFER between Veteran and VA? As it stands, these contracted companies are the ONLY ONES benefiting from the Choice Program…and the VA itself by stealing from it blatantly.

      Secretary McDonald, you are a disservice to REAL Veterans! But you will not read nor hear this because of how far your head is up your own exit, right? Why have we not heard of all the **wonders** you did in your recent Hawaii vistit to “end Veteran Homelessness “? Or…was THAT just *code* for “VACATION”?

      Now it sounds like the VA is stealing money appropriated for Veteran’s Voc Rehab…what’s next…no toilet paper or water in water fountains at all VAMC’s?

      Oh, I have another question: Are they building this new Denver VAMC on an ACTIVE SINK HOLE? Just wondering where all the building is going and how about a freakin’ AUDIT!???

      1. In case anyone cares, my brother is in the State of Indiana. There are VERY rural areas of Indiana and with Indy VAMC being, well, in Indianapolis, it’s not 40 miles from all direction to the VAMC…and the damn Choice Program Contractors seem to still ONLY see small satellite offices that do NOT do Specialty Care, as viable options, making one disqualified for utilizing it. OH…how dare they even try to state what is or is not a “hardship for Veteran”…they seem to be operating by their own rules.

        I still think there’s a BIGGER story within this Choice Program fiasco…as well as the Denver VAMC that’s grotesquely over budget. I wonder of the VA originally was using the same messed-up contractors Colorado used for the new Denver Airport that the COMPLETE underground baggage handling system DOES NOT WORK…and was one of the main reasons that airport went so over budget.

        Maybe they are smoking something that’s NOT legal in State of Colorado at this VAMC construction site? Please Ben, why has nobody called for an AUDIT? Not even the Veteran, Colorado Representative Mike Coffman has NOT called for an audit, just more cash.
        I see no clean hands here and matter in fact it smells rather very much like a sewage treatment plant…before the treatment.

      2. namnibor, you gotta go back to the previous blog (where ben is changing his site). Look at what “tim042” has to say about us. I’m not going to repeat, just ask all on here to read his “comment”, ok.

      3. @CrazyElf-
        Yes, I read that yesterday and shoes to not poke the angry animal in cage with a hot poker or stick.
        Just because I may not post here every day, does not mean I do not read the posts daily. Each day is a different “little health gift” and a whole mountain of it’s own, so some days I simply do not have the energy to pool my anger and frustration into something not quite so full of venom.
        This Country would surely be a huge mess if we Veterans were as out of control and lawless as they are in Ferguson, MS.
        I will just say this: IF YOU DO NOT LIKE AMERICA, ***PLEASE LEAVE***….it’s sad that THAT gets all kinds of media attention like smiling at a 7 year old that smashes a glass table in a waiting area, so he then goes and smashes ALL the glass tables.

        People should be MORE outraged in Veteran’s LIVES NOT MATTERING to the VA!!!!! I am only outraged that people in Ferguson cannot and will not follow the LAW. That’s how this ALL started, CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR.

        The VA is involved in…CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR…but where’s the outrage? Where’s the outrage of THUGLETS shooting at cops?

        I will shut-up for now but my freedoms allowed me to voice MY outrage in National Priorities here. Ferguson crap is now over a YEAR OLD. Veterans have been getting screwed over for DECADES.
        VETERAN LIVES MATTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. According to counselor Merri Busch, VocRehab is “restricting access to benefits while changing program procedures. Veterans have been writing in recently who have been affected, and the end result appears to be veterans’ cases are being prematurely closed to avoid harassment from VA leadership.”

    I NEVER SAID THAT, BEN. I am concerned that you would imply that I did.

    1. @Merri, I see you are unhappy with my paraphrase. However, that paraphrase was obviously not a quote because there were not quotations around it. Nonetheless, I just wrote an update to edit the language so it is more of an exact quote rather than a paraphrase since you are unhappy with it.

      I interpret what you said as indicating VocRehab is in fact restricting access to benefits… To be specific, the restricting of access relates to the form of a delay in payment without notice. Most veterans would perceived this as a restriction given that they will go without their stipend without notice for a while.

      I am also hearing stories of veterans experiencing unusual tactics form counselors to close their cases out, and their seems to be a connection between your quote and other news I am hearing from vets. I need to point out that you are mistaken about the second sentence in your statement. It was not a quote from you or a paraphrase but instead what veterans are telling me. So I was combining two sources of information into one article like normal.

      Hence what I wrote saying “some veterans.” I hope that helps clear things up.

      1. Ben, do you think that VA’s meeting in Denver recently (in front of some DAV representatives) could have something to do with this program not being run correctly? You know, where VA is experiencing a lack of money ($600 million to be exact.) and their wanting to gut other programs to make up for it?
        Just seems kind of funny how things tie together, huh?!

  8. I just feel that all participants in the Chapter 31 program should have been notified of this, in writing, several months before it began. There should also have been a modified process to allow the vets affected to get a Revolving Fund Loan. Most of the vets I’m in contact with have never even heard of this, and it could have helped stave off the detrimental financial affects of these changes.

  9. And then we look at the VR&E’s statistics for the Individual Living Program (ILP-38 USC 3120). 2,700 slots for America’s most severely disabled Veterans are available annually. You’d think Vets would apply or that VA would identify and inform potential candidates of this valuable asset. After all, there is $180,000.00 at the end of this rainbow for each and every one of you who qualify yet VA is unable to grant or cannot find enough severely disabled to grant the quota. Think about that. A woodworking shop or perhaps a greenhouse? A photo studio or a computer with all the peripherals? Nope. You have to prove it is necessary and vital to your activities in every day living and independence.

    I got the computer only because of my blog on https://asknod.wordpress.com/. The greenhouse is on appeal to the BVA. Yep. I had to appeal the denial. Seems you can count the Vets who have done that on one hand since 1980. ILP is an iceberg of benefits that VA hides from you. I’ve had Vets go in and apply only to be told no such thing exists. When called out, the dog and pony show begins. “Yes sir, you do qualify but we can’t identify any needs other than a grab bar at your toilet and in the shower. How about a cordless phone in case you fall down and can’t get up? In five years, maybe we’ll give you an electric can opener for that peripheral neuropathy- but only if you get a letter from your VA PCP. As for the computer? You’d probably use it for viewing pornography and that’s not a vocational pursuit.”

    Oddly, Wyoming, Manila (Philippines) and White River Junction must not have any ‘severely disabled’ Vets. Wyoming and Manila have never had a candidate for ILP since before 2004. WRJ Vermont hasn’t since 2008. See this VA VR&E document-https://asknod.wordpress.com/ilp-statistics/

    Either VA has the blinders on or they are ‘cookin’ dem books’. The TOA for it says any unused funds left over from ILP can be rolled into the regular VR&E money pot by the 9th month of any fiscal year. I guess it doesn’t take Mr. Einstein to figure out that denying your ILP until after March every year means it ends up in the ‘missed it by that much’ file.

    The Seattle VR&E closed out my ILP claim in spite of the fact that it is on appeal-and has been since my 2012 denial. Regulations? We don’t read no stinkin’ regulations.

    VR&E= Very Rude & Egocentric

  10. And to think various VA bureaucrats from McDonald on down will swear the VA is not adversarial to veterans. I believe the only reason this Voc Rehab fiasco is not getting more press is simply because so many other parts of the VA are such a disaster.

  11. When I was in the Navy during Vietnam I went in informing the Selective Service that I have flat feet. They marked it in my medical records “not clinically significant.” During my time in the Navy I had to wear those horrible chukka boots called “boondockers.” since I was a Storekeeper I had to wear ones that had steel safety toes which made them even harder on my feet. In more recent years I see the Navy has re-designed them to make them more wearable. Having to wear those things for four years played h**l with my feet that were already flat. Should I submit a claim for service-related injury for this? I hope this isn’t inconsequential or trivial. It sure isn’t trivial to me since I’ve developed severe arthritis in both legs and can hardly walk without extreme pain. Thank you!

  12. Doesn’t surprise me. Most VRC don’t want to see a veteran succeed anyways and almost all harrass the shit out of veterans by denying needed courses, ojt and anything else that has to do with veterans success. Lucky there are a very few counselors who actually care until they get driven to the ground by the continuous failed policy of the great department of veterans affairs.

    1. Are you kidding me? MOST VRCs don’t want their vets to succeed? How does that even make sense? They don’t want you to succeed, so then it looks bad on them, and then they get fired…not buying that. My VRC has gone above and beyond for myself, and I’m sure her many other vets that she oversees. And how are they going to deny NEWDED courses…they sit down with you and write out a plan that you’re supposed to abide to since you agreed to it. Don’t knock the counselors that are also overloaded with tons of cases files. It’s not their fault that the people above them are rolling their shit downhill. This whole VocRehab thing is absolute garbage though. My counselor told me the same thing as Merri, they were told about the beta testing, and then BAM! We’re switching programs over and that’s as much as she’s been told. How in the hell does this organization keep getting away with this bull and leaving everyone in the dark? How are we supposed to succeed when the means we depend on are suddenly not available with no previous notification to prepare for it? I’m thankful for the benefits that are available to.us. but I am beyond fed up with the jackasses that are in charge of them.

      1. How does this happen? Experiencing this kind of decision making over many years tells me exactly how this happened. A contract software developer managed by some VA flunky that doesn’t have a clue about software implementation was ignoring problems or passing BS to their manager. At some point, some upper level manager made an arbitrary decision without talking to anyone that this will be implemented by the end of the fiscal year, and every manager below them was too chickenshit to tell that upper level hack of the problems that would result in rushing something through without proper testing. That is also why nobody who has to use the system has heard why…because nobody wants to be responsible for the truth, because it might affect some managers award for implementing the change in time…or whatever weasel word BS they want to use. Meanwhile, those who have to use the system have to suffer through 100% of the impact, and their “customer” ends up suffering the worst.

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