Vocational Rehabilitation: What You Need to Know

The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E – or sometimes commonly referred to as “voc rehab”), was authorized by Congress under Title 38, United States, Chapter 31.

This program  assists veterans with service-connected disabilities and employment handicaps. It is also there to help service members who are in the process of transitioning from military to civilian employment prepare for, as well as helping them find and keep suitable jobs.

Through this program, they also provide services to help those with service-connected disabilities so severe that they can’t immediately consider working. These services help them improve their ability to live as independently as they can.

How Do You Qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation?

There is a 12-year basic period of eligibility when the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program services can be used.

The 12 years starts on the latter of either the date of separation from active military duty or the date the veteran was first notified of a service-connected disability rating.

Active duty qualify if:

  • They expect to receive an honorable discharge or other than dishonorable discharge upon separation from active duty.
  • They obtain a VA memorandum rating of 20% or higher.
  • They are participating in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) or are certified by the military as having a severe injury or illness that may prevent them from performing their military duties. Those service members that are participating in IDEA are presumed entitled. However, this provision does expire in September of 2018.
  • They need to be determined by the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program to be in need of rehabilitation services because of an employment handicap.

Veterans qualify if:

  • They have received or will receive an honorable or other than dishonorable discharge from the military.
  • They have a VA service-connected disability rating of 10% with a serious employment handicap or 20% or more with an employment handicap.
  • They are determined by the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program to be in need of rehabilitation services because of an employment handicap.

A vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) will work with you to determine if you meet the entitlement criteria.

What happens during the VRC’s comprehensive evaluation?

  • There will be a full assessment of the service member’s interest, aptitudes, and abilities.
  • There will be an assessment of whether service-connected disabilities impair their ability to find and/or hold a job using the occupational skills already attained.
  • There will be vocational exploration activities and goal development leading to suitable employment and/or maximum independence at home and in the community.
  • There will be an exploration of the labor market as well as wage information.
  • They will help the service member select a VR&E program track.
  • They will develop an individualized rehabilitation plan to achieve the identified employment and/or independent living goal.

What goes into the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program’s rehabilitation plan?

The rehabilitation plan will be an individualized as well as detailed outline of the services that are provided under the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program. The plan is set up to meet the needs of the veteran or service member and is a signed agreement between the veteran and service member and the VA. It is designed to help the veteran or service member achieve their goals.

There are five tracks that can be used in a veteran’s or service member’s individualized plan. The VRC will help them determine what would be the best way to serve them.

Reemployment- This track will help them return to work with a previous employer. They would also help to support the employer’s efforts to provide accommodations that will enable the veteran or service member to continue along the same or similar career path.

Rapid access to employment- This would be to help find, apply, and to secure jobs for the service member or veteran. The VA may provide professional job placement assistance, job accommodations, and other specialized support.

Self-Employment- They can help the service member or veteran start a business, analyze their business plan, and provide training on how to market and operate a small business.

Employment through long-term services- This would be for those who require additional skills or training. They can assist with education benefits, on-the-job training, work-study, apprenticeships, or other job prep programs.

Independent living- This will help with access to community-based support services, the use of assistive technologies and accommodations, and independent living skills training.

What other benefits does the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program provide?

The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program will also provide ongoing counseling services, assistance and coordination or services, tutorial assistance, job-seeking skills training, medical and dental referrals with the Veterans Health Administration, adjustment counseling, payment of training allowance, and other services that would be required to help the veteran or service member achieve a career and live as independently as possible.

What if you qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

If you use the VR&E program and also qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, you can elect to receive the GI Bill rate instead of the Chapter 31 subsistence allowance. In most cases, the GI Bill rate is going to be higher.

There is a subsistence allowance too?

Yes, some service members and veterans who use this program will be able to receive a subsistence allowance while they pursue an educational or training program for a future career. This is paid every month and is based on the rate of attendance in a training program, number of dependents, and type of training. If they do qualify for the Post 9/11-GI Bill, then they could be eligible for BAH.

For an example of the subsistence rate, someone with two dependents who is going to school full time would receive $902.48 based on October 2017 rates. They would receive $452.06 for going to school half time. There are certain training programs that do require you to go full time if you want to receive the subsistence rate. You can view the different situations and amounts on the VR&E Training Programs Subsistence Allowance Rate sheet.

How do you apply for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program?

You can apply online or by filling out the Disabled Veterans Application for Vocational Rehabilitation and mail that to the VA regional office in your area.

Whether your disability is physical or not, you may need the extra help that the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program can provide. The counselors can help you pursue your future educational and career goals. They can help you with a plan for school or to find a job. Make sure to take a look to see if you qualify and what the program can do for you.