Veteran Readiness & Employment: A VA Education and Training Benefit
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a program to certain disabled service members. Known as the Veteran Readiness and Employment program, this is an important education and training benefit for anyone with a 10% VA disability rating or higher.
This program is also known informally as VR&E or Chapter 31 benefits, isn’t as well known as some other VA disability benefits, but what VR&E teaches and provides can make a big difference for some.
When a military member is about to retire or separate from military service, part of that processing includes applying for VA disability benefits for any service-connected medical condition, illness, or injury. Some veterans will receive a disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, while others may not.
Those who do aren’t prevented from starting a new career and working a civilian job if they so choose, even with a VA disability rating. And plenty of vets who draw disability pay will start new careers. But not everyone.
Some medical issues can and will interfere with the ability to find employment or keep a job
Are you a veteran with a qualifying VA-rated disability that affects your ability to find or keep a job? You may find VA help from a VA program called Veteran Readiness and Employment program or VR&E for short.
What Is VA VR&E?
This program was once branded as Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, also known as the old VA VOC REHAB option. Today, the program is informally known as VR&E. It features a set of five tracks designed to help veterans get the support and services they need to live as independently as possible.
Each track has different features. It’s smart to review multiple tracks to get the most value from the ones that apply to you. Most of those who take advantage of the program are already retired or separated from military service but there are certain options for those who are close to their “final out” date.
Who Can Apply For VA VR&E?
The nature of your military discharge is key. You can apply for this benefit if you DO NOT have a Dishonorable discharge. You also must have a VA disability rating of at least 10%. Some may have a time limit on when they can apply, while others do not.
Much depends on whether you left military service on or after 1 January 2013–for those who left after that date, there is no time limit. Otherwise, you have 12 years to take advantage of VR&E.
The clock begins either on:
- The date you left active duty OR;
- The date you were first notified of your VA disability rating, whichever date is later.
Related: Is the GI Bill Considered Income?
Active Duty Eligibility For VR&E
VR&E is intended primarily for veterans but if you are still on active duty you may be able to apply if you meet VA requirements to do so:
- You must have a 20% or higher pre-discharge disability rating. You must also be due to retire or separate soon or;
- You’re awaiting discharge due to a medical issue that occurred while you were on active duty;
- Severely injured active-duty service members “can automatically receive VR&E benefits before VA issues a disability rating”. The VA will determine the severity for qualifying purposes.
File a VA claim for disability benefits through the VA Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) Program between 180 to 90 days before you retire or separate.
Some May Qualify For An Extension
The 12-year eligibility period for VR&E benefits may be extended IF the VA determines you have a VA-defined serious employment handicap. That means your VA-rated disability “significantly limits your ability to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment”.
Here are the program descriptions for all VR&E tracks:
- Rapid Access To Employment
- Employment Through Long-Term Services
- Independent Living
The VR&E Reemployment track was created to help service members return to a former job they held prior to deployment.
- VR&E Special Employer Incentives program for qualifying vets who have challenges finding employment;
- VR&E Non-Paid Work Experience program is an option for those who have an established career goal but have trouble getting a job due to lack of work experience.
- Further help may be offered by VR&E employment coordinators. These can be found at VA regional offices.
Rapid Access to Employment Track
Consider this track if you want to use your existing job skills rather than looking for a new type of employment. You may qualify for benefits under this track if the following are true:
- You have a VA-defined employment handicap, and;
- You are enrolled in VR&E, and;
- You have experience, education, or training in the career field you seek employment in.
This program offers job search tools, vocational counseling, resume help, and there may be options for Civil Service exam prep, etc.
The VR&E Self-Employment track is offered to those who want to start their own businesses. This is informational only; there is no funding offered for you to start a small business. This track helps you learn strategies for small business success. Options include:
- Coordination services
- Developing a business plan
- Analysis of small business concepts
- Training in small-business operations
- Training in small business marketing
- Training in small business finance
Employment Through Long-Term Services Track
Veterans who want training and education to transition into a new career field should consider this track. You may be offered the following services:
- Job skills assessment
- Career counseling
- Evaluation current job market
- Education and training
- On-the-job training
- Employment assistance
You may be referred to Department of Labor resources to further assist you in your search for a new career when using this track.
Independent Living Track
Aimed at those retiring or separating from the military who cannot go back to work immediately. Where applicable, veterans may qualify for up to 24 months of benefits including counseling and evaluation to help establish and meet goals for more independent living.
This track features evaluations and recommendations for adaptive housing programs–these can be used by disabled veterans to make a home more accessible. You may qualify for an adaptive housing grant or other benefits, and this track will help you learn more about such options.
What To Know About VA VR&E
If you need to know more about VR&E benefits, call the VA and make an appointment with a VA benefits counselor or rep who can help you learn which options you qualify for and when to apply for them.
If you need to apply for ANY Va benefit, you will need your DD Form 214 (Report of Discharge) or equivalent. It is very easy to misplace such forms, especially when retiring or separating from an overseas military base. It’s smart to save digital copies of your most important paperwork including DD Form 214 and store some of those copies in the cloud such as on Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.