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Border Jobs for Veterans Act

H.R. 2835

Understanding the Vocational Rehabilitation Program

Service member receiving counseling.

If you are a veteran who has a VA disability rating and an employment handicap, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation & employment services under Chapter 31 of the GI Bill. These services include - but are not limited to - counseling, training, education and job placement assistance.

The following services may be provided through the VR&E program:

  • Comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine abilities, skills, interests, and needs.
  • Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning.
  • Employment services such as job-seeking skills, resume development, and other work readiness assistance.
  • Assistance finding and keeping a job, including the use of special employer incentives.
  • On the Job Training (OJT), apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences.
  • Financial assistance for post-secondary training at a college, vocational, technical or business school.
  • Supportive rehabilitation services including case management, counseling, and referral.
  • Independent living services for for Veterans unable to work due to the severity of their disabilities.

VR&E Eligibility

Eligibility and entitlement for VR&E are two different things. You may meet eligibility criteria, yet not be entitled to services. The first step in the VR&E process is to be evaluated to determine if you qualify for services. To receive an evaluation for VR&E services, you must meet the following "eligibility" criteria:

  • Have received, or will receive, a discharge that is other than dishonorable.
  • Have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10% - or a memorandum rating of 20% or more from the VA.
  • Submit a completed application for VR&E services (online at the Department of Veterans Affairs VONAPP site).

Period of Eligibility - Like many VA benefits VR&E has a limited period of eligibility. The basic period of eligibility in which VR&E services may be used is 12 years from the date of separation from active military service, or the date the veteran was first notified by VA of a service-connected disability rating, which comes later.

The basic period of eligibility may be extended if a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor determines that a veteran has a Serious Employment Handicap.

VR&E Program/Process Overview

If you are eligible for an evaluation under the Vocational Rehabilitation program, you must complete an application and meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC). If the VRC determines that an employment handicap exists as a result of a service-connected disability, you will be entitled to services. You and the VRC will then continue counseling to select a track of services and jointly develop a plan to address your rehabilitation and employment needs.

You and your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor  will work together to:

  • Determine your transferable skills, aptitudes, and interests.
  • Identify viable employment and / or independent living services options.
  • Explore labor market and wage information.
  • Identify physical demands and other job characteristics.
  • Narrow vocational options to identify a suitable employment goal.
  • Select a VR&E VetSuccess program track leading to an employment or independent living goal.
  • Investigate training requirements.
  • Identify resources needed to achieve rehabilitation.
  • Develop an individualized rehabilitation plan to achieve the identified employment and / or independent living goals.

The rehabilitation plan will specify an employment or independent living goal, identify intermediate goals, outline services and resources needed to achieve these goals. You and the VRC will work together to implement the plan and achieve successful rehabilitation.

If the VRC determines that you are not entitled to services, her or she will help you locate other resources to address any rehabilitation and employment needs identified during the evaluation. Referral to other resources may include state vocational rehabilitation programs, Department of Labor employment programs for disabled veterans, state, federal or local agencies providing services for employment or small business development, internet-based resources for rehabilitation and employment, and information about applying for financial aid.

If you believe that you may be eligible for VR&E services, you can get started today by applying online at the Department of Veterans Affairs VONAPP site. 

Additional VR&E Benefits and Definitions.

Subsistence Allowance - In addition to receiving a monthly payment while attending training through VR&E, you may also qualify for a monthly subsistence allowance. This is paid each month during training and is based on the rate of attendance (full-time or part-time), the number of dependents, and the type of training. For example a full-time attendee with two dependents could receive up to $881.91 a month. Click here to view the current VR&E Subsistence Allowance Rates.

Begriming October 1, 2011, those who are eligible for both Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (chapter 31) benefits and Post-9/11 GI Bill (chapter 33) benefits to choose the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s monthly housing allowance instead of the chapter 31 subsistence allowance.

Employment Handicap - An Employment Handicap is defined as an impairment of the veteran's ability to prepare for, obtain or retain employment consistent with his or her abilities, aptitudes, and interests. The impairment must result in large part from a service-connected disability. For veterans rated at 20% or more, a finding of employment handicap results in a finding of "entitled."

Serious Employment Handicap (SEH) - A Serious Employment Handicap is defined as a significant impairment of a veteran's ability to prepare for, obtain, or retain employment consistent with his or her abilities, aptitudes and interests. The SEH must result in the most part from a service-connected disability.

Note: For veterans rated at 10 percent and for veterans whose 12-year period of basic eligibility has passed, the finding of an SEH is necessary to establish "entitlement."

Suitable Employment - Work that is within a veteran's physical and emotional capabilities and is consistent with his or her pattern of abilities, aptitudes, and interests.

Non-Paid Work Experience (NPWE) program - NPWE provides eligible Veterans and Servicemembers the opportunity to obtain training and practical job experience concurrently. This program is ideal for Veterans or Servicemembers who have a clearly established career goal, and who learn easily in a hands-on environment. This program is also well suited to Veterans or Servicemembers who are having difficulties obtaining employment due to lack of work experience. NPWE programs may be established in federal, state, or local (e.g. city, town, school district) government agencies only. The employer may hire the Veteran or Servicemember at any point during the NPWE.

Learn more about the VA's Non-Paid Work Experience (NPWE) program.

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