Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment

The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program, sometimes referred to as Chapter 31 or Voc-Rehab, helps veterans with service-connected disabilities and employment handicaps prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, VR&E offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.

The following services may be provided by VR&E VetSuccess:

  • 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.

VR&E Eligibility

Eligibility and entitlement are two different things. You may be eligible for VR&E due to having a service-connected disability rating, 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, a veteran 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%.
  • Apply 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 (VRC) 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.

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.

VR&E Entitlement Details

Once your eligibility has been established you will be scheduled to meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) for a comprehensive evaluation to determine if you are "entitled" to Vocational Rehabilitation services. This entitlement evaluation includes the following:

  • An assessment of the veteran's interests, aptitudes, and abilities.
  • An assessment of whether service connected disabilities impair the veteran's ability to find and/or hold a job using the occupational skills he or she has already developed.
  • Vocational exploration and goal development.

A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) determines whether you have an employment handicap based on the results of the comprehensive evaluation. Entitlement to services is established if you are within the 12 year basic period of eligibility and has a 10 % or greater service-connected disability rating and an employment handicap.

If your entitlement has been confirmed, then the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will work with you to:

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

VR&E Rehabilitation Plan Details

A rehabilitation plan is an individualized, written outline of the services, resources and criteria that will be used to achieve successful rehabilitation. It is an agreement that is signed by the veteran and the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and is reviewed annually to determine whether any changes may be needed.

Depending on your circumstances, you will work with the VRC to select one of the following Five Tracks of services:

  • Reemployment (with a former employer.
  • Rapid employment services for new employment.
  • Self-employment.
  • Employment through long term services.
  • Independent living services.

Implementing the VR&E Rehabilitation Plan

After a plan is developed and signed, a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) will continue to work with you to implement the plan to achieve suitable employment or independent living. The VRC or case manager may coordinate services such as tutorial assistance, training in job-seeking skills, medical and dental referrals, adjustment counseling, payment of training allowance, if applicable, and other services as required to achieve rehabilitation.

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 $761 a month. View the current VR&E Subsistence Allowance Rates.

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 percent 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."

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) - a Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service rehabilitation professional employee or contractor who provides or coordinates a wide range of rehabilitation services which might include counseling, training, rehabilitation and employment services.

Independent Living Services - This option is designed for individuals whose disabilities are so severe that they are currently unable to pursue an employment goal. These individuals may need rehabilitation services to live more independently and to increase their potential to return to work. Services under this option may include independent living skills training, assistive technology, services at special rehabilitation facilities, and connection to community-based support services.

Transferable Skills - reasonably developed skills, knowledge, and abilities attained through training and experience (civilian and military) that relate to current employment opportunities in the labor market.

Veteran BenefitsMore

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In addition to the pensions and benefits to which you may be entitled because of both public and private employment, you may also be eligible for certain benefits based on your military service.

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