Understanding the Vocational Rehabilitation Program

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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.

With the VR&E program you can get:

  • evaluation to determine abilities, skills, interests, and needs
  • career advice and and rehabilitation services
  • employment services such as job-seeking skills and resume development
  • help finding and keeping a job
  • on-the-job training (OJT), apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences
  • financial assistance for college, vocational, technical or business school
  • 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 for VR&E is 12 years from the date of separation from active duty, or the date you were first notified by VA of a service-connected disability rating, whichever is later.

The basic period of eligibility may be extended if the VA determines you have a Serious Employment Handicap.

HOW VR&E Works

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 skills, aptitudes, and interests
  • identify employment/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 program leading to an employment or independent living goal
  • develop an individualized rehabilitation plan to achieve the identified employment/independent living goals

If the VRC determines that you are not entitled to services, they will help you locate other resources to assist you. These resources may be state programs, or other federal programs such as Department of Labor, or Department of Agriculture.

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. 


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.

If you are eligible for both VR&E benefits and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you may choose to get 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 your ability to prepare for, obtain or retain employment consistent with your abilities, aptitudes, and interests. This impairment must be the result of a service-connected disability.

Serious Employment Handicap (SEH)

A serious employment handicap is a significant impairment of your ability to prepare for, obtain, or retain employment consistent with your abilities, aptitudes and interests. The SEH must bedue to a service-connected disability.

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

Non-Paid Work Experience (NPWE) Program

The VA's Non-Paid Work Experience (NPWE) program provides eligible veterans the opportunity to obtain training and practical job experience at the same time. 

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

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