One veteran recently asked me how to find the Voc Rehab office boss at his VA regional office. I answered his question and wrote down the steps I used as a professional investigative journalist, here.
The person they are looking for is the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Officer (VR&E Officer) of a regional office. Veterans tend to only want to speak with the VR&E Officer when there is a problem, which means most Voc Rehab Counselors will not disclose the identity of their boss to the veteran both in good times and in bad.
This article not only walks you through the process of finding your VR&E Officer, but I also included as a bonus all the phone numbers of each Vocational Rehabilitation office, the VR&E Officer, and the Assistant VR&E Officer and the address as of 2012 at the end of the article. You are welcome :)
The veteran asked:
Ben. I live in North Carolina. Can you tell me where I can find out who is in charge of the VR&E program for my regional office along with their phone number and business address?This kind of question is tricky for a lot of disabled veterans because VA employees cower behind a cloak of mystery relating to contacting VA officials directly. Instead of being easy to reach, VA wants to route all calls through the useless call center, called IRIS, likely based on Arizona at 800-827-1000 or to eBenefits.va.gov.
After being on hold for 30 minutes with IRIS, you get to chat with someone who may or may not be friendly or knowledgeable about your benefits or VA benefits in general. With eBenefits, the website may be down or your information may not be updated. Either way, you are still unable to contact your VA official directly since customer service is not important at VA at this time despite promises to fix it.
FOUR EASY STEPS TO CONTACTING MOST VR&E OFFICERSThere are four easy steps to work around this mystery since the information is not noticeably easy to find. This works for practically any VA employee when looking for an email. Getting phone numbers is much harder and we will talk about that in step four.
ONE - SEARCH FOR VA REGIONAL OFFICE HOME PAGEFirst, find the website of your specific regional office that manages your claim. Here, the veteran was likely looking for Winston-Salem VA Regional Office. If you do not know the right name, merely Google “Veterans Affairs North Carolina” and work through each link until you find the right one.
TWO - SCAN REGIONAL OFFICE PAGE FOR ABOUT PAGESecond, assuming you are looking for regional office leadership or VR&E Officer, click on the “About Us” right hand menu and select “Leadership Team.” This will reveal the name of the VR&E Officer veteran is searching for. Here, the name the veteran is seeking is VR&E Officer Carolyn Lightfoot.
THREE - USE STANDARD VA EMAIL SOPThird, this last part is easy though it does not always work for email but it does work a lot. Usually VA email systems are merely the first and last name plus @va.gov. In Lightfoot’s example, her email should be Carolyn.Lightfoot@va.gov. When you send the email, if it does not bounce, you know you probably have the right one.
FOUR - USE QUOTATIONS FOR SEARCHFourth, here is some alternative information that you can use to your advantage when reaching out for the phone number of the VR&E office directly. First, do a quick search for the name of the VR&E Officer using quotations around the name. This may reveal their educational background and work history. But more importantly, it could help you find their phone number.
Here, I searched for “Carolyn Lightfoot” but found too many responses to make sense of until I included VRC. VRC is short for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. This search pulled up only one result, which was the entire call list for Vocational Rehabilitation offices across the country, direct phone numbers to VR&E Officers like Carolyn Lightfoot, etc.
Carolyn Lightfoot’s phone number used to be (336) 714-0857 but it is disconnected. In the alternative, the general office number for Winston’s Vocational Rehabilitation program is (336) 714-6099. That number is still active and gets you pretty close.
Below is the download link of phone numbers and locations of VR&E Officers in our directory. Some of the numbers may work while others will not. Be sure to double-check the mailing address prior to sending anything by finding the regional office online and using that address on the VA’s website.
[Download VRE Officer Directory Here]
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Benjamin Krause is an award winning investigative journalist, attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He wrote his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, after winning his long fight for benefits against VA to help other veterans do the same. Benjamin is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.