Disabled veterans have long been plagued with one unresponsive Voc Rehab Counselor after another without much room for recourse or means to encourage timely communications to pay things like tuition. This bit of advice tells you how to get your claim back on track if there is a breakdown in communication.
The problem of unresponsive VA employees related to tuition is not the only communication problem veterans face. Sometimes veterans fail to receive payment from their Voc Rehab Counselor for many things like books, supplies, etc. Sometimes they just do not talk to you at all. The list of reasons goes on and on.
Now that VA has taken a stronger stance on ethics, it is possible Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) staff will be easier to work with. When they refuse, there are some concrete ways to encourage responsive dealings with your Voc Rehab Counselor.
Here is a problem a veteran recently posted on our Facebook group:
Concerned caregiver here...question: what to do when a counselor says they won't pay for application fee for approved program in a contract they produced? What to do when the counselor refuses to approve payment for tuition, though already approved payment for books and supplies for the prerequisite classes on the approved program stated above (veteran is already attending the prerequisite courses)? Hope this makes sense....Here are four ideas to help if your counselor is not responding to you. Keep in mind, sometimes VA processing take a lot of time, so be sure to call or email your counselor first. If you get an answer that he or she is just running a little late, take them at their word but be sure to document what they say.
What follows are some strategies if your counselor goes full MIA:
First, send the Voc Rehab Counselor a written letter that you mail certified mail with return receipt requested. This is my first go to and what I tell disabled veterans to do in my guide, The Voc Rehab Survival Guide. This is the best first step to ensure you document your request. It also sends a message to your VRE Counselor. The message is that you are serious and that you at least know that words are cheap unless it is written down. I cover how to write the letter in the guide.
Second, if you do not receive a response in one week, the next step is to contact the VRE Officer. The VRE Officer is the boss of your counselor and can give the counselor a little nudge if he or she is unresponsive. Check out our VRE Officer Directory to get the address and phone number of the person to speak with. Write the letter and send it certified mail with return receipt requested.
Third, file an ethics complaint with the VA OIG if you believe your Voc Rehab Counselor has violated any of the ethics laws relevant to VA officials. You need to focus on regulations in 38 CFR Part 0. Match portions of your case to what the regulations say. Then write up your complaint and mail it certified mail return receipt requested.
Fourth, you can file an ethics complaint with the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. If there are clear examples where the counselor is unresponsive, you will be able to file the complaint and hopefully make it stick. The commission will evaluate the complaint and get back to you if they need additional information. Send your complaint certified mail with return receipt requested.
Do you see the pattern here? Unless it is written down and you can prove its receipt, you will get nowhere with these people when there is a communication breakdown. Take matters into your own hands and get your claim onto the right track.
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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.