Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) is a VA program for disabled veterans who have an employment handicap or barrier. Vocational Rehabilitation is meant to train and assist disabled veterans in finding employment opportunities.
What Do I Need to Apply?
To be eligible for VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, veterans need to have received a discharge that is other than dishonorable and be rated at least 20% for a service-connected disability.
Veterans are eligible to apply for VR&E up to 12 months from the date of notification of either their separation from active duty, or the date the VA notified them of their service-connected disability. This last notice can come in the form of a rating decision from the VA that grants service connection for a disability.
Once you apply for VR&E, veterans will meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for an evaluation to see if they are entitled to the program, meaning that they are found to have an employment handicap. According to the VA’s website, the comprehensive evaluation will include:
- 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 leading into employment and/or maximum independence in the Veteran’s daily living at home and in the community
NOTE: If you are service-connected below 20% or are beyond the 12-month eligibility window, you can still apply and be found eligible for VR&E as long as VA finds that you have a serious employment handicap.
What happens when I find out that I’m eligible for VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment?
Once a veteran is found to have an employment handicap and eligible for the program, they will work with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to assess their skills, employment options, limitations, whether any training needs to take place, and choose a VR&E program track.
You will also work with your Vocational Rehabilitation counselor to establish a rehabilitation plan that, according to the VA, “outlines the resources and criteria that will be used to achieve employment or independent living goals.”
After you develop this plan, your counselor will place you in one of the five program tracks. These tracks are reemployment, rapid access to employment, self-employment, employment through long-term services, and independent living. Placement in each track depends on the veteran’s needs and abilities due to their service-connected disabilities.
Veterans will continue to work with their counselor to achieve their rehabilitation goals. Continued assistance of the counselor can include tutoring assistance, job skills training, and adjustment counseling if necessary.
The ultimate goal of vocational rehabilitation is to place veterans into suitable employment, meaning employment that does not worsen the Veteran’s conditions and is fitting to the Veteran’s abilities and limitations.
Vocational Rehabilitation can be a useful tool for veterans who are disabled and need assistance with finding and maintaining employment. However, the VA can determine that a veteran is not eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation if their service-connected conditions prevent them from benefiting from the program. This means that if the VA determines that your conditions are too severe for you to benefit from job training and employment assistance, they will not offer you these services.
If you are service-connected for disabilities that prevent you from obtaining and maintaining substantially gainful employment, the VA benefit called Total Disability for Individual Unemployability (TDIU) may be an option. This benefit allows veterans who are not rated as 100% disabled by the VA to receive compensation at the 100% level if their service-connected disabilities prevent them from working. Check out our page to learn more about TDIU.