The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program helps veterans who have service-connected disabilities get and maintain a job. The program is part of a law enacted by Congress under Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 31. It offers a range of services, including:
Interest and aptitude testing: This is a test that helps determine aptitude in civilian job fields.
Occupational exploration: The VA helps explore thousands of jobs, determine the qualifications needed and find what fields have the most current need.
Setting occupational goals: The VA helps you set goals to lead to your ideal job, so you don’t get overwhelmed with the task.
Locating the right type of training program: Certain jobs require special training to qualify for a position, so the VA can help find a training program for your needs, and sometimes covers the costs.
Exploring education and training facilities: The VA will help you find a training school that fits your budget, schedule, location and capability.
Examining Your Eligibility for Chapter 31
Even if you have the basic eligibility criteria, you many not be entitled to benefits under the VR&E program.
Meeting the Basic Requirements
Three factors determine whether you meet the basic eligibility requirements to participate in the VR&E program:
Service characterization: You cannot have been discharged under circumstances deemed dishonorable.
Disability rating: You must have been awarded a disability rating of at least 10 percent. If you are not yet discharged, you must have an expected disability rating of at least 20 percent, and the disability must be due to military service.
Time period: You can apply for benefits under the VR&E for 12 years from the date you were notified you had at least a 10 percent service-related disability.
Knowing What You’re Entitled to
Once you submit your application, you will meet with a VA vocational rehabilitation counselor who will determine what benefits you’re entitled to.
The VA must find that you have at least a 20 percent service-related disability that handicaps you for employment, or a 10 percent service-related disability with a serious employment handicap.
Employment handicap: Your disability makes it impossible for you to get a job in your area of expertise or interest. You may be able to find employment, but your disability hinders you from promotions, or you are not able to perform certain tasks.
Serious employment handicap: In this case, your disability completely or severely prevents employment in a field of your expertise or interest.
The VRC uses many factors to determine which benefits you’re entitled to, so it can be subjective. You can always file an appeal.
Even if the VRC determines that you’re entitled to Chapter 31 benefits, it may be determined that you do not need any training to find a job. Under the VR&E program you could be entitled to other benefits, including job referral, vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning.
Applying for Chapter 31 Benefits
You cannot apply online for Chapter 31 benefits. But you can download VA Form 28-1900, Disabled Veterans Application for Vocational Rehabilitation, from the VA’s Web site at www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-28-1900-ARE.pdf.
Once the application is completed, mail it to the nearest VA regional office. The VA will set up a time for you to meet with a vocational rehabilitation counselor. You can apply for the program while you’re still in the military. If you are pending medical discharge from the military for a condition that is reasonably expected to be 20 percent or more disabling, you can submit your application before discharge.