Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program (Ch.31)
What is the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program?
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program is authorized by Congress under Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 31. It is sometimes referred to as the Chapter 31 program. The mission of VR&E is to help veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, VR&E offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.
Services that may be provided by VR&E include:
- Comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine abilities, skills, interests, and needs
- Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning
- Employment services such as job-seeking skills, resume development, and other work readiness assistance
- Assistance finding and keeping a job, including the use of special employer incentives
- On the Job Training (OJT), apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences
- Post-secondary training at a college, vocational, technical or business school
- Supportive rehabilitation services including case management, counseling, and referral
- Independent living services
Who is Eligible for VR&E Services?
Active Duty Service Members to receive VR&E services:
- Expect to receive an honorable discharge upon separation from active duty
- Apply for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services
- Obtain a memorandum rating of 20% or more from the VA
Veterans to receive VR&E services must:
- Have received, or will receive, a discharge that is other than dishonorable
- Have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10%
- Submit a completed application for VR&E services
Basic period of Eligibility:
The basic period of eligibility in which VR&E services may be used is 12 years from the latter of the following:
- Date of separation from active military service, or
- Date the veteran was first notified by VA of a service-connected disability rating.
The basic period of eligibility may be extended if a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) determines that a veteran has a Serious Employment Handicap.
What Happens after Eligibility is Established?
The veteran is scheduled to meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) for a comprehensive evaluation to determine if the veteran is entitled to services. The comprehensive evaluation includes:
- 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
What is Entitlement Determination?
A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) determines whether a veteran has an employment handicap based on the results of the comprehensive evaluation. Entitlement to services is established if the veteran is within his or her 12 year basic period of eligibility and has a 20 % or greater service-connected disability rating and an employment handicap.
If the service-connected disability rating is less than 20% or if the veteran is beyond the 12 year basic period of eligibility, then a serious employment handicap must be found to establish entitlement to VR&E services.
What is a Rehabilitation Plan?
A rehabilitation plan is an individualized, written outline of the services, resources and criteria that will be used to achieve successful rehabilitation. It is an agreement that is signed by the veteran and the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC)and is reviewed annually to determine whether any changes may be needed.
Depending on their circumstances, veterans will work with their VRC to select one of the following Five Tracks of services
- Reemployment (with a former employer
- Rapid employment services for new employment
- Employment through long term services
- Independent living services
What Happens after the Rehabilitation Plan is Developed?
After a plan is developed and signed, a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) or case manager will continue to work with the veteran to implement the plan to achieve suitable employment or independent living. The VRC or case manager may coordinate services such as tutorial assistance, training in job-seeking skills, medical and dental referrals, adjustment counseling, payment of training allowance, if applicable, and other services as required to achieve rehabilitation.
Summary of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (Chapter 31) Process:
A veteran who is eligible for an evaluation under Chapter 31 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, the veteran is found entitled to services. The VRC and the veteran will then continue counseling to select a track of services and jointly develop a plan to address the rehabilitation and employment needs of the veteran.
The rehabilitation plan will specify an employment or independent living goal, identify intermediate goals, outline services and resources needed to achieve these goals. The VRC and the veteran will work together to implement the plan and achieve successful rehabilitation.
If a veteran is found not to be entitled to services, the VRC will help the veteran locate other resources to address any rehabilitation and employment needs identified during the evaluation. Referral to other resources may include state vocational rehabilitation programs, Department of Labor employment programs for disabled veterans, state, federal or local agencies providing services for employment or small business development, internet-based resources for rehabilitation and employment, and information about applying for financial aid.