Veterans service organizations (VSOs) play a major role as advocates for the Veteran community, and as partners with VA, to ensure this nation’s Veterans receive the benefits they have earned. An important part of this partnership is to support VSOs as they train their advisors on the benefit process.
VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program recently entered in to an agreement with Paralyzed Veterans of America to participate in an apprenticeship program to train Paralyzed Veterans’ employees on how to assist Veterans to file for and obtain their benefits. A similar program is currently in effect with the Disabled American Veterans organization.
Paralyzed Veterans is an advocate for quality health care, spinal cord injury and disease research, VA benefits, and civil rights for Veterans and all people with disabilities. As a service oriented non-profit organization, Paralyzed Veterans employs national service officers to serve Veterans.
“The apprenticeship program with Paralyzed Veterans will put much needed resources into communities nationwide to work with our Veterans and assist them in applying for benefits,” stated Tim Johnston, supervisor for rehabilitation services at VR&E. “This not only gives those accepted into the program a skill, but ensures that Veterans in communities, large and small, have access to trained professionals who can help them understand the process and apply for those benefits they have earned and deserve.”
In a memorandum of understanding between the two organizations, Paralyzed Veterans will provide a 36-month on-the-job training program to qualified Veterans who are selected for the apprenticeship program. Most of the apprenticeship is supervised work with some classroom and on-line learning. These are full-time national service officer positions.
Pay during the apprenticeship is supplemented by the VR&E program. For the first 12 months, those selected for the program are paid $2,890 per month by Paralyzed Veterans, and an additional $651 from VA as a training allowance. In the remainder of the apprenticeship, Paralyzed Veterans pays $3,166.66, and VR&E pays $375 per month for training. The VR&E training allowance to the Veteran is tax-free. VA also pays for the training and necessary supplies.
Selection for the program generally comes from two sources. Paralyzed Veterans may notify VR&E that they have a candidate in mind, or a VA vocational rehabilitation counselor can recommend someone for the program.
The current memorandum of understanding will be in effect until May 2021.
How to apply
To be considered for this program, you must be receiving services from VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. If you are not receiving services from the VR&E program, but would like to, you will need to apply.
To apply to VR&E, please go to eBenefits and click on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment under Apply. You may also submit a completed application (VAF 28-1900) at the local VA Regional or outbased office, or mail the completed application to the closest regional office. Remember: not all Veterans are eligible for VR&E benefits, but to become eligible, you must have a service-connected disability of 10 percent or more.
Next, after establishing eligibility, you must also be determined entitled for services under VR&E. Entitlement is based on the Veteran having an employment handicap affecting their ability to obtain and maintain employment. It is after you have been found entitled and you have had an opportunity(ies) to meet with your vocational rehabilitation counselor that you will discuss your interest in the apprenticeship program. If the apprenticeship program seems like a good fit, the counselor may recommend you for the program. Additionally, there must be a need within the local Paralyzed Veterans of America office for a trainee.
Paralyzed Veterans may also notify VR&E that they have a candidate in mind. This candidate must also be receiving VR&E services, or they will need to go through the process explained above.
If you have any further questions, please contact your local VR&E regional office.