Any Veteran can tell you what the GI Bill is, but what about Voc Rehab? You may have seen “Chapter 31: Vocational Rehabilitation” on forms while filling out education benefits, or a bulletin inside a VA medical center, but maybe you didn’t fully understand the difference between Voc Rehab and the GI Bill. If you thought it was just another way to go to school, you’re only partially right.
Most folks know the program as Vocational Rehabilitation or Chapter 31, but it has been reflagged as the Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Vet Success Program. The purpose of Voc Rehab is simple: Assist service-disabled Veterans to train for, find, and hold down a suitable job, or achieve independence in daily living.
What’s the deal?
Voc Rehab is for service-connected Veterans who want to take their careers in a direction that previous training and current disabilities make difficult. After a Veteran is determined eligible by a Voc Rehab Counselor, they can expect these services:
- Comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine abilities, skills, and interests for employment
- Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning for employment services
- Employment services such as job-training, job-seeking skills, resume development, and other work readiness assistance
- Assistance finding and keeping a job, including the use of special employer incentives and job accommodations
- 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 medical referrals
- Independent living services for Veterans unable to work due to the severity of their disabilities
Voc Rehab is a little different than the GI Bill. To apply, you must be at least 10 percent service-connected disabled, hold an honorable or other than dishonorable discharge and apply for the program. You can receive up to 48 months of entitlement and the period of eligibility is 12 years after separation or the notification of a disability rating, whichever came last. But, if you have a serious disability, you can use Voc Rehab services after the 12 years have expired and your entitlement can be extended past 48 months.
The importance of Voc Rehab
When folks decide to enter the military, it’s usually at an important time of their lives. Many elect to go into the service instead of college or an entry-level job. Meanwhile, their peers continue their education and gain experience. High Veteran unemployment is a result of many things, but one reason is that employers (and Vets themselves) may find it difficult to determine skills and experience from a DD-214. Voc Rehab can help develop new skills that build on military experience so Vets can remain competitive in the workforce. If that training and education comes in the form of a degree, an apprenticeship or technical school, Voc Rehab can be that extra push for Vets to catch up with their peers.
Tools to succeed
When you’ve successfully entered Voc Rehab, your counselor will help guide you along the process. He or she will work with you to develop a plan to help you achieve your goal with routine updates to make sure you’re on track. They’ll even make sure you’re taken care of physically and mentally by ensuring you are enrolled in VA care. Entry into Voc Rehab will gain access to full VA medical healthcare, including VA dental care, something that is difficult if you’re not rated 100 percent or have a service connected dental injury.
Additionally, if you want to use the program to receive a degree, it will tack on additional months of eligibility if you need more time to finish. It’ll also pay the complete cost of tuition at public and private schools and the full cost of fees, books and equipment you need, such as a computer, to succeed. VetSuccess will also pay the same housing allowance as the Post-9/11 GI Bill (effective this month) as long as you are eligible for it.
When should I sign up?
It takes about 45 days from submitting an application to being approved for benefits, so get started well before you want to take advantage of the program.
I’m not just the president, I’m also a client
I’ll post more about Voc Rehab in the coming months when I go through the program myself. Though I have a job in public affairs, I want to take my job in a different direction–and that means additional education and training is needed. So I’ll see how it works and report back.