Prospects for veterans looking to enter the job market have drastically increased since the Great Recession. In 2016, the unemployment rate for veterans (4.7%) was actually slightly lower than the rate for the entire population (4.85%). One factor that has contributed to veteran’s success in the workplace is the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) service provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Through VR&E, eligible veterans or active duty servicemembers are given a wide range of services to assist with job training, employment accommodations, resume development/review, and personalized coaching to assist with job seeking skills. If you want to fan your entrepreneurial flames after returning from duty, VR&E also provides guidance in starting your own business. Lastly, VR&E provides assistance for servicemembers who are severely disabled and unable to work in a traditional work environment.
Eligibility requirements for active duty servicemembers:
- Expect to receive a discharge other than dishonorable when leaving active duty
- Acquire a memorandum rating of 20% or more from the Department of Veterans Affairs
- Apply for VR&E services
Eligibility requirements for veterans:
- Discharged with a status other than dishonorable
- Have the VA declare you have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10%
- Apply for VR&E services
The period of eligibility to register for VR&E services is 12 years from being notified of the latter of either the date of separation from active duty, or date you were first notified of a service-connected disability rating from the VA.
After eligibility has been established, you will be directed to a Veterans Resource Center in your area where you will be evaluated to determine your specific abilities and needs. This evaluation includes an assessment of your interests, aptitudes, abilities, and whether your service-connected disabilities impair your ability to obtain/hold a job. Post-assessment, you will be given vocational-specific training aligned with your interests. You will be assigned a case manager who will be in charge of guiding you through this process. Generally, the case manager will directly instruct you on subjects where he/she has expertise, and provide supervision to other instructors who provide supplementary services.
During your evaluation, if it is determined that your service-connected disabilities are too severe to participate in the traditional work environment, you may be provided with independent living services. You can only take advantage of these services for 24 months because they are meant to be a point of rehabilitation to help you transition into the workplace, rather than a place to stay. Some of the benefits provided include: making arrangements for consultations with health professionals, counseling services to aid in determining your individual independent living needs, and providing information for home modification benefits you may be eligible for, such as the Specially Adapted Housing grant.
By now, you’re probably thinking that this investment will take up a good chunk of your time, and you may be worried about maintaining an income while participating in this program. Another great feature of VR&E is that you may be eligible for a subsistence allowance provided by the VA. The amount you receive depends on your rate of attendance in the program, the number of dependents, and the type of training. To view the different rates, click here.
VR&E is just one of the many opportunities offered to veterans seeking to enter the civilian job market. If you would like to learn more about other programs, or need assistance in understanding your rights if you are a disabled veteran, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
VA MISSION Act Approved by Committee Expands Caregiver Program
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) passed the “Department of Veterans Affairs Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act” (H.R.5674) also known as the VA MISSION Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (Tenn.) HVAC Chairman, includes three pieces of legislation that have been considered by either the House or Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. The bill would expand the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Post-9/11 Caregiver Program to cover ALL badly disabled veterans, streamline VA’s duplicative community care programs into one cohesive program and create a non-partisan process for reviewing VA’s assets to ensure veterans can access the care they have earned.
The bill also includes funding for the VA Choice Program that is expected to last until the new program, authorized under the VA MISSION Act, is implemented. In April, Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie informed Congress that the current account would run out of funds in early to mid-June, ending the Choice Program and potentially creating another crisis for veterans trying to access care.
FRA strongly supports expanding the VA Caregiver Program and members are encouraged to use the FRA Action Center (choose the Caregiver Omnibus H.R.5674-5th campaign from the page) to urge their Representative to support the bill.
Bill approved by HVAC Expands Agent Orange Reform
Lawmakers on the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) approved the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R.299), sponsored by Rep. David Valadao (Calif.). This bill would clarify that service members serving off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict, have a presumption for filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for ailments associated with exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide. The bill was amended to further provide presumption to certain veterans that served in Korea near the demilitarized zone and in Thailand. FRA believes Congress should recognize these veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and authorize presumptive status for VA disability claims.
“Today is a great day for Blue Water Navy veterans,” HVAC Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (Tenn.) said after the bill was approved by the committee. “We owe it to the brave veterans who served in the Vietnam War to provide benefits for conditions they may have developed because of exposure to Agent Orange. I’m also proud of our work today to send the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to the full House, and I’m grateful for Rep. Valadao’s continued leadership on this important legislation.” The bill now goes to the full House for consideration. Members are strongly urged to go online and use the FRA Action Center to ask their Representative to support this important legislation.