How To Get Denied VA Voc Rehab

Go straight to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

There are 3 main ways that qualified disabled veterans fail to get approval to use the benefit. The purpose of this article is to point out some specific “don’t say that, moron,” type issues during your first meeting with a Voc Rehab professional.

Remember. VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) is exactly what the title says it is: a benefit designed to make disabled veterans “employable”. It is not an educational program. It is not an automatic hand out if you’re disabled. It is a benefit that is governed by applicable laws and regulations that are supposed to be followed.

Background. This weekend I received a call from a disgruntled veteran who was denied entitlement to Voc Rehab despite having a 100 percent disability rating. Why was he denied? Who knows? (a veteran can be employed and still have a 100 percent Total and Permanent rating) His work issues related to problems with chronic fatigue and PTSD. A second veteran emailed me today about getting more benefits from Voc Rehab despite having a bachelor’s degree. This veteran was having no luck finding work of any kind and wanted additional training from Voc Rehab. Both veterans were denied.

Here’s what they said and why it’s wrong.

Fatal Issue #1: Both of these disabled veterans point blank told the Voc Rehab counselor they wanted to go back to school [insert favorite buzzer sound]. Denied. The “E” in VR&E stands for Employment, not Education. The veterans unfortunately told the counselor they wanted additional schooling and not skills to find work, right off the bat. Like Pandora’s box, once the intent of your application is stated, it’s hard to shut that door to an inevitable denial. The counselor will likely deny you unless you’re able to turn the meeting around.

Does that mean disabled veterans cannot get advanced degrees from the program? No. If a veteran has an employment handicap or a serious employment handicap, she could be entitled to benefits (or more benefits, if she used the 48 month maximum). The program is designed to get veterans back to work through a feasible training goal.

Now, I do not doubt either of these two veterans intended to use the benefit for training that would hopefully lead to work, but one veteran kept carrying on in his email about being denied numerous times in pursuit of his “education goal”. No, no, no. If the goal is anything other than a type of employment, you will get denied. I believe these veterans didn’t understand the meaning of their statements as interpreted by Voc Rehab.

Here, there is a better way of stating it through a hypothetical. George has a 50 percent disability rating and is currently unemployed. He thinks he wants to become an attorney despite the 3 years of hellish law school that are required. After reading one of my articles, he decides losing his soul is “no biggy” and applies for Voc Rehab. Marching into that first meeting, he unloads his life story and follows it by telling the counselor he wants to attend law school [insert buzzer].

Instead, the correct answer is, “I want to get training to become an entry-level attorney.” Let’s say you want to teach at a college. You need to tell the counselor you want entry-level employment as a college professor. Yes, both of these goals require more schooling. However, in leading with the goal rather than the path, you’re odds of approval are better.

Fatal Issue #2: During the meeting, don’t blast away about how your psychological disability keeps you from playing well with others (e.g. impairs your ability to work). In law school, they teach us how to downplay particular traits of our client to avoid hurting his case. Since you get to play attorney with the VA, and you are your own client, don’t screw yourself. I got an email a while back from a woman wanting benefits to get a Masters in Nursing. Her reasoning to the counselor was that her PTSD made her confrontational and hurt her ability to work under someone. Well, guess what? Even with an MSN, you’ll still be working under someone, mainly a doctor. If you currently don’t play well with others, what about having a Masters degree will help that issue? That’s my own logic at work. I’m sure her Voc Rehab counselor had a myriad of other concerns about her goal. [buzzer sound].

A denial in this case is not the end of the world. The counselor will usually grant 30 days for the veteran to get additional information or recommendations. Go find a psychologist outside of the VA. Yes, this will cost you out of pocket money, but you should have been smart enough to not push the self-destruct button during your meeting. Tell the psychologist that you’re a disabled veteran seeking vocational training and would like her to review your situation to get a recommendation. She will need to write a recommendation stating that she believes your disability does not impair your ability to reasonably find work after some form of retraining. Be sure to have a training goal in mind during this meeting.

Fatal Issue #3. On the flipside of #2, avoid puffing your chest too much during your first meeting, too. A guy emailed me last year about his plan to get Voc Rehab to pay for his MBA because he needed it to be “competitive”. The MBA would enhance his consulting business, which was already “moderately successful” (according to his application to the VA) and bringing in $60,000, after one year. [very loud buzzer]. This was at the end of 2009, during one of the biggest economic downturns in history. Needless to say, I didn’t feel sorry for the guy and neither did his Voc Rehab counselor.

In reality, his business was probably not doing that well, and he likely formed it because he had trouble finding work after the military. If that were true, he could have qualified for an MBA in that he required additional training to find work. So long as he applied to numerous jobs for which he may have been qualified, and received denial letters or no responses, it is possible Voc Rehab would have approved him if he brought the unsuccessful applications to the attention of the counselor.

Unfortunately, his inflated ego probably cost him an MBA. It’s all about how you present the facts. A business grossing $60,000 in its first year may or may not be a success. Plus, a one-year success does not mean he will have success in the future. Regardless, claiming you’re God’s gift to the business community is probably not the best approach.

Voc Rehab Survival Guide Benjamin Krause is an award winning investigative reporter, Veterans Benefits Law attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He attended Northwestern University and  the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.

While in law school, Benjamin won his decade-long fight for full disability benefits and now helps others do the same with this website and his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans. Since its first publication in 2011, the guide has helped the veteran community receive millions in untapped benefits through the VA Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment program. 

Connect with Benjamin on  Google+,  Twitter,  Facebook and LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. Jeff Rodas says

    Good article. I am going through this process now. I was approved to go back to college by the counselor. I picked a program got a scholarship and then was called by the counselor and her supervisor told her no. I go in for a meeting tomorrow to find out what I can do to help and see what they will do for me. The advice above I hope will help.

  2. shirley says

    can a wife lose benefits her husband is 64 and 100%totally disabled and may be incarcerated will she lose benefits

  3. Michael Roberts says

    I applied for voc rehab in March 2007 and approved, I am as 100% total and permanent disabled unemployability for PTSD. And other physical service connected disablilities. I have had five counselors. The VA says they will provide me with a custom built shed, (HOA) required, for my hobby. Since March of 2007 They have been stalling, procrastinating and just giving me the okie doke. This March it will be five years and I refuse to let this just go away. I have contacted My US Senator and Congressman to no avail. The have no power with the VA. I have provided everything they have asked of me. What should I do to get this project started and completed. Thanks.

  4. JM Brown says

    Sir,
    I am a retired Marine who has a disability rating of 100% –I have wrote here brfore, in hopes of n answer. My vision is 800/20 in right eye, and have 5 eye conditions, all service connected. The Voc rehab counselor sent me an email link to the United Cerebral Palset Association of San Diego. And, tolf me not to call him. That was in July. YEs, I am employed, yes I am an adjunct professor…while I can see…The problem is getting so bad (10 pr of glasses from the VA in last two years), that I have my nose on the computer screen…
    He alwo lied about not having access to my records, and being unable to provide anything — when we lft (my wife was with – to ddrive), he told us “not to call.”
    Do I use the government action form and contact Darrell Issa, Barbera Boxer, and Dianne Feinstein. I mean I only have one set of eyes, and with over use, am prone to chronic migraines, and tripping over things…can you please llend a suggestion. I sent a CV/REsume to a potnetial employer, and to my dismay, my commas were question marks…
    JM Brown USMC RET MA, PH.D.

  5. Brian Carlson says

    I m at 60% and went to my voc rehab councelor. She was rude and you know what. Sh told me that I was past my 12 years. I got out in 96 but was not approved until 02 after going through a lot of red tape. She said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t approved until 02 it’s from when I did my orginal date of the paperwork. She then said that I used 36 months of my 48 months. I asked first how does she know those dates anounts r correct. She said”they r and there never wrong”. I asked can I go past the 48 months. She said “no”. I asked where is that written? She said ” I know that is the rule”. I asked where can she show me that info in writting. She couldn’t. Then she said that I had to go through all these other classes and assistance before I could be possibly approved for training for a new career but morethan likely I wouldn’t be approved. Is she right on any or all of these issues or questions. I am like everyone else dealing with these people. Why should this be so so hard.

  6. Earl H. Larsen says

    I have been wrestling with the V.A. for about 65 years, with only minor success. I have a highly amplified telephone which I can use with some help from my caregiver. I would appreciate a contact with some attorney who knows better how to approach the V.A. than I do. Can you guide me from this point?

  7. John says

    Why do they even invite 10% disabled veterans to the VR& E? If you’re 10% disabled you’d have to be extremely disabled for them to even consider you. But if you were that disabled, you wouldn’t have only 10% disability rating.

  8. Kevin Baltzley says

    Ben,

    I just wanted to say that I wish you were my attorney! In fact, I just fired my attorney last week after 1.5 years of doing absolutely nothing for me in my appeals process with the V.A. Here in Florida. I have done ALL the leg work myself, and not having this information you wrote about sooner sure would have helped me with my claim(s). Thank you for your words of wisdom. They sure have helped me out. I was denied this benefit because I am not yet considered disabled by the V.A. I draw SSD and my German SSD as well. These to intadies have found me 100% disabled but not the V.A.???????????????????? Talk about a nightmare:( I will be looking forward to more of your writing(s) in the future. I would also like to know if I can reach you directly for help? My email address is: kevin.baltzley@comcast.net if you would be so kind as to drop me a reply I would be greatly appreciative of your efforts in my case.

    With my warmest regards,

    Kevin Baltzley
    Atlantic Beach, Florida

  9. Allan K. says

    I am 100% I.U. and 100% SSD for many years now. I wish to use my CH 31, which Voc. Rehab. on the phone told me erroneously is only 12 months since I used my 36 months of Mont. G.I. Bill already, and the 48 month rule applies, which I know is bogus, and I want to get my science teaching credential which will take me 18 months to complete.I only desire to teach no more than 15 hours per week, and earn 1000 a month max so as to not impact my VA?SSD benefits. I was given 30% in June 2002, retroactive to June 2000, so my 12 years starts from the date I was notified, June 2002, not June 2012 as the VA e-mail system and local counselor told me. I know I can get a job here teaching, and I already have a student teaching slot available when I am ready. My goal is only part-time employment, which is all I can handle anyway, so will the counselor try to push me to pursue full time? I know how much I can handle, but I am only 47, and I feel I can teach 10-15 hours a week. Any advice? I have my ducks in a row, but I don’t want to get into a hassle with a counselor that only knows how to look at a screen, and thinks I’m trying to pull something. I deserve 24 months at 3/4 time, a notebook computer, and all necessary expenses. I am sending in my application tomorrow, and want to succeed in my “employment goal”, so should I be ready for a war, or is my plan on target? total costs with stipend allowance should be no more than 30,000, which is nothing, but I know how these VA counselors like to play games.Thanks, Allan

  10. John Murphy says

    I’m 100% disabled vet and also receive Social Security my monthly income from these 2 benefits bring my income to just under $4,000 a month. My question is am I aloud to make any extra income as long as the job is easy enough to do ? I sit around and don’t do anything. My depression and anxiety are all the time on my mind and I thought if I could find something I can do and earn a few extra bucks while keeping my sanity that it may well make me feel a little bit better than I do now. Sometimes I just want to end things cause I’m not doing the people around me right I don’t know I’m mixed up my pain causes me to think of doing myself in but I have to remember the ones that love me and hoe much I love my Family I can do volunteer work as long as it not to far. Ijust need to know if I can make a few bucks or not and if not what about voluntrre

So what do you think?