contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer
The Department of Defense and the VA both aim to compensate Veterans for any conditions or injuries incurred during service. A documented medical condition directly caused by military service, which occurred while in the military, or that was aggravated by military service is considered a service-connected disability; there are many benefits to Veterans (and often their families) who have been impacted by a service-connected disability. When these disabilities affect our Veterans’ ability to find or maintain employment, VA Chapter 31 Benefits are available.
Formally known as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program for disabled Vets, the benefits are now called the Veterans Readiness and Employment Program or VR&E. The goal of these vocational rehab benefits for Veterans is to help disabled Veterans find employment, and to help those who are unable to work live as independently as possible. This is accomplished through a variety of methods.
Veterans approved for Chapter 31 benefits will work with a counselor to determine which of the five available tracks best fit their circumstances and needs.
Reemployment. This track focuses on returning to the civilian job held prior to deployment.
Rapid access to employment. Veterans opting for this track will focus on finding a job that matches their existing skills and needs.
Self-employment. Through this track, Veteran vocational rehabilitation counselors provide services aimed at helping Veterans start their own businesses.
Employment through long term services. This includes vocational training to help Veterans develop new skills which they will later transfer to a new career.
Independent living. This track helps disabled Veterans live as independently as possible when they can’t return to work because of their disability.
After the initial evaluation is complete, the counselor works with the Veteran to develop a plan that addresses rehabilitation and employment needs. The written plan, which is unique to each individual, specifies a long-term goal broken down into several short-term goals. Each plan also outlines services and resources needed to accomplish each goal. This may include:
Veterans may be eligible for VR&E benefits if they meet all of the following requirements:
As with most employment and educational benefits offered through the VA, your application begins online by signing into your eBenefits account. Once logged in, click “apply,” and select Veteran Readiness and Employment Benefits from the Education and Training section. Then simply click “Apply for Chapter 31 Benefits.”
Eligible Veterans will then receive an invitation to an orientation session at their local VA office.
Those taking part in these Veteran rehabilitation vocational programs will receive a monthly payment while attending training, and may also qualify for a monthly subsistence allowance. The subsistence allowance amount is based on the rate of attendance, number of dependents and type of training.
It is so important that the men and women who serve our country are both recognized for their service and taken care of in the event that they are disabled while doing so. In addition to Chapter 31 benefits, the VA offers several other programs specific to disabled Veterans.
Disability Compensation – A tax free monetary gift paid to disabled veterans.
Clothing Allowance – Grants available to help certain disabled veterans purchase clothes.
Housing Adaptation Grants – Available for disabled veterans who require modification to their homes due to their disability.
Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI) – Life insurance coverage for those with a service-connected disability, with additional coverage available for totally disabled veterans.
Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance – Provides mortgage protection insurance to disabled veterans.
Education Assistance – In addition to Chapter 31 and the GI Bill, there is tuition assistance available for post-military education and career training for disabled Veterans.