Did you know that as of 2019, over 4 million veterans had a service-connected disability rating of 10 percent or higher? Thankfully, the VA offers support for these veterans that gave so much to serve our nation.
Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E), or Chapter 31, helps disabled service members get training and find employment that works for them. In some cases, family members may also qualify for benefits. This program was formerly called Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment.
If you're a service member or veteran and have a disability that was caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service and that limits your ability to work or prevents you from working, you should consider taking advantage of your benefits.
Services offered by VR&E include:
A skills and interests evaluation to determine career fit
Counseling (professional or vocational) and rehabilitation planning
Employment services such as job training, resume development, and other work-readiness support
Assistance securing and maintaining employment, 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 to help you live as independently as possible
Funding through Chapter 31 is not guaranteed, and you must work with a counselor to be approved for training. Read on to find out how you can increase your chances of success.
Prepare for your Meeting
When meeting with a counselor, you’ll want to have all of your ducks in a row. Think of this as a pitch meeting for a new business venture. You’ll need to convince the counselor that you will be able to find employment after completing your training. This is the number one goal of the program, and funds are allocated for the purpose of getting disabled veterans employed.
Each counselor is different, and some may be more interested in working with you to find a career and training match while others may want to see everything in order before they approve funding.
Counselors also want to know that you’re capable of completing the program. It may be helpful to bring background info about yourself if you already have related experience. If the program or school you’re interested in has any stats on completion rates for their programs, this can also be helpful.
Know What Chapter 31 Benefits Cover
Chapter 31 funding can be used for a large variety of costs including equipment, tuition, startup costs, certification prep training, and more. Counselors are generally looking for the shortest and cheapest route to employment in your chosen field as they see it. This means that if nearby there's a private college with high tuition costs and a public college with low tuition costs, they will most likely approve your funding for the public school. That being said, it’s possible to make the case that you need to go to a specific school.
The maximum amount of benefit in one year is $25,000, so keep this in mind when choosing a course of study.
You’ll also get a stipend to cover living expenses. You can get a higher stipend amount if you also have GI Bill benefits remaining. See more on this below.
Train for High-Demand Job Skills
You are much more likely to be approved if you apply for a program or school that will give you skills that translate directly to a job. For example, skills related to nursing, IT, business management, and so on are highly desired by employers and should be a strong path to employment for the veteran. Other areas of study may be less likely to be approved, such as philosophy or literature, but it’s always up to the counselor to approve any requested training.
If you’re interested in a less directly lucrative course of study, make sure to bring good justification for how that line of study will help you find and keep employment.
One of the best things about Chapter 31 benefits is that they are separate from your other VA education benefits, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill. You can get trained with VR&E without using any of your Chapter 33 benefits, or even if you’ve used up all of your benefit amount.
You can choose to get paid the GI Bill subsistence rate instead of the Chapter 31 subsistence allowance rate if you have at least 1 day of entitlement remaining under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and you’re within your GI Bill eligibility period. The GI Bill rate is usually higher than the Chapter 31 rate, so this can be a big benefit.
Check your eligibility below and apply for Chapter 31 benefits when you’re ready.
You may be eligible for VR&E benefits and services if you’re a veteran who didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge, and you have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10% from VA.
Your basic period of eligibility ends 12 years from either the date you received notice of your date of separation from active military service, or your first VA service-connected disability rating. The basic period of eligibility may be extended if a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) finds that you have a serious employment handicap (SEH).
You may be eligible for VR&E benefits and services if you’re a service member and you meet at least one of these requirements:
You have a 20% or higher pre-discharge disability rating (memorandum rating) and will soon leave the military, or
You are participating in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) process or awaiting discharge due to a medical condition resulting from a serious injury or illness that occurred in the line of duty.
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