If you were injured in the military, you have an opportunity to make a new start. Whether you need to step away from a dangerous way of living or can't market your military skill sets easily for consistent, significant money, the Department of Veterans Affairs Chapter 31 benefits can help you get on the right track. Here are a few details to help you utilize the benefits to their maximum potential, along with a few tips in case your future training becomes a bit tricky.
Who Qualifies For Chapter 31?
The Chapter 31 VA (Veterans Affairs) VR&E (Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment) program is designed to give veterans who have a 20% or higher service-connected disability. This means that a condition was linked to military service at a minimum compensation rating, and will be on official VA documentation.
Veterans must also have an honorable or other-than-honorable discharge in most cases, but there are waivers for specific situations. If you have a dishonorable discharge that is in the process of being removed--or if you need to clear your name--you need to speak to a VA benefits attorney as soon as possible to get the proper paperwork taken care of.
You must also pass a VR&E review showing that you need rehabilitation due to your condition. This is usually supported by the 20% or greater service-connected disability, but is considered separately.
What Can You Do With Chapter 31?
Many veterans treat the Chapter 31 benefits as a GI Bill without housing payments or a second chance at job training, although the benefits are shorter in many cases. The goal of VR&E is to quickly move the veteran into employment with a previous employer, or to quickly train the veteran for a new type of position.
This is compared to the ability to earn a 4-year degree or graduate degrees, which may not be covered under the VR&E program. VR&E may, however, allow you to take some college courses related to your job that may coincidentally put you closer to a degree.
If you plan on earning a new degree from scratch by using the VR&E program, plan carefully. You only have 48 months in most cases to use your benefits, so be sure that you can handle personal finances along the way. Consider breaking your degree up into individual certifications and industry-employable goals instead of hoping for a job offer at the end of the degree path.
Contact a VA benefits attorney to discuss Chapter 31, The Post-9/11 GI Bill, and other programs that can help you.