Most veterans are familiar with the GI Bill and how it can help pay for training programs or a college/graduate degree. There are other educational and career benefits available for veterans that are less commonly talked about or used, but potentially just as, or more helpful, for many. In this post, we are shining light on Veteran Readiness and Employment benefits.
Veteran Readiness and Employment
Formally called Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program offers 5 tracks to help veterans with job skills and to gain and keep employment. VR&E is often referred to as “Chapter 31 benefits” since they are in Chapter 31 of Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The 5 different tracks/options are:
- Self-Employment Track- This option is for veterans who want to start their own business.
- Re-Employment Track- This helps determine if the veteran has the rights to return to a job they held when they were a civilian before deployment.
- Rapid Access to Employment Track- Using the skills already possessed, this provides job search help and employment counseling.
- Independent Living Track- If unable to return to the workforce immediately, this option helps explore services that will assist a veteran in living as independently as possible in the meantime.
- Employment Through Long-Term Services Track- Some veterans are eligible for vocational/job skill training.
What Determines Eligibility for VR&E Benefits?
Veterans must meet all of the below criteria to qualify for VR&E benefits:
- Did not receive a dishonorable discharge
- Be service-connected with a disability rating of 10% or more from the VA
- Must apply for VR&E
How Long Does a Veteran Have to Use VR&E Benefits?
The period of basic eligibility ends 12 years from the date a veteran received official notice of the actual date of separation from active service, OR the date of the first service-connected disability from the VA.
**There are some circumstances in which the period of basic eligibility may be extended. To figure out if eligible for an extension, connecting and speaking with a VR&E/ Vocational Rehabilitation counselor is necessary.
Are There VR&E Benefits for Active Duty?
An active duty service member can qualify for VR&E benefits if they meet one of these eligibility requirements:
- Have a pre-discharge disability rating of 20% or more and be leaving the military shortly after
- Be active in the Integrated Disability Evaluation Service (IDES) or waiting for discharge because of a medical condition that occurred from illness, injury or event while in service
Active duty service members can get more information here.
Benefits for Dependent Family
VR&E offers services to dependent family members of veterans who meet the required criteria.
- Must be the dependent of a veteran
- Have to be eligible for a VA educational benefit, such as The Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve or Active Duty, or the Post-9/11 GI Bill
You can read more about dependent benefits and apply here.
VR&E or GI Bill?
The GI Bill benefits are promoted much more. In 2020, data reports around 658,000 veterans used GI Bill benefits, while only 123,000 veterans utilized VR&E benefits.
VA leaders have faced questions about why there isn’t more clear information presented on VR&E benefits, and why GI Bill benefits are pushed more. Most veterans don’t have a clear understanding of the two options, including the benefits and differences of each, and which may be the best fit for them.
One main difference is that VR&E generally offers more flexibility, and focuses on things other than just degree completion, such as training, skills, help with living independently, and more.
*Important: Rules currently prohibit a veteran from switching to VR&E benefits if they used GI Bill benefits first.
Wanting to Apply for Educational Benefits?
A good starting point is to see which program(s) you qualify for, speak with a counselor or VA representative about the benefits of each program, and determine which is the best fit for your life and goals. Below are additional resources and articles that can help you in this process.