Vocational Services offered by VBA and VHA

Guest Blogger Marny Howell, MA, CRC
Community Reintegration Services
VA Puget Sound Health Care System
American Lake Division
253-583-1800

In this article, we are going to share with you the differences between Vocational Rehabilitation programs offered by Veterans Hospital Administration (VHA) and Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

VBA administers various benefits programs for our nation’s Veterans which includes a Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. This program has several different monikers; VR&E, Ch 31, or Voc Rehab. This is a Vocational Rehabilitation program for Veterans with 10% Service Connected Disability ratings or higher.  If a Veteran does not have a Service Connected Disability rating, she/he is not eligible for this program.

VBA’s VR&E program provides Veteran’s with 5 tracks of services in order to assist them in meeting their employment and rehabilitation goals.  These 5 tracks are: Reemployment with Previous Employer; Rapid Access to Employment; Self-Employment; Employment through Long Term Services; and Independent Living.

Commonly, Veteran’s eligible for this program choose to pursue Retraining or Employment through Long Term Services track. VR&E/Ch 31 will assess and evaluate the Veteran’s vocational goal and labor market. If the Veteran has the ability and aptitude to achieve a specific vocational goal and the job is in demand, VR&E will likely support the Veteran’s plan. VR&E or Ch 31 pays tuition, books and fees as well as a subsistence allowance based on the number of their dependents in this track. If the Veteran does not have the capability as determined through a comprehensive vocational assessment to be successful in a traditional academic environment OR the vocational goal they have selected is not in demand, VR&E may elect to not support the Veteran in pursuing that goal and will then assist them in selecting a more realistic goal that will lead him to real employment in the future.  Additionally, VR&E is capable of explaining options relating to Post 9/11 GI Bill (Ch 33) benefits while participating in their services (Ch 31).

Additional information about all 5 tracks to employment in this VBA VR&E program can be found online at http://www.benefits.va.gov/VOCREHAB/employment_tracks.asp.

VHA offers vocational services through our Therapeutic and Supported Employment Services department and are administered by the Mental Health Service, at Seattle and American Lake Divisions of VA Puget Sound Healthcare System.  We provide vocational services to Veterans with Service Connected and Non Service Connected disabilities alike.  We offer several different programs to Veteran’s interested in either returning to work or participating in work activity all under the Compensated Work Therapy umbrella.

Compensated Work Therapy/Transitional Work Experience (CWT/TWE) is a job search program combined with therapeutic work.  CWT/TWE provides a work therapy setting to help Veterans identify and correct problem work behaviors as well as learn and/or hone their job search skills. Veterans must be willing to participate in weekly job search activities. Veterans must have a clinical need (not financial need) for work therapy treatment in order to improve basic worker habits, have a specific employment goal, and be capable of conducting an independent job search.

Supported Employment (SE) is a program to help Veterans participating in Mental Health Intensive Case Manager (MHICM) or Psychosocial Rehabilitation Recovery Center (PRRC)  with employment goals.  The purpose of SE is for Veterans to secure and maintain competitive employment. Through participation in CWT/SE, the Veteran will increase his/her level of functioning and self-esteem, expediting the recovery process, and improving his/her overall quality of life. By providing community-based employment through work skills training and development services, job development and placement services, and employment support to Veteran participants, SE implements the concept of the recovery model by helping Veterans lead normal, healthy lives that allow them to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities.

The Incentive Therapy (IT) program provides opportunities for Veterans eligible for VA Healthcare to participate in therapeutic work treatment at the Medical Center. The core therapeutic component in IT is work. The population served in IT are most often Veterans with chronic mental health issues lacking the emotional or physical stamina to engage in work on a full time basis.  The program allows IT participants to: add structure to their day, participate in meaningful activity, interact and socialize with others, and experience a sense of accomplishment.

Through services available under VBA's VR&E Voc Rehab program or VHA's Vocational Services VA is prepared to meet all Veteran's employment needs.  Please help us by sharing this information with your colleagues about the differences between these 2 programs so that Veterans are being informed correctly about resources and services for which they are eligible and/or entitled to receive.

For further information about vocational services offered at American Lake VAMC, please review our webpage at: http://www.pugetsound.va.gov/services/CRS.asp.

Or you can reach us on the telephone in Seattle at 206-227-5569 or at American Lake at 253-583-1800.