Veteran Readiness and Employment Program Helps Vets Re-Enter the Workforce

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Table of Contents
  1. What Is Veteran Readiness & Employment?
Benefits of Veteran Readiness & EmploymentThe Five “Tracks” of Veteran Readiness & Employment
  1. Veteran Readiness & Employment Eligibility Requirements
VeteransActive-Duty Service members
  1. How to Apply for the Veteran Readiness & Employment Program
  2. Veteran Readiness & Employment vs. Post-9/11 GI Bill Subsistence Allowances

Finding a new job can be stressful, especially for veterans with service-connected disabilities and active-duty service members transitioning out of the military due to disability.

The veteran unemployment rate rose to nearly 8% in July 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One year later, overall veteran unemployment is down by half, but higher for veterans with service-connected disabilities, according to the Bureau’s latest veteran unemployment survey.

Resources are available to help veterans with disabilities prepare for the next step in their careers. The Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs is one such resource. This program aims to equip veterans with the necessary preparation and skills to re-enter the workforce and find employment.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Veteran Readiness & Employment?

The Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program is a Department of Veterans Affairs-led program. It supports veterans and active-duty service members transitioning out of the military due to service-connected disabilities that render them unable to perform their job. Also known as the “Chapter 31” program or the “vocational rehabilitation and employment program,” VR&E helps veterans who have disabilities overcome employment challenges and live as independently as possible with skill training, rehabilitation plans and other employment support.

Benefits of Veteran Readiness & Employment

The VR&E program encompasses various benefits with the collective goal of helping disabled veterans find satisfactory, suitable employment and live as independently as possible. Individual services include:

  • Employment evaluation to determine a veteran’s existing skills and abilities as well as interests
  • Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning
  • Job training
  • Resume development
  • Job-finding assistance
  • On-the-job training, apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences
  • Post-secondary education at a college, vocational, technical, or business school
  • Case management, counseling, and medical referrals

Additionally, the VR&E program offers independent living services for veterans with severe disabilities who may not return to the workforce.

The Five “Tracks” of Veteran Readiness & Employment

The program offers five “tracks” to employment, depending on the current skill level of the veteran as well as their post-military career objectives. Once the veteran enters the VR&E program, they will be paired with a vocational rehabilitation counselor who, together with the veterans, selects the appropriate track to employment.

These tracks include:

  1. Re-employment: Offers members of the Reserve or National Guard support returning to their previous employer.
  2. Rapid access: Intended for veterans with existing skills to jump back into the job market.
  3. Self-employment: Helps veterans who wish to set up their own companies.
  4. Long-term services: Assists veterans in developing the necessary skills for long-term employment.
  5. Independent living: Aids disabled veterans in living more independent lives in light of service-connected disabilities.

Veteran Readiness & Employment Eligibility Requirements

In general, the VR&E program is only for veterans or active-duty service members who have a disability caused (or exacerbated) by military service that limits their ability to work or completely prevents it.

Veterans are eligible for VR&E benefits for 12 years from their first VA service-connected disability rating or from their last day of active-duty service. However, the 12-year period may be extended for veterans experiencing severe disabilities.

Veterans

Veterans who were not dishonorably discharged and have a VA service-connected disability rating of at least 10% are eligible to apply for VR&E services.

Active-Duty Service members

If an active-duty service member is severely injured as a result of their service, they can automatically receive VR&E benefits before obtaining a VA disability rating.

Active-duty service members are also eligible to apply for VR&E under these conditions.

  • The service member is transitioning out of military service with a 20% or higher VA disability rating.
  • The service member is awaiting a medical discharge
  • The service member is going through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) process, which helps determine overall fitness for duty.  

How to Apply for the Veteran Readiness & Employment Program

  • Veterans with a VA disability rating can apply online through the VA’s eBenefits portal
  • Service members without an existing VA disability rating can still apply but need to fill out VA Form 28-0588.
  • Once eligibility is verified, the applicant will be invited to the a program orientation at their regional VA office

Note: Service members or veterans with a dishonorable discharge are largely ineligible for VR&E benefits.

Veteran Readiness & Employment vs. Post-9/11 GI Bill Subsistence Allowances

Some veterans participating in the VR&E program are eligible for a “subsistence allowance” stipend while pursuing education or vocational training programs. Monthly stipend amounts vary based on number of dependents, type of training and attendance (e.g., full-time vs. part-time).

However, recently passed legislation allows veterans who are eligible for both Post-9/11 GI Bill subsistence allowance and the VR&E program to select the Post-9/11 GI Bill Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate instead of the VR&E rate, which ranges from $164 to nearly $1,000 per month. To determine which option is most advantageous, veterans should check their local BAH subsistence allowance rate, which changes each calendar year.

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