Some of the more well-known programs available are physical and occupational therapy to help veterans achieve a more complete physical recovery. Mental health services are also offered and cover a wide variety of care in specialized areas of affliction. Extended care and ongoing therapy are available to those suffering both physically and mentally. Another less familiar service is the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service or VR & E.
This program assists with the employment status of disabled veterans and has two main goals. The first is to assist veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, obtain and maintain suitable employment. The second is to improve the quality of life of those veterans so severely disabled due to a service-connected condition that they are not immediately employable and achieve the most independent life they can under their unique circumstance.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services are available to eligible veterans for a period of 12 years unless determined by Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors that the veteran has a serious employment handicap in which case the time period could be extended. This 12 year period commences upon the date of separation from active duty or the date at which VA informs the veteran of their service-connected disability rating.
There are several steps that must be taken to determine whether a veteran is eligible for VR & E-services. To receive a required evaluation the veteran must:
- Have a discharge status other than dishonorable
- Be rated at least 10% service-connected disabled
- Complete and submit an application VR &E services– VA Form 28-1900
After all requirements have been met, an evaluation will be scheduled with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to determine if the eligible veteran is entitled to receive VR & E-services. This extensive evaluation includes the following:
- A detailed look into the veteran’s vocational interests and discussion and development of goals
- An assessment of current interests, abilities, and aptitudes
- An assessment of the effect that the veteran’s service-connected disability will have on finding and holding a job using the skills the veteran already possesses and whether or not it will impair the veteran’s ability to do so.
If after the evaluation the counselor has determined that the Veteran does indeed have an employment handicap and has met all of the initial eligibility requirements, he or she will then be able to receive VR & E-services.
Once the veteran has been cleared to receive VR & E services, the first step in the process is to work with a VRC or vocational rehabilitation counselor to establish an individualized rehabilitation plan. This plan will be written in an outline format and encompass the resources, services, and criteria that will be used to achieve and gauge the success of rehabilitation. Both the counselor and the veteran will be required to sign the plan which will be evaluated annually for any revisions. Development of this plan is a detailed process that takes into consideration the veterans’ current physical and mental health situation, the status of the current job market, any job skills possessed, necessary training requirements for the career path of choice, and identification of resources needed to successfully reach rehabilitation. VR & E have Five Tracks of Services that the veteran must choose from, with the help of their counselor, to pursue.
These five tracks are as follows:
- Reemployment with a former employer
- Direct job placement services for new employment – a rapid, fast track program
- Employment through long-term services which could include on the job training, college or other training courses
- Independent living services – for those veterans with disabilities too severe to be immediately employed
In an effort to implement the veteran’s rehabilitation plan, the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will help by coordinating key services such as tutorial assistance, job-seeking skill training, medical and dental referrals, adjustment counseling, and training allowance payment if the veteran qualifies.
The VA hosts two websites that cater to the employment of service-disabled veterans. The first of these sites is www.VetSuccess.gov. They are partnered with employers wanting to hire veterans and allow them to create personal accounts to assist with job seeking. Resumes and other essential documents can be stored in these accounts for easy delivery to potential employers. Also, if the veteran enables the option, it will automatically send the veteran’s credentials to employers in the field they are currently pursuing. The second website is www.cwt.va.gov, which is the Compensated Work Therapy/Veterans Industries site (VI/CWT). This site is integrated into the VA’s vocational rehabilitation program and matches suitable veterans to open positions and assists them in their application process. It also works with businesses to create positions for those veterans suffering from either physical or mental disabilities. VI/CWT has 162 locations around the country.
As a way to further ensure the success of the veterans it serves, the VI/CWT staff members offer the following services to disabled veterans:
- Employment support and job matching
- Case management, worksite and job analysis
- Vocation rehabilitation services
- Advice and counseling regarding assistive technology, guidance and accommodation to those needing it through Americans with Disabilities Act regulation compliance
- Through their services, VI/CWT provides a variety of work industries with prequalified, prescreened, work-ready pool of applicants to fill their waiting positions.