Are You Eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation?  A Success Story

Military Transition

Army Career and Alumni Program photo

Military veterans who sustained disabilities while in the line of duty and are qualified, can receive additional services through the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program.

VR&E assists injured veterans in obtaining skills or education that can be leveraged to find meaningful employment after their time in service has ended.  To qualify as a service member you must have a documented service-connected disability rating of 20% or greater.

Dave Gonzales successfully used this program to become a highly acclaimed professional.  He grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in a small town in south New Jersey.  Dave had ambitions of being a scientist, but his family could not afford to pay for college.  Like many others, he found the Army a natural fit.  Eventually, Dave was medically retired from the Army due to chemical exposure.  Subsequently, he used VR&E program to assist in obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Information Technology (IT) and begin a new career.

For the initial VR&E evaluation, Dave had to complete an application, provide financial and education information, high school diploma and other records of previous education.  Once Dave was evaluated, he participated in a skill set and aptitude assessments.  These tasks helped the counselor and Dave determine what his interests were; while a determination of a career field in which he would predictably perform well was made.  To ensure he had chosen the right career path and to ensure he would have the ability to complete the program, Dave met with the counselor on multiple occasions for several months.  After his career counseling, full tuition, a computer, and all applicable software were provided to Dave.  He also received a monthly stipend to help with his expenses; as it is well understood by the VR&E administrators that veterans in the program are typically not working.

Additionally, Dave found other resources far beyond the career counseling and assistance that were available to him.  He believed that he had the backing of the entire VA system to ensure that he was healthy enough to complete the program.  If he needed medical attention or medication for an illness, medical counseling or just a regular checkup, the resources were provided.  Toward the end of his program, he was provided additional career counselling and job placement assistance.

After completing his degree and VR&E program, Dave worked as an all-around IT guy and then took his first project manager role, working for Lockheed Martin at United States Central Command (USCENTCOM).  He later decided to advance his career and attained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in business information systems from Walden University.

After leaving Lockheed Martin, Dave continued to rise in management positions of greater responsibility.  After various IT manager and director positions at Stoneridge, Whirlpool, Chart Industries and Softworld, Dave became the Director of Global IT at Ranir Manufacturing and then a senior project manager for the State of Michigan.

David attributes his success in the civilian world from the skills he learned in the military. His advice for those seeking assistance for VR&E is to be ready to navigate a challenging system, not dissimilar to VA healthcare.  Dave states “Without the help from the VA and VR&E, I don’t know that I would be where I am today.”

Like many others, you may have a service connected disability.  With Vocational Rehabilitation’s help, many have continued their education and earned qualifications, enabling them to excel in professional areas, not otherwise available. To many, this help is a life saver.

Therefore, if your service-connected disability is preventing you from continuing work within your former career, you may be eligible to receive VR&E benefits and individual support, helping you to identify and prepare for exciting new career opportunities.  Know that vocational rehabilitation counselors and employment coordinators are ready to help you every step of the way.

The tasks of getting into the VR&E program may seem daunting, but it is well worth the effort.  Dave Gonzalez recently stated, “During the journey, you may find the road to be long and bumpy, but it’s well worth the trip!”

In addition to the services provided by state VR agencies, VR&E offices may provide numerous services, including such capabilities as:

  • Postsecondary training at colleges, technical and vocational schools
  • Rehabilitation services, such as counseling and medical referrals
  • Independent living services

You can read more about VR&E at these two websites:

http://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/edu_voc_counseling.asp

http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book/2016_Federal_Benefits_for_Veterans.pdf

Wishing you a lucrative transition!

Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at Gr8Transitions4U.com.

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