This week’s Borne the Battle is a Benefits Breakdown, exploring the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) service and chatting with its Executive Director and Navy Veteran William Streitberger.

In the Navy for nine years, Streitberger served in intelligence, recruiting and career counseling. Since then, he has dedicated almost 20 years of his career to VR&E, a service that he, himself, used. Following the loss of his job in 2001, Streitberger leaned on the support of VR&E, which at the time was called the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VocRehab).

He became executive director of Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) service in September 2018. As executive director, Streitberger is responsible for overseeing the delivery of VR&E services to Veterans with service-connected disabilities and service members who’re in the process of transitioning from the military to prepare for, find and maintain suitable careers, or obtain independence in their daily living.

VR&E is not “another GI Bill,” and it’s actually separate from the GI Bill. VR&E is an employment service that administers Title 38 Chapter 31 benefits to Veterans with a minimum 10% disability. Eligibility differs from entitlement.

Eligibility

  • Veterans with a service-connected disability of 10% or greater.
  • Must have a discharge greater than dishonorable.
  • Must not have surpassed 12 years from date of discharge or first notification of VA-rated disability.

Entitlement

  • Disability must be directly causing a barrier to employment.
  • Veterans then receive an assessment for interests and capabilities to help find a new career field that will not worsen disability.

Recently, the program has greatly expanded in the last few years. In 2020, VR&E hired 100 more counselors and it plans to do the same in 2021. Since March 1, 2020, VR&E has used VA Video Connect for over 100,000 appointments in an effort to increase accessibility.

In this episode, Streitberger discusses:

  • What VR&E does.
  • Who can apply for the service.
  • What the benefits entail.
  • How to apply for the program.
  • How VR&E benefits differ from and can be used in tandem with GI Bill benefits.


More information can be found at the VR&E home page or by calling 1-800-827-1000.


THE FULL TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE CAN BE FOUND HERE

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Jana Jenkins is a podcast intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. She is an undergraduate student at the College of Saint Benedict studying Communication.

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7 Comments

  1. Alexandra Birmingham March 12, 2021 at 10:55 am

    The statement that one must have at least one month of eligibility left on your GI Bill under the eligibility section is inaccurate. If you do not have have any GI Bill entitlement remaining you can still be eligible to apply per M28C. IV.A.2.03. GI Bill is a sperate benefit and is not a factor when determine eligibility to apply for VR&E

    • Tanner Iskra March 16, 2021 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you for pointing that out Alexandra. You are correct. That part of the interview we were talking about subsistence.

      As outlined in M28C.V.B.7.07, the rate at which this stipend is paid could be comparable to the Post 9/11 GI Bill Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) rate if the Veteran has at least 1 day of Chapter 33 entitlement remaining under that education program. If the individual has zero entitlement remaining, he or she does not qualify for the BAH rate but would be paid at the VR&E Chapter 31 rate. The VR&E Chapter 31 rate is based on their training program, enrollment rate, and number of dependents, if applicable. The rate of the monthly stipend is the only connection between the VR&E and GI Bill programs. Eligibility for either program is not contingent on the other; however, they cannot be used concurrently.

  2. Ryan Lo March 12, 2021 at 1:49 am

    VR&E is committing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. VA OIG should be notified ASAP.

    Start with the VR&E supervisors. They are ultimately responsible for the lack of training and poor selection of the VRCs.

    Veterans be warned. VRCs will burn up your time for as much as they can before, they bust their roughly 90 -105 day deadline to make a determination on your case.

    VRCs don’t want to look bad to their bosses so, if your case is running up on the 3-4 month mark, be prepared to be denied.

    VRCs want to get paid for their work. Their work entails stretching your VR&E packet for as long as they can. Even though they’ve already determined, you will be denied.

    As the 105 day deadline approaches, you’ll be paying for school, and planning your education, right as the VRC determines you’re not worth VR&E support. They have no issues leaving you high and dry.

    Because, what do they care? You’re off to the VA Appeals. Your someone else’s problem.

    This practice needs to stop, it depletes a Veteran’s TIME, which is a commodity that can not be replenished.

    Most VRCs are on telework. For this reason, they may, or may not be bothered with questions or clarification.

    This issues listed above are lessons learned, at the end of my experience with VR&E.

    When I first reviewed the background of the VR&E, it seemed a logical path to take. My intent was to pursue a career that does not aggravate my existing disabilities. The potential assistance to achieve this pursuit was to be through the VR&E assistance to peruse advanced education. The goal was to gain an education and employment to serve my community.

    What I Learned –

    If you have a job – They will not help you

    If you can’t keep a job – They will not help you

    If you would like to get assistance in education – They would prefer you’re close to losing your job or are potentially overwhelmed with your disability (but not too overwhelmed) and they may consider helping you.

    It’s unfortunate VR&E encourages and promotes stereotypes, that deteriorates what little fiber some of us Veterans have left, in order to meet VR&E requirements for education assistance.

    Maybe – VR&E Supervisors should incentivize VRC’s actually assisting Veterans with tangible and positive results. Rather than promoting large caseloads, which end up as denials of VR&E assistance.

  3. Francisco Briseno March 5, 2021 at 3:35 am

    VR&E sucks!
    Been trying since 1996 and keep reapplying and keep being turned down because “too sick”, *ssholes.
    I will keep applying until I die. I want training and education to become a VR&E counselor. I will not fabricate impossible hoops in order to disqualify eligible disabled veterans. The VR&E is about rhetoric and immagery and not data and facts. The change in name is just throwing a new spin to their beurocratic lies to qualify for their overpaid job existence. To the VR&E, I send you the middle finger salute.
    Lastly, my whole experiences for over a quarter of a century has been with the San Diego office in California.

  4. Steve Marshall March 1, 2021 at 9:33 pm

    I have had nothing but horrible experiences with VR&E. They do not answers questions or are vague with everything. They do not follow the CFR or M28R, when I question them they basically say “too bad” appeal. This is why the appeals line is so congested. Rather than work with the Veteran to a solution the VA employee takes the easy route. If they are getting bonuses still, this should stop or replace many (not all) VA employees who do not know their job. Perhaps this is a VA training issue, poor training and inadequate services.

  5. Harry Thomas February 25, 2021 at 10:03 am

    It’s infuriating to read these stories when in Pensacola, FL, they tell you that you are ineligible for VR&E, if you already have a degree. It doesn’t matter that you are having difficulty with employment in the field of your major or not, you have a degree period, so no VR&E program. A sham for those DV’s that have an academic record.

    • Tanner Iskra February 27, 2021 at 3:08 pm

      Hi Harry,

      I appreciate your feedback. I think it my come down to what Mr. Streitberger said in his interview. “Is there a barrier to employment?” My question is, does the degree that you currently have – is that a basic requirement for the career that you are pursuing. If so…what is your “barrier to employment?”

      Reflecting on the conversation, I could’ve asked Mr. Streitberger to help me define “barrier.” Is it pure academic sense or can that include resume writing, interview coaching or the dress for success parts of the VR&E Program? If you would like, it is a question I can send. Feel free to send me an email to talk further to podcast@va.gov

      -Tanner

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