Many may assume that veterans with disabilities are eligible for and seek rehabilitation and employment services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Yet, although 21.8% of US military Veterans have a service-connected disability, many do not or would not be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services from the VA.
Veterans are more likely than non-Veterans to experience employment difficulties and homelessness than non-Veterans. Given this, it is important for State VR professionals to understand the unique challenges Veterans with disabilities may experience in returning to employment, the VA and State VR programs available to them, and areas of professional development that could aid them in improving the services they provide to Veterans.
Challenges of Veterans with Disabilities
Veterans share many of the same challenges to employment as non-Veterans with disabilities, such as lack of access to transportation, employer bias, and lack of accommodations in the workplace. In addition, research by Shepherd-Banigan (2020) reveal that Veterans experience these challenges:
- Mobility limitations and pain and cognitive processing issues.
- Impediments that prevent them from keeping up with peers.
- Stress and anxiety leading to high levels of reactivity that negatively affected their interactions with others.
- Perceptions that VA program staff had limited understanding of adults with disabilities based on how they applied program assistance
VA and State VR Program Services for Veterans
Although eligibility varies from state to state, Veterans with service-related disabilities may receive VR services from both the Veterans Administration and state VR agencies. Collaboration between State VR programs and VA VR programs could improve employment outcome in Veterans with disabilities.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) (also known as Chapter 31)
VR&E provides VR services to eligible service members and Veterans with service-connected disabilities to help them prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment or achieve independent living.
- Compensated Work Therapy (CWT)
CWT develops partnerships with organizations, companies, and government agencies who need employees with proven abilities to produce high quality work.
State VR Services:
- Veterans with disabilities may seek VR services from State VR programs in their residence state. Eligibility for Veterans to participate in State VR may change from state to state. Visit the VA Veterans Employment Services to learn more about VA services in specific states.
Areas of Opportunities to Better Serve Veterans
Recent research by Frain et al (2010) explores how State VR professionals can better understand the unique challenges of Veterans with disabilities and how they can provide them with the most appropriate services. Here are some areas to consider for professional development:
- Become familiar with an overview of the Veteran’s service systems, laws that effect military Veterans, disability compensation, eligibility for services, the concept of disability ratings, and employment laws concerning Veterans.
- Become familiar with techniques to screen physical and mental illnesses among Veterans.
- Strive to understand the specific employment-related needs among Veterans.
- Aim to improve self-management behaviors in Veterans with disabilities.
- Facilitate greater overall family resilience in Veterans and their family members, so they are better equipped to face daily challenges, stress, and pressure.
Explore These Resources to Learn More:
- Roadmap for Rehabilitation Counseling to Serve Military Veterans (tacqe.com)
- Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Veterans with Disabilities: Outcomes, Barriers, Challenges, and Opportunities to Improve (tacqe.com)
- Military Veterans with Disabilities and Employment (tacqe.com)
- VA Vocational & Education Training and Assistance: Veterans' Experiences (tacqe.com)
- Veterans Employment Services