Disabled veterans have many options when it comes to VA benefits. When it comes to education benefits for disabled veterans, there are options from the Department of Veterans Affairs but there may also be options offered at the state level. If you have never explored your state government’s official site, you could be missing out on local education benefits offered exclusively to disabled veterans and their family members.
Disabled Veterans’ Education Benefits
There are a variety of options for disabled veterans who want to claim education benefits. They include:
- The Department of Veterans Affairs Readiness And Employment Program (VR&E)
- VA Work-Study Program
- State-level scholarships and grants
Veteran Readiness and Employment Program (VR&E)
This VA program is offered to veterans and service members with service-connected disabilities that affect the ability to find or maintain a job. The Veteran Readiness and Employment program offers five tracks designed to help vets get training, an education, to find a job, or maintain a job, according to the VA official site.
VR&E benefits are not automatic–they must be applied for. You can apply online for VR&E benefits. You can also apply by mail with an Application for Vocational Rehabilitation for Claimants with Service-Connected Disabilities (VA Form 28-1900).
Send your completed application to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
VR&E Intake Center
PO Box 5210
When you apply for VR&E benefits you’ll want to consider each of the tracks below.
VR&E Reemployment Track
Vets with service-connected disabilities can get help returning to civilian jobs. To qualify for this track, you must have an “employment barrier or handicap”, you must enroll or already be enrolled in VR&E, and have a desire to return to your civilian career.
Rapid Access to Employment Track
When you need a job that utilizes skills you already have, this track can help. The basic requirements are the same as the Employment track and you can use this track to get vocational counseling or professional coaching, resume help, tools you can use to enhance your job search, and the ability to determine your eligibility for veteran hiring preference.
If you’re a service member or Veteran with a service-connected disability and employment barrier, the Self-Employment track can help you start your own business. This track includes training in small business concepts, which can be an important part of learning how to be your own boss. Other services offered in this track include:
- Coordination services and help with developing a proposed business plan
- Analysis of your business concept
- Training in small business marketing, and finances
- Guidance in locating business resources
Employment Through Long-Term Services Track
The VA official site offers this option to those with a service-connected disability and an “employment barrier”. This track provides education or training that may be needed if you want to transition into a new career field. What can you get in this track? Employment assistance, skills assessment, career guidance, but most importantly, “Education and training for a professional or vocational field” that is new to you and a good fit for your interests.
Independent Living Track
This is offered to those who may not be able to return to the workforce immediately. This track offers qualifying disabled veterans referral services, an evaluation to help you learn if you qualify for a VA home adaptation grant, and help determine eligibility for VA adaptive housing options.
VA Work-Study Program
While not specifically offered as an education benefit for disabled veterans, the VA Work-Study program offers the opportunity to earn while enrolled in an approved college program or training. This program must be applied for, using the VA Application for Work-Study Allowance (VA Form 22-8691). If you are approved you will work in a part-time job related to opportunities at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under VA Work-Study, you may work at a:
- VA facility
- Department of Defense, Coast Guard, or National Guard location that oversees MGIB-SR or REAP
- State Veterans agency (Working to assist veterans in obtaining Veteran Readiness and Employment benefits
- Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success
- Cooperative programs operated by the VA in partnership with a school or institution
- College, university, or other institution of higher learning “in any Veteran-related role”.
Who Is Eligible?
You may be approved for a VA work-study program if you meet ALL of the following:
- You’re enrolled at least three-quarters time.
- You have found an open job either at a nearby VA facility or in a VA-related role at your school.
- You can finish the work-study agreement while you still qualify for VA education benefits.
- You are in an approved VA education benefits program.
How does this program assist disabled veterans? One of the approved VA education programs is the VA Veteran Readiness And Employment (VR&E) program (see above). Other VA education programs approved for use with VA Work-Study include but may not be limited to:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
- Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
- Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
- The Edith Nourse Rogers Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) Scholarship
- Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA)
- National Call to Service
State-Level Grants and Scholarships
Some education benefits for disabled veterans are offered at the state level. These may be offered through a state-level Department of Veterans Affairs (not the federal-level VA) or Division of Veterans Affairs.
State-level benefits in this area are often intended for the spouse or school-age dependent children of the disabled veteran. In some cases, the veteran must be rated 100% service-disabled; in other cases, the state rules may determine that a different percentage or ANY percentage may qualify.
The critical thing to remember about state-level education benefits is that they are not standardized nationwide. What is offered through the Wisconsin GI Bill may not be offered via other state programs like the Hazlewood Act, which applies in Texas, or the Illinois Veterans Grant offered to qualifying vets in that state.
Some states feel rather stingy with their veteran benefits, while others can be quite generous. In Illinois, all veterans (disabled or not) who meet the requirements for the Illinois Veterans Grant program may have their school tuition fully funded without needing to resort to the GI Bill. In other states, the only veteran benefit for education might be an honorary high school diploma for those who had to drop out of school to serve in Vietnam or other conflicts.
Many state veteran education programs offer the ability for veterans (disabled or not) to qualify for lower, in-state tuition regardless of the applicant’s residency status at the time.
One important thing to remember about applying for certain state-level disabled veteran benefits; you may be required to have an official VA disability rating. In some cases, you may need to be enrolled in a VA program like the GI Bill to claim the state benefits.
When applying for any military-related benefit, you will need proof of service in the form of military discharge paperwork such as a DD Form 214 or the Guard/Reserve equivalent. Dependents making claims on behalf of 100% disabled service members may need to furnish proof of authorization, such as a power of attorney or a similar document.
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About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.