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M21-1, Part IX, Subpart i, Chapter 1, Section A – Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Eligibility


In this Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic Name


1.  General Information on VR&E Services Under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31


This topic contains general information on VR&E services, including

Change Date

February 13, 2013

IX.i.1.A.1.a.  Services Provided by VR&E

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) evaluates eligible Veterans to determine if they need Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) services to help overcome barriers to employment. Depending on an individual’s needs, VA may provide the following VR&E services:
  • an evaluation of the individual’s abilities, skills, and interests
  • assistance in finding and maintaining suitable employment
  • vocational counseling and planning
  • training, such as
    • on-the-job and work experience programs, and
    • certificate, two- or four-year college, or technical programs
  • supportive rehabilitation services and additional counseling, and
  • a program of services to assist in achieving independence in daily living.

IX.i.1.A.1.b.  Special Programs for Unemployable Veterans

Veterans awarded 100-percent disability compensation based upon unemployability may still request an evaluation.  If they are found eligible, they may participate in a VR&E program and receive help getting a job.
VA continues to pay 100-percent disability compensation to a Veteran who secures employment under the special program until the Veteran has worked continuously for at least 12 months.

IX.i.1.A.1.c.  Time Period During Which a Rehabilitation Program Must Be Completed

Generally, Veterans must complete a VR&E program within 12 years from the date
  • they separate from military service, or
  • VA notifies them that they have a compensable, service-connected (SC) disability.

IX.i.1.A.1.d.  Payment to Veterans Who Participate in a Training Program

VA pays the cost of VR&E services and a subsistence allowance to Veterans who participate in a training program.

2.  Eligibility Requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation Under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31


This topic contains information on the general eligibility requirements for VR&E services under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31, including information on

Change Date

February 6, 2018

IX.i.1.A.2.a.  Service Requirements

Veterans and service members who served in the armed forces on or after September 16, 1940, and were discharged or released from military service under other-than-dishonorable conditions may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation.
Reference:  For information regarding eligibility for service members, see M21-1, Part IX, Subpart i, 1.A.2.d.

IX.i.1.A.2.b.  Eligibility Criteria by Application Date

Eligibility criteria for vocational rehabilitation are based on the date VA received the original application for benefits under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31 from the Veteran.
Use the table below to determine what eligibility criteria apply as of the specific dates referenced.
If the Veteran filed an original claim … Then VR&E eligibility requires that he/she have …
prior to November 1, 1990

  • a compensable, SC disability evaluated at 10 percent or more disabling, or
  • entitlement to special monthly compensation (SMC) under 38 U.S.C. 1114(k) or former subsection 38 U.S.C. 1114(q).
Note:  Entitlement continues for Veterans who established eligibility under one of these criteria.
between November 1, 1990, and September 30, 1993
an SC disability evaluated at 20 percent or more disabling.
Note:  Under this condition, a statutory award under 38 U.S.C. 1114(k), or former subsection 38 U.S.C. 1114(q), does not meet the 20-percent evaluation requirement.
October 1, 1993, or later


an SC disability evaluated at

  • 20 percent or more disabling, or
  • 10-percent disabling, providedthe VR&E activity determines that the Veteran has a serious employment handicap.
Reference:  For more information on general eligibility for vocational rehabilitation, see 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31.

IX.i.1.A.2.c.  Eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation Based on 38 CFR 3.324

A Veteran’s entitlement to compensation under 38 CFR 3.324 satisfies the 10-percent evaluation requirement, even though a statutory award under 38 U.S.C. 1114(k) or former subsection 38 U.S.C. 1114(q), does not.

IX.i.1.A.2.d.  Vocational Rehabilitation Eligibility for Service Members

Effective February 10, 2012, and in accordance with Public Law (PL) 110-181, Section 1631(b), extended by PL 115-62, Section 203, until September 30, 2018, severely ill or injured service members that have been referred to a military Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) or are participating in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation without obtaining a VA disability rating.
Service members pending medical separation from active duty, who have not been referred to a PEB or are not participating in IDES may apply, but the disability rating must be at least 20 percent.
Reference:  For more information on pre-discharge claims, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 2.

IX.i.1.A.2.e.  Considering Potential Vocational Rehabilitation Eligibility for Special Circumstances

Use the table below to determine potential eligibility for claimants who

  • filed an original claim for vocational rehabilitation after October 1, 1993, but
  • are impacted by special circumstances.

If the claimant is a …

Then he/she …

hospitalized service member pending discharge must have SC disabilities likely to be at least 20-percent disabling to be eligible to apply for vocational rehabilitation services.
Veteran receiving only SMC under

does not meet the eligibility criteria discussed in

3.  Notifying Veterans of Potential Eligibility for VR&E Services Under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31


This topic contains information on notifying Veterans of potential eligibility for VR&E services, including

Change Date

February 6, 2018

IX.i.1.A.3.a.  When to Send Notice of Potential Eligibility for VR&E Services

Inform Veterans of the availability and purpose of VR&E services when
  • an original or supplemental claim results in an initial SC disability rating of 10 percent or greater
  • an increased combined SC disability rating of 10 percent or greater is awarded, or
  • DD Form 214Certificate of Release From Active Duty, is received showing the Veteran has been retired from the armed forces because of disability.
Note:  The VR&E activity must determine the Veteran’s eligibility for 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31 services.

IX.i.1.A.3.b.   When Notice of Potential Eligibility Is Not Required

Do not send notice to Veterans

  • currently receiving 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31 benefits
  • with combined disability ratings of 0 percent, or
  • with a pending application for vocational rehabilitation benefits.

IX.i.1.A.3.c.  Enclosing Appropriate Forms in the Disability Award Decision Notice

Send the following forms as enclosures to a  Personal Computer Generated Letters decision notice that communicates one of the rating outcomes discussed in M21-1, Part IX, Subpart i, 1.A.3.a:

Note:  A decision notice prepared via the Redesigned Automated Decision Letter (RADL) process need not provide these forms as physical enclosures.

References:  For more information on

IX.i.1.A.3.d.  Action to Take When the Veteran Returns a Completed VR&E Application

When a Veteran returns a completed VA Form 28-1900, refer the application to the VR&E activity in accordance with M28R.
If necessary, the VR&E activity will refer the case to the rating activity for a rating decision.
References:  For more information on
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