For military veterans, the transition from life overseas to life back home can be a daunting concept. That sense of security that those serving feel can be taken away the second their feet touch the land of their hometown.
That feeling of insecurity can leave many veterans feeling scared, anxious and hopeless, and disabled veterans are no exception. Finding careers that will not aggravate any disability they may have can be challenging, but a Veterans Affairs (VA) program is aiming to help these veterans set themselves up for success.
The VA Vocational Rehabilitation program is interested in attracting more veterans into the program. They are the best kept secret in the VA, and the program directors want more qualified veterans to take advantage of the opportunity.
Sean Burlile, the VetSuccess counselor for Boise State and the VA, said that of the 1,400 people using VA benefits, only 100 are using VOC rehab for their education, and he wants to see an increase in the number of veterans who set themselves up for lifelong success.
“The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to help veterans with service connected disabilities get into suitable employment, employment that won’t aggravate their service-connected disability,” Burlile said. “You have to have a 20 percent disability rating to get into VOC rehab. It could be back pain, leg pain, it’s a minimal rating.”
Burlile said that making sure the veteran’s disability is considered is of the utmost importance upon entering the program.
“We do an evaluation to help them determine what a suitable career goal is,” Burlile said. “That includes career interest and aptitude testing, (looking at) their service-connected disability to make sure that whatever we are preparing them for won’t aggravate their disability, and the labor market data to find out if the career we’re preparing them for has employment opportunities.”
In addition to the detailed career evaluation, veterans who join this program also have many other benefits to enhance their career experience.
“We pay for their tuition, all of their books, all their fees, we provide a parking permit and a computer (if needed). Everything they need to get through college, we pay for,” Burlile said.
“All medical and dental care is also provided. It’s very comprehensive. If a veteran needs special equipment for their career, we cover it as well.”
Mike Duke, the manager of the VOC rehab program, said that the program can be difficult for some veterans, and most of this difficulty comes from the career assessment and mandatory counseling sessions.
“Veterans are not automatically approved for the program they want to get into,” Duke said. “The field they want to go into could worsen their disability or have nothing available in the market. We want to set the veterans up for success.”
Duke said that the key to success in this program is keeping an open mind and letting the program do what it does best.
“Some of the veterans have no idea what they want to do, and that’s okay,” Duke said. “We always encourage them to work backwards and compare their interests to what is available in the job market.”
Burlile and Duke agreed that this program could be very beneficial for veterans returning home, and want to get the word out about this great opportunity.
“The VA tries to market the program, but everyone (only) knows about the GI Bill. I think a lot of times people forget that VOC Rehab is an option,” Burlile said. “We want college to be as stress free for the veteran and their family as possible.”