Transitioning disabled vets to the civilian workforce: Remote Learning & Online Schools
Part 2 of 3: Veterans continually face hurdles when searching for civilian work, including misinformation about the nature and quality of military training and their needs as wartime military personnel. This is part-two of a three-part series (See Part 1: Challenges & Solutions) which illustrates the unique challenges faced by returning service members.
Can remote learning provide a solution for re-training disabled veterans?
Online education may offer some new opportunities for the disabled vet looking to transition to civilian employment. Online schools offer distance learning for those who live in remote areas and offer a level of convenience for vets with disabilities that render travel difficult. However, some legislators – as recently profiled in the New York Times — view the for-profit/online institutions as targeting veterans with post 9/11 GI benefits as “cash cows”. Fortunately, there are many roads to success in gaining employment; GI Money has spoken many of the top experts and leaders in the field to get the best insight and advice for disabled vets.
Untangling the complex laws involving disabled veterans
GI Money spoke to Assistant National Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans, John Wilson. We asked him to address the Post 9/11 bill and its roadblocks to some disabled vets: that only vets serving under the Armed Forces (opposed to National Guard) are eligible and also, that this assistance only applies to traditional bricks-and-mortar schools. Wilson points out, “We have been working with the other veterans’ service organizations to address the problems you’re talking about. Our concern has been that under the current Chapter 31, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program available from the Veterans Administration, you can get a smaller living stipend that you can use for college than under the Post- 9/11 GI Bill. You can get VR&E benefits if you have a 20% or higher service connected disability rating and an employment handicap. The VA will evaluate you to determine eligibility. The Post 9/11 Bill has a bigger stipend, a monthly rate equivalent to a married E-5. We contend that veterans should be able to pick the greater of the benefits. VR&E’s stipend is much less, just a few hundred dollars (but) if they use 9/11, they miss out on counseling, and employment advice. They miss out on things that they may need.”
When asked whether large online institutions such as The University of Phoenix have lobbied for change in the law, Wilson notes, “Oh, they are lobbying for change, these for profit universities! They’re very concerned. I believe that online universities are here to stay and offer an option for disabled vets.”
GI Money asked Wilson to address the 12 year benefit eligibility period for disabled vets. He clarifies: “The clock starts when the disability is identified and rated. The veteran has the responsibility to file the claim.” It is crucial to get oneself identified as a disabled veteran and rated as to the percentage and degree of disability. Wilson says that sometimes, on an individual basis, a vet can go to the VRE at the VA and still get some benefits – even after 12 years. And, as he points out to GI Money, the vet shouldn’t hesitate to go and apply for benefits, even if years have passed since service. Wilson had an uncle who had a WWII service-related disability who received benefits decades later. Unfortunately, the uncle died before he received 12 years of benefits.