If a service-connected disability has sidelined you from continuing your military career as planned, transitioning into the civilian workforce may feel like being dropped into unfamiliar territory.
But you don’t have to navigate it alone. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program services to veterans and service members who have been injured in the line of duty.
“Once you apply, we’re going to call you up and provide you with a program orientation,” said Will Streitberger, executive director of the VR&E program, in a video for the VA’s Military to Civilian #TransitionTalk series. “From that point on, you’re going to start what is called the entitlement process, where you’ll sit down with a counselor and explain your life situation.”
Through a series of questions, the counselor will determine whether or not you have a barrier to finding employment, Streitberger said.
Such barriers, according to the VA website, are factors that make it difficult for you to pursue and keep jobs for which you are qualified. The program aims to help veterans make strategic decisions to work around them.
Streitberger said the next phase of the program, evaluation and planning, helps veterans figure out what their next goals are and how to achieve them.
Once in the VR&E program, a counselor will guide you to one of five program options that will help route you toward your future in the United States job market.
Veteran Readiness & Employment Tracks to Navigate the Job Market
The VA provides five routes for veterans who are having difficulty securing and maintaining employment due to service-connected disabilities.
- The program’s reemployment track helps veterans who want to return to work with a previous employer.
- If you’re feeling entrepreneurial and motivated, you can join a self-employment track where you can learn business skills like finance, marketing and planning. Staff will provide you with feedback on your business plans and goals.
- If you want to fast-track your entry into the job market, you can participate in the rapid access to employment track, which provides job searching tools and advice.
- The program’s long-term services track provides start-to-finish assistance with transitioning into a new career – including career assessment, higher education and on-the-job training like apprenticeships, if needed.
- If your living with a disability makes it too difficult for you to pursue your work goals or engage in everyday activities or social environments, the VR&E program offers an independent living track. This track provides assists you with making accessibility modifications to your home, connecting with community resources in your community and improving your quality of life.
How to Apply For the Veteran Readiness and Employment Program
If you’re living with a disability that could be a barrier to civilian employment, you can apply for VR&E services even if you’re still in the military, as long as you’re under medical review, awaiting discharge, or have a pre-discharge rating of at least 20%.
If you’ve already left service and have at least a 10% disability rating from the VA, you can apply within 12 years of separating if you weren’t dishonorably discharged. You’re still eligible for the program after 12 years for serious injuries, according to the VA website.
To apply, you can fill out VA Form 28-1900 online, visit your regional VA office, or mail the form to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
VR&E Intake Center
P.O. Box 5210
Janesville, WI 53547-5210
You can also call the VA call center at (800) 827-1000 with questions or to apply for VA benefits.