Self-Employment Tips with Voc Rehab

Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) is such a dreamy program with little information online for veterans to actually read. I think most guides and websites give qualified veterans roughly 2 pages of information. If this seems reasonable to you, rest assured that there is more to the story than what they tell you upfront.

The laws have changed over the years. Last January, Congress decided to relax the standard by which veterans needed to fall under in order to qualify. First, you need to have a disability rated at 20% or higher. 10% only qualifies in special situations. Second, you need to convince the Voc Rehab counselor that she should approve you. Formerly, veterans needed to be only “the most severely disabled” in order to qualify. Now, other disabled veterans can successfully apply for the self-employment benefit. However, many Voc Rehab counselors are unaware of the law change.

For now, just know that disabled veterans can become self-employed using Voc Rehab. I get a steady stream of emails from my readers about this benefit because they have no idea what the program can do. Later this summer, I’ll assemble a solid guide on that process. But in the mean time, I want you to have enough knowledge to make a go of it on your own.

We’ll give it the one-two punch approach. First, you’ll get what the VA tells you online. Then, you’ll get what I know, and what I have been told by Voc Rehab officials.

VA Self-Employment Information from VA.GOV

“ This option is designed for individuals who have limited access to traditional employment, need flexible work schedules, or need a more accommodating work environment due to their disabling conditions or other life circumstances. Services under this option may include analysis of the viability of a business concept, development of a business plan, training in the operation of a small business, marketing and financial assistance, and guidance on obtaining adequate resources to implement the plan. ”

Questions to Ask

  • How much will it pay?
  • What will the program pay for?
  • How long does it last?

Answers for Voc Rehab Self-Employment
(for this, 38 CFR §21.214 is very helpful)

Self-Employment Total Funding

First, the regs say the program can approve up to $25,000 at the local level. This means your Vocational Rehabilitation Officer (VRO) will need to approve you. The VRO is the person who is in charge of the regional Voc Rehab office. For amounts greater than $25,000, the counselor will need to seek approval from the Director, basically the VRO’s boss. They hate doing that, but some veterans get it done. I personally know of one veteran in the Portland, Oregon, area who received $100,000.

Self-Employment Supplies

Voc Rehab will generally pay for whatever is necessary to begin operation. This includes stock materials, inventory, items for day-to-day operation and machinery. The program will also pay for licensing fees and general business training.

The program will not pay for the following:

  • Purchase or rental of land or building
  • Purchase or rental of vehicles for transportation
  • Stocking of a farm for animal husbandry operation

So, the program will pay for a lot of things. While it won’t pay for a car, it will pay for a tractor. For example, one guy set up a landscaping company with Voc Rehab funding. The VA set another guy up with a metal shop to make urns. And still another set up a photography business. You could probably get approval for a snow removal business or a publishing company.

Self-Employment Duration

The program is set to last 18 months. This means that you will need to convince the Voc Rehab counselor and his boss that you will be profitable in 18 months.

Self-Employment Summary

Voc Rehab will pay for a lot of things to get the ball rolling. During your first meeting, ensure you go in there prepared with facts and figures if you plan on getting approval for self-employment. They do not like approving this goal! So, the onus is on you to show them you can achieve independence through self-employment, because that is what Voc Rehab is all about – independence.

Anyone with a success story about self-employment through Voc Rehab should send me an email directly.


Photo thanks to ben g under creative commons license on Flickr.


12 thoughts on “Self-Employment Tips with Voc Rehab”

  1. Small business loans to Veterans doesn’t exist. After being laughed out of every Bank around, I refinanced the house and started our own business and it’s doing pretty good. In fact, it’s the best around, even the VA Hospital has respect for it!

    VA, I find it a joke!

  2. I had my initial orientation at voc rehab in manhattan ny today.. what a joke. I have a 60% rating already with pending claims for both ptsd and tbi, and was told that i didnt meet entitlement because i was starting my own contracting business in the field that I am currently employed in. Apparently that proved that i did not need voc rehab because it showed that my disabilities were not hindering me from doing work in my current field. Also she told me that they wouldnt have been able to help me anyways because I did not have a finished business plan, even though thats what i was seeking help doing. I have had nothing but bad experiences with the va in general so why should this program be any different! As veterans we need to fight and claw for everything that the va supposedly offers to veterans.

  3. I forwarded my business plan May 25, 2011 (it’s now the end of Nov.) and still waiting on my $23K in equipment to set up a small engine repair shop. I developed my business plan before I finished my course and never was mentioned by the case manager until I submitted mine. If it had been a degree I’d have had it paid out by now. My case manager is terrible about sharing information or returning e-mails.

    1. @ Tom Mccann,

      How did your Voc Rehab turn out? I was actually interested in starting Tue same type of business as I am a petrol head. Did you manage to get approved for all your monies? I have been trying to get into Voc Rehab for a year but with no rating have to get my vocational training with 911 Bill then once rated apply for Voc Rehab. Would love to hear how everything turned out considering we are interested in the same thing. Good Luck.

  4. I have been in this program for over fourteen years. I was promised after i got to brewing school that they would help me buy equipment for the brewery. I submitted 5 business plans over the years,that were written by economics professor. They stalled them all out. Today I am in the same situation they promise me things and nothing happens. I am a professional brewer,I have a degree, but I still cant get any help. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

  5. I went in for the 1st appt & the assigned case manager said, “if you’re service connected disabilities are so severe that you can’t hold a job, you deffinitely can’t be self employed and run a home based business!” she was dismissive, patronizing, and deflated my dreams. Once my vet rep Peggy Matthews heard this, she called the director & put me on the phone with him. After explaining my case, i was finally thanked for my service, I’ve been reassigned to a seasoned case manage, and have been called by the regional chief weekly for updates. That first case manager is just a speed bump to me…

  6. Thank you for your site and blog it is helpful. I am starting my self-employment program. I have started my business and have a contract to provide services. I need equipment to honor the contract and provide such services. The amount of funding required is in the higher range which is the nature of the business. You mentioned a case that one vet was able to get an approval for $100k for required equipment someone in the state of Oragan please share that information because I have reached out to the vendor and equipment providers and that is the cost range that is required. I would like to move in the right direction since I understand tha approval from the VA at this dollar amount will require the approval from the director and I would like to perform on my contract without wasting time such insight would be very helpful please provide your feedback and that contact.

  7. I am very interested in receiving information from veterans who have benefited from this program. We are establishing the Veterans Sentinel Group which is an entrepreneurial training program for veterans and their spouses. Some attendees will be disabled so this program will be a great asset to the entrepreneur beginning his own business.
    John Nichols, Retired Buffalo Soldier

  8. I was enrolled in the vocational rehab a few years ago but went into not knowing what I wanted to study. The vocation counselor wanted me to go for an engineering degree. IM not great with math so I decided to go for some land surveying classes. I was not able to pass the classes and dropped out of the program. Now I would like to start my own business selling used cars. Could I get back into the program after failing in it once before?

  9. Fernando Valentin

    Hi everyone, I just got approved for disability last week. After contacting my congresman the va contact me in days and gave me 50% after 21 months of waiting. This website is really good for information. I just found out today about the self employment benefits. Question: can the rehab help with some money to put a franchise like “little caesar” pizza? Anyone please answer. Thank you!
    by the way, contact your congressman if you need help, they helped me very well.

  10. Jeffery R. Rogers

    Im currently workingon my prelimary portion for self employment, then there is the five year business plan. I also plan to contact my congress person, and director at the Indy VA Monday. Thanks for info to start my store I need around $100,000 to be successful in 18 months, or less.

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