The U.S. government recognizes the sacrifices that veterans and their families make by serving in the armed forces, and provides several benefits and services to honor their service. Veterans are eligible to receive retirement benefits, life insurance, VA health care, disability compensation, education benefits, and employment assistance.
If you or a family member have served in the armed forces, Reserves, or National Guard, you are likely eligible for one or more VA employment benefits.
- VR&E Program
- Career Counseling
- Veteran-Owned Small Business Benefits
- VA Transition Assistance
- CareerScope Assessment
- VA Employment Benefits for Family Members
- Job Search
Depending on your length of service, discharge record, disability rating, and level of need, the VA has a number of job-related services available. These range from programs that begin when you’re still enlisted, to transitional services for those ending their service, to vocational support and training during your civilian life.
The VA offers seven main programs for military veterans to start or resume a successful career after they transition to civilian life.
The Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program is designed for past service members and veterans who have a service-connected disability. It was originally called the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.
VR&E provides services to disabled veterans who may need help to find and maintain work, or to live independently due to the limitations imposed by their disability. VR&E also works directly with employers helping them implement best practices that attract and retain veteran employees. Through training and support, employers establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that helps both eligible employees and their families with any issues standing in the way of their job success.
To be eligible for this program, you must have received an other than dishonorable discharge and you must have a VA disability rating of at least 10%. You can still apply if you don’t have a disability rating yet, but you will have to be evaluated after submitting your application for VR&E benefits. To do this, fill out the VA Vocational Rehabilitation, “Getting Ahead After You Get Out” (VA Form 28-0588), and submit it along with your VR&E application.
Those who currently have a disability rating can apply online through the VA, in person at your local VA regional office, with the help of VA employees or a Veterans Service Officer (VSO), or by mail by filling out and submitting VA Form 28-1900 to the following address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
VR&E Intake Center
PO Box 5210
VR&E is broken into five tracks depending on the veteran’s individual needs. They all have slightly different focuses and criteria for eligibility.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), passed in 1994, ensures that a veteran’s past military service won’t affect their transition back into civilian employment. Those who have been disabled due to their time in active duty often need extra support and rehabilitation to reenter their previous line of employment after they’ve been discharged.
Those wishing to return to their previous job can work directly with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) who can support both the veteran and their employer’s human resources department.
This program is for military veterans who wish to find employment as quickly as possible after their discharge, typically using their current skillset, though some additional training may be provided.
Services may include counseling, help with completing applications or resumes, and testing of existing abilities or aptitudes to try to find the best job to fit your skills. This track is ideal for those who already have the necessary experience to compete for their preferred jobs or require only minimal training.
Veterans who are interested in starting their own business can get assistance through the self-employment track. Here you can find support developing your business concept, drafting a business plan, implementing your new business, as well as counseling and training for topics related to small business like marketing, operations, and financing.
Veterans with the most severe disabilities may also be able to obtain funding to purchase equipment or machinery necessary for their new business as well as funding for business licenses.
This track is designed for veterans who wish to change their career path and seek employment in a sector different from their pre-deployment work. VR&E provides counseling and skill assessment, training and education for the newly chosen field of work, and access to employment opportunities like apprenticeships, internships, work-study, and volunteer work. The ultimate goal is to become a long-term employee with a competitive wage.
Those with disabilities severe enough to limit their ability to live on their own or return to work immediately may qualify for the independent living track. This program provides a range of services from rehabilitation, connections to community support, to improving access within the home through assistance devices and equipment.
The ultimate goal of the Independent Living Services track is to eventually move into part or full-time employment and become regular employees who can live independently. This track often leads to others within the scope of VR&E when the veteran is ready for vocational training or further education.
The Personalized Career Planning and Guidance (PCPG) program provides education and career counseling as well as resume assistance and goal planning. PCPG helps military veterans discover their employment and educational options post-discharge, and works with them to better understand their current skill set, goals, and interests to decide the best path forward.
This service is available to those who have been discharged within the last 12 months, those who are currently on active duty service who will be discharged in the next six months, or those who are eligible for or are currently receiving VA educational benefits. A veteran’s spouse and dependents may also make use of this benefit.
The Vets First Verification Program allows veteran-owned small businesses to access resources, support, and preference on bids to some government contracts. This service is available to those who served in all branches of the military and received other than dishonorable discharge. Those who served in the Reserves or National Guard may also qualify if they were injured or disabled in connection with their military service or if they were called to active duty.
To be eligible, your business must be registered with the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and the owner of the business must meet several criteria. The qualifying veteran must own at least 51% of the business, control the day-to-day operations, work full time, and usually be the highest paid individual in the company, and have the business experience needed to run the company.
The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) starts while service members are still on active duty to help prepare them for the transition to civilian life. Services include counseling, education about various VA programs and how to take part in them, how to access benefits for themselves and their family members, and how to sign up and qualify for disability insurance and disability compensation. TAP typically starts one year before you’ve been discharged or two years from retirement. Most veterans begin this program with a day-long, in-person course put on by the VA called “VA Benefits and Services.”
Additional training resources offered through TAP are the Employment Fundamentals of Career Transition (EFCT) to aid veterans in finding employment in the civilian sector, and the Department of Labor Employment Workshop (DOLEW), which focuses on how to perform job searches, how to write a resume, and how to improve interview skills.
Additionally, Career and Credential Exploration (C2E) provides an assessment of aptitudes and skills to help service members find new career paths after they’re discharged.
CareerScope is a self-administered online tool available through the GI Bill for veterans who are having trouble finding their career path after their service. This easy-to-access program assesses your skills, interests, and aptitudes to help you discover new career opportunities that fit your existing capabilities.
After your assessment, CareerScope suggests different employment opportunities as well as training courses that you may need to access the new career path. This tool is available to veterans, dependents, or current service members already receiving VA educational benefits.
The VA recognizes the need for family members of veterans with service-connected disabilities. This allows the veteran’s spouse and (in some cases) dependents to gain access to employment benefits.
Family members are also transitioning from military to civilian life, and need resources to locate new job opportunities and training courses. Family members have access to the Personalized Career Planning and Guidance Program (PCPG) for counseling in both education and career goals.
Veterans who have already received support through a VR&E track or another VA employment program may need further assistance with their job search. Veterans who are ready to start job hunting immediately after discharge can also turn to the VA for help with their job search.
The VA offers access to job centers across the country to view postings, grants, training resources, or federal employee jobs – some of which may be within the VA itself. The VA’s job search resources can help you find and prioritize jobs no matter what you’re looking for. Some veterans seek part-time employment, while others hope to become full-time employees with a company that offers employee benefits for the entire family like paid sick leave, retirement, and health care.
Many veterans are also entitled to preferential treatment over their civilian counterparts when applying to federal jobs. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) oversees this entitlement benefit although not all veterans will qualify.
Typically, those who served during wartime, were disabled as a result of their military service, and who received other than dishonorable discharge will qualify for this benefit. Applicants are given a “point” preference from 0 to 10. Those with the most severe service-connected disabilities or recipients of the Purple Heart receive the highest ranking.
Many veterans experience stress and uncertainty when they face the end of their service period. Service members often leave careers and education behind to serve their country. Understandably, reentering civilian life can be jarring.
If you are a veteran having trouble entering the job market, you don’t have to do it alone. Contact the VA today or visit your local VA facility to talk about the employment obstacles you are facing so you can get the resources and benefits you deserve.