Pitfalls When Appealing A VA Voc Rehab Denial

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Krause Law, PLLC has extensive experience helping veterans appeal wrongful denials of benefits for VA Voc Rehab claims.

Generally, the process of winning claims from VA Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (Voc Rehab) is straightforward. The veteran presents their evidence, and a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor adjudicates whether the veteran is entitled to the benefits they seek.

On the surface, this may seem like a simple process. 1 + 1 = 2, right?
Not with Voc Rehab. 1+1 sometimes is what it seems.

Built within that equation are various biases and premises loaded within each Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor’s calculus when deciding whether a veteran should be approved.
Some counselors, in fact, most, are good at managing biases and provide veterans with a fair shot, but that does not account for all counselors.

If you are here on this page, I suspect your counselor may fall into one of the following categories.

Counselor Biases

Some counselors have no problem approving self-employment benefits, but many counselors still deny those requests without much thought.
Some counselors will approve graduate training for veterans. But, most offices still mislead veterans during their initial meetings by misinforming them that the program no longer approves graduate training.

Some Voc Rehab offices have internal policies that are completely inconsistent with existing regulations and norms in education and business.
And still, if the first three do not get you, veterans may also run into biased counselors who do not like veterans. Yes, some counselors out their love their paycheck but do not like the veterans they are paid to serve.

Back in 2010, before I went to law school, I wrote an article for Military.com called The Lies They Tell that I later republished on DisabledVeterans.org under the title Biggest Lies Voc Rehab Tells Disabled Veterans.
That was in 2010. While a lot has changed with VA including its new appeals process, the lies from some counselors still persist.
So, when you get fed a whopper lie that makes its way into an adverse decision with your name on it, what next?

VA Voc Rehab Appeals

Appealing a Voc Rehab denial resembled a basic stovepipe. Once the appeals process got underway, the next stop was the Board of Veterans Appeals.
For decades the process of appealing a Voc Rehab denial was easy. Veterans could submit a signed memorandum telling the agency they disagreed with the denial, and Shazam, the appeals process would start.

The memo could be on toilet paper, and envelope, or the back of a used napkin. So long as it was signed, dated, and stated the basic essentials to put VA on notice the veteran disagreed and sought to appeal the matter, that was enough to rock ‘n roll.
Veterans could present new evidence and argument at any stage throughout the appeal, and the agency was obligated to reverse at any stage in the processing should the veteran’s position have merit.

Veterans without legal educations, much less their VSOs, were not required to analyze various strategies to fight an appeal or develop an appeals decisionmaking matrix.
As it should be. Veterans should get their benefits when the evidence shows they are entitled. Wrongful denials should be easy to sort out without complicated strategies and analysis.

But gone are the days of straightforward living when fighting the agency’s wrongful denials.
Today, life is not so simple.

Appeals Modernization For Voc Rehab Appeals

As of February 19, 2019, the game changed forever… and VA left many veterans who lack skilled legal representation in the dust.
To make life easier on agency employees (who frequently made appeals mistakes in the easy system), the agency created a three-option system to replace the former stovepipe model.

Again, in the legacy system for Voc Rehab appeals, you could present evidence and argument up until the agency rendered a final decision at the Board of Veterans Appeals.
Today, not so much.

Your Three Options

Veterans now have to choose between three options, each of which possesses their own intricacies and pitfalls: 1) Higher Level Review; 2) Supplemental Claims; 3) Formal Appeals.
Failure to chose the correct review lane for an appeal could result in significant problems with a claim, especially when it comes to securing Voc Rehab benefits in time for a new semester or to start a new business.
Some veterans will have an easy time with their appeal, no question. But many veterans will have a wall to climb once their counselor digs his or her heels in when denying benefits.

If the counselor is wrong, they may have their performance dinged. If the counselor’s boss has one or two subordinates who screw up a decision, it may not matter. But, as in many offices, when there are a host of errors, the whole team of counselors has an incentive to push back.

When you are up against a team with an incentive to dig in, what should a veteran do to fight back?

Is it worth a fight? Heck yeah if you are fighting for approval to become an attorney or a physician.

To help veterans running into entrenched bureaucrats, I stay up on the trends and strategies necessary to fight back.

Like some other VA accredited attorneys and claims agents, I spend thousands of dollars each year to continue my education on VA benefits laws that impact veterans fighting for their benefits. This education includes getting the inside track on how to leverage the new laws to the advantage of my clients.

Even though VA built out the new system for their own ease of use, VA accredited attorneys like myself have created a new decision matrix to help guide clients through the precarious system for their own success.

What makes me different than those others is my practice area that focuses on benefits for veterans seeking Voc Rehab approval.

Flawed Appeals System

The appeals system is flawed for all veterans. It takes too long. Frequently, the agency fails to correctly follow the law.

While these kinds of issues can be problematic for veterans seeking Disability Compensation benefits, they can be detrimental for veterans seeking to restart their lives through new vocational training.

For these veterans, waiting one or two years to start training for a new career to help feed their kids can have catastrophic implications, and that is if the benefits are awarded.

How frequently do veterans fight years for Voc Rehab benefits only to be denied because they did not fully understand the law or rules of evidence when fighting for their benefits pro se or using a non-lawyer advocate?

Our Practice Area

At Krause Law, we take pride in being one of the only law firms in the country with a practice area focusing on helping veterans fight and win their benefits.

I have been helping veterans with Voc Rehab for over a decade, first as an advocate, then as a journalist, and now as an attorney.

Personally, I used VA Voc Rehab to attend and graduate from Northwestern University, a prestigious private university outside of Chicago. I then used it to at the University of Minnesota to achieve a Juris Doctorate with high honors. And… I then used it to supply my startup law firm with software and hardware gear to get it off the ground running.

If you are still reading this, you probably already suspect I did not receive those benefits without a fight. It was a heck of a fight.

What I Do To Help Veterans With Voc Rehab

As a result of that fight, I created a law firm with a practice area focusing on helping veterans achieve economic freedom through benefits from VA Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment.

While in law school, I wrote the only comprehensive guide and online course helping veterans follow in my footsteps, Voc Rehab Survival Guide.
Before law school, I also created the Facebook group Disabled Veterans – Chapter 31 Voc Rehab that now has over 30,000 group members.

As a VA accredited attorney, I help veterans who were wrongly denied benefits – – usually, those benefits are for law school, medical school, or some other form of graduate education.

If you are in a situation where you want feedback on your next step, consider asking for a consultation by clicking the top menu button.

Going up against government agencies like Veteran Readiness & Employment can be highly frustrating, as you deal with employees who may not understand the law or even want to see you succeed. But with legal professionals on your side like those on our legal team, you have a sure shot at success. We promise to stand by your side and support you throughout the entire procedure, so reach out to us today. Call (612) 888-9567 to schedule a consultation where we can discuss the details of your case.

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