On January 31, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) issued a opinion in Andrews v. Shinseki concerning whether the time period to use vocational rehabilitation benefits continues to run while a veteran is appealing the denial of such a claim. The CAVC held the veteran’s “claim for vocational rehabilitation benefits is not moot based on the expiration of the eligibility period. . . .” The CAVC further found that the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) failed to provide an adequate statement of reasons or bases to support its finding that the veteran was “rehabilitated.” The case was remanded back to the BVA.
This case provides an opportunity to quickly review the vocational rehabilitation program offered to disabled veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 31 (Chapter 31 Benefits). Eligibility for this program is predicated on a veteran having a disability rating of at least 20% who is also determined to have an “employment handicap.” 38 U.S.C. § 3102; 38 C.F.R. 21.40. Eligibility can also be established if the veteran is at least 10% disabled and the VA makes a determination that rehabilitation is necessary as a result of a serious employment handicap. Id.
Under the Chapter 31, once eligibility is established a vocational rehabilitation counselor will work with the veteran to establish a rehabilitation plan to ensure that the veteran achieves rehabilitation. The rehabilitation program may include both educational and vocational assistance. More information about Chapter 31 benefits can be found at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/.