I just finished asking the VA questions around Chapter 31 Vocational Rehab benefits via twitter, and got clarity around some long standing questions that have been less than clear in the past.
Something that I've been looking to get official clarification on for our members regarding allowance for housing, the Post 9-11 GI Bill, and VocRehab was answered today.
I've received a ton of questions this year through our Rapid Referral Response Program around understanding the specifics and limitations of the Vocational Rehab program. One question I hear over and over is "I have x% disability, should I use Vocational Rehab or the Post 9-11 GI Bill?" Well, like most questions in relation to your benefits the short answer is "it depends". But one important piece of clarification I got today was around financial planning, Voc Rehab, and the Post 9-11 GI Bill.
Chapter 31 benefits comes with it, a military housing allowance like the Post 9-11 GI Bill. However, as you can see here the MHA rates for VocRehab is less than half the national average of BAH. http://www.benefits.va.gov/VOCREHAB/docs/SAFY15.pdf
$603.33 a month in MHA for a veteran student, no dependents, going to college full time using VocRehab. That's not a lot, especially if they're in a major metropolitan area like Washington D.C., San Francisco or New York City where the Post 9-11 GI Bill MHA can be close to 6x the VocRehab MHA.
With all this in mind, there is an alternative. If you are eligible for ANY of the Post 9-11 GI Bill, not just 100% eligibility, you can elect to use months of Post 9-11 eligibility to receive 100% of Post 9-11 MHA rates. It is not pro rated.
Here's a scenario: You are a drilling reservist or a member of the National Guard living in San Diego. You deployed to Iraq a few years ago and are only in the 50% bracket of the Post 9-11 GI Bill. You recently received a 30% disability rating for PTSD and knees and have some trouble concentrating. You want to go back to school but with your disability you can't work and attend school full time. $603.33 just isn't enough to live on in the area. However, if you elect to use months of eligibility from your post 9-11 GI Bill while on an approved VocRehab program you will receive 100% of the post 9-11 GI Bill MHA based on the zip code of your school.
You're approved by a VocRehab case manager for an accounting program at UCSD, and also elect to use months of eligibility from your Post 9-11 GI Bill for MHA. You will receive $2,341 a month for MHA and not $603.33
The VA has also recently updated their VocRehab eligibility page with this info (found at the very bottom): http://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/eligibility_and_entitlement.asp
When it comes to making a decision around using your benefits, it should be done after careful consideration of your own personal situation. IAVA has several resources, internal and external that can help you make the most informed decision. For more info and an opportunity to speak with someone at IAVA go to http://iava.org/rrrp-contact-us/