Air Force Veteran Karyn Elliott completed her education through VA’s Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program by obtaining a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

While pursuing her education, Elliott faced several challenges and heartbreaks. The school she was attending closed, so she transferred to National Louis University to complete her degree. In this new program, she encountered changes with the unfamiliar school and learning format. Additionally, Elliott lost two of her family members – her brother and father – and suffered permanent neck and back injuries from a car accident. Through it all, she did not let her education slide. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA.

Elliot was provided a vocational assessment and counseling and guidance to identify a suitable vocational goal; she also received guidance to conduct labor market research, as well as case management support to resolve any barriers and coordinate referrals to necessary medical services.

At school, VR&E assisted with tuition, books, supplies, a laptop and subsistence allowance. Ultimately, the VR&E services and assistance that Elliott received provided her the opportunity to be employable in a suitable job that utilizes the knowledge and skills obtained through completion of her master’s degree.

Why should you consider the VR&E program?

VR&E is committed to assisting service members and Veterans with service-connected disabilities and a barrier to employment to prepare for, obtain and maintain suitable employment, to the maximum extent possible, and to achieve independence in daily living. VR&E offers five program tracks to help Veterans discover their career paths, uncover exciting employment opportunities, and succeed and grow in their chosen professions. The five program tracks are:

  1. Reemployment: to successfully return to a civilian job held before deployment.
  2. Rapid Access to Employment: to quickly secure employment with existing skills and experience.
  3. Self-Employment: to plan for and start a business.
  4. Employment through Long-Term Services: to obtain training and/or education, college or certification programs, on the job training, non-paid work experience, apprenticeships, and/or internships.
  5. Independent Living: to be as self-sufficient as possible – if not able to return to work right away.

VR&E’s October Observances

This October, VR&E supports National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and Spina Bifida Awareness Month. NDEAM aims to educate about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. NDEAM is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” which reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the pandemic.

In addition to NDEAM, each October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month, and each October 25th is World Spina Bifida Day. The purpose of these observances is to raise awareness of those Americans living with spina bifida, as well as the community that cares for them.

VR&E helps eligible dependent children with spina bifida through VA’s Benefits for Certain Children with Disabilities Born of Vietnam and Certain Korea Service Veterans (Chapter 18) program. The Chapter 18 program provides services that enable the eligible individual to achieve a vocational goal and reach the level of employability needed for entry into employment in a suitable occupation.

By Samantha Owens is a management analyst with VBA's VR&E service

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Published on Oct. 25, 2021

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  1. Monique October 29, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Check with your local American Job Center to see if you can work with a DVOP – they work with the VRE program and might be able to guide you through it.

  2. unknown soldier October 28, 2021 at 2:17 am

    At least one veteran has succeeded. I have been being ignored by VR&E for years and if I complain they retaliate even further. No one listens. Can’t speak to supervisors. No one cares. They drive us to despair and worse.

    • Chelle October 28, 2021 at 9:22 am

      How do they retaliate?

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