Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services are an important part of the job search for people with disabilities. Generally, those who are receiving Supplemental Security Income, (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are considered eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation programs. Passed by congress, the purpose of the Smith-Fess Act of 1920, or the Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act was to assist those with disabilities in employment.
There are VR offices throughout the United States, and many satellite offices to provide vocational services to those living outside major cities. Your closest state VR office can give you information regarding the location of the satellite office nearest you. Many state vocational rehabilitation programs maintain websites specifically geared toward their programs and services offered, and can detail the requirements to become a client and your responsibilities as a client.
So, what can you expect as a client of VR? In general, during your first face-to-face meeting with a counselor there is often paperwork involved. This paperwork signifies that you wish to receive VR agency services. It may also include release forms, so that the counselor can obtain information from other persons or entities, such as your physician, a therapist. This information is gathered so that the counselor can learn how best to assist you as a client. Meetings, telephone or email contacts with your counselor are important components of working with the agency.
Vocational Rehabilitation counselors work with you to determine jobs or careers you might enjoy and the equipment or training you need to be successful in the goal you choose. You and your counselor will develop and plan your Individualized Employment Plan, or IEP. In the IEP, your counselor will provide services or referrals that may include job search assistance, interviewing classes, transportation, referrals to local resources, allowances for training and job retention assistance. Some VR programs offer a clothing allowance if you do not have interview attire or can provide tuition for clients who wish to further their education in order to meet a job goal. Again, services can differ from state to state, so do contact your agency for details.
It is part of your responsibility as a client to apply for jobs. Once you express interest in a position, with your consent, your counselor may be able to speak with the employer regarding your application and your qualifications for the position. This can help the employer see you in a favorable light, which could lead to an interview and an employment offer.
Once you accept a position, VR may be able to offer you services to help you stay in the job. These services may include job coaching or other support. It is important to discuss what support you might need in order to maintain employment as part of your Individualized Employment Plan.
Have you used Vocational Rehabilitation services in your state? How was your experience; what did you accomplish?