Vocational Rehabilitation Programs
There are two Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Programs in Florida: The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and The Division of Blind Services. Vocational Rehabilitation is the State of Florida’s largest employment program serving the needs of Floridians with disabilities. Both programs are charged with providing an array of employment supports and job placement assistance to eligible individuals with disabilities. These employment supports may include tuition assistance for colleges or vocational schools, books and supplies needed for school, assistive technology aids or devices, transportation services, occupational licenses, vehicle modifications, psychological counseling, medical services, and job placement assistance. Services are individualized and are based on an individual’s needs and employment goals.
Who provides Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services in Florida?
Florida has two VR agencies: The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Blind Services. Both agencies are housed within the Florida Department of Education. For more information, please call or visit their websites:
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
VR helpline – 1-866-515-3692 (toll-free)
Division of Blind Services (DBS)
Although both VR agencies operate under the same federal law and regulations, each agency is allowed to develop its own policies and procedures. Always feel free to request a copy of any policy being cited to you, or visit the websites above to download a copy.
What is a vocational evaluation and is it required?
A vocational evaluation can be a useful tool in helping VR and you determine your strengths, interests, aptitudes, skills, weaknesses and types of employment in which you have the ability to succeed. Vocational evaluations are not required for every individual but there may be circumstances (i.e.: inability to return to work in a given area after onset of disability) that make this a valuable source of information for future planning for you and your VR counselor.
What help can I request from VR if I am determined “eligible”?
If you are determined to be eligible, you and your counselor will develop and agree to an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) that will list agreed upon employment goals, and services you will need to become employed. The services are individualized and may be unique to your situation, so please feel free to discuss your specific needs with your counselor. You should be able to explain why your requests will help you to become employed in your rehabilitation program, or why specific services are needed due to your disability.
Must services be pre-authorized by VR before they can be sponsored by VR?
Yes. Your counselor must approve services and complete an IPE specifying the service before VR is responsible for payment. If you do not have a signed IPE, and your VR counselor did not approve the service, you will not be reimbursed if you purchase a service without VR approval.
What are some examples of services VR can provide me?
Vocational exploration, career and interest assessments, trial-work experiences, on-the-job training, job coaching, supported employment, career planning, counseling and guidance, assistive technology (aids, devices and training), assistance with transportation to participate in your rehabilitation program, vocational training programs, college training, medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment, support services, rehabilitation engineering evaluations and services, and job placement, to name a few. Remember, services may be unique to you, so don’t hesitate to discuss your needs with your counselor.
Can I request a copy of my VR case record?
Yes. You have a right to access your VR file. You or your representative must make the request in writing. Information that is deemed harmful may not be released directly to you but could be provided to your designated representative.
Is VR only there to help me obtain entry-level employment?
No. The Rehabilitation Act requires that individuals with disabilities have an active voice in choosing employment goals and meaningful careers that are consistent with their interests, strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities and capabilities, and informed choice.
What is informed choice?
Informed Choice is a right you have as an eligible VR client to understand your options to select your vocational goal, services, and the vendors who will supply services. This is not a guarantee you will receive everything you request, but it is your right to work in partnership with your counselor to identify advantages and disadvantages of different decisions and choices you have in your rehabilitation program.
Can I select a private school or must I use a public school if VR agrees to provide training?
Both VR agencies have a policy that encourages use of accredited public schools or provision only of the rate of the public school toward tuition at a private school if an individual chooses to attend a private school. However, both agencies have exceptions to this policy if the public school cannot meet the individual’s needs. Example: distance to public school results in a hardship for the individual due to transportation issues. The private school is clearly more convenient in reducing extensive travel time that will cause fatigue due to the individual’s disability. Request the policy and review the procedures to request an exception.
What does the chain of command look like with VR?
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR counselors report to their unit supervisors. Supervisors report to an Area Supervisor who reports to an Area Director. DVR has 6 areas and all of the Area Directors report to the Bureau Chief of Client Services, who is stationed in the Tallahassee State DVR office. The State of Florida DVR Director is Bill Palmer.
Division of Blind Services (DBS) counselors report to their unit supervisors. Supervisors report to District Administrators and there are 12 districts. The District Administrators report to the Bureau Chief of Client Services in the Tallahassee State DBS office. The State of Florida DBS Director is Joyce Hildreth.
If I have a problem with VR agency decisions on my case, whom can I contact to learn more about my rights?
Your counselor and the counselor’s supervisor should help you understand your rights to challenge any decision with which you disagree. The Client Assistance Program (CAP) is also available to provide information, advice, negotiation or possible representation in disputes with VR agencies in Florida. Please call 1-800-342-0823 or call TDD at 1-800-346-4127, if you need additional assistance or information to resolve disputes with either DVR or DBS.
Imagine the Possibilities Video