How to Get the Most Out of Vocational Rehabilitation

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Who Is Eligible?

Anyone with a disability who wants to work and can, with the right supports and services.

According to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a person who is determined by qualified personnel to require services because of a physical, mental, or emotional disability that interferes substantially with employment is eligible for vocational rehabilitation.

People with visual disabilities in both eyes are eligible for vocational rehabilitation via the Division of Blind Services (DBS), housed at the state Department of Education (DOE). Those with any other disabilities who are eligible for vocational rehabilitation receive services from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), also at DOE.

Those who have Social Security benefits (SSI or SSDI) based on their own disabilities are presumed to be eligible for vocational rehabilitation, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that they are too significantly disabled to benefit from DVR or DBS services.

Top 10 Tips

  1. Fill out an application for Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or Division of Blind Services (DBS) services so that an official decision can be made on your eligibility. Students and their parents should complete the application well before the student with a disability leaves high school.
  2. Obtain as much information as possible about DVR and DBS so you understand the eligibility criteria and your ability to negotiate services as an eligible client. Be a wise consumer!
  3. Youths with disabilities must be able to describe their disability and how the disability may prevent them from working without DVR or DBS services. This is one of the questions that will be asked in order to determine eligibility. Prepare to answer this question realistically.
  4. The Rehabilitation Act requires that a student found eligible for DVR or DBS services must leave the school system with a completed Individualized Program for Employment (IPE). It is in your interest to work with DVR or DBS to establish eligibility while you are still in school so that you will be approved to receive services under an IPE by the time you leave school.
  5. If you are determined eligible, an IPE will be developed and you should be given “informed choice” in selecting the services you require to become employed. You should be allowed informed choice when selecting services, vendors, providers, and the job goal.
  6. DVR and DBS are employment programs. Agreeing to an employment goal is central to receiving services. Focus on establishing an employment goal. DVR and DBS can pay for career assessments or work evaluations to help you identify your employment goal. Training will be provided if it is necessary to achieve your employment goal. Be ready to explain why any requested training will help you obtain your employment goal.
  7. Plan for a meaningful career. Set a long-range goal other than entry-level employment. If you have the ability, capability and interests to succeed in an occupation that requires advanced training, make sure to negotiate this from the beginning with your DVR or DBS counselor.
  8. Your IPE can be amended if there are additional services you require to become employed. Make sure to stay in close communication with your DVR or DBS counselor.
  9. Know your rights and exercise them when necessary! Use the DVR or DBS chain of command if you encounter problems that you cannot resolve with your counselor’s assistance.
  10. If you are verbally denied a service, always request the decision in writing with the reason and the policy that is being used to deny you. Don’t take no for an answer if services will help you become employed. You have the right to appeal the counselor's decision to a higher authority. Your rights should be provided to you in writing and in an accessible format.