What Disabilities Qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation?

Approximately 61 million people in the United States live with a disability, according to the CDC. Many need extra help finding work or developing the skills to enter the workforce. Fortunately, there are several government programs to ensure people get the help they need through vocational rehabilitation (VR).

Understanding Vocational Rehabilitation 

Vocational rehabilitation is the process of helping people with disabilities gain the skills they need to enter the workforce. The service helps people prepare for a job and then gain and maintain employment. 

There are a number of benefits to entering vocational rehabilitation for workers with disabilities. First, the programs are designed to cater to those who need one-on-one attention, which makes it harder for you to slip through the cracks. Second, all the processes are designed to ensure you get the best help possible. This could mean receiving a diagnosis or training on tools to make your job easier. For example, deaf people who cannot answer the phone may be trained on assistive technology in vocational rehabilitation, such as on TTY machines or a special phone with captions, allowing them to communicate easier. 

Many times, vocational rehabilitation centers also provide training in specific job elements, receive guidance and counseling to determine the position type, and make job retention services available. 

If you’re currently recieving Social Security Disability payments from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the vocational rehabilitation facility may offer what’s called a Ticket to Work Program (TTW), where you can still work without losing your health coverage. Likewise, if you live in an independent living center, there are facilities that can help you maintain your independence.

Disabilities Eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation 

Disabilities fall into one of many categories. In order to receive vocational rehab services, most programs require that you have a physical, mental, or cognitive impairment. These must be significant enough to impact your ability to work or to find and keep employment. Further, it must be documented by a doctor. If you don’t have a diagnosis, you may be able to receive one through vocational rehabilitation agencies.

A partial list of disabilities that qualify you for vocational rehabilitation include: 

  • Hearing loss
  • Vision loss
  • Mental illness
  • Autism
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Brain injuries

This is just a partial list of conditions that may qualify you for additional help. If you receive any type of disability benefits, this might automatically qualify you as well. To determine if your disability or that of a loved one qualifies for VR, simply speak to the center closest to you. 

Eligibility Criteria for Vocational Rehabilitation

If you’re wondering how to qualify for vocational rehabilitation, you must meet various eligibility criteria. First, you must have a qualifying condition that presents a barrier to obtaining and holding a job. 

Second, your disability must be well-documented through medical assessments. The documents should note the date the disability started, whether it’s progressed or stabilized, and a future prognosis. If it’s a condition that’s expected to worsen, this should be noted as well. Counselors will also look at functional limitations to determine criteria, such as if you cannot stand for long periods. 

Additionally, you must demonstrate that you’re capable of benefiting from the program. Sometimes, the severity of the disability means that there’s little that can be done to help you function properly in a place of employment. Should that be the case, VR services are likely to be rendered impractical.

Applying for Vocational Rehabilitation 

You’ll have to find a local agency providing such services to get started with the vocational rehabilitation application process. Most of the time, they’re offered directly through state and/or local services, but there are federal programs as well. 

Once you’ve located a center, either by contacting your state labor bureau or Social Security field office (or a web search), you’ll need to apply. Each state has its own application, or if you’re applying through the Department of Veterans Affairs, they also have an application (VA Form 28-1900)

Make sure you fill out all of the information accurately and include any and all documentation that can back up your claim. After you fill out the application, you’ll meet with a professional counselor to evaluate your needs and then review the services you may qualify for.

It’s important to note that even if you’re currently collecting any form of disability payments, whether through Social Security or the VA, you’ll automatically qualify, but you still need to apply. 

Support Services and Training Programs

Vocational rehabilitation is more than just trying to help you find a position. The staff at these centers are there to help you grow as a person and achieve your goals, no matter how lofty. Some vocational rehabilitation services and support you’ll likely find at most VR centers include:

  • Job counseling
  • Skills development
  • Assistive technology
  • Job placement assistance
  • On-the-job training
  • Personal assessment of disability
  • Personal assistance services
  • Interpreter
  • Referral services
  • Transitioning services for those moving from school to work

Additionally, if you’re looking to start your own business, VR staff can help you carry out important tasks ahead of time, such as developing a business plan and conducting market analysis to see if there’s a need in your area. 

Perhaps you don’t feel you’re ready to enter the workforce, or your preferred career choice requires obtaining a degree. Vocational rehabilitation can help you with financial assistance in some cases as well. They can help you apply for scholarships and sometimes even award you through a state or federal program. These types of scholarships or grants, however, will require that you work for a public rehabilitation agency.

To learn more about how VR can improve your life, contact us and we’ll help you take the first steps.

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