Vocational Rehabilitation Frequently Asked Questions
1. Q: What are vocational rehabilitation services, and what do they provide?
A: Vocational Rehabilitation, also known as VR Services, is a -state governmental agency, constituted by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, that provides individuals with disabilities with the tools to obtain, maintain, or regain employment. This may be through services such as paying for post-secondary education, adjustment to blindness training, or assistive technology. Cases are opened on the state level, and are closed once the individual successfully completes their employment goal.
2. Q: What is the timeline for opening a VR case?
A: You may open a case with VR as early as age fourteen, but cases can be opened, closed, and reopened at any time if proof of disability and the goal of employment is demonstrated.
It may take between 2 and 6 months to determine eligibility for a VR case.
3. Q: What are the requirements for VR eligibility?
A: According to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, state agencies assess an applicant to determine if he or she is eligible for VR services. To be eligible for services, an assessment must demonstrate that the applicant
- has a physical or mental impairment that constitutes a substantial impediment to employment;
- can benefit from services provided under the Rehabilitation Act; and
- requires VR services to prepare for, secure, retain, advance in, or regain employment that is consistent with the applicant's strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice.
4. Q: What is a VR counselor and what is their job?
A: Your VR counselor is the individual within the VR agency who will be the point person for your case. They oversee your individual plan for employment and review any requests for services.
5. Q: Should my VR counselor come to my IEP meeting?
A: This is up to you. Usually if you are within transition age, it is beneficial to have your VR counselor present to facilitate your continued progress toward your employment goal, and serve as a resource during the shift from high school to your next step.
6. Q: What is an IPE?
A: IPE stands for Individualized Plan for Employment. It is a document that outlines an individual’s vocational goal and the services necessary to achieve this goal. Any services that you wish to receive through VR should be written in this contract, and it is in your rights to make amendments to your plan at any time to better accommodate your needs. We strongly recommend requesting a copy of your IPE frequently to ensure that your progress is being documented.
7. Q: What is an employment goal?
A: The employment goal is one of the most important things on your individualized employment plan, (IPE). VR must offer the services necessary and appropriate for you to reach this goal. It is important to note that VR may guide or help you decide on a path, but it is within your right to ultimately choose your career. You also have the right to change this goal at any time.
8. Q: How do I write an effective employment goal?
A: Your VR goal serves as the basis for the services that you receive. It is important to choose a distinct career goal that can justify the need for specific training and resources. Rather than simply choosing “lawyer” or “teacher”, consider specifying a civil rights attorney or high school math teacher. Keep in mind that you can change this goal, so you are not binding yourself to a certain career by being precise.
9. Q: How can I change my Employment Goal?
A: To change your Employment Goal you should contact your VR counselor to make an amendment to your IPE. This may require a subsequent revaluation for the assignment of services that are associated with your case. Be sure to only sign an updated contract if you are satisfied with the changes put forward.
10. Q: How often should I talk to my VR counselor?
A: This all depends on your state's particular policies and how often you feel it is necessary. However, it is best to maintain an open line of communication, sending updates on your progress, so that you avoid only reaching out when you need something. Showing that you are finding success further justifies that you are worth investing in.
11. Q: What should I do if my VR counselor is not cooperating or responding?
A: Be sure you have made an attempt to reach your counselor by both email and telephone, leaving a voicemail if possible. If, after exhausting these means, you are unable to make contact, send a follow-up email, CCing the regional manager of your VR office. You are also encouraged to reach out to your NFB state affiliate president, as they may be able to leverage their contacts and experience.
12. Q: How can VR help me find employment?
A: Vocational Rehabilitation is an individualized employment program. Participants may receive career assessments, counseling and guidance, training, job placement, and services to support job retention based on their IEP.
13. Q: What are preets?
A: PREETS stands for Pre-Employment Transition Services. Each state is different in regards to which services are offered. Some general services include career readiness, visits to universities or trade schools,or finding mentors to help with the student’s vocational path.
14. Q: What is a justification letter and when should I write one?
A: A justification letter is a letter that explains in detail the need for a certain service you are requesting. It is formal documentation that presents a case for why a pending amendment should be approved and is a strong course of action if there is doubt about getting a request approved.
15. Q: What should I include in a justification letter?
A: It is important to remember that this is an official document, so be respectful and polite. be as specific as possible when requesting services, and relate your request back to your employment goal. For example, give your counselor detailed scenarios of how the technology or service will help in the classroom or in the workplace. It can also be helpful to mention how this cost would reinforce a previous investment they may already have made in your case. Get help from teachers, instructors, or other professionals to help you write the best letter.
16. Q: What is informed choice?
A: informed choice is your right as a consumer to make decisions about the services you desire, without being limited to one option. state agencies often have existing relationships with certain service providers and will encourage clients to follow these paths. However, the right to informed choice means that you can deviate from these options in favor of one that you have researched and decided you want to pursue.
17. Q: What is a personal service?
A: A personal service is one that falls outside of a school or employer’s responsibility to provide. It is helpful to understand this distinction because personal services are essential for success and can be funded through VR. For example, your school or employer may not pay for general orientation and mobility training or a new computer, but these needs do not have to be met without financial assistance if properly justified.
18. Q: What is a technology assessment?
A: A technology assessment is used to determine what technology you may need in higher education or employment. VR will pay for these tools, given appropriate justification.
19. Q: Who can I contact in the NFB if I need help with VR?
A: The first step is to reach out to blind students who are current clients of VR, who may be able to share their experiences. The NABS Board is happy to help connect you with others in your state.
You can also reach out to your NFB state affiliate president. See the list of NFB affiliates.
If you do not have a contact within your state affiliate, the national office can assist you. For information on the Vocational Rehabilitation Act and other resources, visit the legal resources page
20. Q: Can VR pay for my post-secondary education?
A: Yes, however, the policies in each state may vary. You must exhaust other available means of financial assistance before requesting aid from your VR. You are also required to present a copy of your semester grades to continue receiving assistance, and ensure that you are on track to achieve your employment goal.
21. Q: What state is responsible for my case if I go to school out of state?
A: If you choose to attend a private or out of state institution, typically your home state will pay, but you can use your current institution’s state VR agency. If you transfer your case to your institution’s state agency, you will have to close your home state case. Consider your institution state's particular laws on residency for eligibility for rehab services. You should also be prepared to justify why the out of state university you are choosing has some feature or program, relevant to your employment goal, that cannot be found in your home state.
22. Q: Can VR pay for my blindness training?
A: VR will generally pay for your state training center, but if you are seeking to attend an NFB training center, you will have to write a justification letter to explain your need for specific services that are not provided by your state center.
23. Q: Can VR pay for housing for higher ed and internships?
A: VR can pay for housing, given the lowest cost option. You must prove that commuting would be unreasonable. Remember to justify that this request relates back to your employment goal.