Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Financial and Emotional Benefits of Vocational Rehab

CO: ATU Local 1001 hearing with RTD to prevent strike

The unemployment rate in America has been tragically high for the past few years, but the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is much higher. Midway through 2013, over 13 percent of disabled people are without work - and those are only the ones who are actively looking. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, a surprising 8 out of 10 disabled people aren't in the labor force at all. In order to combat these statistics, every state has a public vocational rehabilitation agency. These agencies employ vocational rehab counselors who help veterans and other clients struggling with physical and mental conditions identify their career goals and personal skills and then identify the support they need for employment. While many disabled people might not consider themselves candidates for work, VR counselors can open doors to greater financial and emotional security.

1. Developing your IPE


Anyone who is receiving Social Security Disability is eligible for VR services unless they are too profoundly disabled to benefit from them. And even if you're not on Disability, any condition which presents an obvious barrier to employment can qualify you for VR. When you are assigned a counselor, their job is to work with you to formulate an IPE - Individual Plan for Employment. 

Vocational rehab is not about just sticking you in the first job you can get. It's about discussing your interests and skills and finding out what you'd most like to do, then carving out a path for you to work in that industry. This can involve assessing the most basic needs, such as transportation to and from work or an interpreter for deaf clients. And it can also involve major needs like college classes, training, and actual placement assistance. 

Often, your VR counselor will refer you to other organizations or resources. They may send clients to a community rehabilitation provider, which can provide more extensive services and update the counselor on your progress.

2. After You Find Employment


Most people don't realize that VR services continue even after you have found a job. Support and counseling is available for at least 90 days following placement, and your services can continue for up to three years after your case is closed. 

Disabled clients often go to work and find they need a period of adjustment to the facilities, or that the tools they need to do the job aren't always available. VR counselors can be your advocate, making sure the company is accommodating you and you will be able to keep your job once you've found it. 

According to NPR, the federal government pays more for disabled workers than for food stamps and welfare combined. With an increased number of elderly and diseased workers in this country, you will find your ability and drive to succeed in the workplace will be applauded, and the services you need will be provided at little or no cost.

3. Why Work is Important

Steampunk Wheelchair
Many disabled people are afraid to reach out for VR benefits because they're intimidated by the prospect of employment. But the psychological benefits of work are numerous, especially for those who have already felt isolated by their condition. 

The self-worth that comes with employment has been proven to stave off depression, substance abuse, and other mental health issues. While over 17 million Americans suffer from depression every year, the risk is up to 10 times larger for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. 

Feelings of hopelessness and frustration, as well as a lack of interest in activities or daily life, can be associated with the increased challenges a disabled individual faces. That's why helping them find employment, especially in a field they enjoy and feel passionately about, can make all the difference to their quality of life. Plus, being able to financially support yourself is a huge boost to your well-being and mental state.

The services available from Vocational Rehab counselors are extensive, and you should never assume you don't qualify. Every American should be able to pursue their goals and live their dreams, no matter what physical or mental barrier is standing in their way. VR can be the first step to overcoming your fear and taking back your life.

Brett Harris supports his local vocational rehabilitation center by volunteering his time to help the counselors. If counseling interests you as a career, check out the Top Online Masters in Counseling Programs offered by several schools.


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