Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Contributed by Marci Wheeler, M.S.W., Indiana Resource Center for Autism
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a state program which assists people with disabilities to obtain services that help them prepare to obtain and maintain employment. The program is administered by the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) under the authority of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). Eligibility for VR services is based on state and federal requirements.
There are guidelines to determine the services provided and the amount VR can pay for certain services. VR funds can only be used for services, equipment, and other assistance that is absolutely necessary for participation in the program and for obtaining successful employment.
In Indiana, legislation has focused on regulations and policies that help facilitate collaboration between schools and vocational rehabilitation services for students who might be eligible for VR Services. At a minimum, vocational rehabilitation counselors can be invited to the case conferences of students who are juniors and seniors.
A formal application for VR services is usually made in the second semester of the student’s junior year in January or February. A student does not have to be receiving special education services to qualify for the VR program. Anyone age 16 or older can contact the local VR office themselves, or if still in school, ask their school counselor to refer them to speak with a VR counselor and/or submit an application for services.
Eligibility for VRS
As part of the application process, the individual (or parent if the individual is under 18 years old) gives permission for the VR counselor to obtain existing evaluations and reports from medical, educational and employment sources. This information will be used to determine eligibility. If this information is not available and/or does not reflect the individual’s current condition, the VR counselor will ask for a combination of diagnostic tests and evaluations to be done at no cost to the applicant.
An individual is eligible for VR services if:
- He or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially interferes with the ability to prepare for, enter, engage, or retain employment; and,
- Vocational Rehabilitation services are required for the individual to become employable.
A determination of eligibility should be made within 60 days from the date of application unless notification is given that unforeseen circumstances beyond the agencies control have prevented a decision from being made.
Ineligibility and Appeals
If an individual is found not eligible for VR services, they will be notified in writing. If an individual is ineligible for the VR program, the VR counselor may be able to make a referral to other programs and agencies. A person who is found not eligible for the VR program has the right to apply at a later date if they feel their circumstances have changed. A person who is found not eligible may also appeal this decision.
The VR counselor must explain the appeal process. A request for appeal can be made verbally or in writing and must be made within 15 days from the date of the decision (the original ineligibility decision). After an appeal is requested, a VR area supervisor will provide a Request for Hearing form that must be completed. An administrative Hearing must be held within 45 days after the Request for Hearing form is received by VRS. The hearing may be delayed by either party with good cause. A person can be represented by legal counsel or any other person of their choosing. Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services (IPAS) has a Client Assistance Program (CAP) which can assist individuals with concerns about the VR program while seeking services and/or appealing a decision from VRS. CAP services are free.
More information on Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services can be found at their website http://www.in.gov/ipas/. Information to contact IPAS directly is as follows:
Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services
4701 North Keystone, Suite 222
Indianapolis, IN 46205
1-317-722-5555 or 1-800-622-4845 Voice
1-317-722-5563 or 1-800-838-1131 TTY
Services Available from VRS
Once an individual is found eligible for the VR program, the individual and the VR counselor develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). The IPE will contain the employment outcome goals based on the individual’s unique abilities, interests, strengths, priorities, and concerns. The IPE will also list the services to be provided and who will provide the services along with times frames and methods to use to evaluate progress.
The individual and the VR counselor sign the IPE indicating there is agreement. The IPE is reviewed at least once a year, or more if needed. When reviewing the IPE, changes may be made if necessary. Any changes must be put in writing.
Services provided if determined appropriate can include, but are not limited to:
- Diagnostic testing and assessment to determine eligibility for VR services and also to determine needs.
- Vocational counseling and guidance.
- Job related services including job search and placement assistance.
- Vocational, on the job, and other training services.
- Treatment for physical, mental, and emotional impairments which are considered a substantial impediment to employment.
- Transition services for students to help make the transition from school to work.
- Rehabilitation technology including telecommunications, sensory, and other assistive devices and aids.
- Placement assistance and follow-up.
- Supported Employment.
Limited post employment services may be provided. This is determined on a case by case basis.
To access information on Vocational Rehabilitation Services and to find the nearest office, go to their website at http://www.in.gov/fssa/ddrs/2636.htm or call (317) 232-1319.
Wheeler, M. (2008). Vocational rehabilitation services. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Resource Center for Autism.