Community Living

Fact Sheet on Vocational Rehabilitation

by Mary Ellen Buning, PhD, OTR, ATP

Under title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, every state receives federal funds to provide comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services to eligible state residents with disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation resources can usually be located with the directory of the local branch of State government. Currently the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council maintains a comprehensive list of links for all the state vocational rehabilitation offices.

(To use the internet to find the vocational rehabilitation service homepage for your state go to MetaCrawler and do a search. Type in the name of your "state" and the words "vocational rehabilitation" or "client assistance program." For example: Florida Vocational Rehabilitation. On the Metacrawler search page, be sure to click on the "phrase" button so that you don't get unwanted websites in your search results.)

The definition of disability is very broad in vocational rehabilitation services. Disability includes anyone with a physical disability, a learning disability, a developmental disability, or a mental health disability. In addition to a documented disability, the individual must also have income below a certain level in order to qualify for services. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) pays part or all of the cost of any service that will be needed for a person to get and maintain employment.

Vocational Rehabilitation counselors make an Individualized Rehabilitation Plan (IRP) for each client. The IRP describes the individually-planned services that will lead a person to employment. Examples of these services include: a worksite evaluation, tuition for a college degree program or for a technical training program, assistive technology devices, a new prosthesis, help with transportation to work or short term counseling.

If individuals do not feel like their case has been fairly heard by their vocational rehabilitation counselor or if their counselor does not support the rehabilitation plan with appropriate purchases of AT or training, then the individual may seek assistance from the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Program. Each state has a federally mandated P&A program. You can link to the P&A program for your state and get more information about a particular situation. You can also learn more about P&A from their National Association.

Funds are appropriated to each Vocational Rehabilitation office and VR counselors like to close out their client's "cases" by succeeding in getting clients successfully employed. When funds become limited, services are often provided on a priority basis to those who have the most severe disabilities.

The vocational rehabilitation program has been conducted under shared federal and state responsibilities for 78 years. Vocational Rehabilitation spends a lot of money. Just for example, the amount appropriated nationally for fiscal year 1998 was approximately $2.25 billion. But the purpose of this expenditure is change people who would be dependent on government assistance (in one form or another) into tax-paying citizens.

Last Updated: 3-2-2006

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Please note this information is provided a archival information from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheeled Mobility from 1993 to 2002.