3 Keys to Vocational Rehabilitation
July 30, 2021 by
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a government program that provides federal and state funds to serve individuals with disabilities as they prepare to enter or rejoin the workforce. This federal program is built around an individual’s needs, taking into account what each person requires to function in the job market and be a great employee. In a recent Tyler Technologies podcast, John Harper, a former VR counselor and current chief subject matter expert at Encorpe, Inc., provided an overview of vocational rehabilitation and how it benefits individuals and communities. Here are three key takeaways from that discussion.
1. Vocational rehabilitation represents a special government collaboration.
Since 1920, the federal government has provided funding for vocational rehabilitation services, originally prompted by the needs of WWI veterans returning home with physical and mental challenges that made it difficult to rejoin the workforce. Over time this program has evolved; it is currently in place as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The amended Rehabilitation Act authorizes grant programs administered by state agencies with funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
The funds are handled by VR counselors, who use their budgets to create Individual Employment Programs (IEPs) for their clients. These plans are driven by the client’s hopes and dreams for their career. The VR counselor works with the client to develop concrete plans for education or other job training as well as for the accommodations the client might need for future workplace success.
Vocational Rehabilitation is a great example of a program extending from the federal government, through the states, down to the individual program participant.
2. Vocational counselors have an important task and must be equipped accordingly.
VR counselors often handle large caseloads and very large budgets as they work to coordinate services and training for their clients. Because they are responsible for taxpayer dollars, they are held to a high standard when it comes to documentation of where the funds are going. Any tools that can be used to help them work more efficiently and stay in compliance with state and federal regulations are helpful for achieving their mission. For example, speech-to-text software, the same that is sometimes used by vocational rehabilitation clients, can be helpful for streamlining case notes. Case management solutions, which streamline workflows, support reporting, and help VR counselors manage their budgets, can dramatically improve the efficiency of a VR agency.
Just as important as having the right software, however, is having the right attitude. VR counselors must be good listeners, able to make connections with the individuals they are helping. When the VR counselor truly understands the client’s goals for the program, they can build the best plan possible for making those goals a reality.
3. Vocational rehabilitation makes a real difference to individuals and to our society.
The skills learned and the accommodations made through vocational rehabilitation programs help clients and enrich our society. In addition to a paycheck, clients are able to enjoy the other benefits of employment, including structure, engagement, and a sense of accomplishment. These are of particular value to some clients who struggle with mental health or addiction issues. In addition, employers are able to access the talent and effort of a wider pool of potential workers.
Vocational rehabilitation is good for taxpayers as well. Although the federal government does spend funds on each client, each person who leaves the program with a job will require fewer services, will generally have employer-funded insurance, and will be paying taxes that will exceed the amount of the initial government investment. There’s good ROI on VR programs.
3 Keys Unlock a Bigger Story
The Vocational Rehabilitation program has a rich history that is still developing. Regulations and statutes often change, adjusting the landscape for VR counselors and clients alike. However, these three keys provide a basic understanding of what VR is and how important it is for individuals and their careers.