BASIC (05-02)

DI 26520.001 Overview of the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program

A. Background

Vocational rehabilitation (VR) is a process of restoring an individual with physical or mental impairments to the fullest physical, mental, vocational, and economical usefulness of which the person is capable.

The VR program is administered by a VR agency in each State or U.S. territory to help individuals with physical or mental impairments to become gainfully employed. In some States there is a separate agency for the blind.

When an individual is being considered for services by a State VR agency, a rehabilitation counselor evaluates the individual's vocational potential, based on medical and vocational findings, to determine eligibility for services. If the individual is eligible for services, the counselor and the client will work out a plan or program of rehabilitation.

Individuals who file for disability or blindness benefits under title II and XVI of the Social Security Act and meet the screening criteria are referred to the appropriate State VR agency for VR services.

B. Procedure

The Social Security Administration's (SSA's) policy is to promptly assess each claimant's potential for rehabilitation into productive activity. The following general guidelines are established to meet this objective in states where the Ticket to Work program is not implemented:

  1. During the initial SSA field office (FO) interview, each applicant (with certain exceptions) will be given information about rehabilitation services which may be available and rights and responsibilities under the law.

  2. After adjudication the State Disability Determination Services (DDS) will screen all applicants for possible referral to the State VR agency.

  3. All relevant data in the applicant's disability or blindness file and the State VR agency's records are available for both the disability determination and the vocational rehabilitation process.

  4. To assist VR counselors in determining eligibility for services, the DDS's provide pertinent medical and vocational information with each referral.

C. Policy - services provided

Individuals who are selected for vocational rehabilitation may receive any of a number of services, such as:

  1. Evaluation of rehabilitation potential, including diagnostic services to learn the nature and degree of disability, and determinations of eligibility for services to be provided;

  2. Counseling and guidance will be done on an individual basis to work out a program of services designed to help the client achieve the most favorable vocational objective. The program may include a plan for achieving self-support.

  3. Medical, surgical, and related services to correct or reduce the disability;

  4. Prosthetic devices, including artificial limbs, braces and other aids to increase the individual's ability to work;

  5. Training in trade or business schools, in colleges, or on-the-job; this includes prevocational and adjustment training—all designed to enhance the individual's employability;

  6. Services in comprehensive or specialized rehabilitation facilities, including sheltered workshops or evaluation centers;

  7. Maintenance and transportation during rehabilitation if necessary;

  8. Reader services for the blind, interpreter services for the hearing impaired;

  9. Occupational tools, licenses, equipment, initial stocks and supplies for employment or self-employment;

  10. Other goods and services necessary to render an individual with disabilities fit to engage in a gainful occupation;

  11. Special assistance in the establishment and management of a small business enterprise, including a vending stand; and

  12. Placement in suitable employment, follow-up until the mutual satisfaction of worker and employer is assured, and postemployment services necessary to maintain employment; and

  13. Referral to other agencies for needed services not available under the Rehabilitation Act.

D. Policy - referral

In several amendments to the Social Security Act, Congress indicated its clear desire that individuals who apply for disability benefits should be promptly referred to State rehabilitation agencies with the aim of rehabilitating as many as possible into productive activity.

Every case forwarded to the DDS for a decision of disability is considered for VR referral regardless of the applicant's age, medical condition or whether the benefit claim is allowed or denied.

Legislation passed in 1981 provides for SSA reimbursement of the State VR agencies each time their services result in a title II or title XVI beneficiary/recipient performing substantial gainful activity (SGA) for a continuous period of 9 months and certain other reimbursement conditions are met.


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