Being disabled and trying to find a job is hardly a simple task in any type of job market. Whether you need to return to work or to go to work for the first time, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can help people with disabilities get vocational rehabilitation services to get back on your feet. The SSA puts potential workers receiving Social Security disability in touch with approved agencies that provide services such as job counseling, training and job placement.
When a person files for disability benefits, the state Disability Determination Services office reviews the application to see whether the person’s medical condition qualifies him or her for disability benefits. At the same time, they also evaluate the person’s rehabilitation potential. If it appears that vocational rehabilitation services will be beneficial, they refer the applicant to a state vocational rehabilitation agency.
Rehabilitation counselors evaluates the applicant’s medical condition and work history. Further information and/or an interview may be requested after this initial review. If the counselor believes a vocational rehabilitation agency can provide the rehabilitation services needed, the counselor and client will jointly develop a written plan describing the job goal and the services the vocational rehabilitation agency will provide to reach that goal.
Types of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Vocational rehabilitation providers supply a wide variety of services to assist people with disabilities return to work. These services are designed to provide the client with training and other services needed to return to work, to enter a new line of work or to enter the workforce for the first time.
Examples of the types of services that may be offered by vocational rehabilitation providers include:
- various types of tests and assessments to evaluate the client’s physical or mental condition, skills and abilities;
- counseling and guidance, including counseling to family members;
- wheelchairs, specially modified vans, prosthetics and other devices to help restore the individual’s availability to work;
- job placement;
- post-placement services; and
- other goods and services necessary to achieve the planned job goals of the person’s rehabilitation program.
If the SSA is unable to refer persons to a state vocational rehabilitation agency, they may refer that individual to an alternate vocational rehabilitation program participant. An alternate participant is any non-state agency that is qualified to serve Social Security disability beneficiaries. Such providers must be licensed, certified or accredited to provide vocational rehabilitation services within their state. They must also meet other requirements that assure the SSA that they can provide clients with the necessary help.
Once a person with a disability has returned to work, special rules called “work incentives” serves as a bridge from reliance on benefits to financial independence. With these incentives, the individual can continue to receive (for a specified period of time) cash payments and health insurance coverage until he or she is able to work regularly.
The purpose of these work incentives is to provide support and assistance to people with disabilities while they attempt to work. Some of the ways that these incentives help people with disabilities to work is by allowing them to:
- test the ability to work for a specified period of time without losing any benefits;
- deduct from earnings the cost of certain impairment-related work items or services needed to work in determining whether earnings are too high to continue receiving benefits;
- continue Medicare coverage if disability benefits stop because earnings are too high;
- continue to receive SSI payments until the earnings we count exceed the SSI limits; and
- continue Medicaid coverage if the person depends on Medicaid to work even if earnings exceed the SSI limits until the person’s earnings are sufficient to replace lost benefits.
Persons with disabilities that are interested in taking advantage of vocational rehabilitation services do not have to wait for an agency to contact them. A Social Security office will be able to refer you to the nearest state vocational rehabilitation agency. For more information on social security disability benefits, contact your local Social Security office or learn more through FindLaw.