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What is the DARS Consumer Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program?

FAQs  |   What is a Referral?  |   Who May Apply?  |   How Do I Apply?  |   How Does VR Work?

The Consumer Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program helps people with disabilities get ready for, find, and keep a job. It helps to increase their ability to live independently in their communities. The Consumer VR program works with individuals with every type of disability. VR services include but are not limited to, vocational counseling, training, and job placement.

Can the Consumer VR program help you?

  • Do you have a disability?
  • Do you want to work?
  • Are you having trouble getting or keeping a job because of your disability?

Before you apply, learn more...

Frequently Asked Questionsopen all close all

We work with people with all types of physical, mental, or emotional disabilities who are willing and able to work. Our sister agency, the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, serves people  with visual disabilities.

Most people know we serve individuals with physical disabilities, such as deafness, spinal cord injury, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.

However, most of the people in the program do not have a physical disability. For example, they may have emotional problems, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, a history of substance or alcohol abuse (must be in recovery and abstinent; we do not provide treatment), intellectual disability, etc.

That's OK. You do not need proof of disability to apply.

If you have problems getting or keeping a job, or keeping up in school or job training, you may have a disability. We will be happy to talk with you. Through medical, psychological, vocational, or other testing (at no cost to you), we may help you get information needed to decide if you are eligible.

Yes. For example, if your disability is:

  • causing you problems at work
  • progressing and you can no longer do your current job
  • causing you to be underemployed

No. DARS is an eligibility program. If you are not eligible, we will tell you in writing. We may refer you to other agencies and organizations that may be able to help you.

No. Applying to DARS will not impact these benefits. However, once you start working, these benefits may be affected. Call your local Social Security office for more information. A DARS counselor will also be happy to talk with you about your job plans that may affect your benefits.

We may be able to pay for your mileage, bus ticket, or taxi to our local DARS office for your appointment. You must call us before you travel. We cannot pay for travel we have not pre-approved.

If you do not have a way to get to a DARS-approved appointment, training program, etc. in some cases we may be able to help you. However, transportation is a plus to becoming and staying employed. Therefore, we will need to discuss your options and your long-range plans for getting to and from work.

If you have an open VR case in other state, you have two choices. 1) You may ask the other state to keep serving you. 2) You may close your VR case in the other state and apply in Virginia. However, we are not required to provide any services another state is providing you, or has agreed in writing to provide you.

Having your records from the other state may speed up your application process. We may ask you to sign a release for your records.

No. DARS is not an immediate job referral program such as the Virginia Employment Commission or an employment agency. DARS does not have a pool of jobs to give people. The DARS Vocational Rehabilitation Program is a process of becoming job-ready. When you are job-ready, you will job hunt, just like people without disabilities. However, DARS will help you in your job search.

We are here if you need help in your job hunt. For example, help finding job leads, filling out job applications, writing a resume, or practicing for job interviews. You may use the fax, copier, and computer access to Internet job banks in our employment resource centers. We will help you set up job interviews, but you must look for job leads, too.

We will help you deal with disability issues at work, such as:

  • Settling into your new job and lifestyle
  • Dealing with problems that might make you lose your job
  • What to say about your disability to job interviewers, your employer, or co-workers
  • Negotiating with employer for any changes to your job duties, worksite modifications, special devices, etc. needed due to your disability.

We can answer this question once we know more about you and what you need to become employed. Services you receive will depend on what you and your DARS counselor agree in writing (called your Employment Plan) are needed to help you become employed. Everyone gets counseling and guidance at each step of the vocational rehabilitation program. This service helps you better understand your potential, set realistic job goals, change your job goal when needed, and learn good work habits. Some services (such as counseling and guidance) are free. You will pay for other services based on your ability to pay. DARS funds cannot be used when another funding source, such as medical insurance or federal student financial aid, is available to you. We may help you find other funding sources.

For more information about our services and policies, you may read our on-line brochure. To talk about your specific situation, please call the local DARS office nearest you.

We will help you settle into your new job for at least three months. If you and your employer agree things are working out, we will close your case.

If you lose your job or have trouble on your job, you may ask us to re-open your case. We decide this case-by-case.

What is a Referral?

Photo of woman assisting young woman at a computer

A referral tells a DARS counselor that you, or someone you know, would like to become a consumer of the DARS program. Anyone may refer a person with a disability who wants to work. Referrals come from social workers, doctors, mental health professionals, high school teachers, family, employers, hospitals and many others. If you are a person with a disability, you may refer yourself. Before you refer someone, please make sure that person knows about and agrees to being referred. Give referral information to your local DARS office by:

Who May Apply?

You may apply for the DARS vocational rehabilitation program if:

  • You have a physical, mental, or emotional disability,
  • The disability keeps you from finding or keeping a job,
  • You are willing and able to work and you think our services can help you, and
  • You are in the state (living in, working in, or moving to Virginia).

If you receive Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and you want to work, you already meet the first three criteria. However, you do not have to be receiving SSDI or SSI to apply.

If you think you have a disability, but have never been diagnosed, you may apply.

How Do I Apply?

You may call or e-mail the local DARS office nearest you for an appointment. Or you may call toll-free in the U.S. 1-800-552-5019 (TTY 1-800-464-9950).

At your appointment, we will help you apply. This means we will start getting the information from you, your records, and any new information needed to decide if you are eligible and how we might help you with employment. We will ask you to sign a release so we can get your records. We may suggest (at no cost to you) vocational testing and other assessments.

Some information we may ask you for:

  • What your disability is and how you feel about it
  • Your job plans;
  • What records (medical, mental health, alcohol or substance abuse, special education, employee, social security disability, etc.) might help us understand your disability;
    • Names and addresses of schools you attended;
    • Names and addresses of any doctors you have seen recently;
  • places you have worked and when, type of job, skills, salary, and why you left;
  • type of medical insurance you have;
  • transportation issues
  • your Social Security number.

If you do not have this information, do not let that stop you. We will help you get it.

How does the VR program work?

Our vocational rehabilitation (VR) program offers services to empower individuals with disabilities to enter the work force or return to work. Visit the "How VR Works" page to learn more about your rights and responsibilities as a consumer, common terminology, and a complete description of the steps you can take to help ensure that you have a successful vocational rehabilitation.

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