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Your Path to Work - the VR Program Explained

Congratulations! By coming to DARS, you've taken an important step towards employment. Our Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program offers services to empower individuals with disabilities to enter the work force or return to work.

You are eligible for the DARS Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program if:

  • You have a physical, mental, or emotional disability; and
  • This disability is keeping you from working; and
  • You want to work and you think DARS services can help you, and
  • You are in Virginia (living, working, or moving here), and
  • DARS certifies that there is a good chance that DARS vocational rehabilitation services will result in your employment.

Important Terms

ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prevents discrimination against people with disabilities in employment or public accommodation. Financial Participation. DARS requires you to contribute to the cost of certain services, based on your ability to pay.

Service Providers - Individual or entity that provides a DARS-approved service to you.

Vocational Goal - A suitable job, chosen by you and your counselor, for which you are preparing. This goal is used in deciding which services you need to become employed.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) - The steps you and your counselor must take in order to decide if you qualify for the DARS vocational rehabilitation program, to choose a vocational goal, to evaluate your service needs, and to prepare for and find that job. It also includes the steps needed to help you keep or regain employment after your case is closed as successful.

Your DARS Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Your DARS counselor is one of the most important people on your vocational rehabilitation team. Your counselor is a trained vocational rehabilitation professional. He or she has skills and resources to empower you to get ready for and find a job that's right for you. Along the way, your counselor will offer guidance and check on your progress. As a team, you and your counselor will face many decisions about your work future. Your counselor can get and help you understand valuable information so you both can make these decisions wisely.

When working with your DARS Counselor, please....

  • Be honest about your disability, your needs and your feelings.
  • Keep appointments and be on time -- you should call your counselor if you cannot keep an appointment.
  • Ask questions if you do not understand something so you can make informed decisions.
  • Do your part: don't expect your counselor to do everything for you.
  • Call your counselor right away if you have trouble doing anything you are asked to do.

Steps to Your Vocational Rehabilitation open all close all

If you have not yet met with your counselor, call the nearest DARS office. In most cases (depending on your schedule and your counselor's), you can meet within two weeks. To save time, be sure to ask what records to send in advance or to bring with you.

Your first step is to meet with your counselor to get to know each other and to...

  • Talk about your job plans, disability, education, work history, your vocational rehabilitation, DARS services and consumer financial participation policy, and your rights and responsibilities.
  • Apply for the DARS VR program and request any records or new information needed to decide if you are eligible for the DARS VR program. You will be asked to sign a release so DARS can request your records.

Your counselor will explain what new information is needed and why. For example, your counselor may ask you to get (at no cost to you) a medical, psychological, personal assistance, rehabilitation technology, or other evaluation. Tell your counselor if you need communication accommodations or other assistance to complete an evaluation.

Information from you, your records, and any new reports (see box below) will be used to learn about your disability, how it affects your work capabilities and limits, and whether DARS services can help you become employed. Even if you have a disability, you and your counselor must decide if you meet all the eligibility criteria.

How Long Will Your Eligibility Evaluation Take?

Typically, you'll get an answer within 60 days from your initial meeting. Much of this time is spent collecting valuable information from others (such as your records or scheduling evaluations and waiting for the results).

You can help by...

  • Getting your records for your counselor or authorizing your counselor to request them.
  • Following up with your record keepers to make sure your records are sent to your counselor quickly.
  • Keeping appointments and being on time. Call your counselor if you must reschedule.
  • Making the evaluation appointment if you are asked to do so.

What Job Is Right For You?
If you meet the eligibility criteria, you and your counselor will work together to choose the type of job (your vocational goal) that's right for you.

A vocational evaluation can include counseling, testing, work samples, and on-the-job evaluations. The results help you both learn about the types of jobs you can do and are most interested in doing.

In choosing a job goal, you and your counselor will talk in more detail about your job interests, concerns, capabilities, and limits. If you need more information, your counselor will probably suggest a vocational evaluation (at no cost to you).

What Services Do You Need To Get That Job?
Your counselor may suggest one or more needs assessments (at no cost to you) to give you both a clearer picture of medical, psychological, personal assistance, rehabilitation technology, post-employment services, or other services you need to reach your job goal.

Next, you and your counselor will jointly decide what services you need to get ready for and find that type of job.

Before you receive any DARS service, your counselor must...

  • Agree you need it for your vocational rehabilitation, and
  • Determine DARS's maximum approved fee, if any, to service providers
  • Authorize DARS payment in writing to the service provider before the service (including goods) is provided.

Before you receive certain DARS services, you and your counselor must...

  • Look for third-party funds (insurance coverage, student financial aid, employer obligations under ADA, etc.).
  • Consider your ability to pay.
  • Write and sign an Employment Plan.

DARS Vocational Rehabilitative Services

You and your counselor will decide if any of the following services are required for your vocational rehabilitation:

  • Tools, Equipment and Occupational Licenses not typically provided by your employer.
  • Telecommunications, Sensory and Other Technological Aids and Devices.
  • Transportation Services you need to participate in DARS services.
  • Rehabilitation Technology Services (including devices and modification to your home, vehicle, work station).
  • Personal Assistance Services you need to receive DARS services.
  • Medical Services (not otherwise covered by insurance) you need to become employed.
  • Vocational Training (such as Job Training, Post Secondary Education, Work Adjustment Training, and Supported Employment Services) to learn new work skills and work behaviors you need.
  • Job Seeking Skills Training (such as interviewing and resume-writing).

Other Goods and Services needed for your vocational rehabilitation

  • Evaluation Services needed to make decisions about your vocational rehabilitation.
  • Counseling, Guidance, and Referral by your counselor.
  • Reasonable Communication Accommodations (if no other entity is legally obligated).
  • Unpaid work experience.
  • Job Placement Assistance by your counselor.
  • Post Employment Services to help if you have problems after you start working.

If services you need are not available where you live, the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center may be one of the service providers you and your counselor consider. Visit the WWRC web site for more information.

By signing the Employment Plan and any changes, you are promising to take the steps in your Employment Plan to become employed. You also show that you made the Employment Plan planning decisions jointly with your counselor. Ask questions to be sure you understand your role, rights, and responsibilities under the Employment Plan. Your Employment Plan is important. Keep your copy where you can find it easily.

Agreements you and your counselor make about your job goal, services, service providers, dates, estimated cost, funding sources, and progress review dates must be put in writing. This is your Individualized Employment Plan (IPE).

You and your counselor must review your Employment Plan as often as needed (but at least once a year). You and your counselor must sign and date your Employment Plan (and any changes) before these services can begin.

To successfully carry out your Employment Plan, you should...

  • Follow through with all the steps listed in your Employment Plan
  • Be able to discuss your progress with your counselor
  • Understand what results to expect from each service
  • Develop a good working relationship with your service providers and counselor
  • Prepare yourself (and family) to accept your changing lifestyle and relationships
  • Take proper care of tools and equipment DARS provides you. Call your counselor when it needs repair or replacement or you are no longer using it
  • Tell your counselor about any changes that affect your vocational rehabilitation (address or telephone number, financial situation or family size, medical insurance, personal injury lawsuits, your disability or general health, SSI, SSDI, or other government benefits, etc.)

It is not your counselor's role to "get you a job." The counselor may give you some job leads, but you must look for job leads, too. When you have received the services you need to get ready for the job listed in your Employment Plan, your job hunt begins. This is your job search. However, your counselor can offer services to assist you. For example, your Employment Plan may include job seeking skills training on how to look for and interview for jobs, on-the-job training, or job coach services. Your counselor can help you deal with disability issues in the workplace, such as your employer's legal obligations under ADA, your right to confidentiality; your feelings about discussing your disability with job interviewers, your employer, or your co-workers.

Closing Your Case
In general, after you have been working at least 90 days you and your counselor will close your DARS case. Before closing your case, your counselor will stay in touch to make sure the job is right for you and that you and your employer are satisfied. Other reasons your counselor will close your case can include: a DARS decision that you are no longer eligible, that services will not result in your employment, that you have not met your responsibilities, etc.

Having Your Case Re-Opened
If your DARS case is closed and you think you need more DARS services, you may ask your counselor to re-open your case. Counselors make the decision on a case- by- case basis. For example, if your disability has changed you must begin at Step 1 and re-apply. If you were successfully placed in a job and you later ask for short term services to keep or regain that job, you and your counselor may be able to skip to Step 3.

My Responsibilities as a DARS Customer

  1. I agree to keep, and be on time for, all of my appointments with my counselor and service providers. If I cannot make an appointment or need to be absent from training or other service, I will tell my counselor right away.
  2. To keep receiving DARS services, I must make satisfactory progress towards evaluating my eligibility and service needs and setting and reaching my vocational goal. I will follow through with the steps I and my counselor agree are needed. I will tell my counselor if I am having trouble doing something I am asked to do.
  3. I must tell my counselor about changes which could affect my program, (such as a change in my address, other benefits and funding sources, job status, disability or general health, financial situation, my support network, etc.).
  4. I must help my counselor find and use other funding sources when required by federal law and DARS policy. I agree to provide information about benefits (Worker's Compensation, Social Security, Welfare, Veterans Benefits, personal injury lawsuits, medical insurance, grants and scholarships, etc.) I receive during my vocational rehabilitation. If I choose not to provide such information, it may affect the types of services my counselor can provide.
  5. I may have to pay some or all of the cost of certain services. I agree to answer all my counselor's questions about my financial situation and family size and provide proof when asked. If I choose not to provide this information, I may qualify only for services DARS offers free of charge.
  6. I agree to take care of any tools, equipment and other supplies I receive. I will tell my counselor if I stop using an item or if it needs repair or replacement. (DARS may, but is not obligated to, pay for repair or replacement.) If I stop using an item or I drop out of my DARS program, I must return items to DARS upon request.

My Rights as a DARS Customer

  1. I can bring a family member, friend, or advocate to meetings with my counselor (or other DARS representative).
  2. I (and my authorized representative) have a right to fully participate in all decisions about my vocational rehabilitation (including eligibility, job goal, service needs, service providers, Employment Plan, case closure, and closed case review). I will ask questions when I do not understand something so I can make informed choices.
  3. I will be notified of my appeal rights at application; Employment Plan development, revision, and review; case closure; and whenever my counselor and I cannot reach a mutually acceptable decision about my vocational rehabilitation.
  4. I will receive a copy of my Employment Plan and any changes. My counselor and I must sign and date the Employment Plan and any change before it can go into effect. My counselor and I must review my Employment Plan annually (or sooner if I request it).
  5. I have a right to request a copy of information from my DARS case file (including evaluations and service provider reports), except information I am not legally allowed to see.
  6. I may ask to see DARS policies that relate to my vocational rehabilitation.
  7. At any time, I can ask for assistance from the Client Assistance Program (CAP) at the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. I may call or write the nearest CAP office. CAP staff can
    • Tell me about DARS services and my rights and responsibilities.
    • Help me resolve problems when my vocational rehabilitation is not progressing satisfactorily.
    • Work with my counselor and I to reach a mutually agreeable decision.
    • Represent me if I choose to appeal a DARS decision about my case.
  8. I can ask my counselor to arrange reasonable accessibility and communication accommodations needed for my vocational rehabilitation. Except where the law says it is OK, my counselor cannot give confidential personal information about me or my DARS case to others unless I agree in writing. I can withdraw my permission at any time. However, if I choose to keep certain information confidential, it may affect the types of services I can receive.
  9. If DARS closed my case because I reached my vocational goal, DARS will automatically schedule a yearly review of my closed case the first two years if at I am employed at less than minimum wage due to my productivity. I have the right to participate in the reviews.
  10. If DARS closed my case based on a finding that I am incapable of achieving employment, once every twelve months I can ask DARS to consider re-opening my case. I have the right to participate the review. DARS will automatically schedule the first review unless I have refused services, I refused the review, I am no longer present in Virginia, or my medical condition is rapidly progressive or terminal.

My Avenues of Appeal

DARS cannot discriminate against me because of my race, religion, gender, sex, color, age or type of disability. I have the right to file civil rights complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. I have the right to file ADA/504 disability rights complaints with the DARS ADA Compliance Officer and the U.S. Department of Justice. If I disagree with a DARS decision about my vocational rehabilitation or I am dissatisfied with the DARS services I am receiving, I can:

  • Meet with the counselor's supervisor
  • Ask the counselor's supervisor to conduct an informal administrative review
  • Ask for assistance from the Client Assistance Program offered through the disAbility Law Center of Virginia at 1 (800) 552-3962.
  • Meet with the DRS District Manager
  • Ask the DRS District Manager for formal mediation facilitated by Supreme Court of Virginia mediator
  • I have the right to proceed directly to a hearing conducted by an impartial hearing officer. My counselor can help me with the request.

Best Wishes

The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services wishes you success in your vocational rehabilitation!

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