- Order Of Selection (OOS)
- Plan (Individualized Plan for Employment or IPE)
- Denial of Services
- What, where, how?
How can I contact VR?
VR offices are located in all states with an area office serving one or more counties. There is a toll free phone number generally available for anybody to call. To locate the nearest VR office there are several options.
- If you have access to the internet, use any search engines such as Google or Yahoo and enter the term 'vocational rehabilitation' followed by your state name. e.g. vocational rehabilitation, Maryland. This will bring up the link to the website of your state vocational rehabilitation agency. [In Maryland, VR is under Department of Education and is known as DORS – Department of Rehabilitation Services. Most of the websites have either a xx.gov or state.xx.us format where xx stands for the state name or is abbreviation. For example, 'KY' for Kentucky or 'MASS' for Massachusetts or 'Michigan' for Michigan. Some websites have an .org or .com extension but as you webpage comes up, the state government title or logo is clearly displayed. Avoid the mistake of being led to a dubious site.] The website will have an 'office locator' or 'contact us' link where the location, phone number, staff details and email addresses of each of the offices in the state are visibly mentioned.
- On the www.agrability.org website, click on the 'resources' link to contact the local AgrAbility staff in your state or a nearby state. AgrAbility staff can help you contact your local VR office.
- Check under 'Government' listings in the local phone book.
How do VR services help AgrAbility customers?
VR provides services to customers who meet specific eligibility criteria. In many cases farmers with disabilities are eligible to receive VR services. The services may include evaluation and assistance in purchasing recommended adaptive devices, assistive technology and home, business and/or vehicle modification. VR also provides assistance for vocational training, and short term physical or mental health restoration treatment. Most of the time, the farmer is recognized as a business owner and services are focused on retaining the business and the farmer's subsequent employment. If there is a need to significantly change the business, the services may also include consultation to establish a business plan as well as services related to some start up costs.
In the past AgrAbility customer have received financial support to start and maintain a wide variety of alternative businesses designed to enhance economic independence and stability.
What are some of the problems a client may face obtaining VR services?
Both the farmer with a disability (FWD) and the vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) would like services to occur as quickly as possible. Unfortunately the vocational rehabilitation process is not as fast as one would like. This is due, in part, to the requirement for accuracy and adherence to policy and procedure as well as the size of each VR counselor's case load. The FWD is encouraged to contact the VR counselor with any questions or concerns regarding the status and progress of their case.
VR counselors may not generally be knowledgeable about farming, farm culture and hence may not understand the needs of the farmer to return to farming. In this circumstance it is important for the farmer to be willing to educate the VR counselor of their need and its rationale and relevance in relation to the return to employment.
Limitations in funding may limit availability and timeliness of some services.
In rare instances some disabilities may be considered too severe by VR counselors and hence they may determine the farmer as ineligible for services. It is important for the FWD to know that this determination must be based on objective information and not subjective information. The FWD can appeal an adverse decision and VR will obtain further objective information via extended evaluation.
What is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state partnership operating in all states of the United States with a mission to provide rehabilitation assistance to eligible individuals with mental or physical disabilities in order to gain, regain or retain employment and to increase independence. VR services are provided through state agencies that are funded by a combination of state and federal funds. The services are geared towards integration of people with disabilities into society so that they can be productive independent citizens to the best of their abilities as per their informed choice.
What makes VR services attractive to people with disabilities?
• No expense to apply or evaluate for eligibility
• Offices available all over the country – easy to contact
• Informed choice of the customer
• Multiple services available – flexibility of services
• Appeal process in place that is standardized and at no cost to the consumer
How much does it cost to apply for VR services?
There is no charge to apply for VR services or determine eligibility. All necessary evaluations and assessments to determine eligibility are done at no cost to the applicant.
If the customer is receiving SSI and SSDI, does it affect VR services?
No. An individual receiving SSI and SSDI are automatically eligible for VR services and SSI and SSDI do not affect any services received from VR. VR will provide a benefit analysis so that the farmer with disabilities (FWD) will know how wages will affect their benefits.
What can the customer do if he/she doesn't have any supporting documents about the disability?
The customer can sign the 'release of information consent' form that VR counselor will provide. VR will send the form to the address provided by the customer to obtain the necessary records. VR will pay any fees required by the addressee so as to release records.
What documents should the customer take with him/her when going for the first interview with VR counselor?
Ideally the customer would provide medical records and/or reports that identify the diagnosis, prognosis, restrictions and functional limitations. These records may include reports from the physician, other medical specialists, occupational, physical and/or speech therapists. Psychological evaluation and counseling therapy reports may also be beneficial. If the customer has SSDI or SSI, either the award letter, bank statement or statement from Social Security should be taken. VR will make copies of all relevant documents and return the original to the customer. Any record from a professional regarding the disability is acceptable. If the customer does not have appropriate records, the customer may sign a 'release of information' form that will allow VR to obtain the records from the source. If no records exist VR may authorize and pay for examinations and/or evaluations.
What is the age limits for applying for VR services?
There is no upper age limit for VR services although the customer should be able to complete tasks in an integrated environment. Only adults who are above 18 are eligible to apply. The only exception is for students with disability who are in transition from school to the workplace. They can apply for transition services at age 16.
When will VR close the customer case?
The customer's case is closed successfully when the services have been provided and the customer is on the job successfully for 90 days. However the case may be closed unsuccessfully under the following circumstances. The case will be closed if the customer is not able to be contacted or has moved out of state, if the customer does not cooperate and refuses services, if the customer's disability is too severe so that services are not beneficial for rehabilitation and if the customer dies.
Are individuals with developmental disabilities eligible for VR services?
Yes. (Please refer to the answer for the question "How does VR determine whether or not a farmer is eligible?")
How does VR determine whether or not a farmer is eligible?
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors determine the eligibility for services based on three criteria:
• An existing physical or mental impairment for the applicant. A few examples are arthritis, degenerative disc disease, cognitive impairment, depression, mood disorders, congenital disabilities, acquired impairments, or work-related injuries that caused impairments.
• The physical or mental impairment results in a substantial impediment to employment.
• The consumer can benefit from the provision of vocational rehabilitation services and that these services are required to prepare for and obtain gainful employment.
The determination of eligibility is based on but not limited to objective information such as medical reports, functional capacity evaluations, and/or psychological evaluations. With permission from the consumer VR will either obtain existing records or provide authorization for necessary evaluations. The documentation of substantial vocational impediments requires that the VR counselor have knowledge and understanding of the work performed by the consumer. (For a farmer with disabilities, this is an opportunity to educate the VR counselor by explaining the tasks and duties of their work and how the functional limitations of the impairment impede their performance.) The provision of vocational rehabilitation services will be related to the functional limitations of the impairment and/or the stated employment goal. The services should be necessary to obtain and retain the stated employment goal.
How long does it take to know if a customer is eligible for services after submitting the application for services at VR?
VR counselors have to determine eligibility of applicants within 60 days of receiving the application. The formal application is received at the first meeting with the VR Counselor. It is assumed that all necessary records are available with the VR counselor during this period. Any necessary evaluations will be authorized (no cost to the customer) and completed within this time. VRCs strive to complete eligibility as soon as possible. The period can only be extended due to reasons beyond anybody's control and with consent from the customer.
Under what conditions may VR deny services?
The services can be denied if any of the following conditions exist:
• If the customer's disability is too severe that successful employment is not possible as determined by the VR counselor based on the objective information available
• The customer cannot benefit (in terms of employment) from the services provided by VR.
• If the customer's disability does not form an impediment to seeking, obtaining and retaining employment.
Generally the VR counselor needs to have convincing evidence on all these counts before services are denied. Also the following situations will lead to denial or discontinuation of services.
• If VR office is not able to contact the customer through phone, regular mail or email after repeated attempts the VR may close the case and hence services will not be available.
• If the customer has moved to another state, the state VR will close the case and deny services. The customer can apply to the VR office in the current state of residence and have records from the old VR office to be sent to the new location.
• If the state VR is in 'Order of Selection' (OOS) status, services may be denied to some customers. A priority sequence determined by the severity of disability is followed while considering for services in OOS status.
What happens if a customer is not accepted for VR services?
The customer can appeal at three levels. First is the appeal to the local area supervisor. The supervisor will review the case records and talk to the applicant and try to resolve the issue. If the applicant is not satisfied with the supervisor's decision, the VR office will arrange for an independent mediator to listen to the customer's case. If the decision is still not acceptable, the applicant can approach the state client assistance program (CAP). The address and toll-free phone to contact CAP will be provided by the VR office.
How does the VR counselor determine the services required for the customer?
VR counselor examines the assessment reports, medical and psychological records and determines the services based on the input from the customer about his/job goal. The customer or another advocate can request changes or additional services. The services have to be consistent with the job goal and the disabilities, and should be necessary to achieve the job goal.
Is it possible to make changes to the goal for employment?
It is possible to amend the IPE (individualized plan for employment) to reflect a change in the job goal if the customer and VR counselor agree that it is appropriate and there is enough justification that can be put forth to VR. In most circumstances the consumer must provide the rationale for the change in employment goal. The amended IPE must go through the approval process again by both the consumer and VR. It is advisable to be diligent during the initial preparation of the IPE and avoid changes as these can cause delays in successful rehabilitation.
What is IPE and how does it relate to VR services?
The Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) consists of three parts;
- the employment goal,
- an outline of services necessary to obtain the goal, and
- the responsibilities of both the consumer and VR
IPE is a plan prepared by the VR counselor in consultation with the customer. The FWD or 'consumer' will have both input and influence in its contents. The plan is based on the available details of the customer's strengths, informed choice of the customer and the appropriate employment goal of the customer as agreed by VR. The IPE is a blueprint of the VR services to be provided to the customer in order to achieve employment and independence. The services must first be identified and agreed upon by both VR and the consumer and included in the IPE. Services not identified and agreed upon in the IPE will not be provided by VR. All services must relate to either the employment goal or the functional limitations resulting from the physical or mental impairment. The plan has to be approved by VR and signed by the customer before services can be started. IPE can be amended as required, by the customer or the VR counselor. Annual review of the IPE is mandatory.
Who determines the 'appropriate job goal' for the customer? Will the customer be able to choose his own job goal?
The customer can choose the job goal as per his/her 'informed choice'. However, both VR and the consumer have to agree to the goal as determined by the comprehensive assessment that considers the consumers abilities, interests and limitations. The goal has to be realistic and achievable for the individual taking into consideration the severity of the disability and the cost of achieving the goal. For example, it is not very realistic for a small vegetable grower to have a job goal to be 'owner' of a large dairy operation if the basic resources are not currently available. The VR process is not designed to reach lifelong dreams, but to realize realistic goals within reasonable amount of time and help achieve economic independence.
The customer has been denied VR services. Can he/she re-apply?
The applicant can re-apply if circumstances have changed or more evidence on disability is available to VR for review. The customer can appeal if the VR counselor didn't consider all the evidence presented to determine eligibility and severity of the disability.
The VR counselor is not knowledgeable about farming. Can the customer ask for a different counselor?
The customer can request a VR counselor of his choice or change the counselor at any time in the process. The request may be made to the VR counselor or the office supervisor. However, this should not be resorted to as the first step to resolve a conflict or denial or services. The FWD and their advocates (AgrAbility staff) have a responsibility to educate the VR counselor of the concerns and important issues related to the functional limitations of the FWD and how that relates to their business of agriculture. Of course the VR Counselor has to be open and receptive to learning the farm functions and farm culture. After taking these steps if the customer is not able make progress with the VR counselor, a change in counselor may be considered.
What is Client Assistance Program (CAP) and how can I contact them?
Client Assistance Program (CAP) is an independent agency set up by the state as required by the Rehabilitation Act to resolve conflicts with VR. Any customer with a grievance can approach CAP. The agency will try to resolve the issues amicably. It is important to have supporting evidence to help CAP effectively advocate for the customer's case.
What are some examples of what VR will not pay for?
• Vehicles that have to be registered with the state department of motor vehicles
• Firearms, alcohol, pornography
• Luxury items that may cost more than a similarly functioning item that serves the same purpose
What are some examples of services VR will pay for?
Practically any service mutually agreed and approved by VR counselor and the customer based on the following guidelines:
• The service should be relevant and necessary to lead to gainful employment of the individual
• Some services are approved only for short periods (e.g. medical, mental health counseling, transportation)
• Can be re-authorized after review and approval by VR counselor and/or supervisor
Some of the services include:
• On the Job training, vocational skills training, post secondary training
• Assistive technology
• Business start up expenses
• Child care
• Living maintenance for short duration
• Supplies while under training
• Licensing fees
• Tools required for the job
• Clothes to attend interviews
• Vision enhancing aids or hearing aids
• Computers and printers (will be closely scrutinized)
• Vehicle modification
• Home modifications including bathroom modifications
• Assistive technology of any type that are necessary for the customer to be successful at the job
• Referral to other agencies
• Supported employment
• Job coaching
The customer needs medical services. Can VR pay for that?
VR can pay for short term medical treatment while the case is open and if it is determined that the medical treatment is required for restoration and preparation of the individual for employment.
How much time does it take to receive services from VR?
Eligibility has to be determined and individualized plan of employment (IPE) has to be approved by VR before services can begin. Timeliness guidelines are 60 days for eligibility determination and 120 days for IPE. This can be speeded up by providing necessary information and be flexible for meetings with VR Counselors. The timeliness guidelines are exceeded in less than 10% of the vocational rehabilitation cases.
How long will VR services continue?
The VR services will continue as long as it is required for the customer to become successful on the job. Special circumstances are reviewed by the VR counselor and approvals from the supervisor or region manager may be required. VR closes a customer's case after he/she is successfully employed for 90 days.
Does VR make home calls?
While it is possible for the VR counselor to make a home visit in most cases, VR counselors carry large case loads and make relatively few site visits. However in regard to FWD wanting to retain employment on their farm it is likely that the VR counselor would visit the farm to gain an understanding of the business and the needs related to the functional limitations of the FWD. Most interaction will be by telephone, mail, or during client's visits to the VR office. VR will authorize vendors to conduct the necessary services for the customer. Post-service inspections that are necessary for payment to the vendors are also done through professionals authorized by VR.
Will VR purchase a new tractor for a farmer?
In most cases, No.
To be successfully engaged in production agriculture, a farmer needs a tractor, combine, barn and other capital items. VR is more likely to provide financial support to assist in modifying these items so that the farmer is able to operate or use them independently.