My job as a state VR counselor is to coordinate rehabilitation services for persons with physical or mental disabilities which result in impediments to employment - to help those people get or sustain competitive employment.
My schedule varies and is kind of unpredictable. Every day is different. Essentially I work one county. I have some individuals that I schedule on a weekly basis, generally Tuesday through Thursday. Mondays and Fridays are for paper work and other routine activities. I use the VR status system to help me organize my work. This is a formal structure from the person with a disability applying through closure, from "00" through "26, 28, or 30". The initial step (was "threshold") is the documentation of a disability which constitutes an impediment to employment. From there the cases all progress individually and sometimes unpredictably.
Things have changed over the last several years to speed up the process of eligibility determination. It used to be that you would work up the case thoroughly before you would establish eligibility and then pretty quickly write the Individualized Written Rehabilitation Program (IWRP). Now we try and get the medical documentation quickly and declare eligibility and then take the necessary time to establish a vocational goal and the necessary services to achieve a mutually agreed on goal. There are quite a few new rules and ways to speed up the system.
Once you document the existence of a disability, that it impedes a person's occupation, and that the individual wants to achieve an occupational outcome, they can move out of applicant status (02). They now go to eligibility (10), then IWRP development and writing (12). Next comes service implementation (counseling and guidance) (14), followed by physical and mental restoration (16), and/or vocational training (18). These are helpful as milestones or benchmarks. And people may move both backwards and forward through this sequence.
I enjoy the variety of activities I do and working with people. I like to see people be happy and get satisfaction from what they achieve. I really enjoy my job and it sounds cliched but I like seeing people succeed. I wouldn't have done this job for 14 years if I didn't achieve personal satisfaction. To be successful you have to be flexible and mold your communication and expectations to the type of personality you're working with. If you treat everyone the same it won't work. I work with adults and respect their individuality, the same way I want to be treated. It's their rehabilitation program and they have to take responsibility for their decisions. As a VRC we support and guide, we want them to be successful-it starts and succeeds on your ability to listen. I document decisions as best I can and don't worry about the "could have, would have, ought to" parts of life.
Misunderstandings about the VR system do exist and there are several. People often think VR is an entitlement program. We are not. So many social programs are entitlements, because a person has a condition they automatically get services. Another issue is that people sometimes come to my office and want me to set things right or fix them. The way this program works is through personal decisions and responsibility resulting in a motivation to achieve. Bottom line is we don't have a magic box of motivation we can dig into.
We are a human service business and our product is employed people. We don't fix people or change people we help people arrange personal and community supports. We are not perfect or all knowing. Failures happen. Like Rich - he marches to a different drummer.
I am a former client of this VR program. I was working in an industrial setting and lost my right leg. I was saving money to go to college. I wanted to be a pilot or history professor. I was working the second shift at an animal feed manufacturer and got caught up in a screw feeder augur and lost my arm. I didn't know anything about VR or that it even existed. While I was in the hospital a VR counselor stopped by and explained the program. I saw this as an opportunity to achieve what I originally set out to accomplish - get graduate degree in an interesting field. I spoke to my VR counselor and he asked what I wanted to do and I said "What you do". He said fine, and here we are. I got financial support from VR for my undergraduate coursework and I got a Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration stipend for my graduate degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
It wasn't a hard decision. I had a B.A. in history, no teaching credentials, and no direct connection to a career. The only issue in my job that can be negative is the national focus on numbers to justify the program. I know it is necessary to document the value of the VR program, but to reduce people to "wages earned and job titles" ignores the tremendous impact of the program in people life's. I understand it, but still don't like it. Paperwork can be a challenge. We recently have simplified some of the paperwork and redundant requirements. The mechanics of doing the job are significant - documentation is thorough and you have to keep up with it. You have got to keep your eye on the goal of the program - to get jobs.
You have got to learn to counteract employment bias towards people with disabilities. You also have to deal with some people who don't want to work. You have to overcome their expectations of not working. There are no limitations if the person is motivated. I try to bring a positive attitude, listen, and generally a belief that people with disabilities can work. Be sincere and be who you are.
I am an organized person who knows where things fit. It think it's probably a personality thing but organizing a caseload of more than a hundred is really no problem. I don't know how I do it - it's natural. Another thing I forgot to say is to treat people with respect. You know, the "Golden Rule". It is the key to all relationships.
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