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North Dakota: Legendary. Follow the trail of legends


1237 West Divide Avenue Suite #1B
Bismarck, North Dakota 58501-1208

Phone: 701-328-8950
Toll Free: 1-800-755-2745
Fax: 701-328-8969
E-mail: dhsvr@nd.gov

Services Video Transcript

Section 1

SARAH: Hi, my name is Sarah… I've been asked to tell you a few things about "Voc Rehab", that's short for Vocational Rehabilitation.

(TEASINGLY) They tell me I'm a "star graduate" of the program. I don't know about that, but I do know Voc Rehab's made a big difference in my life.

A couple of years ago, I was at a crossroads. I was a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home. It was hard work, but I really liked my job. Then when I injured my back for the third time, my doctor told me I had to call it quits! I needed to change jobs. Not the happiest day for me!

First I walked about really bummed out and then a friend told me to give Voc Rehab a call. So the next day I made my appointment with a voc rehab counselor. I couldn't believe all the services they had! At first I thought maybe I'd like to try nursing; after all, I had attended some college and did okay. But my counselor helped me understand that the physical demands of nursing can be pretty tough too. So, together, we looked at my talents and needs and matched them with a job more suited to what I could do.

Now, after training and some blood, sweat and tears, I have a new career! (PROUDLY) Meet Sarah Johnson, the phlebotomist! I "professionally" draw blood at a nice new clinic surrounded by friendly people. I'm even taking home more pay.

Am I happy? You bet, thanks to Voc Rehab! They go to work… for you!

Eligibility and Assessment

SARAH: When I told friends I was going to voc rehab, I got sympathetic looks. (HUMOROUSLY) You know, when some people hear the word "rehabilitation" they automatically think, oh no, poor you. But, voc rehab is an employment program for people with disabilities. They help you qualify for, and find, a job. It's a voluntary, individualized, time-limited program. They work with you only as long as needed for you to find work-the average person receives voc rehab services for a little over two years.

To qualify for rehab services you must have a physical or psychological disability that's diagnosed by a doctor, psychologist, or licensed professional. In my case, I was evaluated by no less than an orthopedic surgeon- a doctor who specializes in back-pain and such. Actually, I had been seeing this doctor for my back for some time.

Also to qualify for services your disability must keep you from getting or keeping a job.

After you apply for Vocational Rehabilitation Services your counselor has 60 days to gather the necessary information and make a determination about your eligibility. If you are not eligible for voc rehab, your case is closed, and you are directed to other resources such as North Dakota Job Services or any number of community services. If you're unhappy about any decision made by your counselor, including your eligibility, you can request a review by contacting the Client Assistance Program, or CAP (PRONOUNCED "KAP"). Your counselor will tell you about CAP.

Just because you are eligible for voc rehab, doesn't mean you're entitled to all the services they offer. The services are based on your particular need.

For example, one of voc rehab's services is transportation. Well, I would have liked for voc rehab to buy me a car so I could drive to my phlebotomy classes. But the city bus went right past my house and my counselor and I agreed that was the simplest and most economical way to get to class. So, you guessed it, I became a bus rider! But I sure tapped into a lot of other voc rehab services.

You don't have to be out of a job to seek the services of voc rehab. I didn't quit my job at the nursing home right away. But because of my back problems I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep that job. There's no stigma or embarrassment involved in accessing voc rehab services, and everything they do is kept confidential. Did you know that out of North Dakota's estimated 640,000 residents, over 128,000 have a disability? That's one out of five in our state.

Disabilities vary greatly-from depression and learning disabilities to disabilities resulting from a serious accident. Voc rehab works with people from all walks-of-life and all types of disabilities. Back problems, like what I have, are common. "Orthopedic problems" are the number one reason people come to voc rehab. Number two is learning disabilities.

I met a guy at voc rehab named John. He was a Business Administration major at UND. However an injury from military days was affecting his problem-solving ability and he was having difficulty in school. Since he was injured while in service he was also eligible for services from the Veterans Administration. So voc rehab worked with the VA to put together John's rehab plan.

John loves to bike, he's even competed! Through his hobby, John established a number of contacts in the bicycle industry and he started purchasing and selling bicycle parts on the internet. With the help of voc rehab and special training, John went into this full-scale.

Now he has his own parts business. Isn't that a great story? (TEASINGLY) Almost as good as mine, huh?

The voc rehab process begins when you go to your voc rehab office to apply, or submit a written application.

Next, you meet with the counselor, and that's where, as they say, "the rubber really meets the road." A lot goes on during your first meeting with the counselor. (JOKINGLY) That could be a long one! You undergo a comprehensive assessment as the counselor gathers as much information as possible about your work history, education and training, abilities and interests, rehabilitation needs, and possible career goals. You might be asked questions such as what you expect out of voc rehab, and "If you had a magic wand, and could be anything you wanted to be, what would that be?"

If existing information is not enough to determine whether you are eligible for services, voc rehab will provide assessment services to determine the exact nature of your disability and how it might affect your employment prospects. For example, you might be sent to a physical therapist who will test your "physical ability to lift, bend, twist or carry. Or you might be interviewed by a psychologist or another specialist. Your voc rehab counselor will help set up and pay for these assessments. Be sure to bring any information regarding your disability to your first voc rehab appointment-things like the names of doctors or therapists you might have seen, along with dates, and a list of medications you are taking. Past employment information would help too.

The process of vocational counseling and guidance continues as you and your counselor draw up what is called an Individualized Plan for Employment, or IPE. The IPE lists, among other things, all the steps necessary to achieve your employment goal, the services needed to help you along the way, and how you and your counselor are going to measure progress toward your goal, accomplishing your goal could take anywhere from several months to several years. You and the counselor both agree to and sign a copy of the plan.

The last phase of your employment plan, is getting a job in your chosen field. After 90 days of satisfactory employment, you are considered successfully employed to continue your new career, and your case is closed.

(HUMOROUSLY) That's me: "successfully employed"! Whew! That's a little bit about eligibility and the voc rehab process. Always feel free to ask questions of your counselor about anything. Remember, having a disability does not mean you lack abilities. Voc rehab is there to help put those abilities to work for you!


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