|Consumer Handbook for VR Services||Format|
|Portuguese Handbook (old version)||Word|
|Spanish Handbook (new, 2006 version)||RTF file size 41MB|
Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR)
VR Check List
Getting Started in Vocational Rehabilitation
" Informed Choice" Decision Making
Individual Plan for Employment
Statewide Employment Services
Vocational Rehabilitation Flowchart
MRC-VR Area Offices
Reasonable Accommodation: A change in your work situation based upon an agreement between the employer and employee with a disability, covering a necessary modification or assistive technology enabling the person to perform essential parts of the job.
Some people with disabilities may need changes at their place of work that are reasonable for employers to provide. You can discuss what changes you may need to remain employed with your rehabilitation counselor.
Please fill out this checklist and bring it or a copy with you to your first appointment. Also bring the most current medical records which document your disability(ies). Thank you very much!
Name ____________________ Date _____________
Phone Number ____________________________
Please indicate if you receive any of the following benefits:
Medicaid ____ Medicare ___ TAFDC __________
Food Stamps ___ Subsidized Housing ___ EAEDC ___
Workers Comp. _________ Blue Cross ____________
Other Insurance or HMO/PPO __________________
Social Security* SSI ____ SSDI _______ Both ______
*If you receive any of these benefits, please bring this documentation to your first VR meeting as it may speed up the eligibility process and delivery of services.
Please list below the professionals who have treated you for your disabilities within the last 5 years:
(Name, Address, Phone Number)
Do you use a cane, brace, wheelchair, hearing aid, or other assistive device? If yes, please specify:
Have you ever been told you have Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? When? By whom?
Please list any other information you think may be helpful to your counselor in assisting you to go to work.
Do you have difficulty obtaining a job?
Do you have difficulty keeping a job?
The MRC Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) Program works with people with disabilities to help them obtain and retain employment.
Who Can Receive Services?
To receive vocational rehabilitation services from the MRC-VRS Program, you must:
- have a physical, psychiatric or learning disability(ies) which severely limits your ability to get and keep a job
- have a desire to work
How Do I Get A Referral?
People with disabilities come to the MRC-VRS Program from any variety of sources or you can refer yourself. To get started:
- Call and/or visit a MRC-VR office.
- Attend an orientation provided at an office.
- If possible, fill out the VR CHECKLIST above and bring it with you.
How Does My Rehabilitation Begin?
Soon after your referral is received at an MRC-VR office, you will be contacted by a VR staff person or rehabilitation counselor who will work with you. He or she will send you a letter giving the date and time of your appointment and the name of a vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) with whom you will meet. If the date and/or time are inconvenient, please call the counselor who sent you the letter to arrange for a more convenient time and include information regarding the best way you can be reached.
A vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) will meet with you at the designated time. He or she is a highly qualified professional who is trained to work with people with disabilities to develop a plan to meet specific career goals, such as yours. The VRC will work with you and identify your strengths, limitations and barriers to employment. He or she will determine with you the services necessary to help you achieve your goals and assist you in entering or re-entering the world of work.
If possible, please bring recent medical, school and other records with you to the first appointment, along with your completed VR CHECKLIST.
Preparing For The First Interview
It will also be very helpful to you and your counselor if you prepare ahead of time to discuss certain information about your background. Your counselor will need to know some facts about your disability such as dates of any hospitalizations, specialty examinations, or anything else about any of your disabilities. You may bring someone along with you to this meeting, if you wish.
The VR CHECKLIST will be useful to help you organize this information.
Because vocational rehabilitation is ultimately about employment, your VR counselor will need to know about any work history, your legal ability to work, criminal record or special skills you might have. School records, job history, training or other information will be very helpful. Don't worry if you have never worked. Many people with disabilities seek assistance from the MRC-VR Program to enter the world of work for the first time.
In addition to learning more about you, the counselor will tell you more about the MRC-VRS Program, such as:
Determining how a person becomes eligible for services, explaining what the vocational rehabilitation process includes, describing the types of services available, explaining your rights and responsibilities and answering any questions you might want to ask.
Applying For Services
At the end of your first interview, if you believe the services of the MRC-VRS Program will help lead you to a job, you may choose to apply for services.
What Happens Next?
Your VR counselor's first task, after you have formally applied for services, is to determine if you are eligible to receive services from the MRC-VRS Program. Being determined eligible is not automatic. The VR counselor needs to gather a variety of information to understand the nature of your disability(ies) and your barrier(s) to employment, to help determine whether you will be able to get a job as a result of receiving vocational rehabilitation services.
In order for your VRC to gather this information, he or she may ask you to give written permission to collect diagnostic information about you. The information counselors gather is strictly confidential and is shared only with those who are directly concerned with your vocational rehabilitation.
While this information is necessary to determine your eligibility, it is also very useful information to help you and your VR counselor decide what services will be best for you as you both develop a rehabilitation plan.
What Will We Talk About?
You and your VR counselor will explore goals, expectations, skills, education, experience, medical conditions and anything else that may be keeping you from working.
Your counselor may want to obtain more records from other agencies or organizations with which you may have worked. Remember, all this information will be very helpful as you develop your career goals.
Becoming Eligible For Services
Within 60 days after you have signed your application, you will be notified in writing that you are either eligible or ineligible to receive services.
Shortly after you are notified of your eligibility, you will receive a letter assigning you to a priority category. Priority categories are based on how significant your disability is and your barriers to employment. Only individuals who are in the top priority category are eligible to receive the full range of MRC-VR services.
If you are not in the top priority category, you will receive referral and information services only. You may also appeal your priority category assignment if you believe it is incorrect by contacting the MRC Ombudsperson and/or the Client Assistance Program (CAP) in the Massachusetts Office on Disability. You have the right to appeal your eligibility decision, as well as any other decisions, through an Administrative Review, Mediation and/or Fair Hearing process.
What Is The Next Step?
You and your counselor may start by having a series of meetings. Every service provided is based on your skills, abilities, needs and preferences.
As the planning process begins, your counselor will discuss with you two other considerations:
1. Waiting List for Paid Services: Sometimes the MRC-VRS Program has a waiting list for services the agency needs to purchase. Your counselor will inform you whether or not there is a wait for any of the services you might be seeking.
2. Financial Need: The MRC-VRS Program must ask you about any income you have to determine if you can assist in paying for any of your services. If you are dependent on your parents for income or if you are married, your parents' or spouse's income may also be considered.
During the planning process, your counselor will ask for your cooperation in seeking other funding to help pay for some of your services, such as financial aid for schools and MassHealth to cover medical costs.
Once you have been made eligible for services, you and your counselor will begin your Vocational Assessment. This process is about gathering information to help you choose your career goal and the services you will need to attain successful employment. You and your counselor will examine your interests, abilities, aptitudes, educational achievements, work history, strengths and weaknesses. You may also be scheduled for vocational testing to look more carefully at these factors.
Informed choice means you have obtained all the information you need through the Vocational Assessment process to make sound decisions about your career path. You and your counselor will work as partners and may have several meetings to discuss the details of your employment plan.
When the process is completed, you should have a thorough understanding of your job options and an awareness of all the services available from which you may choose. You and your VR counselor will now be ready to finalize and agree on your Individual Plan for Employment (IPE).
Developing and agreeing on an IPE is the most important time for you. The more you know about your interests and abilities, the more you will be able to make good informed decisions about your future work. Your IPE charts the course of your services and must be the result of work by you and your counselor.
What is an Individual Plan for Employment? It is a document in which you and your counselor list your employment goal, specifying your responsibilities, as well as the services the MRC is responsible for to help you become employed. It is an agreement between you and the MRC-VRS Program. When you agree to this goal, you and your counselor must both sign the IPE. You will receive a copy of the IPE and should keep it for your records.
The Individual Plan for Employment, which you and your counselor have developed together, outlines your employment goal and the specific individual services you will need to get and keep a job.
The services outlined in your IPE may be provided directly by the MRC-VRS Program, purchased for you from a community provider, or arranged for you with other organizations. By the time you are ready to sign your IPE, you will know your exact employment goal and what services you will be receiving as defined in your plan.
REMINDER BEFORE SIGNING: IF YOU DISAGREE WITH ANY PARTS OF YOUR INDIVIDUAL PLAN FOR EMPLOYMENT (IPE), YOU AND YOUR COUNSELOR SHOULD DISCUSS THESE DISAGREEMENTS. YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO BRING YOUR CONCERNS TO A SUPERVISOR AND TO APPEAL.
Following Your Plan For Employment
Once you and your counselor sign your IPE, you will begin to work toward your goal of employment. You and your counselor will meet periodically to review your progress and to discuss anything else about your rehabilitation.
If you need to talk with your counselor at any time, you should feel free to contact him or her. Open communication with one another is important. If something happens that slows down your progress, contact your VR counselor immediately. You most likely will have important information to share. There may be some reasonable accommodations, equipment or services, or your counselor may have suggestions that could help you resolve the problem(s).
Getting And Keeping A Job
As the services in your IPE come to a close, you and your counselor will be discussing going to work. During this time you will be preparing to go on job interviews, designing a resume and learning techniques about interviewing for a job. You and your counselor will work together in this very important step - getting a job!
Once you become employed, if you have any difficulty on the job, notify your counselor immediately so he or she can assist you. Your counselor may be able to help you with problems such as transportation, reasonable accommodations, additional training and support services like job coaching to help you on the job. It is important that you understand what your employer expects of you and if you choose to disclose your disability, your employer understands how your disability affects your performance.
Exercising Your Rights
You may seek resolution of problems or disagreements about your rehabilitation services by contacting your counselor, counselor's supervisor and/or the office manager. You have a right to appeal any action or inaction affecting your rehabilitation services. You must make a written request for appeal within 30 days of being notified of a change in, or denial of, services.
You may also obtain help with resolving problems by calling:
The MRC Ombudsperson
(617) 204-3600 (V/TTY),
Toll free 1-800-245-6543 (V/TTY),
Or by writing to:
Customer Relations Coordinator
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
600 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111
MRC Main Information numbers: 1-800-245-6543 (Voice/TDD) or (617) 204-3600
Fax (617) 727-1354
The Massachusetts Office on Disability, Consumer Assistance Program (617) 727-7440, toll free 1-800-322-2020, may assist you in the appeals process and serve as your advocate.
How To Make Informed Choices Regarding Employment And Your Public Benefits!
Information concerning such benefits as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), Food Stamps, Personal Assistance Services (PAS), Medicaid, Medicare, MassHealth, CommonHealth and other public benefits are areas where a Benefits Specialist can assist you.
The MRC operates Project IMPACT (Individual Members Planning and Accessing Choices Together) to provide benefits information, planning and outreach to Social Security beneficiaries, their families and professionals. Its objective is to provide accurate and timely information regarding all public benefits, including federal and state housing programs. This information is necessary in order to make an informed choice regarding employment.
Project IMPACT is the result of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act (TWWIIA) of 1999. The MRC was awarded this grant from the Social Security Administration. A similar grant was also awarded to the Resource Partnership, located in Natick.
The MRC Benefits Specialists provide confidential, individualized support services to SSA beneficiaries, their families and professionals. Project IMPACT staff have been trained and certified as Benefits Specialists by the Social Security Administration through Cornell University. They understand the decision to enter or re-enter the workforce is a personal matter and may cause apprehension.
Question: Who is eligible?
Answer: Anyone who is a current SSI/SSDI recipient. If there is anything a Benefits Specialist cannot answer, we will refer you to someone who can.
Question: Is the service confidential?
Question: Does the service cost anything to the beneficiary or my agency?
Answer: No, all services are free to SSI/SSDI recipients.
Question: Will we meet more than once?
Answer: It depends on your individual situation. We may need only one meeting or it may take longer to cover all the information you need to make informed decisions.
Question: Do I have to travel into Boston for my appointment with a Benefits Specialist?
Answer: No, a Benefits Specialist will meet with you at a convenient location in your area.
For more information, contact Project IMPACT at
(617) 204-3854 or 1-800-734-7475, (617) 204-3834 TTY.
STATEWIDE EMPLOYMENT SERVICES (SES)
SES provides services to individuals who have very significant disabilities to enable them to choose, obtain and retain meaningful employment. Many of the services offered are delivered through contracts by Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRP) managed by SES. In addition, through Project IMPACT, SES provides public benefit planning, assistance and outreach to MRC consumers.
This is a specific type of vocational rehabilitation service designed for individuals who are generally interested in working at least 20 hours per week. Consumers receive intensive services to address specific barriers to achieving their vocational goals. In addition to on-the-job evaluations, most services are provided at the place of employment, including job coaching and long term supports, to assist individuals to maintain employment.
Comprehensive Integrated Employment Services (CIES)
There are four separate components:
Vocational Assessment: Participant engages in services to assess interest, skills, learning modality and challenges to employment.
Job Development and Job Placement: Participant engages in Job Search as defined by Career Plan. Individual is placed in employment and retains employment, with as needed supports for at least 30 days.
Initial Employment Supports: The provision of supports after 30 days of employment to assist the participant to reach stabilization or to make progress towards stabilization within 90 days on the job.
Ongoing/Interim supports: The provisions of supports after employment of 90 days to reach stabilization or to maintain employment. Also may be interim services in lieu of component or services needed to re-enter job process after stabilization.
Consumers of Vocational Rehabilitation services offered by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission have the opportunity to explore and choose either home-based employment or self-employment as their employment goal. MRC-VR counselors have assisted many people start or expand successful business enterprises. Here are a few suggestions to help you discuss this possibility with your VR counselor.
What Is The Difference Between Home-based employment and Self-employment?
Home-based employment might be an in-home service or a business such as bookkeeping, child care, billing services, etc. Another home-based opportunity involves business services, such as computer work or consulting for a company as an independent entrepreneur.
Self-employment might include a manufacturing business, a sales operation, retail store, franchise or being a service provider.
Consider Your Own Strengths, Experience, Resources and Desires
Be sure to discuss with your counselor if you think your business idea makes sense in light of your entrepreneurial skills. Discuss the likelihood of long hours, slow return on investment, and economic or business cycles. Review personal preferences such as time of work, location, environment and customer interaction expectations. Also consider regulatory, legal and insurance issues in order to avoid or minimize possible liability situations.
Plan for a lot of research. A great deal of free information is available on the internet, at the library, in magazines and from trusted government sources . Be sure to devote enough time to check out these resources so you can make the best decisions possible.
The Need For A Business Plan
A business plan usually includes four parts: An executive summary, a detailed description of the business concept (including research and market analysis), a financial statement in conformity with general accounting principles, and a variety of supporting documentation. The business plan is a critical document that can open or close doors in the business world. You will need this plan to apply for loans. It is also necessary to submit a business plan to the MRC during the vocational rehabilitation process so fair and responsible decisions can be made about vocational services and supports.
Plan Ahead For Supports
What kind of supports and assistance are you likely to need to make your business a success? Are there any disability-related issues you should consider in planning or operating a business?
Be sure to discuss with your counselor natural supports that are available and also ones that may be engaged on your behalf. Another concern is follow-up services that may be necessary once the business is up and running.
Remember, you do not have to satisfy any sort of requirement that pertains to your disability in order to work for yourself. As an element of informed choice, any MRC consumer has the right to select self-employment or home-based employment as a vocational outcome/goal.
PROCESS TO ENTER THE MRC VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION PROGRAM AS A CONSUMER
|" SAFEGUARDS" AND RIGHTS FOR THE CONSUMER|
|Referral to the MRC-Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program.||In the event you do not want to be referred, you do not have to move to the next stage: Application.|
|Orientation to the MRC-Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program.||If you find the MRC VR Program is not for you at this time, you may withdraw your application.|
|Application, by you, to the MRC-Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program.||You choose to apply.|
|Interview with an MRC-VR Counselor to determine eligibility and gather information from you and answer your questions.||You can always request to speak to a Supervisor or the Area Director if you have an issue about which you feel your Counselor is not being helpful.|
|(If there is a question about your eligibility, you and your VR counselor can agree to extend the period for determining eligibility beyond sixty days.)||(Anywhere in the process, you can request advice and/or assistance from the Counselor's Supervisor or from the MRC Ombudsperson and/or from the Mass. Office on Disability's Client Assistance Program, if your VR Counselor cannot be of assistance.)|
|Development of your Individual Plan for Employment (IPE).||This is the point where you have an employment goal and have prepared a list of services you think you need to attain entry level, part-time or full-time employment. If you desire to have an advocate and/or family member with you at this point in the process...or at any point in the process...just let your VR Counselor know that fact.|
|(You will be required to use a "comparable benefit" if one is available for the service(s) you seek from the MRC, like a college scholarship, if available.)||(If you and your VR Counselor disagree on your goal or the services to be included in your IPE, you have the right to Appeal.)|
|Activation of your IPE.||You can negotiate to amend your IPE.|
|You become "ready for employment".||You have to agree to that fact.|
|You enter part or full-time employment.||You can still rely on your VR Counselor for advice, job seeking assistance and for additional services, if you need more services.|
|You become a Graduate of the MRC Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program!||You may receive "post employment services" or re-enter the Program to maintain or retain employment or to attain a new employment goal.|
MRC-VR AREA OFFICES
View the complete list of VR Area Offices and the towns and cities they usually serve. You may receive vocational rehabilitation services from any area office, even when the office you choose is not listed as the service provider for the town or city where you live.
updated August 5, 2009
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.