OPA: Your Rights to Vocational Rehabilitation

P&A Publications

{Woman typing}   "Your Rights to Vocational Rehabilitation"
a P&A Self-Help Publication

This booklet attempts to explain your rights under state and/or federal law and is not intended to offer substantive legal advice which can only be provided by an attorney.

 

Q.   Is your disability an obstacle to getting or keeping a job?

 

If so, you may want to consider calling your local BRS or BESB office to request services and the assignment of a counselor. (Telephone numbers and addresses for BRS and BESB are listed at the end of this guide.)  You can call and request a specific counselor or you can call and make an appointment for an intake.

The following steps will help you understand the vocational rehabilitation system as you and your counselor begin the process of finding the right training, education and employment for you.

 

Q.   How do I apply?

 

Contact your local BRS or BESB office for an intake appointment.  At your first interview or orientation, an application will be filled out with a BRS or BESB counselor.  The counselor will ask you for some medical and personal information, such as where you have worked in the past and the nature of your disability.

To become eligible for BRS services, two things are needed:

 

·   You must have a physical, mental or visual disability, except legal blindness, which results in a substantial barrier to employment.

·    You require vocational rehabilitation and services to prepare for, find, and keep employment.

 

To be eligible for BESB services, the following criteria must be met:

·        Central visual acuity which does not exceed 20/200 in the better eye with correcting  lenses; or

·        Limitation in the field of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual fields subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees

·       You require vocational rehabilitation and services to prepare for, find, and keep employment.

If necessary, BESB will provide you with a visual examination to determine the extent of your visual impairment.

 

Q.   Am I eligible?

After all of your existing medical, vocational, and personal data has been reviewed, your counselor will determine if you are eligible for BRS or BESB services. If necessary to determine the nature or severity of your disability, further evaluations and/or testing might be arranged for you. Payment for these evaluations is usually covered by BRS or BESB.

Eligibility depends on:

·       the extent and nature of your physical or mental disability, and

·       whether BRS or BESB rehabilitation services are necessary for you to achieve your vocational objective.

By federal law, the eligibility determination process can not take more than 60 days unless you agree in writing to additional time. You can speed this process up by either contacting your doctor(s) directly to mail your records, or obtaining your records and delivering them to BRS or BESB.

 

If, at the end of the process, you are considered not eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services, your counselor must explain the reasons in writing. If you feel this decision is incorrect, you can request an Informal Review to discuss the issues further. P&A's Client Assistance Program (CAP) staff may be able to assist you in resolving this prior to an Informal Review.  (Your right to appeal is explained in the “Right to Appeal” section of this booklet.)

After you are found eligible, additional evaluations/ testing may be necessary to determine an appropriate vocational goal.

Once these are completed, you and your counselor will develop an IPE.  (See Glossary.) 

This plan must:

 

·        be jointly developed, agreed upon and signed by you (or a designated representative) and the vocational rehabilitation counselor.

 

·        be designed to achieve your employment objectives, both long and short term, consistent with your unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities and capabilities.

 

·        include an assessment of career interests.

 

·        include a statement by you (or a designated representative) describing how you were informed about and involved in choosing among alternative goals, objectives, services, and agencies providing such services.

 

·        state what your choice is for an employment goal and your choice for training and/or education to achieve that goal.

 

·        include your rights and responsibilities as a client.

 

Other items included in the IPE should be projected dates of completion, duration of each service, technology services, on-the-job and related personal assistance services, post employment services assessment and evaluation procedures.  It also must specify what BRS or BESB is willing to pay for and the dollar amount of the contribution.

The IPE must be signed and dated by you and reflect your views. It is also signed by your counselor and your counselor's supervisor. It is not official until approved and signed by the supervisor. You will be given a copy and should keep it for your own file. If you don't understand your IPE, or disagree with it, don't sign it until you have reviewed it again with your counselor or spoken with someone at the Client Assistance Program or anyone else you trust and feel can guide you.

 

Q.   What BRS or BESB services are available?

 

Vocational rehabilitation services include any goods and services necessary to render an individual with a disability employable or to maintain your current employment including but not limited to the following:

·       College, vocational or technical education.

·       Continuing support services such as transportation, interpreters, or job coaches after you begin a job (if necessary to keep your job). There are limitations to these services. Please discuss it with your counselor.

·       Counseling and guidance.

·       Evaluation to determine the appropriate vocational or training program, or vocational objective.

·       Assistance in finding a job.

·       Independent life skills training.

·       Note takers or interpreters.

·       Readers, tutors, therapists, child care and other support services if necessary to participate in a training program.

·       Rehabilitation engineering and adaptive technology.

·       Services to your family in order to facilitate your rehabilitation.

·       Limited subsistence living expenses such as food, shelter and clothing when necessary in order to participate in training.

·       Telecommunications and technological aids.

·       Coordinating and, if necessary, funding transportation to and from a training program or other services outlined in your IPE.

·       Tools, equipment and supplies necessary for you to participate in a training program or to begin your job.

·       Any other goods or services which can be reasonably expected to increase your employability potential.

You are not entitled to all of these services. BRS and BESB will provide only the services that you require for your rehabilitation which will help you become employable.

 

Q.   How can I make the vocational rehabilitation system work for me?

 

·       Keep all your appointments or inform your counselor if you need to cancel.

·       Be on time for meetings.

·       Participate in meetings.

 

·       Advocate for your needs during the development of your IPE and throughout the rehabilitation process.

·       Keep copies of any paperwork you send or receive from BRS.

·       Find out when is the best time to reach your counselor and call then. Leave your name and telephone number if your counselor is unavailable.

·        Keep a list of telephone calls to BRS including writing down the dates, times and issues discussed.

·        Ask your counselor questions at any point in the process, especially when anything is not clear to you.

·        Ahead of time, make a list of the issues/concerns you wish to discuss during any meeting you have with your counselor.

·        Effective vocational rehabilitation begins with your working relationship with your counselor. If during the rehabilitation process you feel you cannot establish an effective working relationship with your counselor, you have the right to request a change of counselor. This is done through a written or taped request to the District Director.

·        Ask for any decisions to be in writing.

·        Ask for a copy of any policies the agency is using to deny a request.

·        Inform your counselor if an interpreter is needed, if you have a reading problem or any other special need that makes it difficult for you to participate in meetings or understand what's happening.

·        Decisions or commitments about your rehabilitation plan should not be made without discussing them first with your counselor or the counselor's supervisor if the counselor is unavailable.

·        It would be helpful to start your own file folder for all the paperwork. This will assist you in monitoring the timely delivery of services.

 

Q.   What are my rights?

     You are entitled to:

·        Fair and equal treatment regardless of your disability. If you have a physical or mental disability that limits or keeps you from finding a job, you may be eligible for rehabilitation services.

·        Planning: When you become eligible for BRS or BESB services, you have a right to be involved in planning the services that will assist you in reaching your goal. This is when active participation is important.

·        Confidentiality: All information in your BRS/BESB record must be maintained in complete confidentiality and not released to any party without your written permission. Medical, psychological or other information which BRS or BESB believes will be harmful to the client or applicant may not be released directly to the client or applicant but must be provided through the individual's designated representative or through a physician or psychologist. There are state laws that govern the release of information directly to you or to others. For more information, contact P&A's Client Assistance Program.

·        Review of Your File: BRS and BESB will collect medical, psychological and other reports to assist in developing your vocational goals and helping you to select the right training and/or job. Upon written request, you, your parent or guardian, or representative may review your file or have the information released to another party.

There are state laws that govern the availability of this information. For more information, please contact the Client Assistance Program at the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.

·        Appropriate and Timely Delivery of Services: If you disagree with any decision made by BRS or BESB, such as the selection of a training program, the purchase of services and/or equipment, or the amount of your financial support allocation, you can and should appeal the decision.

·        Client Assistance Program (CAP): If you and your BRS or BESB counselor cannot reach a mutual agreement, call CAP for assistance. You have the right to call CAP at any point in the vocational rehabilitation process.

 

Q.    What is the appeal process?

 You and your counselor should be able to agree on your vocational goal and what services BRS and BESB will provide. However, should problems occur which cannot be worked out by talking with your counselor, you have a right to appeal by following the steps listed below.

Step 1 - Meet With Your Counselor's Supervisor - If you and your counselor cannot reach an agreement that meets your expectations, make an appointment to meet with your counselor's supervisor. If you are still not satisfied, go on to Step 2.

Step 2 - (Optional) - Request an Informal Review - You have the option to write a letter to the District Director of the regional BRS office to request a review of your case. In your letter, explain your concerns and what you would like to see accomplished. If you have difficulties putting this in writing, contact the Client Assistance Program. The District Director will meet with

you, and anyone you wish to have present, to discuss your concerns. The informal review must take place in a timely manner. The District Director will send his/her written decision to you.  If you are still not satisfied, you may go to Step 3.

Step 3 - Request a Fair Hearing - You must write a letter to the Director of BRS or BESB to request a fair hearing. In your letter, explain your concerns and propose a solution.  If you have difficulties putting this in writing, contact the Client Assistance Program. A fair hearing is a formal process, and we recommend obtaining legal representation to assist in presenting your case. A fair hearing must be held within 45 calendar days of the receipt of the request. This can be waived by you if you and your representative need more time to prepare. The hearing is conducted by an Impartial Hearing Officer, who does not work for either BRS or BESB. A decision is issued by the hearing officer and is subject to approval by the Director of BRS or BESB. You can appeal this decision also. You should seek advice from a legal representative if you decide to appeal a fair hearing decision.

You may, if dissatisfied, bypass Step 2, and go directly to a Fair Hearing. It is not required by federal law to go to an informal review first. Before making this decision, you may wish to consult with the Client Assistance Program, an attorney, or other advocacy programs.

 

Q.   When does my case close?

After you begin work, your BRS or BESB counselor will remain in contact with you and the employer for at least sixty days to make sure that your job placement is working well for you and that additional services are not needed.  When a successful work period of 90 days has been accomplished, your counselor will send you a letter about closing your case. If you agree to close your case,

you will be informed by letter of your case closure.  Your case can remain open for a longer period of time if additional services or supports are needed; however, you must request that it remain open. You may receive additional support at any time after your case is closed if it is needed in order for you to keep your job. It is not always necessary to re-open your case and go through the eligibility determination process again should you need services in the future. BRS and BESB call this Post Employment Service and it allows you to receive services that you may need to maintain employment without completely reopening your case.  There are specific conditions for this type of service and not everyone is eligible.

You may also return to BRS or BESB at any time if your job situation changes and you need retraining, or if you need assistance in obtaining a different job. 

 

Q.   How can the Client Assistance Program help me?

The Client Assistance Program (CAP) is an independent advocacy program to assist individuals in working with BESB and BRS. It assists people with disabilities to receive the appropriate rehabilitation services from either BRS or BESB, or an independent living center. CAP services are free and available to you. CAP will help you by:

·        Explaining how the rehabilitation system works, and what it can and cannot do for you.

·        Answering any questions you may have about the rehabilitation system.

·        Explaining your rights and responsibilities.

·        Teaching you to become an advocate for yourself.

·        Advocating on your behalf if you encounter problems with the system.

·        Increasing communication between you and your counselor.

·        Assisting in preparations and, if appropriate, provide for adequate representation in the appeals process or hearing.

The Client Assistance Program actively practices mediation as a means of conflict resolution. Mediation is a way of effectively assisting clients of the rehabilitation system in getting appropriate services without alienating rehabilitation professionals. Mediation can avoid the development of a win-lose situation and tends to support the underlying relationship between the client and counselor. If mediation fails, CAP will pursue administrative and legal remedies on behalf of the client when appropriate.  CAP can be reached at:

 

Office of Protection and Advocacy

for Persons with Disabilities

Client Assistance Program

60B Weston Street - Hartford, CT 06120-1551

(860) 297-4300 (Voice);  (860) 297-4380 (TTY)

1-800-842-7303 (Voice and TTY; toll-free in CT)

 

Q.   What other services are available to me?

There is a statewide network of five independent living centers that offer advocacy, information, referral, and other support services that will enable you to maximize your ability to live independently.  Each center varies slightly in how it operates and the services it offers.  These centers receive both state and federal funding to operate.  The Centers are:

Disability Resource Center of Fairfield County

80 Ferry Boulevard, Stratford, CT 06615

(203) 378-6977 and (Voice);  (203) 378-3248 (TTY)

Fax: (203) 375-2748

Independence Unlimited

151 Park Avenue, Hartford, CT 06110

(860) 523-5021 (Voice); (860) 523-5603 (TTY/fax)

Independence Northwest

1183 New Haven Road, Naugatuck, CT 06770

(203) 729-3299 (Voice); (203) 729-1281 (TTY)

Fax: (203) 729-2839

Center for Disability Rights

764A Campbell Avenue, West Haven, CT 06516

(203) 934-7077 (Voice); (203) 934-7079 (TTY)

Fax: (203) 934-7078

Disability Network of Eastern Connecticut

238 West Town Street, Norwich, CT 06360

(860) 823-1898 (Voice); (860) 823-3675 (TTY)

Fax: (860) 886-2316

 

Q.   Where are the BRS Regional Offices?

To become involved with BRS call the regional office that serves your area:

Hartford Area Bureau of Rehabilitation Services

3580 Main Street - Hartford, CT 06120

Phone: (860) 723-1400 (Voice)

TTY: (860) 723-1405 and (860) 723-1408

Fax: (860) 566-4766

New Haven Area Bureau of Rehabilitation Services

414 Chapel Street, Suite 301 - New Haven, CT 06511

Phone: (203) 974-3000 (Voice)

TTY: (203) 974-3013 and (203) 974-3009

Fax: (203) 789-7850

Norwich Area Bureau of Rehabilitation Services c/o Future Works

113 Salem Turnpike, North Building, Suite 200

Norwich, CT 06360

Phone: (860) 859-5720 (Voice/TTY)

Fax: (860) 859-5733

Waterbury Area  Bureau of Rehabilitation Services

249 Thomaston Avenue - Waterbury, CT 06702

Phone: (203) 578-4550 (Voice/TTY)

Fax: (203) 578-4590

Bridgeport Area Bureau of Rehabilitation Services

1057 Broad Street - Bridgeport, CT 06604

Phone: (203) 551-5500 (Voice/TTY)

Fax: (203) 579-6903

You may call BRS Central Office for the number of your local BRS office if you are unsure of the region in which you live.

 

Central Office Department of Social Services/BRS

25 Sigourney Street, 11th floor

Hartford, CT 06106

Phone: (860) 424-4844 (Voice)

TTY: (860) 424-4839

BRS Hotline - toll-free 1-(800) 537-2549 (Voice/TTY)

Fax: (860) 424-4850

 

Q.   Where is the BESB Office?

To become involved with BESB, call the main office and you will be assigned a counselor.

 

Board of Education and Services for the Blind

184 Windsor Avenue - Windsor, CT 06095

Phone: (860) 602-4000 (Voice/TTY)

Toll-free 1-800-842-4510 (Voice/TTY)

 

GLOSSARY

 

BRS - The Bureau of Rehabilitation Services is a state agency providing services to assist an eligible person with a disability in preparing for, finding, and keeping a job.

 

BESB - The Board of Education and Services for the Blind is a state agency providing services to assist an eligible person who is legally blind in preparing for, finding, and keeping a job.

 

Independent living center - A program for persons with disabilities, designed to empower them to be independent, through education and training.

 

CAP - The Client Assistance Program is a unit of the State Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. CAP provides information, referral, mediation and advocacy services to people who are applying for or who are eligible for services from the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS), the Board of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB), or an independent living center.

 

Disability - A physical or mental limitation/ impairment that interferes with finding or keeping a job.

 

Client - An individual with a disability who has applied for or receives services from BRS, BESB, or independent living centers.

 

Counselor - An employee of BRS or BESB who will work with you to achieve your rehabilitation goals. The counselor is also responsible for arranging the services that you will receive.

 

IPE - Individual Plan for Employment.  A written plan the client and counselor prepare together which outlines the rehabilitation services necessary to assist in getting, finding, or keeping a job.

 

ABOUT OUR OFFICE

The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) was established in 1977 to promote and safeguard the rights of adults and children with disabilities. Part of a nationwide network of protection and advocacy systems, P&A operates under both state and federal mandates to:

    provide information and referral about rights, resources, assistive technology and strategies to resolve specific problems;

    defend the civil rights of people with disabilities in vulnerable circumstances by conducting investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect, including the inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion;

    pursue legal action and advocacy on behalf of people whose fundamental civil and human rights are in jeopardy;

    assist community-based advocacy groups through consultations on organizational development, training activities, and support for local organizing initiatives;

    provide education regarding types of assistive technology and information on how to acquire it; and, more generally, about disability rights and advocacy strategies; and,

    conduct systems advocacy activities including legal challenges, public education and legislative advocacy to challenge discriminatory conditions, encourage positive reform, and promote recognition of the rights and contributions of people with disabilities.


Each of these activities reflects a basic principle that guides the efforts at P&A: people with disabilities are entitled to the same opportunities as people without disabilities.

JAMES D. McGAUGHEY, Executive Director

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Content Last Modified on 1/13/2016 11:09:19 AM