Vocational Rehabilitation Experiences and Successes

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R3
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26 Oct 2010, 12:50 pm

Hi there, I'm new to this form and was just recently diagnosed with AS at the age of 28. Long story short, I grew up poor, was rather unsuccessful with schooling due to anxiety/depression issues and being unable to stay focused on subjects that were of no interest to me. I come from a divorced family and neither parent has been very supportive of me, so I've been on my own two feet bouncing between entry level minimum-wage jobs and terrible roommate situations for nearly a decade now. I've only lived alone once and was practically starving myself to make ends meet. I finally went to see a psychologist and he sent me to vocational rehabilitation with the goal of finding a full time career and finally being able to live independently without any troubles.

Well, It's been two months now and I've yet to make any progress with them due to unsigned paper work, counselors getting sick, conflicting work schedules, etc. etc... the longer it drags out, the more anxiety and feelings of hopelessness enters my mind. My main social problem is that I'm absolutely terrible in job interviews. I can barely make eye contact and my mind blanks out in fear and I can't speak clearly. I had panic attacks in college and gave up very quickly, not knowing that special education was an option since I wasn't diagnosed, so even my resume paints a picture of me being rather unstable. I've yet to get a solid answer from the voc rehab people stating that they will be informing companies of my difficulties prior to having me go through an interview, or if they plan on just throwing me into yet another low-paying customer service job. So far it's just been them talking over me and being vague about the whole process.

I would like to hear what are some of the experiences and success stories people have had with their services to keep myself positive.



Jaydog1212
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27 Oct 2010, 8:21 pm

My vocational rehabilitation experience was a joke. I attended many pointless appointments. They accomplished nothing, they really didn't have any insight on how to help me. They were totally clueless. I am surprised THEY were able to get a job as a "counselor". I'm sorry, that wasn't very positive.



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27 Oct 2010, 8:34 pm

My experience was bad too. They would often act like they were on the cusp of getting me a job, but then nothing. Completely useless!



Jaydog1212
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27 Oct 2010, 10:00 pm

SadAspy wrote:
My experience was bad too. They would often act like they were on the cusp of getting me a job, but then nothing. Completely useless!


Me too. They clam they have contacts that they really don't have.



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28 Oct 2010, 12:46 am

Jaydog1212 wrote:
SadAspy wrote:
My experience was bad too. They would often act like they were on the cusp of getting me a job, but then nothing. Completely useless!


Me too. They clam they have contacts that they really don't have.


So far my experience with voc rehab has been negative as well.

At the beginning of August I mailed in my application for services. They contacted me for my first appointment in September--which turned out just to be an orientation video, at the end of which they handed me back the application I had sent in and told me to turn it in again (!) at my first counselling appointment.

My first counselling appointment was scheduled for October 6th (! !), and consisted of my assigned counselor reviewing the application they'd already been given, and informing me that he would let me know IF I am eligible for services, by the middle of November(! !! !). Really there was no reason for me to have even been present for that meeting.

All this wasted time sucks yeah. But what really scares me is that I had to explain to this counselor what an "autism spectrum disorder" is. So now I know that my fate is in the hands of someone who doesn't have the slightest competency to understand how my condition affects my ability to work. I can predict that all voc rehab is going to do for me, if anything, is stick me right back into the same kind of job I just had to leave--and they're going to take another two months to get me that job.

It makes me regret that I have ever payed taxes that fund this system, honestly.


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R3
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28 Oct 2010, 1:47 am

My experience has been the following so far:

Aug 17th: Attended orientation that goes over services, get assigned a voc rehab counselor.

Aug 24th: Fill out paper work with voc rehab counselor, discuss the barriers of my condition

Aug 31th: Get called to come back in to sign "release" paperwork which voc rehab counselor forgot so she can can contact my shrink.

Oct 13th: Numerous ignored phone messages and emails pass by, counselor calls me in only to make a future appointment with a "autism specialist" plus an "employment specialist." This could have been handled via phone, rather than two hours of my day getting to and from there by bus.

Oct 15th: "Autism specialist" doesn't call back to confirm, appointment rescheduled.

Oct. 26th: Voc rehab counselor calls in sick. Still waiting to hear back on next availability.

So basically right now I'm at the mercy of not one, but three different counselors' schedules, plus my own availability. Might as well just quit my current job and pitch a tent in front of their offices since they seem to think I clearly have all the time in the world.



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29 Oct 2010, 1:02 am

I would just suggest not wasting your time with them. I gave up on mine after just a month. Now some people say would say that was brash, but I was so sick of them acting like they had a lead and then....nothing. Part of my condition is that I can't handle false hope.



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03 Nov 2010, 7:55 am

I have actually had extreme success with VocRehab. I'm not just going straight into a job, they're paying for my school; a 4 year degree. I'm in Colorado, by the way.

i have an extremely kind case manager, and when I had to quit a private institution which they had paid about $7,000 for, they let me go to public schools (community college, then a 4-year uni).

I got in when I was 19, and now I'm 23 with 4 years of school to go. Your experience can depend a great deal on yourself, and your ability not to give up when road blocks come.

"Life is like a river; it bends, twists, it changes, but it still keeps going". Life doesn't turn out how we expect it, but we can't just "quit" life!


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04 Nov 2010, 11:06 pm

I found that to be a joke, as they consider even being underemployed and hardly working at all to be a "success" and the agency they had me working with is changing their employment system, so it's hard to get a hold of anyone right now. It also takes them a long time to open a case to begin with, let alone trying to convince them that I can't live on working only 3 hours a week if I even get scheduled. If I didn't have SSI after winning the appeal after the routine denial, I would be totally screwed financially. Ideally, I would love to have a job that paid too much for me to get the SSI, but the voc rehab doesn't really like disabled people to get off SSI.


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07 Nov 2010, 8:24 pm

I've worked with DVR. While their "employment specialists" weren't terribly useful in actually finding a job (I got my current job on my own), they did help with things like books needed to get job skills, and they would have even paid (some or all) for classes if the courses were part of a degree plan (too bad I already had a degree).



Sirius
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14 Nov 2010, 2:01 am

Well R3, I have had somewhat positive experiences with my vocational rehabilitation department. My Voc Rehab is with the State of California and I was lucky enough not to be on a waiting list because I hear that many states have tight budgeting for social services, even in good times.

One avenue you might want to consider is Schedule A (non-competitive employment) with the Federal Government. Living in Fresno, one good thing is that there is an I.R.S. processing center for tax returns for the West Coast region and I was just recently at an application and fingerprint session there last month.

The State of California also has something called the LEAP program ( Limited Exam Appointment Program) for people with disabilities. I was set to be hired as an Office Assistant with the Educational Development Department starting out about $2,100 a month with benefits but the state hiring freeze is keeping me at bay in the mean time.

So either I work for the State or the Federal Government, it is just a matter of time when their meticulous process kicks in.

But do check out Schedule A job opportunities at the Federal employment site of usajobs.gov



R3
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06 Dec 2010, 5:24 pm

Sirius wrote:
Well R3, I have had somewhat positive experiences with my vocational rehabilitation department. My Voc Rehab is with the State of California and I was lucky enough not to be on a waiting list because I hear that many states have tight budgeting for social services, even in good times.

One avenue you might want to consider is Schedule A (non-competitive employment) with the Federal Government. Living in Fresno, one good thing is that there is an I.R.S. processing center for tax returns for the West Coast region and I was just recently at an application and fingerprint session there last month.

The State of California also has something called the LEAP program ( Limited Exam Appointment Program) for people with disabilities. I was set to be hired as an Office Assistant with the Educational Development Department starting out about $2,100 a month with benefits but the state hiring freeze is keeping me at bay in the mean time.

So either I work for the State or the Federal Government, it is just a matter of time when their meticulous process kicks in.

But do check out Schedule A job opportunities at the Federal employment site of usajobs.gov


My job counselor had mentioned something about Schedule A, but it's one of the many things she's been vague about which should have been discussed with me the moment she was assigned. It actually took signing a release form for my "Autism specialist" to discuss things with the "job specialist," then suddenly all these other options came into the picture. Prior to that, all the job specialist did was have me pick up an application for a stocking position at Office Max, which without a doubt would have started me off making next to minimum wage in the same kind of retail environment I'm trying to get out of. I'm under the assumption that the quicker I land any kind of job, the quicker they write me off as "case closed" and get their money. Now there's talk about having the state pay for me to go to college for job skills training, but that still doesn't solve the current issue of needing to pay rent and bills to maintain a roof over my head. I'm lucky enough to be sharing an apartment with a close friend who's been very understanding through all this and all the meltdowns and anxiety it's been causing me.

But thanks for this info, I'm gonna keep drilling them about Schedule A and the LEAP program during our next meeting.



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06 Dec 2010, 6:51 pm

thanks all for your experiences, i also appreciate it.

i've been unemployed for 3 months, and may have to apply for welfare. ONE of the items they mention on it is you have to attend vocational rehab. hearing the negatives has made me wonder if it's really worth it. but it does bring up a question: since my AS is not "officially" diagnosed, should i even bother mentioning it? the bipolar and agoraphobia/panic disorder are, so i probably will on those.

and do you have any suggestions going in to it, like an "if i had to start with voc rehab all over again i'd..."

thanks.


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14 Dec 2010, 3:50 pm

Voc rehab has been the story of my life for over 3 years! I have moved between 3 states to find a counselor who knew the hell what she was doing. Georgia, where I stayed for almost a year, was a NIGHTMARE. The counselor there was totally contemptuous. Apparently there they handle parolees in same system! The job placement team I got eased into was a pair of bumpkins. One was actually the counselor's dad! The anti-intellectualism was rampant. The other bumpkin began to leave the room every time I would come in out of ignorant disgust. This when all they were doing was reading a weekly job list that was emailed to them. Inventory or medical filing when I have 6 years from respected national universities? Dumbing down the job target doesn't mean that the experience there won't be even more worse! In fact, I know from working in retail growing up that differences are less tolerated. Telling them that changed nothing.

I 'moved back' to my home state where my dad still lives and drove several hours for the 30-minute meetings. After a few months of typical administrative delays, I was assigned for the first time in 2 years to an independent job placement agency. There was a home visit but the lady admittedly had no clue about anything related to my field, even in government. I waited a month to get a phone call suggesting a couple job listings she found online! Once she found out I was visiting my mom in Texas, that was it! The rumors started! I lived in Texas, according to someone who couldn't do her job. Over a month of wrangling ensued with my counselor to get a disability preference letter for a federal job listing posted only once a year. By the time I got the letter, the listing expired. I faced the choice of ending my second visit to Texas at great expense for one thirty minute meeting about job listings that didn't exist or move to Texas.

Texas had by far the longest delays however. Those five months included a vocational assessment that was scheduled for 2 months later; waiting for those results to be digested (despite being obvious and confirmatory); and a few weeks of discovering someone had forgotten to request my last psych eval, requesting it officially from Georgia, and then trying through multiple attempts for Georgia to mail it. The end result has been good here nevertheless. I was immediately assigned to another job-placement agency who just happens to have an amazing cutey who knows what I'm talking about. I got my first interview in 3 years! The only issues now are that I'm pretty much insolvent and the cutey isn't disclosing my disabilities (Asp+SCT) when she contacts the employers. That's sort of the point, on non-federal applications, of me having rehab. But it's worked out so far, with me disclosing via questionnaire and her helping me word it palatably.



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12 Jul 2014, 5:35 pm

I've heard that VRS is good at helping younger ASD people, especially before they graduate from High School [HS]. After that, it is pretty much a "Game" between VRS, and employers, at getting ASD people into "Living Wage" jobs. Several government reports define a "Living Wage" job as one that pays at least $15/hour The number of those jobs seems to be getting smaller all the time, while the number of ASD people appears to be growing. Many ASD people end up depending upon government benefits just to live, because the jobs we're getting simply don't pay enough. Many parents are concerned about what will happen once their ASD children graduate from HS.

With the increasing number of people with ASD, there seems to be more of an effort to help them get the necessary training in order for them to become Productive, Contributing, members of society. However, there needs to be some sort of effort to increase the number of jobs for these ASD people. The types of jobs that would be good for ASD people are the very ones that have been sent to other countries, like: Mexico, China, India, etc. We need to bring those jobs back to the United States!

Asperger's Syndrome [AS] didn't become part of the DSM-IV until 1994. Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] didn't become part of the DSM-V until 2013. ASD is considered to be a "Developmental Disability". The brain of an AS person is "Wired" differently than the brain of an NT person. To put it "Minnesota Nicely", people with ASD are "Differently Abled" than people who are NT.

Throughout my K-12 education years, back in the 1970's, I knew that I was "Different". My parents had me see Psychologists, and Psychiatrists, about my "Weirdness", but they couldn't find anything wrong with me. I had seizures, and depression, that I now know were COMORBID [Existing With] conditions, in addition to my being on the ASD spectrum. However, I never got any help from Special Education, or VRS, when I was younger, because I wasn't diagnosed as having a problem. I still don't understand just HOW my High School counselor didn't notice that I was "Different", and in need of help. Too late now.

I wasn't diagnosed with ASD until I was 44. By that time, I had completed 2 college degrees -- Chemistry and Computer Science. I also completed a Master's degree in Software Development. During all this time, I had a total of about 40 jobs, which were of all sorts: Part-Time, Full-Time, Temporary / Seasonal, Permanent, Days, Nights, Weekends, etc. Never had a job that I actually "Liked", and always had troubles of one sort or another. Again, all of this was BEFORE my AS diagnosis. :cry:

Some of my problems: I was TOO SLOW; I talked TOO MUCH, or I talked TOO LITTLE; I always looked TIRED, and was EXHAUSTED; I always had trouble GETTING ALONG with co-workers and bosses; I once helped a UNION employee, when my job was strictly NON-UNION; I openly objected to things that I didn't like: DANGEROUS tasks, ON-CALL work hours, Having to eat my lunch in what I considered to be a "Strange", "Unfamiliar", and "Dangerous", work place; Driving accidents because of work schedules that were TOO LONG; Having to be TOLD when to SHUT UP, and not talk to my bosses' supervisors about my NOT being treated "Fairly" in: Job Promotions, Work Reprimands, etc.

I was very "Intelligent", and wanted a job where I could put my Education, and Brain, to use. However, I wasn't good at that type of work, and often seemed to always be assigned "Menial Labor" jobs like: Sorting & Delivering mail, Washing Science Lab Glassware, Documentation / Filing, etc. Actually, many of my job problems are often illustrated on the TV show "The Big Bang Theory", like when Sheldon didn't want to wash the Glassware in Amy's Laboratory, and was "Kicked Out" for arguing with her. Insubordination?

Does this sound like my AS speaking out? Well, the VRS counselor didn't seem to care, or know what to do with me. His response was:

"You have the necessary EDUCATION, and work EXPERIENCE. So, what's keeping you from finding, and keeping, a job?" :?

I almost had a "Meltdown" in the VRS counselor's office! Shouldn't a VRS counselor UNDERSTAND that my inability to keep a job is a problem for many people with ASD? :x

Apparently, VRS is rather "Unfamiliar" with ASD, and just what "Job Supports" ASD people actually need. But, I would think that a person hired for the position of "Vocational Counselor" would understand ASD, or at least be open to learning, without making their clients feel like "Guinea Pigs". That is how I felt every single time that I talked to my VRS counselor. Eventually, I came to just hate having to see them again for an update on my case.

The VRS counselor didn't tell me this, but if you already have a 4-year college degree, you are pretty much "Ineligible" for any more schooling towards a college degree. Even for a college degree in a "New", or "Different", field. Same goes for a Master's degree. So, I was SOL [Sorry, Out-of-Luck] as far as getting any more college education. Only simple On-Line courses, Workforce Center classes, and Rehabilitation Center training. I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know. I got the idea that my resume needed to be "Dumbed Down-and-Down" in order to make it look like I was a "Match" for the jobs that my VRS counselor found for me. Dishonesty about my credentials?

The jobs that my VRS counselor told me that I was good at would be Office Support work, such as: Data Entry, Clerk, or Tax Preparer. My college education "Qualified" me for ONLY those jobs? The VRS counselor laughed, and said that he couldn't do much about my being "Over Qualified" for jobs. So, I reluctantly agreed to some Re-Training. I learned the Microsoft Office applications: WORD, EXCEL, ACCESS, and PowerPoint, much of which I already knew. This was only the beginning of my frustrations with VRS.

My VRS counselor told me that his office was already "Too Busy" helping other VRS clients search for jobs, so my case was "Out Sourced" to a Non-Profit that helps disabled people. My job placement counselor was helpful, UNTIL, I thought that he "Stabbed Me In The Back" -- an AS hyper-sensistivity reaction? -- with this comment:

"I'm concerned that you haven't found a job yet. You've been looking for 4 months, and it normally takes only 3 months, for someone to find a new job."

That was the end of my FIRST mis-adventure with VRS. NO job. Only LOTS of anger, and frustration. I doubt that any of the places that I had applied for a job would even consider hiring ME, a former "Computer Programmer", for a "Data Entry", or "Clerical", job. Would you hire me if you were an employer? Probably not.

My SECOND attempt with VRS came after I found a driving job on my own, and lost that one too. One more job added to my endless list. I asked about getting a job with the State of Minnesota, but my next VRS counselor told me that those types of jobs don't work out very well. Couldn't I at least TRY applying, and maybe getting an interview?

My guess is that VRS doesn't like having their clients work for the government, and "Private Employers" -- Target, Walmart, Best Buy, McDonalds, Home Depot, Macy's, etc. -- are the preferred places for employing VRS clients. Some people do good at those employers, so I'm not criticizing them, but I wanted to find a "Professional" type of job: IT, Science Laboratory, etc. VRS didn't seem to help with that goal at all.

Sometime I wonder if VRS doesn't have some sort of "Contract" with employers to provide them with cheap labor: VRS clients.

I couldn't find a job as a medical receptionist, but I did get approved for SSDI benefits. My VRS counselor told me that I could get a job and earn up to $1000 a month FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE under the Ticket To Work [TTW] program. Sounded good to me. It was agreed that I would look for a job as a "Warehouse Laborer". However, the thought that I went to college, and graduate school, just to work in a warehouse, was very depressing to me.

My Dad told me that he needed to talk to the VRS counselor. IMMEDIATELY, too. I could sense that something was wrong here. My Dad had to explain to the VRS counselor that the TTW program was NOT a program to get SSDI recipients working, and collecting benefits, at the same time. Instead, the TTW program was supposed to get people OFF the SSDI rolls, and into paying jobs where they could become Self-Sufficient.

According to my Dad, the only problem was that disabled people, including those with ASD, are rarely able to earn enough money to get off SSDI. The TTW program is great for people who are recovering from injuries, or illness. But for ASD, there will be no such improvement. At least not for ME, at the age of 50.

I'm not sure if my VRS counselor just didn't understand things, like how the TTW program works, or if he thought that I was capable of working like an NT [Neurotypical] person. I'll never know. Shortly after the meeting between my Dad, and my VRS counselor, VRS sent me a letter that clearly stated that VRS COULDN'T HELP ME. What? I thought that that was exactly what VRS is supposed to be doing.

So, I left VRS even more upset than ever before. My Dad ordered me to NEVER contact VRS again, unless he is present. My parents told me that they could not afford to support me anymore, and SSDI was a "Necessity" at age 50. Especially, the Medicare medical benefits. I guess that you could say that I was "Forced" into a Jobless, Early, Retirement. Not because I "Wanted To", but because I just got to the point where I couldn't get a job, or be supported by my parents any longer. :cry:

Today, I'm collecting SSDI, and I occasionally see VRS people, like at the annual Minnesota Autism Conference. They always ask me IF I'm working, YET. My response: Show me the job, and I'll apply. Funny! :roll:

I told one VRS counselor that I would like to start my own business, where I wouldn't have to deal with a boss hovering over me. I've heard that many disabled people prefer to work for themselves. However, VRS seems to have the attitude that getting a client into a "Real", Corporate, Job -- Target, Walmart, McDonalds, Home Depot, Best Buy, Macy's, etc. -- is the preferred route. Not sure why this is. Those jobs barely pay enough to live on, and offer few chances for advancement. I have tried working in Retail, and I absolutely HATED it ! !! :x

In conclusion, I must say that I look back on my dealings with VRS as a complete waste of my time, and taxpayer's money. :cry:

It is costing the government A LOT more for me to be on SSDI, and Medicare, than if VRS had simply helped me back when I was graduating from High School. Too late now. That's just how "The Ball Bounces", or "The Cookie Crumbles", in the "Real" world. :wink: