Eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation Services Fact Sheet

July 2012. Pub #F066.01

Who Determines Eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services?
The state agency designated by the Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA) to determine whether an individual is eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services in California is the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). 

How Do I Apply?

  1. Apply online  via the California Department of Rehabilitation website www.dor.ca.gov
  2. Mail the attached application form to your local Department of Rehabilitation office.
  3. Call your local Department of Rehabilitation office and request that an application be mailed to you.
  4. Visiting your local Department of Rehabilitation office in person and completing an application in person.
  5. Or giving the information needed to start the assessment process in another reasonable format.

Who Is Eligible For VR Services?
In order to be determined eligible to receive VR services, the individual must meet the eligibility criteria presented in §102(a) (1) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

  1. The first criteria of eligibility is that the person be an “individual with a disability” as defined in §7(20) (A) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; meaning a person who both:
    1. has a physical or mental impairment which for such individual constitutes or results in a substantial impediment to employment; and
    2. can benefit in terms of an employment outcome from vocational rehabilitation services.
  2. The second criterion is that the person requires vocational rehabilitation services to prepare for, secure, retain, or regain employment.

 

In order to determine whether an individual is eligible for vocational rehabilitation services, DOR must conduct an assessment, in the most INTEGRATED setting possible, consistent with the individual's needs and INFORMED CHOICE, and must be based only on the following requirements:

  1. A determination by a qualified person that the applicant has a physical or mental impairment;
  2. A determination by a qualified person that the applicant's physical or mental impairment causes or results in a substantial impediment to employment;
  3. A determination by a DOR Rehabilitation Counselor that the applicant requires DOR services to prepare for, secure, retain, or regain employment consistent with the applicant's unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice.

(Title 9 of the California Code of Regulations §7029.7)

What is a Physical or Mental Impairment?
“Physical or Mental Impairment” means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculo-skeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities (tit 9 CCR § 7021).

What Is “Clear and Convincing” Evidence?
Clear and convincing evidence is the legal standard DOR must prove to determine that an individual is incapable of benefiting from VR services (Rehab Act §102(a)(2)(A) and tit 9 CCR § 7004.6).

The 1992 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act required DOR to conduct an extended evaluation prior to making a decision that an individual is ineligible for VR services based on the severity of their disability.  However, the 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act dropped the requirement of an extended evaluation and now require DOR to conduct a trial work experience prior to making a determination of ineligibility.

What Is A Trial Work Experience (TWE)?
A trial work experience is a period in which DOR must use to “explore the individual’s abilities, capabilities and capacity to perform in a work situation”( Rehab Act §102(a)(2)(B) and tit 9 CCR § 7029.1(a) and (b)).  DOR may do this my providing an applicant with various job-placement assessments.  DOR must provide the individual the appropriate supports during the TWE, including on-the job support and/or training and necessary accommodations before DOR can determine whether an individual cannot benefit from VR services because of the severity of his/her disability.

The TWE shall be of sufficient variety and extend a sufficient period of time to determine the eligibility of the individual or determine the existence of clear and convincing evidence that the individual is incapable of benefiting from VR services in terms of an employment outcome due to the severity of the disability (Rehab Act §102(a)(2)(B) and tit 9 CCR §7029.1(c)).

Who is Presumed Eligible?

NOTE: These individuals may be found ineligible if DOR determines that the individual cannot benefit from VR services due to the severity of his/her disability.  Again, DOR would have to provide clear and convincing evidence to make such a determination, which is a very high standard to meet.

When Will I Know If I Am Eligible For VR Services?
The DOR will make a determination regarding eligibility within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days, after receiving the application for services.  This timeframe may be extended in order to conduct TWE or due to “exceptional and unforeseen circumstances beyond the control” of the DOR.  In this unique situation, the DOR and the individual will agree to a specific extension of time (Rehab Act §102(a)(6) and tit 9 CCR § 7060).

What If I Am Found Ineligible?
If you are found to be ineligible for VR services the DOR must:

  1. Make its determination only after meeting with you and/or your representative;
  2. Notify you in writing, or by other preferred and appropriate modes of communication, of the reason for their determination, your right to seek a remedy including procedures for administrative review and hearing, and provide you with information regarding the services available throughout the Client Assistance Program (CAP).
  3. Review your application within 12 months and thereafter upon your request.

(Rehab Act §102(a)(5) and tit 9 CCR § 7098)

If you have questions or problems regarding eligibility, you can contact the Client Assistance Program (CAP) at Disability Rights California at 1-800-776-5746.