Vocational Rehabilitation Transition Outcomes: A Look at One State's Evidence

By Jun, Song; Osmanir, Kimberly et al. | The Journal of Rehabilitation, April-June 2015 | Go to article overview

Vocational Rehabilitation Transition Outcomes: A Look at One State's Evidence


Jun, Song, Osmanir, Kimberly, Kortering, Larry, Zhang, Dalun, The Journal of Rehabilitation


Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) has an over eighty-year history of providing services to adults with disabilities as they enter and prepare for the workplace (U.S. Department of Education [US DOE], Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services [OSERS], 2006). As a service provider, VR helps adults become employable, secure or maintain employment, and attain promotions in suitable and productive careers through an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). More specifically, in 2002 more than 1.4 million adults received services with over 90% meeting VR's definition of significant disability (US DOE, OSERS, 2006). The actual federal dollar amount for VR funding was at 2.5 billion in 2002 (US DOE, OSERS, 2006) and 2.8 billion in 2009 (Stapleton, Honecutt, & Schlechter, 2010). The term significant disability refers to clients whose disability reflects the following three criteria: a severe physical or mental impairment that seriously limits one or more functional capacities (e.g., mobility, communication, self- care, self-direction, interpersonal skills, work tolerance, or work skills) in terms of an employment outcome; their VR needs can be expected to require multiple services over an extended period of time; and they have one or more physical or mental disabilities that cause comparable substantial functional limitation (Hager, 2004).

Historically, VR has served an adult population with a focus on providing employment-related services that lead to positive employment outcomes. In terms of outcomes, "in general the employment rate of people receiving VR services are consistently found to be around 60%" (Dutta, Gervey, Chan, Chou, & Ditchman, 2008, p. 327). Nationally in 2005, based on a stratified random sample of 15,000 clients, the success rate (status 26 closures) varied by VR's unique grouping of disabilities from a high of 75% for those with sensory or communicative disabilities to 56% and 55% for those with physical impairments and mental impairments, respectively. The latter grouping includes specific learning disabilities (SLD), serious behavior or emotional disabilities (SED) and intellectual disabilities (ID) (Dutta, et. al., 2008) or those primary disabilities resembling a large majority of former students with Individualized Educational Programs (IEP). In terms of potentially effective services for the latter group, job placement, on the job support and maintenance were each significantly correlated to a successful outcome while other services (e.g., job placement assistance, counseling and guidance, remedial training, university training, job readiness training, transportation services, and rehabilitation technology) had a marginal correlation.

The recent transition from school to work legislation and corresponding policy have ushered in a focus on preparing youth who have an IEP for positive post-school outcomes in terms of post-secondary education or training, employment and independent living. This policy includes the codification of Indicators 1 (school completion), 2 (school dropout), 13 (provision of transition services and planning), and 14 (post-secondary outcomes) to monitor how well states provide transition-related services this population, along the requirement that all graduates leave with a Summary of Performance (SOP). The SOP provides information and documentation to help exiting youth access adult services like Vocational Rehabilitation. This group of unique clients includes the nearly 200,000 youth with disabilities who are graduated with a regular diploma each year and others exited with non-standard diplomas or the 125,000 who exit as dropouts (Office of Special Education, 2006). This transition focus brings attention to whether this group of consumers is ready for VR's traditional employment services that have traditionally served an older and more experienced adult consumer. Similarly, Plotner, Trach, and Strauser (2012) have asked whether VR counselors are ready for this group of clients, while the Government Accounting Office (2012) outlines the need for better coordination between schools and VR agencies for students transitioning from high school. …

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