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Bad state programs limit educational opportunities for disabled

If you or a loved one is eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplement Security Income, you are also likely eligible to receive education and career assistance through Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). VR is the process that enables people with disabilities to overcome barriers to accessing employment and educational opportunities.

Three billion dollars are spent every year to provide VR to SSDI/SSI recipients, but a new independent investigation by The Hechinger Report says government programs and colleges still are not doing enough to help. Nearly one million people eligible for the VR program received no assistance from 2010 to 2014.

Addressing the problems with VR will open up more opportunities for independence for those with disabilities. Just 12 percent of people with disabilities have a college degree despite evidence that suggests attaining a college degree is more helpful for the career prospects of people with a disability than those without.

What is the cause of the problem?

State level VR programs are overwhelmed around the country, according to the report. Some states reported wait times as long as six weeks just for an eligibility appointment. Lengthy delays can be devastating for those hoping to meet college enrollment deadlines while arranging accommodations to attend.

Other states reported total dysfunction in VR programs. A master's degree is required for most VR counselor jobs, but states are not paying competitive salaries, resulting in high turnover rates and increased workloads for remaining employees.

How can the program be fixed?

Funding appears to be the main issue for state level VR programs. Full funding was given to VR programs in the state of Wisconsin in 2013 yet auditors found no increase in the number of counselors providing services. In 2012, state agencies spent nearly 400 million dollars on people who left the system before completing the program.

Is there a path forward?

A disability attorney can help beneficiaries and those who were denied claims attain access to money through SSDI to live a more independent life. A disability attorney will examine your eligibility for benefits, answer your questions, and take on the best possible case for you.

As shown by the VR program, navigating the system on your own is a challenging, if not impossible, task. Inability to access Vocational Rehabilitation programs due to state inefficiencies may provide cause to re-examine your SSDI/SSI benefits.

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