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Return to Work/Vocational Rehabilitation
Looking for and finding work that best meets interests, needs and ambitions while using skills is challenging for everyone. A brain injury can radically change a person's abilities, greatly influencing his or her work life. This section describes employment training and education programs available in Minnesota for persons with disabilities (including brain injury).
Assess Needs and Abilities
Depending on the nature and severity of your brain injury, you may or may not be able to return to the same job you had before your brain injury. You should take extra care in assessing your job skills and abilities, as well as any changes you may have experienced. It is also helpful to get professional feedback from your doctor, rehabilitation therapists or your vocational rehabilitation counselor through the Minnesota Workforce Center.
You want to be reasonable and realistic in your self-assessment and expectations. Some persons with brain injury have trouble with organization, distractibility, decision-making, impulsivity, fatigue, stamina, learning difficulties and relationships with co-workers. Vocational Rehabilitation Services (described below) can help you analyze your skills and interests by providing a vocational evaluation consisting of testing and a series of work and task assessments.
You have several options. You can prepare for work, go back to school to learn and/or relearn material, or volunteer.
One excellent way to restore stamina and endurance and explore job skills, interests and work habits is through volunteering. Voluntary work can give you valuable experience and be extremely rewarding. Volunteering can build your resume and help you feel more connected to the people around you. Plus, you can make a significant contribution to the world around you!
The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance relies on volunteers for a wide variety of projects. Many faith-based institutions, schools and human service organizations also rely on a large pool of valuable volunteers. You are encouraged to find one of the hundreds of non-profit organizations in Minnesota that suits your interests and abilities. In the Twin Cities, contact Hands On Twin Cities (formerly the Volunteer Resource Center) at 612-379-4900 or www.handsontwincities.org. For more information on other local volunteering options, call First Call for Help at 211 or www.211unitedway.org.
Persons with brain injury may be eligible for employment-related services from the Rehabilitation Service (RS) program provided by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). RS works with persons who have disabilities to establish employment goals, find and keep meaningful employment, and – when appropriate – identify assistive technology that can help maximize job performance. This can include helping you pay for school or employment training programs. RS counselors provide vocational counseling and generally contract for services with a private company or rehabilitation organization to provide direct services.
When You Call Rehabilitation Services (RS)
When you call Rehabilitation Services (RS) you will go through an application and intake process. Explain to the person who answers the phone that you have sustained a brain injury and would like to apply for services. Always record the name of the person you spoke with and the date and time you called. You may wish to begin to organize this information into a file dedicated to “Return to Work/School.”
While you have an RS representative on the phone, ask how the application process works. Be sure to find out how long it will take to process your application. Ask what costs might be involved. Although many services are free, depending on what your goals are you may be asked to contribute if your financial situation allows.
First, RS will have you attend an orientation meeting to learn more about RS. Some offices will assign you a counselor at the beginning of the intake process; others will assign you a counselor after you qualify for services. An individual will be considered to have “submitted an application” when a request for RS services provides sufficient information for RS to determine eligibility. RS should determine eligibility within 60 days of application.
Once your application is assigned to a counselor you will be contacted to set up an intake interview. During that first meeting you can find out what a counselor's responsibilities are for ensuring that you meet your goals. You will also want to understand what your counselor expects of you. If needed, you may want to ask your counselor about policies regarding funding for things such as assistive technology.
Occasionally, the counselor assigned to you may not be a good match for your personality. You have the right to address this issue and ask to be transferred to another counselor.
If you are notified that services have been denied but you think you should be eligible, call the intake number and ask how to appeal the decision. Please do not feel that you are “complaining” or “being difficult.” The appeals process is there for a reason.
who are made eligible and would like assistance establishing vocational goals, preparing for work, practicing interview skills, finding a job or making appropriate accommodations at your workplace. Placement specialists are trained to understand to search for a job and bring their expertise in disability services and knowledge of employers looking for qualified employees to the job search.
Through Rehabilitation Services, supported employment job coaches provide on the job training and support for a limited time once you secure employment. A job coach works side-by-side with you in the workplace to help you learn job responsibilities and adjust to the environment. Relationships with co-workers can often be challenging and the job coach can be supportive while you come to understand boundaries and expectations of the work place. They can also help you learn and understand the work culture of your new job, the layout of the job site and acceptable standards of behavior.
Transitional employment helps an individual build skills and endurance or identify on the job accommodation needs. Usually, persons in transitional employment work part-time with the assistance of the employer and/or job coach contracted through Rehabilitation Services. Transitional employment is for a limited period of time, generally no longer than six months.
Working With Your Employer
It is very possible that your current employer does not have the knowledge about brain injury that is needed to assist you in returning to work. When seeking employment or returning to your job following a brain injury it will be essential that with or without accommodations you can still perform the essential functions of the job. In order to request workplace accommodations you will need to disclose your disability. Some people will rely on accommodations in order to do their job; others will be able to use organizational tools on their own. You will want to discuss the timing of your return to work with your doctor and rehabilitation team. It may not be advisable to return to work without the support of your doctor.
Disclosing your disability is a very personal decision and you will want to connect with professionals who are disability advocates and employment specialist to consider all your options. In some communities workshops are held to help you make an informed choice regarding disclosure. For more information on how to connect with these professionals please connect with a Resource Facilitator at the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.
Rehabilitation Services counselors can work with you and your employer to help everyone understand brain injury, how the workplace may be adjusted or to make accommodations to help you do your job. The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance is always available to provide you with free information about brain injury to give to your employer. For more information, call the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance at 612-378-2742 or 800-669-6442.
Assistive technology devices and services can help persons with disabilities be independent and successful in the workplace. A person can use assistive technology to help him or her with communication, moving around, sitting/standing at a desk, working with computers, taking notes and many other job responsibilities. An individual's need for assistive technology services will depend upon the type of work to be performed and the nature of the disability. In some cases, employers, insurance companies or Rehabilitation Services may pay for assistive technology for persons with disabilities. Talk to a rehabilitation counselor to discuss assistive technology options.
Going Back to Vocational Rehabilitation Services
After you have trained for, found and been successful at a job, Rehabilitation Services (RS) will close your case. However, you can always go back to RS if you need help at any time. RS staff can help you with a new supervisor, changing job responsibilities, going back to school, assistive technology needs, finding a job or other employment-related issues. Call RS and ask that your case be reopened.