If you are wondering how to reenter the workforce after a stint on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, may I make some suggestions based on my observations and research?
The first thing you want to do is stir up your own thinking – and reenergize your motivation to return to work. The next thing is contacting your state or local vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency. And remember, a good attitude is the most important tool you can use to interest them in providing maximum help.
VR providers have testified (in hearings) that the motivation of clients is key to successful vocational rehabilitation. Enthusiasm in a potential client motivates vocational counselors to invest their time and limited agency funds in people who are determined to get back in the workforce.
Unhappily, a long period of dependency on SSDI can reduce a person’s motivation. Long periods of unemployment can rob a person’s confidence that they can work, and weaken skills that formerly bolstered their confidence. The person may be struggling with poor morale.
The individual who seeks VR services can prevail over this real obstacle by remembering, researching, and resolving.
Remembering: Think about the activities you have enjoyed formerly. Describe them in writing. This exercise helps you recall skills, talents, and interests that can apply to other jobs.
Researching: Check the Internet website O*Net (http://www.onetonline.org) to learn the kinds of jobs that may be available in the economy. Some jobs may spark your interest and involve skills you have or can potentially develop through education or VR – this can become a powerful talking point when discussing options with a VR counselor!
Resolving: Put what you have remembered and research into action. Contact your state or local rehabilitation agency and express your desire to pursue these kinds of jobs, knowledgeable of the kinds of education and training that will equip you to open other employment doors. (For contact information on state VR agencies go to: http://askjan.org/cgi-win/TypeQuery.exe?902)
Of course, many people are concerned about losing SSDI benefits before assured that they can work steadily. Your VR agency can advise about legal protections for SSDI benefits while you become equipped to work or can refer you to another qualified source.
In short, a person with disabilities who wants and needs to work can make a better case for gaining necessary vocational rehabilitation assistance by remembering former enjoyable activities and researching the jobs in this economy. An informed and well-prepared presentation to a vocational counselor helps the counselor make a better connection between the client and employment opportunities.
I welcome your experiences and suggestions.