Why Vocational Rehab Sucks

And why I’m OK with that

I was enraged. It’s been a while.

Then I was OK with it. I could smile with gratitude.

Here’s what happened

I got a call from my vocational rehab counsellor. They are the ones who are supposed to get you a job so you can get off of disability. At least, this is the impression you will get if you sign up with them.

During the first interview, my job counsellor asked how much I made on disability (SSI). He nodded and said that I would need a full-time job making about X an hour. I took this as a hopeful sign. Wouldn’t you? After the setup and this kind of statement, you would think that this would be their goal.

You would think.

About six months later, he assigned me for job training. For those of you who were paying attention, I said “six months later.” I don’t want this to be lost on anybody. Job training entailed 6 months of office training. Some of it was useful, but a lot of it I already knew.

Then I graduated.

And…

I still didn’t have a job.

Enter job developer

Enter a “job developer.” They are supposed to fix up your resume, cover letter, and give you some job interviews. Excuse me, now? Wasn’t that this guy’s job? Apparently not.

So what’s his job? I still don’t know.

Every time I tried to talk to my “job developer,” I ended up talking to his assistant. The assistant who finally quit. I guess she was doing everything.

So what was this guy’s job anyway?

I digress.

So now I have a “job developer.” They offer me help with my resume and cover letter, but I already have those finished. I brought them to my first meeting.

I have a coffee mug that says:

I survived another meeting that should have been an email—some coffee mug

The next step is to get me some job interviews. The job developer starts to go through Craig’s List and pull every random job that he thinks I could do. If I had known that’s all we were going to do, I would have done that.

After the meeting, I sent an angry email to the job developer saying that these were all “bad” jobs and that I needed to make X an hour to equal what I got on SSI. I could almost see him blink in disbelief through the computer screen.

“I can’t get you a job paying X without a college degree.”

I have three years of college, but I never graduated. In my previous career, that wasn’t necessary.

Apparently, now it is very necessary.

Now I was confused. In the first interview, my job counsellor said I needed X. I was working under the impression that I was trying for a job that paid X. So this didn’t trickle down to the job developer?

The job developer encouraged me to take any job while I waited for the right job to open up.

All right. This will get me to a job making X, right?

Not exactly.

A very bad job

I took a job as an office manager. This was a very bad job, on so many levels. It was demanding, required a very high level of detail with zero margin for error, and it paid a whopping $13 a hour.

To make matters worse, it started at ¾ time. The next month it was less. The next month it was less.

Social Security was very eager for me to submit my earnings. I dutifully did so. I was enrolled in the Ticket to Work program. It is advertised to be a 5-year program to get you back in the workforce.

Not so much.

I was told very briskly for a customer service representative that, “The Ticket to Work Program has nothing to do with Social Security.”

Say what now?

Nuts and Bolts of our broken Ticket to Work System

If you are on SSI or SSDI, any income you report starts the Trial Work Period (TWP). That is 9 months. After those 9 months, they tell you that your payments will stop in 2 months. Effectively, you have 11 months to be making at least (hopefully more) than you are making on SSI or SSDI.

It doesn’t take a genius to notice that we are actually discouraging folks from going out in the workforce. “Come on, boys and girls! Let’s get a low-paying job so the government can give you less! It’ll be swell!”)

By taking this low-paying job, I had “started the clock” on my Trial Work Period. I asked if it restarts at a certain point. Sure, in 5 years. What makes it worse, I tried to work once four years ago. I worked one day as a dishwasher. It was horrible, and it wrecked my body. I didn’t go back for the second day.

I didn’t even pick up my one-day paycheck.

But my “helpful” employee reported that I was “working.” That took one month off of my TWP. Now, I have 10 months.

When I realized this, I quickly quit my bad job. That was in January. After a few days of licking my wounds, I started to write for Medium. I have found my new passion. I want a writing-related career.

I worked October, November, December, and January. Four months. And there is the one “phantom month” as a dishwasher. For those of you playing at home, I have six months left. (Eek!)

So what happened with the job developer?

Turns out that my job developer gets a bonus if I get a job. It can be any job, good or bad. Then he gets a second bonus when I stay at that job for a least three month (which I foolishly did).

After that? Crickets. He used to contact me weekly. Now I got nothing.

I feel so dirty.

You may think you know why “Vocational Rehab” sucks, but I’m not done.

What made me angry today?

I got a call from my job developer. As soon as I recognized him on the phone, I brightened.

I was not forgotten, after all.

It started innocent enough, “How’s the job going?”

Still bright, I answered, “There wasn’t enough work, so I quit that job last month.”

“So you are unemployed. What are you doing now?”

“I have been writing for a website online called Medium. I am improving my writing style and gaining confidence.”

“Uh-huh…”

“I really like writing, so if you hear of any writing-related jobs, I’d be very interested!”

“So how can we help you?”

I was starting to get a little annoyed. “You can help me get a job.”

“We got you a job developer.”

“He stopped contacting me.”

Pause. “I’m sorry about that. We got you the one job, though, right?”

“Yes, you did.”

“So we can close your case then?”

I was taken aback. Where was the job paying X an hour? That’s what I have been expecting for two years now.

I was silent for a moment. When I didn’t speak, my counsellor continued, “Is there anything else we can help you with?”

I thought, “You can get me a good job. Like in the deal.”

But I didn’t say it. Instead, I answered, “No, I really don’t think so.” And that is the truth. I don’t think Vocational Rehabilitation is capable of finding me a job. I smiled and let him off the hook, “Have a wonderful day, Mr. Butthead.” (Butthead isn’t his real name)

Why I don’t care?

I just read a wonderful article today called “It’s Not Hard to Become a Writer” on Medium. It was encouraging to learning that jobs are out there for writers, and that they are possible to get.

I am incredibly hopeful.

Of course, I will continue to put in the work on Medium and see if I can be successful there, but I can do that as a hobby. I want to get a day job.

Even if Vocational Rehabilitation were successful, they would have gotten me a job I hated. I have a strong work ethic, so I probably would have stayed there for years.

Thank you, Voc Rehab, for being complete and utter screw-ups. You’ve done me a favor.

One thought on “Why Vocational Rehab Sucks

  1. Being trained in the technical aspects of Vocational Rehabilitation, while never having accepted a position there, I must say this was a very enlightening read, and well done. You have tremendous potential in writing, and I love your commentary style. Sorry, I don’t know the correct terms for writing styles. This felt like a wonderful mix of tongue and cheek sarcasm laced with a solid dose of, just the facts, ma’am, just the facts. That’s how I would name writing styles, and why no one would take my class…. keep writing, and writing. Save every bit for later, when your audience is huge…and if you keep at it, it will be. Find your niche and keep going. But be ready to go on tour, and keep practicing your signature. I love reading your take on real life.

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