As we discussed earlier in the month, unemployment rates are higher for disabled individuals. A career has significant meaning to a disabled person. Employment creates a sense of independence. Disabled individuals seeking employment or a better education can use both state and federal government resources to improve the job and education experience. Part I of this document details how Vocational Rehabilitation Services, through state governments, can help disabled people obtain needed equipment, technology, education, and employment resources. Part II of this document gives disabled people seeking employment useful tips on how to obtain a job with the federal government.
Part I: Vocational Rehabilitation Services
First, disabled individuals receiving federal or state assistance (e.g. disability benefits, SSI, SSD) should start out by contacting the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Office of the State Department of Labor. The VR is designed to help those who are receiving disability benefits to obtain the necessary skills and resources for attaining employment. If you are disabled and not receiving such benefits, the VR Office may still be able to provide you with job resources.
Services Offered Through Vocational Rehabilitation
The VR can help you purchase assistive technology equipment, such as a computer, adaptive computer software, mobility devices, etc. Also, the VR office will support you in your job by setting up and troubleshooting technology issues. A counselor is assigned to VR clients to manage their case and progress. Contact your Department of Labor in the county in which you live to inquire about eligibility and benefits.
Tips for Working with Your VR Office
Remember that the success and satisfaction of your VR experience can vary. Since VR offices are left to the authority of individual states and counties. However, if you do find yourself working with VR in the future or presently do so, I would recommend the following points:
- Establish regular contact with your VR counselor to update them on your needs and progress. I recommend doing this through e-mail.
- Personally try out and research assistive technologies. Look up equipment on the internet to explore what equipment would help you. Then send the links to your counselor or bring the printed information to a meeting with your counselor. VR offices are often willing to purchase extensive equipment. Make sure you have all you need to ensure your independence.
- Because you may work with a variety of VR members (e.g. case manager, technical expert, mobility coach), make sure all team members are aware of your progress with each. Let your case manager know if one of the other members you work with is not helpful or meeting your needs.
Part II: Federal Employment
You may have heard some type of media coverage or promotion about hiring people with disabilities in the federal government. In 2010, the Obama Administration committed to the goal of hiring an additional 100,000 disabled individuals in the federal sector over the next five years. Thus, if you are a disabled person seeking a job, the federal sector is a good place to look. A wide variety of jobs exist with the federal government. You can find opportunities ranging from a rocket scientist or teacher to a janitor or security guard. The USA Jobs Website at http://www.usajobs.gov is the place to search for existing job opportunities with the federal government.
Competitive vs. Non-Competitive Job Opportunities
There are two types or categories of jobs with the federal government: competitive and non-competitive jobs. Competitive job opportunities are available to all qualified applicants. Non-competitive jobs are only available to those who are termed “special status” by the federal government, such as those with a disability or certain military veterans. Disabled people can apply for either competitive or non-competitive job opportunities. There are a variety of perks to working for many federal agencies, such as great health benefits, vacation time, on-site gyms, etc.
How to Apply for Non-Competitive Positions
To apply for non-competitive jobs you simply must submit your resume, letter of disability certification, and a letter stating your likelihood of success in a certain job to a Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPCC). There is a designated SPCC within most federal agencies who is responsible for the coordination, hiring, and accommodation of disabled individuals. Otherwise, you can submit your resume and required documentation to the Human Resources Department for the particular agency you wish to apply.
If a federal job sounds interesting to you, consider applying for a position. A wide array of federal agencies exists from which you can submit your resume. Unlike non-disabled applicants, disabled people have the opportunity to send their information directly to Human Resources officials. While none of this guarantees you a job or even an interview, it does offer an advantage. To learn more about gaining federal employment as a disabled individual, visit the Office of Personnel Management webpage.
Send a direct e-mail to the SPCC of the agency at which you intend to apply. Let them know your intentions of applying and ask what documentation is required to do so. You can look up SPCCs by agency through the directory on the Office of Personnel Management site.
One caveat for those interested in applying for federal positions, you must be willing to relocate or commute to cities where federal agencies are located for work. Most of the federal agencies are within major cities. Thus, you must either currently live in one of these cities or make a realistic plan to move for a job. The more willing you are to relocate, the more possibilities you have in applying to different federal agencies.
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