Brain injury can leave an individual with a number of persistent impairments that interfere with finding and keeping a job. These problems may be cognitive (difficulties with attention, memory, communication, reasoning, and problem-solving), physical (weakness or lack of coordination in arms or legs, impaired vision, fatigue, sleep problems), emotional (vulnerability to depression, difficulty controlling anger or anxiety), or behavioral (being impulsive).
After sustaining a brain injury, an individual may experience difficulty performing his or her job safely, or in the same manner. Some may find they need to find other employment, while others can request adaptions in their workplace to accommodate their new needs.
Deciding to Return to Work
Having a conversation with your employer, supervisor, or human resources department is a good opportunity to discuss your options and needs once you go back to your job. Below are some suggestions and things to keep in mind for the discussion:
- Returning to work gradually; for example, starting at three mornings a week or even working from home for a period of time
- Returning with shorter hours
- Taking more breaks throughout the day
- Returning with less workload
- Taking on a different role
Once you return to work, it is important to communicate with your employer regularly to decide if the adaptions are working to both parties’ benefit, or if further changes are necessary.
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)
Each state has an agency to help people with disabilities find work. These Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR) have different names in different states, and are funded by both the federal and state government. People who are disabled by brain injury are entitled to apply for vocational rehabilitation.
The most severe impairments that people with brain injury have are often not physical, and consequently these impairments are invisible. If a question about severity of disability interferes with accessing vocational rehabilitation services, evaluations by a rehabilitation physician and neuropsychologist are usually very helpful in proving that impairments resulting from brain injury are severe and extensive enough to meet the criteria for admission to the program. Once they are qualified for services, people with brain injury are best served by VR counselors who have experience working with people with brain injury. Experienced counselors know and use special procedures that are critical for success in VR with people with brain injury. If you feel your VR counselor is not familiar with needs related to brain injury, you, your significant other, family members, caregivers, and/or other advocates may need to help educate the counselor so they understand the brain injury populations’ unique needs.
Ticket to Work
The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program is an employment program for people with disabilities who are interested in working. The Ticket Program is a result of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, a law designed to remove many of the barriers that previously influenced people’s decisions about going to work because of the concerns over losing health care coverage. The goal of the Ticket Program is to increase opportunities and choices for people receiving Social Security disability benefits to obtain employment, vocational rehabilitation and other support services from public and private providers, employers and other organizations. Under the Ticket Program, the Social Security Administration provides disability beneficiaries with a voucher they may use to obtain the services and jobs they need from local organizations called Employment Networks (ENs). To find out more about these services, contact the National Brain Injury Information Center.