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State Vocational Rehabilitation Program Use Appears to be a Predictor of Success

Categories: Employment

The Question

What are the characteristics of individuals who contact vocational rehabilitation programs, and what services are most useful for helping them return to work?

Past Studies

Past Studies recognize that many people who experience difficulty finding and keeping jobs after traumatic brain injury turn to state vocational rehabilitation programs for help. Such programs offer an individual menu of services including guidance, counseling, and on-the-job training tied to an individualized plan. This includes identification of an individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Based on the information identified, an individual’s interests and abilities are realistically matched with potential employment areas. Researchers have not determined which parts of the state vocational rehabilitation programs are associated the most with successful employment outcomes.

This Study

This Study focused on 78 individuals with traumatic brain injury who requested state vocational rehabilitation services. Individuals who sought state vocational rehabilitation programs were most often single white males with low intelligence and a high school education or less. They were more likely to have significant or multiple traumatic brain injuries. On average, participants applied for vocational rehabilitation services nine years after their injuries occurred and had severe financial difficulties. It appears that in itself, being provided with vocational rehabilitation services is the most important factor for achieving employment success. Participation in vocational rehabilitation appears to be a stronger predictor of job success than medical or psychological information, personal characteristics, and skill level. For those who return to work incomes increase, although earnings are usually low and not enough to meet basic needs. For those who participated in vocational rehabilitation, those earning an income increased from 8% to about 19%, and annual projected income increased 45%, from $10,660 to about $15,500. The number of participants who reported their primary source of income as “earned” increased 262%, while SSDI as a reported primary source of income decreased 47%. The most common vocational rehabilitation services they utilized were assessments, money for basic living expenses, and transportation.

Who May Be Affected By These Findings 

Persons with traumatic brain injuries and their families, vocational rehabilitation providers, healthcare and rehabilitation providers, researchers


Seventy-five percent of the participants discontinued vocational rehabilitation before services could be offered or completed. The largest number of unsuccessful service completions was because individuals refused services. More research is necessary to determine why individuals discontinued or refused services.

Bottom Line

It appears that being provided with vocational rehabilitation services is the most important factor for achieving employment success. Individuals who were most likely to request vocational rehabilitation services were single white males who had significant or multiple brain injuries, low IQs, low educational levels, and poor financial incomes. Services most often used were transportation, assessment, and financial assistance for living expenses. This study is limited to one region in just one state. Future research is necessary to provide information that is generalizable to all persons with brain injury. Additionally, it is important to ensure that individuals with traumatic brain injuries are aware of and able to access state vocational rehabilitation programs.

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Find This Study

Johnstone, B.; Vessell, R.; Bounds, T.; Hoskins, S.; & Sherman, A. (2003). Predictors of success for state vocational rehabilitation clients with traumatic brain injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 84, 161-167.