OVR Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Where do I Begin?
Youth with a disability who meet eligibility criteria for employment and are interested in working should be referred to the local OVR office.

 Referral can be made up to 2 years prior to graduation and can be made by anyone

Initial Interview – Be prepared to:

  •  Provide a medical history related to the youth’s disability (names and addresses of doctors and specialists, hospital admissions, names of medications)
  •  Discuss how the youth’s disability may affect his or her ability to work
  •  Provide an education history/Individualized Education Program (IEP) and job history
  •  Bring copies of any vocational tests and reports that may be available

 

What are the Eligibility Criteria?

 Unlike the entitlement services provided by special education, OVR is an eligibility program, which means a referred youth must meet the following criteria to qualify for services:

  •  Have a disability that is a physical, mental, or emotional impairment, which results in a substantial impediment to employment
  • Expected to benefit in terms of an employment outcome from services provided
  • Be prepared to enter, engage in, or retain competitive (20 hours per week, minimum wage, integrated community setting) employment Eligibility for services is determined within 60 days by a qualified VR counselor

 

What Happens Next?

  1.  If eligible, services will be provided based on severity of disability (federal law)
  2.  An Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) will be jointly developed by the individual and OVR counselor
  3.  The goals of the IPE and IEP should support the youth’s employment outcome
  4.  A financial needs test will determine what costs will be covered by OVR and what the youth or family may be required to contribute
  5.  Diagnostic services, vocational evaluations, vocational counseling and guidance, and job placement services are always provided by OVR at no cost to the youth and/or family.

 

Will my income be used to determine eligibility?
The financial needs test determines to what extent you may be required to contribute toward the cost of certain OVR services. These services will be outlined in the IPE. However, diagnostic and evaluation services, vocational counseling and guidance are always provided without regard to your and/or family income.

The financial needs test (FNT), using documented household income, determines to what extent you and your family may be required to contribute toward the cost of certain OVR services. These services will be outlined in the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). Documentation of household income will be requested such as a tax return, W2, pay stubs, etc. If the individual is receiving Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), a copy of your monthly awards letter will be required

Diagnostic and evaluation services, vocational counseling and guidance, rehabilitation teaching, orientation and mobility training, and job placement assistance are always provided regardless of you and/or your family’s income.


What is an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)?
The cornerstone of the OVR process is vocational counseling and guidance provided by an OVR Counselor.

After the student is determined eligible and meets the Order of Selection criteria, he/she will work closely with an OVR Counselor to clearly define an employment goal and jointly develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). The IPE is developed by the student and the OVR Counselor to meet the student’s unique vocational strengths and needs.

  • The student’s interests, strengths, and abilities guide the IPE development.
  • A plan will be developed based on results of testing and evaluations as well as clients interests and aptitudes.
  • The job market and employability will also be considered.
  • The IPE will identify the student’s vocational goal as well as the services and service providers that will be utilized to assist the student to reach that specific  goal.
  • The length of time from OVR referral to successful employment will vary widely depending on the content of the IPE and the unique circumstances of each student.


What Types of Services may be Included in the Individualized Plan for Employment  (IPE)?

  •  If eligible, services will be provided based on severity of disability (federal law)
  •  An Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) will be jointly developed by the individual and OVR counselor
  •  The goals of the IPE and IEP should support the youth’s employment outcome
  •  A financial needs test will determine what costs will be covered by OVR and what the youth or family may be required to contribute
  •  Diagnostic services, vocational evaluations, vocational counseling and guidance, and job placement services are always provided by OVR at no cost to the youth and/or family

 

What Types of Services may be Included in the IPE?

  •  Diagnostic and Vocational Evaluations
  •  Counseling, Guidance, and Placement Services
  •  Training Services and Supports
  •  Physical Restoration Services
  •  Assistive Technology Services

 

What does coordination of services mean?
You may require support from other public, private or community agencies that will serve a role in the student’s Transition from School to Work. These agencies are key to the provision of long-term supports that the student may need to achieve and maintain his/her employment and independence as an adult. Representatives of these agencies should also be invited to participate in the development and implementation of a Transition Plan while you are still in school.                                               These agencies include but are not limited to:

  •  Department of Public Welfare
  •  Office of Intellectual Disabilities
  •  Office of Mental Health Bureau of Autism Services
  •  Office of Long-Term Living
  •  Office of Children, Youth, and Families Department of Health
  •  Department of Labor and Industry
  •  Workforce Investment Act Youth Program • Institutions of Higher Education
  •  Other public/private agencies and community resources

 

How long can I remain involved with OVR? What happens after the completion of the program?
 OVR services will end when the youth achieves the IPE goals and is successfully employed for at least 90 days. The case will then be closed.
 If necessary, OVR post-employment services are available after the case is closed.


What are the additional programs offered by OVR?

Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (specialized children services, orientation, and mobility, rehabilitation teaching) http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/blindness_and_visual_services/10367
Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (information and referral, advocacy, interpreter database) http://www.dli.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/office_for_the_deaf___hard_of_hearing/10371
Hiram G. Andrews Center (comprehensive vocational training program) http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=747454&mode=2

 

What is School to Work Transition?
School to Work Transition serves as a bridge from school to work and adult life. It helps prepare youth and young adults with disabilities for life after high school.


When does it start and who should apply?
OVR may accept referrals of youth and young adults with disabilities at least two years prior to graduation, or earlier on a case by case basis when appropriate. Any youth or young adult with any type of disability who may need vocational counseling and guidance as well as assistance in preparing for, obtaining or maintaining competitive employment may apply for OVR services.


How do I become involved?

  • A youth or young adult with an IEP, 504 plan or a disability can refer themselves for vocational rehabilitation services. 
  • A parent/guardian/ advocate or school personnel can also initiate the referral.
  • Youth under the age of 18 must have the permission of a parent/guardian to become involved with OVR services.
  • A vocational counselor will review the referral and set up an interview to complete an application and determine if you meet the eligibility requirements.

 

Adapted from:
Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) Tip Sheet
OVR Transition Guide for Professionals, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

 

The Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, or OVR, provides vocational rehabilitation services to help persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, or maintain employment. OVR provides services to eligible individuals with disabilities, both directly and through a network of approved vendors. Services are provided on an individualized basis. The OVR counselor, during face-to-face interviews, assists customers in selecting their choice of vocational goals, services, and service providers.


An Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) is developed, outlining a vocational objective, services, providers, and responsibilities. Certain services are subject to a Financial Needs Test (FNT) and may require financial participation by the customer. Counseling and guidance, diagnostic services, assessments, information and referral, job development and placement, and personal services such as readers or sign language interpreters are provided at no cost to the individual.

Also, by law OVR customers receiving Social Security benefits for their disability (SSI, SSDI) are exempt from OVR’s Financial Needs Test.

Statewide there are 21 District Offices staffed with trained, professional Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors which serve Pennsylvania in all 67 counties.

  • The Hiram G. Andrews Center in Johnstown provides vocational training and comprehensive rehabilitation services to people from across the state
  • OVR’s Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services also provides specialized services to blind and visually impaired individuals. These services are designed to increase an individual’s independence and employability.          
  • OVR's central administrative offices in Harrisburg provide technical assistance to local district offices in order to improve service delivery.

 

Types of Vocational Rehabilitation Services

     OVR provides a wide range of services to eligible applicants. Some services can help you overcome or lessen your disability; others can directly help you prepare for a career. The services you receive will be arranged to meet your individual needs. Not everyone will need every service.                                                                 OVR services include:

  • Diagnostic Services: Medical, psychological, and audiological examinations and tests used to better understand your disability and your needs for specific types of services.
  • Vocational Evaluation: Aptitude, interest, general ability, academic exams, work tolerance, and "hands-on" job experience used to understand your vocational potential.
  • Counseling: Vocational counseling will help you to better understand your potential, to rely on your abilities, to set realistic vocational goals, to change them when necessary, to develop successful work habits, and to begin a satisfying career. Counseling is available throughout your rehabilitation program.
  • Training: Education to prepare you for a job including, but not limited to, basic academic, vocational/technical, college, on-the-job training, independent living skills, and personal and work adjustment training.
  • Restoration Services: Medical services and equipment such as physical and occupational therapy, wheelchairs, and automobile hand controls can be provided to enable you to pursue and achieve employment.
  • Placement Assistance: Counseling, job-seeking programs, job clubs, and job development used to increase your ability to get a job. You will receive ideas, practice, and advise on finding job leads, filling out applications, getting interviews for a job, and on how to interview. Your counselor may also give you job leads or contact employers about available tax credits and hiring incentives. The more contacts with employers you make, the better your chances are of finding a job. For more details, go to our Services for Job Seekers page.
  • Assistive Technology: Assistive technology includes a wide range of devices and services that can empower persons with disabilities to maximize employment, independence, and integration into society. OVR can assist an individual with a disability in effectively selecting and acquiring appropriate assistive technology. OVR can arrange for a consultant to evaluate your situation and to make appropriate recommendations. OVR also operates and maintains our own Center for Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology (CART) at the Hiram G. Andrews Center. There is no charge for evaluation and vocational counseling services through OVR. Based upon your financial needs, you may have to contribute to the cost of assistive technology devices and services. For more details, visit our Assistive Technology page.
  • Support Services: Other services are provided for eligible persons if they are necessary for you to start and maintain employment. Such services may include:
  1.  Room, board, and transportation costs during an evaluation or while completing a rehabilitation program.
  2. Occupational tools, licenses, or equipment.
  3.  Home modifications, adaptive or special household equipment in order to help you get ready to go to and be on time for your job.Van or car modifications, including special driving devices or lifting devices to enable you to travel to your job.
  4.  Personal care assistance provided to help you with your daily needs in order to enable you to participate in a vocational rehabilitation program.
  5. Job site modifications that will enable you to get and keep a job. Independent living training to provide the means for you to become more self-sufficient and thereby make it possible for you to participate in employment.
  6. Text Telephone (TT), signaling devices, hearing aids, and interpreters services may be provided to help you communicate.
  7. Specialized services such as Rehabilitation Teaching, and Orientation and Mobility Training for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

 

What if I have Questions or Complaints?
OVR will facilitate your rehabilitation program. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about anything. You are entitled to the best service that OVR can give you. Your comments, suggestions, and criticisms are important.
If you are an applicant or a customer of OVR and are dissatisfied with a determination or service OVR is providing, you may file an appeal.

Appeal Procedures: A written request for a hearing must be made within thirty (30) days. This request must be mailed to or filed with the Director:
Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation
Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
1521 North Sixth Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102

An impartial hearing officer will be assigned to hear and decide your case. You will be given the opportunity for an informal administrative review prior to the impartial hearing. At any time during your program, you may contact the Client Assistance Program for help.

 

OVR Individualized Employment Services
The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation provides individualized services to assist people with disabilities to pursue, obtain, and maintain satisfactory employment. An OVR counselor can help you select an employment goal and develop a comprehensive strategy so that you can find the type of job that meets your needs. OVR placement services are provided at no cost to eligible individuals with disabilities.

 

An Overview of OVR Individualized Services

An OVR Counselor can assist you in planning your job search. You will receive:

  •  ideas, practice, and advice on finding job leads,
  • filling out job applications, getting interviews for a job, and
  •  how to interview for a job.
  • Your counselor may also give you job leads or contact employers to explain available tax credits and other hiring incentives. The more contacts with employers you make, the better your chances are of finding a job
  • Your Counselor can help you explore employment trends, your capabilities, and possible job accommodations, so that you are better prepared to make informed vocational decisions and effectively look for a job.

 

Eligibility Requirements

You will be eligible for OVR services if you have a disability that is:

  • a physical, mental, or emotional impairment which results in a substantial impediment to employment, and
  • you can benefit in terms of an employment outcome from services provided, and,
  • Vocational Rehabilitation services are required for you to prepare for, enter, engage in, or retain gainful employment.

 

Assistive Technology

The Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation provides Assistive Technology devices and services to eligible individuals with disabilities if needed to get or keep a job. Assistive Technology devices include

  • any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of an individual with a disability.

     LOW-END TECHNOLOGY...reachers, canes, bending straws, rubber grippers, jigs, wrist rests, etc..

     HIGH-END TECHNOLOGY...communication devices, specialized computer access, customized mobility aids, workstation designs, etc..
A broad range of services may be provided to enable individuals with severe disabilities to function in school, home, and the workplace.
Assistive Technology services directly assist an individual in the selection, acquisition or use of an Assistive Technology device, including:

  •  Evaluation / Coordination
  • Selection, Designing and Customizing Devices
  • Repair and/or Replacement
  •  Training

There are many information resources and providers of Assistive Technology devices and services in Pennsylvania
OVR can help consumers connect with these resources.