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Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Deaf: 

 Dean Hoodenpyl
4/13/2008

VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION SERVICES FOR THE DEAF

I write this in hopes that someone else, in a similar situation as I found myself in, will benefit from the services mentioned.

I was not born deaf, in fact I only started going deaf about 5 years ago. Our wondrous medical profession had not a clue as to why. My first obstacle came when I was told that I needed hearing aids (even when I was told by another doctor that they would not help). As my job as a Parole/Probation Officer for the State of Oregon demanded that I have adequate hearing, I sought every method to continue in my profession. The hearing aids, which insurance does not cover, were to cost in excess of $7000. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have that kind of money lying around! My audiologist suggested I seek assistance from Voc Rehab (I mistakenly had the preconceived notion that Voc Rehab was just for people injured on the job who were assisted by them to return to work). Subsequently, I met with the worker, Allan, who very quickly approved me and within days they were willing to foot the bill – the entire cost for the hearing aids!! Of course, the hearing aids did not help and as my hearing waned they became useless. Everyone blew a cork, even made threats, when I gave them away to a six year old girl whose family could not afford the seven grand either!

The next step for my doctors to do was a Cochlear implant. 60 to 70 grand, insurance would pay 80 percent, but the operation and all follow-up was a 4 hour drive away! Lots of money out of my pocket, lots of time off from work – but yet in order to keep my job I had to go for it.

Here is where my research came into play. I have for years known and preached that in order to optimally work with a group of people or an agency the best thing to do is to study up on them. I pulled my paperwork out from Voc Rehab and read the manual that was given to me. There was the statement “Our goal is to remove any stumbling block that keeps an individual from finding or maintaining employment” (DHS Handbook, 2007). I studied their site on the internet (www.oregon.gov) and with all information and a plan in hand, I again approached Oregon Voc Rehab (and the same worker as before). Much to my delight, because I could easily connect my need to maintaining my job, my plan was approved. This time they assisted with gas, food, lodging, and paid the majority of my financial responsibility for surgery costs – a fantastic savings to me.

This was a boon that I began readily sharing with everyone, especially the criminal population that I work with. Nothing related to deafness, but ----I have a female felon who has one rotten tooth directly in the front of her mouth, the rest had mostly all long rotted away. She stated that she was unable to find a job in her profession due to the fact that once she smiled at the interview, they were repulsed and immediately labeled her as a Methamphetamine user (actually Marijuana was her drug of choice). “Pah” “have I got a guy for you to talk to!” I told her. She connected with Voc Rehab (the same worker as me) and this next month she will have a new set of choppers – and a new boost of self-esteem! After continual phone calls of thanks, I told her the only thanks I want is for her to come see me next month and – smile at me – that’s what it’s all about!

Ok, back to being deaf (physically). Earlier this year the doctors decided and insurance approved, a second, or bilateral, Cochlear implant. I was not the enthusiastic patient they had hoped for. These things have helped me keep a job but I can give them no other praise. Anyhow, I now had to figure out how to not go broke with this one – so – more research. I found an excellent article on About.com under deafness (AnnieDeaf, 2007). It lays out the best way to for the deaf to approach Voc Rehab and the correct verbiage to use. (I recently was told by one of our Circuit Court staff how their Judge instructed them as how to get out of a speeding ticket by reciting the statute to the officer (using their verbiage) to show that you believed you were within the bounds of the law – just a side note – don’t try this at home). As the article suggested, I again approached Voc Rehab (the same worker) with a plan and the appropriate wording. I was told that they usually don’t approve recurring medical issues. “And where in your administrative rules does it state that” I asked (as the aforementioned article suggested). Aaaaaaa? backpedal, backpedal!!! I then used the verbiage suggested and stated I was seeking “Quality of Life” and also requested that they pay for an ASL course under the same “Quality of Life” need. Due to the fact that I was now well-schooled in Voc Rehab’s process and used the appropriate approach, my plan was again approved. This time they would pay travel, lodging, some of my responsibility for surgery costs and – get this - $1000 towards approved college courses in ASL. Yes, Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation has paid for me to write this “research” paper!!! Hallelujah!!!

Vocational Rehabilitation is State and Federally funded (OVRS, 2008). Some functions and rules may differ from state to state. Bottom line is – if you can show that your deafness, whether lifelong or later in life (as in my case), is a “stumbling block to getting or maintaining a job”

( DHS Handbook, 2007 ) or your “Quality of Living” (AnnieDeaf, 2007) is in some way affected, then you may be able to tap into their funding. This ain’t a handout. Your State and Federal taxes pay for it.

If your endeavor leads you to success – the next time you see me thank me with - a big smile – hey, that’s what it is all about!


References:

Oregon State Department of Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation, (2007) Hand book

Oregon State Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (OVRS) (2008) http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/vr/index.shtml

"AnnieDeaf" (2007, Dec. 2) Jobs – Vocational Rehabilitation and State agencies,  http:/deafness.about.com/od/stateagencies/a/vrstateagencies.htm

 

 


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