Vocational Rehabilitation helps disabled Nebraskans

Vocational Rehabilitation center in Lincoln.

Vocational Rehabilitation center in Lincoln.

By Jake Bockoven, NewsNetNebraska

Jim Coyle loves getting someone with a disability a job. Good thing too, because he’s the Director of Employment Services at Vocational Rehabilitation in Nebraska.

“When I can get an employer to see that (working with Voc Rehab) as a benefit, I take a lot of joy in that,” Coyle said.

Voc Rehab is a federally mandated program in all 50 states that assists people with disabilities. The services provided by Voc Rehab range from counseling and helping people to get jobs to assisting students with tuition and employers with salary compensation.

The basic goal behind the program is to help individuals with disabilities to find and maintain a job that fits their needs. Voc Rehab helps people with all ranges of skill sets, from people with entry-level skills to people with Masters Degrees.

Vocational Rehabilitation started in 1921 to help physically disabled veterans who were returning from WWI. Since then Voc Rehab has added cognitive, psychological, and developmental disabilities to the list of disabled people they assist.

The Voc Rehab branch here in Lincoln is one of eleven branches statewide. Coyle estimated that Voc Rehab assists anywhere from 5-6,000 people at any given time and employes nearly 2,000 Nebraskans a year.

Erika Barrett is just one of many counselor at the Lincoln branch. She said that she has nearly 50 clients that she works with but she knows other counselors who have upwards of 100. Working with so many people makes everyday unpredictable.

“I have a calendar with appointments but I never know from day to day what’s going to happen,” Barrett said.

Coyle, who has been working for Voc Rehab for over 20 years, said the state’s Voc Rehab has been somewhat recession proof because they have been able to employ more people each of the past five years.

One thing that could affect the Nebraska Voc Rehab branch’s performance is Governor Dave Heineman’s proposal to eliminate state income taxes. Voc Rehab receives $3.69 from the federal government for every dollar the state puts toward the program. Any funding cuts from the state because of reduced taxes could mean cuts to the program from the federal government.

Come what may, Coyle said he will continue to work with employers to make sure that future Nebraskans with disabilities will be able to find work.

“When you work with them (employers) and if you can show that vocational rehabilitation can help them with their bottom line they are very willing to work with us,” he said.

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