Retraining options if you are disabled

Not everyone who applies for Social Security wants to be on disability for the rest of their lives. Many just want temporary help while recovering from an injury and figuring out what they can do next.

There are also some cases that keep getting denied.

Whether by choice or necessity, retraining may be something you eventually consider.

Recently, I was talking with a client about the options if Social Security denies her case. She would like to go back to school but has no idea what to study or how to pay for it. It occurs to me that this is a discussion a lot of people would like to be in on.

Here are the retraining options we discussed:

Social Security does not provide retraining

This comes as a surprise to many people. However, Social Security does not provide any retraining services. For right or wrong, it is just not part of Social Security’s charter. Of course the monthly benefits and health insurance Social Security provides may go a long way to help you while going back to school.

The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

If you are looking for retraining in a new field, your local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) is the agency to contact. DVR offers a variety of services including diagnosing impairments, retraining, and job placement services.

Here is a list of services from the Colorado DVR website:

  • Evaluation and diagnostic services provided to determine eligibility and the services needed for the individual to become employed;
  • Vocational rehabilitation counseling and guidance provided directly by a vocational rehabilitation counselor during the individual’s plan of services;
  • Physical and mental restoration services which may be provided to correct or substantially modify an individual’s physical or mental condition;
  • Training services, when necessary to become employed, including vocational training, academic training, personal and vocational adjustment training, job coaching, on-the-job training, job-seeking skills training, and books, tools, and other training materials;
  • Specialized services for individuals who are blind, deaf, and deaf-blind, including interpreter services, note-taking services, and reader services;
  • Rehabilitation technology services, including assistive technology devices, assistive technology services, and rehabilitation engineering services to address barriers encountered by an individual in attaining or retaining employment;
  • Placement services provided to assist an individual with a disability to find adequate and suitable employment in his/her chosen career;
  • Supportive services, such as maintenance, transportation, personal assistance services and services to family members may also be provided if necessary for the individual to utilize the services identified above.

Want to contact a DVR office in your part of Colorado? Follow this link.

School Disability Services Office

If you are considering going back to school, it’s not unusual to be worried about the rigors of classes, notes, and tests. Maybe you have a learning impairment such as dyslexia, ADD or ADHD. Maybe social anxiety disorder makes it difficult to attend classes. Maybe you just barely made it through school the first time.

If you are worried about making it in school, contact the Disability Services office of the school you are thinking of attending.

The Disability Services office can help you succeed by providing various accommodations such as the following:

  • Online classes
  • Note takers
  • Assistive technology
  • Alternate testing
  • Additional time on tests or assignments
  • Readers
  • Books on tape
  • Tutoring

By contacting the Disability Services office, you can find out what services may be available to you.

Here is a list of Disability Services offices for local colleges:

If you have a link to another Colorado college Disability Services office, let me know in the comments.

Working with a Vocational Specialist

This is the one tip you will ignore.  You may consider it, keep it in the back of your mind, but ultimately you will decide that you really can’t afford to do this and you will forget it.

That is a shame, because this is the one retraining tip that can make the most difference.

Vocational specialists work with individuals to help identify their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. They can also help identify jobs through their specialized resources and on-site job surveys.

I know you may be saying:

So, it’s like career day in high school where I took a test and it told me I would probably make a good pastry chef, even though I don’t want to be a pastry chef.

Well, it is something like that, but a whole lot better. A good vocational specialist is worth the money. A vocational specialist can help you figure out:

  1. What kind of a job you would be good at?
  2. What kind of job will accommodate your limitations?
  3. Whether you are actually likely to find a job based on the number of jobs in the state, whether the industry is growing or shrinking? Whether schools are going to be flooding the market with job applicants, and so on?

How much will a vocational specialist cost? I would budget between $300 to $700 depending on your region and what you want the vocational specialist to do. If you think that is a lot, consider how much you will pay for just one class in college.

So, here is your choice:

  • You can either spend years of your life and thousands of dollars on training with no idea if you will be able to perform the duties of a in that industry? Whether there are jobs in your area? Or, your likelihood of being hired or running your own business? Or,
  • You can spend a few hundred dollars up front to work with a vocational specialist to figure out the best jobs for you and your limitations, and the find the jobs that have the best income potential.

If this sounds good, please prove me wrong and consider using a vocational expert.

Have you gone back to school to get retraining after an injury? Got tips to share? Tell me in the comments!

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Disclaimer: This is NOT legal advice. This site provides general information about Social Security disability cases in Colorado. To discuss your particular circumstances, please contact a lawyer in your area. Please review the full disclaimer .

About Tomasz Stasiuk

Tomasz Stasiuk is a Colorado Springs Social Security disability lawyer and the founding attorney of the Stasiuk Firm - a law firm specializing in Social Security disability cases in Colorado. Follow Tomasz Stasiuk on Google and Twitter

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  • Karen R

    …thanks for making and keeping this site…I found it useful as I am a survivor of a head on motorcycle crash involving a repeat offender to motorcyclist crashes…….I’m currently on disability and now find DVR of Colorado reaching out to me as I have been interested in p/t work but with a head injury its been difficult to navigate alone. I try to help others in similar situations to keep my attitude positive…keep up the good work and I’m bookmarking this site, thanks for badly needed support.
    Karen
    Lyons, CO

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    I am glad you like it. Thanks for reading.