REENTERING PROFESSIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH SPINAL CORD INJURY
If you are young and just starting to think about what careers are interesting to you, or if you need to change to another line of work, you can take advantage of a number of resources. While in the hospital, you’ll probably be linked up with the Department of Rehabilitation Services or Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in your area. A counselor will help you make career decisions, based on an assessment of your physical and mental abilities and your interest in various vocations as measured by interviews, tests, and questionnaires. Vocational rehabilitation services also include job training, job placement, and sometimes follow-up support services once you are in a new job. Some federal programs provide tax incentives for employers who hire people with disabilities. Keep this in mind when looking for a job. Some larger companies also have affirmative action programs in place to hire disabled individuals. Your counselor should be able to provide further information.
Some excellent private vocational rehabilitation services are also available. Be sure to get two references before paying for these services. Similar services may also be provided by local religious organizations or community colleges. Using a variety of services almost always provides the best chance to find employment.
A cruel irony of our system is that sometimes individuals are caught in a bind in which disability payments are more than they can earn in a job. Sometimes receiving a government payment, such as Social Security Disability, precludes accepting employment. Because the costs surrounding disability needs (care attendant, supplies, equipment, transportation and housing) may exceed what you can earn, you may have to refuse paid work. In this case, finding a job that falls within the income guidelines of the law may be the solution. The Social Security Disability program allows you to supplement your disability payment with part-time work, up to a set dollar amount. You are also entitled to a trial period of full-time work, during which your disability payment continues. If you continue to work past the trial period, your payments are discontinued. If you find that full-time work is not possible, or if you have medical complications that force you to stop working before the end of the trial period, you don’t lose your disability benefits. For more specific information, contact your local Social Security office.
Paid employment may be impossible, or you may choose not to work. If you are primarily a homemaker and parent, your rehabilitation center can provide training and adaptive devices to make your work at home easier. Some people opt for volunteer work as an alternative to paid employment.