Vocational Rehabilitation, also called ‘voc rehab’ or ‘VR’, are programs that help people with disabilities to get and/or keep a job. Across the nation, there are at least 1.2 million disabled people who are able to work thanks to these programs.

As anyone who has lived with a substance use disorder knows, addiction to drugs and alcohol is not a choice – it is a mental health disorder. Voc rehab programs can be a huge help to people who suffer from addiction.

In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about voc rehab—from what it is, to how you can get work through one of these programs.

What is Voc Rehab?

Voc rehab is a great way for people with substance use disorders to find employment. There are VR programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and every U.S. territory. These programs receive funding and support from both the federal and state levels.

To give you an idea of the scope of VR programs and how they are funded, take a look at these numbers from Florida’s voc rehab program in 2019:

  • $161,151,579 from the U.S. Dept. Of Education
  • $43,616,711 from Florida State Appropriations

That’s over $200 million worth of grant money for VR, in the state of Florida alone! Also, VR services are for anyone suffering from physical or mental disabilities, not just people with drug and alcohol issues.

What Does Voc Rehab Help With?

Voc rehab programs do a lot more than you might think. The law requires that state VR agencies offer at least the following services. Many states offer more services than the ones listed below:

  • Job counseling, referral services, and guidance
  • Mental and physical rehab for your disability
  • Financial help while you are looking/training for a job
  • Transportation to get to some voc rehab services
  • Job training
  • On-the-job training
  • Interpreter/reader services for deaf and blind people
  • Personal assistance services
  • Help with finding a job
  • Supported employment services

VR programs can also help you if you want to be self-employed or start your own small business. Although they can’t help you find employment in this way, they can help with training and building a business plan.

If you already have an income and you need some VR services, you may be required to pay for part of the services that you receive. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis and will depend on your disabilities, your needs and your income.

How to Get Approved for Voc Rehab Services

If you think you might benefit from voc rehab services, you need to know where to turn and who to call to get approved. If you have been struggling with substance abuse and have been working with a treatment center to get care, you may be able to get VR services through your treatment center.

Get Services via Your Treatment Center

Certain addiction rehab centers have staff who are certified to provide VR services. Others have counselors who can help to connect you with local and state agencies that provide voc rehab.

However, research has shown that despite the proven benefit of VR services for people with substance use disorders, few treatment centers offer voc rehab. Before choosing a treatment center, you might consider asking whether they are able to provide voc rehab.

Get Services via Your Local or State VR office

Every U.S. state, district, and territory has an office to offer voc rehab services. If you are looking to get voc rehab on your own, you can reach out to your local office to learn more.

To get approved for VR, your local office might ask for information such as your substance abuse history, employment history, and treatment history, as well as whether you have any other mental or physical disabilities or health concerns.

Order of Selection

According to federal law, people with more serious disabilities will be given voc rehab services first. This is called ‘order of selection’. When you apply for voc rehab services, you will be interviewed extensively and assigned a significance of disability. For people living with substance use disorders, this will depend on the severity of your condition.

How Long Does it Take to Get Approved?

Voc rehab service offices must make a decision within 60 days of a submitted application.

Drug & Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Voc rehab can be a great resource for people with addictions. However, keep in mind that VR is a later step in many individuals’ recovery plans. Voc rehab is great for helping with the transition back into daily life after inpatient rehab.

Many people with addictions need to spend time at a rehab center to fully recover properly. Inpatient rehab involves living in a treatment center and focusing on your own recovery for a period of time. 


  1. Frequently Asked Questions (n.d.)
  2. Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (n.d.)
  3. Vocational Rehabilitation for Individuals With Disabilities (n.d.)
  4. The utilization of vocational rehabilitation services in substance abuse treatment facilities in the U.S. (2008, January)

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