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rehabilitation services

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

VR is a program that provides individualized services to assist people with significant disabilities to get and keep jobs compatible with their disability.

Who is eligible?

Any person whose disability significantly interferes with getting or keeping a job, and who needs VR services to overcome these barriers to employment is eligible for our program.

How does VR Work?

During the application process a rehabilitation counselor will meet with you to begin assessing your disability, employment history and your unique interest, strengths, and abilities. When the assessment is complete you and your counselor will identify and agree on an employment goal. You and your counselor will develop a detailed plan of services to achieve that goal. The plan, known as an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE), will outline who pays for each service. While there is no charge for VR services, some services are based upon your economic need and the availability of other sources of funding, such as health insurance, federal grants or benefits.

How long does the process take?

Frequently, eligibility for services is determined on the day of application. You can speed up the eligibility process by coming to the office with medical information concerning your disability. When documentation of the severity of you disability or how it affects your ability to work is not apparent or readily available, additional time is needed to gather this information. The time it takes to reach your employment goal depends upon your individual needs.

About Independent Living


Approved 2014 State Plan for Independent Living
The State Plan for Independent Living is a three-year plan (FY 2014-2016) developed by the Statewide Independent Living Council for the Independent Living program within the Division of Rehabilitation Services.

704 Annual Report 2015

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for services, an individual must have a significant disability, which means:
  1. An individual with a significant physical, mental, cognitive or sensory impairment;
  2. Whose ability to function independently in the family or community or whose ability to obtain, maintain, or advance in employment is substantially limited; and
  3. For whom the delivery of independent living services will improve the ability to function, continue functioning, or move towards functioning independently in the family or community or to continue employment.

What services are available?

Information and Referral Services - These services are provided to anyone in relation to their rights, resources and responsibilities. These services can be provided individually or in a group, in person or phone contact. The service includes situations when an individual contacts a program for services, information or they are referred to other more appropriate resources. These services are not based upon economic need.

Independent Living Skills Training - These services involve teaching independent living skills, either on an individual or group basis. Basic survival skills training is provided in areas such as food preparation, shopping, personal grooming. Training should encompass a broad view of life skills and is not limited to basic survival skills. These services are not based upon economic need.

Peer Counseling Services - Peer counseling services are differentiated from counseling services in that these services are provided to consumers by an individual with a similar disability. The peer counselor and consumer meet on a one-to-one basis, or a consumer may meet with a group of peers, in order to discuss issues related to their disability. These services are not based upon economic need.

Individual and Systems Advocacy - These services assist an individual in developing the skills needed to advocate on their own behalf within the independent living services process and all activities of daily life. These services also address needed community-wide systems change, which will result in leadership, independence, productivity and full inclusion in society of individuals with significant disabilities. These services are not based upon economic need.

Housing Related Services - These services are related to securing housing or shelter, including services related to community group living and supportive of purposes and title of the Act, and adaptive housing services These services may include: a) assisting consumers in finding affordable and accessible housing; b) providing technical assistance concerning modifying existing housing to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities;

How does the process work?

During the application process the independent living specialist will meet with you to begin to assessing your disability and independent living needs. When the assessment is completed, you and your independent living specialist will set goals for you to achieve. There is no charge for services but some services are based upon your economic need.

How long does the process take?

Usually eligibility for services is determined on the same day of application. You can speed up the eligibility process by coming to the center for independent living with medical information concerning your disability or evidence that you receive an SSI or SSDI check. The time it takes to reach your independent living goal depends upon your individual needs.

About deaf services

Who is Eligible?

Any individual who is deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind and late-deafened and is a resident of South Dakota is eligible.

Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS)

Telecommunications relay services provide full telephone accessibility to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech disabled. Specially trained Communication Assistants (CAs) complete all calls and stay on-line to relay messages either electronically over a Teletypewriter (TTY) or verbally to hearing parties.

The service, known as Relay South Dakota is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with no restrictions on the length or number of calls placed. This valuable communications tool gives all individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled the opportunity to make personal and business calls just like any other telephone user.

For more information, visit Telecommunication Relay Service

Telecommunication Adaptive Devices

The aim of the Telecommunications Adaptive Devices (TAD) program is to provide equal access to telecommunications for individuals with disabilities other than deafness, deaf-blind, hard of hearing or speech impairment.

The Telecommunications Adaptive Devices Program provides telecommunication devices such as fully voice activated phones, main street emergency messenger telephones, picture dialing phones, large button phones and other equipment which may be need to communication through the phone lines.

Learn more:

Telecommunication Equipment Distribution

The purpose of the Telecommunications Equipment Distribution program is to provide accessible telephone services for individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, have severe hearing loss or are speech-impaired. This is accomplished through a combination of both the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) and the Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program (TED). Special equipment is available – at no cost – to enhance telephone communication.

For more information about TED services, or for applications use the links below:
Note you will need to select the application for the office serving your county

Hearing Aid Assistance Program (HAAP) for children under 19

In 2014 the South Dakota Legislature identified a need for many families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing: assistance in purchasing hearing aids. Under HB 1166, the legislature approved funding to establish the Hearing Aid Assistance Program (HAAP).

Who is eligible?
HAAP will help with the cost of hearing aid(s) and associated ear mold(s) for South Dakota children, younger than 19, with progressive or permanent hearing loss who would benefit from hearing aid(s). The program is open to families with a household income of less than 400 percent of federal poverty guidelines that do not have coverage through their current insurance plan. HAAP operates on a sliding fee schedule, with the financial contribution ranging from 50 to 100 percent of the total cost of purchasing hearing aid(s) and associated ear mold(s). If costs for services and hearing aids are currently bundled together, they will need to be separated for submission to HAAP. HAAP will begin accepting applications Dec. 1, 2014.

Application/forms/additional information

Cochlear Implant Program

A Cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that assists an individual with severe or profound hearing loss to hear sounds. The Division of Rehabilitation Services, through the Department of Human Services, administers the Cochlear Implant Program. This program is designed to provide financial assistance to an eligible individual who is uninsured or to help offset the deductible or coinsurance for an individual with an insurance plan that covers cochlear implants. The program provides funding for the cost of the implant surgery for one ear or both ears, one or two implant devices, surgeon fee, hospital fee, the initial mapping and up to a maximum of 12 follow up mappings within one year post surgery.

Cochlear Implant Final Rules

Forms to apply for the Cochlear Implant Program If you have questions please contact Janet Ball at (605) 773-4644 or toll free at (800) 265-9684 or E-mail at

South Dakota Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

The National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) is a program established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to distribute a wide array of assistive technology to people who are deaf-blind and require special equipment to make a phone call, send an email or access the Internet.

Working in conjunction with the FCC, Perkins and Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults (HKNC), the Department of Human Services will connect people in South Dakota who are deaf-blind with the proper equipment and training on how to utilize it. NDBEDP provides a wide range of specialized and “off-the-shelf” hardware, software and applications. The program also provides one-on-one training to help people use the equipment to its fullest.

Who can benefit from NDBEDP program:
  • An individual with combined hearing and vision loss who wants to use Skype to connect via sign language with her grandmother;
  • An man who has lost sight and hearing as a result of aging and wants to email and Facebook to reconnect with friends and family.
Who is eligible?
Any individual who meets the definition of deaf-blindness in the HKNC Act and has an income that does not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level can qualify to receive telephone, advanced communications and information services equipment.

Communication is essential for staying healthy, holding a job, managing a household and participating in the community. If you know someone who might benefit from the NDBEDP program, please contact: Janet Ball at or at 1-800-265-9684.You can also visit the national website, or call 1-800-825-4595.

FCC Consumer Guide explaining the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP)
Application for the South Dakota NDBEDP - Instructions and Guidelines

Communication Assistance Services

The purpose of the communication assistance services program is to provide communication support services to eligible individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing to achieve increased integration into the community and workplace.

  1. Information and referral;
  2. Peer support;
  3. Communication assistance;
  4. Community integration skills training;
  5. Deaf awareness training, and
  6. Technical assistance.

Mentoring Services

The Department of Human Services (DHS); Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) sponsors mentoring services in order to promote certification and to support advancing of interpreting to the highest level an interpreter can achieve in order to assure quality interpreting services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The Division of Rehabilitation Services administers and provides mentoring services through contracts with provider agencies and free lance mentors that provide services to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Mentors must be a Level V (Master of Interpreting) certified interpreter or an individual who is deaf and follow essential functions of a mentor. State office will approve Level IV (Advanced) interpreters on a case-by-case basis when mentoring is requested in a remote location where a Level V interpreter is not readily available. DRS will maintain a list of mentors for availability to candidates seeking mentoring.

For further information on mentoring contact Janet Ball at Division of Rehabilitation Services at 605-773-4547 or

South Dakota Mentor List

Interpreter and Mentoring Resources

The CATIE Center - Interpreting in Medical Settings
Digiterp Communications On-Line Ordering
Sign of Development, LLC - Professional Development Workshop
DO IT Interpreting Training Center
CSD - Communication Services for the Deaf
Interpreting Consolidated - Education Interpretation Research
StoryBlend - Language and Interpretation Immersion Institute