Shawnie Rechtenbaugh, Department Secretary

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Vocational Rehabilitation Services








What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

Vocational Rehabilitation is a program that provides individualized vocational rehabilitation and supportive services to assist eligible individuals with disabilities to get and keep jobs compatible with their skills and abilities.

Who is Eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation?

To be eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services from the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), you must:

DRS will gather and review your medical records, educational back-ground, work history, and related information, as needed, to determine specifically how your disability affects your ability to be employed and how vocational rehabilitation services might be of assistance to you. A qualified Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselor will determine if you are eligible for vocational rehabilitation services.

Steps to Vocational Rehabilitation


You can apply for vocational rehabilitation services by contacting a Rehabilitation Services office in your area. Applications are also available at the Department of Labor offices and the DRS home page.

A representative from DRS will meet with you as soon as possible to explain the vocational rehabilitation eligibility requirements, programs and services. When an application is completed, we will begin gathering the necessary information to determine your eligibility as well as help you select your vocational goal.

Trial Work and Extended Evaluation

Prior to the VR Counselor determining eligibility, Trial Work (TW) or Extended Evaluation (EE) can be utilized. The purpose of TW and EE is to determine if an individual with a disability is capable of benefiting from VR services. Trial Work is an assessment at an actual job site and is most commonly referred to as a situational assessment. An Extended Evaluation is a VR Counselor's written assessment of an applicant's ability to work and can only be utilized if it is not possible to conduct a situational assessment. Individuals involved in Trial Work or Extended Evaluation will jointly develop a plan with their VR Counselor. Based on the results of the assessment or evaluation specified in the plan, the individual may be determined eligible or ineligible for VR services.

Eligibility Determination

To determine your eligibility, the VR Counselor will need information about you that may include medical, psychological, and educational reports as well as your work history. We recommend that you bring any information of this type you have in your possession with you to your initial meeting with DRS. This can help speed up the process of determining your eligibility for services. If current information is not available from existing records, your VR Counselor may ask you to have an examination designed to provide the needed information. If this is required, DRS will cover the cost of the examination and any other expenses incurred because of the examination.

If you are currently a Social Security disability recipient, you are automatically determined to have a significant disability. If you are interested in obtaining employment, you are presumed eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. However, individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits are not automatically entitled to VR services. Individuals must expect to achieve an employment outcome as a result of receiving VR services.

Your eligibility must be determined within 60 days of the date of your application. At times exceptional and unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or the VR counselor can occur making it impossible to determine an individual's eligibility within the 60-day requirement. In these situations, the VR Counselor will contact you to request an extension to the 60-day eligibility requirement. If an individual participates in a Trial Work or an Extended Evaluation, the 60 day requirement is removed.

Order of Selection

"Order of selection" is when the Division of Rehabilitation Services does not have sufficient financial resources to serve all people who are eligible for services. The Order of selection uses waiting lists to manage the available financial resources while giving priority for services to eligible persons with the most significant disabilities. During or shortly after the eligibility determination, individuals will be assigned an order of selection category based on the severity of their disability. Depending upon which category an individual is classified into, some individuals may be placed on a waiting list while others can proceed with developing their employment plan and receiving services.

Individuals will be categorized into one of the three follow categories based upon the number of categories in function capacities where there are serious limits in the areas of mobility, communication, self-care, self-direction, interpersonal skills, work tolerance, or work skills.

PRIORITY CATEGORY I - Are individuals who meet the definition of individuals with the most significant disabilities which seriously limits them in two or more functional capacities.

PRIORITY CATEGORY II- Are individuals who meet the definition of individuals with significant disabilities which seriously limits them in one functional capacity.

PRIORITY CATEGORY III- Individuals with disabilities.

Development of Your Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)

If you are eligible and meet the category level for the Order of Selection, a written document called your Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) will need to be developed. Your IPE is the blueprint for achieving your vocational objective, which when attained will help you work and live as independently as possible. A sample of an IPE is included at the end of this document. You are also encouraged to keep copies of your IPE in your portfolio.

During the development of your Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE), you or your representative may develop part or all of your IPE. The IPE can be developed with the following levels of assistance:

Important Note: It is your choice in the options listed above. The Division of Rehabilitation Services does provide assistance by a DRS employee in option one at no cost to you. Division of Rehabilitation Services does not pay or reimburse outside agencies or individuals for assistance in the preparation of your IPE.

In the development of your IPE, you have a number of choices and decisions you must make in order to complete your IPE.

Your IPE will be unique to you and tailored to your vocational rehabilitation needs. Your Individualized Plan for Employment shows what will be done, who will do it and how your progress toward achieving your employment goal will be determined. At any time during your vocational rehabilitation program, your IPE can be modified or changed. You and your VR Counselor must agree upon any change. Working together, we can likely make your program a successful one. Once your IPE is agreed upon, you and your counselor will sign it and you will be receive a copy of it.

Your IPE must be reviewed once a year by a qualified vocational rehabilitation counselor, yourself and, if appropriate, your representative. The purpose of an annual review is to assess your progress in achieving your employment outcome. If any revisions are needed because of the review, your IPE will be jointly revised and amended. Annual reviews must involve a face-to-face meeting between the qualified vocational rehabilitation counselor, yourself, and if you choose, your representative. The qualified vocational rehabilitation counselor can be an employee from the Division of Rehabilitation Services or be from another agency. If you choose to utilize a qualified vocational rehabilitation counselor from another agency, DRS does not pay for this assistance. In addition, DRS is required by Federal law to assure that the annual reviews occur and are approved by a qualified vocational rehabilitation counselor employed by DRS.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

The Division of Rehabilitation Services can offer a variety of individualized services but the services must be included on your IPE and be determined necessary to meet your employment outcome. Before DRS can pay for the vocational rehabilitation services, four criteria must be met:

Following is a description of services available through the Division of Rehabilitation Services:

Assessment for determining eligibility and VR needs – These services consist of medical and psychological evaluations as well as a wide-range of vocational assessments that are designed to help your VR Counselor determine whether you are eligible for VR Services. Diagnostic services may also be needed to gain an understanding of the nature and implications of your disability and to help determine the services you will need to attain your employment goal.

Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling – This is one of the most important services that you can receive. This service is provided by your VR Counselor throughout the VR process. Your VR Counselor can also help you better understand and adjust to your disability; help you choose your employment goal; help you develop a plan to attain your employment goal; and help you adjust to the changing circumstances caused by your disability. If needed, your counselor can counsel your family members to help them to better understand your disability and to help them learn how to be supportive of you during the VR process.

Physical and Mental Restoration – These services are aimed at enhancing your employability by removing or reducing the effects of your disability. These services may include limited medical or psychological treatment or therapy, orthotic and prosthetic devices, and other services and devices that are likely to remove or reduce the limitations caused by your disability.

Vocational/ Other Training Services – These services may be provided to help you gain the specific knowledge and skills required to perform the job indicated on your IPE. Training for employment can be obtained at a public or private vocational school, college, or rehabilitation facility. Other options include on-the-job training and job coaching.

Maintenance – Maintenance is financial support for expenses such as food, shelter, and clothing that occur due to the individual’s participation in a program of vocational rehabilitation services. These expenses must be a direct result of participating in a vocational rehabilitation program and cannot be the normal living expenses.

Transportation – DRS can provide financial support for transportation services when you have travel associated with obtaining vocational rehabilitation services.

Services to Family Members – DRS can help pay for services to family members if the services are necessary to enable you to obtain an employment outcome.

Interpreter Services - Interpreter services can be provided for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or individuals who are deaf-blind and require tactile interpreting services. Other types of language interpreting can be provided while receiving other vocational rehabilitation services.

Job Related Services - These services include assistance with your job search, job placement services, and a number of other services designed to help you keep your job once attained. DRS can provide some of these services directly while in other situations may purchase these services from providers who specialize in this service area.

Supported Employment – Supported Employment services consist of job training and specialized services for individuals with the most significant disabilities to help them obtain and maintain employment. DRS Supported Employment services most often consist of job placement, job coaching and assisting the individual on the job site to help assure successful employment. The DRS services are time limited with long-term support services provided by another agency or funding source.

Personal Assistance Services – This category consists of a variety of services to assist an individual to perform daily living activities on or off the job. These services are intended to help individuals gain greater control of their lives by aiding their ability to perform everyday activities as independently as possible. The services must be necessary to the achievement of an employment outcome and provided only while the individual is receiving other vocational rehabilitation services.

Rehabilitation Technology - These services consist of rehabilitation engineering, assistive technology devices and assistive technology services. Services may initially consist of an evaluation by an assistive technology specialist to help identify accommodations, assistive devices and services that can help you overcome barriers to your independence in a training situation, at a job-site, or in your home (if needed to enable you to obtain and retain employment). Assistive technology specialist sometimes recommends modifications to vehicles to make them usable for people to have independent access to employment.

Transition Services – Transition services consist of a variety of services needed by high school students or other secondary school students with disabilities to make the adjustment from school to employment. VR Counselors can participate in a student's Individual Education Plan (IEP) to provide vocational rehabilitation consultation and technical assistance to students, parents, and faculty members as they plan for the student’s future after high school. The most common services provided by DRS for transition students are Project Skills (paid work experience program) and post secondary preparation programs called Youth Leadership Forum and Catch the Waive.

Technical Assistance and Other Consultation Services - DRS can assist individuals who are pursuing self-employment or telecommuting with market analysis, development of business plans and other resources if needed.

Self-employment Services - DRS can assist individuals whose goal is self-employment with such things as occupational licenses, tools, equipment, initial stocks and supplies when needed. DRS has a self-employment policy defining the level of financial participation from the vocational rehabilitation program. If you are seeking self-employment, please consult with your VR Counselor on this policy and other resources to assist you.


The primary objective of the vocational rehabilitation program is to assist individuals with disabilities to find employment that is consistent with their strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests and informed choice. Your plan for employment can include services to assist you in obtaining employment and keeping the job. After you obtain employment, your vocational rehabilitation counselor will follow-up to make sure everything is going well and that both you and your employer are satisfied.

Your employment needs to be in the most integrated setting possible. For most individuals, this is employment in the community working for an employer. The Division of Rehabilitation Services can assist individuals to become self-employed as an employment option. Individuals seeking self-employment as an employment objective will be required to complete an assessment of their business potential and to complete a small business plan.

Case Closure

When your employment as described above has been maintained for at least 90 days, your VR case can be closed as successfully rehabilitated. You and your VR counselor will need to agree that your employment outcome is satisfactory and you are performing well on the job.

Your case can also be closed in situations where you have been determined ineligible, you have requested your case file closed, for lack of cooperation on your part, or other reasons. When your case is closed, you will be notified of case closure. You will be provided information as to why your case is being closed, information on the Client Assistance Program and an opportunity to discuss the case closure with the VR Counselor. When your case is closed, you can reapply for services at a later date.

Post Employment

If your vocational rehabilitation case has been closed successfully rehabilitated, you can receive post employment services to help to with your employment. Post employment is very goal specific and short-term in nature. If you require a number of services over an extensive period of time or you have lost your employment, your VR Counselor may suggest that you re-apply for VR Services. If you are approved for post employment services, you and your VR Counselor will jointly develop an amendment to your Individualized Plan for Employment.

Will You Have to Pay for Some of the Services?

The Division of Rehabilitation Services can assist with the cost of vocational rehabilitation services when the following conditions are met:

The Division of Rehabilitation Services has established policies that some vocational rehabilitation services cannot be purchased until a financial needs test has been completed. The financial needs test takes into consideration the size of the family, annual income, income producing property, other income sources, and extenuating expenses. Exceeding the financial needs level does not disqualify an individual from receiving financial assistance from the Division of Rehabilitation Services. The dollar amount exceeding the financial needs test is the amount the consumer will need to apply towards their cost of vocational rehabilitation services. Individuals who are eligible for Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are exempt from the financial needs test requirement.

Unless you are eligible for SSI or SSDI, the following services require a financial needs test before services can be approved:

The Division of Rehabilitation Services has the responsibility to assure that before purchasing services, we seek out all other possible comparable resources that could pay for part or all of the vocational rehabilitation services. Services identified in your IPE exceeding one year in length are contingent upon future federal appropriations and expenditure authority from the State of South Dakota.

Your Choices Throughout the VR Process

Each applicant and eligible individual will be provided opportunities to exercise informed choice. This includes the availability of support services for individuals with cognitive or other disabilities who require assistance in exercising informed choice throughout the vocational rehabilitation process. Individuals or, as appropriate, the individuals' representatives will be provided information that enables them to exercise informed choice in the development of their IPEs with respect to the selection of the—

Your Responsibilities

As part of your vocational rehabilitation program, you will be expected to take responsibility and do some things yourself. Throughout the rehabilitation process, you and your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will coordinate a program of counseling and services aimed at helping you to obtain employment. In receiving vocational rehabilitation services you are expected to:

Important Note: The Division of Rehabilitation Services is not responsible for payment of any services unless the services have been pre-authorized by the VR Counselor. If you initiate services without authorization, you may be responsible for the cost of the services.

Call or see your VR Counselor as soon as you can when you are having a problem related to your rehabilitation program so that you can get any help you may need on a timely basis. If you are in academic training, your VR Counselor will require your grade reports to determine the progress in your training program.

Your Rights and the Client Assistance Program

You have the right to make informed choices regarding your goals, objectives, services and service providers throughout the life of your Individualized Plan for Employment. The Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor employed by the Division of Rehabilitation Services can assist you to make these important decisions.

You have the right to discuss a problem or grievance with your vocational rehabilitation counselor or the counselor’s supervisor by scheduling an appointment. You have the option of requesting either an informal administrative review, and/or fair hearing to address your concerns. You may also request mediation services through a trained mediator instead of or as part of an informal review or fair hearing. You can exercise any of these options by sending a written request to:

DRS Assistant Director
Hillsview Plaza
East Highway 34, c/o 500 East Capitol
Pierre, SD 57501-5070

Regardless of the option selected, the entire process will not exceed 60 days unless you or your representative, if appropriate, and the State agency agree on a time extension.

The Client Assistance Program (CAP) can assist you and/or represent you in an informal administrative review, mediation and/or fair hearing. The Client Assistance Program (CAP) can be contacted at:

SD Advocacy Services
221 South Central Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
(605) 224-8294 voice/TTY or
1-800-658-4782 (toll free).

In accordance with Federal Regulations, no individuals will on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to discrimination under this rehabilitation plan.

If you are determined ineligible for vocational rehabilitation services, your counselor will inform you in writing that you were determined ineligible and the reasons for the decision. Your vocational rehabilitation counselor will also inform you of your right to due process.


Beginning with your application for vocational rehabilitation services, DRS will start a case file in your behalf. The Division of Rehabilitation Services obtains various types of information for purposes directly related to your vocational rehabilitation. This information will be kept confidential in accordance with Federal Laws and Regulations. The information you provide is voluntary to the extent that withholding information does not interfere with the determination of eligibility or the development of the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).

When you apply for vocational rehabilitation services from the Division of Rehabilitation Services, (unless you restrict in writing the exchange of information about you) you approve the exchange of information with cooperating departments in State government, the Social Security Administration, local school districts, and other agencies involved in the Workforce Development Act. You also approve that information may be released to potential employers to assist in your placement into employment. Information is also released to the Department of Human Services and other Divisions within the Department for the purpose of collecting, reporting, analyzing data and facilitating access to services/programs offered by the Department of Human Services. Other than these situations, information can only be released upon your written consent.

Personal Safety Policy

Individuals with disabilities and the staff of the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) are entitled to interact and do their job in a safe environment. The Division of Rehabilitation Services has a policy of not tolerating violent behavior, threats of violent behavior, verbal abuse or other forms of harassment toward individuals with disabilities, staff, co-workers, supervisors, managers, or any other persons involved in the provision of vocational rehabilitation services. Any act of physical, verbal or psychological aggression, harm, or property abuse/damage shall be considered an act of violence. Harassment is an unwanted campaign of persistent behavior against another person, which results in physical or emotional intimidation. Weapons of any kind, including firearms, shall not be permitted in any DRS office.

Threats, acts of violence, or other forms of harassment by an applicant or eligible individual against another individual with a disability, a DRS staff member, or any other individuals involved in the provision of vocational rehabilitation services shall result in an interruption of the vocational rehabilitation service relationship, including closure of the service record, when warranted, and filing of criminal charges, when warranted. The vocational rehabilitation service relationship may resume only after the assurance of future safety has been restored.

When threats, acts of violence, or other forms of harassment are committed by an advocate or other representative of an individual, the individual will be asked to discontinue his or her representative's interaction with the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor or office for the remainder of the vocational rehabilitation service relationship. Failure to do so shall result in an interruption of the vocational rehabilitation service relationship, including closure of the service record, when warranted and filing of criminal charges, when warranted.

Ticket to Work

If you are a Social Security recipient, it is very likely you will or may receive a "Ticket" from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Ticket is a document that provides you the choice of receiving vocational rehabilitation services from the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) or from another Employment Network (EN). When Tickets are mailed, a toll free phone number (1-866-YOURTICKET) will be mentioned in the packet of materials received from SSA. Ticket-holders call this number to find out the phone number of the Division of Rehabilitation Services and who the Employment Networks are in their area. You can also find additional information on the ticket program at the following internet sites:

Ticket To Work

This site is geared towards service providers (Employment Networks, State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, Work Incentives Planning & Assistance Projects, and the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security. 

Social Security Administration:

The use of a ticket is completely voluntary. If you get a Ticket, you are free to choose when and whether you want to use it. If you decide to "assign" it (use it), then take it to the Division of Rehabilitation Services or to any approved Employment Network within the state. Social Security beneficiaries can only "assign" their Ticket to one Employment Network or the Division of Rehabilitation Services at a time. They can change between the Division of Rehabilitation Services and Employment Networks if they are not satisfied with the services as long as they inform (in writing) the Maximus Employment Network Coordinator that they wish to do so and why.

If you choose to assign your Ticket to the Division of Rehabilitation Services, the vocational rehabilitation counselor will work with you in developing your Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) and informing Maximus of your ticket assignment to DRS. If you choose to assign your Ticket to an Employment Network, they will work with you in developing a written Individual Work Plan (IWP) to include your employment goal and the services necessary to meet this goal. If your ticket is assigned to an Employment Network, you can also have an IPE with the Division of Rehabilitation Services that would include vocational rehabilitation guidance and counseling, many of the other vocational rehabilitation services would be provided by the Employment Network. The Division of Rehabilitation Services will have a cooperative agreement with Employment Networks describing our coordination of services for ticket holders.

Office Locations and Phone Numbers


Couny Map and offices


1707 4th Ave SE, Ste A
Aberdeen, SD 57401
Phone/TTY (605) 626-2398 or

1310 Main Ave. S.
Suite 102
Brookings, SD 57006-3841
Phone/TTY (605) 688-4280 or

Chamberlain (Sub office of Yankton)
320 Sorenson Drive, Ste 102
Chamberlain, SD 57325
Phone/TTY (605) 734-4555 or

Huron (Sub office of Brookings)
2361 Dakota Avenue South
Huron, SD 57350
Phone/TTY (605) 353-7130 or

Mitchell (Sub office of Yankton)
1321 N. Main
Mitchell SD 57301
Phone/TTY (605) 995-8072 or

Pierre (Sub office of Aberdeen)
912 E. Sioux
c/o 500 E. Capital
Pierre, SD 57501-5070
Phone/TTY (605) 773-3318 or

Rapid City
2330 N Maple, Suite 2
Rapid City, SD 57701
Phone/TTY (605) 394-2261 or

Sioux Falls
Dept 21 811 E 10th Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57103-1650
Phone/TTY (605) 367-5330 or

Spearfish (Sub office of Rapid City)
1300 N Ave
Spearfish, SD 57783
Phone/TTY (605) 642-6817 or

Watertown (Sub office of Brookings)
2001 9th Ave, Suite 200
Watertown, SD 57201
Phone/TTY (605) 882-5150, or

3113 Spruce, Suite 128
Yankton, SD 57078
Phone/TTY (605) 668-3050 or