Innovative Economic Model Demonstrates Vocational Rehabilitation Program Effectiveness
The state-federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) program helps people with disabilities find and keep employment. With a federal investment of over $3 billion, VR serves about 1.5 million people with physical and mental disabilities annually. VR services include vocational assessment and counseling, job training and placement, educational services, assistive technology, and mobility orientation and training. However, the effectiveness of the program remains uncertain. With a NIDRR field-initiated grant, University of Richmond researchers developed and tested a rigorous return on investment (ROI) model that estimates the long-term impacts of VR services on employment likelihood, subsequent earnings, and receipt of SSI and SSDI for VR applicants with specific types of disabilities. Key findings suggest a complex picture of VR effectiveness:
- Overall, VR services have a positive ROI. In Virginia, 80 percent of VR applicants earned more as a result of VR services. For every $1,000 the agency spent, the average consumer earned $7,100 more over 10 years than they would have earned without VR services. The top 10 percent earned $45,100 or more.
- Employment outcomes differ dramatically by disability type and service. For example, training, including supported employment, is most effective for people with mental illness while education is most effective for people with cognitive impairments.
- For people with mental illness, VR services result in better labor market outcomes as well as a higher likelihood of receiving SSI and SSDI benefits when employment is unlikely.
Two papers from this study are available online:
- “The Effects of Vocational Rehabilitation for People with Mental Illness” at http://people.virginia.edu/~sns5r/resint/vocrehstf/vocrehmi.pdf.
- “The Effects of Vocational Rehabilitation for People with Cognitive Impairments” at http://people.virginia.edu/~sns5r/resint/vocrehstf/vocrehci.pdf.
The researchers have recently received a new grant to further refine the model and develop tools for states to estimate ROI.
(See page 15 in the full report, which is available at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nidrr/2014organizationhighlights.pdf; )