Are there really vocational rehabilitation services specifically for American Indians?

Yes, Congress implemented grants for the American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AIVRS), sometimes referred to as the Vocational Rehabilitation 121 project.  AIVRS was designed to provide vocational rehabilitation services to American Indians with disabilities who reside on Federal or State reservations, consistent with their individual strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, and informed choice, so that they may prepare for and engage in gainful employment.

Each Tribe has their own distinct culture and language that complicates attempts to serve the American Indian nations. For this reason, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was amended to include Section 130 (now Section 121) that authorized Federal and State Recognized Tribes to provide VR services.  The Rehabilitation Act was founded on the belief that every individual has the right to work and make choices that affect his or her life. In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act, reinforcing the values and principles on which it is based and also establishing a new vision and direction for rehabilitation programs that operate under its authority.

In counties served by participating nations or tribes, individuals may be eligible for services if they:

  • have proof of citizenship from a state or federally recognized tribe,
  • reside within an area served by a participating nation or tribe,
  • have physical or mental disabilities which are barriers to employment,
  • can benefit from vocational rehabilitation services to obtain an employment outcome, and
  • require VR services to get, keep or return to work.

Services include (but are NOT limited to)

  • Diagnosis and evaluation
  • Vocational counseling and planning
  • Information and referral
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Physical and mental restoration services
  • Employment maintenance
  • Transportation
  • Vocational training including supported employment
  • Job placement and follow-up

Many services are provided at no cost to the eligible individual. However, some services are subject to a sliding fee scale based on income.

Contact your local tribe for further information.