A letter developed by the National Working Positive Coalition, endorsed by 114 organizations including The Center for HIV Law and Policy, was sent on February 25, 2015 to Janet LaBreck, Commissioner of the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration. The letter urges that regulations developed to implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) clarify the skill set that vocational rehabilitation counselors need to have to meet the complex and diverse employment needs of individuals with disabilities, including people living with HIV.
Many people living with HIV, and other disabilities, need to be able to access effective vocational rehabilitation services to achieve their goals for employment. The state-federal vocational rehabilitation services system is the most comprehensive employment resource for people with disabilities. Services include access to benefits counseling, comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine skills, interests, and abilities, as well as case management, vocational counseling, employment services, assistance with finding and keeping a job, and on the job and other training/education.
Rehabilitation counselors can also authorize medical referrals, job training, and supportive rehabilitation services, including mental health counseling, if these services will remove barriers to employment. Individuals with disabilities, including people living with HIV, often face significant barriers to employment including dealing with complex medical and psychological aspects of their diagnosis as well as social, educational, financial, legal, and vocational factors that can limit their ability to achieve viable employment outcomes that ensure continued access to care and improved economic and health outcomes.
The letter was written in the belief that vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors need to be appropriately trained to adequately address the complex and interconnected issues of individuals with disabilities, including people living with HIV.