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New Research Documents the Effectiveness of Benefits Counseling in Combination with Vocational Rehabilitation Services!

The Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation recently published an interesting article entitled “The Impact of Benefits Counseling and Vocational Rehabilitation on Employment and Earnings” authored by Cindy Gruman, Jody Schimmell, Noreen A. Shugrue, Amy Porter, Jane Koppelman, and Julie T. Robison. The research examined employment outcomes experienced by over 5,000 individuals served by the Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) between 2002 and 2008.

Individuals in the study were categorized as receiving benefits counseling (BC) only (21%), vocational rehabilitation (VR) only (58%), or both (21%). This study showed the most positive outcomes from individuals who received both BC and VR. Thirty-six percent of those who received both services went from zero earnings to earnings after services were provided. In contrast, individuals who received only benefits counseling or vocational rehabilitation showed a consistent decline in average earnings over eight quarters. Five disability categories were also examined and three of the groups receiving both benefits counseling and vocational rehabilitation services demonstrated earnings increases over the study period.

The authors concluded that while both interventions help some people with disabilities become employed or increase their earnings, the combination of VR and BC appears to produce better long-term outcomes. They recommended that state VR programs address the need for practitioners to ensure access to a combination of Vocational Rehabilitation and benefits counseling, and consider ways to continue support after employment outcomes are achieved.