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Categorized In: Case Services - Referral to Eligibility

Approved Date: June 26, 2023

Owner: Angela Fujan

Eligibility Requirements

  • Permanent Impairment 
  • Substantial Impediment to employment 
  • Benefit from VR Services 
  • Require VR Services

Social Security Recipients (CFR 361.42) An applicant for Nebraska VR who has been verified eligible for Social Security benefits based on their disability and is presumed eligible for vocational rehabilitation services and at minimum such individuals are considered to have a significant disability (Priority 2).

Eligibility shall NOT be based on any other factors, including:

  • Type of disability 
  • Age, gender, race, color, or national origin
  • Source of referral 
  • Type of expected employment outcome 
  • Need for specific services or anticipated cost of services required by an individual
  • Income level of an individual or an individual's family
  • Employment history or current employment status
  • Educational status or current educational credential

Approval: Only a VR Rehabilitation Specialist or VR Office Director has the authority to officially determine and approve an applicant's eligibility for VR services. VR Service Specialist can indicate an eligibility determination but needs to clearly explain only a VR Rehabilitation Specialist or VR Office Director has the authority to officially determine eligibility for services. Program Manual Signatures Required on VR Documents

Timeline: Eligibility must be approved as soon as medical documentation or the BPQY is received, but no later than 60 days of the application date for VR service, unless exceptional and unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of VR or an exploration of the individual's abilities, capabilities, and capacity to perform in work situations preclude making this determination within the allotted timeframe. Every effort should be made to get available medical records and existing information within the specified 60-day time frame to avoid completing an eligibility extension. An eligibility extension requires the applicant be consulted AND agree to the extension as well as the specific date for completion of the determination. The Eligibility Extension MUST be completed and approved in QE2 prior to the 60-day deadline expiring. Program Manual Eligibility Extension

Who Can Diagnose

A diagnosis may only be accepted from individuals licensed and/or certified to make a diagnosis.

This is limited to:

  • Physicians (including Psychiatrists)
  • Physician Assistants (if under the supervision of a licensed physician)
  • Psychologists
  • School Psychologists for specific learning, speech, language, and intellectual impairments ONLY. SEE MDT information below.
  • Psychological Assistants or Psychological Associates (under the supervision of a licensed psychologist)
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (also called Nurse Practitioners)
  • Licensed independent mental health practitioners (licensed to diagnose mental health conditions)
  • Chiropractors
  • Alcohol and Drug Counselors (licensed to diagnose alcohol and drug disorders only)
  • Audiologist for hearing impairments or ENT

*VR will accept a diagnosis with the signature of a physician assistant or psychological assistant without the signature of their supervising physician. 

Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) report from secondary schools: 

  • Acceptable verification for specific learning, speech, language, and intellectual disabilities ONLY. The School Psychologist certification is limited to diagnosing the listed impairments. A School Psychologist may have other credentials or certifications, so VR must consider the individual's actual level of certification or credential to determine their actual ability to diagnosis additional impairments, not their role or title. The MDT verification must include type and severity (example: moderate intellectual disability, Learning Disability in Reading Fluency, etc.). Note: Educational Autism is only valid while the individual is in high school and cannot be used for VR eligibility.
  • Additional medical verification is required when: Additional impairments, other than those listed above are noted. The school psychologist does not have the credentials to diagnosis additional impairments and medical verification from the diagnosing medical personnel will need to be obtained. Note: MDT verifications Behavior Disorder, Other Health Impaired, Multiple Impairments, Mental Handicap, Orthopedic, etc. are general categories and do not qualify as an actual diagnosis. ADHD is not considered a learning or intellectual disability and requires further documentation. 
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) reports are not acceptable for diagnosis verification, as this is the school's plan for services not a diagnostic tool.

Information on selected impairments:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse (including marijuana)
    • A diagnosis of 'abuse' or 'dependence' is acceptable for impairment.
    • Alcohol and/or drug abuse or dependence, determine the individual is not actively using and eligibility decision is not being made based on length of sobriety.
    • Decisions on eligibility will be based on individual circumstances and not on any pre-determined length of sobriety per Federal Regulations.  To assess progress toward abstinence:
      • Consider the steps the consumer is making to establish abstinence (treatment/recovery programs, AA/NA, sponsorship)
      • What is the recovery plan and the assessment of adequate progress toward recovery?
      • Refer to Substance Use Disorders and Vocational Rehabilitation for further information.
    • Federal regulations indicate that symptoms need not be active for an individual to have a disability, and thus, a substantial limitation to a major life activity (employment). Utilize the Functional Capacity Checklist to determine specific vocational limitations and severity.
    • Previous convictions, felonies and/or incarcerations due to abuse/dependence may be used in describing the impediment to employment, as they may influence the individual's ability to obtain employment and/or the types of jobs they may be able to attain, but the justification and rational needs to focus on the actual functional limitations, not the external situation. Example: Due to drug dependence at a young age, the individual's decision-making skills have been delayed resulting in difficulty problem solving through peer pressure situations. His limited ability in determining the repercussions of his actions has resulted in several thefts convictions to support his drug habit.
  • Hearing loss. Review completed Communication Assessment Form with the individual (required). Consider the need for assistive listening devices and a referral to ATP. For hearing aid purchase information see Program Chapter Hearing Aids
  • Vision. Nebraska VR cannot serve an individual whose ONLY disability is blindness or low vision. Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI) and Nebraska VR are both vocational rehabilitation agencies. NCBVI specializes in working with individuals who experience visual impairments. If an individual is eligible for NCBVI, they need to work with that agency. If the individual is not eligible for NCBVI services and has additional impairment(s), VR may assess the primary impairment based on other disabling conditions. Primary impairment cannot be vision. Impairments of vision can be secondary or tertiary, if the individual does not qualify for Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI) program. See attached Nebraska VR and NCBVI MOU. If an individual presents with more than one disability, one of which is vision:
    • Arrange assessment by NCBVI as to whether visual impairment meets the eligibility criteria for NCBVI
      • If yes, NCBVI will serve the individual.
      • If no, conduct Initial Meeting.
    • Document in a TASK note - referral to and eligibility decision from NCBVI. If eligible for NCBVI, they must work with the agency who specialized in loss of vision, NCBVI.
    • If not eligible for NCBVI, determine if individual is eligible for Nebraska VR program based on non-visual impairment.
    • Nebraska VR staff can provide consultative services to a client of Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI) when the individual would benefit from the expertise of both programs. 
    • In rare cases an individual may have an active case with both state VR agencies (Nebraska VR and NCBVI) at the same time so long as the services provided by each are not duplicated and both VR agencies would be allowed to record a successful employment outcome. This would only occur if an existing or current Nebraska VR client’s vision becomes so severe it warrants consultation with NCBVI. NCBVI will then determine if the client is eligible and open a case or only provide consultation. 

Worker's Compensation

Nebraska VR Rehabilitation and Service Specialists are not certified by the Workers' Compensation Court to act as a Workers’ Compensation court-certified counselor for an injured worker. Nebraska VR does not provide vocational assessments or evaluations requested by attorneys, insurance companies, or private rehabilitation counselors for the purpose of seeking benefits through the Workers' Compensation Court for an injured worker. Nebraska VR can provide and purchase services to an individual being served under a Workers' Compensation Court approved rehabilitation plan as long as

(1) Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court never funds that service,

(2) the injured worker meets the eligibility criteria for the Nebraska VR program, and

(3) develops an Individualized Plan for Employment.

It is permissible for Nebraska VR staff to provide job placement services to WC clients when these services are requested by an individual’s Court-Certified Rehab Counselor.

Open Case in Two States:

If necessary, an individual may have an active case in two state VR agencies at the same time and both VR agencies would be allowed to record a successful employment outcome. Contact the Program Director for Counseling Services to discuss if you learn a case is open in another state VR agency or if the individual tells you they are going to apply for services from another state VR agency. 

Client Assistance Program (CAP): Nebraska VR must provide the CAP information to clients during the application process, when developing the individualized plan for employment (IPE), case closure or at any time the client disagrees with a VR final decision. See Program Manual Client Assistance Program

Eligibility Requirements:
A medical impairment or diagnosis, by itself, does not establish eligibility for vocational rehabilitation services. Eligibility is based upon whether the individual intends to achieve an employment outcome and the impairment results in a substantial impediment to employment, while also considering if the individual can benefit and requires VR Services. Nebraska VR is responsible to inform the applicant that individuals who receive VR services must intend to achieve an employment outcome. The applicant's signature on the application requires that they attest to their intention to work and this information must be reviewed with the applicant, so they can make an informed decision to apply. Their signature on the application is sufficient evidence of the individual's intent, and no additional evidence is required. 

Eligibility relies on existing information to the maximum extent possible. This may include, but not limited to counselor observations, information provided by the individual and family, medical records, integrated work experiences, Pre-Employment Transition Service information, and/or determinations made by officials of other agencies. 

Presume eligibility for those verified as SSI/SSDI Recipients AND intending to achieve an employment outcome: Title II or XVI of the Social Security Act has determined these individuals have met all the eligibility requirements and are presumed eligible. 

a.Verify eligibility for SSI/SSDI by obtaining a BPQY and entering the type and amount of benefits on the Existing Benefits Screen in QE2. A person is considered eligible for such benefits unless the BPQY identifies that benefits have been terminated.  Any other status (suspended, overpayment, etc.) means the person is still eligible for SSI/SSDI benefits.  

b. Obtain the SSA-confirmed diagnosis from the information that accompanies the BPQY sent by the SSA and enter it on the Impairments Screen in QE2.

c. Note how to determine the primary impairment in #1 then proceed to #5 and #6 to determine Functional Capacity and Priority Group and provide information and referral.

Non-SSI/SSDI recipients: 

  1. Impairment (diagnosis): The applicant must have been determined by qualified personnel to have a physical or mental impairment. (See Policy: Who Can Diagnose). Disability/Impairment exist regardless of the impact (or lack of impact) on the everyday activities of the individual. Determine the existence of a permanent impairment without regard to medications, prostheses, accommodations, or assistive devices that may control symptoms or correct losses. A person with epilepsy has an impairment even though medications may control symptoms of the disorder. A person with a hearing loss has an impairment even though the condition is correctable with a hearing aid. 

New or recent impairments. The duration or expected duration of limitations and their seriousness need to be considered. Determine whether current limitations will be resolved or significantly reduced in seriousness by the end of the usual period of treatment and convalescence for the condition. If the individual is still in recovery, it may be too soon to determine permanent functional limitations or the severity. Temporary, non-chronic conditions (such as broken limbs, sprained joints, and situational depression) usually do not result in long-lasting functional limitations.

Relevant impairment(s) which result in a functional limitation to employment must be recorded in QE2 and verified either through observation (physical impairment you can see), or by gathering medical information to verify the diagnosis. 

Observation: VR specialist observation can be used, when possible, to determine a physical impairment that is observable. VR staff are not 'diagnosing’ but are observing a person with an obvious physical impairment. If observation is used exclusively to determine eligibility, a very descriptive narrative of the impairment is required to substantiate the VR Specialist's eligibility decision in the absence of medical documentation. 

Reports: Obtain a report from person licensed or certified to make a diagnosis. (See Policy - Who Can Diagnose in this chapter). If observation is not possible, you must obtain some other type of information to verify the impairment. This might include:

  • Existing medical Information: copies of medical or psychological reports from the source or from the individual. 
  • MDT Reports: Secondary school reports are acceptable for specific learning, speech, language, and intellectual disabilities only. IEP Reports are not acceptable as this is the school's plan for services, not a diagnostic tool. Best practice is to request all available school records (Psychological exam, IEP, grade transcripts and any work experience reports) when requesting the MDT to assist with eligibility and career planning. See Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) report from secondary schools in the Policy section of this chapter for more information.
  • VR funded medical examinations: As a last resort, examinations may be funded to obtain reports when there are no existing medical records, or the records are inadequate. Assure the individual understands that psychological testing may result in a mental health diagnosis and document this discussion in the task notes.

Determine primary impairment. VR needs to assess which impairment causes the greatest impediment to employment. This is not necessarily the order the impairments are listed on the medical report, but rather a determination by the VR Specialist as to which impairment causes the greatest barrier to employment. If other impairments exist, determine their level of impact on the individual's vocational functioning and rank accordingly (secondary, tertiary). We must seek enough information to determine the cause of the difficulty in preparing for, obtaining, securing, retaining, advancing in, or regaining employment consistent with the individual's unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice. 

NOTE: A disability of vision cannot be the primary impairment. It can be secondary or tertiary if the individual does not meet NCBVI eligibility criteria. If an individual is eligible for NCBVI, they need to work with that agency. For further guidance on impairments of hearing, vision and drug and alcohol, see policy section of this chapter. The Disability Handbook is available in each Nebraska VR office, for specific impairment information and questions to explore.  

  1. Substantial Impediment to Employment: A determination utilizing documentation, as well as observation and input from the applicant, that the impairment result in a substantial impediment to employment. For vocationally relevent impairment(s), investigate how the impairment hinders the applicant from securing, retaining, advancing in, or regaining employment consistent with their abilities and capabilities. Only those vocational limitations resulting from the person's impairment(s) or disabilities are considered. These limitations must also be separated out from those resulting from other situational factors or their complicating consequences. The performance of work, training, and independent living functions can be affected by a variety of factors other than the person's disability. Significant other factors include age, geographic location, cultural expectations, poverty, lack of transportation, etc. Ensure the eligibility determination is based on the individual's impairment(s) and resulting functional limitations, not situational factors. The other factors are relevant for planning and should be addressed in the development of the Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) but are not part of the eligibility process. Determine eligibility based on how the individual's impairment(s) have prevented them from working, or significantly restricted in the condition, manner, or duration under which the individual can work. Refer to Functional Capacity Checklist and Impediment Questions attached to this chapter in the forms section.
  2. Requires VR Services: The determination that an individually planned and coordinated program of specific services is required for an individual to prepare for, obtain, secure, retain, advance in, or regain employment. To make this decision, consider:
  • the individual's need for specialized services, supports, or accommodations not typically used by the general public; and,
  • the need for planning and coordination of multiple or complex services over a long duration to enable the person to secure, retain, advance in, or regain employment. 
  • situations where an individual may not require VR services:
    • When the applicant is already receiving the services needed for employment and does not require any additional VR services to complete the existing services or plan for employment.
    • When services needed for employment are readily available without VR providing, paying for, arranging, coordinating, or otherwise enhancing the service.
  1. Benefit from Services: If an applicant intends to achieve an employment outcome and it has been determined they have an impairment, impediment to employment, and require VR Services; it is then presumed the applicant can benefit from services. Based on federal regulations, you must presume an individual can benefit from VR services in terms of achieving an employment outcome. If there is doubt the applicant can benefit from VR services due to the severity of the impairment, you may not simply declare the individual ineligible. You must prove it. See Program Manual Ineligible/No Longer Eligible
  2. Priority Group Assignment:  An individual’s priority will be determined at the time of eligibility based on the individual’s specific functional limitations (communication, interpersonal skills, mobility, self-care, self-direction, work skills, or work tolerance) of their disabling condition(s). Functional capacities are NOT based on projected limitations the individual may have in the future or other situational factors (age, geographic location, cultural expectations, poverty, lack of transportation, etc.). Functional limitations are based solely on the individual's impairment(s) that result in a substantial impediment to employment. Use the Functional Capacity Checklist and Disability Handbook to assist in determining the appropriate limitations and priority group assignment. When the agency is under an Order of Selection, those with the most significant disability or disabilities will be served first. See Program Chapter Order of Selection 

Nebraska VR Priority Group assignment: 

  • Priority Group 1: Has a severe physical or mental impairment resulting in a rating of very low in two or more of the 7 functional areas. 
  • Priority Group 2: Has a severe physical or mental impairment that results in a very low rating in one functional area. Verified SSDI or SSI recipients qualify for priority group two at a minimum and are assessed to determine whether they qualify for priority group one.
  • Priority Group 3: All eligible individuals. These individuals must have a low rating in at least one of the seven functional areas.

The Functional Capacity screen in QE2 must be completed AND approved to finalize the eligibility process and the assignment of the priority group. Upon completion, the following will occur: 

QE2 will generate the appropriate eligibility letter to be sent by the VR State Office to the client and a case file task note indicating the eligibility/Priority Group Letter has been sent. Note: If the individual requires the Eligibility/Priority Group letter to be in Spanish, the VR Staff checks the "Spanish communication," box located in the client's personal information section of QE2. This will serve as notice for the eligibility letter to be sent in Spanish. A copy of the eligibility letter will be sent to the local VR Office to be uploaded into the client's electronic casefile.

The VR Specialist will proceed based on the letter generated to client. A client in an open priority group may begin receiving services immediately. Those in a closed priority group may be placed on the waiting list. If the client has not already stated a preference for being placed on the waiting list, contact them to determine their interest in being placed on the waiting list. If there is no response to the Eligibility/Priority Group letter and multiple attempts have been made to contact the individual by a variety of methods, to include a contact and 15-day letter, the case may be closed by the VR specialist. The date of the letter serves as notification and timeline in the process. An official Termination letter must be sent. See Program Manual Termination chapter.

A client can be moved to a higher priority group at any time if information becomes available indicating additional or more severe functional limitations exist or they begin receiving SSI/SSDI. Utilize the individual's work history and Functional Capacity Checklist to determine appropriate functional limitations and priority group assignment. The local VR Office completes the following:

  • Enter the reasons for the priority group upgrade in a TASK note, 
  • Update the QE2 Eligibility and Functional Capacity screens, and
  • the local VR Office sends OOS Upgrading Priority Group Letter.
  1. Information and Referral. ​​​​​​​Nebraska VR must discuss with the applicant their eligibility and priority group assignment, as well as provide information and referral to community resources, if not already provided.

US Department of Veterans Affair (VA) - Veteran Readiness and Employment Services (VR&E) provides benefits and services that enable transitioning service members and veterans with service-connected disabilities and an employment barrier, to prepare for, obtain and maintain suitable employment.

Staff from Nebraska VR and Veteran Readiness and Employment Service (VR&E) will work collaboratively in serving veterans who are eligible for both programs prepare for, obtain, and retain employment.

  • Medical and vocational information will be shared between both agencies, when needed with the appropriate release.
  • Both agencies prepare written plans with the veteran. These will be provided to the other agency when needed.
  • When both agencies and the veteran agree on a plan the Veteran Readiness and Employment Service will pay for many of the services needed. VR may fund those services not already available to the veteran.
  • All VR rules and regulations are still applicable.

Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) referrals to VR 

  1. Provide the Initial Meeting. (Initial Meeting)
  2. Determine Eligibility 
  3. Develop the IPE in collaboration with the VR&E worker to determine agreed upon employment goal, coordinate services to avoid duplication.

VR referrals to VR&E

  1. Refer individuals to VR&E if you believe the individual is a veteran with a service-connected disability.
  2. Client can apply through the US Department of Veterans Affairs website: How to apply for Veterans Readiness and Employment
  3. Contact the VR&E staff member assigned to coordinate services. If the veteran is eligible for VR&E services and VR&E staff agree with the Nebraska VR client's IPE they will likely help pay for necessary services. If comparable services and benefits are currently available and ready for immediate use, they must be used to meet, in whole or part, the cost of the program services. 
  4. Maintain contact with the VR&E worker. 
  1. Determine the status of the Worker Compensation (WC) case. Contact one of the Rehabilitation Specialists at the Workers' Compensation Court (402-471-6468). This is public information, and a release is not required, but best practice is to ask the applicant's permission and call the individual in your office.
    • If the WC case is settled/closed - proceed as a regular VR referral.
    • If the WC case is not settled - determine if the applicant has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
      • If the individual has NOT reached MMI - Do not proceed with the VR Application. It is difficult to determine VR Eligibility until MMI has been met, as there is a question of permanent impairment. Explain this to the applicant and encourage them to recontact Nebraska VR after reaching MMI.
      • If the individual has reached MMI it is recommended the individual and the VR Specialist or Office Director contact the Court Certified Rehabilitation Specialist (if one has been assigned) together while the client is in the VR office to understand the direction of the WC case and what additional services Nebraska VR can provide. If a decision is made to open a Nebraska VR case, the Court Certified Rehabilitation Specialist should be added to the information release for future communication. If the client has a Worker Compensation Lawyer, this name should also be added to the release.
    • An individual being referred to Nebraska VR can be referred for one of two reasons:
      • Placement Services - A referral for placement services from a Court-Certified Rehab Counselor must be made to the Office Director who will assign the case to an Employment Specialist. Certified Rehab Counselors have access to all available services for the WC client, except placement services and may need VR's assistance in this area. This case will still need to follow VR Eligibility and Process.
      • Case Coordination - A referral for case coordination or a self-referral does not need to go to the Office Director first. Case coordination requests are VR services not provided by the Worker's Compensation Certified Rehab Counselor, insurance company, etc. VR does not supplant services that should be provided by other agencies or individuals.
  2. Conduct Initial Meeting. Determine if the request for services is consistent with Nebraska VR Policy. 
  3. Determine eligibility and priority group assignment.
    • Information required for eligibility can be obtained from the Court-Certified Rehab Counselor, Worker's Compensation Court, lawyer, medical professional and/or from the individual.
    • If there is disagreement about the job readiness of the individual the VR Specialist and Office Director should discuss the issues with the Court-Certified Rehab Counselor. If resolution is not reached, contact the VR Program Director of Counseling.
  4. Develop Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)
    • The VR Plan must be consistent with the WC Plan.
    • Information needed to justify the IPE can be obtained from the Court-Certified Rehab Counselor and from the individual. The individual may have participated in vocational and/or Loss of Earnings Assessments that can be useful in development of the IPE.
    • The client and VR Specialist must agree to the job goal on the approved Workers' Comp Plan.
    • The Nebraska VR IPE must include the same job goal as the approved Workers' Compensation Plan.
    • If there is disagreement about the appropriateness of the job goal, the VR specialist and Office Director should discuss the issues with the Court-Certified Rehab Counselor. If resolution is not reached, contact the VR Director of Counseling.
  5. Proceed with services and follow all VR rules and regulations regarding case contact, service provision and case closure. 

QE2 will not allow you to determine eligibility for any non us citizen until the client has been verified through the SAVE program. A notice will appear on the case home screen as referenced in the screenshot below. 

Save notice image

Approved Date
March 15, 2021 Show this Archived Version
August 20, 2020 Show this Archived Version
July 08, 2020 Show this Archived Version
October 02, 2019 Show this Archived Version
October 02, 2018 Show this Archived Version
October 05, 2017 Show this Archived Version
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October 04, 2017 Show this Archived Version

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