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Vocational Rehab Helping The Disabled Get Into The Workforce

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MIAMI (CBS4) – A government funding program for people with special needs is in place to help people get jobs.

Leo Villanueva, 23, has 60 percent hearing loss.  He was born with the disability but strives for high achievement.   A good portion of his confidence is due in part to the government program called Vocational Rehabilitation.

“The way they’ve helped me out is by opening the door for me,” said Villanueva.

The program is funded 80 percent by the federal government and 20 percent by the state.  People with disabilities are tested and the program helps position them for jobs.

In Leo’s case, they decided college was a must in his future.  The program paid for 100 percent of his FIU education and helped him get a job at Baptist Hospital in patient coordination.  They also got him a 20 percent discount on his $6,000 hearing aids.

“I’m completely and totally happy about it,” he said.

Happy also is the vocational rehabilitation counselor Brenda Lampon.  “We come in and say we are not going to look at your disability, we are going to look at your ability and see what you can do!” said Lampon. So, who’s covered? People with mental illness, emotional disorders, physical disability, learning disability, developmental issues, deaf and hard of hearing, depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

They don’t work with people who are blind, and family income does play a factor.

They have 12 offices, 160 counselors in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties and a budget of about $20 million.

“It’s the best kept secret ever,” said Lampon.  So why isn’t the program well known?

That’s not totally clear but the confusion may lie with the fact that it has been under different government departments.  At one point it was with the Department of Labor and now it’s under the Department of Education.

Clients like Villanueva say the more people who know about the program, the more lives it will change and the more it will help everyone who lives here.

CLICK HERE for more information on the program.

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