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.

Comments (3)
  1. george saiz says:

    as a disabled person from a severe on-the-job injury my experience with the dept. of vocational rehab has been totally frustrating since the numerous contact efforts made have been with dept. of rehab employees language barriers.. every representative contacted cannot speak english without a very very strong native language accent making them impossible to understand and they get very upset and agressive when asked repeated to speak slower and clearer in english..

  2. MB says:

    Welcome to third world Miami. Spanish is the official language here and if you speak only English, either move or put a gun to your head. Spanish people are rude.

  3. Sarah says:

    I am disabled, I went to VR in FL for assistance with job placement as I already have a degree. I thought of my case as “easy” as I have done a lot for myself already, however there are barriers to working due to my disability. I actually found a job on my own, then VR wanted to “something” for me since otherwise they wouldn’t get the $$$ from the feds/state for my case. I told them I needed assistance in paying for a impairment related item needed to be able to work. They offered me clothes. I felt it was wrong to take $ for clothes I did not need, and I asked what could be done to get assistance with the needed item. I was told I could go elsewhere, when I contacted the Omsbudsman office I was told they would look into it, when I called back a few weeks later I was told my case had been closed. Valerie Woodley, my case manager at NMB office lied regarding the handling of my case, and then closed my case without my knowledge. Again, thankfully I am able to and have been able to help myself through all this but I don’t know how if they can’t handle a relatively “easy” case how they manage more complex needs.