Deciding to Return to Work
Brain injury can leave an individual with a number of persistent impairments that interfere with finding and keeping a job. These problems may be cognitive (difficulties with attention, memory, communication, reasoning, problem-solving), physical (weakness or lack of coordination in arms or legs, impaired vision, fatigue, sleep problems), emotional (vulnerability to depression, difficulty controlling anger or anxiety), or behavioral (being impulsive, social inappropriateness).
After sustaining a brain injury, an individual may experience difficulty performing his or her job safely, or in the same manner. Some may find they need to find other employment, while others can request adaptations in their workplace to accommodate their new needs.
Having a conversation with your employer, supervisor, or human resources department is a good opportunity to discuss your options and needs once you go back to your job. Below are some suggestions and things to keep in mind for the discussion:
- Returning to work gradually; for example, starting at three mornings a week or even working from home for a period of time
- Returning with shorter hours
- Taking more breaks throughout the day
- Returning with less workload
- Taking on a different role
Keep in mind that employment encompasses rural and urban opportunities including agriculture, self-employment and working for others.
Once you return to work, it is important to communicate with your employer and others regularly to decide if the adaptations are working to both parties’ benefit, or if further changes are necessary.
Contact the Brain Injury Association of Missouri regarding vocational-related services for persons with brain injury at 1-800-444-6443.
Each state has an agency to help people with disabilities find work. These Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR) have different names in different states, and are funded by both the federal and state governments. People with brain injury are encouraged to apply for vocational rehabilitation services.
In Missouri, the agency is Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They can be reached at 573-751-2571 or via the Vocational Rehabilitation website.
The most severe impairments that people with brain injury have are often not physical, and consequently these impairments are invisible. If a question about severity of disability interferes with accessing vocational rehabilitation services, evaluations by a rehabilitation physician and neuropsychologist are usually very helpful in proving that impairments, resulting from brain injury, are severe and extensive enough to meet the criteria for admission to the program. Once they are qualified for services, people with brain injury are best served by VR counselors who have experience working with people with brain injury. Experienced counselors know and use special procedures that are critical for success in VR with people with brain injury. If you feel your VR counselor is not familiar with needs related to brain injury, you, your significant other, family members, caregivers, and/or other advocates may need to help educate the counselor so they understand the unique needs of persons with brain injury.
The Missouri AgrAbility Project (MAP) helps create success in agriculture, employment, and rural life for people with disabilities and their families. It provides practical education and assistance that promotes rural independence.
The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program is an employment program to increase opportunities and choices for people receiving Social Security disability benefits to obtain employment, vocational rehabilitation and other support services from public and private providers, employers and other organizations. The Ticket Program is a result of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, a law designed to remove many of the barriers that previously influenced people’s decisions about going to work because of the concerns over losing health care coverage. Under the Ticket Program, the Social Security Administration provides disability beneficiaries with a voucher they may use to obtain the services and jobs they need from local organizations called Employment Networks (ENs).