Nathaniel had not had stable employment for a long time before returning to work. Faced with the big decision of whether to leave benefits, he knew that he would need help making the transition.
When deciding to work with his local Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency, he had low expectations for what they would be able to do. Nathaniel expected that VR would only be able to help him find a low-paying job in the fast food industry, which was not the kind of employment he wanted.
I knew I just wanted a change in life and to give back… I had been considering going back to work for a while, but it was a case manager who helped me find the resources, realize it was real possibility, and that I didn’t have to just stay at home collecting benefits.
He was surprised by the comprehensive set of services that he received. Nathaniel’s VR counselor answered a lot of his questions about what supports he could receive, how going back to work would affect his benefits, and whether he might lose his medical coverage.
Additionally, his VR team was able to provide job skills supports, including practicing job interviews, finding clothes for interviews, generating job leads, and answering questions.
Nathaniel’s dedication was inspiring to his VR counselor: "Nathaniel was like working with someone on the really motivated side. He was really goal-oriented. He was really wanting to give back and help other people.”
The benefits counseling he received helped Nathaniel understand and evaluate what kind of job he could attain and how it would impact his benefits. After working with a VR counselor for 9 months, Nathaniel was able to get a job as a certified peer recovery specialist for Ramsey County. "It’s a career, not just a job. A job, to me, feels like kind of a dead end -- that this is where you are and where you will be. A career gives me hope that I’m always growing, changing.”
Working has made a huge difference for Nathaniel both economically and emotionally. He feels pride in being able to make a living, pay taxes, and be a member of the community. “It’s a huge difference, not to be worrying about paying rent or having enough food to eat. It’s now about saving for retirement and long-term goals. Owning my own house is something I thought was never even possible, and now it’s something that I feel like I … can do in the next five years.
Nathaniel is an important part of his team, and a trusted and valued coworker. Even more importantly, he is making a difference in the lives of his clients. His important work changes not only his clients’ lives, but also his own.
I have absolutely no regrets making the decision to go back to work. It was probably the best choice I’ve made in my life.
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The SGA Project is funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education Grant # H235L100004