The Law Office of Michael A. Bell in Lewiston, Maine

vocational rehabilitation


Social Security is intended to be a program to assist people who can no longer work full-time while they recover a work capacity. It was not intended to be a permanent program for disability, except in individuals who are very close to retirement age or have permanent disabilities that cannot be improved.

We believe that in order to give yourself the best chance for a favorable outcome in a Social Security Disability claim, you must demonstrate that you are doing everything that you can to not be disabled. We believe that it is necessary to combat any negative stereotype about people with disabilities.

This requires, in every case, that all appropriate treatment be undertaken for all medical conditions, physical, emotional, and cognitive. Without treatment, you cannot be successful.

It also requires, in almost every case, that you actively seek any and all work that you are capable of performing, despite your impairments. Your medical providers may say you are unable to work. You need to know from them if they mean

  • unable to do your past work,
  • or any full-time work,
  • or even any part-time work.

If, due to medically established reasons, you cannot work more than part-time, you have a chance to be successful.

Medical providers may tell you that you are unable to work, full or part-time. Even if they do, they may believe you have the capacity to seek other work that may be less demanding, or require more training and education, than work you have performed in the past. If for medical reasons you can no longer work as you have in the past, and cannot work more than part-time, you may need professional assistance in finding other full-time work that you can do.

That professional assistance is available, without fee, from the State of Maine's Bureau of Rehabilitation Services in the Maine Department of Labor's Career Center. There are separate Divisions for the visually impaired and for the hearing impaired, and also a general Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). Vocational Rehabilitation is commonly referred to as VR. 

In order for us to assist you, in almost every case, you need to sign up for VR. VR is a program designed to help disabled people find and keep a job. VR will begin by assessing your medical conditions and vocational strengths and weaknesses. They will determine if you are disabled, and if so, work with you to take advantage of your strengths and interests to help you find work that you can perform successfully, full or part-time. It may take time, training, and education. If so, this suggests that your claim that you are currently unable to work full-time is true. 

By signing up for VR and pursuing it to the best of your capacity, you will

  • Demonstrate your willingness to work, and
  • Demonstrate that you are doing everything you can to get back to work.

This is extremely important, for your long term prospects for employment, and for your case, in that order. It is becoming increasingly difficult to establish disability, and in our view, judges will look most favorably on those who work the hardest against their difficult disabling conditions. Most judges will invite an independent professional vocational expert (VE) to testify at a hearing you are likely to have. In our view, it is always better to have the judge's VE witness have available evidence from your VR counselor showing your efforts to try and work.

It is rare, but possible, that your medical providers feel that your medical status is so severe as to not allow you to pursue VR at the present time. If that is the case, and established in writing, we obviously do not require you to seek VR services. 

For more information, please go to

  • Watch the VR orientation video – an in depth explanation about VR (click on above link).
  • On right side of Bureau of Rehabilitation Services page, it lists all VR locations with telephone numbers.
  • For more information, click on Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR).