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9.1 What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

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Last amended 
29 June 2023

Vocational rehabilitation has the aim to assist the veteran obtain or sustain suitable “good work” in the civilian workforce. Good work is defined as work that is safe, enables a person to be productive and engaged and contributes to financial stability, independence and personal interaction.

The DVA Rehabilitation Program can support veterans translate their values, skills, qualifications and work history into a civilian setting, assist with necessary upskilling to increase competitiveness in job seeking and help with understanding and navigating the labour market. Veterans will be assessed on their level of need to determine the amount of support required. Support can include the following activities:

  • vocational counselling and guidance
  • job seeking support and linking in with recruiting or employment agencies
  • work readiness preparation such as navigating a new workplace
  • work experience to build confidence, skills and provide recent employment history
  • vocational assessments to assist with identifying skill gaps, labour market opportunities and suitable employment or retraining options
  • assessments to assist with determining capacity and ergonomic requirements

A vocational rehabilitation program can also include psychosocial rehabilitation and medical management rehabilitation activities as part of a whole of person approach to helping a person return to sustainable employment when the time is right.

Goal Attainment Scaling is mandatory when developing a whole-of-person plan that includes vocational rehabilitation. Please refer to chapter 15 of this library for more information about Goal Attainment Scaling.

Health benefits of good work

DVA's whole-of-person approach to vocational rehabilitation is underpinned by compelling evidence about the health benefits of good work. Good work is defined as work that is safe, enables the person to be productive and engaged and provides economic stability and personal interaction.

Research shows that long-term work absence and unemployment are harmful to physical and mental health and wellbeing. Moreover, the negative impacts of remaining away from work do not only affect the absent worker. Families, including the children of parents out of work, suffer consequences including poorer physical and mental health, decreased educational opportunities and reduced long term employment prospects.

Recent evidence on return to work rates indicate that the longer a person is absent from work, the harder it is for them to return to work. For example, people who are absent from employment for 20 days, have a 70% return to work rate. However, people who are absent from work for 70 days, have a 35% return to work rate. This reinforces the importance of employment as an early intervention approach to facilitating recovery after a service injury or disease.

This research indicates that good work:

  • helps to reduce the risk of depression;
  • promotes wellbeing and recovery from both physical and mental health injuries;
  • is an important part of the process of rehabilitation, and not just an end goal of rehabilitation;
  • leads to better short term and long term physical and mental health outcomes;
  • provides people with a valued and productive role which is recognised by their community and their family;
  • promotes long term financial security;
  • provides a sense of community and social inclusion;
  • gives structure to a person's life; and
  • increases physical activity and reduces engagement with risky behaviours such as excessive drinking.

Further information about the health benefits of good work can be found on the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) website.

The DVA website includes a range of transition stories, where veterans describe their transition experiences from leaving the ADF to learning how their experiences and qualifications assist with returning to work after injury.