The Road to Success

The Rehabilitation Services Bureau

March, 2005



Sally Kessman Honored:

The Brain Injury Association of Iowa has announced that Sally Kessmann will be honored and receive the PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR award.  The annual awards luncheon will be held on Thursday, March 17th and is in conjunction with the Best Practices in Brain Injury Service Delivery XIII Conference that will be held at the Hotel Fort Des Moines.   This is the first time a staff person from the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services program has received this award.  Sally has been a spirited representative of individuals with traumatic brain injury for many years.  She is most deserving of this award.  Please join me in congratulating her on this great honor!


One of John Lee Egan’s Success Stories

Brandy Wagner says she is a self-proclaimed success story from Ames, Iowa, and acknowledges that the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) helped her get where she is today.  She is currently a licensed Occupational Therapist earning $31 per hour with full benefits.  But her journey to get there is an amazing story of determination and government doing what it does best. 


Brandy first came to IVRS in the midst of experiencing severe clinical depression complicated with anorexia.  She requested tuition assistance from IVRS so she could study to get her Emergency Medical Technician certificate, which would help her support herself as she progressed through undergraduate studies.  She completed her undergraduate degree, with the assistance of IVRS, and then decided she wanted to pursue a degree in Occupational Therapy.  IVRS provided tutoring and tuition assistance as she proceeded to take some correspondence coursework.  Also during this time she joined the Iowa Army National Guard, but broke both of her feet during training.  What seemed to be a misfortune actually was an opportunity as she then began her graduate studies after having been accepted to the only “weekend” OT program available in the Midwest.  On weekends she drove to St. Paul, Minnesota, to attend college.  IVRS assisted her with tuition, transportation, maintenance, childcare, counseling, and medication assistance.  She experienced a set back when she was diagnosed with two herniated discs in her back that required surgery.  She graduated in December of 2003 and IVRS assisted her with the licensing exam fees, resume writing and job seeking skills training.  She accepted her first job after her one and only interview!  Brandy reports that “Vocational Rehabilitation has been INSTRUMENTAL during my academic career.  I sincerely believe that I would not have accomplished so much without the assistance I have received from VR.  I also received valuable support and motivation as well as praise for my efforts to maintain my 3.5 GPA throughout my education.”  Brandy believes she has a better chance at a good future because IVRS was there with $42,105 in assistance.


One of Joelle McDermott’s Success Stories

Ryan Weintz of Davenport reported to his Rehabilitation Counselor, Joelle McDermott, that he required extra time to learn new things, had trouble remembering what he learned, and had seizures that diminished his work pace.  Ms. McDermott discerned early in the counseling relationship that Mr. Weintz would benefit greatly from mental health counseling from the Vera French Mental Health Center as well.  In further discussions with Mr. Weintz, Ms. McDermott arranged for part time employment at the Counselor Education Department at Western Illinois University so he could support himself while participating in services through IVRS and to enhance his work experience.  Ms. McDermott then provided vocational counseling to help Mr. Weintz identify a job goal that required post secondary training at Western Illinois University majoring in Computer Information Management.  She assisted him in arranging appropriate accommodations through the Disability Support Services on campus and ultimately he graduated with a B.A. in his major with a minor in Business Management. Upon graduation the counselor assisted him in his job search providing job leads, arranging participation in job fairs, participating in mock job interviews, and providing job seeking skills training.  Mr. Weintz began employment on November 15, 2004, with Wells Fargo Financial in Des Moines, Iowa, as a Computer Operator Technician I earning $28,000 a year with benefits.  He has received an excellent performance review and is being considered for a promotion to an Analyst position.  IVRS invested $4,593.66 to return an investment to the State of Iowa, which is summarized best by Mr. Weintz.  Mr. Weintz reported that his Counselor, Joelle McDermott, made a significant impact on promoting his self esteem and confidence so that he would persevere toward his goal.



Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Finding Solutions.  Generating Success.


John Lee Egan:


Presenting Problem

IVRS Solution


Lack education

Tuition Assistance


Master’s Degree

3.5 GPA

Lack child care

Child care assistance

Pursue education

Lack housing and transportation

Maintenance assistance

Transportation reimbursement

Commute to Minnesota to attend college

Lack medication to manage disability

Medication assistance

Disability stabilized

Lack funds for licensing fee examination

Licensing fee assistance

Passed Occupational Therapy License exam

Lack job seeking skills

Job Seeking Skills training and counseling provided

Offered job after first interview


Supportive counseling

Motivated to continue



Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Finding Solutions.  Generating Success


Joelle McDermott:


Presenting Problem

IVRS Solutions


Mental health issues interfering with progress

Complete referral to Vera French Mental Health Center

Participated in mental health counseling and manages personal problems.

Lack of funds to participate in IVRS

Arrange part time job with Western Illinois University Counseling Education Department.

Supported self while participating in IVRS plan.

Lack professional level work experience for resume

Arrange part time job with Western Illinois University

Enhanced resume

Require some academic support to complete program.

Arrange academic support services for appropriate accommodations.

Utilized academic supports and successfully completed college training program.

Lack job seeking skills

Provide job seeking skills training.

Prepared to interview and look for work.

Lack job leads.

Provide job leads and developed expanded job search plan.

Obtained employment at Wells Fargo in Des Moines, Iowa.