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Black-and-white photo from 1943 of a building located in Institute, West Virginia, which used to house DRS' Charleston District offices. It’s a three-story brick building with white columns on the front and a side porch and has two dark cars in front.

DRS History

For more than 100 years, DRS has operated the vocational rehabilitation program and successfully aided individuals with disabilities in their quest to be employed.

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Fess Act of 1920, known as the Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act, into law on June 2, 1920. In West Virginia, Governor John Jacob Cornwell issued a proclamation on August 30, 1920, accepting the provisions of the federal Smith-Fess Act, which essentially started the vocational rehabilitation program in our state.

The state legislature established the West Virginia Division of Vocational Rehabilitation on April 14, 1921, as part of the Department of Education. In 1987, the agency was renamed the Division of Rehabilitation Services to reflect the wide range of services DRS provides. State legislation transferred DRS to the Department of Education and the Arts in 1994, and in 2018 DRS was transferred to the Department of Commerce.

Today DRS’ primary focus is to provide vocational rehabilitation services to help West Virginians with disabilities as they prepare for, get, keep or advance in jobs in the competitive labor market. Through development of an individualized plan for employment, DRS tailors services to meet the specific needs of each consumer.