How Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Saved My Son’s Life: A Mother’s Testimony

Vincent Summa photo

Panama City, FL – Rita Somma was like any other mother who worried about her son and wasn’t sure how to help. Rita’s son, Vincent Somma, was incarcerated in January 2009. While in jail, Vincent worked as a trustee for the county, and in the process, severely damaged his shoulder. In October 2009, after serving his time, Vincent left prison wanting to turn his life around for himself and his son. However, with an injured shoulder, a criminal record, and a poor economy, Vincent had trouble finding work.

“My son was a welder all his life with more than 30 years experience,” says Rita, who knew her son would be able to prove himself, if he only got the chance. Although Vincent was willing to work at any odd job, he still could not find work. To make things worse, his shoulder continued to get deteriorate, making it so he could barely move his arm.

Family and friends tried to help, but things began to look dim. “There was no way my son would be able to afford medical assistance with no job or money,” says Rita. “He was literally homeless.” Worried her son would take steps backward instead of forward, Rita reached out to her friend, John Mirra, who is a supervisor with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR).

“Vincent was motivated to turn his life around for his son,” says John, who saw the desperate situation Vincent was in. Once Vincent was accepted into the VR program, John immediately got him the medical help he needed to repair his shoulder. Vincent also met with a psychologist and went to therapy, which his mother said helped him tremendously. Throughout the process, Vincent continued to keep his appointments and take the necessary steps to get well. “He was definitely a good client,” says John.

Because of his extensive welding experience, Vincent did not require training, so John focused on job placement, finding several job leads. Vincent found employment with Eastern Ship Building Group, a shipyard in Panama City. He worked for five months, before moving up to a supervisor position.

Rita is very thankful to John and VR for helping her son get to where he is now because if Vincent had not received help, she has no idea where he would be right now. “Without this program and Mr. John Mirra and his staff, my son would not be working today,” she says. “My son has returned to his family to stay. Thank you, John Mirra and VR.”

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website,, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,018 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information, contact your local VR office at (800) 451-4327 or visit for a list of offices near you.