[nfbmi-talk] Key provisions in proposed amendments to WorkforceInvesstment Act

Terry D. Eagle terrydeagle at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 8 22:43:09 UTC 2014


Thanks Christine.  Great summary.

Is the Washington D.C. gathering of VR staff actually this week, April 7 -
11?

Terry

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbmi-talk [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of
Christine Boone
Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 10:50 AM
To: NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List; nfbp-talk at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] Key provisions in proposed amendments to
WorkforceInvesstment Act

Federationists:  
As most of you know, beginning with its reauthorization in 1998, the
Rehabilitation Act has been included as Title IV  in the Workforce
Investment Act.  That Act has never been reauthorized since its first
writing, but it is once again scheduled for reauthorization this year.  The
current proposal would have some significant negative  ramifications
respecting vocational rehabilitation services.  Here is one overview that
was prepared by a State Vocational Rehabilitation agency outside Michigan.
It is provided here for your information.  
Review of Key Provisions 
in S. 1356 and the SKILLS Act

S. 1356
Splits up Rehab Act programs.
Sends VR to Labor Department, Independent Living to HHS, and NIDRR
(research) to HHS.
The transfer of VR from Education to Labor will disconnect VR from
rehabilitation expertise and place it in a department with no rehabilitation
experience and a scant record of serving people with severe disabilities.
The Secretary of Labor would write the regulations for Rehab.
The new name for RSA would be Disability Employment Services and Supports
Administration (DESSA).
The Commissioner would still be a President's appointment but would not have
to have rehabilitation experience or knowledge.
Rehab would be put under ODEP (the Office of Disability Employment Policy) -
a tiny division that has never administered direct service programs.
Placement in Labor ties VR closer into the generic One-Stop culture, where
the focus is on the general population and specialized approaches tend to be
absent.
The bill mandates state VR programs to expand and intensify services to
youth transitioning to post-secondary life, without added funding to do so.
Youth are defined as age 14-24.
Creates a new category of Pre-Employment Transition, for youth age 14 up
with significant disabilities.  For those in Supported Employment, VR would
pay 4 years extended services.
Makes states set aside 15% of basic VR funds for Transition, limiting
administrative spending to 5% of this.  
Requires all VR offices have Transition Coordinator positions with support
staff - administrative expenses which would mostly have to come out of basic
VR funds, beyond the 15% set-aside.  
These provisions effectively make Transition a priority for VR spending.  As
a result, some state VR programs may have reduced funds for serving adults
with severe disabilities.
The bill subjects VR to the same performance standards and measures used for
Workforce programs for the non-disabled public.  There are concerns this
will not accurately reflect VR performance, will be costly to implement, and
could discourage service to persons with the most significant disabilities.
To implement use of common performance measures, VR would have to retool
data systems at great cost.  Adjustments in standards to reflect different
conditions for the VR population would entail much staff work, negotiation
and approval by Labor.
VR would have to pay for 2 years of extended services for Supported
Employment clients, instead of the current flexible 18 months.  This would
be 4 years for youth.
The bill de-emphasizes rehabilitation throughout.
Rehab credentials for VR staff are weakened.
There is concern that features in S. 1356 will reduce access to the highly
specialized services required to remove employment barriers for people with
severe disabilities.
Positive features in the bill are business relations emphasis, in-demand
occupations emphasis, and a focus on career exploration, work experience and
internships for youth.

Skills Act
H.R. 803 by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) 
Consolidates 36 federal employment programs, not VR, which remains a
mandatory partner, however.  Although VR remains a distinct program, various
provisions in the bill tie VR more closely into the generic Workforce
system.
Requires common data reporting and performance measures for all Workforce
partners.
Increases business representation on Workforce state and local boards.
Boards would be 2/3 business representatives.  Partner members like VR are
not required on the Boards. 
Emphasizes job training that is responsive to in-demand occupations and
business needs.  
In HR-803 VR remains a distinct program but is moved more closely into the
generic Workforce system. 
Partners must make all their "work-ready" services available at One-Stops.
It is uncertain whether this translates to co-location.
Lets Governors decide what funds each partner must contribute to the
One-Stops.  The Governor can require partners contribute funds above those
set in any infrastructure formula.  Thus VR funds could be tapped for
various One-Stop expenses. 
One-Stops and training providers would have to meet standards, be certified
and re-certified every 3 years, with focus on meeting standards of program
integration, as well as other goals.
It is unclear if VR training providers would have to meet training provider
criteria set by the Governor.
Makes RSA commissioner a Director, no longer a Presidential appointment.
Requires at least 10% of a state's VR basic funds must be for expanding
Transition.
The Comprehensive Needs Assessment must add a focus on Transition needs and
the performance of existing services in meeting those needs.
Supported Employment title VI grants are eliminated.
States must set aside one-half of 1% of their basic VR funds for grants to
for-profit businesses to do job readiness, training and placement.
Eliminates in-service training of VR personnel as a training grant purpose.

Special concerns related to maintaining an effective Rehabilitation system:
Special concerns for Rehab:  with VR melded more closely into the generic
Workforce system in a number of ways - there is concern for the future of
some key rehabilitation principles, features and resources that are critical
for successful employment results, including:
informed client choice
individualized plans and services
specialized services
information accessibility
communication accessibility
physical accessibility
availability of specialized staff
staff and system understanding of disability
There is concern that more closely merging VR into the generic Workforce
system will lead to
leaching away of VR funds for non-VR use
cherry-picking - serving the least disabled first
reduced help for severely disabled with the greatest employment barriers
increased diversion of staff time to bureaucratic functions, away from
direct service delivery.  


___________________________

This week staff and administrators from most public VR agencies across the
Nation are gathered in Washington D.C.  Today they are on Capitol Hill,
visiting with their Congressional delegations.  Yesterday they were briefed
by a panel of experts which included leaders of the National Federation of
the Blind.  



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