[nfbmi-talk] Vocational Rehabilitation Outcomes Research

Terry D. Eagle terrydeagle at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 19 19:26:31 UTC 2014

This is awesome expenditure of research funds!

>From my intergovernmental background it is money well invested in research,
and vitally important to the future of rehabilitation service financial
resource allocation and service models and provider survival.  The premises
on which the research and desired outcomes are based are strong and very
relevant to current and projected trends in funding and services.

How sad and too bad rehabilitation services in Michigan are not in a
condition or positioned to positively participate and contribute to such
vital and impactful research.  In vocational rehabilitation.   If using the
research model, and if in the future federally administered  vocational
rehabiltation services are to be  governed in a fiscally and demonstrated
outcome basis responsible manner, Michigan, based on current state of
affairs, would likely not be funded by RSA.  Too bad, how sad.  From an
intergovernmental management perspective this will have positive pragmatic
programmatic results. 

I believe it is no coincidence or random manner of selection why the five
participating states were chosen for the research.  It is wonderful that
Doug Boone is in Oklahoma and involved in the research.  

U of VA economists shine new light on effectiveness of vocational rehab

Published Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, 8:03 am
Filed under Business/Economy

A new $2.5 million federal
Grant will support two University of Virginia
economists and a team of colleagues who are revolutionizing how to measure
the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation services.

The new measures of effectiveness are a "quantum leap" improvement over
current metrics, said Steven Stern, U.Va.'s Merrill Bankard Professor of

The goal of vocational rehabilitation services is to expand employment
opportunities for individuals with a spectrum of disabling conditions, from
illness and cognitive impairments to physical impairments, autism and
disabilities.  Services offered range from basic skills training through
employment supports like transportation to and from jobs.

 To measure the effectiveness of these services, the new approach harnesses
10 years of anonymized longitudinal data on each person who receives
rehabilitation services - tracking his or her wages and labor force data
from three years before entering a program to seven years after entering.

That rich long-term data - created by merging two state data sets - is
analyzed by econometric modeling software created by Stern and fellow U.Va.
Economics professor John Pepper. After a decade of development by Stern,
Pepper and colleagues at the University of Richmond and the Virginia
Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, the modeling software has
evolved to handle the large statistical variations observed  across
different types of disabilities  and across the range of interventions,
including diagnosis and evaluation, education, job training, and even
restorative services like providing an artificial limb.

"What works is specific to the type of disability the individual has, and
there is not really an average person in these programs," Stern said.
"Participants tend to be quite unique. So the software must handle these
statistical challenges."

 For instance, Stern said, restorative services are the most valuable for
those with  physical impairment, while education services are most useful
for those with cognitive impairments.

 Across all groups and types of services studied thus far in Virginia,
median rates of return are very high - "about 40 percent per year, and much
higher for some groups," Stern said. These benefits often become more
pronounced a few years after leaving a program, which is why the use of
long-term data is crucial, he said.

For example, participants in Virginia's Postsecondary Education
Rehabilitation Transition program, supported by the Virginia Department of
Education and administered by the Virginia Department for Aging and
Rehabilitative Services at its Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in
Fishersville, earn on average twice as much in their first 10 years in the
workforce than if they had not taken part in the program,  Stern explained.

This research collaboration "has clearly identified the value of our
vocational  rehabilitation program with data confirming the long-term return
on investment of our funds," said Bill Hazel, Virginia Secretary of Health
and Human Resources.

 Many states and programs currently measure effectiveness by simply
reporting a  starting salary in the year after someone exits a vocational
service. "That's not a good way to measure effectiveness," Stern said.

The new grant will enable the team to assess the effectiveness of vocational
rehabilitation programs in five additional states - Delaware, Kentucky,
Maryland, Oklahoma and Texas - by working directly with the state agencies
overseeing those programs.

 With the new grant, Stern, Pepper and colleagues will create a
user-friendly, Web-based version of their Rate of Return Estimator software,
enabling state
agencies across the nation to assess the impact and cost effectiveness of
different vocational rehabilitation services.

Ultimately, the goal is to enable "turnkey" analysis, Stern said, that can
generate rigorous and credible estimates for any size agency, for
individuals with virtually any type of disability, for different types of

All states are required to collect the same longitudinal data sets that the
research  team harnessed to study vocational rehabilitation services in
Virginia, Stern said, so the new analysis should work for any state.

Vocational rehabilitation programs are largely funded by a federal-state
partnership, administered by the federal Rehabilitation Services
Administration, which currently gives approximately $3 billion annually to
state agencies to provide vocational rehabilitation services.

The team's new approach is coming just as state legislatures are
increasingly seeking data on the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation
programs, Stern
said. "Both critics and defenders of vocational rehabilitation services will
finally have better data to evaluate the cost effectiveness of these

On Nov. 25, Virginia Gov. McAuliffe announced the nearly $2.5 million
Grant to the University of Richmond and its partners: U.Va., the Virginia
Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, the Virginia Department
for the Blind and Vision Impaired, and the George Washington University
Center for Rehabilitation  counseling Research and Education.   

"This truly collaborative project is bearing fruit as we look at the return
on investment of this publicly funded program at the state level," said
McAuliffe in a press release announcing the grant.  "This research is
demonstrating evidence-based approaches to help people with isabilities
enter the workforce."

Dr. Robert Schmidt, professor and chair of the economics
department in the University of Richmond's Robins School of Business, is the
principal investigator on the $2,498,878, five-year
grant from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on
Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Stern and Pepper have been studying long-term employment outcomes for
vocational rehabilitation clients for about a decade with Schmidt and his
the late David Dean, a University of Richmond
professor of economics, and others, supported by three prior grants. This
line of research has resulted in three published papers thus far, and at
least six other papers under way.

The National Council on Rehabilitation Education recently awarded the
Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services its annual
President's Award for Excellence in Vocational Rehabilitation for
outstanding work on return on investment in vocational rehabilitation.

Echoing the award, Stern said the department "has been a leader in
effectiveness  research for many years, and the results of this grant will
be a national model."


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