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Summary of HR 803 provisions affecting rehabilitation and disability programs

Prepared June 1, 2014

A bill in the nature of a substitute for S-1356 to be proposed by Senator Patty Murray, for herself, and Senators Isakson, Harkin and Alexander.  The bill is titles the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Sect. 2 of the Act (Sections 1-3 proceed Title I Workforce Investment Activities)
Purposes

To increase, for individuals in the United States, particularly those individuals with barriers to employment, access to and opportunities for the employment, education training and support services they need to succeed in the labor marker.

To support the alignment of workforce investment, education and economic development systems in support of a comprehensive, accessible and high quality workforce development system …

…. Several other purposes listed.

For the purpose of subtitles A and B of Title I, to provide workforce investment activities, through statewide and local workforce development systems, that increase the employment, retention and earnings of participants and increase attainment of recognized postsecondary credentials by participants, and as a result, improve the quality of the workforce, reduce welfare dependency, increase economic self-sufficiency, meet the skill requirement so f employers, and enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the Nation.

Sect. 3 provides definitions for terms used in the Act.

It states that “competitive integrated employment:” will have the meaning given it in Sect. 7 (Definitions) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  (Note: There is no definition of “competitive integrated employment” in Section 7 of the Rehab Act.  There is use of the terms competitive employment and ‘integrated labor market’ within the definition of “employment outcome.”)

Core Programs under the Act are listed.  Title I of the Rehabilitation Act is included.  Exception to this is Section 112 (Client Assistance Programs) and Part C (American Indian VR Programs) of title I of the Rehab Act.

There is a definition for “supportive services”  that specifies services such as transportation, child care, dependent care, housing and needs related payments, that are necessary to enable a person to participate in activities authorized under the Act.

There are definitions for “workforce development program” and “workforce development system.”  The workforce development system is a system that makes available the core programs, the other one-stop partner programs, and any other programs, providing employment and training services as identified by a State or local workforce board.

Title I Workforce Development Activities

Subtitle A System Alignment

Chapter I deals with state provisions, starting with State Workforce Boards.

Composition of the State Workforce Development Boards.

The Governor appoints the Board members (excepting for the member from each house of the state legislature).  

  • A majority of members must be from business.  These would be business owners or executives or association representatives, from a list of nominees provided by state business organizations and trade associations.  
  • At least 20 percent of members would be representative of the workforce, for example, from labor organizations, apprenticeship training, or community organizations with expertise related to employment for people with barriers to employment.  (This could include organizations supporting competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities.)  It could also include organizations serving youth.
  • The remainder would be representatives of government to include the lead state officials with primary responsibility for the core programs.  It would also include chief elected officials (collectively representing both cities and counties, as appropriate).  This remainder could also include, as the Governor sees fit, directors of other (non-core) one-stop partner agencies, state officials responsible for economic development or juvenile justice, tribal officials, or education officials such as heads of community colleges or universities.

State Workforce Investment Board functions:  The Board will

  • Assist the Governor in developing the state plan.
  • Review statewide policies and recommendations related to aligning all state workforce programs to support a comprehensive and streamlines workforce development system.
  • Focus on ways to better coordinate and align all the programs involved in workforce development.
  • Identify strategies for using career pathways to improve employment for people with barriers to work.
  • Identify strategies for using industry sector partnerships based on in-demand occupations to meet the needs of employers, workers and job seekers.  
  • Advise on ways to improve the one-stop delivery system.
  • The development of comprehensive state performance accountability measures. Including state adjusted levels of performance to assess the effectiveness of the core programs as required under section 116(b).
  • Development of policies related to the one-stops, including guidance for the allocation of one-stop infrastructure funds and contributions the various one-stop partners should make to the one-stop delivery system.
  • Identify technological improvements for the one-stop system and ensure such technology is accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • Development of ways to align technology and data systems across one-stop partner programs to improve service delivery and support system-wide performance accountability reporting.  
  • Development of the statewide workforce and labor market information system.

There is a conflict of interest provision that prohibits a member of the State Board from voting on a matter under consideration by the Board that affects services provided by the entity the member represents, or a matter that would entail direct financial benefit for the member or his family.  The Governor can specify any other action that would pose a conflict of interest and be prohibited.

Sec. 102 deals with the Unified State Plan.  

For a state to be eligible to receive allotments for the core workforce programs (which include VR), the Governor shall submit to the Secretary of Labor a 4-year Unified State Plan.  (The VR portion of the plan must also be approved by the RSA Commissioner, then by both the Secretary of Education and Secretary of Labor.)  Contents of the Unified State Plan will include:

  • The Unified Plan must include a description of the state’s vision for preparing an educated and skilled workforce, including youth and people with barriers to employment.  The vision must include meeting the needs of employers for highly skilled workers.  It must include goals related to establishment of performance accountability measures based on primary indicators of performance spelled out in Sect. 116 of the bill.
  • The Unified Plan must describe how each partner will implement the vision and strategy stated in the Plan.  
  • Must describe the activities that will be funded by each of the core programs to implement the overall strategy and vision, and how the activities will be aligned across the programs and among the entities administering the programs, including using co-enrollment.  
  • The plan must also say how the activities of the core programs will be aligned with other programs that are not part of the Unified Plan but deal with employment, training and human services.
  • The plan must say how each core program will coordinate activities and provide comprehensive high quality services and supportive services.
  • The plan must describe how all these activities of the core programs will relate to economic development goals of the state.
  • The plan must say how the core programs will be assessed each year, based on the common performance accountability measures.
  • The plan will include core program performance measures for the two preceding years.
  • The plan will describe the factors the state will use in distributing funds under each of the core programs (in the case of VR, this will be in accord with the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act, our authorizing law).
  • Data alignment and integration among core programs must be addressed.
  • The plan must say how the one-stop partners will comply with the ADA in regard to physical and programmatic accessibility of facilities, programs, information and technology.
  • The plan will include information specifically required of VR under its state plan provisions in WIOA title IV (Rehab Act).
  • A number of assurances must be made by the state, as part of the state plan to be submitted.  The state must assure that it has a policy to provide the public, including people with disabilities, access to meetings of State and local workforce boards.  The state must assure that the directors of all the core partner programs have gone over the Unified Plan and agree that it properly serves the populations affected by each core program.  The state must assure that the federal funds received to carry out a core program will not be used for any purpose other than for activities authorized by law with respect to that core program.  
  • Plan submission.  The Unified Plan must be submitted to the Secretary of Labor within 120 days before the second full year following the enactment of the WIOA.  It appears that the Secretary of Labor will then refer the VR portion of the plan to the RSA Commissioner and to the Secretary of Education.  The Unified Plan will be considered approved at the end of 90 days after submission unless either the Labor or Education Secretary disapproves any of it in writing before the 90 days ends.  
  • The plan lasts 4 years.  The next state plan must be submitted to Labor no later than 120 days before the end of the 4-year Plan.
  • The Unified Plan can be modified at the Governor’s request 2 years into the plan time period.  Approval by the Secretary of Labor (and Education in the case of VR) is required.

Sec. 103 provides the option for doing a Combined State Plan.  This appears to be a plan that includes the core programs plus any other programs that the state wishes to merge into the workforce system it wants to establish.

Subtitle A
Chapter 2 deals with local provisions

This chapter provides for development and approval of both regional and local workforce system plans.

Local workforce boards shall include a majority of members representing business and at least 20 percent of the board members shall represent labor, which may include labor organizations and community organizations.  The local Boards must also include certain governmental representatives including a representative of economic and community development entities, an appropriate representative of the state employment security office, and an appropriate representative of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Sec, 108 sets forth what is required in regard to local workforce plans.  Local plans will address the one-stop centers.  They must describe how entities within the one-stop delivery system will comply with the ADA as to physical, program, information and technology accessibility.  The plans are supposed to say how the local board will coordinate local workforce activities with area transportation, public transportation and supportive services.  The local plan must describe the replicated cooperative agreements that are entered into as provided under the Rehabilitation Act, and say how those will be applied in the local context, and what the local VR office will do in implementing those cooperative agreements.  (Sec, 108 (b)(14))

These local plans will also describe how the one-stop delivery system partners are transitioning to an integrated, technology-enabled intake and case management system.

The local plans have to be approved by the Governor.  They are considered approves 90 days after submission unless the Governor disapproves them.

Subtitle A
Chapter 4 Performance Accountability
Sec. 116 Performance Accountability System

The performance accountability measures for all core programs (including VR) shall be:

  • The primary indicators of performance set forth in the law, and state adjusted levels for these primary indicators; and
  • Any additional indicators identified by the State.

Primary indicators of performance are:

  • The percentage of program participants who are in unsubsidized employment during the second quarter after exit from the program.
  • The percentage of program participants who are in unsubsidized employment during the fourth quarter after exit from the program.
  • The median earnings of program participants who are in unsubsidized employment during the second quarter after exit from the program.
  • The percentage of program participants who obtain a recognized postsecondary credential, or a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent, during participation in or within one year after exit from the program.
  • The percentage of program participants who, during a program year, are in an education or training program that leads to a recognized postsecondary credential  or employment and who are achieving measurable skill gains toward such a credential or employment.
  • The indicators of effectiveness in serving employers which are also established in this law.

Primary indicators for eligible youth are also defined.

Indicators for services to employers:

  • Before the second full program year after enactment of WIOA, the Secretaries of Labor and Education shall jointly establish one or more primary indicators of performance that indicate the effectiveness of the core programs in serving employers.

Each state’s plan will set forth adjusted levels of performance that will be the targets to meet in regard to performance of some programs – including Vocational Rehabilitation.

For the first two years covered by the first Unified State Plan under WIOA, the adjusted performance levels for certain programs in a state (including VR) will be levels agreed to by the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of Education.  Adjusted levels for the 3rd and 4th plan years will again be negotiated by the State and Labor Secretary, in conjunction with the Education Secretary, before the beginning of the 3rd plan year.

An objective statistical model will be developed by the Secretaries of Labor and Education and this model will be used by states in determining what their adjusted performance levels should be for certain programs, including VR.  This statistical model is to be based on

  • Differences in economic conditions among states.
  • Characteristics of the participants of the specific program when the individuals entered the program – like poor work history, low literacy levels, lack of work experience, disability status, homelessness, welfare dependency etc.

Other factors will also be considered in setting the adjusted performance levels.  Factors to include are how a state’s adjusted indicators compare with other states, and whether they are set so as to promote continuous progress in raising performance.

The Secretary of Labor, in conjunction with the Secretary of Education, is directed to establish performance goals for the core programs under the Act.  These are to be long-term goals for the programs to which the adjusted levels of performance are applied.

Added state and local performance indicators can be established and adjusted for program, as the state and local areas determine.

Within 12 months from enactment, the Secretary of Labor, in conjunction with the Secretary of Education, shall develop a template for performance reports by states, local boards and training providers. The reports will include information on

  • levels of performance achieved by the various programs, with data for each program with adjusted levels of performance to be disaggregated based on subpopulations served and by race, ethnicity, gender and age.  
  • The reports will cover total served by the program,
  • The number of participants who received career and training services during the most recent program year and during the 3 preceding program years, and the amount of funds spent on each type of service (career services, training services).
  • The number of participants who exited from career and training services, respectively, during the most recent program year and during the 3 preceding program years.
  • The average cost per participant of those participants who received career and training services, respectively, during the most recent program year and the 3 preceding program years.
  • The percent of participants in programs under Title I, Subtitle A. who got training and went to work in a field related to their training.
  • The number of persons with barriers to employment served by each program (includes VR) disaggregated by subpopulations.
  • The number of participants who are enrolled in more than one workforce program.
  • Percent of a state’s annual allotment under Sec. 132 (title I) that is spent on administrative costs.
  • Data on the results of pay-for-performance contracts being used.
  • And other information that helps compare programs among states.

The contents of local area reports are also specified.

The contents of reports required of training providers are also specified.

Disaggregation of data by subpopulation is required in many of the reporting categories, but it will not be required when the number of participants in a particular category is too low to yield statistically reliable information.

Data reports will be shared with Congress.

Using funds authorized under core programs, states are to coordinate with local boards and agencies in charge of core workforce programs to conduct periodic evaluations of how the core programs are doing.  These evaluations are to be coordinated with other evaluations required by sections of law affecting the core programs.  In the case of VR, sections 12(a)(5), 14 and 107 of the Rehab Act are applicable.  The bill directs ho w these state evaluations are to be designed.  These evaluations are to be done each year and made available to the workforce boards and the public.

When a state fails to meet established performance accountability standards, there are sanctions.  

  • Technical assistance from Labor and Education, with help devising a performance improvement plan.
  • If a state fails to meet performance standards for two consecutive years or fails to submit a data report in any year, funds will be withheld from funds that would otherwise be reserved by the Governor (Sec. 128 (a)) for the next program year.  (It is unclear whether this affects VR funds.)

Fiscal and Management Accountability System.  The Governor is directed to establish a fiscal and management accountability system based on guidelines from the Secretaries of Labor and Education and in consultation with local boards and core workforce programs.  The system in a state is to be established using funds authorized under a core program (not identified).  The system is to allow for reporting and monitoring use of funds under each core program and for sharing of management information.

Subtitle B Workforce Investment Activities and Providers
Chapter 1

Sec. 121 Establishment of One-Stop Delivery Systems

Each listed core program, including VR, that carries out a program or activities in a local area shall provide access through the one-stop delivery system to such programs or activities.  This includes making its career services available at the one-stop centers, in addition to any other appropriate locations.,

Required partners, including VR, must use a portion of the funds available to the program to maintain the one-stop delivery system, including payment of the infrastructure costs of the one-stop system.

Partners, including VR, must participate in the operation of the one-stop system consistent with an MOU developed between the local one-stop, requirements of this Act, and specifically the requirements of law authorizing the particular program (in our case, the Rehab Act – title IV of WIOA).

The contents to be included in the MOU’s between one-stops and the core partner programs are described.  Contents are to include how the core partner will participate in the one-stop system, how referrals between programs will be handled, how the partner will participate in funding of the one-stop infrastructure, how the partner will serve the needs of persons with barriers to employment (e.g. disabilities, etc.), and how accessibility will be implemented.

American Indian VR programs under Part C or title I of the Rehabilitation Act are not considered mandatory partners in the one-stop delivery system   Client Assistance Programs are not mandatory partners in the one-stop delivery system.  However, it appears that they can be additional partners in a one-stop delivery system but if so, are not required to violate the stipulation in law that CAP’s cannot be administered by entities providing rehabilitation services or treatment.  (The bill language is not clear on how this would work – unless the CAP would be administered by another one-stop partner – either mandatory or additional.)

One-stop centers would have to be certified based on meeting certain criteria.  The Governor, State Board and local officials would be involved in setting the criteria for one-stop certification.  Factors to apply would include effectiveness, accessibility, how well the center supports achievement of performance standards, and how well the center integrates available services.  Certification is required in order for a one-stop center to receive infrastructure funding that is contributed by the partners and allotted by the Governor.

Infrastructure funding.  One option is that local workforce boards can negotiate agreements with one-stop partners in a local area as to what each will contribute to meet infrastructure funding needs.  If consensus is not reached at the local level, the one-stop can access the state level infrastructure funding mechanism.  At the state level, the Governor may determine what amount of a partner’s federal funding shall be carved out to use for one-stop infrastructure.  In making this determination the Governor will consider a partner’s proportionate use of the one-stop center, and other costs of administering the one-stop delivery system.  The Governor would exclude from this determination any amounts already agreed to between a local one-stop and a partner.  The governor is also required to take into account the statutory requirements for each partner program and the program’s ability to fulfill such requirements.

There is a stipulation that the funds each partner contributes for one-stop infrastructure shall be taken only from funds the entity has available for covering administrative costs.  It appears that there is a cap of 1.5 percent of a partner’s federal funds that may be tapped as a contribution to infrastructure costs if the amount is assessed at the state level.  

Important:  There appears to be a phase-in cap for Vocational Rehabilitation’s contribution to one-stop infrastructure.  VR Title I programs shall not be required to provide from their program a portion that exceeds 0.75 percent of the program’s federal funds for the second full program year following enactment of this bill.  The cap is 1.0 percent for the third program year, 1.25 percent in the fourth year and 1.5 percent in the fifth and succeeding years.  

A State Board shall develop a formula to be used by the Governor in allocating funds to one-stop centers for infrastructure costs.

Infrastructure cost means the nonpersonnel costs necessary for the general operation of the one-stop including rent, utilities, maintenance, equipment, technology and assistive technology for individuals with disabilities.

In addition to the funds contributed by one-stop partners for one-stop infrastructure, other funds from the partners can be tapped for other one-stop costs, as long as it is not inconsistent with and is permitted by the federal law affecting a program.  These added costs could include the cost of providing career services or common costs.  Common or shared service costs could include common intake, assessment of client needs, skill assessments, identification of services to meet needs, referral to other one-stop partners, etc. The amount that a partner would need to provide for these “other costs” would be set out in the MOU with each local one-stop.  The State Board would develop guidance to help one-stops and partners determine added amounts the partners should provide for this purpose.

Subtitle B Workforce Investment Activities and Providers
Chapter 1

Sec. 122 Identification of Eligible Providers of Training Services

The Governor, with advice from the State Board, establishes criteria for training providers.  It appears these criteria would apply to training that is provided with funds from WIOA adult and dislocated worker programs, and not to training purchased with VR funds.  However – it needs to be definitely clarified whether or not training providers used by VR need to meet these provider criteria set by the Governor, and whether they are going to be subject to the data gathering and reporting requirements that are set forth in the sections on performance measures.

The factors to be considered in establishing training provider criteria under this section would include quality of the training and capacity of the provider to train for in-demand occupations and deliver industry-recognized credentials.  In establishing criteria for training providers, the Governor is supposed to also consider the need for consumers to have informed choice of training providers within a local area, and that training entities meet employer and participant needs in the local area.  There is also a caution that information collection by training providers to demonstrate compliance with criteria not be overly burdensome or costly for providers.

The Governor at the state level must require a variety of information be provided by training providers to show they meet the established criteria.  

Local boards can also establish training provider criteria that are more stringent than the state level criteria or that reflect economic and industry needs in the local area.

Training providers must be eligible – meet the state and local criteria – in order to be paid from funds of the partner programs affected.  We need clarification on whether training providers used by VR are subject to these extensive eligibility provisions.  (Note:  In this section dealing with training provider criteria, there is a statement that these provisions affect programs funded under Sec. 133(b), which specifies adult and dislocated worker employment and training activities.  However, in the sections dealing with performance accountability measures and reporting for core programs, other one-stop partners and training providers, VR is subjected to the common performance measures.   It is unclear whether VR t raining providers must meet the Governor’s training entity eligibility criteria and apply for eligible status under the procedures set forth for that purpose.)

The Governor will compile a list of eligible training providers, along with information on the credentials their training can produce, and make the list available to the one-stops for use by participants in selecting training and employment options.

Providers of on-the-job training, customized employment, internships, incumbent worker training and such will not be subject to eligibility criteria provisions.

Title I
Subtitle B
Chapter 2 Youth Workforce Investment Activities

In-school and out-of-school youth with disabilities are eligible under these programs.  Most of the youth served must be low income.  Of youth served by a local area under this Chapter, 5% can be above low income criteria as long as they are eligible based on another criteria, such as disability.

Title I
Subtitle B
Chapter 3 Adult and Dislocated Worker Employment and Training Activities

This chapter provides for a category of service called career services, as distinguished from training services.  Career services for adults and dislocated workers can include a wide range of activities including assessments, in-depth interviews, pre-employment skills development, internships, information on careers and training programs, job placement, and much more.  

If it is determined that an individual is not likely to obtain or retain employment that leads to self-sufficiency and wages comparable to or higher than at previous employment, training can be provided.  Certain criteria apply, and the emphasis is on selection of training for in-demand occupations and meeting employer needs in the local area.  If the participant is eligible for PELL or other student aid, that would have to be used first, although training funds under this chapter could be used for training costs beyond those covered by the student aid.  Also, if award of PELL or other student aid has not been received when the participant needs to start training, the cost can be paid by the workforce program, with the individual reimbursing the training cost when student aid is received.  In determining whether a participant needs financial assistance for training, a one-stop operator or partner can consider the full cost of participating in training, including transportation, dependent care and other costs.

Training services under this chapter may include OJT, job skills training, incumbent worker training, private sector training programs, skills upgrading and retraining, entrepreneurial training, job readiness training, literacy, and customized training.

There is a consumer choice provision under this chapter with regard to training.  Training is to be provided in a manner that maximizes the participant’s choice from among eligible training providers.

The mechanism to be used to pay for training is an individual training account.  There are some conditions under which training may be paid for via a contract between the one-stop and training provider.  

Training provided for adults and dislocated workers shall be directly linked to an in-demand industry, sector or occupation in the local area where the participant lives or is willing to move, or to an occupational area expected to grow in the area.

Title I
Subtitle D National Programs
Sec. 169 Evaluation and Research

The Secretary of Labor shall provide that at least one independent evaluation of programs under this title (Title I) be done each 4 years.  The evaluation will focus on program effectiveness in relation to cost, whether employment is increased over what it would otherwise have been, the effectiveness of the performance accountability measures (which apply to all workforce programs including VR), whether the way service delivery is structured is effective, results for business, and how the programs meet the needs of various demographic groups.

Some specific research studies are directed, including one to study if the workforce system meets business needs.  A study of performance indicators is also required.  

Title I
Subtitle E Administration
Sec. 189 Secretarial Administrative Authorities and Responsibilities

Waivers of Statutory or Regulatory Requirements.  Pursuant to a Governor’s request, the Secretary of Labor may waive any statutory or regulatory requirements under Subtitles A, B or E of Title I or under the Wagner-Peyser Act (state employment service and unemployment insurance), with exceptions.  Many provisions of law and regulation cannot be waived, including those dealing with nondiscrimination, participant eligibility, provider eligibility, grievance process, fund allocations to local areas, one-stop infrastructure funding provisions, and some other provisions.  In requesting a waiver from any provision of law or regulation, a Governor must submit to the Secretary of Labor a plan and rationale for such waiver, indicating what outcome improvements are projected as a result.

Sec. 190 Workforce Flexibility Plans.  A state can request the Secretary of Labor to approve a Flexibility Plan that allows the State to waive various law and regulation requirements affecting local workforce boards and one-stop centers.  However, many provisions of law and rule cannot be waived under such a plan, including those related to local plan approval, participant eligibility, nondiscrimination, wage and labor standards, allocation of funds to local areas, and other provisions.

Title IV
Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act

Subtitle A Introductory Provisions

A Congressional finding is added to state that Congress finds that many students with disabilities are leaving secondary school without competitive integrated employment or being enrolled in postsecondary education, and there is a need to support such students as they transition from school to postsecondary life.

A purpose is added to maximize opportunities for persons with disabilities to enter competitive integrated employment.

Another purpose is added to increase employment opportunities and outcomes for individuals with disabilities, including through the use of employer and VR specialist input on successful strategies to accomplish this.  A further purpose is to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that students and youth with disabilities who are transitioning from special education or education services pursuant to Section 504 have opportunities for success.

Sec. 403 Rehabilitation Services Administration

Inserting a statement that RSA shall be the principal agency, and the Commissioner shall be the principal officer, of the Department (ED) for purposes of carrying out titles I, III, VI and chapter 2 of title VII.

Sec. 404 Definitions

The definition of “Assessment for determining eligibility and rehabilitation needs” is modified by adding that the assessment should “to the maximum extent possible, rely on information obtained from experiences in integrated employment settings in the community, and other integrated community settings.”

The current definitions for assistive technology device and assistive technology service are replaced with a definition of “assistive technology terms.”  There are definitions for three terms – assistive technology, assistive technology device, and assistive technology service.

Customized employment is added as a service that can be provided by community rehabilitation programs.

There is a new definition for competitive integrated employment.  This would mean work that is compensated at the higher of the federal or a state’s minimum wage and at a rate that is not less than the employer usually pays for similar work performed by other employees who are not disabled.  In the case of self-employment, it must yield an income that is not less than that received by non-disabled persons in the same occupation and who have similar skills and experience.  It would also mean work in which the individual is eligible for the benefits that are provided for other employees.  Further, it would have to be work at a location where the employee interacts with other employees who do not have disabilities (supervisors and service providers do not count) to the same extent that any non-disabled employee interacts with other non-disabled employees.  In addition, this would have to be work that, as appropriate, presents opportunities for advancement that are similar to those available to other employees without disabilities who have similar positions.

There is a new definition for customized employment.  This is competitive integrated employment that is designed to meet specific needs of both the individual and the employer and is carried out through flexible strategies such as job exploration by the individual, customizing the job description, adapting a jog to individual needs and abilities and providing supports at the job location.

Customized employment is added as a permissible employment outcome.

The definition of “independent living core services” is modified to add services that facilitate the transition of individuals with disabilities in nursing homes and other institutions to home and community based residences with the requisite supports and services.  Other added core services would be helping individuals at risk of institutionalization to remain in their own homes in the community, and facilitating the transition of youth with significant disabilities from high school into postsecondary life.

The definition of “Indian” is modified by adding the inclusion of a Native or descendent of a native.  The definition of “Indian tribe” is modified by including the term ‘tribal organization’ as defined in the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

Changes are made with regard to Transition definitions.  The existing Transition definition is deleted.  A new definition is added for “Pre-Employment Transition Services,” and it simply refers to services spelled out in Section 113.

The definition of Secretary is modified to indicate when the reference is to the Secretary of Education (as used in title I, III, IV, V,  VI or chapter 2 of title VII) and when the term Secretary refers to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (title II or chapter 1 of title VII).

There is a new definition of “student with a disability.”  The age would be not younger than the earliest age allowable under IDEA or a state-established age if lower, and not older than 21 or a higher age if set by state law as permitted under IDEA.  The definition specifies the student must be eligible for and receiving special education under IDEA or be considered a person with a disability under Section 504.’’

The current definitions for supported employment and supported employment services are replaced by a definition for “Supported Employment.”  The term will mean competitive integrated employment, to include customized employment or short-term employment in an integrated setting where the person is working towards competitive integrated employment, for individuals with the most significant disabilities for who competitive integrated employment has not historically occurred.  These would be individuals who because of the severity of their disabilities, need supported employment services and extended services in order to perform the work involved.

A new definition for “Supported Employment Services” refers to ongoing support services, including customized employment, needed to support and maintain an individual with a most significant disability in supported employment.  The SE services provided by VR would be for a period not to exceed 24 months, except that this period can be extended if needed in order to achieve the planned employment outcome.

There is a new definition for “Youth with a disability.”  This would be a person with a disability who is not younger than 14 and not older than 24.  

Sec. 405 Administration of the Act

Adding that the RSA Commissioner may provide technical assistance to the designated state units on developing successful partnerships with local and multi-State businesses in an effort to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities.  Adding that the Commissioner may provide technical assistance to providers and organizations for development of self-employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  Also adding that the Commissioner may provide technical assistance to CRPs to help them build capacity to provide individualized services that can lead to competitive integrated employment.

Responsibilities of the Commissioner are adjusted to reflect the move of Independent Living programs to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Amendments provide that the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall have those authorities and responsibilities currently specified for the RSA Commissioner and/or the Secretary of Education, when they apply to Independent Living Centers and services.

NIDRR is moved to the Administration on Community Living within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and renamed the “National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.”  

Title IV
Subtitle B Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Throughout, references to integrated employment are amended to refer to “competitive integrated employment.”

Where references occur to workforce investment, the term is changed to “workforce development.”  

Amends the Purposes to indicate that VR services are also to be consistent with the individual’s need to achieve self-sufficiency.  The term “self-sufficiency” is tacked on to the list “strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, informed choice and self-sufficiency.”

Sec. 412 of WIOA
State Plans

Requires VR to be a part of the Workforce Development System’s Unified or Combines State Plan.  Changes references to the state plan for vocational rehabilitation to refer instead to the vocational rehabilitation portion of the unified (or combined) state plan submitted for WIOA.  

Provisions related to the designated state agency and DSU are modified.  The stipulation that the designated state unit must have a full-time director is augmented by adding “who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the vocational rehabilitation program.”  In this same section, which currently requires that if the VR program is under a larger agency, it must be a distinct unit or division of such an agency, a further criteria is added.  The new requirement is that the DSU if part of an umbrella agency must “have the sole authority and responsibility within the designated state agency…to expend funds made available under this title in a manner that is consistent with the purposes of this title.”

Order of Selection provisions are amended to allow a state, at its discretion, to elect to serve eligible individuals (whether or not receiving vocational rehabilitation services) who require specific services or equipment to maintain employment.  

Comprehensive System of Personnel Development provisions.  

Current law specifies that if a state’s CSPD does not require VR personnel to meet the highest State or national standards for such positions, the state must say how it will move toward that goal.  This provision is removed and replaced with language directing the “establishment and maintenance of education and experience requirements to ensure that the personnel have a 21st century understanding of the evolving labor force and the needs of individuals with disabilities.”

The education and experience requirements to be established would include requirements for attainment of a bachelor’s degree in a field of study reasonably related to vocational rehabilitation…in a field such as vocational rehabilitation, counselling, social work, psychology, disability studies, business administration, human resources, special education, supported employment, customized employment, economics or another field….”  Requirement would also need to include paid or unpaid experience for not less than 1 year in direct work with individuals with disabilities, in a setting such as an independent living center, or direct service or advocacy activities, or direct experience as an employer, small business owner or human resources person where the person is involved in hiring, recruiting or training persons with disabilities.    Requirements could also include a master’s degree or higher in a field of study such as VR counseling, law, social work, psychology, disability studies, business, human resources, special education, management, public administration, or another field that provides competence in the employment sector in a disability field, or in both.

VR personnel qualifications would still have to be consistent with any applicable state or national licensure, certification, registration or other requirements for a profession – but there would no longer be the requirement that if a state does not require the highest state or national credential for VR professionals, it is obligated to move in that direction.  Instead, the amendments open up the field of vocational rehabilitation practice to persons with many different educational and experience backgrounds.

Reports

New reporting requirements are made of state VR programs.  New data to report will include

  • the number of people with open cases broken down by whether they are in training or high school, and the kind of services they are receiving.
  • The number of students who are receiving pre-employment transition services
  • The number of participants referred to VR by one-stops and the number VR refers to the one-stops.
  • The average length of time it took to achieve an employment outcome, for those who went to work.

Other State Plan provisions

The State Plan for VR would include a new section on coordination with employers.  The Plan must describe how the state VR agency will coordinate with employers to identify competitive integrated employment opportunities for VR participants including you and students.

The Plan would need to address establishment of cooperative agreements regarding individuals eligible for home and community based waiver services (Medicaid).  The state would have to assure that it has entered into a formal cooperative agreement with the Medicaid agency in the state and with the agency serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The agreement would spell out how vocational rehabilitation services would be delivered to this population, including how extended services would be arranged.

An assurance is required that the state VR agency is coordinating with the state’s AT project and will enter into an agreement for the coordination of their activities, including referral of clients to AT programs.

An assurance is required that the state VR agency is cooperating with any other employment networks in the state under the Ticket to Work.

The State Plan must describe how the designated state unit will collaborate with the State Medicaid agency, the state agency providing developmental disability services, and the state mental health agency.   

Semiannual (instead of annual) reviews will initially be required of individuals in extended employment or other employment under special certificate provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (subminimum wage employment).

Annual state goals.  

The comprehensive statewide needs assessment undertaken jointly by the state unit and the SRC would have to include assessment of the rehabilitation needs of youth and students with disabilities with regard to pre-employment transition services or regular transition services.

The state plan would need to include a specific assessment of the needs for transition and pre-employment transition services and an assessment of whether the services provided by VR and Education are meeting those needs.

In the state plan, the annual estimates of persons eligible for VR would have to include an estimate of the number of people who would be eligible but would not be able to receive services due to an order of Selection.

The state plan would need to include a description of the methods to be used to improve and expand transition, pre-employment transition and standard VR services to students.

The state agency would have to provide assurance that it has developed and will implement strategies for improving, expanding and providing transition and pre-employment transition services.

A new assurance is required describing how the state will utilize initiatives involving in=demand industry sectors or occupations to increase competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities.

A new rule of construction is added to state that nothing in the state plan requirements on transition services shall be construed to relieve education or any other agency from their roles to provide and pay for transition services that are also considered special education or related services and are necessary for ensuring a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities.

Sec. 413  WIOA Eligibility and Individualized Plan for Employment

Wording related to the criteria for eligibility has been modified.  New language would specify the individual is eligible for VR if he/she “has undergone an assessment for determining eligibility and vocational rehabilitation needs and as a result has been determined to be an” individual with a disability under 7(20)(A)…and requires vocational rehabilitation services to prepare for, secure, retain, “advance in or regain employment that is consistent with the individual’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests and informed choice.”  Added new language here is “For purposes of an assessment for determining eligibility and vocational rehabilitation needs under this Act, an individual shall be presumed to have a goal of an employment outcome.”

There are some wording changes in the sections dealing with presumption of benefit, trial work and ineligibility determination.  

The presumption of benefit stated in Section 102(a)(2)(A) is amended by deleting the exception clause that says the presumption applies unless the agency demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the individual cannot benefit from VR due to the severity of the disability.   However, the possibility of ineligibility due to severity of disability is acknowledged in 102(a)(2)(B).  This subsection is amended to state that before any determination of ineligibility based on inability to benefit from VR, trial work will be used.  The bill deletes any exception from using trial work.  Amending language requires the agency to provide the person with several trial work experiences, such as supported employment and in competitive integrated employment.  

Wording is added to state that ineligibility determinations must be individual ones, and not based on assumptions about broad categories of disabilities.

Development of the IPE

In the section on options for developing the IPE, the state agency must inform the applicant of assistance available for developing the IPE – including assistance from disability advocacy organizations.  A new paragraph specifies that applicants eligible under SSI/DI must also be given information on benefits planning and other supportive services.  

There is wording added to say that a plan may be amended as necessary to include postemployment services necessary for the individual to maintain or regain employment consistent with the individual’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests and informed choice.

In regard to Mandatory Components of the Individualized Plan for Employment, the employment outcome would be required to be in competitive integrated employment.  New elements to be included in the IPE, if appropriate, are transition services needed by a student to achieve his/her employment outcome or projected post-school employment outcome.  If the client is also a client of an Employment Network, the IPE should list the services as outlined in the EN plan and explain which services are the responsibility of VR and which are to be provided by the EN.

Sec. 414  WIOA
Vocational Rehabilitation Services

This amends Section 103 of the Rehabilitation Act/
In the list of VR services that can be provided, in Section 103(a)(15), the transition services wording is modified.  Instead of transition services that facilitate achievement of the employment goal, this subsection would refer to transition services that facilitate transition from school to postsecondary life, including competitive integrated employment.  Transition services would also include pre-employment transition services.  

Customized employment is added to the list of possible VR services.

Also added to the list of VR services is a statement encouraging clients to pursue advanced training in fields associated with science, technology, engineering meth, computer science, medicine, law or business.

Under Services to Groups, any VR funding used to create or improve community rehabilitation programs must be aimed toward community integration and competitive integrated employment, including supported employment and customized employment.

Under Services to Groups, the bill deletes the category described as “other services that promise to contribute substantially to the rehabilitation of a group of individuals but that are not related directly to the IPE of any one individual.”

The category on technical assistance to businesses that are not subject to ADA Title I is broadened and simplified to allow technical assistance to businesses that want to employ individuals with disabilities.

The bill adds several new categories under the Services to Group provision.  These are:

  • Consultation to assist education agencies in planning for the transition of students with disabilities from school to postsecondary life.
    • Transition services for youth and students when a VR counselor works in concert with other agencies and programs such as education agencies, Medicaid agencies, developmental disability programs, housing or transportation authorities, or workforce centers.
  • The establishment, development or improvement of assistive tech demonstration, reuse, or financing programs in coordination with the State’s AT project.
  • Support for advanced training in a STEM field, law, medicine, etc.  This can include tuition.  This category under Services to Groups does not preclude provision of this type of training through regular VR services to eligible individuals.

Standards and Indicators

Section 106 Evaluation Standards and Performance Indicators.  Evaluation of VR performance is made subject to the common performance measures under WIOA.  A State may establish additional standards and indicators.  

Monitoring

A requirement is added to RSA monitoring procedures to include meetings with CAP personnel and past or current VR clients. Added to the list of things to be monitored are pre-employment transition services and data on persons determined to be ineligible for VR services.  

Technical assistance that may be provided by RSA is expanded to include TA to

  • Promote high quality employment outcomes;
  • Integrate veterans with disabilities into their communities and help them achieve competitive integrated employment;
  • Develop and improve information on practices and strategies to better prepare personnel to enable individuals with intellectual disabilities and other individuals with disabilities to participate in postsecondary educational experiences and to obtain and retain competitive integrated employment;
  • Apply evidence-based findings to facilitate systemic improvements in the transition of youth with disabilities to postsecondary life.

Sec. 418 WIOA
Training and Services for Employers

This renames Rehab Act Section 109 (currently focused on training employers on the ADA) as “Training and Services for Employers.”

The section is replaced.  The new section provides that

  • A state can expend funds received under Section 111 to educate and provide services to employers who have hired or are interested in hiring individuals with disabilities under programs carried out under this title (Rehab Act).
  • State can provide disability awareness training to employers, ADA training, and training on other employment-related laws.
  • Work with employers in a number of ways, such as improving work-based learning experiences, internships, short-term employment, and pre-employment transition services.
  • States can help recruit employees with disabilities for employers, train employees, and provide consultation to employers on workplace accessibility and assistive technology.
  • Assist employers in using tax incentives or other financial incentives related to hiring individuals with disabilities.

State allotments

From its 110 funds, a state shall reserve not less than 15 percent of the allotted funds for the provision of pre-employment transition services.  None of these reserved funds may be used to cover administrative costs.

Sec. 422 WIOA
Pre-Employment Transition Services

This is a new section added at the end of Rehab Act title I Part B.

Section 113 (new) Provision of Pre-Employment Transition Services

Using the 15 percent set-aside of 110 monies and any other funds available from the State, VR agencies (in collaboration with the local educational agencies involved) must provide or arrange for provision of pre-employment transition services for youth or students with disabilities who are eligible or potentially eligible for such services.

Required activities include

  • Job exploration counseling
  • Work-based learning experiences such as internships
  • Counseling on opportunities for postsecondary training
  • Job readiness skills training to develop social and independent living skills
  • Self-advocacy instruction

Additional authorized activities, if funds remain after provision of the required activities, include

  • Activities to increase the likelihood of achieving community integration and independence as well as competitive integrated employment.
  • Developing strategies for individuals with intellectual disabilities and other significant disabilities to live independently, participate in postsecondary education and obtain and retain competitive integrated employment.
  • Providing training to VR counselors and school transition staff.
  • Disseminating information on effective approaches to achieve the goals of this section.
  • Coordinating activities with transition services provided by local education agencies under IDEA.
  • Applying evidence-based finding to improve policy, practice and personnel training for improved transition services.
  • Developing transition demonstration projects.
  • Developing regional partnerships with education agencies, developmental disabilities services and other entities to improve transition results.
  • Disseminating information and strategies to improve transition to postsecondary life for members of traditionally underserved populations.

The bill requires each local VR office to

  • Have staff attend IEP meetings when invited.
  • Work with local workforce boards, one-stop centers and employers to develop employment opportunities for students.  These can be internships, apprenticeships, summer jobs, etc.
  • Work with schools to coordinate pre-employment transition services.
  • When invited, attend person-centered planning sessions for students receiving home and community-based waiver services.

States are required to address the transition needs of all students with disabilities, including those with physical, sensory, intellectual and mental health disabilities.

Sec, 423 WIOA
American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Section 121 of the Rehab Act is amended to require that American Indian VR program assure that all decisions related to eligibility and provision of services be made by a representative of the tribal VR program itself (not delegated to another agency or individual).

From the funds made available for American Indian VR programs, the Commissioner will reserve a small percentage to use for grants or contracts for training and technical assistance to tribal governing bodies.  

Title II Research and Training

This is the title dealing with the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research.  Technical assistance is added as a focus in addition to research and training.  In identifying effective strategies for improving employment of    individuals with disabilities, a focus on persons with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities is added.  There is also a purpose added to identify ways to better coordinate with one-stops in regard to their employment services that may be used by persons with disabilities.

NIDRR is renames the National Institute of Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.  For fiscal 2015 $103.9 million is appropriated for NIDILRR, increasing to $122.1 million in 2020.  The Institute is transferred into the Administration on Community Living within the U.S, Department of Health and Human Services (which will also house the Independent Living programs).  The Director of the Institute is required to have experience in independent living as well as rehabilitation and research administration.  Research, training and technical assistance activities will have an added focus on independent living.  Activities and research priorities of the Institute are modified to reflect the new independent living focus.  Types of research that can be done are broadened to include such areas as universal design, health and wellness, community integration, assistive technology and education.

Title III Professional Development and Special Projects and Demonstrations

(Subtitle D of the bill)

Training of personnel in assistive technology services is added to the array of rehabilitation professions that this title supports.

The types of rehabilitation profession training programs that can be supported by institutional grants under this title is broadened to add vision rehabilitation therapy, orientation and mobility instruction and low vision therapy.  

In-service training is deleted as a fundable activity under this title.

$33.6 million is provided for title III for 2015, going to $39.5 million in 2020.

Some changes are made to the priorities for funding demonstration projects.  The current priority for projects to improve service delivery for people who are low-functioning deaf or hard of hearing is eliminated and replaced with a priority for projects that address transition from education to competitive integrated employment.  A new priority is established for projects that address competitive integrated employment for persons with significant disabilities.

The Parent Information and Training Program funded under this title is given the added role to provide support and guidance in helping individuals (including students) with significant disabilities transition to competitive integrated employment.

The bill strikes sections that authorize projects for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and recreation projects.

Title IV (Rehab Act) National Council of Disability

Subtitle E of title IV of WIOA

NCD membership is reduced from 15 to 9.  Funding authorized for 2015 is $3.1 million, up to $3.7 million in 2020.

Title 5 (Rehab Act) Rights and Advocacy

Subtitle F of title IV of WIOA

Access Board funding is authorized at $7.4 million for 2015 up to $8.7 million in 2020.

Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights (PAIR) funding is authorized at $17,6 million for 2015 up to $20.7 million for 2020.

A new Section 511 is added at the end of Title 5 (Rehab Act) called Limitations on Use of Subminimum Wage.  This section provides that no entity which holds a special wage certificate under Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act may compensate a person who is age 24 or younger at less than the federal minimum wage unless one of the following conditions is met:

  1. The individual is employed by the entity on the effective date of this section.
  2. Before beginning work at a subminimum wage, the individual has received pre-employment transition services, and the person has applied for VR services and been found ineligible or was found eligible and received services but was not successful and had his/her case closed.  The person would also have to have had career counseling and referrals to other sources of employment assistance aimed at competitive integrated employment.  The person would also have to present documentation of all these steps.

The bill prohibits local or state education agencies from contracting with entities to operate programs that would pay subminimum wages to persons age 24 or younger.

Entities that pay subminimum wage cannot continue to do so, with respect to an individual worker, unless at periodic intervals the individual is provided career counseling by the State VR agency and the employer refers the individual to self-advocacy training in the area.  These two activities would need to be done at 6 month intervals in the first year of employment, and annually thereafter.  

The state VR agency along with the state education agency are directed to develop a process for documenting completion of all the steps required to be taken if an individual is to be  hired or continue working at subminimum wage.

Section 511 takes effect 2 years following the date of enactment of WIOA.

Title VI (Rehab Act) Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities

Subtitle G (under title IV of WIOA)

Projects with Industry is eliminated.

The purpose of the title is modified to focus on supported employment that is in competitive integrated employment.

A State receiving an allotment for title VI supported employment shall not spend more than 2.5 percent of the allotment on administration.

Half of a state’s title VI allotment must be spent on supported employment, including extended services, for youth with the most significant disabilities.  For these; youth, VR may provide and pay for extended services for up to 4 years.

A new section creates an advisory committee on increasing competitive integrated employment.

Funding for title VI is authorized at $27.5 million for 2015 up to $32.3 million for 2020.

Title VII (Rehab Act) Independent Living Services and Centers for Independent Living, Chapter 1

Subtitle H under Title VI of WIOA

The Independent Living Administration (ILA) is established within the Administration for Community Living in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The ILA Director will be appointed by the Secretary of HHS.  

A designated state entity would receive and account for funds for independent living and provide other administrative support.  The designated state entity could retain no more than 5 percent of Part B funds for these purposes.  

Part B funds for independent living services are authorized at $22.8 million for 2015 up to $26.8 for 2020.

Part C Independent Living Center funds are authorized at $78.3 million for 2015 up to $91.9 million for 2020.

Title VII (Rehab Act) Independent Living Services and Centers for Independent Living, Chapter 2

Subtitle H under Title VI of WIOA

Chapter 2 authorized Independent Living Services for Older Individuals who are Blind.  This program will stay under the RSA, Department of Education.  

A new section 751A provides for the Commissioner to reserve between 1.8 and 2 percent from OB IL funds to be used to provide training and technical assistance for provision of services under this chapter.  The Commissioner will survey agencies administering IL programs for older blind to determine training and technical assistance needs in order to set priorities for providing such assistance to states.

The bill deletes the requirement that IL for Older Blind must be addressed in the overall State Plan for Independent Living.

Funding for this program is authorized at $33.3 million for 2015 up to $39.1 million for 2020.

Title V of WIOA contains general provisions

Buy America requirements affect some workforce programs but do not appear to apply to VR.  There is a prohibition against using any of the data reporting provisions to build a national database with information identifying individuals.

Regulations are to be proposed 180 days following enactment with final regulations to be published by 18 months from enactment.

Title V, Subtitle B, Sect. 511 repeals the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.  The law which replaces it is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.