Pennsylvania. Rehabilitation Council PENNSYLVANIA REHABILITATION COUNCIL. Annual Report Fiscal Year 2014

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1 PENNSYLVANIA REHABILITATION COUNCIL Pennsylvania 1902 Market Street, Camp Hill, PA (Voice) (TTY) Rehabilitation Council Annual Report Fiscal Year 2014 The Mission of the Council is: To inform and advise the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Governor on the diverse issues affecting vocational rehabilitation. Submitted to: The Pennsylvania Legislature The Rehabilitation Services Administration Tom Corbett, Governor of Pennsylvania The State Board of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation The PA Workforce Investment Board In compliance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. Production of the Annual Report is supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Contract # Printed on Recycled Paper

2 This report covers the activities of the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council (PaRC) for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2013 and ending September 30, Alternate formats and additional copies are available upon request. Contact: Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council Support Project 1902 Market Street Camp Hill, PA (Voice) (TTY) Current and past reports are also available on the PaRC website Pennsylvania State Law requires the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) publish an annual program report on a different time line than this product. Therefore, traditionally, the PaRC does not include OVR data in its report. The OVR Program report may be requested from: Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation 1521 N. 6 th Street Harrisburg, PA COVER PHOTOS 1 st Picture - Full Council Members From Left to Right Back Row Robert Fox, Brian Bierley, Lee Lippi, Passle Helminski & her service dog, Fred Wright and James Noschese From Left to Right Front Robert Mecca, Michael Vovakas, W.D. Chrisner, III, Zainab Jama, Maureen Westcott, Mary Brougher, Donna Partin and Jane Erdo Absent Heidi Tuszynski 2 nd Picture Looking at the inside main capitol building entrance, as you are coming down the steps from the 2 nd floor with American flags hanging from the 2 nd floor balcony.

3 Table of Contents PaRC Members...2 Letter from the PaRC Chair for Council Responsibilities under the Rehabilitation Act...5 What We ve Accomplished PaRC Federal Position Papers PaRC State Position Papers Responsibilities and Goals for by Committee PaRC Standard of Expectations PaRC Appointment Request Form PaRC Voc Rehab Counselor Recognition Form Meeting Schedule for Calendar Year Inside Back Cover

4 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council Members October 2013 September 2014 (Including Category of Representation) Steve Suroviec, OVR Executive Director Michael Vovakes, Acting, Ex-Officio, OVR Special Assistant to The Secretary of Labor and Industry Josie Badger Young Adult Brian Bierley Rehabilitation Counselor Mary Brougher Business/Industry/Labor Bill Chrisner (Chairperson Executive Committee) Blind and Visual Disabilities Jane Erdo IDEA Robert F. Fox, III (Executive Committee) Physical Disabilities Charles Giambrone (Executive Committee) Current/Former Customer Passle Helminski (Executive Committee) Cognitive Disabilities Zainab Jama (Executive Committee) - Statewide Independent Living Council Lee Lippi (Executive Committee) Client Assistance Program Robert Mecca (Executive Committee) Community Rehabilitation Provider James Noschese Deaf and Hard of Hearing Disabilities Donna Partin Business/Industry/Labor Kenn Tuckey State Workforce Investment Board Heidi Tuszynski Mental Health Maureen Westcott (Executive Committee) Intellectual Disabilities Anthony Williams General Advocacy Frederick Wright Business/Industry/Labor 2 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

5 Letter from the PaRC Chairperson for Colleagues: The members of the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council (PaRC) have elected me to serve as Chairperson for a second term during the 2015 Federal fiscal year. This is a distinct honor and a rare privilege for which I am greatly appreciative. As Chairperson, I will do my best to represent all people with disabilities in our efforts to obtain, retain, and/or regain employment as I carry out the responsibilities of this position. The role of the PaRC is to advise and assist the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation in its efforts to enable people with disabilities to become competitively employed and/or economically self-sufficient in an integrated work and community setting. Finally, I would like to express my thanks for the hard work of our Staff and all the members of the Council and for their continued commitment to our Mission over this last year and as we endeavor to carry out our responsibilities in this New Year. The Council and its committees have accomplished much in this past year. For example, we issued a project grant to look at what constitutes consumer and business customer satisfaction. This project required that an Ad Hoc Committee be established to oversee this year long effort. As a result we have a report and recommendations that will be worked on by OVR and the Council s Customer Satisfaction Committee, which was formed to take over for the Ad Hoc Committee. Also, our Legislative Committee has brought to the attention of the legislature the value of vocational rehabilitation and the important role of the Council in this process. The Council was invited to provide testimony on legislation that would impact OVR s responsibilities in the transition of high school students to employment and adult life. Finally, the Council worked with OVR to develop and review several policies that were ultimately approved by the OVR Board. There is a more extensive description of the Council s and its committees accomplishments in the remainder of this report. The PaRC has several ambitious goals which we hope to accomplish this coming year in addition to the implementation of the recommendations of the Customer Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council 3

6 Satisfaction project. For example, we hope to help strengthen the local Citizens Advisory Committees at every local district office of OVR. There are other ongoing goals for the Council such as, improving the transition process of students with disabilities in their efforts to become competitively employed after high school and continuing to educate the general public and elected officials on the value and importance of vocational rehabilitation. If you are interested in getting involved at the local or state level, or if you may want more information on the PaRC and/or OVR, please check out our Web site at (www. parac.org). Also, you may call our office at toll free or TTY Finally, if I can be of any assistance, please feel free to send me an at or by calling me at (412) Remember that: Together, we can and do make a difference. Respectfully, W. D. Chrisner, III Chairperson 4 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

7 Review, Review, analyze, analyze, and and advise advise the Office the Office of Vocational of Vocational Rehabilitation Rehabilitation (OVR) regarding (OVR) regarding the the performance of its responsibilities, particularly those related to eligibility (including performance of its responsibilities, particularly those related to eligibility (including order of order of selection); the extent, and scope and effectiveness of services provided; and selection); the extent, and scope and effectiveness of services provided; and the functions the functions performed by State agencies that affect the ability of individuals with performed by State agencies that affect the ability of individuals with disabilities in achieving disabilities in achieving employment outcomes under Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) employment services. outcomes under Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services. Partner Partner with with OVR OVR to develop, to develop, agree agree to, and to, review and review State goals State and goals priorities and priorities in accordance in with the accordance VR State Plan. with The the Council VR State and Plan. OVR The evaluate Council the effectiveness and OVR evaluate of the VR the program effectiveness and submit of the reports VR program of progress and to submits the Rehabilitation reports of Services progress Administration to the Rehabilitation (RSA) Commissioner. Services Administration (RSA) Commissioner. Advise OVR on activities authorized to be carried out under the VR State Plan. Assist in the preparation Advise OVR of the on State activities Plan, authorized and amendments to be to carried the plan, out applications, under the VR reports, State needs Plan. Assist assessments, in the preparation and evaluations. of the State Plan, and amendments to the plan, applications, reports, needs assessments, and evaluations. Conduct a review and analysis of the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation services and consumer Conduct satisfaction a review and regarding analysis functions of the performed, effectiveness VR services of vocational provided, rehabilitation and employment services and consumer satisfaction regarding functions performed, VR services provided, and outcomes achieved. employment outcomes achieved. Prepare and submit an annual report to the Governor and the Federal U.S. Department of Prepare and submit an annual report to the Governor and the Federal U.S. Department Education of Education Commissioner Commissioner of RSA of on RSA the status on the of status vocational of vocational rehabilitation rehabilitation programs operated programs within operated the State. within the State. Coordinate activities activities with with other other disability related councils within the State. disability related councils within the Establish State. working relationships between the Council, the Statewide Independent Living Council, and Centers for Independent Living. Establish working relationships between Perform the other Council, functions the consistent with VR services deemed appropriate by the Statewide Council. Independent Living Council, and Centers for Independent Living. Perform other functions consistent with VR services deemed appropriate by the Council. Council Responsibilities under the Rehabilitation Act Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council 5

8 What We Accomplished as a Council This Year ( ) In the Rehabilitation Act, council is required/mandated to: Review, analyze and advise the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) regarding the performance of its responsibilities, particularly those related to eligibility (including order of selection); the extent, and scope and effectiveness of services provided; and the functions performed by State agencies that affect the ability of individuals with disabilities in achieving employment outcomes under Vocational Rehabilitation services. Partner with OVR to develop, agree to, and review State goals and priorities in accordance with the VR State Plan. The Council and OVR evaluate the effectiveness of the VR program and submits reports of progress to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Commissioner. Advise OVR on activities authorized to be carried out under the VR State Plan. Assist in the preparation of the State Plan, and amendments to the plan, applications, reports, needs assessments, and evaluations. Outcomes from our mandated work this year: Council developed and submitted the state plan attachment 4.2 (c) upon approval October 30, 2013 to OVR. See the State Plan attachment below. OVR State Plan Public hearings PaRC members attended and presented at seventeen hearings in the spring of 2014 across the state to answer questions/comments on the council s state plan attachment and to discuss the work of the council. State Plan Attachment for FY 2015 Attachment 4.2(c): Summary of Input and Recommendations of the State Rehabilitation Council Approved by the PA Rehabilitation Council on October 30, This attachment is the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council s (PaRC) input to the State Plan. The following documents were used to develop these recommendations to OVR: 1. The PaRC s annual report (FFY 2013) 2. PaRC Customer Satisfaction Survey 3. Review of items in last year s Attachment 4. Comments received at last year s State Plan Meetings 5. Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Monitoring Report 6. Statewide Needs Assessment 7. Workforce Development Statistics Recommendations from the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council (PaRC) to Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) COMMENDATION: PaRC commends OVR for outreach to VR consumer customers and business customers in order to increase awareness for the services that are available. OVR is commended on their 2013 outreach which includes participating in the PADES employment event, the National Employment Conference (and resulting follow-up webinar) and the PA Transition Conference. 6 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

9 Council recommends that OVR work toward the following in FY 2015: 1. Transition Issue: Students with disabilities, who are between 14 and 21 years of age or earlier if deemed necessary by the IEP team, need peer support and other services in order to go from the school setting to employment or post-secondary education/training. With such support, individuals are more likely to be placed in integrated, competitive employment outcomes. Recommendations: a. Develop peer counseling services during transition b. Continue to work towards an effective working relationship between DPW, Dept. of Education and OVR on Transition related issues, including reviewing and updating any existing MOU s c. Increase efforts to educate individuals, advocates and families on their rights and services to which they are entitled through the Department of Education, DPW and other programs and agencies in relation to preparing for employment d. Continue to implement and increase awareness of Project Early Reach for students 14 and above who are not utilizing OVR funds 2. CACs (Citizen Advisory Committees) Issue: The purpose of the CAC is to evaluate the services provided by OVR within the local OVR service area, and to provide needed local information and advice to the OVR District Administrators from the people they serve. PaRC strongly recommends that local CACs be comprised of a majority of former or current VR consumer customers. Recommendations: a. Request reports from CACs on their activities and extend an invitation to join PaRC committees to share knowledge about their districts b. Increase public knowledge of CAC meetings by making information available through the OVR website utilizing a link to the PaRC website c. District Administrators eliminate cost prohibited barriers in order to facilitate consumer customer participation 3. Awareness of OVR Services Issue: OVR should continue and increase efforts towards public and professional fields which support individuals with disabilities Recommendations: a. Inform Workforce Investment Partners on services OVR provides b. Outreach to the community, medical professionals, and social service agencies serving individuals who have a disability about services OVR provides c. Continue in outreach efforts at public fairs, meetings, conferences, seminars, additional professional fields and provider agencies 4. Data on Policy Changes Issue: It is critical that data be collected and reviewed as policies are created, updated and implemented in order to assess the impact on the consumer customers. Recommendations: a. Track data related to changes made to policies such as the Vehicle Mod and MSD (Most Significant Disability) designation b. Share data with PaRC Committee(s) for input and discussion Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council 7

10 5. New Technology Issue: Technology is advancing at a fast pace and software, applications and hardware and other devices are available that may offer a solution to a consumer customer to increase employment success. Recommendations: a. Explore new applications and new technology adaptations if it is shown to be more cost effective 6. Consumer Customer Service Training for OVR Issue: In order for the consumer customer to have the best experience towards employment, it is important for the OVR counselor and all OVR staff to be trained not only in VR issues, but in proper ways to interact with the consumer customer. Recommendations: a. Review and assess consumer customer service goals b. Assure that Customer Service training is part of the mandatory training taken by a counselor and all OVR staff. Outcomes from our mandated work this year: A year-long study was conducted on Customer Satisfaction and how to better serve OVR Consumer and Business customers. The recommendations are below. A thank you from Mr. Lee Lippi, PaRC Customer Satisfaction Steering Committee Chair - I wish to personally thank one and all for the tremendous effort, amount of time and hard work that was necessary to make our customer satisfaction report the successful document it is today. This impressive document was generated and presented to the Council by Ms. Rhonda Beach Tyree from The Compact: Educational Design Consultants, but not without the help from the members of the PA Rehabilitation Council, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and of course our own Rehab Council support staff. This final report is the achievement of many hours of planning, meetings and discussions, and certainly provides guidance in answering the question, What constitutes a positive customer experience when working with OVR? Once again, many thanks to all who worked on this project. The PA Rehabilitation Council s (PaRC) Final Report Recommendations from Defining Positive Customer Service in the State Vocational Rehabilitation System The following recommendations are from a year long study in defining positive customer service for Consumer and Employer/Business Customers of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) by Ms. Rhonda Tyree, Consultant and PaRC and OVR steering committee members. Recommendations from the Executive Summary on Serving OVR Consumer Customers 1. Consistency a. With respect to flexibility for individualization, use the same approach to timeliness and messaging of communication across offices and counselors. b. Set consistent standards to: i. Follow-up a specified number of times. ii. Return phone calls in a consistent timeline. c. Offer more statewide standard training. 8 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

11 2. Communication/Respect a. Use other staff to assist with phone calls (for example, How is it going? check-ins). b. Define respect. Train on it, post it in visible locations, and make it a mantra. 3. Clear Expectations a. From the beginning of the relationship, set clear expectations with the end (employment outcomes) in mind. i. Include customer responsibilities. ii. Include counselor responsibilities. iii. Write the expectations on the plan. iv. Regularly review expectations. b. Listen to needs. c. Identify personalized needs. d. Discuss complete array of services. e. Deliver what you say you will do. 4. Training Provide ongoing training on topics including: a. Motivational strategies; b. Recognizing different personality styles; c. Understanding different disabilities; d. Good counseling and guidance cases with no money spent; e. Scripts for different interactions. 5. Rewards and Recognition a. Give customer service awards. b. Facilitate sharing of positive experiences from customers at all meetings. c. Develop and implement district plan for recognition events. 6. Evaluation a. Develop and implement a combined survey (including customer satisfaction). b. Include a few quick questions after customer-counselor interactions. c. Measure follow-through. Recommendations from the Executive Summary on Serving OVR Employer/Business partners 1. Customer Service Focus in OVR a. Develop and implement a more intense business customer service communication initiative within OVR. b. Measure and reward examples of great business customer service by OVR staff. 2. Partnerships Increase partnerships. a. Increase statewide OVR job fairs. b. Make accessible to partners an individualized matched database of qualified candidates. 3. Feedback from Business a. Develop and implement a business customer service satisfaction survey to include new businesses. b. Regularly review survey data and act on it as part of district office staff meeting. 4. Communication with Business a. Develop and implement regular communications with business to expand regular contact with current and new business accounts. Communication strategies could include: i. drops ; ii. Printed public relations materials (i.e., Palm Card; Brochures; Portfolio); iii. Success stories business-to-business and OVR-to-business stories for use at Speaker s Bureau, on webpage, on Facebook; and iv. Face-to-face regular meetings with business (including new staff). b. Implement a requirement for increased contact with OVR new placements (for example, one time per month for three months) Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council 9

12 5. Training for Business a. Offer training workshops designed for business topics such as Section 503, Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Etiquette, Sensitivity, On-boarding, Employee/co-worker training on diversified workforce, etc. 6. Training for OVR Staff a. Offer training for OVR staff on such topics as Business as Customer, Strategies for Outreach, Goals with Business, Flexibility within District Offices, etc. b. Facilitate local sharing of best practices and innovations in district offices. 7. Candidate Pool Increase candidate pool for business. a. Make accessible an individualized matched database of qualified candidates. b. Offer labor-market specific training to educate consumers on job options. Consider developing industry-specific training options. *** Council is required/mandated to prepare and submit an annual report to the Governor and the Federal U.S. Department of Education Commissioner of RSA on the status of vocational rehabilitation programs operated within the State. Outcomes from our work this year: The PaRC completed and submitted their 2013 Annual Report to their fellow Pennsylvanians, the Governor, RSA Commissioner, State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation, PA Legislators and State Workforce Investment Board in December To view the 2013 Annual Report and other reports from previous years, go to *** Council continued their working relationships with other disability related councils and agencies in the state some of which are mandated including: OVR State Board, OVR Citizen Advisory Committees, Statewide Independent Living Council, Client Assistance Program, Parent Education Network, Local Workforce Investment Boards, Disability Budget Coalition, Disability Rights Network, PA Transportation Alliance, etc. Outcomes from our work this year: Four presentations were made to the members of the OVR State board by PaRC Chair or Vice Chair on the work of the council. Members/staff participated in Stakeholder conference calls/meetings with the following groups - National Coalition of State Rehabilitation Councils, White House Disability calls, and Transportation Alliance. The Client Assistance Program, Parent Education Network, and Statewide Independent Living Council regularly provide an update of their work/activities at the council s quarterly meetings. These groups share information on their activities and events and advertise them on their respective websites, newsletters, etc. to reach out to Pennsylvanians with disabilities. Members/staff also have attended the Governor Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities meetings and share communications. Four Public Quarterly Full Council Meetings were held this year to conduct council business. Educational speakers this year included: Ms. Amy Goldman, Temple University, Assistive Technology Program Update; Ms. Jennifer Garman, Disability Rights Network (DRN)on DRN programs; Mr. Frank DiNatale from the Department of Education/Bureau of Career and Technical Education regarding preparing transitioning students for work; Mr. Robert Schramm, Assistant Counsel, PA Department of Labor and Industry and Ms. Pat Tomlinson and Mr. Tom Jennings, George Washington University TACE Associates on the roles the OVR State board and the PaRC have according to state and federal laws; Mr. Zachary Ross, Senator Vincent Hughes office, Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee presented on the State Budget process; and Ms. Celia Feinstein, Temple University provided a Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment overview. Additionally, OVR staff provide updates at each meeting on the various OVR services/programs provided in the state. 10 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

13 Outreach/Advocacy Members participated in the following conferences and expos this year: Transition Conference in State College, Disability Employment Summit (PADES) in Camp Hill, Disability Awareness Event, Veterans Expo and Criminal Justice Advisory committee meeting. The PaRC and OVR continued their collaboration to provide local Citizen Advisory Committees (CAC) meeting agendas, minutes, and schedules, etc. on the PaRC website to support the local CAC groups. The council is aware of the importance of local input from the CACs and supports them in their work. Some members attended and participated at local workforce investment board (WIB) meetings and OVR Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) meetings in their local regions. Educational Trainings attended by members: National Rehabilitation Association s Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, DC, National Coalition of State Rehabilitation Councils (NCSRC)/Region III TACE trainings, Reinventing Quality 2014 in Baltimore, MD, and 7 th Annual Summit on Performance Management in Vocational Rehabilitation in Louisville, KY. Council committee work - The council has four main standing committees - Executive, Legislative and Public Awareness, Policy and Evaluation and Transition and Educational Services. This year two additional committees were added: Customer Satisfaction and Counselor Recognition. Fifty-five conference calls were held by these committees this year which include the Customer Satisfaction Steering Committee calls. Listed below by committee is the major work and activities of each committee for the year. Executive committee Main activities/work Handled day to day operations of council and oversight of council s finances along with PaRC staff. Recruitment of new members Seven recommendations for appointment were made and sent forward to the Governor for appointment and five reappointments. Oversight of PaRC website continued updating of Citizen Advisory Committee meeting information; increased information for persons with disabilities on the website. Oversight of Annual Report preparation and distribution with PaRC staff. Planning of agendas, speakers, trainings, orientation, etc. for Full Council meetings. Reviewed and make recommendations on OVR s Goals and Priorities. Legislative and Public Awareness committee Main activities/work Followed state and federal legislation that effects employment for persons with disabilities recognizing bills they support, oppose and watch. Developed position papers to use in state and federal visits with legislators regarding the needs of persons with disabilities in the state including increased funding for retraining the workforce population, strengthening transition services, and improving services for veterans returning with brain injuries. (See position paper in this report). Wrote a letter to the Governor asking him to issue an Executive Order to make Pennsylvania an Employment First state. Supported the Governor in his $1,000,000 wage reimbursement initiative for transition-aged youth. Several members testified at a House Labor and Industry committee hearing on a state bill related to employment of youth. Members of the legislative committee visited/or provided information to seventy-three state legislators and aides in Harrisburg this year to present the council s position paper and discuss areas of concern regarding employment for persons with disabilities in the state. Legislative members of the Appropriation and Labor and Industry committees are met with on a quarterly basis. Members coordinate these visits with their quarterly meetings in Harrisburg. Four members of the legislative committee participated in the National Rehabilitation Association s Governmental Affairs annual conference in Washington this year and met with and/or provided Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council 11

14 information to twenty legislators in Washington on Capitol Hill. Members joined the National Rehabilitation Association in opposing Section 511 of the Workforce Investment Act which allowed for persons with disabilities to be paid a subminimum wage. Also, supported the strengthening of services for veterans returning from active duty. Policy and Evaluation committee main activities/work Reviewed, made recommendations and approved the following OVR policies: FARM policy, Transition Policy, Order of Selection policy to include those with significant disabilities as funds permit, and the Audiological Services memo. Work continued on the joining of OVR s and the PaRC s customer satisfaction surveys. Members developed and submitted the state plan attachment 4.2 ( c ) based on information received from state plan hearings, public meeting comments, RSA monitoring report, statewide needs assessment and committee member input. Members participated in seventeen State Plan public hearings across the state to listen to comments on the plan and provide information on the council s state plan attachment. Transition and Educational Services committee main activities/work The committee continued their work this year in the following areas: Participation in the PA Department of Education s annual conference and the statewide Transition conference, improving communication with the Bureau of Special Education regarding transition via our Department of Education member on the council, regular reports from OVR on their Early Reach, Project Search and PASS programs, working with Department of Education to teach schools best practices regarding transition and working with OVR staff to maintain top technical training and certification programs at Hiram G. Andrews Center, so students are job ready when they graduate. Customer Satisfaction committee main activities/work Survey OVR customer satisfaction with services. Participate with OVR in the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment. Counselor Recognition committee main activities/work Develop a process to recognize exemplary OVR counselors on an annual basis Picture of cannons on Gettysburg battlefield. 12 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

15 PaRC Federal Position Papers PENNSYLVANIA REHABILITATION COUNCIL (PaRC) Members visited 20 Federal legislators this year. The mission of The Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council (PaRC) is to inform and advise the state board of vocational rehabilitation and the Governor on the diverse issues affecting vocational rehabilitation in our state. The Rehabilitation Act plays an important and necessary role in: o supporting the employment of persons with disabilities and empowering them to become independent o helping people to integrate into the work place and community The PaRC respectfully submits the following position paper for your review and consideration. I. Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act (Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act) REAUTHORIZATION OF THE REHABILITATION ACT (Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act) The Rehabilitation Act as it exists provides states the freedom to administer programs which are responsive to the needs of its customers. It is essential that a dedicated funding stream from the federal government continue in Pennsylvania. In 2012 alone, the federal, state and local taxes paid by competitively employed customers of OVR throughout Pennsylvania averaged approximately $56,823, The goal of the Rehabilitation Act is to help individuals become taxpayers. The Rehabilitation Act must be strengthened to provide customers greater flexibility and control over the services and programs available to them. In this Reauthorization period we urge you to support the following: Keep public Vocational Rehabilitation a mandatory program with single source funding Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council 13

16 Dramatically increase funding to help support states such as Pennsylvania who are handling an increased need for vocational rehabilitation services for the veterans returning from active duty. Increase the number of individuals pursuing master level degrees in vocational rehabilitation and their retention by increasing federal funds to support the education and training authorities of the Act (Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, Title III, Section 302). Continue screening returning veterans for brain injury, provide immediate services and require all commercial health insurance to cover brain injury rehabilitation for everyone. Strengthen transition services for individuals with disabilities who are transitioning from school to higher education or from school to work and assure that such services are for all individuals with disabilities, not just certain identified categories. Increase funding for retraining/rehabilitating, the workforce population (adults 45 and older), who need to keep working to remain financially independent. Promote career development and job advancement through the opportunity for post employment continuing education and training by expanding the definition of post employment services to include training and other services necessary for career advancement and upward mobility. See 29 U.S.C. 723(a)(18) Clarify when individuals must be advised of the right to request review of a decision made by vocational rehabilitation, and when they must be informed of the services available through the Client Assistance Program (section 722(c)(2)(A) and (B)) Protect the due process rights of individuals who may want to request review of a vocational rehabilitation decision by requiring notification of state established timeframes in which a request for mediation or review must be filed (section 722(c)(3)(A)) Require training of all impartial due process hearing officers and staff (section 722(c)(5)(B)). Currently, there is no uniform standard for the training of hearing officers set forth in the Rehabilitation Act. As a result, training varies from state to state, and even from hearing officer to hearing officer. For example, in Pennsylvania some hearing officers are attorneys, while others are not. Some may have life experience in dealing with the Rehabilitation Act, while others do not. Expand the role of the Client Assistance Program to allow for advocacy and assistance even after an individual has achieved their employment outcome, and to allow CAP to provide legal representation to individuals in any matter related to the provision of vocational rehabilitation services and/or efforts to gain, regain or maintain employment (section 732) 14 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

17 THE PENNSYLVANIA REHABILITATION COUNCIL S LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE POSITION PAPER The Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council (PaRC) is mandated by the Rehabilitation Act of 1998, as amended, to review, analyze, and advise the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) regarding the performance of its responsibilities, particularly those related to eligibility (including order of selection); the extent, and scope and effectiveness of services provided; and the functions performed by State agencies that affect the ability of individuals with disabilities in achieving employment outcomes under Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services. Members are appointed by the Governor to the PaRC for their expertise related to specific categories of representation, as required in the Rehabilitation Act. One of the goals of the PaRC s Legislative Committee, is to educate and advocate for legislation to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, as related to training and employment in the state of Pennsylvania. With this in mind, the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council s legislative committee respectfully submits the following position paper for your review and consideration. Respectfully submitted, The Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council s Legislative Committee Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council 15

18 Adequate Funding for OVR Services The Commonwealth must match Federal Title I funding awarded to OVR with 21.3% state dollars. These funds are used to provide services to OVR customers in the 21 district offices, which include six offices in the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS), as well as to provide administrative and operational support to OVR and the Hiram G. Andrews Center. In past years, the fiscal code included language that earmarked almost 2.5 million that cannot be used to match the available Federal funds, to non-commonwealth organizations. These earmarks have the effect of reducing funds available to OVR to draw federal funds, and limits OVR s ability to provide services to persons who are blind or visually impaired. Given the inclusion of the ear marks, OVR needs 45 million in the Transfer to the Vocational Rehabilitation Fund appropriation in the Labor and Industry Program portion of the budget in order to draw down and utilize all available Federal Funds and provide fully funded state services for people who are blind and visually impaired. Action Requested Funding for the Transfer to the Vocational Rehabilitation Fund needs to be at least $45 million due to the use of the earmarks (which do not have a federal match) for non-commonwealth organizations. This will allow OVR s level of funding to remain constant with previous years and make sure OVR is able to draw down all available federal funds. Collaboration of Services for Persons with Brain Injuries in Pennsylvania There is no bridge for continuation of services to individuals with brain injuries in Pennsylvania. People are being missed who have potential and never receive services because they are rejected too quickly. Action Requested Collaboration is needed between all state agencies working with persons with brain injuries to ensure that there is no break in services from in home services to employment services. Dedicated funding is needed for this population. Adequate Funding of the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) The ODHH was established in 1986, as a state agency that works to ensure all government programs and services are accessible to adults and children who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing. The ODHH primary functions are advocacy, information, referral, and training. With the passing of Public Law 492, the Sign Language Interpreter & Transliterator State Registration Act (Act ) ODHH is responsible for the implementation, management & enforcement of the Interpreter registration program, effective July The law was passed to protect consumers and create a minimum standard for interpreters working in the Commonwealth. ODHH accomplishes these functions and fulfills Act 57 by collecting demographic information, having three ODHH Representatives covering specified service areas across the state, maintaining an on-line resource directory, providing individually and system advocacy, participating in advisory meetings, and following through with the duties assigned by Act 57 by having a web-based software application to track required information, expirations, penalties, and an improved searchable registry for public use. ODHH is administratively responsible for the statewide Advisory Council for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (ACDHH). ODHH provides support, keeps records, plans meetings, processes and reimburses members for travel and accommodations as needed. The 17-member council is 16 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

19 comprised of nine public members, four of which are mandated by law to be deaf or hard of hearing, and eight members representing state departments (Aging, Education, Health, Public Welfare, and Labor and Industry), the legislature, and the Governor s Office. Action Requested: Continued funding through General Government Operations of the ODHH existing staff (director, administrative assistant, and three regional representatives) is absolutely necessary in order to carry out the above listed functions on a statewide basis. PaRC supports the following regarding Centers for Independent Living After analyzing the Centers in Pennsylvania, as well as reviewing the practices and policies of some other states, the PA Council on Independent Living and Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council requests that the State of Pennsylvania establish a base level of funding of $300,000 for Centers for Independent Living. This base would include any federal funds a Center might receive under Title VII, and Pennsylvania General Revenue Funds. No Center would be established for less than this amount, and those Centers who currently receive less than this amount would be provided funding increases to bring them up to this level. Locally, CILs, which are non-profit organizations, are controlled by boards of directors, the majority of whom have disabilities. In addition, the majority of staff have disabilities. CILs serve all those who are touched by disability directly or within their family unit regardless of their age or diagnosis. Core services include information and referral; independent skills training; peer mentoring; and individual and grassroots advocacy. CILs are also instrumental in assisting many individuals not served by other programs in obtaining employment. Many reach out to businesses to educate them about disabilities. Many also assist individuals in transitioning from costly nursing facilities to much less expensive home and community based settings and services. CILS have seen dramatic cuts over the last several years. They can no longer do more with less. It is time for the administration and legislature to make a commitment to the disability community by funding CILs at a level where they can remain a viable, robust and integral part of the community. Action Requested Line item appropriation of $2.7 million Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council 17

20 PaRC Responsibilities and Goals for by Committee Executive Committee Goal #1: Continue to improve relationships and collaboration with the PA State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Citizen Advisory Committees and other stakeholder organizations in the Commonwealth to avoid duplication of efforts and enhance the number of individuals served. Goal #2: Continue to provide leadership and guidance to new and all members and committees in accordance with the mission and bylaws of the council and the Rehabilitation Act. Goal #3: Continue to increase public awareness in Pennsylvania about OVR services and the Council s mission and responsibilities through increased attendance and participation at stakeholder meetings, youth organizations and disability and civic organizations. Goal #4: Continue oversight of the following: PaRC budget, quarterly meeting agendas, annual report, website, strategic planning, annual retreat, member recruitment and election of officers. Legislative and Public Awareness Committee Goal #1: Increase the PaRC s advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities in regards to obtaining and maintaining employment Goal #2: Increase advocacy on behalf of the returning disabled veterans who are seeking employment and employment supports through Pennsylvania state services. Goal #3: Develop collaborative relationships with other organizations which have similar missions and mutual legislative goals, to maximize our combined legislative impact for people with disabilities. Policy and Evaluation Committee Goal #1: Maintain a positive working relationship with the Department of Labor and Industry (OVR and Bureau of Workforce Partnership & Operations). Goal #2: Development of the Attachment 4.2(c) to the State Plan. Goal #3: Input on the OVR State Plan. Goal #4: Continue monitoring of OVR policies and procedures. 18 Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council

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