RSA-227 - Annual Client Assistance Program (CAP) Report

Tennessee (Disability Rights Tennessee) - H161A140043 - FY2014

General Information

Designated Agency Identification

NameDisability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee
Address2 International Plaza
Address Line 2Suite 825
CityNashville
StateTennessee
Zip Code37217
E-mail Addressgethelp@disabilityrightstn.org
Website Addresshttp://www.disabilityrightstn.org
Phone615-298-1080
TTY 615-298-1080
Toll-free Phone1-800-342-1660
Toll-free TTY1-800-342-1660
Fax615-298-2046

Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)

Name
Address
Address Line 2
City
Zip Code
E-mail Address
Website Address
Phone
TTY
Toll-free Phone
Toll-free TTY
Fax

Additional Information

Name of CAP Director/CoordinatorLisa Primm
Person to contact regarding reportEvelyn Doxey
Contact Person Phone615-298-1080

Part I. Agency Workload Data

A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)

Multiple responses are not permitted.

1. Information regarding the Rehabilitation Act23
2. Information regarding Title I of the ADA0
3. Other information provided8
4. Total I&R services provided (Lines A1+A2+A3)31
5. Individuals attending trainings by CAP staff (approximate)203

B. Individuals served

An individual is counted only once during a fiscal year. Multiple counts are not permitted for Lines B1-B3.

1. Individuals who are still being served as of October 1 (carryover from prior year)8
2. Additional individuals who were served during the year25
3. Total individuals served (Lines B1+B2)33
4. Individuals (from Line B3) who had multiple case files opened/closed this year. (In unusual situations, an individual may have more than one case file opened/closed during a fiscal year. This number is not added to the total in Line B3 above.)1

C. Individual still being served as of September 30

Carryover to next year. This total may not exceed Line I.B3. 4

D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files

Choose one primary reason for closing each case file. There may be more case files than the total number of individuals served to account for those unusual situations, referred to in Line I.B4, when an individual had multiple case files closed during the year.

1. All issues resolved in individual's favor12
2. Some issues resolved in individual's favor (when there are multiple issues)4
3. CAP determines VR agency position/decision was appropriate for the individual3
4. Individual's case lacks legal merit; (inappropriate for CAP intervention)1
5. Individual chose alternative representation0
6. Individual decided not to pursue resolution4
7. Appeals were unsuccessful0
8. CAP services not needed due to individual's death, relocation, etc.2
9. Individual refused to cooperate with CAP3
10. CAP unable to take case due to lack of resources0
11. Other (please explain)

One case opened and was initially assigned to an advocate in the wrong region. That case was then administratively closed and a new case was opened and assigned to an advocate in the correct region.

E. Results achieved for individuals

1. Controlling law/policy explained to individual10
2. Application for services completed.0
3. Eligibility determination expedited1
4. Individual participated in evaluation0
5. IPE developed/implemented12
6. Communication re-established between individual and other party3
7. Individual assigned to new counselor/office0
8. Alternative resources identified for individual1
9. ADA/504/EEO/OCR/ complaint made0
10. Other3
11. Other (please explain)

1. Case opened and initially assigned to advocate in wrong region. Case was administratively closed and new case opened and assigned to an advocate in the correct region. 2. CAP tried to resolve client’s claims by setting up a VR meeting but client decided not to meet and requested that CAP case be closed. 3. CAP was unsuccessful in reaching the client after a number of attempts.

Part II. Program Data

A. Age

As of the beginning of the fiscal year. Multiple responses are not permitted.

1. 21 and under6
2. 22 - 4014
3. 41 - 6411
4. 65 and over2
5. Total (Sum of Lines A1 through A4. Total must equal Line I.B3.)33

B. Gender

Multiple responses not permitted.

1. Female16
2. Male17
3. Total (Sum of Lines B1 and B2. Total must equal Line I.B3.)33

C. Race/ethnicity

1. Hispanic/Latino of any race0
For individuals who are non-Hispanic/Latino only
2. American Indian or Alaskan Native0
3. Asian1
4. Black or African American9
5. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander0
6. White22
7. Two or more races0
8. Race/ethnicity unknown1

D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served

Multiple responses not permitted.

1. Blindness (both eyes)0
2. Other visual impairments0
3. Deafness4
4. Hard of hearing0
5. Deaf-blind1
6. Orthopedic impairments4
7. Absense of extremities0
8. Mental illness7
9. Substance abuse (alcohol or drugs)0
10. Mental retardation0
11. Specific learning disabilities (SLD)9
12. Neurological disorders4
13. Respiratory disorders0
14. Heart and other circulatory conditions0
15. Digestive disorders0
16. Genitourinary conditions0
17. Speech Impairments0
18. AIDS/HIV positive0
19. Traumatic brain injury (TBI)3
20. All other disabilities1
21. Disabilities not known0
22. Total (Sum of Lines D1 through D21. Total must equal Line I. B3.)33

E. Types of individuals served

Multiple responses permitted.

1. Applicants of VR Program2
2. Clients of VR Program31
3. Applicants or clients of IL Program0
4. Applicants or clients of other programs and projects funded under the Act0

F. Source of individual's concern

Multiple responses permitted.

1. VR agency only33
2. Other Rehabilitation Act sources only0
3. Both VR agency and other Rehabilitation Act sources0
4. Employer0

G. Problem areas

Multiple responses permitted.

1. Individual requests information0
2. Communication problems between individual and counselor7
3. Conflict about services to be provided14
4. Related to application/eligibility process4
5. Related to IPE development/implementation8
6. Other Rehabilitation Act-related problems0
7. Non-Rehabilitation Act related0
8. Related to Title I of the ADA0

H. Types of CAP services provided

Choose one primary CAP service provided for each case file/service record.

1. Information/referral0
2. Advisory/interpretational15
3. Negotiation14
4. Administrative/informal review1
5. Alternative dispute resolution0
6. Formal appeal/fair hearing0
7. Legal remedy0
8. Transportation0

Part III. Narrative

Narrative

a. Type of agency used to administer CAP: external-P&A b. Sources of funds expended: Source of funding Total expenditures spent on individuals Federal funds 208,483 State funds 0 All other funds(carryover) 126,700 Total from all sources 335,183 c. Budget for current and following fiscal years:

Category Current Fiscal Year Next Fiscal Year Wages & Salaries 111,377 144,506 Fringe Benefits (FICA, unemployment, etc.) 24,782 38,644 Materials/Supplies 4,906 5,134 Postage 253 409 Telephone 4,705 4,518 Rent 21,954 20,193 Travel 3,484 5,000 Copying 416 1,138 Bonding/Insurance 1,378 1,777 Equipment Rental/Purchase 5,264 3,045 Legal Services 0 100 Indirect Costs 28,831 33,946 Miscellaneous 8,784 10,104 Total Budget 216,134 268,514

d. Number of person-years: Type of position Full-time equivalent % of year position filled Person-years Professional 12 100% 12 Full-time 11 100% 11 Part-time 1 100% 1 Vacant 0 0 0 Clerical 6 100% 6 Full-time 6 100% 6 Part-time 0 0 0 Vacant 0 0 0

e. Summary of Presentations made: Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee (DLAC) conducted a total of 11 trainings during FY 2014 on the topics of the CAP program, individual’s rights under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the history of the disability rights movement. These trainings were attended by approximately 203 individuals and are described in greater detail below.

DLAC conducted 5 trainings related to its CAP program. As an expansion of DLAC’s FY 2013 initiative to provide CAP training to existing VR Counselors (VRCs), DLAC was invited by VR to train new VRCs in FY 2014. In 2 trainings attended by a total of 17 new VRCs, CAP advocates presented information on the services that CAP provides to VR applicants and clients, federal law governing the CAP program, the process that advocates follow in handling a CAP case, requirements imposed on VR to notify applicants and clients about CAP and ways in which advocates and VR counselors can work together to resolve the issues of VR applicants and clients. A DLAC advocate also was invited to participate in in 2 sessions of VR’s Employment Readiness training for students attending the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center (TRC) Smyrna, which is a VR operated comprehensive rehabilitation facility where the majority of clients reside on campus while receiving VR services. The DLAC advocate informed the 46 VR clients who attended the training sessions about CAP services that DLAC could provide to them, how DLAC helps resolve issues they may experience in working with VR personnel and how to contact DLAC for assistance. Finally, a CAP advocate, who is blind, was a panelist at the Employment Forum on Blindness and Low Vision, which was attended by 40 VR counselors and job placement vendors. This forum was designed to educate these professionals who work with individuals who are blind or deaf-blind or have low vision or other sensory impairments about how to best assist them in obtaining employment. Each panelist had a sensory impairment and provided information about how they obtained employment and their experiences in dealing with VR and job placement vendors.

During FY 2014 DLAC also provided 5 trainings to individuals, employment professionals and educators about employment rights under Title I of the ADA. The CAP attorney again had the opportunity to provide training to VR clients and staff participating in various programs (e.g., traumatic brain injury and vision impairment) at TRC Smyrna. This training, which included 16 participants, covered their rights under Title I of the ADA, the process for asking for reasonable accommodations, permitted and prohibited medical inquiries and examinations, and where to get assistance on these matters. As part of a series of trainings for educators of students with disabilities conducted by Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, one of Tennessee’s University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), the CAP attorney made a presentation on “Navigating Reasonable Accommodation and Self-Disclosure.” As a result of this training, the 15 educators who attended can better assist their students in understanding their rights to request reasonable accommodations under Title I of the ADA, how and when to ask for reasonable accommodations and the way in which self-disclosure of disability may occur. In an effort to ensure that professionals who work with individuals with disabilities have information to assist their clients entering the workforce, a DLAC CAP advocate provided a training on reasonable accommodations to 40 staff from VR and the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This training covered eligibility for reasonable accommodations under Title I of the ADA, when and how to ask for reasonable accommodations and possible employer responses to a reasonable accommodation request. The group also discussed how to address the concerns that individuals with disabilities have in making an accommodation request. The final presentation related to Title I of the ADA was made at the Tennessee Disability Megaconference, an event which is described in more detail below. A CAP advocate in collaboration with a human resources professional from a large local employer jointly presented a training to 20 Megaconference attendees regarding eligibility for reasonable accommodations under the ADA, identifying reasonable accommodations and appropriate times and ways to ask for reasonable accommodations.

DLAC was again a contributing sponsor of the Tennessee Disability Megaconference, which is Tennessee’s largest disability-specific conference for individuals with disabilities, families, and professionals. Attendance at the 2014 event totaled 724 with 128 individuals receiving stipends to cover the cost of attending. DLAC donated $5,000 toward stipends for the conference and served as a key member of the steering committee. In addition to the reasonable accommodation training described above, a DLAC advocate made a video presentation on Disability Rights Movement-Past, Present and Future to 9 Megaconference participants to promote self-advocacy, as well as knowledge about the disability rights movement.

As a participant in Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s 2014 disAbility Mentoring Day event, DLAC hosted a VR client from TRC Smyrna, who was blind, for the day. As this client was interested in law, policy and advocacy, CAP staff spent time with her and provided her with information about DLAC’s CAP, policy and employment discrimination work in order to help her more fully explore her employment options. She, along with other TRC Smyrna participants, also attended a brief training on individual’s rights under Title I of the ADA presented by the CAP attorney at the event.

In addition to the above trainings and related events, there were 370 CAP funded outreaches in FY 2014 and 5899 materials related to DLAC’s CAP work were disseminated in those outreaches. This activity included targeted outreaches by CAP staff to the following organizations, which serve individuals with disabilities seeking employment, to ensure that they had information regarding DLAC’s services under CAP and related to Title I of the ADA that could be shared with their clients: Community Work Incentive Coordinators covering all 95 Tennessee counties, 11 employment networks and 7 community colleges or universities with most of the latter contacts involving their Student Disability Services organizations. Other outreaches by CAP staff were to a variety of employment service providers, centers for independent living, VR offices and training facilities.

f. Involvement with advisory boards: In FY 2014 DLAC was an active participant in the Tennessee Employment First Taskforce, a statewide group consisting of representatives of state agencies (VR, Tennessee Department of Education (DOE), Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD), Tennessee Department of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities (DIDD), Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (MHSA), Council on Developmental Disabilities and TennCare), UCEDDs, provider organizations, individuals with disabilities and their family members and advocacy organizations that was formed as a result of the Governor’s Executive Order No. 28, which mandates state agencies to coordinate efforts to increase competitive and integrated employment for Tennesseans with disabilities. This taskforce met quarterly during the year and at the end of the year issued a report to the Governor entitled “Expect Employment.” Accomplishments achieved during the first year following the signing of the Executive Order include, but are not limited to, the following: (i) identification of employment barriers to employment of individuals with disabilities through processes such as community conversations and surveys of families of individuals with disabilities; (ii)development of recommendations to reduce or eliminate those barriers through updating of policies of several state agencies, commencement of revision of Medicaid waivers to support employment as a first option, preparation of a draft memorandum of understanding between 5 state agencies to align goals, priorities and resources for transitioning youth and expansion of a data system to include relevant data from multiple state agencies and their clients; and (iii)identification of best practices and resources to increase integrated and competitive employment opportunities, which included the launch of an Individual Placement and Supports program in four community health centers, revised service agreements between VR and its vendors to create stronger incentives for vendors to achieve employment outcomes and implementation of Project SEARCH at two new sites. The taskforce has developed 7 recommendations for the upcoming second year of its operation, including creation and implementation of a 3 year strategic workforce development plan, engaging and supporting Tennessee businesses in employing Tennesseans with Disabilities and increasing the knowledge of individuals with disabilities and their families about the benefits of employment as a life goal. DLAC anticipates continuing its participation in and support of this group and its activities during FY 2015.

FY 2014 was the second year of the 5 year Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) grant received by Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and 28 partner agencies, including Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee (collectively, TenneseeWorks Partnership) for the purpose of engaging in activities designed to promote systemic changes leading to increased competitive and integrated employment for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the second year of the grant, DLAC staff served on the Agencies and Policy Makers taskforces of the TennesseeWorks Partnership. One of the critical accomplishments of the TennesseeWorks Partnership in Year 2 of the grant was development a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between 5 state agencies (DOE, VR, DIDD, MHSA and DLWD) designed to align goals, priorities and resources of those state agencies for youth with disabilities transitioning from school to work. A DLAC staff member spearheaded preparation of the draft MOU. Other activities of the TennesseeWorks Partnership in which DLAC engaged during the year included: (i) implementation of a local transition workshop series that will eventually be replicated online and/or regionally; (ii) launch of the TennesseeWorks website that currently draws more than 1,000 unique users each month; (iii) supporting efforts of partner agencies in development of the occupational diploma; and (iv) participation in a Disability Day event that involved individuals with disabilities and their families and legislators. The accomplishments listed above have positioned the TennesseeWorks Partnership for success in the remaining three years of the grant.

One of DLAC’s CAP advocates continued to participate on the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) as the CAP representative in FY 2014. She reported that the SRC and VR continued to make progress in working cooperatively throughout the year. This cooperation was evidenced in the fact that the SRC fully participated with VR in writing the FY 2015 VR State Plan including drafting and revising the plan prior to the public hearings on the plan. In response to SRC input to VR, the standards set by VR for its job placement vendors were revised. VR also kept the SRC updated on new processes and programs that it put into place during the year, including performance incentives implemented for vendors and programs designed to more effectively prepare individuals with disabilities for employment and increase their employment, such as Walgreens REDI (Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative) and Project Search. The SRC also wrote a strategy for revising and improving VR’s self-employment process and VR included streamlining and improving that process as one of its strategies in the FY 2015 VR State Plan. Although there were some issues between the SRC and VR primarily related to the SRC’s annual resource plan, that matter was resolved by year end.

In FY 2014 VR state leadership initiated a review and revision of all of the VR policies with the objective of creating separate policy and procedures documents for the VR Counselors and a summary of the major policies for the public. DLAC was invited by VR to be involved in the process of reviewing and revising all VR policies and procedures. As a result, a CAP advocate began actively participating on the VR Policy Committee and has provided extensive input regarding the proposed VR changes to its policies and procedures. The work of this committee will continue into FY 2015.

DLAC staff continued to participate in the State of Tennessee Employment Consortium (STEC), which is a group of state agencies (VR, DOE, DLWD, DIDD), advocacy groups (the ARC of Tennessee), UCEDDS, CIL and service providers that meets quarterly to address employment issues faced by Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In FY 2014 the group focused on improving the placement of these Tennesseans in integrated and competitive employment and strategies and initiatives designed to achieve that goal. In addition to this state organization, there is also a local Knoxville Area Employment Consortium (KAEC) in which a DLAC CAP advocate began participating during FY 2014. This very active local group’s membership and mission parallels that of the statewide STEC group. KAEC, which meets monthly, monitored the progress of the Project Search for adults with intellectual disabilities, which was occurring at two local hospitals, and area Walgreens REDI programs, as well as completed initial preparations for sponsorship of the annual Disability Mentoring Day and Disability Employment Awareness breakfast held in October 2014. Additional area employment consortiums are anticipated to begin in Nashville and Memphis in FY 2015 and DLAC CAP advocates in those areas plan to join those groups once they are established.

On a local level DLAC staff participated in a number of councils and boards. During the last year DLAC continued its involvement with the Knoxville Mayor’s Council on Disability Issues (CODI) with one of DLAC’s staff serving as chair. That body, which consists of representatives of groups such as the City of Knoxville Community Action, Goodwill Industries, MS Society and Knoxville Center of the Deaf and Disability Resource Center, advises the Knoxville mayor and city council on issues related to people with disabilities within the community, including the need for a greater array of community employment opportunities. The Knoxville CAP advocate participated in the Knox Area Disability Connection (KADC), which consists of representatives from a variety of area agencies (e.g., Autism Society of East Tennessee, Knoxville Area Transit, disAbility Resource Center) that provide services to individuals with disabilities and meets regularly for the purpose of sharing information about services throughout the community. In FY 2014 the CAP representative in this group was instrumental in the planning and implementation of an event attended by 15 agencies at the East Tennessee Technology Access Center which highlighted new and popular assistive technology. DLAC staff, including its Executive Director, were members of the Disability Policy Alliance, which has an objective of advocating for public policy and practices that protect the legal rights of persons with disabilities, provide supports and services and promote their abilities to live independently in the community. Members of this organization, which include the Council on Developmental Disabilities, the ARC of Tennessee and Down Syndrome of Middle Tennessee, were involved in FY 2014 in support of a waiver for home and community based services that emphasized employment. A DLAC representative also participated on the Board of Directors of The ARC of Tennessee to ensure that The ARC of Tennessee and its Board members are aware of the needs of people with disabilities and issues that impact them. Among the topics addressed by The ARC of Tennessee Board of Directors in FY 2015 was increasing competitive and integrated employment opportunities for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. DLAC staff also collaborated with the Memphis Center for Independent Living and The Arc of the Mid-South in planning and implementing the celebration of the 24th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. The celebration disseminated information that increased the knowledge and awareness of the approximately 200 participants regarding the ADA and disability rights. Finally, DLAC’s involvement in organizations focused on outreach to immigrant communities is detailed in the following section.

g. Outreach to unserved/underserved populations:

In FY2014 DLAC continued its outreach and collaborative initiatives to enhance provision of services to unserved/underserved minority communities. In addition to the ongoing collaborations described below, DLAC conducted 27 outreaches to minority groups, including refugee populations, with a specific additional focus on increasing visibility in mostly rural upper East Tennessee. DLAC also provided a Spanish transition training to 7 Hispanic families covering post-secondary transition, including an overview of the VR system and the CAP program.

DLAC continued its participation in two collaborations-Encuentro Latino and Camino Seguro--that specifically focus on connecting the growing Latino community in Tennessee to available resources and services. Encuentro Latino is a collaborative group of service providers that work to enhance information and referral services for the Latino population in Middle Tennessee. Group members meet on a monthly basis to share information and to coordinate education and outreach efforts. Camino Seguro—an online bilingual database for disability services across the state—continues to be an important information resource. Visits to the database were at approximately 2,500 and agencies represented number 318. This tool allows providers and consumers to connect with providers that offer translation services or direct services in a language other than English.

In its second year of existence, the Multicultural Alliance on Disability (MAD) is a group of community agencies serving people with disabilities and/or refugees and immigrants. MAD continues to address the following barriers affecting service delivery to people with disabilities from other cultures: language; different cultural beliefs about disability/ understanding of the disability system in a new country; eligibility and access to disability services; and transportation. Steps taken to address these issues include: • Completed and began to offer a training for service providers on establishing cultural competence and building disability sensitivity into service delivery. • Continued communication with agencies/organizations that interact with immigrant and refugee families to share and address concerns in service delivery that are being brought to MAD’s attention. • Created standardized outreach packets with resources and information to streamline education and awareness efforts in the Bhutanese, Egyptian and Somali communities. • MAD members continued to brainstorm strategies to connect with community leaders in these communities in order to strengthen collaborations and establish a referral program for services. • MAD has maintained a listserv of more than 100 members to share information about services for underserved populations in addition to resources, events, and trainings to promote culturally competent practices in service providers. • MAD continued to relay communication issues faced by non-English speaking families when interfacing with Access Ride, the local government transit provider, to the attention of the Access Ride Policy Advisory Committee.

By continuing to collaborate with community organizations within and outside the disability community, DLAC continued to increase the avenues by which it addresses the needs of individuals with disabilities from diverse ethnic and racial communities.

In FY 2014 DLAC placed an advocate, who has CAP and other responsibilities, in upper East Tennessee, which is a predominantly rural underserved area. This advocate did thirty-nine outreaches in this area to approximately 412 individuals who were members of community advisory boards, health councils and community agencies and provided approximately 471 CAP related materials. Additionally, the advocate contacted 8 Neighborhood Service Centers in this region, which provide resources to the most impoverished people in some of Tennessee’s most rural and underserved counties, in an effort to reach individuals with disabilities in these counties as well as to make the centers of aware of resources available through DLAC, including its CAP program.

h. Alternate Dispute resolutions: CAP was able to resolve the issues that it determined had merit through negotiations with VR personnel. As a result, neither alternative dispute resolutions nor Fair Hearing processes were utilized in FY 2014.

VR has established an Informal Administrative Review process (IAR) as a lower level forum for resolving issues that cannot be worked out between the client or the client and CAP and the VR Counselor. DLAC represented one individual in an IAR during FY 2014. The issue involved whether VR had appropriately closed this individual’s VR case after she had been employed for more than 90 days. When CAP began its advocacy on her behalf, the individual was employed in a job performing work that was not substantially similar to her recent employment, which was our client’s employment objective. Fortunately for our client, her assignment was changed prior to the IAR and at that point was consistent with her employment objective. Although information provided by the client to CAP indicated that the workplace was not integrated, CAP staff was given the opportunity to view the workplace and determined that was not the case. As a result of this information, CAP closed our client’s case when VR denied her appeal at the IAR stage.

i. Systemic Advocacy: During FY 2014 DLAC’s systemic advocacy efforts took place primarily in the following forums: public hearings and written comments on the FY 2015 VR State Plan; comments on VR’s revised letters of agreement with its vendors; continued quarterly meetings with the State VR leadership team; and, participation on VR’s Policy Committee, which was addressed earlier in the section on "Involvement with Advisory Boards."

FY 2015 VR State Plan Public Hearings and Written Comments The DLAC CAP staff participated in each of the 6 public hearings on the FY 2015 VR State Plan held across the state, including 1 rural location. In each of the public hearings and in written comments submitted to VR and to the Rehabilitation Services Administration, DLAC CAP raised a number of systemic issues in the delivery of VR services, including those listed below.

1. VR’s continued failure to adequately address the needs of transition age youth VR announced at the public hearings that its Transition Director position, which had been vacant for almost 2 years, had been filled, which was an action that DLAC had advocated for throughout the prior year. While this was a positive step forward, DLAC continued to see other areas in which VR needed to improve its transition services. They included: (i) VR’s failure to expand the number of local education agencies (LEAs) with whom it had contracted to provide more intensive transition services from the approximately 20% of LEAs statewide that had such contracts; (ii) VR’s failure to put emphasis on providing work experiences such as after school and summer employment to transition age youth despite evidence that such experiences are predictors of successful employment following secondary education; and (iii) VR’s failure to have a transition counselor assigned to each county in the state and to publicly identify transition counselors and provide their contact information to school personnel and families. VR’s response to this criticism, as well as in its role as a participant in Tennessee’s Employment First Taskforce and the TennesseeWorks partnership, which were referenced earlier, has been positive. VR has announced that (i) it plans to expand Project Search to 5 additional school systems in FY 2015, (ii) its Transition Director is actively recruiting more LEAs to participate in the transition contracts, which were also recently revised to make them more attractive to LEAs; and (iii) it has recently begun supporting eligible students with intellectual disabilities in Post-Secondary Education Alliance Programs in Tennessee at 4 universities by providing a flat fee for their participation in those programs. During the coming year CAP staff will monitor VR’s progress in these endeavors to determine implementation and success.

2. VR’s continued failure to have adequate staffing DLAC expressed its continued concern about the impact that VR’s staffing shortages in its counselor and other direct client service personnel is having on its client services. As a result of these shortages, which include a 16% vacancy rate in VR Counselor positions and 30% vacancy rate in other VR Direct Client Services staff, VR says that it is currently unable to open its remaining 2 Priority Categories in its Order of Selection. DLAC also raised the issue of potential for additional vacancies in FY 2018 when VR fully implements its requirement that all VR Counselors have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a closely related area since DLAC anticipates this requirement could cause a wave of retirements among existing VR Counselors who do not currently meet that requirement. In light of these facts, DLAC has continued to encourage VR to set goals filling these vacancies and to take action on them as soon as possible. Although VR failed to establish staffing goals in the FY 2015 VR State Plan, VR informed us at a subsequent quarterly meeting that it had recently posted VR Counselor and evaluator positions. However, DLAC intends to continue to ask about progress in its quarterly meetings with the VR state leadership team.

3. Continued low utilization of VR services DLAC observed that (i) from FY 2009 to FY 2013, the number of applicants reported by VR in the applicable state plans decreased by about 18% or 1600 applicants and only increased by 22 in FY 2013, the most recent reported year and (ii) the number of individuals to whom VR provided services declined by 22% decrease from FY 2009 to 2013 and the expectation was that the number served in FY 2015 would decline by 34% as compared to FY 2013. DLAC recommended that VR try to determine the reason for these decreases and to set appropriate goals and strategies to address them. Specific recommendations included identifying and addressing the cause of excessive time between application and successful case closure (46.9 months average as compared to an average of 22 to 32 months in VR identified comparator states) and the significant number of client exits after trial work experiences as compared to the comparator states as these could both impact public perception of VR’s effectiveness. VR did not commit to establishing goals and strategies to address these issues, but DLAC will continue to raise these issues in its quarterly meetings with the VR state leadership team.

4. VR Spending DLAC noted its concerns about the apparent declines in VR spending from $92M in FY 2012 to a projected $76M in 2012 while at the same time VR was subject to $23M in Maintenance of Effort (MOE) penalties for FY 2012 and FY 2013, which were the largest penalties for any state during that period. DLAC encouraged VR to better monitor its spending and funding so that these issues do not recur and to consider increasing its supported employment program and addressing the previously identified issue of the low threshold of its financial participation test. Although VR did not commit to these recommended measures, we did note that in its revised and RSA approved FY 2015 State Plan VR stated that the increase in costs of planned services for new and existing cases is expected to substantially decrease the amount of funds carried forward and close the gap between expenditures and available funding. DLAC will monitor this situation during FY 2015 in its quarterly meetings with VR.

DLAC Comments on VR’s Revised Letters of Agreement In FY 2014 VR revised its Letters of Agreement (LOAs) or contracts with its Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRPs) to more clearly set out its performance expectations for those vendors in the varying services that they perform and to create incentives for them to make successful employment placements. DLAC had the opportunity to provide comments to VR on those LOAs as they were being rolled out to the vendors and some of those comments addressed systemic issues found in those agreements. The following is a summary of some of those issues and VR’s response to them.

1. Confidentiality of Information Held by the CRPs: DLAC recommended that VR strengthen the LOA language to (i) make it clear that the CRPs had confidentiality obligations beyond HIPPA, which DLAC does not believe applies to VR, and (ii) to require CRPs to include the confidentiality obligations in their subcontracts. Although VR agreed to make these changes, it failed to include them in the final agreement. DLAC will continue to encourage VR to make these changes to ensure that confidential information regarding its clients is adequately protected by CRPs.

2. Use of workshops in evaluations: DLAC pointed out that the use of sheltered workshops in VR evaluations, as provided in the applicable LOA, was inappropriate. VR agreed and made the change.

3. Trial Work Experiences (TWEs): DLAC encouraged VR to change language in the LOA to make it clearer that the standard for an individual qualifying for service was “sufficient evidence that the individual can benefit from services”, as compared to the standard for finding the individual ineligible for services, which is “clear and convincing evidence.” Although VR made some changes, DLAC does not feel that those changes made this difference sufficiently clear and we will continue to encourage VR to make clarifying changes. DLAC also suggested that VR make it clear in the LOAs that CRPs must provide the necessary supports for individuals to participate in TWEs and to remove transportation as a barrier that might indicate a client’s ineligibility for services. VR agreed to and implemented both of these changes, which DLAC believed were critical for clients to have successful TWEs.

4. Teaching clients how to ask for reasonable accommodations: At DLAC’s suggestion, VR added that CRPs must ensure that clients understand how to ask for reasonable accommodations as part of their job readiness service. VR agreed with this change and implemented it.

Quarterly Meetings between DLAC CAP staff and the State VR Leadership Team DLAC CAP staff continued to hold quarterly meetings with the State VR Leadership Team, which was represented by the VR Program Director and other VR state staff needed to address the agenda items submitted to VR in advance by DLAC. The purpose of these meetings was for DLAC to obtain information from VR on topics on DLAC’s meeting agenda, such as policies, processes and upcoming changes, and for DLAC to provide feedback on trends that it observed in CAP cases that might indicate systemic issues for VR to address. A sample of the topics from the FY 2014 meetings involving systemic issues follows.

1. Informal Administrative Reviews (IAR): DLAC informed VR of a recent case in which a supervisor, who had been involved in an adverse determination on a client’s issue, then decided the client’s IAR appeal. DLAC pointed out that having the person involved in the original decision on a client’s issue deciding the appeal on that issue did not constitute due process for that individual. DLAC advocated for VR to bring in a staff person from outside the affected region to hear the IAR appeal in order to provide more impartiality and an appearance of fairness. In a subsequent quarterly meeting the VR Program Director informed DLAC that VR discussed concerns about who would hear the reviews with its Regional Supervisors and determined that at a minimum that person must be from a different office within the region in which the issue arose. DLAC plans to continue to advocate for IAR reviews being conducted by VR staff from a different region when it provides input on VR’s due process policy.

2. Documentation Required for Reasonable Accommodations to Participate in Services: DLAC informed VR of a recent case in which a client requested an accommodation and VR staff rejected supporting documentation that an employer would have been required to accept under the ADA. As a result of this case, the VR Program Director committed that VR staff would be trained on the differences in documentation required for VR eligibility determinations as compared to requests for accommodations to access VR services.

3. Clients Requested to Provide Services that VR Should Provide: VR was informed of a case in which a client, who was an SSI/SSDI recipient, was asked to provide for the cost of transportation needed in connection with a VR service. In the discussion of this case, VR State Leadership informed DLAC that it was appropriate for a VR Counselor to talk with the client about how the client would provide for transportation after VR services ceased and to let the client decide if he/she wanted to fund transportation while the VR case was open. While DLAC agreed that this conversation about the client’s need to fund transportation following the closure of the VR case was appropriate, we asserted that VR should be clear that it would provide those services when needed prior to and immediately following successful employment so that the client would not feel pressured to provide for transportation which should be funded by VR. At VR’s request, DLAC provided an analysis and documentation to support its position that that VR is required to pay for transportation needed for VR services when financial participation and comparable benefits do not apply. While VR has not provided a response to DLAC’s analysis other than to say it is reviewing how transportation is provided and communicated, we continue to monitor for other similar cases.

j. Interesting Cases Below are some of DLAC’s more interesting CAP cases from FY 2014. We have determined that the decline in our number of CAP cases in FY 2014 as compared to FY 2013 primarily arose from our greater vigilance in identifying SSI and SSDI beneficiaries with VR issues and the availability of PABSS funding throughout FY 2014 to address those issues. It should be noted that, according FY 2013 RSA data, Tennessee VR generally has a significantly higher percentage of clients receiving SSI or SSDI due to their own disability than other general/combined VR agencies nationally. However, in FY 2015 we expect an increase in our CAP cases as we work to better identify cases which could be funded by CAP revenue.

The mother of a 19-year-old Caucasian male with autism contacted DLAC because she questioned both the timing and the amounts that VR had paid for his training services. She also had concerns about the responsiveness of the VR Counselor (VRC) in answering questions and ensuring service provision. DLAC assisted our client and his mother with these issues by (i) providing information on VR policies and federal regulations in an effort to help them better understand the VR program; (ii) making suggestions to improve communication with our client’s VRC; (iii) pursuing and receiving an exception from VR that resulted in our client being reimbursed for the computer that he needed due to his disability; (iv) meeting with our client’s mother and VRC to verify that VR’s funding for our client’s previous training services was correct; and (v) successfully advocating for an amended Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) to cover our client’s summer classes at a local community college and following up to ensure necessary school paperwork was completed. In looking to the future, DLAC strongly encouraged our client to meet with his VRC to amend his IPE each year before leaving for school so that his training services are in place for the next fall semester. Through DLAC intervention, our client began his sophomore year at college with previous VR issues resolved, fall semester services in place and the knowledge that those services are properly funded.

The mother of an 18-year-old Caucasian female who has cerebral palsy and vision disabilities contacted DLAC and reported disagreement with the services VR had included in her daughter’s IPE. She reported that the VRC did not accept our client’s chosen employment goal of library technician and would not provide VR services to assist her pursuit of post-secondary education to achieve that goal. DLAC contacted the VRC and also discussed our client’s concerns with the VR Director of Field Operations for Blind Services. VR agreed to meet with our client, her parents and DLAC to discuss the concerns. Prior to the meeting, DLAC encouraged our client to research her career interests and provided suggestions for preparing her request for amending her IPE to address her chosen employment goal. During the initial meeting with VR, DLAC addressed our client’s general concerns and our client utilized self-advocacy skills to present her career goal to VR. VR agreed that they had not previously taken appropriate steps to consider her abilities and interests in preparing the initial IPE. The IPE was subsequently amended to reflect our client’s employment goal of library technician and included appropriate assistive technology services as well as services related to the pursuit of post-secondary education to achieve that goal. Our client is enrolled in community college coursework and, as a result of DLAC involvement, will immediately begin receiving VR assistance to obtain the appropriate services to continue pursuit of her goal to become a library technician.

A 22-year-old Asian woman who is deaf contacted DLAC and reported that VR would not allow her to apply for services because she did not have a Permanent Residence Card (green card). She did, however, possess a current Employment Authorization Card issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. DLAC contacted the VR Program Director to review the issue and learned that the VRC and her supervisor had not followed the current VR policy and procedures related to determining an applicant’s eligibility to work in the U.S. DLAC reviewed this information with the VRC and she proceeded to meet with our client to accept her application. Soon after, our client encountered another problem when the VRC reported that VR could not provide services if the client’s parents with whom the client resided would not provide documentation of their income. DLAC contacted the VRC and reviewed with her the VR policy and procedures regarding the availability of several VR services which are not dependent upon financial participation guidelines and our client was then able to begin planning for further services with her VRC. As a result of DLAC assistance, our client was able to apply for and receive VR services to assist her in pursuing her employment goal in fashion design. In addition, DLAC was instrumental in educating the VRC regarding two areas of VR policy and procedures so that future similarly situated VR applicants will not face the same barriers to VR services.

k. On-line information/outreach: DLAC’s website was visited 22,239 times and received over 645,500 hits in FY 2014. This website contains materials related to CAP (e.g., the CAP flyer, VR Bill of Rights and Understanding Order of Selection). DLAC also uses the website to share information on how to access CAP services, understanding VR services and self-advocacy strategies to help CAP clients. DLAC’s new website allows visitors to search by topic to better access CAP resources and increases the accessibility of site content for people who are blind or have low-vision.

DLAC’s Facebook presence continued to increase in FY2014 with more than 176,000 people receiving page content. At the end of FY2014, DLAC had 526 likes on its Facebook page as well as a Twitter following of 91. DLAC is exploring the use of twitter to share news, events and resources in a timely manner that is accessible to larger numbers of people.

In FY 2014, DLAC also distributed 12 electronic newsletters to a list averaging 1,550 people per month. Seven newsletters included information pertinent to CAP clients. Such topics included: disability etiquette in the workplace, transition school-to-work, assistive technology, state policy initiatives, changes in VR policy and notices on opportunities for CAP clients to provide feedback to enhance services received. In some instances dedicated email announcements were sent to DLAC’s distribution list. Those announcements included information about VR issues and requesting feedback on CAP/P&A priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

Certification

Approved

This Report is Complete and Correct.Yes
Date Signed:05-Dec-14
Name of Designated Agency Official:Lisa Primm
Title of Designated Agency Official:Executive Director