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

Minnesota (MINNESOTA DISABILITY LAW CENTER) - H161A170024 - FY2017

General Information

Designated Agency Identification

NameMid-Minnesota Legal Assistance
Address430 1st Avenue N.
Address Line 2Suite 300
CityMinneapolis
StateMinnesota
Zip Code55401
E-mail Addressmndlc@mylegalaid.org
Website Addresshttp://www.mndlc.org
Phone6123321441
TTY 6123324668
Toll-free Phone8002924150
Toll-free TTY8002924150
Fax6123345755

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/CoordinatorDaniel Stewart
Person to contact regarding reportAlex Farrell
Contact Person Phone612-746-3764

Part I. Non-case Services

A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)

Multiple responses are not permitted.

1. Information regarding the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program13
2. Information regarding independent living programs0
3. Information regarding American Indian VR Service projects0
4. Information regarding Title I of the ADA1
5. Other information provided0
6. Information regarding CAP0
7. Total I&R services provided (Lines A1 through A6)14

B. Training Activities

The Minnesota Disability Law Center’s (MDLC) Client Assistance Project (CAP) staff delivered trainings throughout the state providing hundreds of participants from all over the disability community with information about CAP and vocational rehabilitation (VR) issues. Many of these presentations were to populations that have been unserved or underserved by Minnesota vocational rehabilitation agencies; such outreach activities are summarized below in Part I, C.

Staff delivered a training on VR services and Social Security work incentives to caseworkers at Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, which serves persons with disabilities in the Twin Cities metro area.

Staff delivered a training titled “Investing in Integration - Olmstead and Employment” to individuals with disabilities, as well as their families and advocates. The training was sponsored by Minnesota APSE/A Working Life Alliance. A similar training titled, “Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan, HCBS and Work: Where is Minnesota Now and Where are We Going with Integrated Competitive Employment,” was sponsored by Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation and aimed towards day program providers.

Staff delivered a continuing legal education training to Minnesota attorneys and school staff about WIOA, VR services and special education.

Staff presented a training on employment law, Social Security work incentives and SSB transition services to students at the Minnesota Academy for the Blind in southern Minnesota. Similar programs about Social Security work incentives and vocational rehabilitation services were delivered to Jewish Children and Family Services case managers in Hennepin County, which serves the western Twin Cities metro area in and surrounding Minneapolis, and to employment services specialists at Lifetrack, a community rehabilitation program in St. Paul.

Staff delivered a training to persons with disabilities at the Self-Advocates Conference in Hennepin County, titled “Difficult People/Difficult Situations.”

Staff made a presentation to Hennepin County Judges and Referees about race, special education and VR services in Minnesota, and MDLC/CAP services.

Staff delivered a training to Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota staff about MDLC and CAP services and resources. Similar trainings were delivered to staff and individuals with disabilities at the Work Incentives Connection - Goodwill Easter Seals in Ramsey County, the metro area serving St. Paul and surrounding areas, at BLIND, Inc., and members of the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.

Staff made a presentation about MDLC and CAP advocacy services at an adoptive parent support group meeting in Southern Minnesota sponsored by the Adoption Support Network. Most of the parents attending the meeting had adopted children with disabilities, primarily related to fetal alcohol syndrome.

Staff made presentations about MDLC and CAP services at two meetings of the Minnesota Brain Injury Force, a support group network in Southern Minnesota. Attending these support group meetings were persons with brain injuries and family members.

MDLC’s Legal Director made presentations at NDRN’s national conference in Washington, D.C., on incorporating P&A values and principles into MDLC’s advocacy work, and on training new P&A legal directors and managing attorneys. In attendance were P&A attorneys, advocates, intake workers, legal and financial managers, and legal directors.

1. Number of training sessions presented to community groups and public agencies.36
2. Number of individuals who attended these training sessions.1,336
3. Describe training presented by the staff. Include the following information:
  1. topics covered
  2. purpose of the training
  3. description of the attendees

C. Agency Outreach

Describe the agency's outreach efforts to previously un-served or underserved individuals including minority communities.

During this report period, CAP staff engaged in 5 outreach events throughout the state, which provided information about CAP services, VR rights and other disability rights. This outreach included disseminating information at a staff meeting at the Mankato Open Door Health Center, a non-profit community health center serving Southwestern Minnesota, and Project Community Connect, an event at the Mankato Civic Center for low-income community members needing information about social service resources.

In addition, CAP staff conducted outreach that was specifically targeted towards reaching historically unserved/underserved populations and minority communities.

Communities of Color: CAP staff delivered a presentation to parents and community members associated with the Minneapolis NAACP Child Protection Committee. The presentation topic was vocational rehabilitation and CAP services, and special education. Staff also provided resource information at an event sponsored by Minneapolis Services for Adults which provides services to members of the African-American and Latino communities.

Transition-Aged Students: CAP staff presented a training on case law developments and trends for PACER vocational rehabilitation and special education advocates in the Twin Cities area. A similar training was sponsored by PACER in Rochester, in southeast Minnesota, where staff presented a training on services for transition-age youth with disabilities to parents and families of students with disabilities. This training was reprised for parents and families in northeastern Minnesota, and in Ramsey County, all sponsored by PACER. CAP staff made presentations titled “Employment Related Options for Young Adults with FASD” and “Special Education 101” and staffed a resource table at a conference sponsored by the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Attending the conference and the break-out sessions were parents of students with disabilities, attorneys, social workers, state agency staff and community advocates. CAP also staffed a table at the Transition Resource Fair sponsored by the Northwest Hennepin Community Transition Interagency Committee.

D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency

For each method of dissemination, enter the total number of each method used by your agency during the reporting period to distribute information to the public. For publications/booklets/brochures (item 4), enter the total number of documents produced. Agencies should not include website hits. See instructions for details.

1. Agency Staff Interviewed or Featured on Radio and TV0
2. Articles about CAP Featured in Newspaper/Magazine/Journals0
3. PSAs/Videos Aired about the CAP Agency0
4. Publications/Booklets/Brochures Disseminated by the Agency11
5. Number of Times CAP Exhibited at Conferences, Community Fairs, etc.2
6. Other (specify below)0

E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage

Describe the various sources and information disseminated about your agency by an external source.

N/A

Part II. Individual Case Services

A. Individuals served

An individual is counted only once during a fiscal year. Multiple counts are not permitted for Lines A1-A3.

1. Individuals who are still being served as of October 1 (carryover from prior year)21
2. Additional individuals who were served during the year33
3. Total individuals served (Lines A1+A2)54
4. Individuals (from Line A3) 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 A3 above.)17
5. Individual still being served as of September 30 (Carryover to next year. This total may not exceed Line A3.)29

B. Problem areas

Multiple responses permitted.

1. Individual requests information4
2. Communication problems between individual and VR counselor7
3. Conflict about VR services to be provided22
4. Related to VR application/eligibility process4
5. Related to assignment to order of selection priority category2
6. Related to IPE development/implementation
  1. Selection of vendors for provision of VR services
  2. Selection of training, post-secondary education
  3. Selection of employment outcome
  4. Transition services
6
7. Related to independent living services0
8. Other Rehabilitation Act-related problems8
9. Non-Rehabilitation Act related
  1. TANF
  2. SSI/SSDI
  3. Housing
  4. Other:
1
10. Related to Title I of the ADA0

C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases

(Choose one primary service the CAP provided for each closed case file. There may be more case files than actual individuals served.)

1. Short Term Technical Assistance8
2. Investigation/Monitoring0
3. Negotiation14
4. Mediation and other methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution0
5. Administrative / Informal Review1
6. Formal appeal / Fair Hearing0
7. Legal remedy / Litigation0
8. Total23

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.)

1. All issues resolved in individual's favor12
2. Some issues resolved in individual's favor (when there are multiple issues)7
3. CAP determines VR agency position/decision was appropriate for the individual0
4. Individual's case lacks legal merit; (inappropriate for CAP intervention)1
5. Individual chose alternative representation0
6. Individual withdrew complaint1
7. Issue not resolved in clients favor1
8. CAP services not needed due to individual's death, relocation, etc.0
9. Individual not responsive/cooperative with CAP1
10. CAP unable to take case due to lack of resources0
11. Conflict of interest0
12. Other (Please explain below)0

E. Results achieved for individuals

(Choose one primary outcome for each closed case file. There may be more case files than the total number of individuals served.)

1. Controlling law/policy explained to individual5
2. Application for services completed1
3. Eligibility determination expedited2
4. Individual participated in evaluation1
5. IPE developed/implemented/Services Provided3
6. Communication re-established between individual and other party7
7. Individual assigned to new counselor/office1
8. Alternative resources identified for individual1
9. ADA/504/EEO/OCR complaint made2
10. Other (Please explain below)0

Part III. Program Data

A. Age

Multiple responses not permitted.

1. Up to 187
2. 19 - 2410
3. 25 - 408
4. 41 - 6429
5. 65 and over0
6. Total (Sum of Lines A1 through A5. Total must equal Part II, Line A3.)54

B. Gender

Multiple responses not permitted.

1. Females20
2. Males34
3. Total (Lines B1+B2. Total must equal Part II, Line A3.)54

C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served

1. Hispanic/Latino of any race (for individuals who are non-Hispanic/Latino only)1
2. American Indian or Alaskan Native2
3. Asian0
4. Black or African American5
5. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander0
6. White37
7. Two or more races2
8. Race/ethnicity unknown7

D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served

Multiple responses not permitted.

1. Acquired Brain Injury5
2. ADD/ADHD1
3. AIDS/HIV0
4. Amputations or Absence of Extremities2
5. Arthritis or Rheumatism0
6. Anxiety Disorder1
7. Autism Spectrum Disorder2
8. Autoimmune or Immune Deficiencies (excluding AIDS/HIV)0
9. Blindness (Both Eyes)7
10. Other Visual Impairments (Not Blind)0
11. Cancer0
12. Cerebral Palsy0
13. Deafness5
14. Hard of Hearing/Hearing Impaired (Not Deaf)3
15. Deaf-Blind0
16. Diabetes0
17. Digestive Disorders0
18. Epilepsy0
19. Heart & Other Circulatory Conditions0
20. Intellectual Disability2
21. Mental Illness14
22. Multiple Sclerosis0
23. Muscular Dystrophy0
24. Muscular/Skeletal Impairment1
25. Neurological Disorders/Impairment0
26. Orthopedic Impairments9
27. Personality Disorders0
28. Respiratory Disorders/Impairment0
29. Skin Conditions0
30. Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)1
31. Speech Impairments1
32. Spina Bifida0
33. Substance Abuse (Alcohol or Drugs)0
34. Other Disability0
35. Total (Sum of Lines D1through D34. Total must equal Part II, Line A3.)54

E. Types of Individual Served

Multiple responses permitted.

1. Applicant of VR12
2. Individual eligible for VR services currently on a wait list0
3. Individual eligible for VR services not currently on a wait list39
4. Applicant or individual eligible for Independent Living0
5. Transition student/High school student3
6. All other applicants or individuals eligible for other programs or projects funded unther Rehabilitation Act0

Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation

A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities

One aspect of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) implementation has been the requirement, under Section 511, that information and counseling about competitive, integrated employment be provided to individuals seeking work or already working in subminimum wage jobs. In Minnesota, VRS has contracted with state independent living centers to deliver such information and counseling and generate required WIOA documentation of these and related activities. During the fiscal year, VRS consulted with CAP staff on several occasions about issues related to Section 511 information and career counseling. VRS and the ILC advocates were, and continue to be especially concerned about difficulties with guardians of subminimum wage workers. ILC advocates report many instances of guardians cutting off access to wards for information and counseling about competitive, integrated employment. They also raise concerns about barriers to such information and counseling posed by the sheltered workshops where those individuals work. CAP staff provided feedback to VRS officials about these issues and consulted on the forms developed and used in Section 511 documentation. CAP staff also, on request by VRS, developed and delivered an hour-long training to independent living center staff about guardianship, scope of guardianship activities and responsibilities, and how to effectively work with guardians to ensure access to wards interested in information and career counseling about competitive, integrated employment. Since the training was delivered, CAP has continued to consult with VRS officials about forms used in Section 511 documentation. CAP staff are also starting monitoring activities at sheltered workshops reported to be blocking access to integrated, competitive work counseling or opportunities.

CAP staff also continued to monitor and provide advocacy when possible regarding efforts by state vocational rehabilitation agency officials to restrict services due to financial constraints imposed by WIOA implementation. Both VRS and SSB are operating under very restrictive order of selection priority rules. CAP staff continued to question SSB officials about the status of their waiting list and efforts to move individuals from that list to active VR service provision. Similarly, staff monitored the status of VRS’ waiting list, which through much of the fiscal year had more than 1,500 individuals listed, all of whom are unable to move forward with employment because they did not meet top priority criteria for immediate VR services. Staff also participated in State Rehabilitation Council discussions about restricting priority for services even further, providing information and legal analysis to Council members about federal and state laws and rules regarding order of selection procedures.

1. Number of non-litigation systemic activities not involving individual representation that resulted in the change of one or more policy or practice of an agency.2
2. Describe the systemic activities conducted by CAP during the fiscal year and its impact on other agency's policies or practices.

B. Litigation

During the fiscal year CAP staff undertook no systemic litigation activities involving individual representation, relying instead on more informal review and mediation procedures which successfully resolved cases before having to resort to formal administrative or legal remedies.

1. Total number of CAP cases requiring litigation involving individual representation resulting in, or with the potential for, systemic change.
a. Number of cases requiring litigation involving individual representation filed during fiscal year.0
b. Number of on-going cases pending at start of fiscal year (carryover from prior fiscal year).0
c. Number of cases resolved through litigation during fiscal year.0
2. Describe the agency's on-going and completed systemic litigation activities involving individual representation.

Part V. Agency Information

A. Designated Agency

1. Agency Type (select only one option) External-Protection and Advocacy agency
2. Name of designate agencyMid-Minnesota Legal Assistance
3. Is the designated agency contracting CAP services?No
4. If yes, name of contracting agency:NA

B. Staff Employed

Provide a description of all CAP positions (see instructions)

Provide a description of all CAP positions (see instructions)

Attorney FT 1.12 FTE 100% of year filled 1.12 Person years

Legal Advocate FT .76 FTE 100% of year filled .76 Person years

Clerical FT .06 FTE 100% of year filled .06 Person years

Part VI. Case Examples

Provide some examples of some interesting cases during the past fiscal year.

A woman with visual impairments living in Northwest Minnesota called CAP after she was notified that her SSB case was being closed. She felt her SSB counselor had promised her funding for the cost of assistive technology (an iPhone and accessories) for use in college classes and to be able to navigate going to and from the college. The woman bought the assistive technology and requested reimbursement from SSB, but SSB did not reimburse her for the cost even though a year had passed and she had submitted the information that her SSB counselor requested. The woman also wanted her SSB case reopened because she needed assistance with job search. CAP investigated and assisted the woman with an SSB appeal, and requested mediation on her behalf. Negotiations with SSB before the mediation resulted in an agreement for SSB to reimburse the woman for the cost of the assistive technology, reopen her case and transfer her to a different SSB counselor for help with her employment search.

A woman who is blind called CAP, unhappy with the VR services she had received from SSB. The woman was receiving training on assistive technology and Braille in preparation to return to college to finish her bachelor’s degree. During the training, the woman developed medical problems that delayed her training progress. SSB communicated to her that they were concerned about this lack of progress. The woman worried that SSB would stop paying for training and stop supporting her job goal of becoming a social worker, for which she needed to finish her degree. Additionally, the woman was frustrated that SSB had not yet provided the assistive technology that they agreed to provide, so she was not receiving training on computer use. CAP advocated for the woman at a meeting with her SSB counselor and her counselor’s supervisor, resulting in a mutually agreeable timeline for training progress. SSB also agreed to order needed assistive technology, including a laptop and Braille display.

A woman with severe PTSD called CAP wanting to work with a different VR counselor and concerned that VRS had unfairly denied her funding for computer repair. Homeless for several years, the woman had difficulty finding consistent, fulfilling work. She enjoyed creating crafts and had sold her crafts occasionally, but she had not pursued selling her crafts as a significant source of income. CAP investigated the situation and advised the woman about VRS’ policies related to small business development and funding for computers to conduct an employment search. CAP then advocated on the woman’s behalf at a meeting with VRS management staff, including her desire to receive VR services from a different VRS office. VRS agreed, and CAP staff assisted with the transfer of the case, attending a meeting with the new VR counselor to discuss employment goals and the services the woman believed she needed to reach those goals. Consequently, the woman and her new VR counselor developed a positive relationship, VRS agreed to fund computer repairs, and the counselor provided funding for a community organization to help her develop a small business plan to sell her crafts.

A woman in the process of losing her sight called CAP after experiencing extreme anxiety after meetings with her SSB counselor; she reported negative and belittling remarks from him that prevented her from moving forward with employment planning. CAP staff investigated and then met with the woman and the counselor, assisting them to communicate more effectively with each other and reduce the woman’s anxiety. As a result, the parties were able to improve their working relationship and move forward on an employment plan to start a small business, with VR funding for rehabilitation technology and assistance with business plan development from a local community organization.

A deaf woman receiving services from VRS contacted CAP after promised funding for co-pays with her mental health provider did not materialize. CAP staff investigated the situation and discovered that VRS had committed to providing the funding for co-pays from a date identified in the Employment Plan, but had in reality not provided funding until state funding authorization was in place, some months later. CAP staff advocated on the woman’s behalf, and as a result the VR counselor reversed her decision and moved forward to provide the funding, totaling $250.00, for the period of time from the date of the Employment Plan and the date state authorization had commenced.

A woman with severe mental illness had been receiving services from VRS, including funding for a work assessment and work adjustment program at a Twin Cities community rehabilitation program. She had to stop program participation after illness and exacerbation of her disability. She was frustrated that her VR counselor and job placement specialists did not seem to understand the extent of her disability and what sort of job experiences were appropriate for her, and she called CAP for advice and help. CAP staff investigated and recommended meeting with the VR counselor and the job placement provider to clarify the woman’s ability to continue with VR activities. At the meeting, the woman was able to make clear what she was able and not able to do, and the VR counselor set out what services the woman could continue to receive, including help finding volunteer work activities appropriate to the woman’s health status and work availability. The parties agreed on a process they would follow in the next few months, giving the woman the chance to decide, in her own time, whether she was able to pursue employment or not.

A man with physical disabilities and a brain injury living in outstate Southwest Minnesota contacted CAP frustrated with his inability to access VR services. With CAP advocacy assistance, he was able to move forward with a trial work experience directly relevant to his employment goal, to work in social services or disability advocacy. As a result, he was provided interview training and then placed in a paid internship at a center for independent living. He was also provided funding for gas mileage reimbursement and work clothing, and job coaching during his internship.

A 31-year-old man who is legally blind had been trying to access the Vision Loss Program in Minneapolis for over three years without success. He needed help with independent living skill development travel and orientation skills, and money management. SSB had denied him funding because he was still living with a parent. This left the man unable to develop an effective plan to live and work independently. After CAP agreed to provide advocacy assistance, CAP staff requested that SSB make a referral for independent living skills assessment. The assessment revealed that the man was in fact independent in most of his adapted living skills. Accordingly, SSB agreed to provide funding for Vision Loss Program training and the man has since started classes there. CAP staff also provided advice and help finding resources regarding financial independence and Social Security’s Representative Payee program, including self-advocacy strategies towards increased independence.

A woman with failing eyesight had been a commercial broker and had been an auditor for SSB’s Business Enterprise Program. She contacted CAP for help becoming a vendor for that program and she reported that SSB had told her she would have to give up her brokerage firm and get a menial job. CAP staff investigated, and confirmed that the woman’s visual impairment was not severe enough to meet Business Enterprise Program standards. CAP moved forward, however, to advocate on her behalf for other SSB VR services, including improved communication between the woman and SSB staff. As a result, SSB agreed to provide the woman with services consistent with her employment goals, including guidance counseling, AT (assistive technology) assessment and AT support for rehabilitation tech and training, transportation reimbursement, technology training related to small business, assistance with labor market research and referral to a small business consultant.

A man with bipolar disorder who had also been in prison became frustrated with VR services and called CAP because he felt VRS had not been consistent in helping him find a job. CAP investigated the situation and then worked with the man and VRS staff to improve communication and make sure services were provided in a more timely manger. VRS also agreed to provide customized employment services and ongoing employment supports to help him maintain employment. As a result, the man accepted one of two job offers made to him, and has started employment there with the help of supportive employment services.

A woman with mental illness had been receiving services from VRS to become a cosmetology esthetician and had been notified that her vocational rehabilitation case was closed because she had found work in that field. The woman had been struggling, however, with housing problems and no work for a month because of broken street pipes at the beauty salon where she was working. The woman needed funding for her cosmetology license, additional cosmetology training and car repairs and did not want to go on Social Security benefits to afford these things. CAP staff intervened with VRS on her behalf, advocating for further services, and within a day, the woman met with VRS and was able to get all the funding she needed to move forward with employment and stay off of disability benefits.

Certification

Reports are to be submitted to RSA within 90 days after the end of the fiscal year covered by this report. Please be reminded that you can enter data directly into RSA's website via the internet. Information on transmittal of the form is found on pages 19 and 20 of the reporting instructions.

Name of Designated Agency OfficialDrew Schaffer
Title of Designated Agency OfficialExecutive Director
Date Signed12/19/2017