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

Minnesota (MINNESOTA DISABILITY LAW CENTER) - H161A180024 - FY2018

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)

NameMid-Minnesota Legal Assistance
Address430 1st Avenue N.
Address Line 2Suite 300
CityMinneapolis
Zip Code55401
E-mail Addressmndlc@mylegalaid.org
Website Addresshttp://www.mndlc.org
Phone6123321441
TTY6123324668
Toll-free Phone8002924150
Toll-free TTY8002924150
Fax6123345755

Additional Information

Name of CAP Director/CoordinatorDaniel Stewart
Person to contact regarding reportMargaret Kienitz
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) program18
2. Information regarding independent living programs0
3. Information regarding American Indian VR Service projects1
4. Information regarding Title I of the ADA0
5. Other information provided0
6. Information regarding CAP1
7. Total I&R services provided (Lines A1 through A6)20

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

Staff made presentations about CAP and MDLC services to persons with disabilities at an expo sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, and at events sponsored by the Social Security Administration/Minnesota Department of Human Services, The ARC Minnesota in Northeastern Minnesota and in East Central Minnesota, and the Minneapolis Women’s Club. Attending these presentations were persons with disabilities, their family members, disability benefits counselors, county disability case managers and employment networks.

Staff delivered presentations about CAP and MDLC services during Social Security work incentive trainings sponsored by the Minnesota Work Incentives Connection/Goodwill-Easter Seals at several locations around Minnesota, including St. Paul, Bloomington, and Bemidji. Attending those presentations were persons with disabilities, parents and guardians of individuals with disabilities, and disability service providers.

Staff made several presentations about CAP/MDLC services regarding Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan and support for people seeking competitive, integrated employment. These presentations were sponsored by the Work Is Possible coalition in Burnsville/Dakota County and in Willmar/Kandiyohi County, and by the Minnesota Association of People Supporting Employment First annual state conference, also located in Willmar.

Staff delivered a training about MDLC/CAP services to staff of Minnesota VRS and Independent Living Centers in Anoka, Dakota and Hennepin Counties involved with the WIOA “They Said Yes” pilot project.

MDLC’s Employment Team Supervising Attorney made a presentation at NDRN’s national conference in Washington, D.C., on supervising CAP and PABSS work. In attendance were P&A attorneys, advocates, intake workers, legal and financial managers, and legal directors.

MDLC’s Legal director made a media appearance on KFAI, a local radio station, during their Disability and Progress Program, speaking about, among other things, MDLC and CAP services to persons with disabilities.

1. Number of training sessions presented to community groups and public agencies.26
2. Number of individuals who attended these training sessions.853
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 many outreach events throughout the state, which provided information about CAP services, VR rights and other disability rights. This outreach included disseminating information at the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Health and Wellness Conference, a PICA (Parents in Community Action)/Headstart Community Event, a conference sponsored by the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (now PR%F Alliance), an event sponsored by Dakota County Family and Disability Services, and an event sponsored by The ARC Minnesota/Brain Injury Alliance.

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

Native American Communities: Four CAP staff delivered an hour-long presentation on vocational rehabilitation rights and MDLC/CAP services at the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CONAR) conference held at the Mystic Lake Event and Conference Center, owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Attending the conference were Native American vocational rehabilitation counselors from around the country working for Sec. 121 tribal vocational rehabilitation programs.

Somali Communities of Color: Staff delivered a presentation about MDLC/CAP services, special education and community disability services to parents and community members with HAARAN (Helping the Displaced Reach a Better Life), an organization of Somali-speaking parents of children with disabilities. Staff also spoke on these topics at a meeting of Isuroon, a Somali community organization in Minneapolis.

Transition-Aged Students: Staff presented trainings on MDLC and CAP services to transition-aged students at events in Northwest Minnesota and other locations around the state sponsored by PACER. Topics at these presentations also included supports for youth in transition, SSI first steps, and trends in special education case law developments. Staff also delivered a special education case law update in a continuing legal education training to Minnesota attorneys and school staff. Staff also attended a workskills competition outstate in southcentral Minnesota, volunteering as job interviewers for transition-aged teens involved in the event and sharing resources with transition-aged youth, VRS professionals, transition specialists from area schools and other staff members from community support agencies for persons with disabilities.

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.

NA

1. Agency Staff Interviewed or Featured on Radio and TV1
2. Articles about CAP Featured in Newspaper/Magazine/Journals0
3. PSAs/Videos Aired about the CAP Agency0
4. Publications/Booklets/Brochures Disseminated by the Agency0
5. Number of Times CAP Exhibited at Conferences, Community Fairs, etc.9
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.

NA

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)28
2. Additional individuals who were served during the year31
3. Total individuals served (Lines A1+A2)59
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.)19
5. Individual still being served as of September 30 (Carryover to next year. This total may not exceed Line A3.)30

B. Problem areas

Multiple responses permitted.

1. Individual requests information8
2. Communication problems between individual and VR counselor7
3. Conflict about VR services to be provided24
4. Related to VR application/eligibility process3
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
7
7. Related to independent living services0
8. Other Rehabilitation Act-related problems5
9. Non-Rehabilitation Act related
  1. TANF
  2. SSI/SSDI
  3. Housing
  4. Other:
2
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 Assistance11
2. Investigation/Monitoring1
3. Negotiation17
4. Mediation and other methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution0
5. Administrative / Informal Review0
6. Formal appeal / Fair Hearing0
7. Legal remedy / Litigation0
8. Total29

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.)

NA

1. All issues resolved in individual's favor12
2. Some issues resolved in individual's favor (when there are multiple issues)12
3. CAP determines VR agency position/decision was appropriate for the individual2
4. Individual's case lacks legal merit; (inappropriate for CAP intervention)2
5. Individual chose alternative representation0
6. Individual withdrew complaint1
7. Issue not resolved in clients favor0
8. CAP services not needed due to individual's death, relocation, etc.0
9. Individual not responsive/cooperative with CAP0
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.)

Decision Reversed -- 3

1. Controlling law/policy explained to individual5
2. Application for services completed0
3. Eligibility determination expedited0
4. Individual participated in evaluation1
5. IPE developed/implemented/Services Provided5
6. Communication re-established between individual and other party13
7. Individual assigned to new counselor/office0
8. Alternative resources identified for individual2
9. ADA/504/EEO/OCR complaint made0
10. Other (Please explain below)3

Part III. Program Data

A. Age

Multiple responses not permitted.

1. Up to 1813
2. 19 - 240
3. 25 - 4012
4. 41 - 6433
5. 65 and over1
6. Total (Sum of Lines A1 through A5. Total must equal Part II, Line A3.)59

B. Gender

Multiple responses not permitted.

1. Females17
2. Males42
3. Total (Lines B1+B2. Total must equal Part II, Line A3.)59

C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served

1. Hispanic/Latino of any race (for individuals who are non-Hispanic/Latino only)0
2. American Indian or Alaskan Native1
3. Asian3
4. Black or African American4
5. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander0
6. White49
7. Two or more races2
8. Race/ethnicity unknown0

D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served

Multiple responses not permitted.

1. Acquired Brain Injury7
2. ADD/ADHD0
3. AIDS/HIV0
4. Amputations or Absence of Extremities1
5. Arthritis or Rheumatism0
6. Anxiety Disorder0
7. Autism Spectrum Disorder6
8. Autoimmune or Immune Deficiencies (excluding AIDS/HIV)0
9. Blindness (Both Eyes)8
10. Other Visual Impairments (Not Blind)0
11. Cancer0
12. Cerebral Palsy1
13. Deafness5
14. Hard of Hearing/Hearing Impaired (Not Deaf)0
15. Deaf-Blind0
16. Diabetes0
17. Digestive Disorders0
18. Epilepsy0
19. Heart & Other Circulatory Conditions2
20. Intellectual Disability2
21. Mental Illness11
22. Multiple Sclerosis0
23. Muscular Dystrophy0
24. Muscular/Skeletal Impairment3
25. Neurological Disorders/Impairment0
26. Orthopedic Impairments2
27. Personality Disorders0
28. Respiratory Disorders/Impairment0
29. Skin Conditions0
30. Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)5
31. Speech Impairments0
32. Spina Bifida1
33. Substance Abuse (Alcohol or Drugs)0
34. Other Disability5
35. Total (Sum of Lines D1through D34. Total must equal Part II, Line A3.)59

E. Types of Individual Served

Multiple responses permitted.

1. Applicant of VR6
2. Individual eligible for VR services currently on a wait list0
3. Individual eligible for VR services not currently on a wait list45
4. Applicant or individual eligible for Independent Living0
5. Transition student/High school student0
6. All other applicants or individuals eligible for other programs or projects funded unther Rehabilitation Act8

Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation

A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities

a. VRS agency officials approached CAP staff during the fiscal year about difficulties they have been experiencing developing a Memorandum of Understanding with Department of Human Services officials on, among other things, eligibility, service delivery and financial responsibilities between the two agencies regarding habilitation and rehabilitation of the most severely disabled individuals receiving waivered disability services. In particular, the draft MOU developed seemed to foreclose efforts to allow flexible and coordinated vocational rehabilitation services, potentially leading to separate service provision structures from which consumers would move back and forth, wasting limited resources and not serving individuals with disabilities as effectively as possible. CAP staff gathered information about the difficulties and the events leading up to the problematic draft MOU and participated in a meeting with VRS officials involved in the negotiations and a third party facilitator involved in the process. From information presented during the meeting from CAP staff regarding the impact of the draft MOU provisions on service delivery and consumer populations, the facilitator re-approached DHS officials and the parties are now back negotiating the problematic draft MOU provisions, with CAP staffers standing by and available to provide further input if needed.

As a result of CAP’s activities in this area, VRS resolved to return to the MOU negotiation progress this year to develop an MOU that better coordinates vocational rehabilitation service systems provided by both VRS and DHS. Specifically, with CAP’s input about how actual consumers are faring with the two systems and how various proposed changes in the service delivery system would impact consumer communities, VRS was then better able to make its case with DHS officials about what changes to the MOU would better serve persons with disabilities and make the most efficient use of state and federal resources.

In summary, although CAP does not have a formal role in the MOU process, CAP’s efforts resulted in 1. VRS having better information about VRS consumer difficulties with service coordination and 2. VRS being able to share CAP concerns about MOU changes with DHS. CAP’s efforts and input to the MOU serve to ensure that VR consumers will have been service flexibility and coordination so that they can access effective and efficient resources. Because the MOU process between VR and DHS is ongoing, CAP will continue to work with VRS to monitor, review, and provide input on any future MOU changes.

b. CAP staff, through its special education advocacy, became aware of a new state legislative requirement, that Minnesota school districts assist all students by grade 9 to explore post-high school educational and work options and to develop personal learning plans for a smooth and successful transition to post-secondary education or employment. CAP staff made VRS and SSB officials aware of this new statute, and successfully advocated for VRS and SSB to include references to the statute in their written policy and guidance materials so that special education and vocational rehabilitation services could be better coordinated in the future.

c. CAP staff also continued to monitor and provide advocacy regarding efforts by state vocational rehabilitation agency officials to restrict services due to financial constraints imposed by WIOA implementation. The WIOA constraint most impacting both VRS and SSB is the requirement that 15% of their respective budgets be set-aside for the provision of pre-employment transition services, often to the detriment of actual transition-aged consumers eligible for services but put on a waiting list for services because they do not meet increasingly restrictive order of selection priority rules. VRS’ waiting list, for example, grew to more than 2,000 individuals over the course of the fiscal year, over 600 of whom are transition-aged students. The reality is that virtually none of these individuals will be taken off the waiting list and provided vocational rehabilitation services in the foreseeable future. CAP staff continued to monitor waiting lists at both agencies and questioned officials, particularly at VRS, about the status of their waiting list and possibilities of moving individuals from that list to active VR service provision.

As a result of CAP’s activities, VRS, with advice from the State Rehabilitation Council, continued its practice of using the waiting list and existing Order of Selection process to conserve scarce resources, rather than pursuing changes to that process that might weaken its commitment to serve the most severely disabled eligible consumers first. VRS also continued its course of keeping one priority category open, allowing the most severely disabled consumer applicants to be served without having to spend any time on the waiting list. Through these activities, CAP is striving to maintain access to VRS supports as much as possible so that individuals have options to pursue competitive, integrated employment.

Additionally, CAP will review and revise as needed its training and outreach materials to ensure that CAP is providing timely and accurate information about VRS’ Order of Selection (OOS) and how individuals can challenge OOS denials.

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.3
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)

Attorney FT 1.27 FTE 100% of year filled 1.27 Person years

Legal Advocate FT .72 FTE 100% of year filled .72 Person years

Clerical FT .065FTE 100% of year filled .05 Person years

Part VI. Case Examples

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

1. A woman with autism was working at a local humane society as an animal trainer when she ran into problems at work jeopardizing further employment there. Her schedule of training classes had been altered, and she needed reasonable accommodations and additional job supports. She contacted CAP, and advocacy staff acted quickly to restore communication and supportive employment services from VRS. The woman had discontinued services because as a Ticket to Work participant, she could not bear further Social Security communications that she had failed to meet employment milestones, to the degree that this became a barrier to work for her. With advocacy from CAP, VRS agreed to unassign the woman’s Ticket to Work, discontinuing her participation in the Ticket to Work program, and thus, the notices from Society Security ceased. CAP staff also advised the client about the reasonable accommodation process under the ADA. With this advice and understanding about governing legal principles, the woman was able to get a reasonable accommodation agreement into place, including a provision that her autism counselor be allowed to meet with her and her supervisor and manager to help interpret communication and solve problems.

2. A Native American man living near the Fond du Lac Reservation in Northeast Minnesota contacted CAP when VRS kept him from moving forward with vocational rehabilitation services. He had limited functioning on the right side of his body and serious back problems, but wanted to finish graduate school so that he could pursue a career advocating and providing social services for Native American youth. He had worked with VRS previously but his services lapsed when he had to attend to other problems in his life. He had reapproached VRS for services and met with staff there. He was told he could not get further funding for schooling until he addressed his student loan default, which he did. He was then told that the VRS counselor he had been working with would not work with him anymore, and he was reassigned to a different counselor, who did not follow up with his case. CAP staff investigated his case and learned that the VR counselor had refused to continue working with him because he made her feel uncomfortable, and that the VR eligibility process had never been completed. Staff then intervened on the client’s behalf with regional VRS management. As a result the client was reassigned to another VR counselor and was determined eligible for services. The client was not served right away, however, because recent medical records showed the client’s disability had improved and did not support a determination that he had serious functional limitations in three or more areas, putting him on the agency waiting list. CAP staff then worked with the client’s medical providers to clarify his disability-related challenges in functioning and on the client’s behalf submitted this additional documentation to VRS. With this updated medical documentation of the client’s disabilities and their impact on his functioning, VRS redetermined the client’s priority for services category, finding serious functional limitations in three areas. The client was then taken off the waiting list and was able to start meeting with his VR counselor to develop his Employment Plan for the services he needs to achieve his employment goals.

3. A 21-year old recent high school graduate was living in rural Minnesota and had not been successful in work or post-secondary schooling. She and her mother felt VRS had not been on her side when she had employment difficulties, and called CAP for assistance. They were also very frustrated with the lack of transportation resources in their area; the mother had to drive her daughter everywhere, including to social service appointments and her job. CAP staff investigated the case and reapproached VRS on the client's behalf to discuss further vocational rehabilitation services. The parties met, discussed the client's needs, including help with getting a driver's license, and developed a written Employment Plan for job coaching assistance, job placement, and assistance with driving and getting a driver's license.

4. A man with traumatic brain injury and back and knee conditions called CAP with concerns that his VRS counselor was not listening to him. He also expressed confusion about what the counselor said to him. CAP staff investigated the situation and, on the man’s behalf, called for a meeting with the VR counselor to discuss the problems the client was having and to move forward with development of an Employment Plan. Later, it became clear that the client needed transportation to and from a job tryout, as well as a back brace and a TENS unit to be able to work. After gathering information from transportation and medical providers working with client, CAP staff clarified that the client did not have access to those services from other funding sources like MA and Medicare. Staff then negotiated with the VR counselor, resulting in funding for transportation and medical equipment being added to the Employment Plan as a Plan Amendment.

5. A man with back problems and mental illness contacted CAP when experiencing difficulties with the third party vendor he was dealing with, and communications with his VR counselor had completely broken down. CAP staff contacted VRS on the client’s behalf and learned that his VR case was still open, and that he had the option to receive services from a different area job placement provider, something that the client had not understood previously. The client was particularly excited to work with one particular local provider because his high school friend had founded the organization. The client reconnected with his VR counselor and made an appointment to discuss further VR services. Not long afterwards, the client was successful in his job search.

6. A 33-year old man with visual impairments was participating in an SSB-funded adjustment to blindness training program at Vision Loss Resources (VLR). He had never lived independently and came from rural Minnesota, a newcomer to the Twin Cities metropolitan area. He ran into difficulties in the adjustment to blindness program and was told his participation would be terminated if there was one more negative incident. After contacting CAP staff for help, staff investigated and advocated that the client needed extra help with social and communications skills. SSB and VLR agreed to continue the training so that the client could improve his independence and ensure his safety in the community.

7. A man with quadriplegia living in the Twin Cities metro area contacted CAP for help getting funding for an intensive exercise program. CAP staff investigated his situation and helped him understand how services must be related to an employment goal, steering him towards funding via insurance or Medical Assistance and advising him on the sort of medical documentation he would need to secure that funding. Staff then advocated on the client’s behalf with county disability services officials to get funding for a backrest for his electric wheelchair; the county social worker agreed to expedite the funding process so the client could get the assistive technology he needed to maintain his health and independence. Staff also helped sort out respective funding obligations from VRS and county disability services for the various services he needed, including personal care attendant services.

8. A man with a spinal cord injury who uses a wheelchair contacted CAP when VRS denied him vocational rehabilitation services. Investigating the situation, CAP staff learned that there was no open case for him at VRS and no services had been denied. Staff then advised the client exactly how to apply for VR services from VRS, including policies and guidance regarding funding for transportation and needed accommodations, and provided written fact sheets with tips for dealing more effectively with VRS.

9. CAP represented an 18 year old male with autism who was in high school. This young man had a particular talent playing piano, and his VR Employment Plan included a goal on pursuing a career involving “music, instruments, or entertainment.” He wanted to access college music class to further his piano expertise through the state’s post-secondary enrollment options program (which allows high school students to take college courses at high school expense) to further an employment goal on his school individualized education plan (IEP) and his VR employment plan. However, initially, both the high school and college refused admission, citing concerns about his ability to take a college class, and the fact that the student was missing a technical admission requirement that was more related to academic classes than a music class. CAP staff investigated the situation, reviewed college policies, and determined a request for reasonable accommodation would be appropriate to gain college acceptance for the music class. Staff also worked with school staff to submit the required paperwork to the college, as well as to adjust the student’s school schedule to allow him to attend the college class during regular high school hours. As a result, the college reversed its position and accepted the client’s enrollment. The high school submitted the necessary paperwork to the college and adjusted the student’s schedule. The student began attending the college class and was successful, gaining the praise of the instructor and using what he learned in his class to perform in public. CAP staff also ensured VR and the school were coordinated in their future approach with the student.

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 Signed12/12/2018