U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

RSA-227 for FY-2021: Submission #1167

District of Columbia
09/30/2021
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Disability Rights DC at University Legal Services
220 I Street, N.E., Suite 130
{Empty}
Washington
DC
20002
http://www.uls-dc.org
(877) 221-4638
N/A
Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
Additional Information
Sandy Bernstein
Sandy Bernstein
(202) 547-0198 ext. 117
sbernstein@uls-dc.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
8
0
0
0
0
6
14
B. Training Activities
30
603
ULS presented monthly to Project Action!, a self advocacy group of people with developmental disabilities, regarding the vocational supports available in DC from the DC Rehabilitation Services Administration (DCRSA), how to access services from DCRSA and the legal assistance ULS can provide if they are denied these services or have concerns about the quality of their services.

ULS presented to several different day programs for people with intellectual disabilities regarding the vocational supports available from DCRSA and how to access these services.

ULS gave several presentations to transition-age youth with mental illness at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington and Children’s National Medical Center regarding the vocational services available from the DCRSA when they leave high school and how to access those services.

ULS presented, along with the DC Department on Disability Services and the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, to court-appointed guardians and attorneys on the rights of people with disabilities during the pandemic. The presentation focused on the rights of people with intellectual disabilities living in residential placements, who were being denied their rights as DC residents to have visitors, leave their home, attend their day and supported employment programs and return to work. This presentation addressed the right to continue receiving vocational supports from DCRSA and its vendors/contractors during the pandemic.

ULS presented to transition-age youth and teachers/staff at several DC public schools on the vocational supports available in DC from DCRSA and how to access those supports when they transition out of high school.

ULS presented on a webinar entitled Person-Centered Services to community providers, nursing home staff, attorneys and guardians, along with DC government officials and the DC Long-Term Care Ombudsman. ULS presented on the right to person-centered services, including the right to employment supports from DCRSA, and how to advocate for such services for people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities.

ULS presented to transition-age youth and young adults in the Project Search program regarding the vocational supports provided by DCRSA, how to access those services and the legal assistance ULS can provide if they are denied such services.

ULS presented to parents of transition-age youth with disabilities who attend nonpublic schools for students with disabilities. ULS discussed the employment supports, including funding for training programs and post-secondary education, that DCRSA provides. ULS also discussed the legal assistance ULS can provide.

ULS presented to individuals with mental illness and their staff in a group home about the services DCRSA can provide, how to access those services and how ULS can assist them if they do not receive their needed services.

ULS conducted a presentation at the DC Public Library to advocates and people with various disabilities on the services available from DCRSA.

When ULS conducted the trainings described above, we typically provided the providers and schools with information about ULS' services and the services available from DCRSA so that information was available for individuals who could not attend the trainings.
C. Agency Outreach
The majority of the individuals presented to and served by these providers and schools are members of underserved and minority populations. All of ULS' brochures and fact sheets are translated into Spanish.

ULS attended and tabled at the LatinX conference, sponsored by the Developmental Disabilities Council and the DC Department on Disability Services. The conference was entirely in Spanish and all attendees were Spanish-speaking individuals with disabilities and family members. ULS spoke to many of these attendees about the vocational supports available in DC from DCRSA and how to access those services.
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
0
0
0
258
1
0
N/A
E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
N/A
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
12
9
21
0
8
B. Problem areas
17
13
16
1
0
15
1
0
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
2
0
3
0
7
1
13
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
8
1
1
0
0
1
1
0
1
0
0
0
N/A
E. Results achieved for individuals
3
0
0
1
8
0
0
1
0
0
N/A
Part III. Program Data
A. Age
1
3
4
10
3
21
B. Gender
9
12
21
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
2
0
2
15
0
1
1
0
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
0
2
2
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
0
6
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
5
0
0
0
0
21
E. Types of Individuals Served
1
0
19
1
3
1
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
3
ULS serves on the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), which advises the DC Rehabilitation Services Administration (DCRSA). This year, as a member of the SRC, ULS advocated for changes to improve the services provided by DCRSA. ULS requested that DCRSA provide advance notice to the SRC of any of the agency’s intended regulatory changes. DCRSA did so with multiple potential policies, including one concerning the sanctioning of third-party contractors who provide poor quality vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities. DCRSA accepted comments of SRC members prior to the finalization of those policies. DCRSA also sought comment from the SRC and ULS in connection with a major re-write of the regulations that govern the provision of vocational rehabilitation services in the District. ULS provided extensive feedback on the changes, advocating, for example, that DCRSA should not reduce timelines for appeal where individuals dispute the agency's decisions and that it should not introduce ambiguity as to the agency's obligation to provide supported employment services. ULS also advocated for further modification of the regulations, such as by advocating that DCRSA employees assist recipients of services in obtaining third-party financial support to attend college. DCRSA accepted some of ULS' comments, (1) adding to the regulations a requirement that vocational rehabilitation counselors are obligated to assist recipients of services in seeking financial assistance to attend college and (2) modifying the standards by which DCRSA evaluates a request for a computer to assist with schoolwork. ULS also lent its voice in support of several positive changes, including one change that expanded support for individuals transitioning out of high school, another change that expanded supports for individuals who desired to be self-employed, and an increase in the amount of time individuals are provided with supported employment.

ULS testified before the D.C. Council during a virtual oversight meeting concerning the Department on Disability Services, the parent agency for the D.C. Rehabilitation Services Administration (DCRSA). During testimony, ULS raised concerns related to DCRSA’s vendors; ULS received reports and saw evidence that DCRSA was declining to seek approval for additional vendors to provide educational or rehabilitation-related services. ULS asserted to the oversight committee that such reluctance undermined the Rehabilitation Act’s requirement that individuals be allowed to exercise informed choice in deciding from where they receive services. ULS also raised issues with DCRSA’s policies regarding postsecondary education funding, which lack important detail concerning what steps a person must take and what documents a person must provide to obtain approval for college. ULS asserted that DCRSA must modify its policies for clarity. Finally, ULS again raised issues with DCRSA’s encrypted email system, which prevents recipients from reviewing emails that are older than 30 days. The City Council followed-up with DCRSA on questions concerning the informed choice provisions of the Rehabilitation Act. Ultimately, DCRSA addressed some of ULS' concerns in drafting new regulations by altering rules concerning the process by which a person can obtain approval to attend post-secondary education, clarifying for the first time the right of an individual to obtain assistance from DCRSA to identify financial aid resources in preparation for enrollment in college.

As the DC City Council's request, ULS drafted questions for the City Council to ask DCRSA, in advance of their annual oversight hearing for the Department on Disability Services. DC City Council seeks ULS' assistance because they recognize that ULS has knowledge of DCRSA's system and is aware of issues that DCRSA clients face with the agency. In addition to seeking data concerning how many people were served and the nature of the services provided, ULS asked questions in several areas. ULS included questions regarding outcomes, specifically asking why many individuals receiving services were employed in cleaning and maintenance jobs, or office support staff positions, as ULS is concerned that people with disabilities are often urged to seek certain employment goals. ULS drafted questions regarding whether DCRSA worked with local employers to establish partnerships to help job-seekers. ULS inquired about pre-employment transition services, seeking information about whether DCRSA had improved its ability to become more involved with recipients of those services prior to high school graduation. Several of ULS' questions concerned training and oversight, requesting information about whether DCRSA could identify high-performing counselors and what it could do to mimic their results. Finally, ULS asked questions concerning the pool of vendors approved to provide vocational rehabilitation services, specifically seeking to know whether DCRSA had stopped approving vendors or applied new requirements for vendor eligibility. DC City Council did ask DCRSA many of ULS' questions. DCRSA's responses to these questions help to inform the Council and the public about the services available from DCRSA. They allows aid ULS in future advocacy, both in individual cases and policy initiatives.
B. Litigation
0
3
2
ULS did not engage in systemic litigation under CAP. However, one of the three cases ULS has before the DC Office of Administrative Hearings has the potential for systemic change. ULS reported on this case in last year's report but it remains ongoing. In that case, ULS represents a 56-year old woman with mental illness and orthopedic impairments. The client wants to pursue training and employment in HVAC maintenance. DCRSA agreed to her employment goal, but required the client to obtain training from one vendor and that vendor requires its trainees to complete a general skills test prior to acceptance. For reasons related to her disability, the client did not want to take the exam and it is not required to work in the HVAC field. The client identified another agency, listed as a vendor on DCRSA's website, that could provide the training and did not require the general skills test. DCRSA refused, incorrectly claiming that the test was required for HVAC certification, that it did not have additional vendors, and that some other certification was required by the alternative training agency, which DCRSA claimed was no longer a vendor. This decision was consistent with statements from the DCRSA Director at a DC City Council hearing that DCRSA currently has enough vendors and did not need to approve additional ones. ULS filed for a fair hearing before the DC Office of Administrative Hearings and asserted that DCRSA cannot simply decline to approve vendors on the basis of its claim that it possesses a sufficient number of them. This case could result in systemic change because a favorable result would require DCRSA to comply with regulations providing for informed decision-making in the vocational rehabilitation process, including the explicit right of individuals to choose which vendor will provide vocational rehabilitation services.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
University Legal Services
No
{Empty}
B. Staff Employed
Executive Director (professional, full time, partially funded by CAP): Jane Brown is the Executive Director of University Legal Services (ULS). She supervises all employees and grants of the agency. A very small portion of her salary is billed to the CAP grant.

Legal Director/CAP Director (professional, full-time, partially funded by CAP): Sandy Bernstein is the Legal Director at ULS and supervises all of the legal and policy work of the agency, including the CAP work. She closely supervises the staff attorneys who handle the CAP cases and advocacy, handles a small number of CAP cases herself and leads some of the trainings and outreach events. She bills approximately 10% of her time to the CAP grant.

Staff Attorney (professional, full-time, partially funded by CAP): Abraham Hiatt is the lead CAP attorney at ULS and handles the majority of the CAP cases and policy initiatives. He also conducts outreach and trainings. He is a member of the DC State Rehabilitation Council. He bills approximately 65% of his time to the CAP grant.

Staff Attorney (professional, full-time, partially funded by CAP): Peter Stephan is an attorney and also represents CAP clients and engages in trainings and outreach under the CAP grant. He bills approximately 25% of his time to the CAP grant.

Chief Financial Officer (professional, full-time, partially funded by CAP): Lan Ji is responsible for billing and accounting for the CAP grant. A very small portion of her salary is billed to the CAP grant.

Intake Specialist (clerical, full-time, partially billed to CAP): Marieka Cober was the Intake Specialist until mid-November 2020. Ms. Cover left ULS and was replaced by Dorothy Neher. Both were/are responsible for handling the requests for legal assistance and for opening and closing cases. A small portion of their salary is billed to the CAP grant.

Receptionist (clerical, full-time, partially funded by CAP): Michelle Beard is the receptionist for ULS and is responsible for answering the phones and directing callers to ULS' attorneys and advocates. She also distributes mail to staff and sends out outgoing mail. A very small portion of her salary is billed to the CAP grant.
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
ULS represented a 29-year-old man with cerebral palsy and advocated that the DC Rehabilitation Services Administration (DCRSA) reverse its denial of payment of his tuition for the summer semester 2021. DCRSA had approved summer classes for previous summers in his degree program. The client asked for his vocational counselor’s reasoning for the decision and then DCRSA then issued a second decision denying all summer classes for summer 2021 and all future years. ULS contacted DCRSA’s attorney to review and correct the legal and factual errors in the decisions, noting that the client asked only for support this summer, and demonstrated he would graduate a semester early, meeting DCRSA's policy criteria for approving summer classes. ULS also filed an appeal and requested an informal administrative review meeting to preserve his due process rights. ULS was successful and DCRSA issued a new decision granting support for this summer semester classes prior to the scheduling of the informal administrative review meeting. As a result of ULS’ advocacy, the client was able to attend summer classes without interruption or delay.

ULS is representing a 43-year-old woman with circulatory conditions including POTS to request a change of counselor who was an obstacle to the client’s progress towards her employment goal. The client’s counselor failed for years to timely pay her tuition, forcing the client’s withdrawal from school for three years. Additionally, the counselor never approved or denied the request for a zero-gravity workstation despite receiving the request three years ago. ULS formally requested a change of counselor through a letter to DCRSA’s program manager and DCRSA approved the transfer request. ULS also represents the client in her request to DCRSA to provide her with a zero-gravity workstation, which she needs for her disability, while she studies in her graduate program. DCRSA has now denied the client’s request for the workstation she requires and ULS has appealed that decision and requested an informal administrative review meeting, providing documentation for a physician that this workstation is necessary. DCRSA’s decision is pending.

ULS represented a 19-year-old man with autism. That individual had attended a nearby university for a single semester. Prior to attendance, he worked with his DCRSA counselor to obtain approval to attend and funding support for college. He provided DCRSA with an acceptance letter and a proposed course of study as required by DCRSA's policy. Approximately two weeks before school was to begin, DCRSA sent the individual, for the first time, a list of documents DCRSA required in order to finalize support. DCRSA did not set a deadline or even note any urgency. The individual submitted those documents to DCRSA just over a week after school began. Forty days later, DCRSA denied the funding request, claiming that the individual failed to submit required documentation. In reaching that conclusion, DCRSA pointed only to its policy requiring the submission of a letter of acceptance and proposed course of study, documents that were submitted long before the semester began. After DCRSA internally affirmed its decision for the same reason, ULS petitioned for review before the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. ULS asserted that the individual properly submitted the only documents required by the law and that DCRSA provided no basis in law for its assertion that any other documents were not timely submitted. Shortly thereafter, DCRSA agreed to settle the matter, funding the individual’s education for the relevant semester. An agreement was entered into by both parties.

ULS represented a 20-year-old DC woman with learning disabilities. She transferred to a local community college after leaving a college in Florida for health-related reasons. DCRSA initially declined to allow funding for the individual’s attendance at the community college, claiming that she requested the transfer too late. DCRSA reversed that decision, agreeing to fund the previous semester. Subsequently, the individual attended the community college and entered the graphic design program. DCRSA had failed previously to obtain the individual’s signature on an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) covering her attendance at the Florida college. DCRSA declined to issue a new IPE covering attendance at the community college until it received a signed version of the earlier one. ULS contacted the agency, asserting that the individual must be provided with both IPEs at the same time in order to ensure that she was able to secure the agency’s commitment to funding her current education. DCRSA ultimately agreed to provide both IPEs at the same time for signature, with the newer one providing support for education at the community college. Additionally, ULS coordinated with the individual and her school to ensure that DCRSA funded entirely the purchase of a computer capable of running demanding graphic design programs necessary for the individual’s education. That computer was also added to the IPE as a service.
Certification
Approved
Sandy Bernstein
Legal Director
2022-01-26
OMB Notice

OMB Control Number: 1820-0528, approved for use through 07/31/2023

According to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, no persons are required to respond to a collection of information unless such collection displays a valid OMB control number. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 16 hours per response, including time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. The obligation to respond to this collection is required to obtain or retain a benefit (Section 13 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended). Send comments regarding the burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20202-4537 or email ICDocketMgr@ed.gov and reference the OMB Control Number 1820-0528. Note: Please do not return the completed form to this address.