An individual received assurances that the concerns she experienced during her psychological evaluation have been addressed with the examiner and that Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) will monitor the evaluation experiences of other VR clients who participate in evaluation services with this examiner in the future. A 63-year-old Hispanic female who resides in an urban area and has an autoimmune disorder contacted Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT), Client Assistance Program (CAP) and reported that VR was delaying in providing services to her and was not willing to fund the specific course she needed to become re-certified and return to work in her field of IT program management. Prior to her contact with CAP our client had strongly self-advocated for services and VR agreed to provide the financial support for the program during the three days between the time our client contacted CAP and we were able to re-connect with her to discuss her concerns. During that follow-up contact she provided this training update, which CAP later confirmed with VR and reviewed the completed Individualized Plan for Employment. Our client also shared her concerns related to the evaluation experience and inquired if CAP could address this issue with VR. She reported that the examiner had asked probing questions about personal relationships, made comments which she perceived as derogatory toward her ethnicity and stated that he could ask her whatever questions he wanted to ask. As DRT had worked with two previous VR clients several years ago who had negative test reporting experiences with this same examiner and had discussed those issues with VR at that time, DRT once again reached out to VR to discuss the current concerns of our client. The VR Director of Field Services subsequently addressed the issue with the VR regional supervisors in the area and one of those supervisors discussed the concerns with the examiner. VR agreed to monitor the evaluation experiences of VR clients who participate in evaluations with that examiner in the future.
A young female who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorder is completing final preparations to submit her food truck self-employment business plan to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) for review. A 27-year-old, African-American female who resides in an urban area of the state contacted CAP and reported that her VR Counselor (VRC) was not maintaining communication with her about her case. She also had not received anticipated updates regarding the business plan she submitted for a dog treat business. CAP assisted our client with reestablishing contact with her VRC and obtained their concerns about her business plan. As a result, CAP discussed the information with our client, who shared she had begun to have concerns about the viability of such a business in light of changes due to COVID-19. Our client contacted her VRC about this concern and the possibility of converting to a food truck business. Her VRC encouraged her to prepare and submit a self-employment business plan for such a business. CAP worked with our client to review information and requirements related to such businesses and reviewed/edited multiple versions of the plan with her. Our client also received self-employment guidance from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and is now finalizing her business plan for final review by the SBDC. Subsequently, she will be prepared to submit her business plan to VR for consideration of financial support.
A nursing student is pursuing a Bachelor of Nursing degree with full sponsorship from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) at a private nursing school. A 45-year-old, Caucasian man with anxiety disorder contacted CAP because VR denied his request for financial support to exceed state rates for his tuition at a private nursing school. Our client’s VR program had included the private school on his Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) from the beginning of his program. However, VR policy only allows VR to pay the state rate. Our client cited several reasons for his request including ineligibility for some of the state school programs, childcare issues and inability to be accepted at some schools due to withdraws from another program not to mention the private school accelerated program would have our client working as a nurse twelve months prior to the state programs. VR denied the request to exceed state rates, which would force our client out of his current program risking not being able to complete his degree at all. Our client filed an appeal, which was never scheduled, although the counselor provided our client with the contact information for the Client Assistance Program (CAP). CAP filed an exception request on our client’s behalf instead of appealing through an informal administrative review. After the review of the request and our client’s file, VR reversed their decision and granted our client full sponsorship at his chosen service provider, the private nursing school. Our client had to take out a student loan at the private school at the beginning of the spring semester in order to stay in the program. Initially, VR would not pay this amount, only the remainder for the term at full rate. DRT followed up with VR management who the exception request was initially filed. VR management reversed this decision as well citing an oversight in the original exception request decision. Our client will complete his BSN in 16 months instead of two years and will seek to enter the workforce at that time.
A young man who has Autism has resumed working with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and with a new provider to again pursue employment in his long-term interest area of film and video editing. The mother of a 27-year-old Caucasian male who resides in an urban area of the state contacted Disability Rights Tennessee’s (DRT), Client Assistance Program (CAP) and reported that staff from VR and the provider agency unexpectedly met with her son the day before during his workday to change his employment objective to match the production job in which he was working and explained to him the plan to close his case with VR as he was successfully employed. A few years ago our client completed an associate degree program and obtained multiple certifications related to his interest in film and video editing. Since that time he worked with various VR service providers to seek employment in his chosen field and participated in internships but had not yet attained his employment goal. He obtained a job as a production worker simply to earn money and to work to build some work history but he and his parents consistently reported to VR and the service provider that he wanted to continue to work with VR and the provider toward achieving his true employment objective of film and video editing. Our client and his mother explained to VR that they had contacted CAP after VR tried to close his case and VR agreed to maintain an open case. VR subsequently assigned our client to a different VR Counselor (VRC) and met with our client, his mother and CAP to discuss service provider options. Our client’s Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) was amended to return to his chosen employment objective and to work with a different service provider to acquire job readiness skills and to receive job placement services. As VR had rather abruptly taken steps to close our client’s VR case even though he was employed in a job which did not match with his chosen employment objective, CAP met with the VR regional supervisor to discuss these concerns. CAP reviewed the importance of VR ensuring that individuals’ cases are not closed merely because they have obtained employment if it is not aligned with their chosen employment objective. The importance of customer-centered practices was reviewed and it was agreed that individual VR customers must receive the opportunity to fully discuss their options with VR and service provider staff in order to make a fully informed choice regarding their employment and the appropriate closure of their VR case.
A high school senior with autism is finally connected to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and is receiving Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). The mother of a 17-year-old male contacted Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT), Client Assistance Program (CAP) to obtain contact information of her son’s high school Pre-ETS counselor. She stated she had looked everywhere on-line, but she could not find the information. CAP contacted the Middle TN Pre-ETS Coordinator for VR and acquired the information, which CAP passed on to our client’s mother. She attempted to contact the counselor to no avail. So, CAP facilitated the communication by emailing the counselor, the Pre-ETS Coordinator and VR’s Transition Coordinator. After CAP’s facilitation of this communication, our client is now receiving these transition services that will provide him with skills that will prepare for him for future employment.
A man with mental illness and who is a Social Security beneficiary is once again receiving job placement assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Our client is a 56-year-old Caucasian man with impulsive explosive disorder and depression. He wants to work near his home and not have to drive far to go to work. He has worked with VR in the past and he stated that VR keeps sending him to apply for jobs that are very far from his home. He also has not received contact from VR since last year. Our client said he needed to find employment and VR was doing nothing to help him. Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT), Client Assistance Program (CAP) contacted VR and learned VR had closed his case the year before. CAP explained our clients concerns to VR and they immediately met with us to discuss taking our client’s application. VR scheduled a meeting with our client for this purpose and began the eligibility process. Our client has signed his Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) with VR and was referred to a community rehabilitation provider. As a result, he will now have access to services that will assist him with obtaining gainful employment near his home.
An individual has filed her application with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), been determined eligible for services, and is beginning the process of working with VR to pursue her employment objective. A 49-year-old Caucasian female who sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of a sequestered disc contacted Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT), Client Assistance Program (CAP) regarding concerns with VR. She reported that she had been attempting to make contact with the VR office in her rural area of the state for almost one year in order to file an application for services. She had previously lived in another state where she had worked with the VR program to pursue her bachelor’s degree. At the time of her move to Tennessee she had only one semester of courses to complete in her online education program and wished to work with Tennessee's VR program to complete her degree. CAP contacted a supervisor in the VR program, and he immediately initiated contact with our client and scheduled for her to hold a call with a VR counselor within a few days. Our client has completed her application with VR, was determined eligible for services, and begun the next steps toward completing her educational program to prepare her to become an instructor in an online radiology technology program.
An individual who has autism and mental illness has obtained and successfully maintained employment as a courtesy clerk in a grocery store after having not been employed for 14 years. The mother of a 40-year-old Hispanic female who resides in a large metropolitan area contacted Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT), Client Assistance Program (CAP) and reported that her daughter had experienced delays in receiving supported employment services through Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and the community rehabilitation provider (CRP). It was learned that the delays had been primarily caused by places of employment not agreeing to have a job coach on site with an employee, due to COVID-19 concerns. Soon thereafter, the CRP contacted our client and her mother about her future job and they discussed with her the requirements for a job coach as well as the number of hours which VR expects an individual to work per week. Our client’s mother expressed concerns about the information provided. CAP reviewed VR policy with our client and her mother to clarify the information they had received and explained the option to request an exception to the number of hours worked per week, provided the hours would meet the needs of the employer. CAP also reviewed this information with the VR Counselor on client's behalf. After three weeks of on-the job training with her job coach from the CRP, the CRP determined that our client had successfully learned her job duties and was determined as stabilized in her employment. Per our client’s request, and with approval from the CRP and VR, her personal assistant began serving as her job coach to assist her as needed to maintain employment. At the time of her case closure with CAP, our client had maintained her employment for over five weeks and worked 12 hours per week. While she reported that she would like to have the opportunity to bag groceries more often, she reported that she enjoyed her new job.
With the provisions of appropriate accommodations from his school, an individual who is deaf can now stay in school with VR sponsorship to pursue his employment goal. A 20-year-old Caucasian man who is deaf accepted a partial sports scholarship to a private college as a member of their bowling team and received Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) sponsorship and other public funding. Due to his school not providing an interpreter for him until well into his second semester, his grades suffered, and he was placed on probation by both the school and VR. CAP advocated for VR to change his status at the end of his spring semester to be on probation then and not suspension because he was not provided the accommodations his first semester in school. VR agreed and discussed our client’s accommodations further with the school, so our client receives CART services going forward since this accommodation works best for him. Due to CAP’s advocacy efforts, our client is able to remain in school. Our client took classes in the summer session and successfully achieved the GPA needed to keep his VR sponsorship of his training program. However, our client could not get his grades to his counselor prior to the Fall semester start. Because of a loss of internet services when taking his final exams of the summer session, our client was permitted to complete that exam the next school day, which happened to be the first day of the fall semester. For this reason, VR did not receive his grades on time and his counselor pulled VR sponsorship because she did not receive our client’s grades on time. Our client and his family contacted CAP for help. CAP escalated this issue to VR management, who in turn reached out to the counselor’s supervisor. VR then overturned our client’s counselor’s decision and provided the funding for our client to remain in school.
A young woman’s concerns about her training program receiving payment from VR for her training were resolved. A 24-year-old Caucasian woman with autism obtained Vocational Rehabilitation’s (VR) agreement for her to attend an out-of-state school that was actually close to her Tennessee home. Our client had completed college and she needed to learn some social skills to help her become more employable and the program also provided job placement services. The program had not received payment from VR even though our client had almost completed her training. Disability Rights Tennessee’s (DRT), Client Assistance Program (CAP) contacted VR to notify them of the problem. VR reported due to a computer system change and delays that occurred from that change, the check had been sent later than usual. VR worked with the training program vendor to assure CAP and our client that the training program had received payment.
A transition age youth who has attention deficit disorder and optic nerve hypoplasia received information to assist her in working with her Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselor to identify an appropriate employment goal and to receive services to assist her in achieving this goal. The mother of a 19-year-old Caucasian female who resides in an urban area of the state contacted Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) and reported that her daughter had applied for VR services four months prior and had since been shuffled between VR divisions without having yet been determined eligible for services. CAP shared information regarding the eligibility determination process and associated timelines as well as the process for priority category (PC) determination. Shortly thereafter, our client received news from VR that her case had been transferred back to the original VR Counselor (VRC) with whom she had applied, and she had been determined eligible for services at the PC 1 service level. As our client and her mother had expressed concerns about delays in receiving a vocational assessment and information about driver education training through VR, CAP provided information regarding options for the vocational assessment services and shared VR policy information related to driver education services. Our client is now prepared to begin the process of working with VR to receive the services necessary to explore her career interests and abilities and to achieve employment in her chosen field.