RSA-227 for FY-2020: Submission #1124

District of Columbia
09/30/2020
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
University Legal Services
220 I Street, N.E.
Suite #130
Washington
DC
20002
http://www.uls-dc.org
(877) 221-4638
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Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
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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)
19
0
0
0
0
0
19
B. Training Activities
11
240
ULS presented to transition-age youth with disabilities and their teachers in five different DC Public School high schools about the Pre-Employment Transition Services available from DCRSA, the services available from DCRSA once they leave high school, how to access those services and the legal assistance CAP can provide. One of these presentation was to transition-age youth enrolled in an employment program. Another of these presentations was provided online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ULS presented twice to transition-age youth enrolled in Project Search regarding the vocational rehabilitation services available from DCRSA and the legal assistance CAP can provide.

ULS presented to youth at a juvenile detention facility about the vocational rehabilitation services available from DCRSA.

ULS presented to parents of transition-age District of Columbia residents enrolled in non-public schools for students with disabilities in the DC area. ULS presented on the vocational rehabilitation services available from DCRSA, how to navigate through DCRSA to get the services their children need and the legal assistance CAP can provide.

ULS presented to individuals with disabilities at the DC Public Library regarding the vocational rehabilitation services available from DCRSA and the legal assistance CAP can provide.

ULS presented to Project Action!, a self advocacy group of people with intellectual disabilities about the services available from DCRSA, how to address issues with their services or vocational counselor and the legal assistance CAP can provide.




C. Agency Outreach
ULS tabled at the Mayor's Disability and Diversity Expo and spoke to individuals with disabilities, family members and community members about how to access vocational rehabilitation services in DC and the legal assistance offered by CAP.

ULS tabled at Gallaudet University's Transition Fair for transition-age youth in DC. ULS provided information about how to access vocational rehabilitation services from DCRSA and the legal assistance CAP can provide. ULS also presented before the Fair to attendees about ULS and how we can assist transition-age youth.

ULS developed a short video solely in Spanish for the online LatinX conference organized by the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council. The video described the advocacy services available from ULS, including for individuals who need assistance with their vocational rehabilitation supports provided by DCRSA.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic limited the outreach ULS could conduct, ULS looked to other means to reach District residents with disabilities. ULS mailed information on the services available from DCRSA and CAP to four different day programs for people with intellectual disabilities and to fourteen different public libraries.

The majority of people present at the outreach events and who received our mailings are members of minority and underserved populations. All of ULS' brochures and fact sheets are translated to Spanish so they are readily accessible to the Spanish-speaking population i the District of Columbia.
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
0
0
0
450
2
5
N/A
E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
N/A
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
13
14
27
0
12
B. Problem areas
16
18
20
1
0
17
0
0
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
3
0
8
0
4
0
15
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
9
1
1
1
0
0
2
0
1
0
0
0
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E. Results achieved for individuals
4
0
0
0
8
1
1
1
0
0
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Part III. Program Data
A. Age
2
5
8
10
2
27
B. Gender
10
17
27
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
2
0
2
21
0
1
1
0
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
0
1
0
1
0
1
4
0
2
2
0
1
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
9
0
0
1
1
0
0
0
0
3
0
0
0
0
27
E. Types of Individuals Served
1
0
26
0
1
0
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
2
1. ULS requested information from the DC Department on Disability Services regarding how DCRSA was assisting clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, ULS inquired into how DCRSA was engaging with training institutions to ensure a smooth transition to remote learning for DCRSA clients and how the agency would meet any client’s new accommodation needs (including by providing transportation and accessible technology, as well as waiving agency documentation deadlines). In response, DCRSA’s Deputy Director committed the agency to reviewing, assessing, and addressing accommodation needs on an individual basis at the request of clients. Regarding accessible technology for online learning, DCRSA pledged to refer those clients to Assistive Technology specialists. If a client needed transportation home from a school outside the region as a result of COVID-related shutdowns, DCRSA committed to consider these requests. DCRSA provided that it may allow clients to re-take classes if individual circumstances warrant when clients fail due to documented hardship. DCRSA did not commit to waiving its required documentation deadlines, but said it would consider exceptions to these deadlines on a case-by-case basis.
2. ULS requested that DCRSA allow us to provide input on all future regulatory or policy amendments regarding vocational rehabilitation services. DCRSA put ULS into contact with the staff who serves as the head of the policy committee at DCRSA. The staff agreed to alert ULS every time DCRSA sought to change its policies or regulations and provide ULS with sufficient time to pose questions or suggestions. "
B. Litigation
3
0
0
ULS did not engage in systemic litigation under CAP. ULS represented three clients in fair hearings before the DC Office of Administrative Hearings, however, and one of those hearings has the potential for systemic change. In that case, ULS represented a 55-year-old woman with mental illness and orthopedic impairments. After meeting with her VR counselor, the client decided that she would like to pursue training in HVAC maintenance. DCRSA agreed to her employment goal, but required the client to obtain training from a single organization in DC and that organization required that its trainees complete a general skills exam prior to acceptance. For reasons related to her disability, the client did not want to take that exam. She found another organization listed as a vendor on DCRSA's website that could provide the training without the exam. DCRSA refused, claiming at various points that the test was required for HVAC certification, that it did not have to approve additional vendors, and that some other certification was required by the alternative training organization, which DCRSA also claimed was no longer a vendor. This decision was in concert with statements from the DCRSA Director as at DC Council hearings, he stated that DCRSA currently had enough vendors and did not have to approve additional ones. ULS filed for an administrative hearing before the DC Office of Administrative Hearings. ULS is asserting in the case that DCRSA cannot simply decline to approve vendors on the basis of its claim that it possesses a sufficient slate of them, and that all of DCRSA's legal arguments are pretext for that declination. 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 VR process, including the explicit right of individuals to choose which vendor will provide VR services.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
University Legal Services
No
N/A
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 CAP.

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

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 presentations. He is a member of DC State Rehabilitation Council. He bills approximately 65% of his time to CAP.

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

Accountant (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 CAP.

Intake Specialist (clerical, full-time, partially funded by CAP): Marieka Cober is the Intake Specialist at ULS and is responsible for handling the requests for legal assistance and for opening and closing cases. A small portion of her salary is billed to CAP.

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 and distributing and sending ULS' mail. A very small portion of her salary is billed to CAP.
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
1. ULS represented a 48-year-old woman with mental illness who obtained a security guard position with the help of DCRSA. Her first work tasks were assigned in an ad hoc manner; she was not aware of when or where she would be assigned to work until just before she was required to appear. All her assignments in the first two weeks of work required her to appear in the middle of the night, when public transportation was not available. She requested that DCRSA temporarily fund her commute by Lyft or Uber until she was paid. DCRSA claimed that it was unable to do so unless it had advance notice of when she would work. She could not provide that notice and thus used her extremely limited personal savings to obtain transportation; she soon ran out of money and asked her new boss to pay for her to get to work. ULS contacted the client’s VR counselor and her supervisor, arguing that the agency must provide her with some kind of assistance as it was impossible for her to obtain pre-approval for her transportation expenses. Because of ULS' advocacy, DCRSA reversed its position and quickly reimbursed the client for her past transportation expenses and paid for her transportation expenses until her first payday.

2. ULS represented a 20-year-old woman with learning disabilities woman enrolled in post-secondary education. The individual, who attended school outside of the DC area, experienced significant medical episodes during her freshman year. She wished to transfer to a local school to care for those health issues. During the summer following her freshman year, she attempted to meet with her VR counselor to affect this transfer. DCRSA failed to schedule the meeting and the client was forced to enroll at the local school without DCRSA’s approval. Eventually, and after the semester already began, DCRSA scheduled a meeting and denied her request to transfer. DCRSA asserted that the client did not make the request early enough. ULS requested an informal administrative review meeting, the internal process by which DCRSA can reverse decisions. In that proceeding, ULS argued that the rule DCRSA cited in denying the transfer was inapplicable and unfairly applied given DCRSA’s own failure to meet with the client. DCRSA reversed its decision, agreeing to reimburse the client for the semester that was already underway and fund the completion of her degree.

3. ULS represented a 29-year-old man with autism who was enrolled at a local DC university. ULS became involved when DCRSA failed to pay for his Spring Semester tuition, which would have forced him to withdraw from his classes. Tuition for the semester was included in his IPE. DCRSA stated it would not pay for the Spring Semester until the client provided copies of his official transcript from his current university and from the previous college he attended. ULS successfully negotiated with DCRSA to allow the client to proceed with his classes while he requested copies of his transcripts, and successfully demanded that DCRSA reimburse him for the required transcript fees. ULS ensured he submitted his transcripts, and DCRSA paid his Spring Semester tuition along with the late fees he incurred.

4. ULS represented a 30-year-old man with a visual impairment among other disabilities who was not making meaningful progress towards his employment goal because of failures by DCRSA. Specifically DCRSA agreed to provide graduate education in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, yet after finishing his undergraduate degree, DCRSA failed to provide him with the timely authorizations needed to enroll in a graduate program. The client had tried to enroll in one graduate program, but the school withdrew him because DCRSA failed to timely pay his tuition. ULS successfully advocated with his VR counselor to authorize three pre-requisite courses at the graduate school of his choice, with written documentation that if he succeeded in his classes, DCRSA would continue to support him to complete his graduate degree. ULS also worked to ensure DCRSA timely paid for the prerequisite courses. In addition, ULS successfully advocated for DCRSA to revise his IPE to authorize the accessible technology that he needed to take his classes, including a laptop, screen reader and dictation software, and ensured he received it before starting classes.

5. ULS represented a 34-year-old man with learning disabilities whose employment goal was to become a commercial airline pilot. He had expressed this desire to DCRSA for almost five years. DCRSA finally developed an IPE in 2019 with commercial pilot as his employment goal. DCRSA, however, failed to move forward with developing his IPE to include the specific training he would need to become an airline pilot. Therefore, the client reached out to CAP for assistance. When ULS contacted DCRSA, they indicated that a decision letter was forthcoming and then two weeks later, sent the client a letter denying funding for the training he needed and rescinding his employment goal. DCRSA stated that because he already had a bachelor's degree, the agency would not pay for another bachelor degree program to become a pilot. DCRSA stated no legal basis for rescinding his employment goal eight months after it had been approved by the agency. ULS represented the client in an informal administrative appeal before DCRSA. In a letter drafted to support the appeal and at the appeal meeting, ULS produced evidence that the client needed a bachelor's degree to become a pilot so his previous bachelor's degree would not be wasted and that the client had identified a training program that did not include another bachelor's degree, but provided certification accepted by commercial airlines. ULS produced evidence that the client had been expressing for years his informed choice to become an airline pilot and that DCRSA had no legal basis because there was no legal basis to rescind an agreed-upon employment goal. DCRSA reviewed the evidence ULS and the client provided and held in the client's favor. DCRSA agreed to fund the one-year airline pilot training program the client desired and also agreed to fund his housing while enrolled there as there are no local airline pilot training programs in the Washington, DC area.
Certification
Approved
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