Client, an African American male in his 20s, was diagnosed with Autism. He had difficulty with verbal and written communication and often missed social cues. He was motivated and capable of learning with increased time and repetition. The young man was very polite and thoughtful towards adults, but he required verbal prompting during social interactions with adults. Therefore, client’s mom often accompanied him to his meetings with the VR Agency. The young man transitioned to VR services from his high school Pre-ETS. During the second year of client’s VR services, his counselor changed because his intial VRC transferred to another office. Client and his mom worked for a short time with the new VRC, but client and his mom felt that the VRC was dismissive of client’s goals, the service providers he and his mom proposed, and the involvement of his mom. After a contentious meeting with the VRC, her supervisor, client, and his mom, client requested a transfer to the office where his former VRC worked in order to work with him. Client stated that he had rapport with his former VRC who was more patient and listened well. His mom added that the VRC being a minority male helped the VRC better understand the client. She stated that the VRC understood the cultural context and the labor market for minorities. This combination allowed him to provide services through a lens which client’s current VRC (a middle-aged white female) did not seem to acknowledge. The current VR office serving the client approved the transfer, but the receiving VR Office rejected it. The rejection stated that client was outside of the catchment area, that it was against VR best practice to allow clients to choose their counselors, and client’s service options would be the same despite the VR office.
Client contacted CAP to appeal the denial. Reviewing the file, CAP discovered that client’s VR service delivery was subpar. When client’s VR services started in 2015 as a student under Pre–ETS, he was employed as a car wash attendant. As of 2019, client’s employment goal was listed as car wash attendant. Neither counselor did a vocational assessment to help client with an employment goal consistent with his interest, abilities, capabilities, etc. as required under the regulations and informed choice. Client’s interest in radio and TV production was documented throughout his file, yet this interest was neither explored through Pre-ETS nor educational opportunities. In talking with client and his mom about the purpose of VR services, his mom took partial ownership of client’s VR goal remaining the same as his current employment, but CAP also explained how VR should have been more proactive in discussing specific VR services available to client. CAP assisted client with the appeal in hopes of getting client’s case transferred and giving him a chance to work with his former counselor and to help him change his employment goal.
The key issues in this matter were that VR did not have a policy regarding clients choosing their counselors and there was no written procedure for requesting counselor/office transfers. After submitting questions to the VR Agency’s General Counsel about the standard practice for requesting a new counselor and transferring to another VR office, CAP and client were able to resolve the matter through an Administrative Review, the informal appeal for the VR Agency. During the Review, CAP emphasized that the Agency service delivery was unsatisfactory as client’s employment goal was not a goal at all because he was working as a carwash attendant before his VR service. We also discussed the lack of understanding of the cultural context for the delivery of client VR’s services in the office which was currently being served and how the office he requested could remedy that situation. This breakdown in communication because of the cultural differences had severely damaged the relationship client and his mom had with the current counselor and office. CAP explained that this would create tension which would hinder VR service delivery. Also, CAP discussed how the rapport and trust client had with his former VR counselor encouraged open communication in a way that would help client discover and attain a viable employment goal. CAP discussed how an office transfer and assignment to his former counselor was in the best interest of the client and would present the best opportunity for client to discover and achieve a viable employment goal. Ultimately, it was CAP’s assistance in helping client find his own voice to speak out about how he felt when the current office disrespected his mom, given her importance in helping him transition to independence. Also, in the Administrative Review, he spoke about his rapport with the former counselor and how he felt that the counselor listened to him and his mom, presented options, allowed client to choose, and supported client in that choice. The Area Directors of both VR offices agreed that the relationship with the current office was damaged and that a fresh start for client would be the best option. Both offices agreed to the transfer, but the receiving office was still undecided as to whether client would be assigned to the requested counselor. A few weeks after the Administrative Review, client also received written notice that he would be assigned to his former counselor. Currently, client is doing career exploration and taking a Communications course at a community college.
Client sought CAP assistance with an appeal of VR’s denial of financial support of LPN training. CAP reviewed client’s VR file and then spoke with client about her employment goal and the applicable regulations. CAP evaluation supported VR’s denial and explained to client our analysis. Client had multiple documented disabilities that hindered her ability to walk, lift, stand for long periods, and manipulate small objects. The doctor providing her care for the back and mobility-related issues discussed her condition in a letter that implied that her ability to perform any physically demanding job was extremely limited, even with reasonable accommodations. Further, client had submitted a letter to a WIOA funded LPN training program stating her need to temporarily withdraw due to her high-risk for COVID-19. In discussing our analysis with client, we explained that the documentation of her disabilities seemed to indicate that she could not work successfully as a nurse even with accommodations because of the severity of her physical limitations. Based on knowledge and research into nursing school clinicals and the likely available accommodations; on the physical limitations imposed by her degenerative medical conditions; and her own statements about her increased risk for COVID-19, we agreed that VR’s position was appropriate. We also explained that even if VR approved her employment goal, VR could require her to use the comparable benefits available through the WIOA training funds. We explained to client the regulations upon which we relied for our conclusion.
Client contended that the VR Agency’s denial was based on her already having a Bachelor’s degree, not on her inability to become an LPN. Client felt that CAP was missing the main issue and insisted that VR had her denial letter confused with another client’s situation. Client explained that she would never need to meet the physical demands of a nurse because she was seeking higher level positions in an Addition Recovery Center. She reported that the Administrative Nurse Management positions that she was targeting would not have heavy physical demands. Client reported that she needed both a Recovery Coach and the LPN licensure for her goal. She stated that her counselor would not allow both. We explained the VR regulation on which her VRC was likely relying. CAP discussed with client that while her contention maybe true, her degenerative medical condition called into question her ability to complete the clinical component of the training, even with accommodations. We discussed with client the type of proof that would change CAP’s analysis. Client asked for additional time to gather the documentation. CAP simultaneously researched the training and clinical requirements of the LPN program to which client applied and reviewed job descriptions client had submitted to the program. In CAP’s analysis, the new documentation client submitted was not plausible given the stark contrast it was to the initial documents. For example, her new doctor’s letter excluded her functional limitations and simply stated that she could work part time with reasonable accommodations. CAP explained why the documentation did not seem reliable. CAP was not persuaded to change its original conclusion. We encouraged client to spend time getting a medical assessment that is specific as to her abilities because the initial doctor’s letter detailed her limitations strongly and would be refuted best with an updated clinical assessment. Also, CAP recommended that client give some thought to what she would enjoy about being a managing a Recovery Coach Center and explore similar careers based on what she enjoys but would have less of a physical component.
Client was participating in a Job Driven Training (JDT) for cybersecurity. It was organized and funded by the VR Agency but conducted through the Community College workforce development program. The training started in-person but moved to a virtual platform due to COVID-19 State of Emergency Orders. After repeated attempts at self-advocacy to get the recommended computer and the assistive technology to participate in the class remotely, the client contacted CAP for assistance with addressing her technology and communication needs. In addition to technology and communication issues, CAP noted several deficiencies in VR service delivery: (1) the VR agency pressured the client into taking the class; (2) did not request a new learning accommodation assessment for the remote learning environment; (3) would not provide a sufficient time to allow client to catch up with the class due to the delays getting her the recommended equipment; and (4) client’s VRC was unaware of the existing issues and road blocks with the JDT which could have prevented some of the delays in service.
After a series of discussions with the VRC, Job Placement Specialist, and the Community College, CAP showed that the providers had not fulfilled their obligations toward client. CAP help client was able obtain an assistive technology evaluation which provided her with a computer and software that allowed effective participation in the course. Also, Disability Services at the Community College agreed to reevaluate client to determine the accommodations needed to support her as an on-line learner. CAP helped client revise the Communication Plan the VR Agency and Community College proposed. Client wanted it to address her concerns with misinformation and to add language about including her in the decision-making process for about her training and VR service needs. Finally, CAP supported client in her advocacy to continue the cybersecurity training as an independent study because the delays in getting the proper equipment. Client’s case is ongoing. However, the deficiencies in her case led to improvement of the JDT for all the VR consumer enrolled.