RSA-227 for FY-2020: Submission #1156

New York
09/30/2020
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Disability Rights New York
725 BROADWAY
SUITE 450
Albany
New York
12207-5001
http://www.drny.org
518-432-7861
800-993-8982
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Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
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Additional Information
Erica Marie Molina, Esq.
Erica Marie Molina, Esq.
518-432-7861
erica.molina@drny.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
45
2
0
0
9
4
60
B. Training Activities
3
333
**Note** In New York, the state vocational rehabilitation agencies are the New York State Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) and the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB). The former is a general VR agency serving people with all disabilities except blindness, while the latter is a VR agency only serving those who are blind.

DRNY presented multiple trainings during the Annual National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) Conference in June 2020. In particular, DRNY presented on Enhancing Your Program Management Skills, and also a 5-day Due Process Institute. The Management Skills training focused on remote work environments, and targeted efficiency, resource development, and effective documentation in project management. The Due Process Institute, provided technical training on best practices for representing clients at VR hearings and special education hearings. The week-long institute had sessions on factual investigations, VR-specific issues, direct and cross examination, opening and closing statements, and the writing of legal briefs.

DRNY also provided targeted trainings to blind individuals, and to youth in transition from high school to college and/or employment. We prepared presentations for the 2020 Vision Rehabilitation and Employment Institute, the New York State Special Education Task Force (SETF) Annual Conference, and the 2020 Youth Conference organized by the WIPA Director at the City of New York’s Hostos Community College. These latter two events were specifically meant to reach the youth and transition-aged population. Each of these events have been postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We anticipate reviving these presentations when it is safe to hold in-person training events.
C. Agency Outreach
DRNY targeted outreach and provided services to individuals in previously unserved or underserved groups. Many of these efforts are related to the systemic projects described in this report.

C.A.R.E.

DRNY created the Committee on Advancing Racial Equality (C.A.R.E.) as a direct response to the numerous injustices and systemic failures brought to light by the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd. Since May 2020, we have made several public announcements about its stance in the community as an anti-racist organization. DRNY is committed to fighting for racial justice. Systemic racism affects our clients, and the supports and services they seek in their communities. In FY 2021, DRNY will continue its efforts to address these injustices in all its work.

Native American Outreaches & Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation

We have continued our working relationship with two tribal vocational rehabilitation (TVR) agencies within the state, as well as other agencies serving the Native American community. Many of the outreaches and council meetings planned for FY 2020 were cancelled due to the pandemic. DRNY will continue this work in FY 2021.

Festival of Inclusion

We attended the First Annual Festival of Inclusion, held at Nazareth College’s Golisano Training Center. Every participating organization was asked to bring an interactive activity. DRNY wrote prompts such as, “What is your dream job?” “What makes you feel safe?” and “How do you include others?” and helped attendees write or spell their answers and pin them on the board for others to read for inspiration. There were over 1,000 people in attendance, and more than 80 people stopping by the DRNY table for information.

Sub-Minimum Wage Population

We continued our focus of reaching those people with disabilities who work in sheltered workshops at a subminimum wage rate, to align with WIOA’s mandates in Section 511. DRNY’s CAP team collaborated with team members from our Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program. The team has created presentations on employment-related resources available to eligible individuals, such as VR services and Social Security work incentives. We plan to use these resources for in-person training when it is safe to deliver trainings in this manner again.

Podcasts

We continue to make information available to the public so that everyone can have the information they need to self-advocate and seek services. We created podcasts on the following CAP-targeted topics: the NYS Business Enterprise Program (BEP), ACCES-VR services, Social Security’s Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), and the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month.
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
3
0
51
15750
3
000
We worked to make sure that DRNY is recognized as a resource for people with disabilities seeking services under the Rehabilitation Act. This includes disseminating brochures and other resources to clients, the public, and stakeholders. Information is provided to the public and groups within New York State. We have targeted VR agencies and ILCs to disseminate information; these referral sources have produced many new referrals to DRNY. Referrals also come from stakeholders who participate with DRNY in various state councils, committees, and task forces. In particular, we serve on both the ACCES-VR and NYSCB State Rehabilitation Councils. We regularly update both Councils on our programs. Our active participation has resulted in consistent requests for technical assistance, and also in information and referral (I&R) and case service requests.
E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
We were asked to contribute to a video series celebrating the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Northeast ADA Center is a member of the ADA National Network funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. The CAP Director represented DRNY in this video series, and focused discussion on the importance of the ADA’s impact on people with mental illness. The video can be found here: https://northeastada.org/media/play/0_qgogpkrn. The full series can be found here: https://northeastada.org/media.
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
53
111
164
13
76
B. Problem areas
4
31
133
7
0
1
1
0
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
24
41
33
0
2
1
101
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
49
10
15
1
0
6
0
15
3
1
1
0
N/A
E. Results achieved for individuals
41
4
3
2
25
11
8
4
0
3
--In the first case, the client died during representation.

--In the second case, we achieved a favorable outcome at hearing for the client, and so the client’s case progressed toward vehicle modification.

--In the third case, the client created a conflict of interest during representation, and so the case had to be closed.
Part III. Program Data
A. Age
9
35
35
80
5
164
B. Gender
83
81
164
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
25
0
6
36
1
86
7
3
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
0
8
1
0
0
4
16
2
7
5
0
4
11
3
1
1
3
4
3
6
34
0
0
4
9
16
0
1
0
17
0
1
3
0
164
E. Types of Individuals Served
12
0
152
2
1
0
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
2
Applications during Pandemic:

In March 2020, we learned that ACCES-VR had stopped accepting and processing all applications for VR services. New clients seeking VR services had their applications returned to them by ACCES-VR and were told to resubmit their applications at a later time. ACCES-VR cited the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and overall VR counselor stress as the reason for these actions. ACCES-VR provided no end date to the public, or to stakeholders, for this cessation. We responded by vigorously pushing back against this practice and informing ACCES-VR that refusal to process VR applications was inconsistent with ACCES-VR’s mission. ACCES-VR declined to reverse its policy. We then approached the appropriate contacts at the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) for assistance. RSA agreed with DRNY that the Rehabilitation Act does not allow this practice to stand as an indefinite solution. RSA conferred directly with ACCES-VR leadership. RSA also followed up with guidance to all VR agencies about the appropriateness of online applications, electronic signatures, and related issues. In May 2020, ACCES-VR reversed this policy and began processing VR applications. We continue to closely monitor the processing of applications to ensure that ACCES-VR does not revert to the policy of delaying the eligibility determination process.

Proper SSA Guidance:

DRNY discovered that there was erroneous information on Social Security’s New York Regional Office webpage regarding the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS). DRNY often encourages applicants and recipients of VR services to explore PASS as a tool in their employment efforts. The regional webpage stated that this work incentive was available for individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. However, it failed to mention that recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are also eligible for PASS. DRNY brought this to the direct attention of the Regional Office. As a result, the webpage has been fixed, and now reflects proper information about eligibility for PASS.

VR Service Provider Project:

We expanded outreach to service providers contracted by ACCES-VR and educated them on DRNY’s services. After issuing surveys to these service providers, we developed a plan for in-person visits and provided technical assistance to providers serving eligible individuals. Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, these visits were cancelled. DRNY will continue this work in FY 2021.

Sub-Minimum Wage Workers:

As detailed above, DRNY targeted outreach and training to workers who receive sub-minimum wages in sheltered workshop settings. DRNY will continue this work in FY 2021.

CAP Program Priorities:

DRNY has been able to focus its resources on certain substantive areas while providing the public with a clear articulation of issues with which DRNY might be able to assist. Priorities are also used to identify and monitor systemic problems. In FY 2020, DRNY established a new structure for its CAP priorities and objectives. DRNY will use these priorities and objectives (copied below) in the coming fiscal year to inform its future advocacy efforts.

I. Priority 1: Advocate for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services available through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, with particular attention to individuals in underserved populations.

a. Objective 1: provide advocacy to individuals who are in the process of applying for VR services while ensuring the legal standards for findings of eligibility and ineligibility are maintained by VR agencies.

b. Objective 2: provide advocacy to individuals who are in the individualized plan for employment (IPE) development stage of the VR process.

c. Objective 3: provide advocacy to individuals who are seeking assistive technology and/or rehabilitative technology in an effort to achieve their IPE goal.

d. Objective 4: provide advocacy to individuals who are seeking transportation, driving lessons, and/or vehicle modification assistance from VR agencies in an effort to achieve their IPE goal.

e. Objective 5: provide advocacy to individuals who are seeking to establish or reestablish communication and/or a productive working relationship with their vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC).

f. Objective 6: provide advocacy to individuals who are seeking support from their VR agency in their goal of self-employment.

g. Objective 7: provide advocacy to individuals eligible for services under Section 511 of the Act, related to the payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities.

II. Priority 2: Advocate for training and education services available through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, with particular attention to individuals in underserved populations.

a. Objective 1: Advocate for the provision of pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) for students with disabilities who require and are eligible or potentially eligible for such services under Section 113 of the Act.

b. Objective 2: Provide advocacy to individuals who are seeking vocational and/or trade school training in an effort to achieve their IPE goal.

c. Objective 3: Provide advocacy to individuals who are seeking college and/or graduate school support from their VR agency in an effort to achieve their IPE goal.

III. Priority 3: Advocate for proper processes, services, and benefits under the Act and other employment-related programs, with particular attention to individuals in underserved populations.

a. Objective 1: provide technical assistance or information to individuals regarding Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

b. Objective 2: provide technical assistance or information to individuals regarding Social Security, including work incentives such as PASS Plans and Ticket to Work.

c. Objective 3: provide technical assistance or information to individuals seeking support in accessing their VR case records in an accessible and timely manner.

d. Objective 4: provide technical assistance or information to individuals applying for due process against VR agencies.

IV. Priority 4: Advocate for services available from federally funded independent living centers (ILCs), with particular attention to individuals in underserved populations.

V. Priority 5: Conduct an outreach and education campaign to ensure that individuals in underserved and unserved communities throughout New York State understand their rights, know about the Protection & Advocacy system, and can access appropriate Client Assistance Program services.
B. Litigation
0
0
0
DRNY did not have any systemic litigation activity involving individual representation. Instead, DRNY’s efforts to resolve disputes using alternative methods were very successful. DRNY participated in informal meetings, written and in-person negotiations, and administrative review to successfully represent its clients.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
Disability Rights New York
No
N/A
B. Staff Employed
Professional FTE

DRNY paid 16 professional staff from Section 112 funds. Allowing for the timing of hires during the year as well as the percentage of indirect staff, time allocated to Section 112 funds the 16 professional EE’s equate to 5.82 FTE. 94% of the full-time professional positions were filled for 12 months equating to 5.17 person years. The vacancies equate to 4% of the positions unfilled. DRNY did not have any part-time professional employees.

Clerical FTE

DRNY paid 12 clerical staff from Section 112 funds. Allowing for the timing of hires during the year as well as the percentage of indirect staff, time allocated to Section 112 funds the 12 EE’s equate to 0.90 FTE. 96% of the full-time positions were filled for 12 months equating to 0.86 person years. There were no vacancies and DRNY did not have any part-time clerical employees.
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
#1

Our client, a 47-year-old man with quadriplegia, needed a vehicle modification. ACCES-VR denied his request for the vehicle modification, based on the type of vehicle the client purchased. We represented him at an impartial hearing. We presented evidence that ACCES-VR provided assurances that our client relied upon to purchase a vehicle for modification; the VR agency then refused to modify, asserting that the client purchased a vehicle that could not be modified. We successfully convinced the hearing officer to order ACCES-VR to pay for the cost difference between the client’s current vehicle and a different vehicle that could be modified to the client’s needs. The client can now access an accessible vehicle so that he may continue his job placement services, with an ultimate goal of working in agriculture.

#2

We assisted a 50-year-old man with end stage renal disease who had been working with ACCES-VR since 2015. Our client’s graduate school support had been delayed and denied for multiple reasons, including a change in VR procedure during the life of the client’s case and because the client’s IPE goal was “social worker,” instead of “licensed social worker.” We represented the client at an administrative review and obtained a favorable ruling. We demonstrated that ACCES-VR had knowledge of the client’s 12 years of unpaid and volunteer experience in the social work field, the client’s 3.796 GPA, and multiple mentions in his VR record and email correspondence proving his intention to become a licensed social worker. ACCES-VR agreed to support the client in completing his accelerated one-year Masters of Social Work program at Columbia University.

#3

DRNY represented a 48-year-old woman with PTSD to achieve her goal of becoming a manager. She was denied tuition support to attend Fordham University’s Organizational Leadership program. ACCES-VR acknowledged her eligibility for tuition support in a leadership program, but limited the tuition up to the maximum state university rate. The only program that fit within this rate was 341 miles, or 5 hours and 48 minutes, from our client’s home. We assisted our client in disputing that the offer was a comparable benefit by gathering evidence and advising her on self-advocacy at an impartial hearing. We also advocated for the client to have her emotional support animal with her at the hearing. The impartial hearing officer ruled in our client’s favor, and held that ACCES-VR must fund the client’s education in full, and pay outstanding balances owed to Fordham University.

#4

We represented a 19-year-old woman with autism and specific learning disabilities to obtain college funding and other needs-based services. After ACCES-VR conducted its financial needs review (FNR), the client was found ineligible. Our client received Medicaid services and should have been exempt from the FNR. In particular, ACCES-VR’s own policy stated that “[e]ligible individuals or participants who receive public benefits are determined to meet ACCES-VR’s financial need and are exempt from having their available resources considered." DRNY provided this documentation to the local ACCES-VR District Office, but the District Office staff refused to reverse its denial. We elevated our client’s case to ACCES-VR’s Central Office and the decision was reversed. As a result, this client is now eligible for college funding and other financial assistance from ACCES-VR.
Certification
Approved
Erica Marie Molina, Esq.
CAP & PABSS Director
2020-12-22
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