RSA-227 for FY-2020: Submission #1160

Vermont
09/30/2020
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Vermont Client Assistance Program
57 North Main Street
Suite 2
Rutland
Vermont
05766
http://vtlegalaid.org
802-775-0021
800-769-7459
800-769-7459
Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
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Additional Information
Nancy Breiden
Nancy Breiden
802-855-2409
nbreiden@vtlegalaid.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
51
36
0
68
12
87
254
B. Training Activities
5
331

CAP provided a training on “Understanding Applications for COVID Unemployment” for Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) Supported Employment staff. The purpose of the training was to help DAIL Supported Employment Program staff understand the process of applying for unemployment insurance for clients losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. Training was provided through video presentation and included informal presentation and opportunity for questions and answers. Approximately 58 staff were trained.

CAP provided training on “COVID Stimulus Checks and COVID Unemployment” for self-advocates, Developmental Service Provider Agency staff, Office of Public Guardian staff and DAIL staff. The training was sponsored by the DAIL Division of Developmental Service. The purpose of the training was to help DAIL staff understand the process of applying for unemployment insurance for clients losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits, and how to get COVID stimulus checks for people who had never filed an income tax return. The training was provided through video presentation and included informal presentation and opportunity for questions and answers. Approximately 141 people participated in the training.

CAP provided a training on “COVID Unemployment” for self-advocates, parents of workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and developmental service provider agency staff. The purpose of the training was to help participants understand the process of applying for unemployment insurance for clients losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. The training was provided through video presentation and included informal presentation and opportunity for questions and answers. Approximately 109 participated in the training.

CAP provided a training on “COVID Unemployment” for developmental service provider agency staff. The purpose of the training was to help participants understand the process of applying for unemployment insurance for clients losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. The training was provided through video presentation and included informal presentation and opportunity for questions and answers. Approximately 35 agency staff were trained.

CAP presented an on-line training on “Client Representation in the time of COVID.” The training was sponsored by Vermont Legal Aid. The purpose of the training was to inform participants on ways to communicate with clients when in-person meetings are not possible due to COVID-19, how to get legal documents notarized where required, and how to accommodate clients with disabilities during the COVID pandemic. The training was provided through video presentation and included informal presentation and opportunity for questions and answers. Approximately 18 people participated in the training.
C. Agency Outreach
CAP outreach in the reporting year was extremely limited due to the COVID pandemic. As noted above, CAP adapted to the new COVID environment by engaging in training to help workers with disabilities who had lost employment due to COVID, and those who support workers with disabilities, understand and access the benefits to which they were entitled under various COVID-relief programs.
CAP engaged in outreach at a community “Meet and Greet” at a regional VR office. CAP’s presentation included information about CAP and what clients should expect from the intake process and how community partners could access the intake process on behalf of their clients. CAP provided approximately 50 CAP brochures for distribution in the office waiting room.
CAP engaged in outreach at the Parks Place Community Resource Center in Bellows Falls, Vermont. CAP provided information on CAP to Resource Center staff and community partners. CAP provided approximately 50 brochures to be placed in the center’s waiting room.
CAP attended a VR Expanded Regional Managers Meeting in Randolph, Vermont. During this meeting CAP provided regional managers and other VR staff with a description of CAP services, explained the CAP client intake process, and provided information regarding the intake process for community partners. Cap provided approximately 100 CAP brochures.
CAP participated in the Governor’s Summit on Employment of People with Disabilities where CAP provided information about CAP services and intake procedures.
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
0
0
0
1
0
0
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E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
There was no information disseminated about the agency by an external source.
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
9
12
21
2
10
B. Problem areas
2
10
15
6
0
2
1
2
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
3
0
8
0
0
0
11
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
6
0
0
0
0
6
0
0
7
0
0
3
2 cases client did not like the advice given by CAP.
2 cases client resolved issue without CAP assistance.
E. Results achieved for individuals
4
0
0
0
2
2
0
0
0
0
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Part III. Program Data
A. Age
0
3
3
11
4
21
B. Gender
7
14
21
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
0
0
1
2
0
17
0
1
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
0
0
0
0
0
2
3
0
0
0
0
1
1
1
1
0
0
0
0
2
9
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
21
E. Types of Individuals Served
3
0
17
1
0
2
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
7
COVID-19 RELATED SYSTEMIC ACTIVITIES
Between May of 2020 and the end of the reporting period the Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) issued a series of “guidance” documents related to DVR services and supports during the Covid-19 pandemic. CAP provided feedback on the initial guidance resulting in changes to the guidance. Thereafter, DVR offered CAP the opportunity to comment on successive guidance before they were finalized. As a result of CAP input, six Covid-19 related policies/procedures/practices were changed.
1)Activity Undertaken: Comment on DVR Covid-19 related guidance related to continuing DVR services and supports where supports do not put DVR employees in danger of Covid-19 infection.
Policy or Practice Changed: DVR required to continue to provide DVR services and supports where supports do not put DVR employees in danger of Covid-19 infection.
Manner in which this change benefitted individuals with disabilities: Individuals with disabilities continued to received VR services and supports throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Description: The initial guidance gave the DVR permission to deny support to a consumer when the support the consumer wanted (and was in the Individual Plan for Employment) did not put any DVR employee in danger of becoming infected with Covid-19. As an example, CAP was working with a client who, on her own, had obtained a job at a grocery store, but was being supported by job coaching from DVR. Under the Governor’s then current Executive Order, our client was an essential worker and could continue to work through the pandemic. DVR had agreed to pay for dentures for her in addition to providing job coaching. CAP pointed out that there was no reason for DVR to deny payment for the dentures when no DVR employee would be exposed to risk of Covid-19 infection by our client obtaining her dentures. Similarly, our client’s job coach could check in with her periodically by phone without risk of Covid-19 infection. As a result of CAP’s input, DVR changed the language of the guidance to clarify that DVR would continue to support consumers in ways that did not place DVR employees at risk of Covid-19 infection. As a result of CAP’s comments, DVR consumers continued to receive supports from DVR where those supports did not expose DVR employees to risk of Covid-19 infection.

2) Activity Undertaken: Comment on DVR Covid-10 related guidance related to confidential medical information.
Policy or Practice Changed: DVR not permitted to interrogate consumer regarding their confidential medical information or that of persons with whom they live.
Manner in which this change benefitted individuals with disabilities: Maintained confidential medical information for consumer and those with whom they live.
Description: The initial guidance included a set of factors which would prevent DVR from supporting a consumer to accept a job opportunity during the pandemic. Included in the set of factors were health conditions which might place the consumer in a high-risk category for Covid-19 based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. Also included in the set of factors was whether “the consumer live[s] with other vulnerable adults who could be infected.” CAP objected to the notion that DVR had the right to require consumers to provide DVR with their own personal medical information or to interrogate a consumer about the private medical information of individuals with whom the consumer lived. As a result of CAP’s comments, the factor relating to the medical condition of individuals with whom the consumer lives was withdrawn, and subsequent guidance clarified that VR counselors, if not aware of the consumers underlying health condition through the eligibility process, were encouraged to “review the risk factors with the consumer as part of an informed decision-making process” but not permitted to interrogate consumer on their underlying medical condition. As a result of CAP advocacy the confidential medical information of VR consumers, as well as individuals living with the consumer, was protected.

3) Activity Undertaken: Comment on DVR Covid-19 related guidance related to DVR denial of support for job opportunity that would put consumer at risk due to CDC risk factors.
Policy or Practice Changed: DVR must allow for an exception process to blanket denial of services and supports for job opportunities that might put consumer at risk due to CDC risk factors.
Manner in which this change benefitted individuals with disabilities: DVR will support job opportunities for consumers with CDC identified high risk factors in exceptional circumstances where risk can be mitigated.
Description: The initial guidance permitted DVR to deny support for any job opportunity that would put the consumer at risk due to the CDC risk factors. CAP commented that there should be a process for exceptions to this blanket denial. As a result of CAP’s comments, in subsequent guidance DVR included an exception based on individual circumstances including: the consumer’s ability to work from home; the employment setting allowing the consumer to reliably self-isolate and has strong safeguards in place; the consumer is over 65 but is in very good health.
4) Activity Undertaken: Comment on DVR Covid-19 related guidance related to DVR denial of in person services during Covid-19 pandemic.
Policy or Practice Changed: DVR must allow for an exception process to blanket denial of all in person services and supports.
Manner in which this change benefitted individuals with disabilities: DVR will provide in -person supports in exceptional circumstances.
Description: The initial guidance permitted DVR blanket ability to deny all in-person DVR services. CAP commented that there should be a process for exceptions to this blanket denial of all in-person services. As a result of CAP’s comments, in subsequent “guidance” DVR included an exception for “truly exceptional circumstances” as approved by a DVR Regional Manager.
5) Activity Undertaken: Comment on DVR Covid-19 related guidance related to provision of VR services and supports during Covid-19 pandemic.
Policy or Practice Changed: Clarification of which services and supports DVR must provide to consumers falling into CDC defined high-risk categories who were employed prior to the release of DVR guidance on Covid-19.
Manner in which this change benefitted individuals with disabilities: DVR will continue to support the employment of consumers falling into one of the high-risk categories if they were employed prior to the release of the initial guidance
Description: The initial guidance did not distinguish, for purposes of the provision of DVR supports to consumers falling into high-risk categories, between consumers who were employed prior to the release of the initial guidance and consumers seeking employment at the time of the release of the initial guidance. CAP commented that different standards should be applied in order to support employed consumers to maintain their jobs. As a result of CAP’s comments, subsequent guidance stated that DVR would continue to support the employment of consumers falling into one of the high-risk categories if they were employed prior to the release of the initial guidance.
6) Activity Undertaken: Comment on need to provide notice and opportunity to appeal any delay or denial of VR services related to circumstances created by Covid-19.
Policy or Practice Changed: Notice and information on consumer appeal rights will be provided for any delay or denial of VR services related to circumstances created by Covid-19.
Manner in which this change benefitted individuals with disabilities: VR consumers will have their due process rights protected.
Description: CAP commented that any decision to deny or delay DVR support to a consumer due to they’re being in a high-risk category for Covid-19, must be accompanied by written notice of the basis of the decision and advising the consumer of their right to appeal the decision and directing them to the CAP for help with understanding their rights or assistance with an appeal. As a result of CAP advocacy DVR drafted a “Notice” letter and requested CAP input.
NON COVID -19 RELATED SYSTEMIC ACTIVITIES
7) Activity Undertaken: Change to Policy and Procedures Manual
Policy or Practice Changed: Clarification that VR consumers who are eligible for SSI or SSDI cannot be required to contribute to the cost of VR services or supports.
Manner in which this change benefitted individuals with disabilities: People with disabilities will not be required to contribute to the cost of VR services or supports.
Description: As part of its work with the Policy and Procedure subcommittee of the State Vocational Rehabilitation Council, PADD advocated for changes in the Policy and Procedures Manual to clarify that, consistent with Federal regulations, VR consumers who are eligible for SSI or SSDI cannot be asked to contribute to the cost of VR services or supports. Based on its experience, CAP felt that not all VR counselor were aware of this and that an affirmative statement in the Policy and Procedures Manual was needed. As a result of CAP advocacy, the committee voted to create a new stand-alone chapter in the Policy and Procedures Manual to clarify that VR consumers who are eligible for SSI or SSDI may not be required to contribute to the cost of VR services or supports. CAP will be involved in drafting the new chapter.

In addition to these specific policy changes, CAP systemic advocacy does not always directly impact a policy but does inform the thinking and decisions of policy makers and thus affect the lives of people with disabilities. CAP engaged in non-specific systemic advocacy in 2020 through the following activities:
CAP staff sits on the SRC-VR and chairs the Policy & Procedures subcommittee. CAP participated in meetings of the SRC-VR Performance Review and Advocacy and Outreach and Education Committees. Through participation in these committees CAP has engaged in the following systemic advocacy activities in FY2020:
• Participated in SRC annual retreat provided input regarding VR needs assessment data and setting priorities for FY 21.
• Attended and provided input at full SRC meetings, including
o Possible uses for $5.1 million reallotment grant
o Findings of needs assessment
• Chaired the SRC Policies and Procedures Committee. Provided input and drafting assistance related to VR policies specifically:
o Revision and approval of audiology and hearing aids policy to reflect best practice and consistent VR procedures, and
o Revision and approval of policy related to post-secondary education and training to bring VT VR policy into compliance with WIOA’s focus on multiple career pathways and higher wage employment, including access to shorter term credential attainment (apprenticeships, on-the-job-training, entry-level credentials, marketable skill acquisition) opportunities with lower time commitment and debt acquisition for consumers.
• Participated in meetings of SRC Performance Review conducting extensive review of feedback from triennial VR needs assessment with comment regarding data reflecting unmet needs of consumers with mental health disabilities.
o Participated in Advocacy Outreach and Education (AOE) Committees, including discussion of need for legislation to require coverage for hearing aids by all insurance providers.
o Supported SRC AOE Committee advocacy to successfully obtain blanket permission for VR to fill counselor vacancies as they occur and unfreeze funding for positions previously denied
o Reviewed first Youth Consumer Satisfaction Survey since WIOA enactment (Only 2nd state in nation to do so).
• Participated in SRC Steering Committee and provided CAP input leading to improvements in the membership process, including
o Adding membership as a standing agenda item for the committee
o Changing the membership application process to include review by the committee (personally identifiable information redacted to ensure privacy)
o Ongoing monitoring for diversity, geographic location, disability category, etc. (current membership 58% people with disabilities)
o Creating videos for new member orientation regarding work of committees
• Participated in VR Implementation Team (I-Team) meeting providing input on
o next steps in VR process following initial assessments of career interests and consumer strengths /barriers to employment.
o VR exploration of better outreach to people with disabilities, including changes in marketing and rebranding of agency leading to increased participation in services
• Initiated review of VT Center for Independent Living (CILs) policies and procedures and contacted New England CAPs to solicit information about relationship between CAPs and CILs in respective states.

CAP staff also sits on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind and Visually Impaired (SRC-BVI). The SRC-BVI is charged with reviewing and advising DBVI regarding the performance of their responsibilities relating to the effectiveness of services provided, and functions performed that may affect the ability of individuals with disabilities in achieving employment goals and priorities. In partnership with the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Council helps to develop and review State goals and priorities and evaluate the effectiveness of the VR program. CAP serves on the Policy and Procedures subcommittee of the SRC-BVI and in this capacity advocates for policies that result in better services for Vermonters with disabilities.
CAP advocates have regularly scheduled meetings with the Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and two of her management staff. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss systemic concerns and issues and maintain an open line of communication between the CAP and VR.
CAP staff serves as a governor appointed member of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) Advisory Board. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation is a Department within DAIL. The DAIL Advisory Board meets once a month and provides feedback on DAIL programs including VR.
CAP staff also serves as a governor appointed member of the Developmental Disabilities Services Division Advisory Board. This board meets monthly and provides input and feedback to the Director of the Developmental Services Division of DAIL, which, among other programs, funds and oversees supported employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Vermont.


B. Litigation
0
0
0
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Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-other nonprofit agency
Vermont Legal Aid, Inc.
No
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B. Staff Employed
Type of Position FTE % of Position Filled Person Years
Professional - FT 0.01 100% 0.01
Professional - PT 0.56 100% 0.56
Clerical - FT 309.60 100% 309
Vermont Legal Aid's CAP program had one .01 FTE attorneys, two 0.26 FTE paralegals, and 0.09 FTE project director staff for the entire fiscal year.
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
CAP intake in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters of the reporting year saw a significant decline due to Covid-19.

CAP represented a 23 year old client with a psychiatric disability who contacted CAP because she was dissatisfied with her services from the DVR. Client was working in a grocery store with 1:1 job coach services through her community mental health provider. Client indicated she wanted to terminate that support. Client also stated she wanted a job in the medical field and more hours of work so she could get her child out of state custody. Client’s support team did not support termination of job coach or change of work at the time. CAP attended a meeting with client, DVR and her then current job coach. CAP was able to confirm that the client had been determined eligible for DVR services but had not yet been assessed and an IPE had not yet been developed. CAP supported the client in the meeting and assisted client to better understand the DVR process. The outcome of meeting was the scheduling of an appointment so client could participate in a vocational assessment. After the assessment, CAP supported the client in another meeting with VR with a focus on the assessment results and client’s work experience. Client then indicated she felt she did not need CAP support in future meetings with her DVR counselor and CAP closed the case.
CAP was contacted by individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder who had received a closure letter from the DVR. As a result of informal advocacy by CAP, DVR re-opened the client’s case. CAP then provided advocacy to have a new DVR counselor assigned for our client. CAP supported the client in a meeting with his new DVR counselor. CAP closed the case when the client indicated he no longer needed CAP assistance.

CAP represented and individual with a psychiatric diagnosis who contacted CAP for assistance upon receiving a closure letter from DVR. As a result of informal advocacy by CAP, DVR agreed to keep the client’s case open. CAP then provided advocacy to have a new DVR counselor assigned for our client. CAP then supported the client in several meetings with his new DVR counselor and provided advocacy to ensure that our client retained his bus pass so that he could search for employment. At client’s request his case was put on hold in the 3rd and 4th quarters due to client’s concerns regarding working during COVID.

CAP continued to represent a 58 year old client with mental illness who initially contacted CAP for assistance because of difficulty working with an Older Americans Act employment program. Client felt that provider staff were engaging in discriminatory conduct and disclosing information to potential employers without consent. In the 1st quarter of FY 20, client was placed in a volunteer position in a store selling used items. While in that program the program representative had issues with janitorial tasks that client asked to perform or decided on own to perform. Client on own reconnected with his old DVR counselor asking for DVR help to get his CDL license renewed. Client, also on own, sought employment with businesses where CDL was required, but he was not successful. During 2nd and 3rd quarters of FY 20, VR services were restricted due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Client’s CDL training was halted/interrupted under executive order of the Governor. The client’s situation was further complicated by his own COVID 19 illness. CAP worked with the client in the 4th quarter to access DVR funding for car repairs, obtaining CDL training manuals for specialized endorsements, and relocation assistance. Client had decided to relocate due to the closure of the CDL training program, as well as client’s desire to avoid racial bias experienced in the community. Client had been offered a job once he relocated. CAP provided ongoing advocacy to secure car repair and relocation support from DVR culminating in a written proposal submitted to DVR at the end of the funding year. CAP advocacy in this case will continue into FY2021.


Certification
Approved
Nancy Breiden
Vermont Legal Aid Disability Law Project Director
2020-12-31
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