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US Department of Education Principal Office Functional Statements
Office of Special Educational and Rehabilitative Services

Functional Statements > Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

C. Rehabilitation Services Administration

The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) provides leadership and fiscal resources to assist State and other agencies to provide vocational rehabilitation (VR), independent living (IL) and other services to individuals with disabilities. The RSA is established by Congress as the principal Federal agency authorized to carry out Titles I, III, VI, and VII, as well as section 509 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. In addition, RSA administers programs and activities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, as amended, the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults Act, and the Assistive Technology Act of 2004. The programs administered by RSA develop and implement comprehensive and coordinated programs of vocational rehabilitation, supported employment, and independent living for individuals with disabilities through services, training, and advocacy, in order to maximize their employment, independence and integration into the community and the competitive labor market. RSA accomplishes its mission by

  • administering formula and discretionary grant programs authorized by Congress;
  • evaluating, monitoring, and reporting on the implementation of Federal policy and programs and the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation, supported employment, independent living, and other related programs for individuals with disabilities;
  • coordinating with other Federal agencies, State agencies, and the private sector including professional organizations, service providers, and organizations of persons with disabilities for the review of program planning, implementation, and monitoring issues.

RSA is under the leadership of a Commissioner who advises the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services on programs and problems affecting individuals with disabilities. The Commissioner of RSA provides overall direction, coordination, and leadership to two divisions and a support staff. The two divisions are:

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Office of the Commissioner

The Office of the Commissioner provides executive leadership to the RSA, assures the effective implementation of RSA's legislative mission, and advises the Assistant Secretary on Federal policy related to individuals with disabilities. The Office of the Commissioner is responsible for providing leadership to the program development, management, and resource allocation activities of RSA. The Office of the Commissioner assures coordination between the formula and discretionary grant programs administered by RSA. The Office of the Commissioner serves as the primary contact link between RSA and constituencies such as service providers, professional groups, and organizations of individuals with disabilities. As such, it is responsible for communicating the Administration's priorities and initiatives in vocational rehabilitation, independent living and employment policy for individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, responding to constituency concerns and needs, and providing leadership for development of national consensus on the issues facing individuals with disabilities.

Program Support Staff

The Program Support Staff (PSS), housed within the Office of the Commissioner, is responsible for providing support for cross divisional program analysis including data collection and analysis, planning for initiatives, developing coordinated program and S&E budgeting to support cross divisional efforts, providing tracking and coordination/review for compliance with fiscal and program plans, and assisting with RSA priority development and grants management processes. PSS provides coordination and liaison within RSA and, working through the Office of the Assistant Secretary, with the Department and other organizations. In carrying out its responsibilities, PSS:

  • coordinates the development of and executes the RSA program and S&E budgets, including the commitment of funds and preparation of formula grant awards;
  • provides technical and programming assistance to support RSA's comprehensive Management Information System (MIS), as well as processing and analyzing data for all RSA statistical reporting systems;
  • supports RSA wide program planning, analysis and evaluation, including the development of the Annual Report to Congress;
  • provides and coordinates RSA wide administrative management activities; and
  • monitors formula grant matching requirements, computes maintenance of effort, and supports the audit resolution process for RSA-administered grants.

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State Monitoring and Program Improvement Division (SMPID)

The State Monitoring and Program Improvement Division carries out major activities related to the following programs:

Basic Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants
Supported Employment State Grants
Independent Living State Grants
Centers for Independent Living (CIL) Discretionary Program
Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind
Client Assistance Program (CAP)
Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights (PAIR)
Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology Program (PAAT)
Program Improvement
Evaluation

The SMIPD is responsible for State Plan review and approval, and for monitoring seven of RSA's formula grant programs to ensure consistency with Federal requirements and to ensure that States continue to implement programs designed to improve results for individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities. The administration of three Advocacy programs is housed in this Division: the Client Assistance Program and the Protection, the Advocacy of Individual Rights Program, and the Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology Program. The Division also includes one discretionary grant program, the Centers for Independent Living Discretionary Program. The Program Improvement administrative funds under Sec. 12 of the Act are used to provide technical assistance and support services to programs funded under the Rehabilitation Act. The Evaluation program develops an annual plan for evaluation of programs under the Rehabilitation Act, and carries out evaluation activities through contracts with third party entities.

The SMPID is divided into Functional Units and State Teams. Each person in the division participates on both.

Functional Units

The Functional Units carry out activities that enable the State Teams to monitor and assist States improve their programs.

Each Functional Unit has a unit leader with supervisory responsibilities over persons who serve in the unit.

Each Functional unit leader is an expert in the functional area and is responsible for not only accomplishing the purpose of the Unit, but also developing skills and expertise in each of the unit members.

Each staff person in the Division is assigned to one of five Functional Units and works with the unit to carry out the purposes of the unit. Staff may rotate through the Functional units in order to gain expertise in different functional areas.

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The Functional Units are the following:

Data Collection and Analysis Unit
Fiscal Unit
VR Program Unit
Independent Living Unit
Technical Assistance Unit

The purposes of the Functional Units are the following:

The Data Collection and Analysis Unit:

  • reviews and improves RSA's various databases and works with State agencies to maintain RSA's various databases on all State grantees enabling the VR Program Unit to develop individual profiles of each State grantee;
  • supports the VR Program and IL Units in the development of the program performance profiles;
  • develops and implements the annual Evaluation Plan; and
  • provides support to State Teams in their data analysis activities.

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The Fiscal Unit:

  • develops and maintains a fiscal performance data profile of each State grantee and Centers for Independent Living Discretionary Program grantee;
  • improves and maintains a fiscal monitoring process that State teams will use to determine if State grantees and Centers for Independent Living Discretionary Program grantees are meeting their fiscal obligations under their respective statutes;
  • oversees the resolution of audit findings (single audits, Inspector General audits, Government Accountability Office reports) including grantbacks, primary and collateral determinations; and
  • supports the fiscal monitoring reviews and audit resolution activities carried out by the State Teams.

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The VR Program Unit:

  • develops and maintains a program performance profile on each VR State grantee that includes an organizational description of how each agency operates;
  • develops and implements systems for the review of State plan submissions, for coordinating with other offices as necessary;
  • improves and maintains the VR State grant monitoring process used by State Teams to identify improvements that VR State grantees should make in order to improve their performance and meet their program obligations;
  • supports the State Teams in their State plan approval, monitoring processes, and program improvement efforts;
  • in coordination with the OAS Policy Team participates in the development and dissemination of policy guidance, regulations, and program guidance in all areas of responsibility;
  • coordinates with the Department in implementation of the Department's integrated monitoring activities;
  • develops program performance measures, which are used to evaluate and monitor grantees;
  • provides technical assistance to the State grant programs in the Division of Training and Service Programs; and
  • has primary responsibility for administrative activities involving the Basic VR State Grants and the Supported Employment State Grants; and
  • has primary responsibility for administrative activities involving the Client Assistance Program , the Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights , and Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology Program.

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The Independent Living Unit:

  • develops and maintains a program performance profile on each State's IL grantees that includes an organizational description of how each agency operates;
  • develops and implements systems for the review of IL State plan submissions and Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program applications, for coordinating with other offices as necessary;
  • improves and maintains the IL grant monitoring process used by State Teams to identify improvements that IL State grantees should make in order to improve their performance and meet their program obligations;
  • manages the discretionary award process for the CIL program, including development of priorities, review, evaluation, and documentation of all applications for funding;
  • coordinates with the Department in implementation of the Department's integrated monitoring activities;
  • participates in the development and dissemination of policy guidance,
  • regulations, and program guidance in all areas of responsibility;
  • supports the State Teams in their IL State plan approval, monitoring processes, and program improvement efforts;
  • develops program performance measures which are used to evaluate and monitor grantees; and
  • has primary responsibility for administrative activities involving the Independent Living State Grants Program, the Independent Living Discretionary Program, and the Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program.

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The Technical Assistance Unit:

  • develops and maintains a database of TA resources;
  • develops networks of partners in each State made up of consumers, providers, State agency representatives, State Rehabilitation Councils, Statewide Independent Living Councils, federal agencies and any other interested parties that wish to participate in the State Teams monitoring and program improvement activities;
  • assists State network partners to understand the legal and program requirements of the statutes;
  • collaborates with the Division of Training and Service Programs' units to identify resources that will assist grantees in their program improvement efforts;
  • provides support to State Teams in their efforts to achieve identified improvements in each State;
  • provides technical assistance to the State grant programs in the Division of Training and Service Programs;
  • administers funds authorized under Sec. 12 of the Act to provide technical assistance and support services to programs funded under the Act.

The State Teams

There is a State Team assigned to every State and that State Team is responsible for all of the SMIPD's formula and Centers for Independent Living Discretionary Program grantees that operate in that State.

A designated State Team member (the State Liaison) who does not have supervisory responsibility chairs the work of the State Team.

Each State is assigned a State Team and each State Team is made up of one or more persons from each of the five Functional Units.

Each person in the Division is assigned responsibility as the State Liaison for 1 or more States.

The State Liaison leads and organizes the activities of the State Team and includes representatives from consumers, providers, State agency personnel, and other interested parties.

A State Teams Coordinator with non-supervisory responsibility with the State Teams assists and coordinates the activities of all the State Teams.

With the exception of the last item below, the State Teams will work collaboratively with consumers, providers, State agencies, and any other interested parties to carry out the following activities:

  • implement a continuous process of performance-based program and fiscal monitoring to identify areas of improvement as well as areas of noncompliance that require corrective action by the grantee;
  • develop and issue annual reports, carry out periodic on-site reviews and other monitoring activities required by statute;
  • provide technical assistance to all grantees to assist them to make the improvements and take corrective actions identified in the monitoring process;
  • review and approve VR and IL State plans including preparing State plan approval letters, providing appropriate technical assistance to States to ensure consistency with Federal requirements and a timely release of Federal funds;
  • provide policy guidance to grantees;
  • review and approve CAP, PAIR, and PAAT State assurances; and
  • carry out audit resolution activities including single audits, Inspector General audits, grantbacks, primary and collateral determinations.

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Training and Service Programs Division (TSPD)

The Training and Service Programs Division administers the following program and is organized into the following two units. Each unit has a supervisory unit leader.

The two units are responsible for programs as follows:

Training Programs Unit
Rehabilitation Training
Demonstration and Training

Service Programs Unit
Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers
Projects With Industry (PWI)
American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AIVRS)
Recreation Program
Helen Keller National Center (HKNC)
Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facilities Program
Alternative Financing Program /Telework
AT National Activities Technical Assistance Program
AT State Grant Program

The TSPD carries out the following activities in administering these programs:

  • reviews and approves AT State Plans and State Agency Licensing Agreements;
  • monitors grants, including required on-site reviews of grants under the Projects with Industry program, and provides technical assistance;
  • conducts discretionary grant competitions and cuts grant awards;
  • coordinates arbitrations for the Randolph-Sheppard program;
  • reviews and analyzes data, prepares reports including the annual summary of the vendors and vending facilities; and
  • works with grantees to develop program performance measures, which are used to evaluate and monitor grantees.

Cross-cutting Work Groups

Staff from the two divisions work collaboratively on cross cutting work groups on the topics of employment, transition, and independent living. These units promote coordination of activities, priority development, and consistency with OSERS' and the Department's Strategic Plans and priorities.

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Last Modified: 11/08/2007