Purpose: To provide vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities so that they may prepare for and engage in gainful employment consistent with their strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, and capabilities.
Federal and State funds cover the costs of a variety of vocational rehabilitation services including, but not limited to, the following: assessment for eligibility and rehabilitation needs; counseling and guidance; vocational and other training; reader services for individuals who are blind; interpreter services for individuals who are deaf; physical and mental restoration services; transportation to obtain vocational rehabilitation services; maintenance during rehabilitation; personal assistance; employment placement; tools, licenses, equipment, supplies, and management services for vending stands or other small businesses for individuals with the most severe disabilities; rehabilitation technology services; specific post-employment services necessary to assist individuals with disabilities to maintain, regain, or advance in employment; assistance in the establishment development or inprovement of community rehabilitation programs; and services to families of individuals with disabilities when such services will contribute to their rehabilitation.
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In September 1993, a contract was awarded by the Department for technical support to the Regulations Policy Group (RPG) for developing performance standards and indicators for the Vocational Rehabilitation Service program, as required by the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992. Technical support activities include a review and summary of previous work, development of issue papers, assistance in synthesizing public comments, development of alternative performance levels for the RPG, and simulations and other types of analyses based on the Rehabilitation Service Administration's data system.
Information on the types of services provided is most complete for the 202,831 clients whose cases were closed in FY 1991 as successfully rehabilitated. Average time from application to closure for this group was 22 months. Private individuals, such as physicians, provided services to 44 percent of the clients rehabilitated. Thirty-five (35) percent of rehabilitated persons received one or more services in a community rehabilitation program. Agency outlays for purchased services amounted to an average of $2,518 per successful rehabilitation. Leading the list of services provided was diagnosis and evaluation (94 percent of those rehabilitated), followed by various kinds of training such as personal adjustment and on-the-job training (54 percent), restorative services (40 percent), and job placement (34 percent). All rehabilitated persons also received counseling and guidance services.
Two studies were conducted in this program area:
One study, completed in March 1993, was an "Evaluation of Quality Assurance (QA) Systems in State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies". This evaluation had three broad purposes: (1) to describe the nature and scope of quality assurance (QA) system, subsystems or subsystem elements existing in the State VR agencies; (2) to nominate exemplary systems; and (3) to develop a QA Manual that provides guidance (a) to State VR agencies for evaluating their existing QA systems or developing new QA systems, and (b) to RSA for evaluating State VR QA systems, and providing technical assistance to State agencies on matters concerning quality assurance systems (III. 5).
Major evaluation findings include the extensive use of QA systems and subsystems of various types in most State VR agencies. The final report of this study identifies numerous exemplary QA systems that are currently in place in these State agencies. The QA Manual contains specific examples of materials developed by State VR agencies that have demonstrated effective QA practices. Copies of the Final Report, Executive Summary, and QA Manual have been distributed to all State VR agencies, as well as all of the RSA Regional Offices.
The second study, completed in April 1993, was: "Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Field Service Delivery Personnel in Vocational Rehabilitation". The purposes of the study were to (a) identify the demographic composition of the workforce and their qualifications; (b) describe turnover rates; (c) describe personnel shortages; and (d) identify and document policies and practices that effectively attract trainees into RSA-funded training programs (III.6).
The major findings of this study take two forms: basic information about the field staff within the VR program, and recommendations for changes in policies that are likely to contribute to the recruitment and retention of qualified field service delivery personnel. Employee turnover causes great concern among public managers in the State-Federal VR system.
Three policies and practices found in the study could effectively target turnover and improve retention of qualified field-service delivery personnel:
On the evidence of recent program data, severity of disability is not a significant factor in predicting successful rehabilitation. In recent years, the overall rehabilitation rate for non-severe cases has been about two percentage points higher (e.g., 59.6 percent versus 57.3 percent in 1992), but an analysis of a large national sample of 1985 closures shows that this difference disappears when statistical controls for types of primary disability are introduced (III.3). There is a difference, however, in placements of severely and non-severely disabled persons into competitive employment. In FY 1991, State agencies were able to place 77.3 percent of severely disabled persons into competitive employment, compared to 92.3 percent of the non-severely disabled. Placements into sheltered workshops were 7.3 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.