A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Biennial Evaluation Report - FY 93-94

Chapter 321

Rehabilitation Services--Basic State Grants

(CFDA No. 84.126)

I. Program Profile

Legislation: Rehabilitation Act of 1973, P.L. 93-112, as amended by P.L. 95-602, P.L. 98-221, P.L. 99-506, P.L. 102-52, and P.L. 103-73. Sections 100-111, (29 U.S.C. 720-731) (expires September 30, 1997).

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.

Funding History

Fiscal Year Appropriation Fiscal Year Appropriation
1967 $225,268,000 1986 $1,145,148,839
1970 432,000,000 1987 1,277,797,000
1975 673,000,000 1988 1,376,051,000
1980 817,484,000 1989 1,446,375,000
1981 854,259,000 1990 1,524,677,000
1982 863,040,000 1991 1,628,543,000
1983 943,900,000 1992 1,783,530,000
1984 1,037,800,000 1993 1,873,476,000
1985 1,100,000,000 1994 1,967,630,000

II. Program Information and Analysis

Performance Indicators

Measures of program performance annually available through uniform State agency reports include acceptance rate, average time in program, percent of clients with severe disabilities, rehabilitation rate, percent of persons rehabilitated placed in competitive employment, and average gain in weekly earnings from referral to closure of those rehabilitated.

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.

Population Targeting

Recent national surveys have estimated that there are over 21 million Americans of working age with functional limitations. Of this number, about 13 million are significantly limited in the amount or kind of work they can perform, including substantial numbers who are totally incapacitated. The number eligible for vocational ehabilitation under the Rehabilitation Act is still smaller, and entitlements under the other program (e.g., veterans or those with worker compensation claims) are often provided for separately. Finally, many potentially eligible individuals do not apply for service.


In FY 1992, 949,053 individuals were served by State agencies. Of this number, 346,325 (36.5 percent) were newly accepted for vocational rehabilitation, with the balance (602,728) having entered the program in FY 1991 or earlier.

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:

Program Administration

Services are delivered by 83 rehabilitation agencies in the United States, Puerto Rico, and outlying territories. Some States have separate agencies for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Federal funds are distributed by formula with the State matching share being 21.3 percent.


During FY 1992, about 191,890 clients were rehabilitated compared to 202,831 in FY 1991. The rate of success among case closures in FY 1992 (the rehabilitation rate) was 58.0 percent. Of all rehabilitations in FY 1991, 82 percent involved successful placements into competitive employment. Average weekly earnings at closure for all those rehabilitated in FY 1991 (including those in homemaking occupations with no earnings) showed an increase of $156 over average earnings at the time of the client's initial application for program services.

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.

III. Sources of Information

  1. Disability, Functional Limitation, and Health Insurance Coverage: 1984/1985 (Washington, DC: Bureau of the Census, 1986).

  2. Annual Report of the Rehabilitation Service Administration for FY 1990 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, October 1991).

  3. Analysis of Program Trends and Performance in the Federal-State Vocational Rehabilitation Program (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Planning Associates, 1989).

  4. The Economic Benefits of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Planning Associates, 1989).

  5. Evaluation of Quality Assurance (QA) Systems in State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies. (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Planning Associates, 1989).

  6. Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Field Service Delivery Personnel in Vocational Rehabilitation. (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Planning Associates, 1989).

  7. A Longitudinal Study of the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program will collect up to three years of data on approximately 10,000 State agency clients and applicants for service in order to assess the impact of vocational rehabilitation services relative to a broad range of client outcomes. Expected completion date, 1999.

IV. Planned Studies


V. Contacts for Further Information

Program Operations:
Mark Shoob, (202) 205-9406

Program Studies:
Rob Barnes, (202) 732-3630

[National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)] [Table of Contents] [Client Assistance Program (CAP)]