Department of Education
IOWA VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION SERVICES Biennial Report
2009 - 2010
IOWA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
IOWA VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION SERVICES
Biennial Report SFY 2009 and 2010
Section 259.5, Iowa Code states, “Report to Governor. The division shall report biennially to the governor the condition of vocational rehabilitation within the state, designating the educational institutions, establishments, plants, factories, and other agencies in which training is being given, and include a detailed statement of expenditures of the state and federal funds in the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities. Statutory Authority
Iowa Code 259.1 – The State of Iowa, through its legislative authority, accepts the provisions and benefits of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and codified in 29 U.S.C. §701 et seg.
Vocational Rehabilitation is an eligibility-based program provided as a public service to Iowans with disabilities to preserve, restore or develop their abilities so they may become employed. It is one of the oldest, most successful state-federal partnerships. It has been in existence in Iowa since 1921.
Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) exists to serve individuals with disabilities under Title II and Title XVI of the federal Social Security Act and Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act. IVRS serves people with disabilities by: 1) providing vocationally related assistance to achieve economic independence; or 2) providing disability determinations that result in appropriate financial benefits per Social Security Administration guidelines. Other services and financial assistance are provided to enable persons with disabilities to maintain independent functioning as long as possible within their communities and to prevent institutionalization. IVRS is an integral part of the statewide disability community.
The mission, motto, vision and guiding principles of IVRS were reviewed and modified by a cross-division team in the fall of 2007. This was part of a successful effort to develop a new IVRS strategic plan. The current statements of mission, motto, vision and guiding principles are as follows.
Mission We provide expert, individualized services to Iowans with disabilities to achieve their independence through successful employment and economic support.
Core Functions Assist eligible Iowans with disabilities in obtaining, maintaining and advancing in employment through rehabilitation services individually designed to disability and employment needs.
Provide specialized services to the business community to meet their workforce and workplace needs.
Determine eligibility of Iowans who apply for disability benefits administered by the federal Social Security Administration.
Motto Finding solutions. Generating success.
Vision To be a respected leader that delivers innovative services to better the lives of Iowans with disabilities.
Guiding Principles We are responsive to the unique needs and goals identified by individuals with disabilities.
We demonstrate teamwork and cooperation among staff, customers and partners.
We operate with trust and integrity.
We demonstrate compassion and respect for all people.
We value continued improvement and learning.
We openly communicate with clarity and consideration.
We are results driven.
IVRS is the largest division of the Department of Education and functions with considerable autonomy. The division employs nearly 400 people in Des Moines and 43 locations throughout the state. Employees work within three bureaus and a Planning and Development Team. For vocational rehabilitation services, IVRS received $20.9 million in federal funds and another $5.6 million in non-federal funds; for disability determination services, IVRS received federal funds totaling approximately $22.7 million from the Social Security Administration (no state funds).
The majority of staff are professionally trained rehabilitation counselors and disability examiners. Almost 90% of the counselors have master’s degrees in counseling or a closely related field. IVRS is mandated by its federal funding agency, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, to have qualified rehabilitation counselors – i.e., possession of an appropriate graduate degree. All disability examiners have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. In addition, DDSB has on its payroll 35 professional consultants who are licensed as physicians, clinical psychologists, or speech pathologists. Most IVRS employees are covered under collective bargaining agreements negotiated with Iowa United Professionals and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
All employees of the Planning and Development Team, Administrative Services and Disability Determination Services bureaus work in the Des Moines facility. With the exception of a few administrative personnel and the West Central Area Office, most of the Rehabilitation Services Bureau employees are geographically disbursed outside of Des Moines to cover all 99 counties and every high school in the state. As stewards of the public trust, IVRS maintains an efficient workforce by assigning staff to multiple locations so that every community college, regent’s institution, county, high school and most mental health institutes have access to an IVRS staff person. In addition, staff
co-locates or has itinerant offices in some Iowa Workforce Development Centers.
The Rehabilitation Services Bureau (RSB) has the primary responsibility for the statewide program of quality vocational rehabilitation services to all eligible disabled Iowans through direct and purchased services from a network of providers. The Disability Determination Services Bureau (DDSB) is responsible for determining the eligibility of Iowa residents, who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (Title II), and Supplemental Security Income (Title XVI) or the Department of Human Services Medicaid waiver programs. DDSB makes the initial determination of eligibility and any subsequent determination of continuing eligibility and handles first level appeals of unfavorable decisions. The Administrative Services Bureau (ASB) provides fiscal, personnel, information services and administrative support to the other bureaus.
The Planning and Development Team (PDT) is responsible for planning, budgeting, legal, program evaluation, and outreach -- including development of business contacts to foster client employment. Much of its previous responsibility for staff development has been absorbed by other staff after the retirement of a long-time staffer who maintained that function.
IVRS customers are individuals with disabilities who need vocational or other assistance to help meet their goals for vocational or personal independence or who need financial benefits due to their disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation and disability determination programs are eligibility rather than entitlement programs. Applicants must meet federally determined criteria. Customers of both RSB and DDSB may apply on multiple occasions during their lifetime. Customers of the Vocational Rehabilitation program, be they Iowans with disabilities or the business community, expect and receive professional and accurate career planning information and involvement to achieve workforce planning, placement or personal independence. DDSB claimants require accurate and timely decisions on their claims.
Competitive success is determined at the federal level by performance standards and indicators. In DDS that translates to timeliness and accuracy of case processing; on the vocational rehabilitation side, success relates to employment outcomes and equal access to services.
IVRS was not able to match $6.5 million of available federal funds for 2010. The lack of funds resulted in 3825 applicants for vocational rehabilitation services being placed on waiting lists.
IVRS is federally and state funded so the multiplying effect of losing one state dollar due to budget cuts adversely impacts the delivery of rehabilitation services. Caseload size for counselors is increasing, which will require more purchase of services and ultimately diminish efficiencies. This also leads to more individuals placed on the waiting list because of the budget impact and the lack of staff capacity to serve the number of individuals requesting services. Services of several temporary staff were secured for several months through ARRA funding and when this ended, the same funding was applied to salaries and benefits of Rehabilitation Services Bureau staff who work directly with IVRS consumers.
IVRS was able to reduce the amount of tuition and fees it pays for students who attend college after studying the impact of tuition rates on the IVRS budget. Such a reduction comes at a time when colleges are raising their tuition rates. While it is to the State of Iowa’s advantage that these individuals pursue a college degree (the majority of clientele remain in the state after graduation), it does pose a burden on students who already have significant needs not experienced by the non-disabled population. It is too early to tell if the triangular effect of reduced tuition support from IVRS, increased cost of college programs, and decrease in disability support services will impact graduation and employment rates.
IVRS received $4.6 million in ARRA funding and used it to support temporary workers in offices where the hiring freeze seriously impacted our ability to perform the work. IVRS has historically found that purchasing, rather than delivering services directly, is taxing on the budget. IVRS expects to see these expenditures rise as there are insufficient staff to deliver the services.
IVRS continues to enhance technology (web-based software) to provide staff with a more efficient system to manage their work. This, coupled with the organization redesign, will positively impact productivity. Also, IVRS management is starting to use other technology (e.g., to conduct meetings remotely) as a way to reduce travel/costs throughout the state.
Funds for Independent Living case services continue to decrease. As a result, there is a twelve-month waiting list for the program. Extensive contract monitoring procedures have been necessary in the past year to ensure that contracting requirements are satisfied; IVRS continues to work with the State Auditor’s Office and Office of Attorney General to ensure compliance, particularly after audits revealed significant issues with two of the Centers for Independent Living.
While there are no direct competitors for Disability Determination Services, there is competition for funding with other Social Security Administration entities and other states.