- Program-Specific Requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation (Combined or General)
The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services Portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan  must include the following descriptions and estimates, as required by section 101(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by title IV of WIOA:
 Sec. 102(b)(2)(D)(iii) of WIOA
- o. State's Strategies
Describe the required strategies and how the agency will use these strategies to achieve its goals and priorities, support innovation and expansion activities, and overcome any barriers to accessing the VR and the Supported Employment programs (See sections 101(a)(15)(D) and (18)(B) of the Rehabilitation Act and section 427 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA)):
- o. State's Strategies
o. 1. The methods to be used to expand and improve services to individuals with disabilities
Training: Over the past few years, VR has increased emphasis on the importance of supported employment services as evidenced by systemic changes to the VR employment services process, enhanced training on supported employment, implementation of Establishment projects with a key focus of increasing provision of supported employment services, and providing ongoing opportunities for feedback from VR staff and employment services providers to understand best practices as well as further areas of improvement. An additional training strategy recently identified and implemented is the delivery of ‘micro-training’ to employment service providers, which may offer the benefit of providing training in a more digestible manner and increase access to participation in training for those who cannot devote a full day or more to a training.
VR recognizes a need to continue to increase the provision of training to both VR staff and provider staff to improve the quality of services provided to VR participants. VR issued a request for proposal in late 2019 to seek innovative strategies for training and plans to award training contracts in 2020. Topic areas of focus over the next two years aim to improve employment services and outcomes for targeted populations, including individuals with mental health disabilities, transition aged students, and individuals transitioning from sub-minimum wage employment to competitive, integrated employment, as well as a focus on strengths based service delivery. Additional topic areas will be evaluated through needs assessments and ongoing feedback from staff and stakeholders. Training will be delivered through a variety of modalities including web-based, classroom based, and hands-on sessions.
VR has also enhanced orientation and training for new VR Counselors, including an increase in face-to-face training opportunities and peer mentoring opportunities, to compliment the robust web-based training that all new VR staff are required to complete. The web-based training continues to be enhanced based on program changes and staff feedback. VR plans to add content targeted to VR Case Coordinators by 2021.
Staff Capacity: VR continues to evaluate staffing capacity and has implemented several shifts in staff structure over the past several years, including the addition of VR Case Coordinators as well as VR Counselor Working Leads across the state. More recently, VR shifted VR Counselors between two distinct roles – VR intake and eligibility specialists, and VR caseload counselors. This shift has created added efficiency as evidenced by improved timeliness of eligibility and IPE development, increased equity related to eligibility and disability priority determinations, and improved staff satisfaction with their jobs. In 2019, a VR Counselor Trainee position was created and VR Counselor salaries were adjusted to better align with the market rate. VR will closely monitor staff retention and recruitment over the next two years to evaluate the impact of this most recent strategy to improve staffing capacity. Additional strategies will be identified and implemented which may include increased use of interns in VR field offices to improve recruitment efforts, evaluating the need for additional specialty VR Counselor caseloads such as a focus on working with students in post-secondary training, and providing increased opportunities for VR staff to participate in workgroups or special projects in their areas of interest to increase engagement and potentially job satisfaction and retention.
Ongoing opportunities for streamlining for gained efficiency will also continue to be explored, such as additional enhancements to the VR claims payment system and a review of VR rules and processes to identify unnecessary administrative burdens. VR is working to promulgate new rules by 2021.
Collaboration: Starting in 2020, VR will identify strategies to improve both statewide and local collaboration through expanding existing partnerships and development of new partnerships, which may include targeted collaboration at each VR office with a variety of partners based on local need, and enhanced statewide collaboration with other state agencies such as the Division of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA). DMHA and VR have already started working toward improved collaboration through jointly leading a workgroup aimed at improving employment outcomes for VR participants with mental health disabilities, and jointly applying for and subsequently receiving 300 training and technical assistance hours through the Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE) project aimed at improving competitive, integrated employment for individuals with mental health disabilities.
VR will also continue to explore new and expanded partnerships with other workforce programs and state and local agencies that may lead to shared service provision or blended funding opportunities. This may include an expanded partnership with DWD through increased participation of students with disabilities in the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) Program, active participation on the BDDS home and community based waiver redesign especially as it pertains to employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and increased opportunity for individuals working at subminimum wage to transition to competitive, integrated employment.
Additional details about collaboration with other state agencies is outlined in sections c, d, and h of the VR portion of the state plan.