ADVOCACY TIP | Encourage parents and students to learn more about VR and VR services. If they think the student may be eligible for VR services, they should contact the state VR agency as soon as possible to apply.
Understanding VR services is particularly important to students and their families during transition from school to adult life. State VR agencies are required to respond to requests from the school district to collaborate on transition planning. Having VR representatives at the IEP table and developing positive working relationships with VR while a student is still in school can help smooth the transition between these two service systems.
How do families and youth involve the state VR agency in transition planning?
School personnel — including but not limited to special educators, guidance counselors, school nurses, school psychologists, speech/language pathologists, administrators, and general education teachers, as well as parents/guardians — may refer students to VR and request that they participate in planning during the student’s secondary school years.
ADVOCACY TIP | A member of the IEP Team the student, or the family can refer the student for VR services. If the VR agency is invited to the school team’s table, they are required to help.
Students may be referred for VR services at the earliest age established by the State VR agency, and there is no minimum age given in the statute. In general, the VR system recommends that students who are expected to be eligible for VR services be referred and apply at least two years before leaving school. For students who are involved in or expect to be involved in Community Based Work Experiences (CBWE), referral and application is generally recommended at age 16, but may begin earlier. Many states begin with referral at age 14.
ADVOCACY TIP | Students have a right to receive VR services while still in school. Starting at age 16 (or sooner in some states) or as soon as possible if the student is older, talk with the school team about integrating VR services into transition planning.
Collaboration between the school district and the VR agency helps expedite the availability of services and ensures there are no gaps between service systems after graduation. State VR agencies are now required by law to develop interagency agreements with state Education Departments to facilitate this collaboration.
ADVOCACY TIP | VR Transition Counselors can collaborate with the school team and provide VR services before graduation. If the VR agency is invited to the school team’s table, they are required to help the IEP Team develop the IEP.
If a Student is Presumed or Expected to be Eligible for VR Services…
VR agencies can help students with disabilities transition from school into postsecondary education, training, or directly into employment with the ultimate goal of meaningful inclusion in the adult community. The VR Transition Counselor may work with school staff to provide assistance with transition planning, developing post-secondary goals, developing appropriate VR referrals, or educating school staff, parents, students, and others about available VR programs. Once VR refers someone, they may also help students get an early start on the application and VR services eligibility determination process.
Remember: The school district should consider updating assessments in anticipation of the student’s referral to vocational rehabilitation. While the VR agency is ultimately responsible for obtaining any additional assessments that would be required to determine eligibility for VR services, the availability of fresh evaluations can prevent delays in receiving VR services, especially in post-secondary education settings (see Part 5 of this VR Toolkit guide).
ADVOCACY TIP | Encourage students, parents, and the school team to review any evaluations or assessments that may have been developed in school. Consider asking the IEP team to update or develop new evaluations to prepare for receiving VR services after graduation.
Once a student is determined eligible for VR services, the student or their representative develops an individualized plan for VR services called the Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) (to learn more about the IPE, see Section 3 of this VR Toolkit series). The student or their representative may seek assistance in the development of the IPE from family members, a knowledgeable advocate, or other individuals. However, only a qualified VR Counselor employed by the VR agency may approve and sign the IPE.
The IPE for a student who receives special education and related services under Part B of IDEA or educational services under Section 504 must be developed so that it is consistent with and complementary to the student’s IEP or plan for Section 504 services.
If transition from secondary school to VR services is to be seamless, the IPE should be developed and approved by the student or the student’s representative and the VR agency no later than the time the student leaves the school setting.
ADVOCACY TIP | The IPE developed during the school years must be consistent with the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.
If a Student is Not Presumed or Expected to be Eligible for VR Services…
The VR agency must provide services for students who may not be eligible for VR services while they are still in secondary school. VR agencies are now required to use 15% of their public VR funding on a specific set of services for secondary students called Pre-employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). Students are NOT required to be determined eligible for VR services or have developed an IPE in order to receive these services.
There are five required Pre-ETS services that VR can provide to students with disabilities while they are still students:
- Job exploration counseling;
- Work-based learning experiences, which may include in-school or after-school opportunities or experiences outside the traditional school setting;
- Counseling on opportunities for enrollment in comprehensive transition or postsecondary educational programs at institutions of higher education;
- Workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living;
- Instruction in self-advocacy, which may include peer mentoring.
The requirement that VR agencies provide Pre-ETS services is relatively new, and many VR agencies nationwide have reported difficulty in effectively implementing these services.
Pre-ETS Services are funded under designated and limited state VR budgets and are subject to Order of Selection. As a result, whether the VR Agency will provide Pre-ETS or other VR Services in secondary school and which services it will provide may depend on several factors, including the student’s VR eligibility, when the eligibility was determined, and when the Order of Selection was instituted.
For more on this subject, refer to the Rehabilitation Services Administration Regional Training Series, Regulations Implementing the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as Amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
ADVOCACY TIP | Even if a student is not expected to be eligible for VR services while in school, the VR agency is required to provide specific VR services called Pre-employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS), and work with the school team to help unless an Order of Selection restricts the appropriate services.
If at any time the client needs information or assistance regarding VR services or their rights under these programs, tell them to contact their state’s Client Assistance Program (CAP). More information is available about CAP in Section 6 of this guide series.
For more legal analysis, see Work, Assistive Technology and State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies: The Vocational Rehabilitation Agency’s Obligation to Fund AT to Support Employment Preparation; Ronald M. Hager, Esq., September 2018; National Disability Rights Network. raisecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/VR-Funding-of-AT-2018.pdf
For Additional or General Support:
Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) | There are nearly 100 Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs) in the US and Territories. To find a state’s Parent Center, visit the CPIR website: parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center.
RAISE Center | The National Resources for Advocacy, Independence, Self-determination and Employment (RAISE) Technical Assistance Center works with the seven (7) Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA)-funded Parent Training & Information Centers (PTIs) to develop and disseminate information and resources that increase their capacity to serve youth and young adults with disabilities and their families. Visit the RAISE Center website: raisecenter.org.
RAISE and its products are funded through a grant from US Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).