ADVOCACY TIP | Encourage students and parents to learn about VR Employment Goals and the Individual Plan for Employment (IPE).
The Individualized Plan for Employment
After eligibility for VR services is established and assessments have been performed, the next step is to develop a written plan to determine the person’s employment goal and the specific VR services needed to help the individual reach that goal.
This plan is known as the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). It is developed by the VR “client,” with or without assistance from the VR counselor, and is completed on a form provided by the state VR agency. The IPE must be developed no later than 90 days after the person’s eligibility determination is made. If necessary, the VR agency and client can agree to an extension to a specified later date.
For young adults in school, some of this planning may already have begun. No later than the Individual Educational Program (IEP) year in which the student turns 16, the IEP is required to include post-secondary goals for employment, education/training and, if appropriate, independent living with specific transition services to assist the student in meeting these goals. Note that in order to include these goals the IEP must be developed during the prior school year, when the student is 15 years old. Understanding the requirements of the VR IPE while in school can help better prepare the student for receiving VR services. The IPE developed while the student is in school must be consistent with the goals in the IEP.
ADVOCACY TIP | If the student is still in school, encourage parents and/or students to work with the IEP Team to coordinate the development of the IPE with the transition goals in the IEP. They need to be consistent.
For VR services, the IPE must include:
- A description of the specific employment outcome chosen by the eligible person that is consistent with the individual’s unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, career interests, and informed choice.
- A description of the specific rehabilitation services that are needed to achieve the employment outcome, including, as appropriate, the provision of assistive technology devices or services and personal assistance services, including training in the management of these services. Services must be provided in the most integrated setting that is appropriate for the services involved and is consistent with the informed choice of the person.
- Timelines for the achievement of the employment outcome and for initiation of services.
- A description of the entity or entities chosen by the person (or representative) that will provide the VR services, and the methods used to procure these services.
- A description of the criteria that will be used to evaluate progress toward achievement of the employment outcome.
- The terms and conditions of the IPE, including the rights and responsibilities of the VR agency and the person, the extent of the person’s financial participation in paying for the cost of services, the responsibility of the person regarding applying for and securing comparable benefits, and the responsibility of other entities.
The IPE must be reviewed at least annually and must be amended if necessary due to changes in employment outcome, VR services to be provided, and VR service providers. Changes made when the IPE is reviewed cannot take place until they are agreed upon by the person and their VR Counselor.
Employment Goals and Outcomes
Employment goals and outcomes are central to the IPE and are defined by law as “entering, advancing in, or retaining full-time or part-time competitive integrated employment.” They include “customized employment, self-employment, telecommuting, or business ownership.”
- Competitive integrated employment is full or part-time work at minimum wage or higher, with wages and benefits similar to those without disabilities performing the same work, and fully integrated with coworkers without disabilities.
- Customized employment is competitive, integrated employment for an individual with a significant disability based on a personalized determination of the individual’s “strengths, needs and interests.” It is designed to meet the specific abilities of the individual and the business needs of the employer and is carried out with “flexible strategies.”
- Supported employment may be a goal for persons with the most significant disabilities who need intensive supports and extended services when it is consistent with their unique strengths, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, and interests. Supported employment service can include supplementary assessments of rehabilitation needs, skilled job trainers for the person at the worksite, social skills training, follow-up services, and facilitation of natural supports at the worksite. These services are usually provided on a short-term basis when they are expected to lead to competitive employment within 2 years.
- Telecommuting involves performing job-related functions at a location other than the employer’s physical location. Telecommuting can be arranged with some employers for some jobs, and performed for part or all of the employee’s work time. VR services can help with expenses related to telecommuting, such as computers, internet service provider costs, and needed assistive technology devices and services. Telecommuting may be an important IPE goal for persons living in remote rural locations, or who may not have access to effective transportation services.
- Business ownership is just that, developing and starting one’s own business. Although state VR agencies vary in their approaches to funding self-employment, most will require a self-employment feasibility study and/or draft business plan. The funding VR will agree to cover varies as well, and VR agencies may encourage the individual to explore other funding sources and services, such as their local Workforce (One-Stop) system.
ADVOCACY TIP | When it comes to planning employment goals, encourage Dreaming Big. The employment goals set in the IPE and the VR services that will be provided to achieve them are required to maximize the student’s employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society.
Maximization of Employment
In 1986, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was amended to include its purpose to “[E]mpower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society, through … comprehensive and coordinated state-of-the-art programs of vocational rehabilitation.”
In 1992, specific language was included to add “The purpose of the VR Program is, in part, to empower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society.”
Taken together these amendments are broadly interpreted to mean that if a person has the required ability, the VR agency should provide services to persons who need help to qualify for, find, or keep a job that is consistent with their strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, interests, and informed choice.
WIA regulations in 2001, and the passage of WIOA in 2014, reaffirmed that states must look beyond options in entry-level employment for VR program participants who are capable of more challenging work.
Together they stressed that:
- Individuals with disabilities who are currently employed should be able to advance in their careers;
- VR services should maximize the potential for individuals with disabilities to prepare for, obtain, retain, and advance in the same high-quality jobs and high-demand careers as persons without disabilities;
- VR eligibility should recognize each participants’ work potential and require vocational rehabilitation services to prepare for, secure, retain, advance in, or regain employment that is consistent with the individual’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice; and
- VR agencies should encourage qualified individuals who are eligible to receive services, enabling them to pursue advanced training in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (including computer science) fields, medicine, law, or business.
VR agencies are required to implement their programs and provide information and services with “respect for individual dignity, personal responsibility, self-determination, and pursuit of meaningful careers, based on informed choice, of individuals with disabilities.”
Implementation of informed choice ensures that the person, or the person through their representative, is able to:
- Make decisions related to the assessment process, employment outcomes, employment setting, VR services, VR service providers, and the methods for procuring services;
- Have a range of options from which to make these decisions or, to the extent possible, the opportunity to create new options that will meet the individual’s specific rehabilitation needs;
- Have access to sufficient information about the consequences of various options;
- Have skills for evaluating the information and for making decisions, or, to the extent possible, the opportunity to develop such skills or support and assistance in carrying out these functions;
- Make decisions in ways that reflect the individual’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, and interests; and
- Take personal responsibility, to the greatest extent possible, for implementing the chosen options.
This principle, and many rules surrounding vocational rehabilitation, help to ensure that the VR process is consumer-driven and that the VR agency’s policies and methods facilitate the flexible provision of services and afford eligible persons meaningful choices and services.
ADVOCACY TIP | Students engaging with the VR agency have a right to make “Informed Choices” (see Glossary). The VR agency will provide information to help, but students and parents should consider interests carefully and learn as much as possible about their employment options, available services, and their rights throughout the VR process.
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).