WIOA, Competitive Integrated Employment, and VR Funding

From the Office of Suzanne R. Page, DORS Director

January 11, 2017

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), places extensive emphasis on the achievement of competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. The Act also changes the employment outcomes that are allowable under the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program.  The purpose of this letter is to advise you how WIOA changes to allowable VR program employment outcomes affect DORS funding in support of those outcomes.

The Individualized Plan for Employment for a DORS consumer must include a specific employment goal that is consistent with the general goal of competitive integrated employment.  For an employment outcome to be considered competitive integrated employment, WIOA regulations require that the outcome satisfy the following criteria to be permitted under the Vocational Rehabilitation program:

  1. competitive earnings
  2. integrated location
  3. opportunities for advancement

If an individual’s employment fails to satisfy any one of these three components, the employment will not meet the definition of competitive integrated employment and will no longer be allowed under the VR program. Please see the Competitive Integrated Employment Fact Sheet (below) for clarification regarding the definition of competitive integrated employment and frequently asked questions.

The U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), has determined that business settings established specifically for the purpose of employing individuals with disabilities are not integrated settings. This includes positions that are funded through the operation of contracts under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, known as Ability One, or State purchasing contracts, that require the hiring of a specific number of individuals with disabilities. RSA has determined that these set-aside jobs are not typically found in the competitive marketplace, and thus cannot be considered to meet the definition of competitive integrated employment. Therefore, your organization will not receive payment from DORS for the placement of an individual into these non-integrated employment settings or any follow-along services that the individual may need to be successful in these non-integrated employment settings.

Similarly, groups, mobile work crews, or enclaves do not satisfy the integrated location component of competitive integrated employment when the employee’s day-to-day interactions with individuals without disabilities (excluding supervisors and service providers) are merely by chance and are not necessary for the performance of the job.  This means an employee is not in integrated employment when interaction with individuals without disabilities occurs only when having a casual conversation unrelated to business, or when arriving, leaving, or taking a break at the same time as individuals without disabilities, or when receiving supervision or support. 

As a result of the change to allowable employment outcomes for the VR program, DORS staff are being instructed to issue new authorizations only for job placement and support services leading to employment that meets the definition of competitive integrated employment. If you currently have a consumer in a non-integrated employment setting receiving DORS funding, consistent with the Individualized Plan for Employment, contact the DORS counselor to determine when DORS funding will be discontinued.  All DORS funding for supports for outcomes in non-integrated settings will cease by April 30, 2017. 

As we move forward, DORS is committed to working closely with Community Rehabilitation Programs to assist individuals with disabilities to obtain competitive integrated employment as defined in WIOA regulations. When considering a job opening for a potential placement, a job developer who has any question regarding whether that placement would be considered integrated by DORS should discuss these concerns with the DORS counselor before initiating placement.

If you have any other questions or comments, please contact my office or Kate Drake at Catherine.Drake@maryland.gov.  We look forward to working with you to implement the provisions of WIOA related to competitive integrated employment. 

Competitive Integrated Employment Resources