GAO Issues Report on Vocational Rehabilitation

Topics: Announcements, Employment,

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Vocational Rehabilitation (VR): Additional Federal Information Could Help States Serve Employers and Find Jobs for People with Disabilities.”  In 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) made changes to the VR program, increasing its focus on serving employers, promoting career advancement as part of the broader goal of mainstream employment, and coordinating with other workforce programs. The GAO was asked to review the VR program under WIOA. This report examines (1) the steps VR agencies have taken under WIOA to work with employers and place individuals in mainstream employment, and the extent Education has addressed any challenges; (2) how VR agencies have coordinated with other workforce programs and the extent federal agencies have addressed any challenges; and (3) how federal agencies have measured state VR agencies’ efforts to serve employers.

According to the report, the process for gaining data came from surveying all 79 VR agencies (74 responded); conducted three discussion groups with 36 state VR officials and four with 29 employers that worked with VR; interviewed VR and other workforce officials in three states, selected for geographic dispersion, among other factors; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance.

Further information from the report stated that:

  • VR agencies in GAO’s survey reported providing specific employer services under WIOA, however, many agencies reported challenges meeting employers’ needs and promoting mainstream employment. 
  • VR agencies found increased coordination with other workforce agencies, but some gaps exist in federal guidance intended to enhance coordination.
  • Employers GAO spoke with cited challenges navigating workforce programs, yet few agencies reported documenting roles and responsibilities of the agencies they partner with to work with employers.

 There are seven recommendations included in the report and the first four are specific to the Commissioner of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration in working with VR agencies to:

  • Determine whether and what additional information and assistance VR agencies may find helpful regarding on-demand training, such as online videos, to employers on disability issues.
  • Determine how to most effectively disseminate information about the circumstances in which individuals who are employed may be eligible for career advancement services.
  • Develop more complete information on when and how VR agencies should assess employment settings, including settings supported by the AbilityOne program, to determine if they meet the definition of competitive integrated employment.
  • Encourage local areas to clarify and document the roles and responsibilities of partner agencies in working with employers and provide sample language of how local areas may document roles and responsibilities in their MOUs.
  • Set the employer performance measurement approaches with DOL after the pilot is concluded, and take into account VR agencies’ concerns and key attributes of successful performance measures, including clarity in what is meant by employer services, coverage of the VR agencies’ core program activities, and consideration of factors outside of VR agencies’ control.

 Two other recommendations are to the Assistant Secretary of DOL’s Employment and Training Administration:

  • Encourage local areas to clarify and document the roles and responsibilities of partner agencies in working with employers and provide sample language of how local areas may document roles and responsibilities in their MOUs.
  • In setting the employer performance measurement approaches with Education, after the pilot is concluded, take into account VR agencies’ concerns and key attributes of successful performance measures, including clarity in what is meant by employer services, coverage of the VR agencies’ core program activities, and consideration of factors outside of VR agencies’ control.