New Guidance on Youth Transition and Vocational Rehabilitation

The Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), has issued a technical assistance circular (RSA-TAC-14-03) that addresses a variety of transition-related issues affecting state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies. As noted by RSA, the issues addressed in the TAC “pertain to: (1) the effective collaboration between VR agencies and State educational agencies (SEA) for the provision of transition services; (2) the VR process as it relates to referral and application for services, the determination of eligibility, and the development of the individualized plan for employment (IPE); and (3) the services that may be provided through the VR program. The guidance contained in this TAC will better enable VR agencies to implement policies and engage in innovative strategies designed to improve the transition of students with disabilities including those with the most significant disabilities, from school to the achievement of integrated employment outcomes and careers.”

AGE-IN Act Introduced to Address Transition Needs of Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has introduced the Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation (AGE-IN) Act of 2013 (S. 1259). The bill seeks to address the school-to-adult life transition needs of youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders, by funding grants to provide research, training, and transition navigator services. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Join The Online Dialogue on Transition From School to Work

Members of the public are invited to participate in an online dialogue to examine the impact of existing federal regulations and legislation on the successful transition from school to work of youth and young adults with disabilities. The U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration are hosting the event through May 27, and invite policymakers, educators, service providers, families, youth, the advocacy community and others to join this conversation to improve transition outcomes.  To register for and participate in the dialogue, visit http://FPTepolicyworks.ideascale.com.

Federal Agencies to Host Online Conversation on Transition for Youth with Disabilities

From May 13 to May 27, 2013, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and the Social Security Administration will host a public online dialogue on federal agency strategies for helping youth with disabilities successfully transition from school to work. The dialogue will seek to identify federal legislative and regulatory barriers and opportunities to improve transition outcomes and to foster the alignment of agencies’ policies, programs, and practices that support successful transitions. The dialogue will be open to the public. Online registration began May 7, 2013. From May 13 to 27, participants will be able to submit ideas, submit comments about ideas, and rate ideas. The dialogue will be facilitated. Once the dialogue has closed, a summary report will be made public.

Senate Hearing Looks at Employment of {eople with Disabilities

Last week, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on “Lessons from the Field: Learning from What Works for Employment for Persons with Disabilities.” The committee sought to learn about proven strategies that have a positive impact on employment outcomes for all people with disabilities, including young adults and veterans. Witnesses included The Honorable Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor; Governor Tom Ridge, Chairman, National Organization on Disability; Deborah Dagit, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Merck; and Amelia Wallrich, Law Student, Northwestern University. Witnesses highlighted the extremely high rates of unemployment and underemployment among people with disabilities, and discussed successful strategies including customized employment, workplace accommodations, and transition planning for youth with disabilities.

Three Transition Bills Introduced in House

Three separate bills that share the name, “Transitioning towards Excellence & Achievement in Mobility (TEAM)” have been introduced in Congress by Rep. Greg Harper (R-MS).  The TEAM legislation provides separate legislative responses to help ensure that youth with significant disabilities have the opportunity to become gainfully employed in integrated settings, pursue post-secondary education, and engage in typical community activities upon leaving high school.

The TEAM Education Act (H.R. 602) seeks to streamline the transition process at the high-school level and require coordination between the state education authority and the State I/DD authority.  Among other things,  it requires Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to begin including transition planning at age 14, and allows the State Intellectual/Developmental Disability (I/DD) Agency to participate in the IEP and transition planning team for students expected to be eligible for adult I/DD services.  It also provides $50 million to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) to pilot the hiring of internal transition services coordinators

The TEAM Empowerment Act (H.R. 603) seeks to increase coordination between state educational agencies and state I/DD authorities to successfully transition youth with significant disabilities from high school into meaningful employment and post-secondary education opportunities. The bill establishes an optional Transition Planning and Services Division within each State I/DD agency to provide the necessary capacity and expertise. It also provides $50,000,000 in funding beginning in fiscal year 2012.

The TEAM-Employment Act (H.R. 604) would amend the Rehabilitation Act to realign preferred outcomes for individuals with significant disabilities, and streamlines public funding by requiring the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) systems to actively engage with other state entities. The bill institutes the attainment of integrated employment or post-secondary education as the preferred outcome for all individuals, including those with significant disabilities.  It directs VR programs to work toward ensuring that all individuals with disabilities can be employed in integrated settings at the greater of minimum or competitive wages with commensurate benefits, and can pursue independent living and community participation and removing VR authority to determine an adult with significant disabilities ineligible to receive supported employment services.