The MSRC works with state and federal legislative representatives to promote the public vocational rehabilitation (VR) program as a sound investment in the workforce and our citizens.
The demand for public vocational rehabilitation (VR) services – services that enable job seekers with disabilities to find jobs and go to work – has increased dramatically over the last decade. During this time, DORS has received minimal increases in its federal funding due to inequities in the federal funding formula.
In 2014, Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA). WIOA made a major change in the national VR program by creating a new program: Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). Pre-ETS are focused on providing specific transitioning services for students with disabilities who are still in high school, a technical school, or college and are under the age of 21. Unlike traditional VR services, Pre-ETS are extremely limited in scope and are only to prepare students for employment, not to assist them in becoming employed.
Unfortunately, Congress did not provide any additional financial resources to fund Pre-ETS; in fact, the VR program is now required to set aside 15% of its federal VR funding to support Pre-ETS. For Maryland, this means that DORS has fewer resources to provide VR services. At present, DORS has a waiting list and is bringing individuals off the waitlist as resources allows.
The Council continues to have concerns about funding and disparities in how federal VR funds are distributed between the states. The Council was active in promoting research into the federal funding formula, resulting in a 2009 Government Accounting Office (GAO) study confirming that Maryland is very adversely affected by the formula. GAO recommended three courses of action to address the inequities, none of which have yet to be acted on by the Congress. The Council continues to advocate for more equitable support of individuals with disabilities in Maryland seeking employment through the VR program.
An additional issue affecting the ability of Marylanders with disabilities to receive VR services is that DORS does not have enough rehabilitation counselors positions available to serve eligible individuals who are requesting services