Maryland’s Advocates for Public VR

​​​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.

Waiting List

The demand for public vocational rehabilitation (VR) services – services that enable people 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 financial and staffing resources to provide VR services. At present, DORS has a waiting list of approximately 3,000 individuals. DORS is currently bringing individuals off the waitlist as resources allows, however it will take sometime before individuals will receive services.

Federal Funding

The Council continues to have concerns about funding due to Sequestration and similar drastic budget cutting efforts, and those disparities in how federal VR funds are distributed between the states still remain. 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.

Staffing Shortages

An additional issue affecting the ability of Marylanders with disabilities to receive VR services has emerged with the economic issues in the State. DORS has experienced extended vacancies in rehabilitation counselor ranks which have resulted in diminished capacity to serve consumers. The State of Maryland hiring freeze and efforts to reduce the total number of employees in State service have resulted in a more than 10% reduction in the number of VR counselors and other staff who directly serve DORS consumers.

​​Investing in Maryland

  • At the time they apply for VR services, only 10% of DORS consumers list "wages" as their primary source of income.

  • After successfully receiving VR services, nearly 71.93% report that wages are their primary source of income.

  • The average cost for a person with disabilities to achieve successful employment with public VR services is $4,988. This cost is paid back through their taxes and reduced reliance on public benefits in just two to four years.

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