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Meeting of the Board of Regents | December 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - 8:00am

sed seal                                                                                                 





VESID Committee


Rebecca H. Cort   


Designing Our Future – Annual Update


November 27, 2009


Goals 1, 2 &  4







Issue for Discussion

An update on the Designing Our Future Implementation Plan.


Reason for Consideration


To inform the Regents and obtain their support for the actions being taken to implement the “Designing Our Future” recommendations that will continue to improve how VESID provides rehabilitation services in New York State.


Proposed Handling

              This item will come before the VESID Committee at its December 2009 meeting.

Procedural History

In November 2003, VESID presented to the Board of Regents a plan to review the design of its vocational rehabilitation (VR) process and functions to meet changing needs, respond to changes in the larger federally funded vocational services system, and make better use of its resources.  In May 2006, VESID presented a plan to implement its recommendations. 

Since 2006, VESID has taken steps to implement the “Designing Our Future” plan, as well as initiating several key initiatives and interagency activities.  An extensive status report on the implementation plan was presented at the December 2007 and 2008 Board of Regents meetings, and a follow-up report on the new VR initiatives was presented in June 2008.  In addition, reports on the fiscal challenges in VESID VR were reported in the October 2009 Regents Report entitled Vocational Rehabilitation Cost Containment Update.

Background Information

The intent of the “Designing Our Future” process was to follow up on redesign efforts made over the past 15 years and to conduct a comprehensive examination of VESID’s vocational rehabilitation program with input from consumers, staff, providers, employers, public agency partners, and other stakeholders. The “Designing Our Future” report, initially presented in January 2006, included 15 recommendations on ways to improve service delivery in New York State.

This report provides an update on the actions and key initiatives that VESID has undertaken in response to the 15 recommendations, as well as the significant fiscal and staffing challenges facing the VR program.  


              The Board of Regents will continue to support VESID’s “Designing Our Future” initiative and implementation plan.

Timetable for Implementation

              With Regents support, the described activities will continue to move forward. 







  • Introduction

In May 2006, the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) presented a plan to the Board of Regents for implementing recommendations to design the future of vocational rehabilitation in New York State. 

The 15 recommendations centered around four key themes:


  • Improved marketing of VESID services to consumers and businesses;
  • Enhanced collaboration with stakeholders;
  • Expanded and diversified outreach to consumers; and
  • Redesigned District Office staffing structures.


In the year since the last update on the “Designing our Future” Initiative (November 2008), VESID has experienced serious fiscal and staffing challenges that have had a significant impact on the continued implementation of some of the initiatives.  This report will provide an update on the key outcomes and initiatives implemented as part of the design effort.

 II.  Results


A.  Outcomes

Over the past three years, VESID has seen a significant increase in the number of individuals with disabilities accessing services.  Major initiatives such as the Model Transition Program, City University of New York (CUNY)–Linking Employment, Academics and Disabilities Services (LEADS) Program, increased consumer outreach, expanded college services and redesigned contract services have all served to increase the consumer base in VESID.  While the increase was planned and expected, the associated increase in the cost of services, coupled with the loss of staff due to retirements and the hiring freeze, have significantly impacted outcomes. 


Due to the pending fiscal and staffing issues, the performance goals for 2009 were based on the outcomes achieved in 2008.  As noted in the following chart, the goals were achieved in two of the four performance areas.




FFY 06-07

FFY 07-08

FFY 08-09








New Applicants







Eligibility Decisions







New Individualized Plans for Employment (IPE)













Rehabilitations (Employment)







While VESID did not achieve its goal in employment outcomes and development of new Individual Plans for Employment (IPE), data shows an increase of over 8,000 applications and 4,000 eligibility decisions in the past three years.  In addition, there has been a decrease in the total number of counselors while the average caseload size has increased. 



Total # of VRCs

Average Caseload Size











  • Partnerships


The employment rate for people with disabilities in New York State is 33.1 percent as compared to 72.3 percent of people without disabilities (Cornell University Rehabilitation and Research Training Center (RRTC) on Disability Demographics and Statistics, 2009 Disability Status Report: New York).  The challenge for New York State is to close the employment gap by increasing the number of individuals with disabilities entering the workforce. To ensure this outcome, VESID must invest in partnerships with public and private entities.  It is through leveraging of resources and collaboration of efforts that individuals with disabilities will be able to fully participate in employment opportunities available in the State of New York.

NYS Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC) 


VESID has continued to play a strong interagency partnership role on the NYS Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC).  VESID is also chairing the Employment Committee of that Council with Frank Coco, Manager of VR Policy and Partnerships, serving as chair.  


During 2009, the MISCC Employment Committee: 

  • Created a vision statement and principles to guide the interagency development and implementation of employment-related services for individuals with disabilities;
  • Supported Office of Mental Health (OMH), in collaboration with Cornell University and Syracuse University, in launching the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicaid Infrastructure Grant entitled “New York Makes Work Pay” and began to serve as an advisory group to the project.  The Committee members had broad participation in many activities during the year aimed at developing a five-year strategic plan for New York State related to employment of individuals with disabilities;
  • Developed a first draft of a matrix outlining eligibility for employment-related services provided by the Commission of the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH), the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), OMH and VESID; and
  • Committed to the development of a MISCC Employment Implementation Plan, based on the agreed upon vision and principles, to support attainable short and long term systems changes that promote integrated employment options for individuals with disabilities.


The proposed 2010 Implementation Plan will focus on three key objectives:

  • Resources will be directed or redirected toward increased expectations and capacity for integrated employment, based on a cross-program information system that accurately reflects data and funding;
  • The development of employment-focused policy across State agencies and community partners that reflects the expectation that all individuals, including youth, can work when the proper supports and services are provided; and
  • Assure policy implementation through the development of training and other strategies that provide the workforce with the necessary knowledge, skills and practices to meet the goals of this Implementation Plan and the New York State strategic plan. 
VESID will continue to play a leadership role on the MISCC Employment Committee as priority recommendations are implemented.

VESID-DOL Disability Program Navigator MOU


VESID and the NYS Department of Labor (DOL) executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for VESID to contribute toward the statewide Disability Program Navigator (DPN) initiative.   VESID contributed a total of $1.2 Million over the previous and current program year to support the network of DPNs at the local workforce investment areas (LWIAs) across the State.  The role of the DPN is to promote accessibility to the full range of “One Stop” system employment services for people with disabilities.   As part of its responsibilities under the MOU, VESID had been working closely with DOL to identify liaisons in each of the VESID District Offices and participating in monthly phone conferences with DPNs across the State.    VESID and DOL will be forming a cross-agency work team to strengthen the cooperative efforts across the State between VESID, DOL, OASAS, OMRDD and OMH and the respective individuals served by these agencies in utilizing the full array of available employment services.  


During this year of expanded partnerships, VESID faced a potential fiscal crisis.  As a result, VESID had to suspend several programs in order to ensure the availability of funding to maintain the broader vocational rehabilitation program.


Model Transition Program (MTP)

The Model Transition Program (MTP), scheduled to end on November 30, 2009, provided funding for 60 projects that include more than 180 private and public high schools to develop school-wide plans, activities and programs to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities to postsecondary placements.  These placements include college, vocational training programs and competitive employment with and without supports.  The primary goal of the MTP was to facilitate future employment opportunities for students with disabilities.  As a result of MTP, thousands of students with disabilities were made eligible for vocational rehabilitation programs and services. 

During the first academic year, significant progress was made in the implementation of transition activities, formation of partnerships, training, and data collection/analysis.  As reported by Cornell University, MTP generated extensive individual student data regarding participating student demographics, employment and postsecondary preparation, VESID referrals, and collaborative service delivery.  As of October 15, 2009, information on 16,377 students was entered into the Cornell data system. Of them, 14,733 MTP students (90 percent) were in the targeted transition-age group (15 – 21 years).   Highlights include:

  • 83 percent of students with an IEP had measurable postsecondary goals in their IEP, which increased from 65 percent in the first year of MTP;
  • 80 percent of MTP students participated in at least one type of career development activity which increased from 61 percent in the first year;
  • 33 percent had work experiences at school facilities or in the community while they were a part of the MTP.  Of those students, 36 percent were in paid positions. This increased for 19 percent (1,782) of MTP students participating in paid/unpaid work experiences in the first year of the program;
  • 34 percent of MTP students participated in activities aimed to facilitate transition to postsecondary education.  Most of these were college information nights and assistance with college applications. This is an increase from 18 percent in the first program year; and
  • more than 6,000 referrals to VESID have been made.

To assist in documenting the success of the MTP projects, Cornell University is working with VESID’s vocational rehabilitation administration to identify critical elements of the data collection, analysis and reporting processes. Targeted studies by Cornell will identify best practices from the data in their system.  The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo will finalize training curriculum on various disabilities and access to VESID services, which will be made available on VESID’s website.  Successful transition strategies will also be identified and shared with high schools throughout the State.


CUNY LEADS – Linking Employment, Academics and Disability Services


A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been developed with the CUNY, providing funding to 17 campuses throughout the five boroughs of New York City.  Through this MOU, VESID and CUNY are collaborating to provide employment-related services to students with disabilities enrolled on designated CUNY campuses.  Funds are being used to support employment teams to provide services on each campus, facilitating both the educational and employment process of students with disabilities with the goal of competitive employment. 

The term of the MOU is August 1, 2007 to July 31, 2010.  Due to fiscal challenges, VESID cannot continue this project beyond the scheduled end date.

To date, 1,673 students have participated in the program with 66 successfully obtaining employment.  The current placement rate of work-ready participants is 70 percent. 

A complete report on this program will be provided at the January 2010 VESID Committee meeting.

  • Professional Development


The Rehabilitation Act amendments of 1998 require each state to develop a comprehensive system of personnel development (CSPD) designed to ensure an adequate supply of qualified rehabilitation staff.  A key requirement is that vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) must meet certain professional standards.  To be in full compliance with the Rehabilitation Act’s personnel standard for VRCs, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) required that VESID develop a plan to ensure its VRCs meet the national standard, which is a Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) certificate, or a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or counseling or notice of eligibility to sit for the CRCC certificate examination.  VESID VRCs must meet this national standard by September 30, 2013, or be engaged in a program to meet the standard and complete that program by May 30, 2018. 


After surveying VESID VRC staff, it was determined that 67 of the 336 VRCs did not meet the national standard.  In collaboration with staff from SED - Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM), VESID designed a pilot program to assist VRCs in meeting the professional standard.  Elements of the program include financial and administrative assistance in obtaining the necessary coursework.  As a result of the work with VRCs to obtain necessary documentation, the number of VRCs who do not meet the national standard has been reduced from 67 to 30. 


Of concern to VESID is the national shortage of qualified vocational rehabilitation counselors. It is projected that VESID will need 100 VRCs over the next five years to fill vacancies created by retirement and promotional opportunities.  In addition, New York State has lost three of its six graduate programs accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) that prepare vocational rehabilitation professionals.  VESID and OHRM are exploring several recruitment strategies to promote the recruitment and preparation of qualified personnel to address projected personnel needs. The strategies include offering both paid and unpaid internship programs and the development of a VRC Traineeship.  In addition, VESID would like to resume its recruitment efforts which included visits to colleges and universities with Master Degree Programs in Rehabilitation Counselors. 

D.  Marketing


VESID’s involvement with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)/the National Employment Team (The NET) has been growing over the past year.   The focus of CSAVR’s the NET is to develop a common vision and direction among state vocational rehabilitation programs related to building a network with businesses across the states and on a national level.

              Staff’s work with the NET included the following:


  • An introduction to Adecco’s (global staffing agency) Diversity Manager, which has developed into marketing and employment opportunities.  Adecco’s Diversity Manager agreed to be  part of a Public Broadcasting Program on WMHT where he discussed his relationship with VR and “how it is a good business decision” to hire individuals with disabilities.  The Regents received a copy of the NEW YORK NOW  DVD around July 20, 2009.    Shortly after this program, VESID’s relationship with Adecco provided the opportunity in Rochester, New York to start a pilot hiring program in Adecco’s corporate call center and re-established relationships with their local temporary staffing agency. 


  • The NET developed multiple national relationships with the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Transportation, Social Security Administration, Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies. President Obama’s executive order has required federal agencies to ensure at least two per cent of their workforce includes individuals with disabilities. The NET put out a call to all state VR agencies and New York State responded with referring multiple qualified individuals with disabilities to each of the above agencies.  Many of New York State’s referrals are still on file with the federal agencies. The Social Security Administration exceeded its goal of increasing its workforce with qualified individuals with disabilities nationally.  The Internal Revenue Service also hired 70 people nationally of which seven individuals were New York State hires.


  • The NET, through its national business connections, assisted New York State in making direct contact with CVS Pharmacy, a major national employer.  CVS will be building their first distribution center in Elmira, New York.  VESID’s Regional staff person was able to meet with the national distribution center’s manager.  CVS provided positive feedback about the New York teams’ knowledge and responsiveness to the business needs.  The development of this long term business relationship, and VESID’s ability to meet CVS’s businesses needs, could potentially lead to access of over potentially 600 jobs over the next five years.


E.  Evaluation

Through a federal grant, the Center for Essential Management Services (CEMS) conducted a survey of VESID staff regarding their perceptions of the policies and practices being implemented in VESID district offices based on the “Designing our Future” initiatives.  The survey was administered electronically in July of this year.  A total of 719 VESID staff were invited to participate.  Of that number, 543 respondents participated.  Within this group, 481 completed the entire survey with the remaining 61 partially completing the survey due to branching requirements, where a yes response would continue with the survey and a no response would stop at the answered question.  This is a very good response rate of 76 percent.  The respondents’ employee statuses were as follows:

  • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors – 263 (55 percent of respondents)
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Assistants and Support Staff – 147 (31 percent)
  • Supervisors/Coordinators – 71 (15 percent)


The design recommendations were piloted in various offices throughout the state.  The data reflect the responses from those offices with experience in the specific area.  Highlights of the results are as follows:


  • Placement Express – Expedited access to VESID services for consumers in need of placement only services.


  • About 50 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors indicated Placement Express Services were available in their district offices.
  • About 65 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors agreed that the Placement Express outcome-based model is an effective model for consumers ready for placement.


  • Work/Career Development Track for Easy Re-Entry to VESID Services – Quick access for consumers requiring support for job promotions or career upgrades.


  • 30 percent of both Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors said this was available in their district offices.
  • In those offices, both groups said that consumers were able to take advantage of the opportunity almost 100 percent of the time.
  • Rapid Entry Program – Expedited access to VESID services with support of contract vendors.
  • About 40 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors said this was available in their district offices.
  • In those offices, approximately 45 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors feel that consumers have broader opportunities to access VESID.
  • Enhanced Transition from School-to-Work Program
  • About 65 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors indicated this program was available in their district offices.
  • In those offices, about 35 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors believed that outcomes for Transition Aged Youth were improved.
  • Partner collaboration programs with other local, state or federal programs.
  • Approximately 50 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors indicated this program was available in their district offices.
  • In those offices, about 65 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors indicate that consultation with partners occurs at least two to four times per month.


  • Counselor Field Use of Technology
  • Use of web-based technology – 13 percent
  • Access to Case Management System – 67 percent
  • E-mail communication with consumers – 95 percent
  • On-line assessments – 20 percent to 90 percent depending on the application
  • Team Model for Service Delivery – District Office team consisting of Counselors, Assistant Counselors, Senior Counselors and clerical staff in some combination.
  • About 75 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors indicate that their district offices uses this approach.
  • In those offices, about 15 percent of Supervisors/Coordinators and Counselors feel that this provided the Counselor with more time to work with consumers.


CEMS will continue to work with VESID in the review and analysis of the survey data results.  In subsequent analyses, survey data will be analyzed along with outcome data to determine the relationship between policy and practice implementation and outcomes achieved by consumers. 

III. Next Steps:

              VESID will continue to work with staff and stakeholders to improve service delivery.  Although the MTP and CUNY LEADS projects will end due to fiscal challenges, it is believed that the best practices will help staff to better assist consumers in achieving their employment goals.  Strategies for addressing fiscal and staffing issues will continue to be explored.