EMSC – VESID Committee


Rebecca H. Cort 


Designing the Future of Vocational Rehabilitation



May 9, 2006


Goal 4






Issue for Discussion


The implementation of the VESID Designing Our Future recommendations.


Reason(s) for Consideration


To obtain Regents support for the actions being taken to implement the Design recommendations which when implemented will significantly change how VESID provides rehabilitation services in New York State.      

Proposed Handling


The Report is the follow-up to the January 2006 presentation of the Designing Our Future recommendations.


Procedural History


In November 2003, VESID presented to the Board of Regents a plan to review the design of its vocational rehabilitation process and functions to meet changing needs, respond to changes in the larger federally funded vocational services system, and better use of resources.  The intent 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.  A status report was provided at the May 2005 EMSC-VESID Committee meeting.  The recommendations developed as a result of this redesign process were presented in January 2006.  The Implementation Plan is the next step in the design process.


Background Information


The “Designing Our Future” report included 15 recommendations on ways to improve service delivery in New York State.  The implementation plan concentrates on several key themes of the recommendations:


§       Improve marketing of VESID services to consumers and businesses,


§       Enhance collaboration with stakeholders,


§       Expand and diversify outreach to consumers, and


§       Redesign district office staffing structures.




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.  The results of the pilots will be evaluated over the course of the next year.  





Designing Our Future – Implementation Plan



I.  Introduction


          In January 2006, the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) presented the Designing Our Future recommendations to the Board of Regents.  The recommendations were the results of two years of coordinated activity with various internal and external stakeholders designed to improve VESID’s ability to provide quality effective services into the future. The 15 recommendations reflected the need for VESID to:


§       Improve the marketing of its services to both consumers and businesses.


§       Enhance collaboration with stakeholders including, but not limited to, Workforce Investment partners, Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), Office of Mental Health (OMH), and provider organizations.


§       Expand and diversify outreach to consumers as well as unserved and underserved populations.


§       Design a staffing model that supports the functions of the agency and district offices.


The primary goal of VESID is to assist individuals with disabilities in obtaining employment that is consistent with their skills, abilities, and interest.  It is expected that the job opportunities available to individuals with disabilities will be consistent with those accessed by the general non-disabled population.  Therefore, VESID seeks to provide quality training in marketable, high demand professions that enable VESID consumers to effectively compete with their non-disabled peers.


The next step in the Design effort was to develop an Implementation Plan that would integrate the recommendations into our operational structure.   Several teams were convened and charged with the responsibility of designing new processes for:

§       Accessing Services

§       Expanding Partnerships

§       Enhancing Technology

§       Improving Communication

§       Expanding Service Delivery


Each team provided a proposal and timeline for designing, piloting and evaluating the new process. Those pilots that produce a positive result will then be replicated throughout the State.






II.  Implementation Plan


Successful Outcomes


 It takes approximately two years for most consumers to move through the rehabilitation process from eligibility to placement.  During this period, consumers may be involved in assessments, training, and placement activities.  While it is understood that some individuals will take more time, while others would need less, it is clear that in order to maintain a steady stream of successful outcomes, there must be a steady influx of applicants. 


Over the past three years, VESID has experienced a continual drop in the number of individuals entering and successfully exiting its system.  In FFY 2003, 15,010 individuals were placed in employment as compared to 13,292 in FFY 2005, a nine percent decrease.  The data shows that the number of individuals applying for VESID services also decreased from 42,170 in FFY 2003 to 37,937 in FFY 2005, a nine percent decrease. The decline in the number of VESID consumers has contributed to the decline in outcomes.  One of the first desired results of the Designing Our Future Implementation Plan is to reverse the downward trend in employment outcomes.  To accomplish this, we must first increase the number of eligible applicants entering the system and then progressively increase employment outcomes.  The initial goal is to place 13,292 consumers in FFY 2006.  This number equals the number of placements achieved in FFY 2005.  The next steps reflect a progressive growth in outcomes with the ultimate goal of 20,000 rehabilitations by 2012.  The following chart reflects the targeted increase in outcomes over the next seven years.



Percentage Increase

Over FFY 2005 Outcomes, (13,292)

Target Goal























Each District Office Manager has developed a Strategic Plan for increasing employment outcomes in their region.


Access to Services


In order to meet the outcome goals, there must be a proportional increase in the number of VESID applicants, individuals determined eligible for services and the number of Individual Plans of Employment (IPE) developed for eligible consumers.  In order to improve access to services and expedite movement through the vocational rehabilitation process, pilots are being implemented in the following areas:


A.    Placement Express - Ideally, VESID services should be available as quickly as the consumer requires it in order to obtain and remain in a job placement.  Pilots are under way in the Queens and Buffalo District Offices to enable consumers who already have the necessary skills for employment and do not require additional training to move quickly into placement services after applying for VESID services.  The Buffalo pilot will include consumers referred from the local Department of Social Services (DSS).  The Queens office has identified VESID staff and providers who will conduct a quick assessment and refer appropriate consumers for placement and assessment. Both pilots will be completed by in December 2006.


B.    Unserved/Underserved – VESID has initiated targeted outreach to unserved and underserved populations thus ensuring that all potential consumers have equal access to services and employment opportunities. Pilots being implemented in the Long Island Offices have increased strategies to outreach to American Indians and Spanish-speaking populations.


C.    New York City One-Stop Collaboration – In collaboration with the New York State Department of Labor and New York City Department of Employment, VESID will hire three Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors for assignment to the New York City One-Stop Centers. (One-Stop Centers were created as part of the Workforce Investment Act to offer a central location where the public could obtain information on employment opportunities such as job openings and training programs.) Through this collaboration, VESID and these partners have agreed to leverage different funding streams to provide shared consumers with Individual Training Account (ITA) funding and VESID funding and support to obtain training and employment.  These consumers will be co-registered with both VESID and the One-Stop.


D.    Fast Track – Some VESID offices have experienced delays in processing applicants requesting vocational rehabilitation services when consumers must wait for VESID staff to be available to complete all intake information. The Fast Track process reflects the initiation of contracts with outside community-based providers to allow the providers to obtain intake information on VESID applicants. It is expected that these contracted services will enable VESID to expedite consumers’ access to vocational rehabilitation services.  The pilots which were initiated in Manhattan, Hauppauge, and Utica (Gloversville) Offices will compare the outcomes of the Fast-Tracked services with those of the VESID-handled cases. The results of the pilots will be reviewed in December 2006.  The Manhattan Office will compare the outcomes of cases in which intake is handled by a provider with an assigned VESID liaison, versus those handled by the outside provider without an assigned liaison. The Utica Office will compare the difference in time between application and eligibility determination and the Hauppauge Office will evaluate the use of this process in expediting the eligibility determinations in a rural setting.


E.    Alumnae Association - In collaboration with the Westchester Independent Living Center, the VESID White Plains District Office is designing an Alumni Association consisting of former VESID consumers who have successfully completed the rehabilitation program and obtained employment. The focus of this group is to provide feedback to VESID, assist other VESID consumers in achieving their own success, provide testimonials for marketing to businesses, and represent VESID at legislative and advocacy forums. The model will be implemented by December 2006.                                             




To ensure the integration of individuals with disabilities into the New York State workforce and to support efforts to increase employment outcomes, VESID must partner with other stakeholders.  The implementation of the following partnerships will assist us in meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities statewide.


A.    Establish a Transition Consortium A Transition Consortium involving school districts, VESID (Vocational Rehabilitation and Special Education), Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education (EMSC), Office of Higher Education (OHE), and other stakeholders will be established to improve students access to educational, vocational, and community supports as they transition from school to employment or to post-secondary training.  This transition consortium will focus on enhancing programmatic ties and strengthen relationships between Special Education Regional Supervisors, Associates and Transition Site Coordinators with the VESID District Office Managers, Transition Teams and VESID Counselors. The leveraging of the University of the State of New York (USNY) in assisting students with disabilities to transition to post-school employment will also be a focus area.  Under the leadership of the Assistant Commissioner of VESID, a Transition Planning Committee was established to brainstorm potential pilots for service collaborations among the Transition Consortium Partners.  A Request for Proposal (RFP) is planned for February 2007.


B.    Develop a VESID One-Stop Strategy – VESID has developed a team consisting of Central and District Office representatives and representatives from the State Rehabilitation Council to develop and implement a strategy aligned with the Designing Our Future and State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) Design Teams’ recommendations. This team has focused on enhancing VESID’s role in the One-Stop system, examining issues concerning the compatibility of technology and sharing of information, establishing shared outcomes, fostering the understanding of common measures, and identifying best practices.  A Proposal for Partnership will be presented to the Commissioner of Education in July 2006.  


C.    Ensuring New York State Partner Collaboration –To improve employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, VESID will design a mechanism to bring together State partners. Participants may include, but are not limited to:  DOL, OMRDD, OMH, DOH, and Children and Family Services (OCFS) and, within SED, Independent Living Centers, Special Education, EMSC, OHE, and other program areas. Such a group will be convened under the guidance of the Commissioner of Education or the Deputy Commissioner of VESID. This partner group would focus on identifying areas for collaboration and areas in need of change, determining shared resources and better coordination of policy and fiscal decisions, and addressing critical issues identified by the district offices.  A proposed Plan of Action will be presented to the Commissioner of Education in July of 2006.




The use of technology is paramount to VESID staff’s ability to be successful. Appropriate technologies will ensure that staff is mobile in their geographic areas and thus they can meet with consumers in locations that are convenient for the consumer.  Technology will also minimize staff reliance on paper, expedite communication, and ultimately increase employment outcomes.  The following actions are planned for the next year:


    1. Staffing – in collaboration with SED’s Information Technology and Human Resources Units, VESID will develop and implement a staffing plan that would ensure appropriate technological support in each of the VESID District Offices.


    1. Equipment – A Statewide assessment of technology requirements and acquisition of technology equipment are needed to enhance remote access to VESID Case Management Systems (CaMS). (For example, this could include the use of laptop computers to increase access to CaMS through the web.)


    1. Development and implementation of technological connections with other State agencies to assist in training, placement, and employment follow-up on consumers.  Key collaborations are needed with the Departments of Labor, Taxation and Finance, Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), and other SED program areas.


    1. Explore the potential for designing and implementing an electronic case folder. The implementation of an electronic system would allow for the computerization of the entire case record resulting in a reduction in the need for space to store files and an expedited process for sharing of information. VESID will benchmark with other states on this design.


Improving Communications


VESID has instituted several major marketing campaigns through the years.  These campaigns have included Public Service Announcements, advertisements on milk cartons, paper bags, tray liners, participation in many public information sharing forums, and inserts in utility bills. While the development of brochures describing VESID services has continued, the other major marketing initiatives were discontinued, approximately five years ago, due to fiscal constraints. The lack of marketing activities created a void in how VESID communicates about the services it provides. Over time, this lack of information has impacted the number of people that know about and seek VESID services. Thus, VESID must again give priority to its marketing activities.


VESID needs to market services directly to consumers, businesses, and other external partners. Therefore, actions are underway to develop and implement marketing and communication strategies that will improve outreach to internal and external stakeholders. The initial marketing activities will include the development of a statewide marketing strategy. Under the guidance of a marketing consultant, the team will develop marketing products such as, brochures, public service announcements, and other advertising that could be disseminated through USNY partners, and others. These products will be tested in an urban and rural setting assessing linguistic and cultural needs.  The recommendations for the statewide marketing strategy will be presented in December 2007.  VESID is currently piloting a statewide employer database.  This is a comprehensive collection of New York State employers.  Through this system, VEISD will be able to flag employers who have hired consumers or with whom VESID has established a relationship.  This information could then be shared with the provider network and employment consortiums for more comprehensive and strategic planning of employment opportunities for consumers. The database software is being sampled in several district offices and will be available for statewide use in May 2007.


Service Delivery


Federal guidelines establish that a vocational rehabilitation counselor’s expertise is required for determining a consumer’s eligibility for services and for specific counseling and guidance related to goal development with consumers.


Under the current VESID system, many counselors are responsible for the entire case management process, which entails intake through placement.  To maintain this workload does not allow sufficient time for counselors to meet one-on-one with consumers.  However, consumer surveys have consistently reported that consumers wanted more time with their counselors. In order to respond to this need, and thus, allow counselors more time to work directly with consumers, VESID will closely examine the staffing structure and workflow in the District Offices.


In collaboration with SED Human Resources, VESID has identified several staffing patterns that support the work of the District Offices and will allow counselors the time to meet with their consumers.


A.      Counselor Assistants – Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Assistants (VRCA) assist Counselors with the management of their caseloads.  The VRCA duties include but are not limited to: conducting intake, scheduling and follow-up on consumers’ medical appointments, follow-up on the consumers progress with placement services, and troubleshooting issues regarding the receipt of authorizations for services. The work of the VRCA enables the Counselor to concentrate on eligibility and goal planning processes. One of the goals of the Design effort is to ensure that there are sufficient VRCAs to support these activities in all of the District Offices.  In September 2005, the Division of the Budget approved the creation of 25 new VRCA positions. These positions were subsequently filled in the District Offices.  VESID continues to work with SED’s Human Resources Unit to meet the goal of a ratio of 1:3 VRCAs to Counselors.


B.      Senior Counselors – The Senior Counselor is the first line supervisor in the District Offices. They provide direct supervision to the Counselor, follow-up on counselor training needs, and often troubleshoot issues that arise between the Counselor and the consumer or community provider. Currently the ratio of Senior Counselor to Counselor averages 1:8.  This level of staffing makes it extremely difficult for the Senior Counselor to provide quality supervision to the VESID Counselors. The goal of the VESID Design is to reduce this to a more manageable 1:6 ratio.  VESID continues to work with SED Human Resources on this issue and was able to hire five Senior Counselors in the District Offices.


C.      District Office Finance Unit – The VESID Finance Unit is responsible for the processing of all payments for VESID services, which could consist of a weekly processing of 1,000 or more authorizations. They check authorizations for code errors, enter payment information on the computer, and troubleshoot payment issues with the SED Finance Unit, service provider, and District Office staff.   Through the work of the VESID-VR Cabinet, Human Resources Workgroup, recommendations were proposed for the VESID Finance Unit.   This Unit will include the Business Manager and three or five clerks depending on the size of the office and the volume of the work.  In 2006, 13 Clerk positions were filled in the District Offices.


D.      Staffing Pilots – Four District Offices will pilot various staffing structures, consisting of VESID staff and outside contracts to identify best practices that, among other improvements, will allow for an increase in counselor time with consumers, and for fostering improved collaboration with providers.  The pilots will be conducted in the Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, and Utica (Gloversville) offices.  These teams are scheduled to meet in May to refine their staffing structure for implementation.


Expand Monitoring Unit


The 2004 SED Audit findings indicated that VESID was lacking adequate internal controls to ensure appropriate expenditure of funds.  In the two years since the audit, VESID has strengthened Internal Control Procedures particularly focusing on the issues noted in the audit.  In conjunction with these procedures, VESID also identified the need to expand its existing Monitoring Unit. The expanded role of the Monitoring Unit includes:


§       Ensuring VESID compliance with revised internal controls.


§       Tracking vendor compliance with State laws and regulations as well as SED and VESID standards regarding service delivery.


§       Ensuring field staff’s understanding of VESID’s status in meeting Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) performance indicators.


§       Participation in regional and national discussions about the future revisions to the RSA monitoring protocols.


§       Developing and implementing standards for determining the progress and success of the overall Designing Our Future Initiative and each of its components.


VESID is currently working with the Office of Human Resources to adequately and appropriately staff its redesigned Monitoring Unit.


Reestablish the Training Unit


VESID must revitalize its Training Unit in order to meet the training needs of both its new and experienced staff.  Since 2004, 128 new staff have been hired and 43 incumbent staff were promoted. It is vital for new staff and those with significantly changed duties, to be provided with timely training about their job duties and responsibilities.  It is equally important that all staff are trained when policies, procedures, and regulations change. VESID must ensure that staff has the information and resources to do their job. As VESID redesigns its future, it is expected that there will be an increased need for training in addition to the training that is required by any changes in law and regulation.


It will also be necessary for VESID to train the provider community on the system and process changes as a result of the redesign effort.


VESID is collaborating with Human Resources staff to identify what staffing knowledge and level is necessary to ensure that the Training Unit can meet the needs of all VESID staff on an ongoing basis. As appropriate titles are identified, waivers are being requested to bring the needed personnel on board.


Business Processes


VESID currently has a purchasing system that is archaic, cumbersome, and does not support a process that requires a quick response to address service and employment needs.  To address these concerns, VESID is developing a new Fiscal Management System for the purchasing of service and goods.  VESID also plans to analyze the current contract process to identify alternatives and/or recommended processes that would increase outcomes, support effective accountability, and reduce delays in vendor payments.  While VESID has implemented critical changes in the 2006-07 contract process that will reduce the fiscal burden on not-for-profit vendors and improve vendor relationships, the need to design and create a user-friendly business management system remains a paramount issue.  The redesign of the Fiscal Management System will be completed in July 2008.  In addition, the VESID VR Cabinet, consisting of representatives from SED program areas, has been charged with redesigning the contract process.


III.       Evaluation


In collaboration with the Center for Essential Management Services (CEMS), under a grant funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), VESID will evaluate the success of the changes in service delivery that occurs as a result of the Designing Our Future Initiative. The evaluation will include but not be limited to:


§       A consumer Satisfaction Survey at 6 months into the design and at 36 months,


§       An Organizational Culture Survey,


§       Data comparison pre- and post-implementation of each of the pilots, and


§       Comparison of VESID outcome data with labor market and census data to assess the extent to which VESID is serving all populations.


IV.      Next Steps


The activities described above will be implemented over the course of the next year.  The results will be analyzed to determine the appropriateness of implementing the action Statewide or the need to seek alternative actions.  Plans are also underway to hold a statewide staff training in October 2006 to present the pilot results and allow staff to benchmark with their colleagues.  Through this training, district office staff will share best practices with the understanding that each office will implement a design activity in their region.   A complete analysis of the design pilots will be conducted in June 2007 with statewide implementation of best practices proposed for October 2007.