Public Policy and Legislation

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
and Required Elements for Submission of a Unified or Combined State Plan

Our last report centered on recent legislation including but not limited to WIOA. WIOA has made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by expanding services to support the transition of students and youth with disabilities to post-secondary education and employment. As a result of heightened emphasis on serving youth and students with disabilities, regulatory changes to part 361 have been proposed including:

  • Define “student with a disability (SWD)” and “youth with a disability” to assist vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies in determining appropriate services (e.g., transition) provided to each group.
  • VR agencies must reserve 15% of their allotment to provide provisions of pre-employment transition services to SWD.

Additionally, this profound legislation continues to emphasize the achievement of competitive integrated employment by individuals with disabilities while strengthening the alignment of the vocational rehabilitation program with other components of the workforce development system. As we continue to increase our awareness of competitive integrated employment, the following doctrine among others is entrenched throughout WIOA. “Individuals with disabilities must be provided the opportunities to obtain competitive integrated employment.” Other changes proposed throughout this piece of legislation include: (a) replacing the term “gainful employment” with “competitive integrated employment,” (b) modifications to the definition of “employment outcome,” and (c) IPE include a specific employment goal consistent with the general goal of competitive integrated employment.

Due to recent changes and advancements in our field, various states are disseminating this information in various ways.  I suggest that rehabilitation leaders and administrators promote the formulation of conferences, workshops, and trainings regarding recent legislation changes and/or proposed changes. According to Association for University Centers on Disability (AUCD), Disability Policy News Brief, dated August 31, 2015, a 14-member council is being developed as required by WIOA to improve evaluation of federal and state workforce and labor market information systems and communication between the United States Department of Labor and states to work effectively together. This will be important to watch as it relates to employment-related services to citizens with disabilities.

As of February 18, 2016, all states are required to submit a state plan. See the required elements found below.