Coordination Would Go A Long Way to Increasing Access to State VR for Homeless Veterans with Disabilities
August 10, 2016
Written by the NVTAC Blogger
We all want to end veteran homelessness, and securing employment for veterans is a vital step in achieving this goal. Employment can be difficult to secure, particularly when a homeless veteran is disabled. So an important step in ending veteran homelessness is for organizations serving veterans and those serving the employment needs of people with disabilities to address the unique issues of veterans with disabilities experiencing homelessness. The good news is that U.S. Department of Labor’s Homeless Veteran Reintegration Programs (HVRP) serves some veterans with disabilities; some disabled veterans are served by the Veteran Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) services; and still others are served thru the Veterans Health Administration’s Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) and the Homeless Veterans Community Employment Service (HVCES). But it is not enough. HVRP, CWTs and the HVCES can collaborate to partner with State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies to help more homeless veterans with disabilities achieve a working life.
The Challenges of Effective Collaboration
Some homeless and disabled veterans may be eligible for services through the VA programs. However, many more homeless and at-risk veterans with disabling conditions who want to work may be eligible for services through the Federal – State Vocational Rehabilitation (State VR) program. State VR programs are a valuable potential resource for reintegration efforts leading to employment outcomes for veterans who are homeless and disabled and should not be overlooked as a potential resource. The task at hand is to develop effective collaboration among these organizations.
The Rehabilitation Services Administration, within the U.S. Department of Education, is the federal agency with responsibility for administration and oversight of the State VR programs. Congress has stated that VR services are designed to empower individuals (including veterans) to maximize employability, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and integration into the work place and the community through comprehensive and coordinated state-of- the-art programs. Thus, these State VR agencies can fund a wide range of goods and services that are connected to an eligible person’s vocational goal.
In the Federal Fiscal Year 2012, State VR agencies processed 560,222 applicants, of which 20,833 were veterans (approximately 3.7%). According to National RSA-911 data for closed cases in that year (active case are not included):
- 18,217 male veterans with an average age of 49.43 applied for State VR services, and 2,083 women veterans with an average age of 43.2 applied.
- 17,166 veterans were found eligible and received service.
- 5,959 veterans got jobs.
- Veterans did not do as well as others in getting employment. 34.7 % of veterans who received services went to work in comparison to 55% for all participants in the program.1
- Of those men and women veterans served by vocational rehabilitation, more than half had either an orthopedic or mental health disability, 27.4% had both types.
- Only 1.6% of the veterans served had a Traumatic Brain Injury disability.
The number of veterans in State VR programs varies across the states. Some VR agencies have memorandums of understanding with the Department of Veteran Affairs, and others have a designated liaison who works with VHA services to enroll veterans in the State VR program. And some states have an interagency agreement between the State VR agency and only the VR&E program.
Some State VR staff seem to think all veterans should seek employment services from the VA, which contributes to veterans being an underserved population in State VR agencies. HVRP, CWT and HVCES representatives can take steps to engage State VR agencies to help end veteran homelessness and to educate them about the unique needs of disabled veterans. These steps include:
- Facilitating a discussion with State VR and other agencies about increasing the number of homeless veterans who work.
- Increasing the number of Supported Employment slots for homeless veterans who cannot be served by HVRP- or VA-based programs by working in partnership with State VR.
- Exploring with State VR how HVRPs can become a vendor of State VR to serve the needs of veterans with disabilities.
- Expediting veteran referrals into the State VR program so homeless veterans with disabilities can receive timely vocational services.
We’d like to hear what you think. Let us know your ideas.
You can find the VR agency in your state at http://askjan.org/cgi-win/TypeQuery.exe?902 ; HVCES staff can be found at http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/cec-contacts.asp ; HVRPS can be found at http://www.nvtac.org/grantees/ .
Joe Manney at Advocates for Human Potential acts as the Blog Moderator for NVTAC Blog and welcomes all questions, comments or concerns that you may have regarding this blog.
Preparation of this item was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans’ Employment Training Service under cooperative agreement HV25269-14-75-5-25. This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the DOL, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.
The National Veterans Technical Assistance Center (NVTAC) is a partnership among Advocates for Human Potential (AHP), the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) and the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS). Funded under a cooperative agreement for three years, the NVTAC supports the mission of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) and its stakeholders. AHP engaged additional assistance from the Atlas Research Inc., Rutgers University, and Relyon Solutions. NCHV is assisted by Dartmouth College and Easter Seals.