You are here

Senate HELP Committee Approves Changes to the WIA'S Vocational Rehabilitation Act

August 2, 2013

On July 31, 2013, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a markup hearing on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)of 2013 (S. 1356). The Committee, in an 18 to 3 vote (with one abstention), reported favorably on the bill as amended. Several Senators submitted statements that included the intent to propose additional amendments to the bill when it goes to the floor for a vote by the whole Senate.

Generally, the changes proposed to WIA emphasize a high expectation of competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities, with a focus on youth/students with significant disabilities. In a memorandum from HELP Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Committee said, “As young people with disabilities prepare for life after school, it is critical they have the opportunities to experience internships, part-time employment, and summer work just like their peers without disabilities. The changes we propose in this reauthorization will help close the labor force participation gap and produce better outcomes in competitive integrated employment for a new generation of young adults with disabilities.”

The bill includes a reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act, which includes vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs. According to the Committee’s press release, the intent behind the changes are to ensure that young people with disabilities have sufficient preparation and opportunities for competitive, integrated employment. The changes to Title V of WIA generally require state VR agencies, working with local educational agencies, to make pre-employment transition services available to students with disabilities. It also includes criteria that youths (defined as under age 24) with significant disabilities must meet before being permitted to work in a sheltered workshop, or other non-competitive or non-integrated settings. The bill increases opportunities for individuals currently working in sheltered settings to transition out of those settings.

The bill includes changes to structure that involve where certain agencies are housed. The Rehabilitation Services Administration would be moved from the Department of Education (ED) to the Department of Labor (DOL). The ED’s Independent Living program would be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the umbrella of the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Additionally, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research would be moved from ED to HHS. According to the memorandum, these changes work to allow individuals with disabilities to be treated equally in terms of Federal workforce priorities, integrate housing programs for individuals with disabilities with other Federal programs, and create more effective coordination of disability research.

ANCOR is working on a detailed analysis of the changes made in this bill, including the specific limitations contained within Section 511 of Title V that affect the use of special wage certificates when employing individuals with disabilities. Expect that analysis, exclusive for ANCOR members, to be posted to certain member-only community groups on the ACC early next week. Members may also email Katherine Berland at kberland@ancor.org to request a copy of the analysis when it is completed.