The agency must provide the full range of vocational rehabilitation services, as appropriate to all eligible individuals who apply. When funding is not sufficient to serve all eligible individuals the agency must implement an Order of Selection policy (OOS). An individual’s priority in the OOS will be determined at the time of eligibility based on the individual’s specific functional limitations of their disabling condition(s). Those in Priority Group One will be served first, those in Priority Group Two second and those in Priority Group Three served last. The Order of Selection Chapter, like ALL VRIS chapters, is not a stand-alone chapter and all VR rules and regulations (general client services, plan development, authorization procedures, service provision, utilizing comparable services, least cost option, client contribution, High Cost, self-employment, case closure, etc.) still apply.
Functional limitations are NOT based on future or projected job goals or environmental factors (lack of transportation, etc.). The distinction between a substantial impediment to employment for purposes of eligibility and a serious functional limitation for purposes of establishing priority for service is one of degree and scope. The degree and scope is serious if an individual can only perform a function, or can only learn to perform a function with a significant accommodation and/or substantial support.
Should a client be assigned to a closed priority group, the client will be given the opportunity to be placed on a waiting list until resources are available to remove clients from the waiting list to receive services. A client can subsequently be moved to a higher priority group if information becomes available indicating additional or more severe functional limitations.
Descriptions of Priority Categories:
Priority Group 1: Has a severe physical or mental impairment resulting in a rating of very low in two or more functional areas.
Priority Group 2: Has a severe physical or mental impairment that results in a very low rating in one functional area or receives SSDI or SSI based on a disability. Individuals who receive SSDI or SSI automatically qualify for priority group two and are assessed to determine whether they qualify for priority group one.
Priority Group 3: All eligible individuals. These individuals must have a low rating in at least one of the seven functional areas.
Procedure for Applicants
1. The VR Specialist meets with applicant to complete the initial meeting:
- Provide the individual an overview of VR Services to include OOS, priority groups, waiting list, how eligibility and priority groups are determined and what that means for the client regarding services in each group.
- The OOS Factsheet may be provided to applicants, parents, schools, agencies and/or organizations to assist with the understanding of the Order of Selection.
- Address the individual’s work experiences and how the impairment has been an impediment to employment by assessing reasons for gaps in work history, jobs ending, and themes and/or repeated issues for getting, keeping or preparing for employment.
- Assess the individual's needs and identify appropriate community resources.
2. It is strongly recommended the VR Specialist use the Functional Capacity Checklist and Discovery Booklet to assist with the determination of eligibility and priority group assignment. This will help to ensure a determination can be made for the most appropriate priority group. If you complete the Discovery Booklet, offer the information to the client and maintain a information in client’s case file as well.
3. Assessment services can only be used to determine eligibility and priority groups.
OOS Assessment services may include:
- Requesting medical documentation to verify the impairment.
- Requesting Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) to obtain the disability of record for eligibility verification.
- Completion of the Discovery Booklet to assist with gathering information regarding the severity of the disability. This will assist with determining the impediment to employment and priority group classification.
- Participation in specific testing to assess severity of impediment/disability for determination of priority group.
- Participation in community Work Assessment to assess severity of impairment or work readiness (stamina, memory, speed, quality and quantity of work, etc.), if needed.
- Support services required to participate in the assessment services (transportation, etc.)
Reminder: Benefits Orientation cannot be provided to individuals in a closed priority group (Does not apply to Pre-ETS). Individuals receiving Social Security Disability need to be provided information about Employment Networks in Nebraska and include a discussion regarding the Ticket to Work program. See VRIS Ticket To Work
4. Determine eligibility within 60 days from the date of application, unless exceptional and unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the VR Specialist preclude making the decision. If it appears the eligibility determination will exceed the 60-day timeframe, a QE2 Eligibility Extension is required to be completed prior to the 60 days expiring. The applicant must be contacted and agree to a specific extension date.
5. The VR Specialist is required to discuss eligibility and the priority group assignment decision with the applicant. This discussion needs to take place prior to the actual approval of the QE2 Priority Group Determination being completed. All the information can be placed into QE2 without the actual approval being completed. This will give the applicant and VR Specialist the opportunity to review the information and have a discussion as to the why the eligibility and priority group assignment was made. As part of this discussion, the individual will have the opportunity to share any further information that may need to be considered.
6. Information and referral services are required to be provided whether or not the individual chooses to apply for VR services, priority group(s) are closed and/or the individual chooses not to be placed on the waiting list. Nebraska VR must provide to the client individualized information and referral to community resources and partners in the statewide workforce (e.g., American Job Center, Adult Education, Independent Living Centers, Employment Networks, counseling, college and career centers, etc.), to include a specific local contact information (name, phone number and address) with each referral. This process takes place during the mandatory client discussion of eligibility and priority group assignment and must be documented in the casefile.
Below are the required steps in the information and referral to other programs process:
- Complete the Information and Referral to Other Programs form with the client to include the local contact information (name, phone number and address) for each referral. Provide the client the form. Maintain casefile documentation by making a copy of the form for the casefile or entering a task noting all referrals and their specific contact information.
- VR needs to assure a smooth referral process to community agencies and organizations by providing a copy of the documentation used to determine eligibility and priority groups to the individual and/or community programs to expedite services. The information can be released to the individual or if requested to the community organization. Make sure to follow appropriate release of information procedures and discuss with the applicant if they are in agreement with their information being shared with the appropriate referral programs to expedite services. Ensure confidentiality procedures are followed. (See VRIS Records, Confidentiality and Information Release for further information).
- If the individual requires assistance in making connections with the community resources, VR is encouraged to assist with this process to ensure a successful transition.
7. An Eligibility/Priority Group letter will be generated upon completion of the priority group determination approval in QE2. The Eligibility/Priority Group letter will be sent by the State Office to the client. An auto generated task note will be created indicating the letter has been sent. If the individual requires the Eligibility/Priority Group letter to be in Spanish, the VR Staff needs to ensure the "Spanish communication" box in QE2 has been checked, located under client's personal information. This will serve as notice for the eligibility letter to be sent in Spanish.
8. The VR Specialist will be provided a copy of the Eligibility/Priority Group letter generated from the State Office. This letter needs to be maintained in the casefile. It will have the date the letter was sent and will serve as notification of the next step in the process. The client in an open priority group can begin receiving services immediately. Those in a closed priority group can be placed on the waiting list. Applicants who have not already stated a preference for being placed on the waiting list will be contacted by the VR Specialist to determine their interest of being placed on the waiting list. If there is no response to the letter and attempted contacts from the VR staff, the case will be closed by the VR Specialist after 30 days. Since the client is not available for consultation, the letter suffices as notifying the individual of you intent to close the case and further written notice is not required.
9. If an individual's priority is needing to be upgraded while they are on the waiting list, the justification needs to be entered in a TASK note, as well as the QE2 Eligibility screen and followed by the OOS Priority Upgrading letter being sent to the client by the local VR Office.
Exceptions to OOS Policy - Job Retention:
Nebraska VR elects to serve individuals who require specific services or equipment to maintain employment regardless of their priority category. Priority will be given to individuals currently working, but would almost certainly lose his or her current job if not provided specific services or equipment in the very near future that would enable him or her to retain that employment.
To be considered for this exception, the eligible individual needs to be in a situation where they would almost certainly lose their current job if not provided specific services or equipment in the very near future that would enable them to retain that employment. The VR Specialist will determine eligibility and assign a priority group based on the individual’s functional capacities. No matter what priority group the client is assigned or if the priority group is open or closed, clients eligible for Job Retention will receive the specific services or equipment required to retain their employment. When approved for job retention services an individual will move ahead of everyone else on the waiting list. A complete assessment of the individual's situation needs to be conducted. To make an informed decision, the applicant needs to understand the OOS process, VR funding limitations and the special consideration required for job retention services to determine if they would like to proceed with being considered as a priority case in need of services before all other individuals on the waiting list.
Note: This exemption does NOT apply to:
- Losing job because the employer is going out of business, eliminating the job or for other business-related decisions.
- Underemployed or seeking to maximize their employment.
- Seeking to change employers.
- Temporary, seasonal or secondary employment situations.
- Individuals eligible for Post-Employment services.
Job Retention Service process for clients in a closed priority category:
- Determine the client is NOT eligible for post-employment services.
- Determine the employment is not seasonal, temporary or a secondary job.
- If the applicant has more than one job, determine largest source of income, as VR only considers the primary job for job retention services.
- Determine the individual is employed in a competitive/integrated environment AND will almost certainly loose the job.
- Determine an IPE can be developed and the service required can be provided immediately.
- The VR Specialist is responsible to conduct an in-depth assessment of the situation to determine if the case meets the job retention criteria of almost certainly losing the current job, if not provided specific services or equipment in the very near future. The VR Specialist is responsible to thoroughly explore the employment issues and providing an accurate account of the individual's situation. The focus needs to be on the specific difficulty the individual is experiencing with the job, rather than focusing on gathering information to justify a preconceived solution. This strategy will result in a clearer picture of the actual employment environment and appropriate accommodations can then be explored.
- The client is not required to disclose their disability to the employer. This statement addresses client choice. VR does not require the individual disclose their disability to the employer, but the employer will need to be included in any worksite accommodation discussions. This is an informed choice the client needs to make. The employer is a comparable service and benefit, as they are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations, so this must be explored. If the client states they do not want the employer to be contacted, VR is unable to proceed.
- The VR Specialist needs to document in the casefile the discussion with the client and address the following topics:
- Identify the specific difficulty the individual is experiencing with the essential job duties.
- Address how the essential job duties are currently being completed. Is this a long-term solution?
- Discuss with the client what accommodations have been tried and the outcome.
- Can the duties be reassigned?
- Identify the specific service or equipment needed to prevent the immediate loss of employment.
- Assess if the requested services or equipment will enable the client to perform the job independently or will continued supports/assistance still be required?
- Will the requested services or equipment solve all or only part of the essential job tasks? How will the remaining tasks be completed?
- Could there be other solutions?
- Inform the individual VR needs to consider the least cost option?
- Address the client's ability to fund the service or equipment in whole or part.
- Is the individual able to maintain the upkeep of the requested equipment, if necessary?
- What is the barrier - Does the individual need financial assistance and/or information and referral to proceed?
- Do they appear to need additional services?
- Has the client addressed the situation with their employer, If not, why not?
- Address with the applicant: approval for services does not guarantee the funding of the requested item or service, as VR must provide the least cost option that meets the individual's needs.
- If the client wants to pursue job retention services, the case record must document the communication with the employer and provide the evidence the employee would almost certainly lose the current job. This can be accomplished by completing the retention questions. Staff may contact the employer to discuss the questions in a conversational style and document the answers on the form and in the TASK notes. There must be communication with the employer to address the difficulty the individual is experiencing with the essential job function. The following topics must be provided/addressed with the employer:
- Documentation from the employer providing the justification of why the employee would most certainly lose their current job. The employer needs to answer the questions on the Retention Questions form to provide evidence of the difficulty performing the essential job functions.
- What reasonable accommodations have been attempted to address the difficulties preforming the essential job functions and the results.
- How will the requested service and/or accommodation alleviate the problem?
- Obtain a copy of the individual's job description.
- The VR Specialist enters the current job information in the Employment History screen in QE2.
- VR Specialist enters a TASK note with the justification summary for requesting job retention services. This TASK note needs to address all the criteria listed in #8 and #9.
- The VR Specialist will enter but not approve the Eligibility and Priority Determinations for Job Retention exception.
- Provide a copy of the medical documentation, job description and documentation of employer communication to the Program Director of Counseling, who in turn reviews the case to determine if it appears to meet the criteria of job retention. Additional information may be requested in order to make this decision. For hearing impairment cases also submit the Communication Assessment form in addition to the above required documents.
- The approver may consult with other members of the OOS Committee, as appropriate. In the case the Program Director of Counseling is not available, the VR Director and VR Assistant Director will serve as back-up.
- The assigned program director will notify the office director and team contact when the applicant is approved or not approved for job retention by email.
- Not Approved notification: Upon receiving the notification of not approved for job retention services, the VR Specialist will meet with the individual and discusses the eligibility determination, provide the required information and referral services and offer the opportunity to be placed on the waiting list or have the case closed. This discussion needs to include the client's right to appeal and the Client Assistance Program information. The waiting list letter will also include the individual's rights and CAP information.
- Approved notification: Upon receiving the notification of approval for job retention services from the assigned program director, the Office Director will proceed with approving the eligibility and priority group.
- Job retention services:
- The client will receive the appropriate Eligibility/Priority Group letter based on the specific determination.
- Upon qualifying for Job Retention Services, an IPE can be developed and approved.
- Only the specific services the client needs to retain the job can be provided.
- If the client requests additional services, they can be placed on the waiting list and those services will be considered when they are removed from the waiting list.
- After the provision of the job retention service and the minimum of 90 days employment follow along services have been met, consideration can be given to closing the case successfully, as long as all aspects of the successful closure criteria are met to include the client is not in need of additional services. (See VRIS Closing the Case - Successful Outcome chapter for all criteria of a successful closure). Taking a successful outcome will remove the client from the waiting list.
- If the individual is still in need of further services after the provision of job retention services or the client loses the job, the following steps need to be followed to access further services once they come off the waiting list:
- Inform the client their case can remain open and they can be placed back on the waiting list based on the original date of application.
- Enter a TASK note summarizing the job retention services provided and the outcome. Include an explanation of what additional services are being requested, as well as the exploration and referral to comparable services and benefits to address these additional needs.
- Review and update the Information and Referral to Other Programs form with the individualized information with the client by including the specific local contact information (name, phone number and address) for each referral. Provide the original to the client and keep a copy of this form in the VR file.
- Contact the Program Director of Counseling to request the case be manually returned to the waiting list.
- These individuals will receive the removal from the waiting list letter, like all other individuals on the waiting list when it is time to serve them.
Procedure for case closure during OOS:
- All proper case closure procedures still apply. See VRIS Termination Chapter
- Cases could be closed after speaking to the client and if the client stated they are no longer in need of VR services even before they have received the off the wait list letter and/or before the 30 calendar days have expired.
- Cases should not be closed while on the waiting list, if the client hasn’t responded to our messages. There has been no contact and the client has not received the off the wait list letter with the CAP information.
- Once a case is removed from the waiting list, they should not be closed until after the 30 calendar days have expired according to the Off the Waiting List letter.
- Staff do not need to send the 15-day letter after the 30 calendar days has expired and prior to case closure if the client has not contacted us and the client is not returning our phone calls/text/letters, etc.
- If any contact was made during the 30 calendar days but contact/communication was not maintained once the 30 calendar days have expired, a 15-day letter should be sent.
Procedure for Managing Waiting List
- A waiting list will be generated based on priority groups and individual’s date and time of application.
- State Office will determine when to open or close a priority group based upon the availability of resources.
- State Office will determine how many clients will be taken off the waiting list based on availability of resources, priority groups, and individual application date and time.
- A letter will be generated from the State Office informing the clients they have been removed from the waiting list. The letter will inform the clients they have 30 days to contact their local VR Specialist if interested in services.
- The VR Specialist will be mailed a copy of the removal from the waiting list letter that was sent to the client to place in the case file and monitor the 30-day timeframe. The letter requests the client contact VR within 30 day to schedule an appointment. Ideally the appointment would also be scheduled within the 30 days, but can be set after that timeframe if needed. The client needs to follow through with the actual appointment and participate in services for the case to remain open. Upon receiving this notification, VR staff will contact the client to see if they are still interested in VR services. Several forms of communication (phone, e-mail, letter, personal and contacts) should be utilized by VR staff to contact the client. If there is no response to the letter and attempted contacts by the VR staff, it is assumed the client is no longer interested in services and the case can be closed by the VR staff after 30 days.
- The case service timeframe to develop a plan is within 90 days of eligibility. It is understood that during the Order of Selection the client has been on the waiting list and the planning time has been accruing beyond the 90 day timeframe. For planning purposes, the 90 day timeframe begins when the client is removed from the waiting list as they are now available for services. The VR Specialist will provide full planning services to develop a specific employment outcome selected with the individual through informed choice and consistent with the individual's unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests and labor market information.
- Clients who are determined to be in an open priority group at the time of the eligibility and priority group determination will be provided a seamless continuity of services and will complete the IPE with the VR Specialist as soon as possible, but no later than 90 days after the date of determination of eligibility, unless VR and the individual agree to the extension of that deadline to a specific date by which the individualized plan for employment must be completed. Any extension of this time frame requires consultation and documentation of the agreement in the case file.
- The case can be closed after 30 days have passed from the date of sending the letter informing the client they have been removed from the waiting list, if VR has made several attempts to contact the individual and there has been no response. VR needs to follow proper case closure procedures by providing several attempted contacts with a variety of modes of communication (call, text, e-mail, letter, etc.) prior to closing the case, as case closure will remove the client’s name from the waiting list.