When developing policies at the State level, it is important to begin with a clear understanding of the statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to the issue at hand. The RSA website is a tremendous resource for applicable statutes and regulations.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law on July 22, 2014. This legislation and its implementing federal regulations are designed to strengthen and improve our nation's public workforce system and help Americans with significant barriers to employment, including individuals with disabilities, find high-quality jobs and careers and help employers hire and retain skilled workers.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act), as amended can be found in Title IV of WIOA. This law authorizes the State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services Program, the State Supported Employment Services Program, the Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program, as well as the Client Assistance program, the Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights Program, and a number of discretionary grant programs administered by RSA. The Rehabilitation Act serves as the basis for any VR policy you develop. You also should become familiar with WIOA as there are a number of provisions that apply to all of the workforce partners, including the VR program.
Regulations pertaining to the VR program were published most recently on August 19, 2016. On that date, the Departments of Labor and Education published five final rules in the Federal Register. Two of these packages are particularly relevant:
The Final Rule for the State VR Services Program, State Supported Employment Services Program, and Limitations on Use of Subminimum Wage contains not only the final regulations in 34 C.F.R. Parts 361, 363, and 397, but also an analysis of comments received on the proposed rules and an explanation of changes made.
The Final Rule for the Unified and Combined State Plans, Performance Accountability, and the One-Stop System Joint Provisions under WIOA is also important in understanding the rules that govern the VR program as well as other workforce partners.
The RSA website also has links to the Code of Federal Regulations for all of the programs it administers. For instance, most relevant here are the following program regulations:
- 34 C.F.R. Part 361 – the State Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program;
- 34 C.F.R. Part 363 - the State Supported Employment Services Program; and
- 34 C.F.R. Part 367 – Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program; and
- 34 C.F.R. Part 397 - Limitations on Use of Subminimum Wage.
The following regulations are also critical to managing the financial aspects of the grant awards:
- 2 C.F.R. Part 200 - Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards; and
- EDGAR - Education Department General Administrative Regulations and Other Applicable Grant Regulations.
Over the years, RSA has developed a number of sub-regulatory policies and technical assistance as well as other guidance documents. These subregulatory policies and guidance take a number of different forms:
- Policy Directives (PD) are formal statements of required action(s) or condition(s) that must be carried out or met by VR agencies or other RSA grantees to comply with statute or regulations. A PD is legally enforceable because it is based on a statutory or regulatory provision.
- Technical Assistance Circulars (TACs) are formal statements of guidelines and/or suggested methods to satisfy statutory, regulatory or policy requirements. A TAC addresses those areas of program requirements for which VR agencies or other RSA grantees have flexibility in determining precisely how such requirements are to be met.
- Information Memoranda (IM) transmit information to grantees who administer RSA formula or discretionary grant programs.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs): In recent years, FAQs and DCLs have been used to disseminate policy and to provide information and technical assistance to grantees.
All issuances of a particular type are numbered, using the last two digits of the year, followed by a number designating at what point in the fiscal year the issuance was released. For example, the first Policy Directive issued in a particular fiscal year (e.g., 2022) is designated as "PD-22-01," with subsequent PDs released in 2022 numbered sequentially.
As subregulatory policy and guidance become outdated as a result of changes in law or regulations or Departmental initiatives. Once outdated they are rescinded. RSA announces issuances that have been rescinded on its website.
It is important to review the RSA website frequently to keep abreast of the latest subregulatory policy and guidance that have been issued. Only after researching the law, the regulations, and any current issuances can you begin to develop policies and procedures at the State level. As always, RSA staff remain available to assist you in the development of your policies and procedures.