The purpose of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program is to help individuals with disabilities prepare for, regain, or retain competitive integrated employment. This means that eligible individuals with disabilities throughout the state may receive any service available through the VR program they may need if such services support the achievement of their employment goal, so long as the individual’s disability priority category is able to be served if the VR agency is under an Order of Selection. Additionally, the VR program must provide pre-employment transition services to all students with disabilities in the state who may need them in collaboration with the State and Local Education Agencies.
In accordance with 34 C.F.R. § 361.25, services provided under the VR services portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan must be available in all political subdivisions of the State, unless the designated state unit (DSU) requests a waiver of statewideness which RSA approves as part of the VR portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan.
Section 101(a)(4) of the Rehabilitation Act and 34 C.F.R. § 361.26 permits a VR agency to request a waiver of statewideness through its State Plan (description b) from RSA before implementing services in discrete areas of the State, so long as a local public agency is providing non-Federal funds to meet the non-Federal share of the costs of those services.
What is a Waiver of Statewideness?
Notwithstanding the general principle of statewideness, under some circumstances, a Designated State Unit (DSU) may wish to increase services or expand the scope of services that are available statewide under the VR portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan. For instance, a DSU may wish to increase certain services in a local area (e.g., supported employment services) that would lead to substantially increased numbers of individuals achieving competitive integrated employment. A DSU may also wish to address the rehabilitation needs of individuals with specific impairments so that they can more effectively develop services that address their employment goals. In either situation, the local public agency must provide the non-Federal share for the federal funds used in the project, often through a third-party cooperative arrangement or interagency cash transfer. VR may count the interagency transfer of funds from the public agency to VR as meeting the non-Federal share of the costs of those services for purposes of the VR program, as would be required by 34 C.F.R. § 361.26(a)(1). The non-Federal funds provided by the local public agency may come directly from the agency or may be contributed to the local agency from a private agency, organization, or individual. These requirements for a waiver of statewideness can be found in 34 C.F.R. § 361.26(a).
How to Request a Waiver of Statewideness
In order to be approved by RSA, the DSU must submit a waiver that contains the information and assurances in 34 C.F.R. § 361.26(b). The waiver must:
- Describe the services to be provided under the agreements with local providers. This should include a description of the number of individuals that will be served and the level of funding provided in each agreement. The DSU can often justify the needs for services in specific local areas based on the DSU's comprehensive statewide needs assessment (CSNA).
- Contain a written assurance from the local public agency that it will provide the non-Federal share of funds. However, it is important to note that these agreements with local agencies do not relieve the DSU of its administrative responsibilities for the VR program. Therefore, the DSU must approve any new services resulting from these agreements before they are provided.
- Contain a written assurance that the DSU approval will be obtained for each service before it is provided.
- Contain a written assurance that all the administrative requirements of the State Plan are adhered to, including an Agency’s order of selection requirements, as individuals with disabilities served in those areas of the State under the waiver of statewideness must be in an open category of the order.