Skils’kin needs your help to help protect employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Please read the following statement from Skils’kin CEO Brian Behler and then follow the directions provided below to help preserve AbilityOne employment for individuals with disabilities across the nation.
Note: Comments must be sent in by September 20th.
Statement from CEO Brian Behler
If you have been part of our advocacy platform for any length of time, you are aware of the importance of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regulations and what it means to our AbilityOne contracts. The U.S. Department of Education has announced that it will allow input on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement or modification until September 20th. Currently, we at Skils’kin are facing an uphill battle with the interpretation of some of the guidance and regulations that are outlined for Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). Some of the language is indiscriminately disqualifying vocational rehabilitation (VR) job placements to Skils’kin based upon our participation in the congressionally-mandated AbilityOne program.
WIOA, which Skils’kin supports, is an important piece of legislation that received considerable bi-partisan support in Congress. Attaining competitive integrated employment is a worthy goal for all individuals with disabilities who receive vocational rehabilitation services under WIOA. However, the integrated criteria is based on an overly simplified and inaccurate understanding of what types of jobs are provided through the AbilityOne program. As a result, VR agencies are no longer placing individuals with disabilities into any AbilityOne Jobs, even though many of these jobs meet the definition of integrated employment.
A majority of our AbilityOne employees with disabilities work right alongside co-workers without disabilities and have the same interactions with customers and vendors as their counterparts without disabilities. These individuals perform the same work and are held to the same performance standards. Throughout the United States, nonprofit agencies such as ours provide training and employment opportunities for more than 115,000 individuals with disabilities including over 40,000 through the AbilityOne program.
Please take a moment and write a message or copy the prewritten letter below and paste it into the comments area of the following link: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=ED-2017-OS-0074-0001. Remember to include your name at the end of the message. As mentioned previously, this is time sensitive as all comments must be received prior to September 20th. If you have questions, please feel free to contact myself at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tami Dillon at email@example.com. Thank you for your time and willingness to speak up for the choices in employment for individuals with disabilities.
President / CEO
Step 1: Copying and Pasting the Letter Addressed to Ms. Malawer
Copy and paste the letter addressed to Ms. Malawer (provided below) into the “Comment” field on the Regulations.gov page.
Step 2: Selecting a Category and Continuing
Step 3: Reviewing Comment and Submitting
Step 4: Receiving Verification (Optional)
Ms. Hilary Malawer
Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave SW, Room 6E231
Washington DC 20202
Re: Docket ID: ED-2017-OS-0074
Dear Ms. Malawer:
This comment is in regards to regulations and sub-regulatory guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education (DoEd), Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) for the purpose of implementing the integrated settings criteria under the definition of the competitive integrated employment in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). These regulations and guidance are having an unintentional but detrimental and job-killing impact for individuals with significant disabilities. Specifically, RSA’s guidance is indiscriminately disqualifying vocational rehabilitation job placements to certain nonprofit agencies (NPAs) based upon their participation in the congressionally-mandated U.S. AbilityOne Program.
Attaining competitive integrated employment is a worthy goal for all individuals with disabilities who receive vocational rehabilitation services under WIOA. The language in the integrated settings criteria promulgated by RSA restricts access to quality competitive integrated jobs for people with disabilities and is inconsistent with other parts of the regulation, the department’s longstanding practice and technical guidance. It is my understanding that the integrated location criteria in the final regulation is based on an overly simplistic and inaccurate understanding of the types of jobs that are provided through the AbilityOne program. As a result, many VR agencies have stopped placing individuals with disabilities into AbilityOne jobs. AbilityOne jobs are competitively integrated. Workers with disabilities have the same interactions with their co-workers, customers and vendors as their non-disabled counterparts. They also have the same opportunities for advancement as their co-workers without disabilities. They perform the same work and are held to the same performance standards.
Skils’kin is an NPA participating in the AbilityOne program and creates jobs in four states. Because referrals and placements from state vocational rehabilitation counselors have ceased, employment opportunities at Skils’kin are going unfilled. Deserving individuals with significant disabilities are denied these opportunities and the ability to be a vital part of our community. When there are so many individuals with disabilities looking for work, why would anyone limit their opportunities for growth, learning and advancement?
I am requesting that the DoEd immediately rescind the FAQ guidance (posted on DoEd’s website, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/rsa/wioa.competitve-integrated-employment-faq.html) related to the definition of integrated settings and issue clarifying guidance that employment at community rehabilitation programs, including employment positions funded through the AbilityOne program, may be considered competitive integrated employment as long as it meets the criteria defined in RSA-TAC-06-01 and the WIOA (P.L. 113-128).
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on existing regulations that unnecessarily eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation.