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AT Funding - AT Funding Guide - Vocational Rehabilitation & Independent Living Programs

Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative

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Vocational Rehabilitation
& Independent Living Programs

State vocational rehabilitation agencies are a major funding source of AT for working-age individuals with disabilities. In 1986, a definition of what was called "rehabilitation engineering technology" was added to the Rehabilitation Act. When the Act was amended again in 1992, not only did Congress include four new technology-related state plan requirements in the law, but it also made clear that rehabilitation engineering technology includes AT. The two terms are used here interchangeably.

Eligibility Criteria

In order to be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation services, the applicant must:

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Special Notes

Under the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 (Public Law 102-569), state rehabilitation agencies must presume that a person with a disability is able to work regardless of the severity of disability, unless the counselor can clearly demonstrate otherwise. In other words, P.L. 102-569 makes it unlawful for state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies to determine automatically that a person is "unemployable" due to the presence of a disability. The VR counselor must exhaust all options, including AT interventions, before denying eligibility on the basis of a person's inability to work.

The same law contains a provision that prevents the VR agency from imposing undue delays in the provision of rehabilitation technology by making it exempt from the agency's customary "comparable services and benefits" restriction. For example, when VR counselors consider how most VR services are to be financed, they must exhaust all other possible funding options (comparable benefits) before deciding to pay with VR funds. This search for comparable services can be very time consuming and, in the past, has often caused long delays in service delivery. Fortunately, the comparable benefits and services rule does not apply to AT.

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Obtaining Equipment and/or Related Services

Depending on the applicant's background and resources, a counselor is assigned to assist in determining which services may be needed. Next, the client's needs must be evaluated and an Individual Plan of Employment (IPE) is developed. The IPE was formerly known as an Individualized Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP). The IPE should include any needed service (such as physical therapy or occupational therapy evaluations) and special equipment identified during the evaluation.

Once a person is considered eligible for VR services and needs an AT device in order to meet work-related goals, the equipment and related services should be written into the client's IPE. The DVR then provides or arranges for the client to obtain the necessary equipment and services.

DVR has specific guidelines in the case of certain types of AT, such as home modifications, vehicle modifications, and hearing aids. DVR will pay for home and vehicle modifications if they are in the IPE and if they will help promote or advance progress toward an employment goal. In the case of vehicle modifications, the agency will condition eligibility based upon certain factors such as the age of the vehicle, mileage, and its condition.

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Contact Information

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation office locations and telephone numbers are as follows:

Central Office
4225 North Market Street
P.O. Box 9969
Wilmington, DE 19809-0969
(302) 761-8275 (voice)
(302) 761-8296 (TDD)

Churchmans Center Office
908 Churchmans Road Extension, Suite 1
Churchmans Center
New Castle, DE 19720
(302) 326-8930

Odessa Professional Park
Appoquinimink Service Center
122 Silver Lake
Middletown, DE 19709
(302) 378-5779 (voice & TDD)

Wilmington Office
4425 North Market Street
P.O. Box 9969
Wilmington, DE 19809-0969
(302) 761-8300 (voice & TDD)

Carroll's Plaza, Suite 105
1114 South DuPont Highway
Dover, DE 19901
(302) 739-5478 (voice & TDD)

Polly Drummond Office Park
Building 1, Suite 1301
Newark, DE 19711
(302) 368-6570 (voice)
(302) 368-6980 (TDD)

Georgetown Office
600 N. Dupont Highway
Georgetown, DE 19947
(302) 856-5730 (voice & TDD)

Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living programs can also be accessed through the Delaware Helpline at (800) 464-4357.

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Client Assistance Program

The Client Assistance Program (CAP) is a consumer-based organization funded by United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Delaware to advocate for AT for persons with disabilities. The DVR and its Independent Living program refer clients to the CAP. In addition to advocacy, the CAP provides information and referral services. Anyone who has difficulty receiving rehabilitation services or has a complaint about how such services have been provided can contact the CAP. The contact information for each county office is as follows:

New Castle County CAP
(302) 764-2400 (voice)
(302) 764-8708 (TDD)

Kent/Sussex County CAP
(800) 640-9336
(302) 698-9336
(302) 698-9338 (fax)

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Worksite Evaluations/Accommodations

Depending on the complexity of the situation, the VR counselor may either perform a worksite evaluation, or authorize the appropriate allied health professional(s) or contractor(s) to do so. All such services should be provided at no cost to the client. If adaptive equipment is required, it is written into the IPE, and the counselor pursues the most appropriate and timely purchasing option.An employer, for example, may be legally responsible for purchasing the equipment as a reasonable accommodation under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Supported Employment Services Program

The DVR has a Supported Employment (SE) program, which trains persons with severe disabilities such as mental retardation, mental illness, and traumatic brain injury to find and retain employment, with the assistance of job coaches, in an integrated work setting. These services are time-limited, with a maximum of 18 months after placement in a job. If a client needs a relatively simple AT device for an activity of daily living (e.g., oversized alarm clock), the SE program may provide this directly to the client. Otherwise, the SE counselors try to obtain the AT from other sources.

Anyone interested in SE services should contact Mike McGarrity at (302) 761-8275.

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Delaware Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The Delaware Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DODHH) is located within DVR. DODHH provides information and referral as well as some advocacy services for its clients. There are no income eligibility standards, nor do clients have to be otherwise eligible for DVR services to benefit from DODHH's assistance. It also trains persons in the use of TTY, relay services, and related services.

Anyone interested in DODHH services should contact Loretta Sarro at (302) 761-8275.

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Other Options to Consider

Despite AT's exemption from comparable benefits requirements, it is sometimes better for the client to obtain equipment such as seating, positioning, and mobility devices through other programs such as Medicaid or private insurance. The VR counselor may recommend and then help the client access these other AT funding sources, some of which are described later.

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Medically Necessary Equipment and Services

Public or private insurance can be an alternate source of AT funding. In most cases, a doctor's prescription will be required. In all cases, the needs and abilities of the potential AT user should be assessed by the necessary professional(s) to determine an appropriate match of user needs with device features. If the counselor suspects that the equipment may be medically necessary, the case is forwarded to DVR's Medical Consultant, a doctor. The equipment is written into the IPE when the counselor receives a prescription.

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Workers Compensation

Employers are required by law to provide this type of coverage. If a person's disability is due to a work-related illness or injury, workers compensation is another possible AT funding source. See the section on workers compensation for more details.

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Social Security-Related Work Incentive Programs

Recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can set funds aside to pay for AT needed for work in a way that will not count against income eligibility for SSI. This can be done under what is called a Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS). A similar program exists for SSI recipients who are blind. That particular program allows for more liberal financial set-asides called Blind Work Expenses (BWEs).

Working people with disabilities can receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) checks if their income falls below a certain level (called the SGA, or Substantial Gainful Activity, level). No SSDI cash benefits are awarded when income exceeds SGA. However, the cost of many services and types of equipment can be can be treated as a slightly different kind of set-aside from income that can contribute significantly to keeping reported income below the SGA level. When applied, these costs are called Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IWRE) under both SSI and SSDI programs. IRWEs can include the costs of medical services, assistive devices, transportation, home modifications, and more. Such expenses can be deducted from income to reduce it to below the SGA level such that the recipient remains eligible for SSDI cash benefits while actual earnings may be above the SGA level. Funds from the SSDI benefit can be diverted to the purchase of equipment. In some instances, like during the trial work period (TWP), it is possible to use an IRWE to purchase equipment and increase net income in the process.

As a result of recent federal legislation, Delaware is now a "Ticket to Work" state. The Social Security Administration began distributing "tickets" to all SSI and SSDI recipients in Delaware in February 2002. These "tickets" can be used to obtain vocational rehabilitation services and employment services, including AT, from an approved provider of the recipient's choice. The "Ticket to Work" is a voluntary program. As a result of this legislation, clients are no longer required to accept vocational rehabilitation services. A more detailed description of this program appears in the Social Security Program section of this Guide.

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Independent Living Services

The Independent Living (IL) Program is administered in Delaware by the DVR. However, eligibility for IL services is not dependent upon employment.

The IL Program was established under Title VII of the 1978 Rehabilitation Act Amendments (P.L. 95-602). Parts B and C of the law authorize funds for independent living services. Part B, administered by the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, can be a significant AT funding source for adults with disabilities.

Individuals become clients of the IL program if they meet the following eligibility standards:

An Independent Living Plan (ILP) is developed which describes client needs. As the IL program's intent is to help people with disabilities function as independently as possible in their daily lives, AT can be a part of the ILP if it helps satisfy the goal of the ILP. Where needed, the IL program will pay for such things as Aids for Daily Living (ADL), Environmental Control Units (ECU), Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and other devices that Medicaid or other insurers will not provide. There is no cap or maximum on the amount of assistance under the IL program. IL will also fund home and vehicle modifications. Typically, the home modification projects are ramps, accessible bathrooms, wider doors and installation of lifts. These services do not include building a new structure or addition. Home modifications cannot begin until IL reviews the applicant's medical records and a contractor from their approved list is available. With regard to vehicle modifications, IL will consider the age of the vehicle, condition, and the number of miles on it. Due to the demand for services, at times there may be a waiting period before needed AT is provided.

With regard to hearing aids, IL may be able to assist with a purchase under certain conditions. IL will only purchase devices for those with significant hearing loss in the conversational speech range. A licensed audiologist must recommend the specific device. IL will only pay for a hearing aid once in a client’s lifetime, and will not cover device repair.

Anyone interested in the IL program should contact DVR's office in the Middletown Service Center at (302) 378-5779.

Independent Living Part C funds are currently dedicated to advocacy, independent living skill training, peer counseling, and information and referral. They are not currently being utilized for AT purchase, but might be considered by the administering agencies in the context of cost-sharing strategies. In Delaware, Independent Resources, Inc. (IRI) and the Freedom Center operate these types of programs using Part C funds. In addition to the above mandated areas of assistance, IRI has initiated programs to help deaf and hearing impaired clients and those with mental illness.

The contact numbers for IRI are as follows:

New Castle County
(302) 765-0191 (voice)
(302) 764-0194 (TTY)

Kent County
(302) 735-4599 (voice)
(302) 735-5629 (TTY)

Sussex County
(302) 854-9330 (voice)
(302) 854-9340 (TTY)

The contact numbers for the Freedom Center are (302) 376-4399 and (886) 687-7444 (toll free).

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