State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, under the Department of Education (Education), play a crucial role in helping individuals with disabilities prepare for and obtain employment, including individuals receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In a prior report (GAO-05-865), GAO found that state VR agencies varied in the rates of employment achieved for SSA beneficiaries. To help understand this variation, this report analyzed SSA and Education data and surveyed state agencies to determine the extent to which (1) agencies varied in earnings outcomes over time; (2) differences in state economic conditions, client demographic traits, and agency strategies could account for agency performance; and (3) Education's data could be used to identify factors that account for differences in individual earnings outcomes.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Education||To improve the effectiveness of Education's program evaluation efforts and ultimately the management of vocational rehabilitation programs, the Secretary of Education should further promote agency practices that show promise for helping more SSA disability beneficiaries participate in the workforce. Such a strategy should seek to increase: (1) the percentage of VR staff who meet state standards and certifications established under the CSPD, (2) partnership or involvement with area business communities, and (3) collaboration with other agencies that provide complementary services.|
|Department of Education||To improve the effectiveness of Education's program evaluation efforts and ultimately the management of vocational rehabilitation programs, the Secretary of Education should reassess Education's collection of VR client data through consultation with outside experts in vocational rehabilitation and the state agencies. In particular, it should: (1) consider the importance of data elements that are self-reported by the client and explore cost-effective approaches for verifying these data, and (2) consider collecting additional data that may be related to work outcomes, such as more detailed data on the severity of the client's disability and past earnings history, collaborating whenever possible with other state and federal agencies to collect this information.|