Shared from M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC

Our goal at M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC is to help individuals with disabilities lead full, productive and happy lives.

We believe that employment is an important part of a full life. It aids independence and integration, and studies have shown that meaningful, rewarding employment is psychologically beneficial. Employment provides opportunities to improve self-confidence, and offers a sense of purpose and self-worth. It can help individuals learn new skills and continue to build on existing skills. It plays a role in socialization, by facilitating engagement with peers. In addition to these benefits, it may also be financially necessary for individuals that live independently. Despite the positive outcomes associated with employment, however, many individuals with disabilities face insurmountable barriers when it comes to finding a job.

This blog discusses the Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), an important piece of legislation that attempts to remove these employment barriers. Although this legislation is 5 years old, there has been renewed debate on its effectiveness and clarity, specifically in regards to adults with disabilities.

What is the Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act?

The Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law in 2014 by President Obama, replacing the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) as the main national legislation on workforce development. This new version of the law includes a number of improvements on WIA. For example, it provides an increased focus on youth with disabilities. It offers more flexibility in the use of funding under the legislation’s guidelines. It also puts in place accountability criteria for core programs under the bill, and improves on the training services that are offered. In short, (according to this Huffpost Article), “[WIOA] streamlines and modernizes the maze that was federal job-training programs so that workers can access the right training, immediately.”

There are a few important aspects of this Act that individuals with disabilities and their families should pay attention to. According to an article published on in 2014: “Under the new law, individuals with disabilities aged 2 and younger will no longer be allowed to work for less that [minimum wage] unless they first receive pre-employment transition services at school and try vocational rehabilitation. The measure also mandates that state vocational rehabilitation agencies work with schools to provide transition services to all students with disabilities and requires that the agencies allocate at least 15 percent of their federal funding towards transition efforts.”

If you are interested in learning more about why WIAO is relevant to your family member with disabilities, check out this PACER article that breaks it all down.

Recent Criticisms of WIOA

Recently, legislators have been asking the Department of Education to have another look at WIOA, stating that there is “ongoing problems with the implementation of some aspects of the law,” particularly the aspects that address employment for individuals with disabilities in competitive, integrated settings. In a letter to Secretary of Education, 8 Republican members of congress asked for clarification about the implementation of the law. They claimed that the “imprecise criteria” designated to define integrated settings resulted in many vocational rehabilitation agencies to issue a “blanket denial” approach in regards to many employment settings, specifically AbilityOne (the largest source of employment for individuals with significant disabilities or are blind).

The letter ends by asking for the Department of Education “rescind the current guidance and instead promulgate new rules by which state VR agencies will conduct case by case determinations for each AbilityOne and State Use job that may be considered competitive employment under WIOA.”

Follow this link to read the letter in full.

Would you Like to learn more?

If you would like to learn more about the WIOA, or any legislation that affects individuals with disabilities and their families, please contact us. We are experienced and knowledgeable financial planners that specialize in helping families deal with the unique challenges of the special needs journey. For more information on exactly how we help, check out our services page or browse through our blog archive.

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