United States Government Accountability Office GAO Report to the Ranking Member, Committee on Education and the Workforce, House of Representatives July 2012 STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES Better Federal Coordination Could Lessen Challenges in the Transition from High School GAO-12-594 July 2012 STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES Better Federal Coordination Could Lessen Challenges in the Transition from High School Highlights of GAO-12-594, a report to the Ranking Member, Committee on Education and the Workforce, House of Representatives Why GAO Did This Study What GAO Found The transition out of high school to Students with disabilities face several longstanding challenges accessing postsecondary education or the services that may assist them as they transition from high school into workforce can be a challenging time, postsecondary education or the workforce—services such as tutoring, vocational especially for students with disabilities. training, and assistive technology. Eligible students with disabilities are entitled to Multiple federal agencies fund transition planning services during high school, but after leaving high school, to programs to support these students receive services that facilitate their transition they must apply as adults and during their transition. In 2003, GAO establish eligibility for programs administered by multiple federal agencies. reported that limited coordination Students with disabilities may face delays in service and end up on waitlists if among these programs can hinder a these programs are full. In addition, while all five states GAO contacted have successful transition. GAO was asked taken steps to coordinate their transition services and assist families with the to provide information on the (1) challenges students with disabilities transition process, officials said that it is still difficult for students and their parents may face accessing federally funded to navigate and for providers to coordinate services across different programs. transition services; and (2) extent to Officials and parents GAO spoke with also noted a lack of sufficient information which federal agencies coordinate their or awareness of the full range of service options available after high school on transition activities. GAO reviewed the part of students with disabilities, parents, and service providers. In addition, relevant federal laws, regulations, and state and local officials said students with disabilities may not be adequately agency documents from Education, prepared to successfully transition to life after high school. This may be due, in HHS, Labor, and SSA, which part, to limited opportunities to engage in vocational and life skills training or administer the key programs that obtain work experience while in school. provide transition services. GAO also administered a data collection Students Move from Services Provided through Their High School to Services Delivered through Multiple Programs instrument to gather program information from these agencies. Finally, GAO interviewed various stakeholders, including state and local officials, service providers, parents, and students with disabilities, in five states selected based on the number of federal grants they received to fund transition services. What GAO Recommends The Departments of Education (Education), Health and Human Services (HHS), To improve the provision of transition and Labor (Labor), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) coordinate services for students with disabilities, transition activities to some degree, but their coordination has limitations and GAO recommends that Education, they do not assess the effectiveness of their efforts. One coordinating body HHS, Labor, and SSA develop an involves all four agencies and focuses on transition services. However, that interagency transition strategy that addresses (1) operating toward group’s primary coordination activity is information sharing among staff-level common outcome goals for representatives rather than developing common outcome goals and establishing transitioning youth; (2) increasing compatible policies for operating across agencies. Agency officials told GAO that awareness of available transition a lack of compatible outcome goals for transitioning students and differences in services; and (3) assessing the statutory eligibility criteria are among the barriers that hinder interagency effectiveness of their coordination coordination for this population. While agencies collaborate to some extent, their efforts. All four agencies agreed with efforts represent a patchwork approach and there is no single, formal, the recommendation. government-wide strategy for coordinating transition services for students with disabilities. Moreover, it is unclear what impact coordination has on service View GAO-12-594. For more information, contact Revae E. Moran at (202) 512-7215 or provision because agencies do not assess the effectiveness of their coordination moranU@gao.gov. activities. United States Government Accountability Office Contents Letter 1 Background 4 Students with Disabilities Face Several Longstanding Challenges Accessing Federal Transition Services 9 Federal Agency Coordination of Transition Activities Has Limitations 18 Conclusions 27 Recommendation for Executive Action 28 Agency Comment and Our Evaluation 28 Appendix I Scope and Methodology 31 Appendix II Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities 37 Appendix III Other Federal Coordination Efforts that Address Individuals with Disabilities, Including Students 49 Appendix IV Comments from the Department of Education 51 Appendix V Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services 53 Appendix VI Comments from the Department of Labor 60 Appendix VII Comments from the Social Security Administration 62 Appendix VIII GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments 64 Page i GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Related GAO Products 65 Tables Table 1: Organizations Contacted 33 Table 2: Education Programs Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities (Ranked by Funding Level) 37 Table 3: HHS Programs Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities (Ranked by Funding Level) 43 Table 4: Department of Justice Program Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities 45 Table 5: Labor Program Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities 46 Table 6: SSA Programs Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities (Ranked by Funding Level) 47 Figures Figure 1: Key Federal Legislation Providing for Services to Transition-Age Students with Disabilities 6 Figure 2: Students Move from Services Provided through Their High Schools to Services Delivered through Multiple Programs 10 Figure 3: Federal Coordination Efforts Specific to Transition Services 21 Figure 4: Federal Coordination Efforts That Focus on Individuals with Disabilities or Youth 49 This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. Page ii GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities United States Government Accountability Office Washington, DC 20548 July 12, 2012 The Honorable George Miller Ranking Member Committee on Education and the Workforce House of Representatives Dear Mr. Miller: The transition from high school to postsecondary education or the workforce can be a challenging time for all students, and particularly for those with disabilities who may need additional services such as tutoring, vocational training, assistive technology, and other supports to achieve their goals. This can be a daunting process, and research has documented that students with disabilities are less likely than their peers to successfully make the transition. For example, as of February 2012, the employment rate for young adults ages 20 to 24 with disabilities was less than half the rate of their peers without disabilities. When young adults with disabilities do not successfully transition out of high school, they may face a lifetime of continued reliance on public assistance, potentially leading to substantial costs to the government and society. Although the total amount of federal money spent to support students with disabilities in transitioning out of high school is not known, the federal investment in educating students with disabilities is substantial. In 2011, the Department of Education (Education) awarded about $11.5 billion in federal grants to states to help ensure that 6.6 million students with disabilities—approximately 2.2 million of whom were of transition-age 1— received a free appropriate public education, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a key piece of legislation pertaining to transition. IDEA requires that beginning not later than the first individualized education program (IEP) to be in effect when the student turns 16, school officials must include in the IEP 1 In this report, we use the term “transition-age” to refer to youth between the ages of 14 and 25. This age range covers youth served by the key programs we identified as providing transition services to youth with disabilities. Page 1 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities postsecondary goals and the transition services needed to assist the student in reaching those goals. 2 Students remain eligible for transition planning and services, as well as other IDEA services, until they exit high school. Once students exit high school, they are no longer entitled to federal transition services under IDEA. 3 Instead, they may apply and be found eligible for a number of other separately administered federal programs that are authorized to provide services that can assist youth with disabilities in their transition to postsecondary education, employment, and independent living. GAO has reported on the need for better coordination among federal disability programs, including those serving students with disabilities. 4 This is one reason that, as of 2011, federal disability programs remained on GAO’s high risk list. 5 In light of questions about the accessibility and coordination of transition services for students with disabilities, you requested we provide information on: (1) challenges students with disabilities may face 2 Pub. L. No. 108-446, 118 Stat. 2647, 2676, § 612(a)(1) (codified as amended at 20 U.S.C § 1412(a)(1)). 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII). 3 Students remain eligible for transition planning and services, as well as other IDEA services, until they graduate from high school with a regular high school diploma or exceed the earlier of age 21 or the eligibility age for a free appropriate public education under state law. While federal law authorizes students to receive a free appropriate public education up until age 22, eligibility for students aged 18-21 is determined by states. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.102 (2011). 4 See GAO, People with Disabilities: Federal Programs Could Work Together More Efficiently to Promote Employment, GAO/HEHS-96-126 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 3, 1996); Highlights of a Forum: Modernizing Federal Disability Policy, GAO-07-934SP (Washington, D.C.: August 2007); Special Education: Federal Actions Can Assist States in Improving Postsecondary Outcomes for Youth, GAO-03-773 (Washington, D.C.: July 31, 2003); Summary of a GAO Conference: Helping California Youth with Disabilities Transition to Work or Postsecondary Education, GAO-06-759SP (Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2006); Federal Disability Programs: More Strategic Coordination Could Help Overcome Challenges to Needed Transformation, GAO-08-635 (Washington, D.C.: May 20, 2008); Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness: Some States and Federal Agencies Are Taking Steps to Address Their Transition Challenges, GAO-08-678 (Washington, D.C.: June 23, 2008); and High Risk Series: An Update, GAO-11-278 (Washington, D.C.: February 2011). 5 GAO publishes a high risk list to focus attention on government operations that it identifies as high risk due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or the need for transformation to address economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. This list is updated biennially to remove areas where progress has been made and identify any new areas needing attention by Congress and the executive branch. Page 2 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities accessing transition services under existing federal programs; and (2) the extent to which federal agencies coordinate their transition activities. To identify potential challenges, we reviewed the definitions of disability and the eligibility criteria in selected federal statutes governing federal programs that provide transition services. 6 To assess the extent to which federal agencies coordinate their transition activities, we asked officials from the four agencies that administer key programs serving students in their transition out of high school—Education, the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Labor (Labor), and the Social Security Administration (SSA)—to provide information on their coordination efforts and activities relating to transition services. We compared their responses and agency documents to our criteria on activities that can enhance and sustain collaboration among federal agencies. 7 In addition, we consulted a number of experts in the field of transition and from advocacy organizations that represent young adults with a wide range of disability types. Finally, to obtain the perspectives of state and local agencies that deliver transition services, we selected a nongeneralizable sample of five states and contacted officials to obtain their views. We selected these states based on the number of federal grants they received in fiscal year (FY) 2011 to fund transition services, recommendations of agency officials and experts, and geographic diversity. 8 Through a combination of site visits and telephone interviews, we spoke with service providers and officials from state education, vocational rehabilitation, developmental 6 In this report, we use the term “transition services” to include educational services such as tutoring or study skills assistance, school-based work experience programs, assistive technology or accommodations; employment services such as vocational training, job search assistance, job coaching, or supported employment; or other support services such as independent living assistance and skill development, transportation, mentoring, benefits counseling, information, guidance and referral services, advocacy, or financial assistance for adaptive equipment or other assistive technology. 7 In this report we use the term “coordination” broadly to include interagency activities that others have variously defined as “collaboration,” “cooperation,” “integration,” or “networking.” Although there is no commonly accepted definition of coordination, we defined it as any joint activity by two or more organizations that is intended to produce more public value than could be produced when the organizations act alone. See E. Bardach, Getting Agencies to Work Together: The Practice and Theory of Managerial Craftsmanship (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1998). 8 We visited the four states with a relatively large number of grants for programs that provide transition services (California, Florida, Maryland, and Minnesota) and interviewed officials by phone in the state with a relatively small number of grants for programs that provide transition services (Nevada). Page 3 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities disability, and workforce agencies. In each state we visited, we also met with groups of students with disabilities and parents to discuss the challenges they face. Appendix I explains our scope and methodology in more detail. We conducted this performance audit from July 2011 through July 2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. To support the educational needs of children with disabilities, Congress Background originally enacted IDEA in 1975. 9 Part B of IDEA authorizes federal funding for children aged 3 through 21 with a range of disabilities who need special education services. To receive federal funds, states and local education agencies must identify and evaluate children who have disabilities and provide special education and related services, as well as supplementary aids and services when necessary, to those who are eligible. Such services and supports are formulated in an IEP, which is developed, discussed, and documented by a student’s IEP team. 10 In the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, Congress required that, beginning no later than age 16, a student’s IEP must include measurable postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills. The IEP also must specify the transition 9 IDEA was originally enacted as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Pub. L. No. 94-142, 89 Stat. 773 (codified as amended at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482) (1975). 10 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d). Page 4 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities services 11 needed to assist the student in reaching those goals. 12 School officials are required to invite the student to a meeting where the transition services detailed in the IEP are discussed. When appropriate, they also must invite a representative of any participating outside agency (with the prior consent of the parent or student who has reached the age of majority). 13 As students with disabilities exit high school, they may apply as adults and be found eligible for a number of federally funded programs, including federal disability programs, if they wish to obtain services important to their transition. There is wide diversity in this population—students with disabilities can have a range of physical and cognitive disabilities that can affect their ability to learn. They may also demonstrate varying levels of academic aptitude and achievement in different areas. Thus, the number of programs for which each student may be eligible can vary widely based on their abilities, postsecondary goals, and the types of supportive services they may need to be successful. We identified a range of programs that provide services to support students with disabilities in their 11 Under IDEA, transition services are defined as a coordinated set of activities that (1) is designed to be within a results-oriented process focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of a child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities; (2) is based on the individual child’s needs, strengths, preferences, and interests; and (3) includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. 20 U.S.C. § 1401(34). 12 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-446, sec. 101, § 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII),118 Stat. 2647, 2709 (codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII)). 13 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(B)(vii) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.321(b)(1) and (3) (2011). In addition to IDEA, other laws support the educational needs of students with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits entities that receive federal financial assistance, including public and private schools, from discriminating on the basis of disability against otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities. Pub. L. No. 93-112, § 504, 87 Stat. 355, 394 (codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. § 794). Regulations implementing Section 504 are at 34 C.R.F pt 104 (2011). The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities and public accommodations, including public and private schools, regardless of whether they receive federal financial assistance. Pub. L. No 101-336, §§ 201(1), 202, 301(7)(J) and 302, 104 Stat. 337, 354 and 355 (codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131(1), 12132, 12181(7)(J) and 12182). Title II regulations are at 28 C.F.R. part 35 and Title III regulations at 28 C.F.R. pt 36 (2011). The requirements of Section 504 and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the rights of students with disabilities under them are not addressed in this study. Page 5 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities transition out of high school. These programs vary in the target population served, services provided, grant funding amounts, and other characteristics. In addition, they are authorized by multiple federal laws (administered through various federal agencies), each with its own eligibility requirements and application processes. (See fig. 1). Moreover, federally funded programs that provide transition services, as defined in this report, are often delivered through state and local entities that have flexibility on how to administer services. Figure 1: Key Federal Legislation Providing for Services to Transition-Age Students with Disabilities a Services under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Higher Education Opportunity Act, begin largely when a student enters postsecondary education. Pub.L. No. 110-315, sec. 709(2), §§ 766-769, 122 Stat. 3078,3365-67 (codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1140f-1140i) b Students who meet certain criteria may receive SSI benefits prior to age 18; the Social Security Administration is statutorily required to redetermine the eligibility of all children receiving these benefits within one year of their 18th birthday. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(H)(iii). c Students who meet certain criteria may receive services through the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) youth program between the ages of 14 and 21; services through the WIA adult program may begin at age 18. 29 U.S.C. § 2801(1) and (13). Page 6 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities The following four agencies have primary responsibility for administering federal programs that can provide services to transition-age youth with disabilities: • Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration awards funds to state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies in the form of matching grants to help individuals with disabilities prepare for and engage in gainful employment. 14 VR programs require that an individualized plan for employment be developed for eligible students before they leave high school. 15 Furthermore, if the student is receiving special education services, this plan must be coordinated with the student’s IEP in terms of goals, objectives, and services. • Labor oversees the one-stop center system, a comprehensive workforce investment system created under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) that brings together multiple federally funded employment and training programs that can help all eligible individuals seeking employment and training—including students with disabilities. 16 Labor also administers the Disability Employment Initiative, which is designed to improve educational, training, and employment opportunities and outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed, and/or receiving Social Security disability benefits. • SSA provides cash benefits to qualifying individuals with disabilities— including transition-age young adults—through its Disability Insurance 14 29 U.S.C. §§ 702, 706 and 721(a)(2) and (3). 15 29 U.S.C. § 721(a)(9) and 34 C.F.R. § 361.22(a)(2) (2011). If a state VR agency is operating under an order of selection, a plan must be developed for students who are eligible to receive services under the order of selection prior to when they leave school. A VR agency must implement an order of selection when it anticipates it will not have sufficient fiscal and/or personnel resources to fully serve all eligible individuals. 29 U.S.C. § 721(a)(5) and 34 C.F.R. § 361.36 (2011). An order of selection consists of priority categories to which eligible individuals are assigned based on the significance of their disability—individuals with the most significant disabilities are selected first for the provision of vocational rehabilitation services. 16 29 U.S.C. § 2841. Page 7 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. 17 SSA also administers the Ticket to Work program, which is designed to enable individuals with disabilities (who are receiving disability insurance or SSI benefits and are between the ages of 18 and 64) to obtain services needed to find, enter, and retain employment. They obtain these services from providers such as VR agencies. 18 • HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services manages Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care financing program for qualifying low- income individuals. Within the Medicaid program, states provide home and community-based services to individuals with certain types of disabilities—which may include young adults—who might otherwise be cared for in institutional settings. 19 Because Medicaid usually does not cover home and community-based services, states must obtain a waiver to provide these services. Services provided in accordance with these waivers vary by state, are individualized, and may include, for example, case management, personal care attendants, or day or residential habilitation. 20 In addition, these and other federal agencies fund a number of other programs through grants to states, localities, and nongovernmental organizations that may assist students and young adults during their transition from high school. Some of these grants explicitly target 17 Individuals known as “disabled adult children” can receive Disability Insurance benefits if they are age 18 or older, were disabled before age 22, and have at least one parent who also receives Social Security payments because of retirement or disability or who is deceased but worked long enough to be eligible to receive benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a) (2011). The SSI program provides financial assistance to eligible individuals who are age 65 or older, blind, or disabled, and who have limited income and resources. 42 U.S.C. § 1381a. Children under age 18 may qualify for SSI benefits if they meet SSA’s disability definition and financial eligibility requirements. 20 C.F.R. § 416.906 (2011). SSA is statutorily required to redetermine the eligibility of all children receiving these benefits within one year of their 18th birthday. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(H)(iii). 18 42 U.S.C. § 1320b-19. 19 42 U.S.C. § 1396n(c). 20 “Habilitation services” are defined as “services designed to assist participants in acquiring, retaining, and improving the self-help, socialization, and adaptive skills necessary to reside successfully in home and community-based settings.” 42 U.S.C. § 1396n(c)(5). Habilitation services are flexible in nature, they can be day or residential, and they can be specifically designed to fund services and supports that help an individual obtain or maintain employment. Page 8 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities improving postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities and others provide a range of support services such as assistive technology, information and referral, advocacy, transportation, leadership development, benefits counseling, and independent living services. (See app. II for more information on federal programs that received federal funding in FY 2011 to provide transition services to students with disabilities.) Students with disabilities face several challenges accessing federally Students with funded programs that can provide transition services as they leave high Disabilities Face school for postsecondary education or the workforce. These include difficulty navigating multiple programs that are not always coordinated; Several Longstanding possible delays in service as they wait to be served by adult programs; Challenges Accessing limited access to transition services; a lack of adequate information or Federal Transition awareness on the part of parents, students, and service providers of available programs that may provide transition services after high school; Services and a lack of preparedness for postsecondary education or employment. Prior GAO work identified many of these same challenges, which is indicative of the longstanding and persistent nature of the challenges facing students with disabilities as they transition out of high school. 21 Difficulty Navigating Multiple In each of the five states we contacted, state officials said it can be Programs that Provide difficult for students with disabilities and their families to navigate the Transition Services multiple federal programs that provide transition services. 22 Some officials said that the shift from being automatically entitled to services under IDEA if identified as disabled while in high school to having to apply as adults and be found eligible for multiple programs after exiting high school is difficult for students and their parents to understand. (See fig. 2). 21 GAO-08-678; GAO-06-759SP; and GAO-03-773. 22 In this section, we quantified the challenges identified during our interviews as follows: we used “most” if a challenge was mentioned in more than 85 percent of our interviews; “many” or “frequently” if a challenge was mentioned in over half; “some” if a challenge was mentioned in less than half; and “a few” if a challenge was mentioned in less than 25 percent of the interviews. Page 9 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Figure 2: Students Move from Services Provided through Their High Schools to Services Delivered through Multiple Programs Note: Students may also receive services from other federal and nongovernmental programs. a States must identify, evaluate, and provide services to children with disabilities. Students with disabilities remain entitled to services until they graduate from high school with a regular high school diploma or exceed the earlier of age 21 or the eligibility age for a free appropriate public education under state law. While federal law authorizes students to receive a free appropriate public education up until age 22, eligibility for students aged 18-21 is determined by states. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.102 (2011). b Includes job coaching, job placement, and supported employment. c Includes vocational assessment, vocational education, and work-based experiences. d Students must disclose their disability to obtain services in college. e SSA is statutorily required to redetermine the eligibility of all children receiving SSI benefits within one year of their 18th birthday. 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3)(H)(iii). Many of the stakeholders told us that a lack of coordination between programs was another key challenge for students with disabilities and/or Page 10 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities their families. 23 For example, staff from a parent training and information Center in Minnesota said that it is very challenging for parents to navigate the system and coordinate resources for their children across programs. In their experience, none of the program officials coordinate with those from other programs to share information on clients. State officials suggested that a lack of coordination between programs often arises as early as during IEP transition planning meetings. IDEA requires high schools to invite, with parental or student consent, representatives from adult programs likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services to the student after high school, such as VR, to these meetings to the extent appropriate. 24 These representatives, however, are not required to attend, and we heard that they are often not at the table for transition planning meetings. VR officials from one state acknowledged this, saying that while they try to attend transition planning meetings, it is not always possible because of resource and time constraints. Some of the stakeholders suggested that without the commitment of local leaders and service providers to coordinate services between high school and adult programs, there is little to no communication between programs, which can create difficulty for families trying to navigate across different programs. In each of the five states we contacted, some officials said that differing requirements for adult programs can confuse students and parents. For example, officials from Florida’s department of VR said that the requirement for VR clients to have an individualized plan for employment that identifies an employment goal and the services and supports necessary to achieve that goal can be confusing for youth who already included transition plans and identified a career goal in their IEP. In addition, the amount of documentation each program requires can be overwhelming for students with disabilities and their parents. According to a student in Maryland, there is a continuous administrative burden on applicants to provide the same or similar information to multiple programs. Officials we interviewed from three of the four federal agencies acknowledged these challenges. 23 The term “stakeholders” refers to federal, state, and local officials; students and parents; and experts on transition. 24 34 C.F.R. § 300.321(b)(3) (2011). Page 11 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities In each of the states we contacted, officials suggested that it would be helpful to appoint a case manager to coordinate services and guide students and their families through the transition process. Some of the parents and also officials from two of the four federal agencies agreed that a case manager could help students with disabilities and their families navigate across the multiple programs. However, officials from one federal agency cautioned that it could be costly and, given that programs that provide transition services are administered by different federal agencies and implemented at the state and local level, challenging to administer. Delays in Service Students with disabilities may also face delays in service upon leaving high school as they wait to obtain services from adult programs or for their eligibility determinations to be finalized. Many stakeholders said that delays in service can be caused by limited financial or program resources, which may leave youth with disabilities on waitlists for services. In particular, states may have waitlists—sometimes with several thousand individuals—for home and community-based waiver services. The departments of VR in four of the five states we contacted were operating under a federally required order of selection, requiring them to serve individuals with the most significant disabilities before serving others. 25 Several parents from Minnesota said that their children had been on waitlists for waiver services or VR services for years. One parent from Florida said that her adult son was living at home with no services or employment options as he waited for waiver services from the state’s department of disability. Officials from Nevada’s department of VR said that delays in service may also occur when students with disabilities, upon leaving high school, must return assistive technology devices on loan from the school, such as software for blind individuals that reads text on a screen in a computer-generated voice. According to officials, some students go without these critical adaptive devices until VR is able to equip them with the same or similar technologies. Service delays can be exacerbated if students with disabilities have to wait until program officials resolve who should provide and pay for services. In addition, some adult programs will not provide services to 25 29 U.S.C. § 721(a)(5) and 34 C.F.R. 361.36. According to Education officials, 45 VR agencies have implemented an order of selection, as required by federal law, because they are unable to service all eligible individuals in the state due to their lack of financial or staff resources. Page 12 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities students who are still eligible to receive services under IDEA. 26 Officials from two states said that, as a result, there has been a shift toward keeping students with disabilities in high school longer so that schools continue paying for services until students graduate or turn 22 years of age. For example, officials from Maryland’s department of VR said that students with developmental disabilities who decide to leave high school before they age out of IDEA services often face a delay in services because the state department of developmental disability will not provide services to students younger than age 21. 27 Some of the stakeholders said that differing eligibility criteria, definitions of disability, and assessment requirements for the various adult programs can also result in service delays while youth with disabilities wait for assessments or eligibility determinations. For example, officials in the four states in which we spoke with higher education officials said some colleges require students with disabilities to be reassessed before they can receive accommodations, and that this can cause a delay in service because there are long waitlists for these reassessments or because they are cost prohibitive for some families. Limited Access to Transition Limited access to reliable public transportation to and from employment Services programs and service providers—especially in rural areas—was also frequently highlighted as a major challenge. For example, officials from Florida said limited funding for transportation services contributes to the lack of transportation for students with disabilities. Officials in each of the states we contacted also said that certain groups of students with disabilities are more likely to face limited service options or gaps in service because their disabilities may be less visible or 26 Young adults with disabilities may not be eligible for some adult services until they graduate from high school with a regular diploma or exceed the age eligibility for a free appropriate public education under state law because of “payer of last resort” provisions, which specify the order in which funding sources or programs should pay for services. For example, both VR and Medicaid function as payers of last resort—if another program or funding source (for example IDEA) is still available to that individual, that other source must be exhausted before VR and Medicaid will pay for services. 29 U.S.C. § 707 (regarding nonduplication), and 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(25) and 42 C.F.R. § 433.139(b) (regarding third-party liability) (2011). 27 According to HHS officials, Maryland has waivers, Community Pathways and New Directions Independence Plus, that can serve individuals with developmental disabilities who are under the age of 21. Page 13 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities because they are less likely to qualify for adult programs. These groups include students with developmental or cognitive disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health disabilities, autism, and mild disabilities. Further, we heard that there may be limited programs for students with hearing or visual impairments, and that if these students also have other disabilities, it can be difficult to determine which program (e.g., VR or a developmental disability agency) should provide services, which can lead to gaps in service. Similarly, officials said that students with disabilities who are in the juvenile justice system, are themselves parents, or are homeless may also be more likely to face gaps in service than other students with disabilities because they tend not to be aware of or connected to adult service providers. In addition, some students who qualified for services under IDEA and/or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may not meet the eligibility requirements for adult programs and may, therefore, have limited or no post-high school service options. For example, one parent told us that her daughter, who has a serious physical disability, did not receive any transition planning assistance and struggled to gain access to services such as personal care attendants who would help her successfully transition to a college out of state. Lack of Adequate Information A lack of adequate information and awareness of available program and Awareness of Options after options on the part of parents, students, and service providers was High School another challenge highlighted during our site visits. Many stakeholders said that students with disabilities and their parents do not always receive enough information about the full range of service options after high school. For example, a parent from California said that she was very disappointed with the limited information she received from her school district and that she had no idea what resources were available for her son after he left high school. A student from Maryland expressed concern that students with disabilities who do not seek information about transition services outside of high school may not have access to information, and consequently, to needed services. In contrast, a few stakeholders said parents may receive too much information and feel overwhelmed. For example, a parent from California said that families may receive so much information that they do not remember everything and do not know where to seek help when the time comes. A staff member from the California Department of Education’s Workability program said that, even when information about transition services is available, it is generally not Page 14 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities compiled and made available in one central place for families to access. 28 She recommended that states or programs develop an accessible, easy to read transition manual that clearly lays out post-high school service options. Sometimes there was an issue with the accuracy of information parents received. For example, officials in three of the five states we contacted said that parents may be misinformed about programs, especially about the ability of their children to retain SSI benefits. Officials from Florida’s developmental disability agency noted that parents are often misinformed by teachers or adult program service providers that their children will lose these benefits entirely if they obtain any paid employment. Lack of awareness of service options also extended to teachers and other high school personnel. Many of the stakeholders said that teachers and other high school personnel may not always be aware of post-high school service options for students with disabilities. For example, one parent said that while there are a lot of programs in her community that can aid students in transition, school personnel are not aware of them and therefore cannot appropriately guide students with disabilities and their families. Moreover, some experts and state education officials said that teacher training and professional development programs do not always adequately prepare teachers to provide transition services or inform them about the various agencies and resources available to students with disabilities. A few of the officials, however, said that teachers in some school districts are well trained in and aware of adult programs that can provide transition services, which allows them to disseminate information to students and their parents. In addition, some stakeholders said that service providers from adult programs may not be used to working with this student population or have limited awareness of other adult programs that can provide complementary transition services. For example, stakeholders in Maryland and Nevada said that VR counselors need additional training to work with transition-age youth with disabilities and officials from Maryland’s local workforce agencies said that one-stop center staff need more training to help these students enter the workforce. A representative 28 California’s Workability program is a school-based work program for students with disabilities, designed to offer the opportunity to complete high school while obtaining marketable job skills. Page 15 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities from a parent training and information center in Maryland added that the knowledge service providers have about other programs is piecemeal and inconsistent. She suggested the federal government support additional training for all professionals who work with students in transition. Inadequate Preparation for Many stakeholders said that high schools do not always adequately Postsecondary Education or prepare students with disabilities for college or the workforce, and cited the Workforce several contributing factors. According to some officials, the federal requirement to begin transition planning by age 16 is too late. In fact, officials in four of the five states we contacted said that schools are required to start transition planning at an earlier age. 29 In addition, in all five states we heard that schools’ emphasis on academic achievement has left little time for vocational and life skills training, even though these skills may be key to gaining and retaining employment—especially for students with disabilities. Officials from Minnesota’s department of VR said that schools need to pay greater attention to vocational training because students with disabilities are at a distinct disadvantage if they leave high school with no work experience. Further, officials from Maryland’s department of developmental disabilities said that because most jobs require a high school diploma, students with disabilities who receive certificates instead of diplomas could find their employment options significantly curtailed because many employers do not recognize alternative completion documents. 30 As a transition specialist from Maryland noted, many students with non-traditional diplomas end up in 29 Since the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, schools have been required, beginning no later than the first IEP that will be in effect when a student turns 16 years of age, to include in the IEP postsecondary goals and the transition services needed to assist the student in reaching those goals. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-446, sec. 101, § 414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII), 118 Stat. 2647, 2709 (codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII)). Furthermore, we were told by state officials that some states require that transition planning begin earlier than age 16, including four of the five states we contacted, which required transition planning to begin at age 14. 30 In some states, some students with disabilities receive a certificate of completion or other alternatives to a high school diploma. Page 16 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities sheltered workshops because they are not considered to be qualified for competitive employment opportunities. 31 In addition, according to some stakeholders, adult programs are not always designed to meet the needs of transition-age youth with disabilities in ways that will help them succeed in college or in a job. For example, a few state officials said that the VR system does not provide incentives for serving transition-age youth with disabilities because VR’s performance indicators reward counselors for serving clients who find and maintain employment for at least 90 days, and youth with disabilities may take longer to do so. 32 Similarly, we heard from a few officials, including representatives from California’s workforce agency, that the time frame of the employment outcome measures under the WIA youth program may be too short—for example, the employment retention rate at 6 months 33— and not appropriate for transition-age youth with disabilities who often require follow-up support longer than 6 months in order to be successful at a job. 34 Another frequently mentioned challenge was low expectations by parents, service providers, and even students themselves about what students with disabilities can achieve. These groups told us that low expectations often contributed to students with disabilities being unprepared for college or the workforce because parents, teachers, and others may not have exposed them to all available options for life after high school. Consequently, some officials said students may be directed to apply for 31 To prevent curtailment of employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, Labor is authorized under certain conditions to issue certificates permitting employers to pay them less than the otherwise required minimum wage. 29 U.S.C. § 214(c). Sheltered workshops, which are also referred to as work centers, exclusively or primarily employ people with disabilities certified to be paid less than the otherwise required minimum wage. 32 We previously reported that Education does not comprehensively measure the performance of VR for certain key populations, including transition-age youth. See GAO, Vocational Rehabilitation: Better Measures and Monitoring Could Improve the Performance of the VR Program, GAO-05-865 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 23, 2005). 33 29 U.S.C. § 2871(b)(2)(A)(i)(II). 34 We previously reported that WIA performance measures can create disincentives for one-stop centers to serve clients with disabilities. See GAO, Workforce Investment Act: Labor Has Taken Several Actions to Facilitate Access to One-Stops for Persons with Disabilities, but These Efforts May Not Be Sufficient, GAO-05-54 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 14, 2004). Page 17 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities social security benefits instead of receiving job training, and that students with more serious disabilities who could benefit from competitive employment (i.e., applying for and getting a job) may be steered instead toward adult day training programs and sheltered workshops. Federal Agency Coordination of Transition Activities Has Limitations Federal Agencies Education, HHS, Labor, and SSA coordinate transition activities to some Coordinate on Specific degree, but their coordination has limitations and they do not assess the Transition Activities but effectiveness of their efforts. They coordinate on some specific transition activities, but their efforts are primarily focused on information sharing Face Some Barriers and lack elements that our prior work identified as enhancing and sustaining effective coordination. 35 We have reported on the importance of developing common outcome goals and of engaging in strategic planning and coordination to address issues that cut across agency boundaries. This can take many forms, ranging from occasional meetings between agency staff to more structured joint policy teams operating over a long period of time. 36 One federal coordination effort—the Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup—targets transition services to students with disabilities and involves all four agencies that administer the key programs that provide transition services to youth with disabilities. 37 However, this workgroup is informal and primarily involves information sharing among staff-level representatives, according to agency officials. For example, SSA officials 35 While some coordination efforts included in this report involve other federal agencies, we focused on Education, HHS, Labor, and SSA because these four agencies administer the key programs serving students in their transition out of high school. 36 GAO-06-15. 37 The Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup focuses on all youth, including students, with disabilities. In this report, we refer to the group’s efforts related to students with disabilities, as appropriate, to be consistent with the focus of our review. Page 18 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities told us that in past meetings, their staff presented information about SSI requirements for the transitioning youth population, including the process for redetermining eligibility for SSI when youth turn age 18, and information on the Student Earned Income Exclusion. 38 To a lesser extent, some workgroup members also reported that they have jointly developed guidance for students with disabilities and grantees, including a fact sheet about how students can take advantage of Schedule A hiring authority for federal jobs. 39 In addition, the workgroup has convened forums to help students with disabilities develop their leadership and self- advocacy skills and to discuss action steps to ensure students are prepared to move successfully to adulthood. This workgroup also convened a meeting of representatives of technical assistance centers to discuss coordination among the centers. Agencies involved in the workgroup reported varying levels of involvement in more extensive coordination activities, such as policymaking, program planning, and joint strategic planning. Labor officials leading the effort told us they are in the process of drafting a strategic plan to identify objectives, activities, and outcomes for the group. Education and Labor also participate in the National Community of Practice in Support of Transition, which was developed by the IDEA Partnership and focuses on joint efforts among state and local agencies to coordinate and improve outcomes for youth with disabilities in transition. Both agencies also have established intra-agency groups to facilitate collaboration between internal program offices. 40 (See fig. 3.) 38 The Student Earned Income Exclusion allows SSA to exclude a certain amount of a beneficiary’s earned income when determining benefits payments. 42 U.S.C. § 1382a(b)(1). This exclusion is one of the incentives SSA offers to encourage work among SSI recipients. In addition, the Social Security Disability Amendments of 1980 allowed for continued payments under VR or a similar program to eligible beneficiaries until the completion of the program, beneficiary participation ends, or continued participation will not increase the likelihood of exit from the disability benefit rolls. Pub. L .No. 96-265, § 301, 94 Stat. 449-50 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 425(b) and 1383(b)(6)). Examples of specific programs that trigger this provision include Ticket to Work, VR, and special education services under IDEA for individuals ages 18 through 21. 39 Schedule A hiring authority allows individuals with disabilities to apply for a federal appointment through a noncompetitive hiring process. 5 C.F.R. § 213.3102(u). (2012). 40 The IDEA Partnership is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs through the Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities program. 20 U.S.C. § 1463. The partnership brings together representatives from national associations, service providers, and agencies that have a vested interest in improving results for all students, including those with disabilities. Page 19 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Education officials also said they recently sponsored a national transition conference for more than 800 professionals, families, and students to facilitate collaboration and communication across federal, state, and local entities. Aside from these efforts, officials said most of their interagency coordination regarding transition services occurs on an ad hoc basis, such as sharing white papers and holding informal discussions about policies, performance measures, and technical assistance to states. In addition, several federal coordination efforts broadly target disadvantaged youth or all individuals with disabilities and may address some aspects of transition. (See app. III). Page 20 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Figure 3: Federal Coordination Efforts Specific to Transition Services Note: While some coordination efforts included in this figure involve other federal agencies, we focused on Education, HHS, Labor, and SSA because they administer the key programs serving students in their transition out of high school. Key activities coordinated and mechanisms of coordination were reported by at least half of the reporting member agencies. For efforts with two key member agencies, only mechanisms and activities reported by both agencies were included. Some federal agencies are involved in new demonstration projects that plan to address coordination across systems at the state and local level. For example, an official from HHS stated that the agency has coordinated with Education and Labor to develop grants under the new Projects of National Significance Partnerships in Employment Systems Change. This initiative will provide resources for state agencies and service providers to collaborate with other services systems to develop statewide model demonstration projects that expand competitive employment for youth with developmental disabilities. In another example, officials at all four Page 21 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities agencies said they have been involved in early discussions regarding implementation of the new Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) initiative, which will fund pilot projects in states to promote positive changes in the outcomes of youth SSI recipients and their families. 41 Education officials said they are in the process of holding meetings to gather input on potential projects from federal partners and stakeholders, including state agency officials, service providers, researchers, policy experts, and families. As part of the initiative, Education and SSA officials said they will work collaboratively to identify legislative barriers to competitive employment and ways to improve coordination at the state level. In addition to collaborative efforts across agencies, Education officials said that six grants focusing on transition and funded by their Rehabilitation Services Administration are in their fifth and final year of operation. According to Education officials, these grants demonstrate the use of promising practices of collaborative transition planning and service delivery to improve the postsecondary education and employment outcomes of youth with disabilities. Despite these efforts, federal agency officials identified several barriers that limit their ability to coordinate. We have reported that federal agencies face a range of coordination barriers, one of which stems from goals that are not mutually reinforcing or are potentially conflicting, making it difficult to reach a consensus on strategies and priorities. 42 We found interagency coordination is enhanced by having a clear and compelling rationale for staff to work across agency lines and articulate the common federal outcomes they are seeking. 43 Indeed, officials identified a lack of compatible outcome goals for transitioning students with disabilities as one of the key barriers that hinder their coordination efforts. The incompatibility in outcome goals is highlighted in the implementation of specific programs, according to agency officials. For example, goals for employment outcomes in VR and workforce programs are in some cases 41 PROMISE, which was first funded in FY 2012, is a joint initiative of Education, HHS, Labor, and SSA. Education officials said they are currently in the planning stage of the initiative. 42 Mutually reinforcing goals or strategies are designed to help align agency activities, core processes, and resources to achieve common outcomes. 43 GAO-06-15. Page 22 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities countered by requirements for students to prove that their disabilities limit their ability to work in order to receive SSI benefits. 44 Similarly, officials told us that, in early interagency discussions regarding the PROMISE initiative, special education officials focused on students’ access to postsecondary education, while VR and SSA officials were more concerned about students’ earnings. Officials from all four agencies said that aligning outcome goals for transition-age students with disabilities would enhance interagency coordination and help agencies approach transition in a more integrated way. Some officials suggested establishing a common agreement on desired outcomes for transitioning students, such as economic self-sufficiency or engagement in meaningful employment, volunteer work, or postsecondary education by a certain age. Differences in statutory eligibility criteria among programs also limit federal agencies’ ability to coordinate, according to agency officials. For example, one official said that special education and SSI programs, in effect, have different legal definitions of “child” 45 and “transition services,” 46 making it more difficult to identify potential service recipients across programs and to share data about individuals served by multiple 44 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3) (defining “disabled” in part as “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical impairment). HHS officials said parents’ fear of losing health insurance benefits for their children with disabilities creates a similar disincentive for these youth to pursue competitive employment. However, officials said new provisions under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that allow individuals to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26 could help mitigate this. Pub. L. No. 111-148, sec. 1001, § 2714, 124 Stat. 119,132 (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-14). 45 The age range for children served through special education under IDEA is 3 through 21. 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(B). SSI serves children from birth to age 18, (42 U.S.C. § 1382c(c)), at which point there must be a redetermination as to whether or not they are still eligible for SSI benefits as adults (42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(H)(iii)). 46 Under IDEA, transition services are provided through special education and make up a coordinated set of activities that (1) is designed to be within a results-oriented process focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of a child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities; (2) is based on the individual child’s needs, strengths, preferences, and interests; and (3) includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post- school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. 20 U.S.C. § 1401(34). The definitions of transition services under IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are very similar and there is no statutory definition of transition services under SSI. Page 23 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities programs. 47 As a result, agencies are limited in their ability to target services to recipients who might benefit from them. Moreover, integrating information about students served by multiple programs over time would allow agencies to assess the impact of transition services across programs, according to Education and SSA officials. In addition, officials said sharing information about common service recipients would help agencies serve students with disabilities in a more streamlined way. For instance, SSA could identify students receiving employment and training services through other federal programs and provide counseling to help them understand how paid employment affects their SSI benefits and health insurance, with an eye toward helping students attain greater economic self-sufficiency. Officials cautioned, however, that privacy concerns may limit some information sharing and make it difficult to integrate information from multiple systems. While officials noted that the Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup has discussed these information sharing challenges at some of its meetings, one official noted that there is no substantive effort to address them at the federal level. Officials also identified a lack of clarity on agencies’ roles and responsibilities for providing and paying for transition services as another coordination barrier. For example, each program has its own statutory authority, permitting it to pay only for certain services or types of services. This can create confusion, particularly at the state and local levels, about who is responsible for paying for a particular service. It can also result in frequent debates about which agency is responsible for funding services, according to some officials, creating a disincentive for agencies to work together. While certain state agencies such as educational agencies and VR agencies are required to articulate roles and responsibilities in interagency agreements, 48 Education officials suggested that a program’s authorizing statute should clearly define agency responsibilities to help 47 Education officials noted that federal agencies have recently begun working to improve data collection and sharing. Education also updated its regulations on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and clarified the means by which education entities, including school districts, can collect and share data with other agencies. 76 Fed. Reg. 75,604 (Dec. 2, 2011) (codified at 34 C.F.R. pt. 99) (2011). We also previously reported on efforts to develop statewide longitudinal data systems that link education and employment databases. See GAO, Postsecondary Education: Many States Collect Graduates’ Employment Information, but Clearer Guidance on Student Privacy Requirements Is Needed, GAO-10-927 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 27, 2010), 4. 48 34 C.F.R. § 300.154 (2011). Page 24 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities avoid confusion and minimize potential delays and disruptions in delivering transition services. Agencies Lack a Although federal agencies are engaged in some coordination efforts, Government-wide Strategy these efforts represent a patchwork approach and officials at all four or Framework for agencies indicated there is no single, formal, government-wide strategy for coordinating transition services. While such a strategy is not required, Coordinating Transition we have previously cited the need for an overall federal strategy and Services government-wide coordination to align policies, services, and supports among the various disability programs, which include supports for transition-age students. 49 Agency officials acknowledged that coordination specifically on transition services could be improved. For example, one official said agencies could work collaboratively to identify opportunities to address legislative and regulatory barriers to coordinating transition services. Officials added that improved data collection and sharing could help agencies adopt a more coordinated and crosscutting approach to delivering transition services to students with disabilities. Labor officials leading the Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup said that, while an overall plan for transition remains beyond the group’s scope of work, a framework that identifies what is needed for a successful transition could be used at the federal level to review collaboration across systems and to identify definition, service, and funding gaps. 50 Such a framework could also be used at the local level to identify gaps in communities and individual plans. Federal Agencies Do Not It is unclear whether existing federal coordination efforts have had a Assess the Effectiveness of positive effect on access to transition services because agencies do not Their Coordination Efforts assess their coordination efforts. We have reported that developing mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on the results of their coordination efforts can help key decision makers within agencies, as well 49 GAO-11-278. 50 According to Education and Labor officials, this framework is referred to as the “Guideposts to Success” and was developed by Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, in collaboration with the National Collaborative on Workforce Disability for Youth (http://www.ncwd-youth.info/guideposts). According to Labor officials, the framework currently includes the following components of a successful transition: school-based preparatory experiences, career preparation and work-based learning experiences, youth development and leadership, connecting activities, and family involvement and supports. Page 25 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities as clients and stakeholders, obtain feedback for improving both policy and operational effectiveness. For example, coordinating agencies could require members with lead responsibilities for a focus area to report on their progress in achieving defined objectives. 51 Federal officials said that coordination has helped improve relationships and communication across agencies administering transition services, yielding an increased understanding of each other’s research, policy, and evidence-based practices as a result of their involvement in interagency efforts, including the Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup. Agency officials also told us that some coordination efforts have led to increased engagement in transition policy by students with disabilities and their families and improved results in achieving career readiness and self-sufficiency. However, these results are difficult to corroborate because agencies do not evaluate the impact of their efforts, and in many cases do not track coordination outcomes at the federal level, according to agency officials. 52 Furthermore, the effectiveness of existing federal coordination efforts is questionable, as evidenced by persistent challenges students with disabilities face navigating multiple programs. Some federal agencies monitor compliance with requirements for grantees to coordinate with other state and local entities under individual programs. For example, Part B of IDEA requires state educational agencies to report annually on their performance using 20 indicators established by the Secretary. 53 One of the indicators measures the state’s compliance with the requirement under IDEA to include postsecondary goals and transition services in the IEPs of students age 16 and above; and to invite the student and, if appropriate, representatives from other participating state agencies to the student’s IEP team meetings if transition services are to be discussed. 54 Similarly, state VR agencies must report annually to the Rehabilitation Services Administration on 51 GAO-06-15. 52 Labor officials said the intra-agency Youth with Disabilities Workgroup tracks progress toward outcomes through an informal internal work plan. Officials participate in monthly meetings to discuss status updates on policy guidance issuance, leveraging resources, upcoming webinars, and innovative initiatives. 53 20 U.S.C. § 1416(b)(2)(C)(ii)(II). 54 Part B-SPP/APR Related Requirements, http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/bapr/index.html. Page 26 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities whether they have identified the responsibilities of other agencies through statute, regulation, or written agreements, and to undergo monitoring of their coordination activities. 55 These monitoring reviews, however, mainly address compliance with programmatic and fiscal requirements, help ascertain whether state agencies have in place signed formal interagency agreements, and check whether these agreements include key components such as providing technical assistance to school districts on transition planning. Agency officials noted that there are no quantifiable measures to assess how effectively transition services are coordinated, and that any assessment is typically based on observation and a review of practices and procedures rather than on data. 56 The current federal approach to assisting students with disabilities in their Conclusions transition to postsecondary education or the workforce necessitates that students and their parents navigate multiple programs and service systems to piece together the supports these students need to achieve maximum independence in adulthood. Under this complex structure, information dissemination and service coordination are essential. Without receiving accurate and timely information about available services, students may miss opportunities to access needed services that could mean the difference between achieving an optimal level of self-sufficiency and relying on public assistance to meet their basic needs. While officials report that federal agency coordination efforts, such as the Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup, have improved relationships and built shared knowledge across participating agencies, they have yet to adopt a broader interagency strategic approach to addressing longstanding challenges in providing transition services to students with disabilities. The transition workgroup, in particular, represents a unique vehicle that could provide leadership in developing such a strategy specifically focused on students with disabilities who are transitioning out of high school. Given the multiple agencies involved in supporting this population, in conjunction with multiple eligibility criteria and definitions established in statute, the lack of such a strategy is a missed opportunity to break down coordination barriers and work across agency boundaries. Only then can 55 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(12). 56 Education officials said they are working with SSA to determine how to track outcomes of transition interventions, including coordination, in SSA’s planned evaluation of the PROMISE initiative. Page 27 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities agencies systemically address persistent transition challenges and improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Furthermore, without assessing the effectiveness of federal coordination efforts, agencies are unable to determine what works well, what needs improvement, and where best to direct increasingly constrained federal resources. To improve the provision of transition services to students with disabilities Recommendation for through enhanced coordination among the multiple federal programs that Executive Action support this population, we recommend that the Secretaries of Education, HHS, and Labor, and the Commissioner of SSA direct the appropriate program offices to work collaboratively to develop a federal interagency transition strategy. This strategy should address: 1. compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate across agency boundaries towards common outcomes for transitioning youth and their families; 2. methods to increase awareness among students, families, high school teachers, and other service providers on the range of available transition services; and 3. ways to assess the effectiveness of federal coordination efforts in providing transition services. To the extent that legislative changes are needed to facilitate the implementation of this transition strategy, agencies should identify and communicate them to the Congress. We provided a draft of this report to officials at the Departments of Agency Comment and Education, HHS, and Labor, and to SSA for their review and comment. Our Evaluation Their responses are reprinted, respectively, in appendixes IV, V, VI, and VII of this report. They also provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. In their comments, all four agencies agreed with our recommendation and noted that they have been or will be in contact with each other to expedite preliminary discussions on an implementation strategy. Some of the agencies also described coordination efforts beyond those mentioned in our draft report. Specifically, Education said it is currently engaged in numerous transition coordinating activities with HHS, Labor, and SSA related to discretionary grants, legislative proposals, draft regulations, policy positions, and program improvements. Education Page 28 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities highlighted the National Transition Conference it hosted in May 2012, explaining that the four agencies worked together to plan and participate in all stages of the conference with the goals of raising awareness of services, sharing promising practices, and creating an action agenda to improve transition outcomes for youth with disabilities. HHS noted that it funds the Consortium to Enhance Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. This consortium conducts research, provides training and technical assistance, and disseminates information on promising practices that support individuals with developmental disabilities to increase their independence, productivity and inclusion through access to postsecondary education. Since 2010, HHS has also collaborated with Education and Labor on Project SEARCH, a program to support local students with disabilities in their last year of high school to experience work opportunities within these federal agencies. Labor stated that it plans to reach out to Education and SSA to explore ways to formalize its Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup. This group will work to help align policies, services, and supports provided by various programs to transition-age youth with disabilities, and to help identify legislative and regulatory barriers that prevent the coordination of transition services. Moreover, this group would assess the impact of its coordination efforts by developing common outcome goals. Finally, HHS noted that the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 does not provide for direct transition services. In response, we clarified, in figure 1, that the act provides funding for activities that support employment and training for youth with disabilities. HHS also questioned the relevance of several programs included in our list of federal programs that provide transition services, on the basis that the programs do not provide direct services. We agree that one of these programs, Partnership in Employment Systems Change Grants, is intended to enhance collaboration rather than provide transition services; therefore, we removed it from the list. However, we disagreed that the Youth Information, Training and Resources Centers program be omitted from the list. It provides self-advocacy services that we consider to be a type of transition service for youth. Similarly, we disagreed that Developmental Disabilities Protection and Advocacy should be omitted from the list. This program provides information on transition services and supports to youth, among other things. Consequently, both programs are still included. Page 29 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce the contents of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to the Secretaries of Education, HHS, and Labor, as well as the Commissioner of SSA, and other interested parties. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on our website at: http://gao.gov. If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please contact me at (202) 512-7215 or email@example.com. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this report. Key contributors to this report are listed in appendix VIII. Sincerely yours, Revae Moran Director, Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues Page 30 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix I: Scope and Methodology Appendix I: Scope and Methodology Our review examined the (1) challenges students with disabilities may face accessing federally funded transition services; and (2) extent to which federal agencies coordinate their transition activities. To determine the challenges students with disabilities may face accessing transition services as they leave high school for postsecondary education or the workforce, we selected a nongeneralizable sample of five states and interviewed state and local officials responsible for administering the key federal programs that provide transition services. We visited four states: California, Florida, Maryland, and Minnesota, and interviewed officials in Nevada by phone. In the four states we visited, we also met with groups of parents and students with disabilities to discuss the challenges they face. In addition, we met with a number of experts in the field of transition and with associations representing young adults with a wide range of disability types to obtain their perspectives on challenges students face during transition. Finally, we reviewed the definitions of disability and the eligibility criteria in selected federal statutes that govern relevant federal programs providing transition services to identify any potential legislative or regulatory challenges they may pose. To assess the extent to which the four key federal agencies that administer programs providing transition services—the Departments of Education (Education), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (Labor), and the Social Security Administration (SSA)—coordinate their transition activities, we interviewed agency officials, obtained their written responses to questions about their coordination efforts, and reviewed agency documents. We analyzed this information based on GAO criteria detailing activities that can enhance and sustain collaboration among federal agencies. We conducted this performance audit from July 2011 to July 2012 in accordance with generally accepted governmental auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We selected the five states in our nongeneralizable sample based on the number of grants each state received under key federal programs that provide transition services, recommendations from agency officials and experts, and geographic diversity, to the extent possible. To identify these key federal programs that provide grants to states and localities for Page 31 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix I: Scope and Methodology transition services, we searched the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) 1 and asked relevant agency officials to verify this list of programs and identify any programs that were not captured in our search results. Based on this search, we identified six federal grant programs that had a specific focus on improving transition services, and we looked at the distribution of grants to select states that received a relatively high number of federal grants for transition services. 2 We also asked agency officials and experts for their recommendations of states with model programs or promising practices related to transition services and/or state-level collaborative efforts to improve transition outcomes. We did not do an independent legal analysis to verify program information from the CFDA or agency officials. To identify what additional challenges, if any, students may face in states with relatively few programs that provide transition services, we also selected one state with relatively few federal grant programs to determine if the key challenges identified were similar to those in other states. In each state we visited, we met with officials from state departments of education or special education, higher education, vocational rehabilitation, developmental disabilities, workforce agencies, 3 and staff from parent training and information centers. 4 In addition, with the exception of Nevada, staff from parent training and information centers in 1 CFDA is a government-wide compendium of federal programs, projects, services, and activities that provide assistance or benefits to the American public. While the General Services Administration (GSA) maintains the CFDA system and website, the content of individual program descriptions is the responsibility of the agency that has issued the program description. The Office of Management and Budget serves as an intermediary agent between the federal agencies and GSA and provides oversight to the necessary collection of federal domestic assistance program data. 2 The six federal programs were: Education’s Model Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, Regional Parent Training and Information Technical Assistance Centers, and Rehabilitation Services Administration’s Parent Information and Training Projects; HHS’s Youth Information, Training and Resource Centers; Labor’s Disability Employment Initiative; and SSA’s Youth Transition Demonstration Projects. 3 In a few states we visited, our interviews with workforce agency officials included staff from WIA one-stop centers. 4 There were three exceptions: In Florida and California, we did not meet with higher education officials, although we did meet with two higher education associations in California; and in Maryland we did not meet with the state workforce agency, although we obtained written responses to our questions from several local workforce entities. Page 32 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix I: Scope and Methodology each state assisted us by organizing discussion groups with parents and students with disabilities that were in the process of planning their transition from high school to postsecondary education or employment or had recently made the transition out of high school. In a few states, we also met with officials from centers for independent living, other nongovernmental organizations that received federal grants to provide transition services, and transition specialists and experts. See table 1 for a complete list of the organizations and groups we interviewed. During our interviews, we discussed challenges students with disabilities may face—including legislative or administrative barriers, potential gaps in transition services, knowledge of teachers and other service providers about transition services and options, parent and student awareness of available transition services and options, and coordination among federal agencies providing transition services. Finally, we asked officials from the relevant Education, HHS, Labor, and SSA program offices for their perspectives on the challenges faced by transitioning students with disabilities. Table 1: Organizations Contacted Stakeholder Organizations and groups interviewed California State Departments of Education, Rehabilitation, Developmental Services, and Employment Development; State Council on Developmental Disabilities; a Workforce Investment Act One-stop Center; the State Foundation for Independent Living Centers; the State Transition Leadership Team and Transition specialists, experts, and coordinators; representatives from Higher Education groups and institutions; representatives from the State Workability Program; representatives from two Parent Training and Information Centers; and parents of and students with disabilities. Florida State Department of Education, Bureau of Exceptional Students and Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services; State agencies for Persons with Disabilities and Workforce Innovation; Transitions specialists and coordinators; representatives from a Parent Training and Information Center; representative from three non-profit organizations serving transition-age youth; and parents of and students with disabilities. Minnesota State Departments of Special Education, Human Services, and Employment and Economic Development, including the State Services for the Blind; Special Education Directors; a representative from a National Center on Secondary Education and Transition; representatives from higher education groups and institutions; representatives from one Parent Training and Information Center; representatives from one non-profit organization serving transition-age youth; and parents of and students with disabilities. Maryland State Departments of Education, Divisions of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, and Disabilities; the State Developmental Disability Administration; the State Higher Education Commission; representatives from one Parent Training and Information Center; representatives from one non-profit a organization serving transition-age youth; several local workforce agencies ; and parents of and students with disabilities. Nevada State Departments of Special Education and Vocational Rehabilitation; and representatives from one Parent Training and Information Center. Page 33 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix I: Scope and Methodology Subject matter experts and We spoke with 13 experts or groups that focus on transition, including groups representing students with Associations developmental disabilities, students who are deaf or hard of hearing, students with learning disabilities, and students with intellectual and significant developmental disabilities Federal agencies Education: Office of Special Education Programs; Rehabilitation Services Administration; and the Office of Postsecondary Education. Labor: Office of Disability Employment Policy; and Employment and Training Administration HHS: Administration on Developmental Disabilities; and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services SSA: Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Retirement and Disability Policy Source: GAO. a We received written responses to our interview questions from some of Maryland’s local workforce agencies, but did not speak with them in person. To supplement the information collected during our interviews, we reviewed written responses and documents provided by officials from state and local organizations; reviewed selected statutory language related to some of the main legislative challenges identified by federal, state and local officials; and conducted a limited literature review of recent research related to transition challenges. To evaluate the extent to which federal agencies coordinate their transition activities, we asked officials from Education, HHS, Labor, and SSA to complete a data collection instrument we developed that requested information on their coordination efforts and activities relating to transition services. We reviewed agency officials’ written responses to determine whether their efforts were formal or informal, targeted towards transitioning students with disabilities, which agencies were involved, and which specific activities were coordinated. We also interviewed agency officials from relevant program offices at each agency to obtain additional information about ongoing coordination efforts related to transition services. These interviews also addressed inter- and intra-agency coordination efforts related to transitioning students with disabilities, examples of successful outcomes from these coordination efforts, any agency assessments of their coordination efforts, and potential barriers to coordination. In addition, we reviewed and analyzed available documents from each agency, including their strategic plans, performance reports, and agency performance measures; program websites and descriptions; and other relevant agency documents, such as joint technical guidance. We assessed the extent of the agency’s coordination efforts based on Page 34 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix I: Scope and Methodology GAO’s criteria for practices agencies can use to help enhance and sustain interagency collaboration. 5 To provide an overview of federal programs that provide transition services to youth with disabilities, we identified 21 such programs administered by five federal agencies: Education, HHS, the Department of Justice, Labor, and SSA. 6 (See app. II). To identify these programs, we first searched the CFDA using key subject terms related to transition services for students with disabilities. 7 This search produced a preliminary list of programs that was reviewed independently by two analysts. Each analyst reviewed the program descriptions in CFDA and from the relevant program websites, as necessary, and independently determined whether a program should be excluded due to clear lack of relevance to transition services for students with disabilities. The analysts then compared and discussed their decisions to further refine the list of programs. From this second list, we selected programs that met the following criteria: they (1) exclusively serve individuals with disabilities, including students of transition-age (age 14 to 25); (2) provide transition services directly to youth going from high school to postsecondary education or the workforce and/or services to their families; and (3) received federal funding in fiscal year 2011. We determined CFDA was sufficiently reliable for our purposes by confirming with federal agency officials that the programs identified met our criteria and obtaining information from agencies about any additional programs for our consideration. Specifically, we asked officials to correct any information we obtained from CFDA and program websites, identify 5 GAO-06-15. 6 The 21 programs included in this appendix met the specific selection criteria described in this appendix. In contrast, the programs described in the background section of this report are examples of broader programs administered by Education, HHS, Labor, and SSA that support transition-age students with disabilities, although they may not directly provide transition services. 7 We determined key subject terms by inputting basic key words, such as ‘disability,’ ‘student,’ and ‘transition,’ into the subject terms field of the CFDA advanced search form. This field produced a list of searchable subject terms related to each of the basic key words. From this list, we selected those subject terms that addressed at least two of the following topic areas: (1) disabilities, (2) youth or students, (3) vocational rehabilitation, and (4) postsecondary education. Page 35 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix I: Scope and Methodology any programs meeting our selection criteria that were not included in our search results, and provide additional information on the selected programs. 8 We followed up with agency officials through teleconferences and email, as necessary, to clarify program information and make a decision to include or exclude programs. We reviewed agency documentation and selected laws and regulations to verify eligibility criteria, including definitions of disability and funding information. To assess the reliability of recipient data reported in our tables, we reviewed agency officials’ responses to questions regarding how they collected the data, any potential limitations of the data, and the databases and systems used to maintain the information on program recipients. To assess the reliability of funding data, we reviewed publicly available and agency- provided budget documents. In cases where funding amounts for specific programs were not separately reported, we clarified the information with agency officials and noted that data were reported by the agency. Based on our review of agency officials’ responses to our questions and of budget documentation, we determined that the recipient and funding data we reported were sufficiently reliable to include in this report. 8 We obtained information on the program title, purpose, services provided, and eligibility criteria from CFDA and program websites. We asked officials to verify or correct this information and provide additional information on funding amounts and recipient data. Page 36 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Tables 2 to 6 of this appendix contain information on various federal programs that provide transition services to youth with disabilities. Table 2: Education Programs Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities (Ranked by Funding Level) Types of transition Recipient a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria data Funding Special Education Provide free appropriate • Instruction Child with a disability Total number Type of funding: Grants to States public education to all • Community (i.e., intellectual, of recipients Formula grants children with disabilities experiences emotional, or learning served in and program disabilities; hearing, school year technical • Development of speech, language, 2010-11: assistance to employment and visual, or orthopedic 6,558,053 states, fiscal year other post-school impairments; autism; (FY) 2011 adult living Number and traumatic brain injury; obligations: objectives percentage of or other health • Daily living skills impairments) who recipients who $11.5 billion needs special were FY 2012 • Functional education and related transition-age appropriations: vocational c services, as youth in evaluation $11.6 billion determined by a team school year • Transportation 2010-11: of qualified • Physical and professionals and the 2,198,474 occupational child’s parent (34 percent) therapy Vocational Assist states in creating • Job-related Individual with a Total number Type of funding: Rehabilitation State and operating services including disability (i.e., a of recipients Formula grants to Grants comprehensive job search and physical or mental served in FY states rehabilitation programs placement impairment that 2011: to prepare disabled results in a substantial d FY 2011 • Vocational 589,773 obligations: individuals for guidance and impediment to competitive employment employment) who Number and $2.9 billion i counseling percentage of requires vocational FY 2012 • Vocational or other recipients who rehabilitation services appropriations: training services were to prepare for, secure, • Assistive and transition-age $3.1 billion retain, or regain e rehabilitation employment youth in FY technology 2011: d • Supported 179,535 employment (30 percent) • Transportation Page 37 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Types of transition Recipient a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria data Funding Centers for Establish, operate, and • Information and Individual with a Total number Type of funding: Independent Living provide financial referral services significant disability of recipients Grants to assistance to a • Independent living means an individual served in FY consumer- statewide network of skills training with a severe physical 2011: controlled, centers for independent or mental impairment 238,005 community based, • Peer counseling living, designed to whose ability to cross-disability, enhance independence • Advocacy function independently Number and percentage of nonresidential and productivity of in the family or private nonprofit individuals with community or whose recipients who were agencies significant disabilities ability to obtain, maintain, or advance transition-age FY 2011 f in employment is youth in FY obligations: substantially limited 2011: $80.1 million and for whom the 31,703 FY 2012 delivery of (13 percent) appropriations: independent living $80 million services will improve the ability to function, continue functioning, or move toward functioning independently in the family or community or to continue in employment, respectively American Indian Provide vocational • Job-related American Indian (i.e., Total number Type of funding: Vocational rehabilitation services to services including person who is a of recipients Grants to Rehabilitation American Indians with job search and member of any federal served in FY governing bodies Services disabilities residing on placement or state Indian tribe or 2011: of Indian tribes or or near Federal or State • Vocational community) with a 8,130 consortia of those reservations and help guidance and disability (i.e., a (approx.) governing bodies them prepare for and counseling physical or mental located on federal engage in gainful impairment that Number and • Vocational or other percentage of and state employment results in a substantial reservations training services recipients who impediment to • Assistive and employment) were FY 2011 rehabilitation transition-age obligations: e technology youth in FY $43.6 million 2011: • Supported FY 2012 employment Data on age of appropriations: individuals • Transportation $37.9 million served not collected Page 38 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Types of transition Recipient a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria data Funding Supported Provide supplemental • On-the-job and Individual eligible for Total number Type of funding: Employment funds to state vocational systematic training vocational of recipients Formula grants to Services for rehabilitation agencies • Job development rehabilitation services, served in FY state vocational Individuals with the to help support the cost determined to have a 2011: rehabilitation • Follow-up services Most Significant of supported most significant 34,667 d agencies Disabilities employment services for • Observation and disability, and for individuals with the most supervision at whom supported Number and FY 2011 significant disabilities training sites employment is the percentage of obligations: participating in the VR rehabilitation objective recipients who $29.1 million State Grants program based on a were transition-age FY 2012 comprehensive e appropriations: assessment of youth in FY 2011: $29.1 million rehabilitation needs d 13,454 (39 percent) Special Education— Ensure parents of • Financial support of Parent of child or Total number Type of funding: Parent Training and children with disabilities parent information youth with a disability of recipients Project grants to Information Centers receive training and centers and (i.e., intellectual, served in FY parent information to help community parent emotional, or learning 2011: organizations improve results for their resource centers disabilities; hearing, 1,498,007 g children speech, language, FY 2011 • Technical Number and obligations: assistance visual, or orthopedic impairments; autism; percentage of $28 million traumatic brain injury; recipients who were FY 2012 or other health appropriations: impairments) or transition-age e youth in FY $28.9 million parent who suspects their child may have a 2011: g disability or has been 107,600 inappropriately (parents of identified as having a transition-age disability youth) (7 percent) Assistive Maximize access to • Assistive Individual with a Total number Type of funding: Technology State assistive technology technology devices disability (as defined of recipients Formula grants to Grants devices and assistive and services by any federal or served in FY states technology services for applicable state law) 2011: individuals with who would be enabled FY 2011 1,375,472 obligations: disabilities and their by assistive family members technology device or Number and $25.6 million service to minimize percentage of recipients who FY 2012 deterioration in appropriations: functioning, to were transition-age $25.6 million maintain a level of functioning, or achieve youth in FY a greater level of 2011: functioning in any Data on age of major life activity individuals served not collected. Page 39 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Types of transition Recipient a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria data Funding Independent Living Expand and improve • Core independent Individual with a Total number Type of funding: State Grants independent living living services, significant disability of recipients Formula grants to services to individuals including training means an individual served in FY states with significant • Support with a severe physical 2011: disabilities. Services are or mental impairment FY 2011 independent living 59,391 obligations: intended to promote full centers operations whose ability to integration and inclusion function independently Number and $23.4 million • Outreach to percentage of of individuals into in the family or FY 2012 unserved and recipients who mainstream society community or whose appropriations: underserved were ability to obtain, populations transition-age $23.4 million maintain, or advance f in employment is youth in FY substantially limited 2011: and for whom the 4,826 delivery of (8 percent) independent living services will improve the ability to function, continue functioning, or move toward functioning independently in the family or community or to continue in employment, respectively Protection and Support systems for • Information and Individual with a Total number Type of Funding: Advocacy of protection and advocacy technical disability (i.e., a of recipients Formula grants to Individual Rights for the rights of assistance physical or mental served in FY designated individuals with • Advocacy services impairment that 2011: protection and disabilities who are results in a substantial 14,739 advocacy • Legal ineligible for advocacy impediment to agencies representation, Number and services from other employment) who including legal percentage of FY 2011 programs requires vocational counsel and recipients who obligations: rehabilitation services litigation services were $17.7 million h,i to prepare for, secure, retain, or regain transition-age youth in FY FY 2012 employment and who appropriations: needs protection and 2011: h,i Data on age of $17.7 million advocacy services beyond the scope of individuals other programs served not collected Page 40 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Types of transition Recipient a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria data Funding Model Create or expand model • Technical Student with an Total number Type of funding: Comprehensive comprehensive assistance and intellectual disability of recipients Grants to Transition and transition and information (i.e., cognitive served in FY institutions of Postsecondary postsecondary • Academic impairment with 2011: postsecondary Programs for programs for students enrichment significant limitations 507 education Students with with intellectual in intellectual and • Socialization Number and FY 2011 Intellectual disabilities. Funds also cognitive functioning Disabilities (TPSID) support a coordinating • Independent living and adaptive percentage of obligations: center that provides skills, including self- behavior) who is or recipients who $11 million i related services advocacy was eligible for special were transition-age FY 2012 • Integrated work education and related appropriations: services youth in FY experiences and $11 million 2011: career skills 430 • Individual planning for course of study (85 percent) Helen Keller Maximize employment • Training, Individual who is deaf- Total number Type of Funding: National Center for and independent living counseling, and blind (i.e., has a low of recipients Non-competitive Deaf-Blind Youth opportunities for deaf- technical central visual acuity served in FY grant to Helen and Adults blind individuals by assistance with corrective lenses, 2011: Keller Services for providing services to • Service projects a visual field defect, or 1,356 the Blind, Inc. those individuals, their a progressive visual • Work experiences Number and FY 2011 families, and service loss; has a severe and internships percentage of obligations: providers nationwide chronic hearing • Vocational and impairment or recipients who $9.1 million i rehabilitation progressive hearing were transition-age FY 2012 services loss; and has extreme appropriations: difficulty attaining youth in FY • Short-term training $9.1 million independence in daily 2011: for youth in secondary life activities or Data on age of education employment due to individuals these impairments) served not collected. Protection and Support protection and • Information Individual with a Total number Type of Funding: Advocacy for advocacy services to services disability (as defined of recipients Formula grants to Assistive assist in the acquisition, • Advocacy services by any federal or served in FY designated Technology utilization, or applicable state law) 2011: protection and • Legal maintenance of who would be enabled 2,089 advocacy representation assistive technology by an assistive agencies devices and services for technology device or Number and individuals with service to minimize percentage of FY 2011 disabilities deterioration in recipients who obligations: functioning or achieve were $4.3 million a greater level of transition-age youth in FY FY 2012 functioning in any appropriations: major life activity 2011: Data on age of $4.3 million individuals served not collected Page 41 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Types of transition Recipient a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria data Funding Rehabilitation Provide financial • Technical Individual with a Total number Type of funding: Services assistance to projects assistance disability (i.e., a of recipients Grants to states Demonstration and and demonstrations that • Supported physical or mental served in FY and public or Training Programs expand and improve the employment impairment that 2011: nonprofit (Transition Model provision of results in a substantial 2,096 organizations • Parent information Demonstration rehabilitation and impediment to and training Number and FY 2011 Grants) related services employment) who • Career preparatory requires vocational percentage of obligations: and pre- rehabilitation services recipients who $3 million i,j employment to prepare for, secure, were transition-age FY 2012 experiences retain, or regain appropriations: employment youth in FY • Youth development $0 (funding for 2011: activities program ended in 2,096 • Practices to FY2011) enhance family (100 percent) involvement Source: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and information provided by Department of Education officials. a Data reported on transition-age youth refer to youth ages 14 to 25, unless otherwise noted. All recipient data reported by agency officials. b Funding data obtained from publicly available and agency-provided budget documentation, unless otherwise noted. c Includes youth ages 14 to 22 only; program services end when youth turn 22. d Reflects number of recipients whose cases were closed in FY 11. Cases may not have been closed for all individuals who received services in FY 11, but information on age is only reported at case closure. For the Vocational Rehabilitation Grants to States program, 1 million individuals were served in FY 11. 34 C.F.R. § 361.42 (2011). e For this program, data reported are for individuals ages 14 to 24. f Includes youth ages 5 to 24. However, officials reported the preponderance of recipients is older than age 14. g Reflects the number of instances of services provided. Youth, parents, and professionals may request information from the centers more than once. h Amount includes funds used to support training and technical assistance. i Data reported by agency officials. j Officials reported that this amount represents obligations for transition model demonstration grants only. Page 42 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Table 3: HHS Programs Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities (Ranked by Funding Level) Types of transition a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria Recipient data Funding Medicaid Infrastructure Develop infrastructure, • Removal of Individual who is Total number of Type of funding: Grant including linkages systemic barriers eligible for recipients Grants to state between Medicaid and to employment Supplemental served in FY Medicaid other employment- and Security Income 2011: agencies related service enhancements to program or was Data not agencies, supporting state Medicaid previously eligible but FY 2011 collected at obligations: competitive programs and is determined to have service recipient c employment services. medically improved level $70 million opportunities for • Specific services FY2012 individuals with Number and may include: percentage of appropriations: disabilities • Personal recipients who $0 (funding for assistance were transition- program ended in • Supported age youth in FY FY 2011) employment 2011: • Benefits Data not counseling collected at service recipient level Developmental Support protection of • Complaints Individual with a Total number of Type of Funding: Disabilities Protection legal and human rights investigation developmental recipients Formula grants to and Advocacy of individuals with • Mediation disability (i.e., a served in FY states. developmental severe, chronic 2010: • Alternative FY 2011 disabilities disability attributable 21,155 dispute resolution obligations: to a mental and/or and litigation Number and $40.9 million c physical impairment, • Information on manifested before percentage of recipients who FY 2012 transition age 22 and likely to appropriations: services and continue indefinitely, were transition- e supports, such as age youth in FY $40.9 million resulting in benefits substantial functional 2010: counseling limitations, and 13,750 reflecting the need (65 percent) for lifelong or extended services) Page 43 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Types of transition a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria Recipient data Funding Developmental Increase and support • Training Youth with a Total number of Type of funding: Disabilities Projects of the independence, • Information developmental recipients Grants to state National Significance — productivity, and dissemination disability (i.e., a served in FY and local Youth Information, community integration severe, chronic 2011: agencies and • Outreach Training and Resource and inclusion of disability attributable 11,831 nonprofit Centers, National Youth individuals with to a mental and/or organizations. Information Centers developmental physical impairment, Number and disabilities. Youth manifested before percentage of FY 2011 projects provide age 22 and likely to recipients who obligations: capacity building in self continue indefinitely, were transition- $100,000 c advocacy for resulting in age youth in FY 2011: FY 2012 postsecondary substantial functional appropriations: education, training, limitations, and Data on age of individuals $0 and employment reflecting the need for lifelong or served not extended services) collected Section 1915(c) and (i) Allow states to provide • Case Individual that meets Total number of Type of funding: Home and Community long term care services management targeting criteria for a recipients Matching state- Based Services in home and • Independent waiver (e.g., age and served in 2010: federal community based living assistance condition; a state 274,657 d,f partnership settings, as an may have a number • Family training Number and FY 2011 federal alternative to of waivers targeting institutional care, under • Supported different groups) and percentage of net expenditures: the Medicaid program employment needs-based criteria recipients who $37.1 billion d (e.g., institutional were transition- • Environmental FY 2012 level of care or other age youth in modifications appropriations: level determined by 2010: • Other services as Data not the state) Data on age of approved available individuals served not collected Source: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and information provided by Department of Health and Human Services officials. a Data reported on transition-age youth refers to youth ages 14 to 25, unless otherwise noted. All recipient data reported by agency officials. b Funding data obtained from publicly available and agency-provided budget documentation, unless otherwise noted. c Data reported by agency officials. FY 11 obligations for the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant include $23.5 million in carryover funding from previous years. d Most recent data available are from FY 10 because state reporting of recipient data to HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services lags 18 months behind service provision. e Includes youth ages 5 to 25. Data are not collected for the 14 to 25 age group. f Agency officials did not specify whether these data were for the FY. Page 44 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Table 4: Department of Justice Program Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Types of transition a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria Recipient data Funding Juvenile Provide mentoring • Mentoring Youth under age 18 with Total number of Type of funding: Mentoring services to youth a disability as defined by recipients served in Grants to states, Program — with disabilities the Americans with FY 2011: public and nonprofit Mentoring for who are in the Disabilities Act (i.e., a Data not yet organizations, and Youth with juvenile justice physical or mental available postsecondary Disabilities system or at risk impairment that institutions Initiative of delinquency to substantially limits the Number and ensure they performance of one or percentage of FY 2011 obligations: develop into more major life activities) recipients who were $2.2 million healthy, transition-age youth in FY 2011: FY 2012 productive adults appropriations: Data not yet available $78 million appropriated for youth mentoring; no separate allocation for this program Source: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and information provided by Department of Justice Officials a Data reported on transition-age youth refer to youth ages 14 to 25, unless otherwise noted. All recipient data reported by agency officials. b Funding data obtained from publicly available and agency-provided budget documentation, unless otherwise noted. Page 45 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Table 5: Labor Program Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Types of transition a b Program Purpose services provided Eligibility criteria Recipient data Funding Disability Improve educational, • School-based Individuals with Total number of Type of Funding: Employment training, and preparatory disabilities who are recipients served in Grants to states Initiative employment experiences eligible for employment FY 2011: opportunities and and training services FY 2011 • Career Data not yet obligations: outcomes for youth preparation and under the Workforce available c and adults with work-based Investment Act, Social $24 million disabilities who are Security disability Number and learning Percentage of FY 2012 unemployed, experiences beneficiaries, and in the appropriations: underemployed, and target population of focus Recipients that were c • Youth transition-age youth $24 million or receiving Social as determined by the development and in FY 2011: Security disability grantee. Projects with a leadership Data not yet benefits focus on youth target • Family youth ages 14 to 24 available involvement and (currently, projects in 4 supports states serve this specific • Connecting population) activities Source: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and information provided by Department of Labor officials. a Data reported on transition-age youth refer to youth ages 14 to 25, unless otherwise noted. All recipient data reported by agency officials. b Funding data obtained from publicly available and agency-provided budget documentation, unless otherwise noted. c Data reported by agency officials. Page 46 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities Table 6: SSA Programs Providing Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities (Ranked by Funding Level) Types of transition Eligibility a b Program Purpose services provided criteria Recipient data Funding Ticket to Work Provide additional • Vocational Individuals ages Total number of Type of funding: choices for employment rehabilitation 18 to 65 recipients served in Contract and services for individuals services receiving Social 2011: blanket funding receiving Social • Career counseling Security disability 7,812 c,k agreements Security disability and job placement benefits benefits Number and FY 2011 obligations: • Ongoing percentage of $25.7 million d,e employment recipients who were support transition-age youth FY 2012 in 2011: appropriations: f,e c 441 (6 percent) $39 million Youth Transition Assist youth with • Individualized Youth ages 14 to Total number of Type of funding: Demonstration disabilities to work-based 25 receiving or recipients served Demonstration successfully transition experiences likely to receive from 2007 to grants to states and h,k from school to economic • Job development Social Security 2012 : community self-sufficiency disability benefits 4,920 organizations • Youth empowerment and Number and FY 2011 obligations: family supports percentage of $1.6 million j • Social and health recipients who were transition-age youth FY 2012 services h appropriations: from 2007 to 2012 : • Benefits i $1.5 million j counseling 2,520 (51 percent) • SSA program g waivers Source: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and information provided by Social Security Administration officials a Data reported on transition-age youth refer to youth ages 14 to 25, unless otherwise noted. All recipient data reported by agency officials. b Funding data obtained from publicly available and agency-provided budget documentation, unless otherwise noted. c Reflects number of recipients for which SSA paid employment networks due to beneficiaries meeting program criteria for work and earnings. d Reflects amounts SSA paid employment networks. e Data reported by agency officials. f Reflects amount available for payment to employment networks. g The Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) program removes some disability program rules to encourage and reward work. For example, YTD participants may take advantage of earned-income exclusions, which allows SSA to exclude a certain amount of a beneficiary’s earned income when determining benefits payments. According to SSA officials, this is a rigorous research project with a random assignment design that will yield real results for this population and help to answer questions about better outcomes. They noted that this is the only research of its kind on this population h Data are reported for the life of the program (2007 through 2012) because it is a demonstration program. i Under the demonstration program, a portion of the participants received services while the remaining participants were placed in a control group. Page 47 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix II: Federal Programs that Provide Transition Services to Youth with Disabilities j Amounts include project funds from Section 1110 (90 percent of funds) and direct apportionments of Section 234 funds (10 percent of funds) authorized under the Social Security Act for research and demonstration projects, which are not part of the annual research appropriations request. Section 234 amounts were reported by agency officials. k Agency officials did not specify whether these data were for the FY. Page 48 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix III: Other Federal Coordination Appendix III: Other Federal Coordination Efforts that Address Individuals with Disabilities, Including Students Efforts that Address Individuals with Disabilities, Including Students Some of the coordination efforts of the Departments of Education (Education), Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor (Labor), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) broadly address youth or individuals with disabilities (see fig. 4). A focus on transition-age students with disabilities may or may not be explicitly included in these federal coordination efforts, but agency officials indicated that all of these efforts include discussions of programs or policy that impact this population in some manner. Figure 4: Federal Coordination Efforts That Focus on Individuals with Disabilities or Youth Note: While some coordination efforts included in this figure involve other federal agencies, we focused on Education, HHS, Labor, and SSA because they administer the key programs that serve students in their transition out of high school. Key activities coordinated and mechanisms of coordination were reported by at least half of the reporting member agencies. For efforts with two key member agencies, only mechanisms and activities reported by both agencies were included. Page 49 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix III: Other Federal Coordination Efforts that Address Individuals with Disabilities, Including Students a Participating offices from HHS include the National Institutes of Health, Indian Health Service, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) at HHS is planning to re-engage in this effort. Key activities coordinated and mechanisms of coordination were reported by Education. b The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at HHS leads this effort. Key activities coordinated and mechanisms of coordination were reported by Labor. c The Department of Transportation leads this council. ADD at HHS is planning to re-engage in this effort. Key activities coordinated and mechanisms of coordination were reported by Labor. . Page 50 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix IV: Comments from the Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of Education Department of Education Page 51 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of Education Page 52 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix V: Comments from the Department Appendix V: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services of Health and Human Services Page 53 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix V: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services Page 54 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix V: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services Page 55 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix V: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services Page 56 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix V: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services Page 57 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix V: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services Page 58 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix V: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services Page 59 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix VI: Comments from the Appendix VI: Comments from the Department of Labor Department of Labor Page 60 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix VI: Comments from the Department of Labor Page 61 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix VII: Comments from the Social Appendix VII: Comments from the Social Security Administration Security Administration Page 62 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix VII: Comments from the Social Security Administration Page 63 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Appendix VIII: GAO Contact and Staff Appendix VIII: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments Acknowledgments Revae E. Moran, (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org GAO Contact: In addition to the contact named above, Meeta Engle (Assistant Director), Staff Nora Boretti (Analyst-in-Charge), Rachel Batkins, Brenna Guarneros, and Acknowledgments: Jennifer McDonald made significant contributions to this report. In addition, assistance, expertise, and guidance were provided by Susan Anthony, James Bennett, Amy Buck, Susannah Compton, Elizabeth Curda, Jill Lacey, Kathy Leslie, Craig Winslow, and Carolyn Yocom. Page 64 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Related GAO Products Related GAO Products High Risk Series: An Update. GAO-11-278. Washington, D.C.: February 2011. Postsecondary Education: Many States Collect Graduates’ Employment Information, but Clearer Guidance on Student Privacy Requirements Is Needed. GAO-10-927. Washington, D.C.: September 27, 2010. Higher Education and Disability: Education Needs a Coordinated Approach to Improve Its Assistance to Schools in Supporting Students. GAO-10-33. Washington, D.C.: October 28, 2009. Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness: Some States and Federal Agencies Are Taking Steps to Address Their Transition Challenges. GAO-08-678. Washington, D.C.: June 23, 2008. Federal Disability Programs: More Strategic Coordination Could Help Overcome Challenges to Needed Transformation. GAO-08-635. Washington, D.C.: May 20, 2008. Highlights of a Forum: Modernizing Federal Disability Policy. GAO-07-934SP. Washington, D.C.: August 2007. Summary of a GAO Conference: Helping California Youths with Disabilities Transition to Work or Postsecondary Education, GAO-06-759SP. Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2006. Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15. Washington, D.C.: October 21, 2005. Vocational Rehabilitation: Better Measures and Monitoring Could Improve Performance of the VR Program. GAO-05-865. Washington, D.C.: September 23, 2005. Federal Disability Assistance: Wide Array of Programs Needs to Be Examined in Light of 21st Century Challenges. GAO-05-626. Washington, D.C.: June 2, 2005. Workforce Investment Act: Labor Has Taken Several Actions to Facilitate Access to One-Stops for Persons with Disabilities, but These Efforts May Not Be Sufficient. GAO-05-54. Washington, D.C.: December 12, 2004. Page 65 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities Related GAO Products Special Education: Federal Actions Can Assist States in Improving Postsecondary Outcomes for Youth. GAO-03-773. Washington, D.C.: July 31, 2003. (131102) Page 66 GAO-12-594 Students with Disabilities GAO’s Mission The Government Accountability Office, the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people. 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Students with Disabilities: Better Federal Coordination Could Lessen Challenges in the Transition from High School
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-07-12.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)