6/1/2006

DHS Division of Rehabilitation Services

Community Partner Update - June 1, 2006

DRS Calendar Success Stories 

DRS is starting to work on its 2007 Calendar/2006 Annual Report and we are looking for outstanding customer success stories that involve collaboration with community partners. If you have a success story you'd like us to consider for our calendar, please email Vicki Kamhi (Vicki.Kamhi@illinois.gov).

Joan Forney to Retire 

Joan Forney, long time Superintendent at the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD), will be retiring from her position on June 30, 2006. Joan, a passionate advocate for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, has been a pleasure to work with and will be sorely missed by the deaf community. She had been working at ISD in one capacity or another for some 38 years. We wish Joan and her husband, Bill, the best in all their future activities.

Kilbury to Present before Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Director Rob Kilbury will present a proposal to the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) advisory committee on June 2 to expand the Community Reintegration program. This program has helped more than 1,000 individuals with disabilities transition from nursing homes back into the community during the past eight years. Once this expanded funding is approved by IHDA, the program will receive an influx of $2 million to help an additional 250 or so individuals make this transition in Fiscal Year '07. Since nursing home costs outweigh the cost of home care, this investment in community services will save the State of Illinois several million dollars each of the next few years; the long term cost savings are tremendous. This funding is the centerpiece of Governor Blagojevich's Olmstead initiative.

Legislative Update 

Measures that passed and are awaiting signature include:

  • Senate Bill 2308 (Sen. Link) - Amends the Public Aid Code to enable individuals who fail to qualify for the AABD program because of income or assets to establish eligibility by paying their monthly spend-down amount or having a third party pay that amount.
  • Senate Bill 2290 (Sen. Martinez) - Companion bill to House Bill 5268. Creates the Comprehensive Housing Planning Act. Codifies Executive Order #18 from 2003 that required the Illinois Housing Development Authority to research and develop a plan to provide for affordable and accessible housing for low income individuals, low income seniors, and low income individuals with disabilities.
  • House Bill 5343 (Rep. Watson) - Amends the Disabled Persons Rehabilitation Act to provide the DRS residential schools with the authority to maintain and deposit funds into locally held accounts that pertain to student compensation and student travel. These accounts will enable the schools to pay students for chore-like activities they perform on campus and to pay for transportation, meals, and lodging costs for students, coaches, and activity sponsors when they are traveling for school related activities.
  • AgrAbility Funding - Federal funding had ceased for the AgrAbility Program, which assists individuals with disabilities who are seeking to return to agricultural-related work. Advocates for the program had sought to obtain funding from DHS for this program, though the program is administered through the University of Illinois-Extension and the Department of Agriculture. $200,000 was appropriated to the Department of Agriculture for the program.
  • Katie Beckett Waiver/Division of Specialized Care for Children - Advocates of children who are transitioning out of the Katie Beckett into HSP renewed their efforts to continue the same level of services and funding for these individuals when they begin their services with HSP. In Senate Bill 1520, $1 million was appropriated to Home Services for a three-year pilot program. Senate Bill 1863 contained the budget implementation language to authorize the pilot program.

New SSA Disability Determination Process 

We are very pleased to announce that SSA has decided to begin implementing a new disability determination process in the Boston region. This process, which is expected to result in quicker determinations and fewer appeals, is outlined in the following SSA bulletin.

"The Social Security Administration (SSA) has recognized the urgent need to make substantial changes in their disability determination process. SSA expects that these changes will improve the accuracy, consistency, and timeliness of decision-making throughout the disability determination process and in the summer of 2006, they will begin implementation in the Boston Region (comprised of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). The final rule provides for:

A quick disability determination process would be initiated for those who are obviously disabled. Favorable decisions would be made in such cases within 20 days after the claim is received by the state disability determination agency.

A new Medical-Vocational Expert System (MVES) to enhance the expertise needed to make accurate and timely decisions. The MVES will be composed of a Medical-Vocational Expert Unit and a national network of medical, psychological and vocational experts who meet qualification standards established by the Commissioner.

A new position -- the Federal Reviewing Official -- that will review state agency determinations upon the request of the claimant. This will eliminate the reconsideration step of the current appeals process.

Retention of the right to request a de novo hearing and decision from an Administrative Law Judge if the claimant disagrees with the decision of the Federal Reviewing Official.

Closing the record after the Administrative Law Judge issues a decision, with provision for certain good cause exceptions to this rule.

A new body -- the Decision Review Board -- to review and correct decisional errors and ensure consistent adjudication at all levels of the disability determination process. The current Appeals Council will be phased out gradually."

Upcoming Low Vision Fair 

DRS Region IV Bureau of Blind Services staff will host a Low Vision Fair in Springfield on Friday, June 9 from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. This event, which will be held at the South Side Christian Church located at 2600 South MacArthur Blvd in Springfield, will feature presentations by David Dodwell, M.D., Springfield Clinic Eye Institute; Robert J. Blumthal, O.D., Prairie Eye Center, and Jerry Curry, Executive Director of the Mary Bryant Home. Lunch will also be provided. Please RSVP by June 2 by calling 217/558-0039 (V) or 1/888-440-8990 (TTY).

New Chicagoland Area "Informed Consumer Phone Line

Individuals who are blind or visually impaired can call the new Chicago area "Informed Consumer Phone Line" at 773/597-4300. This phone line offers job information, information about DRS' Bureau of Blind Services, as well as information related to weekly sales and advertisements.

Joe Hamlett Retires from DRS 

Joe Hamlett, Assistant Bureau Chief of DRS' Home Services Program (HSP), retired on May 31, 2006. It is a very sad day for the agency as a whole and particularly for DRS. Joe has been an exemplary employee for the past 31 years, and no brief note like this will do justice to his three decades of service.

Joe is not only extremely knowledgeable about DRS services, he is also one of the nicest people you will meet. Joe is about as "customer-oriented" as anyone who has ever worked at this agency. Whatever the issue, Joe is generally on the side of the person with the disability, and has always been concerned about the ways in which policy and practice affect the disability community in general.

Joe made a real niche for himself at HSP Central Office over the past decade. He has handled countless customer complaints and works extremely well with CILs and other advocates to resolve each complaint. He has a great working relationship with Homemaker agencies and other vendors; he unilaterally developed a Request for Qualifications for Adult Day Care several years ago. Joe is well respected in the field, having worked on the front lines for many years. We will all miss Joe and wish him the best in his retirement.

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Survey Results 

400 of 23,217 members were interviewed late last year:

  • 66% of respondents had disabilities themselves; 34% were family members.
  • 76% had a source of income; 81% owned a computer; 82% had Internet access; 78% reported being registered voters and 89% reported voting in the past two years; and 70% indicated that they tend to make purchasing decisions based on companies that support people with disabilities
  • 76% of the members reported working full or part time; 14% were retired.

The AAPD thanked IBM for its help in making this survey possible. Obviously, these results are not consistent with other samples and it might not be valid to project these findings to other populations (non-AAPD members).