Community Partner Update: January 2007

2007 Calendars Distributed

DRS disseminated 10,000 calendars to our local offices, state and federal legislators, corporate business partners, community rehab programs and centers for independent living, our advisory bodies, and various other stakeholders. I want to commend Vicki Kamhi of my staff for the excellent work she did on this annual marketing project, which makes us all look great. Thanks also to all the DRS staff and especially to our many Customers who made these success stories possible! If you would like additional calendars (hard copy, braille, or large print), please feel free to contact Vicki at

NIDRR Transition Grant

DHS is putting a National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) proposal together to enhance outcomes for students with visual impairments who are transitioning into adult life. We have a small workgroup convened and we hope to be able to make the January 18 deadline for this $450K federal proposal. We will be drafting an abstract and asking for stakeholder letters of support for this project in the coming week. Thanks in advance for your cooperation!

Upcoming Change in Customer Financial Participation

DRS' administrative rule on customer financial participation will be changing soon. The changes have been approved by JCAR and will take effect by the end of January. The most significant change is that the Standard Budget Allowance is being lowered to 70 percent of its current value. As a result, many VR customers who are not currently required to pay a share of the cost of their services are likely to begin paying a share of the cost. This change is a very positive one that will allow us to leverage increased resources for low-income customers.

This rule change will have the greatest impact on college students. It is important to note that this will not affect any services provided under an existing IPE. Only IPEs developed after the rule implementation will be affected. Specific details on the dollar amounts will be announced at a later date. This does not affect VR customers who receive SSI or SSDI benefits. In the near future, counselors will talk with students about the likelihood that they will have to assume responsibility for a portion of the cost of their training next fall.

New CMS-100 Employment Application

Effective January 5, 2007, the new CMS-100 Employment Application will be available which will obsolete all previous versions of the Employment Application (CMS-100 Rev.10/06 or earlier). The previous versions of the application will no longer be accepted and will be returned. All interested applicants are encouraged to check the CMS website at and click on the Employment link to obtain a downloaded version of the new application beginning January 5, 2007. The application will also be enabled with "Reader Extensions," allowing it to be saved with the data entered. Data from an old application that was previously saved can be exported and then imported into the new CMS-100 using the Export and Import buttons at the top of the application.

IATP/HSP Training

Throughout the month of January, targeted Home Services Program (HSP) staff will have the opportunity to experience training with the Illinois Assistive Technology Program (ITAP). This training is designed to maximize independence for all customers and significantly impact current expenditures. The one-day training includes a practical application and discussion of assistive equipment as well as a presentation on home modifications with samples of previous projects and hands-on experience with items considered to be low tech or no tech. The training, which is mandatory, will be offered only to DRS counselors, LPNs, and Bachelors level case manager staff.

New SSA Rules

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has published final rules related to "Exemption of Work Activity as a Basis for a Continuing Disability Review." SSA provided the following summary of these rules that were effective on December 18, 2006:

"SSA is publishing these final rules to amend its regulations to carry out section 221(m) of the Social Security Act (the Act). Section 221(m) affects SSA rules for when it will conduct a continuing disability review if an individual works and receives benefits under title II of the Act based on disability. (SSA interprets this section to include an individual if they receive both title II disability benefits and title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments based on disability). It also affects SSA's rules on how it evaluates work activity when it decides if an individual has engaged in substantial gainful activity for purposes of determining whether a disability has ended. In addition, section 221(m) of the Act affects certain other standards SSA uses when it determines whether a disability continues or ends.

SSA is also amending its regulations concerning how it determines whether a disability continues or ends. These revisions will codify its existing operating instructions for how it considers certain work at the last two steps of its continuing disability review process. SSA is also revising its disability regulations to incorporate some rules which are contained in another part of its regulations and which apply if an individual is using a ticket under the ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency program (the Ticket to Work program). In addition, SSA is amending its regulations to eliminate the secondary substantial gainful activity amount that it currently uses to evaluate work an individual did as an employee before January 2001."

A full announcement of these final rules can be found in the Federal Register: November 17, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 222).

Customer Success Story

Director Rob Kilbury shares the following inspiring story of a young man's determination to part of society and the support he received to help him achieve his goal:

"Tuesday night I saw a story on ESPN that was worth sharing with you. It involved a young man who was in the University of Louisville Marching Band, which would play at halftime of the Orange Bowl (Tuesday Night). I think Louisville was playing Wake Forest that night in Miami, Florida.

In any case, this young man was born with a number of disabilities, including no eyes and soft bones which would not allow him to ambulate. At the age of two he began playing the piano by listening to the notes his father would play and imitating them. By the age of three or four he had learned several songs, which he was able to play without accompaniment. His musical interests expanded to other instruments, including the trumpet. He received a couple of prosthetic eyes.

After meeting with the band instructor at the University of Louisville, who insisted he try out for the marching band, it was decided that the young man's father could wheel him around in his wheelchair at the performances of the band. The young student would play his instrument (the trumpet), like any other member of the band while his dad pushed him around in concert with the rest of the band.

The kicker for me was that this student's father had to get a new job, on the night shift at UPS I think, so that he could be available for the many daytime practices and other challenging activities that this commitment required. Talk about familial support!

Just another example of people with disabilities doing things that were not expected of them. It would have been real easy for everyone to assume that this individual had no skills. Instead, he has already made a contribution to his school and his community, because he was encouraged to excel. What an incredible story, my guess is that in spite of this kid's many barriers, he will be a successful and productive member of society as an adult. He is certainly off to a great start!"