Community Partner Update: January 2009

What Might We Expect From the Obama Administration?

There are two main official sources for what the disability community might expect from the Obama Administration:

  1. 1) The 2008 Democratic Platform lays out the priorities for the incoming Administration, including many disability specific programs. However, it is important to note that this platform was developed before the economic crisis became a national focal point. Civil rights issues, such as expanding hate crimes legislation to include persons with disabilities, is one example.
  2. 2) The Obama Biden plan was unveiled after the election and is available on the transition team's website President-Elect Barack Obama has a comprehensive agenda to empower individuals with disabilities in order to equalize opportunities for all Americans. In addition to reclaiming America's global leadership on this issue by becoming a signatory to and having the Senate ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the plan has four parts, designed to provide lifelong support and resources to Americans with disabilities. They are:
    • To provide Americans with disabilities the educational opportunities to succeed by funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; supporting early intervention for children with disabilities and universal screening; improving college opportunities for high school graduates with disabilities; and making college more affordable. A comprehensive study of students with disabilities and issues relating to transition to work and higher education will also be authorized.
    • Second, end discrimination and promote equal opportunity by restoring the Americans with Disabilities Act, increasing funding for enforcement, supporting the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, ensuring affordable, accessible health care for all and improving mental health care.
    • Third, increase the employment rate of workers with disabilities by effectively implementing regulations that require the federal government and its contractors to employ people with disabilities, providing private sector employers with resources to accommodate employees with disabilities, and encouraging those employers to use existing tax benefits to hire more workers with disabilities and supporting small businesses owned by people with disabilities.
    • And fourth, to support independent, community based living for Americans with disabilities by enforcing the Community Choice Act, which would allow Americans with significant disabilities the choice of living in their community rather than having to live in a nursing home or other institution.

DRS Budget for FY'10

DRS continues to work with the DHS Budget Office and the Governor's Office on Management and Budget to develop a Fiscal Year 2010 budget to be introduced February 18 by the Governor. There has been no final determination on what the course of action will be related to General Revenue Funded programs, especially the DRS Home Services Program. Suffice it to say that the discussions have been difficult for all given the general state of the economy and the projected revenue shortfall this calendar year.

DRS 2008 Annual Report/2009 Calendar

The annual calendar has already gone out to many of our stakeholders and members of the Congressional Delegation and General Assembly. If you have not gotten a copy and still want one or if you want an alternative format of this document, please contact Marjorie Olson at 217 524 1379 (Voice) or 888-532-4146 (TTY).

Ticket to Work Meetings

DRS has held recent Ticket to Work meetings in conjunction with Health and Disability Advocates and the Social Security Administration in Springfield and Chicago. We are working on a policy and procedure for Ticket to Work Customers who may be able to benefit from our partnership with various Employment Networks. It is our hope that the new SSA regulations will spur additional partnerships which will benefit our VR Customers in gaining competitive employment, and that will benefit the agency in terms of SSA Reimbursements. STAY TUNED!

Polman and Kilbury attend CSAVR Conference in San Diego

One of the occasional perks for chairing the State Rehabilitation Council, Greg Polman accompanied Rob Kilbury at the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation from November 16 19 in lovely San Diego, California. Excellent workshops were held, including timely updates from the Rehabilitation Services Administration and a day long meeting of representatives from the state SRCs.

2008 Census Update

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the following data:

  • 54 million residents, or 19 percent of the population, reported having some sort of disability in 2008. This number is up slightly from 2005 (51.2 million/18%).
  • 46% of those with disabilities (aged 21 to 64) who were surveyed reported being employed; compared to 84% of those without disabilities in the same age group.
  • 7.8% of those over the age of 15 had difficulty hearing, with 1 million reporting complete deafness.
  • 3.3 million, or approximately 1% of those over the age of 15, reported using a wheelchair or similar device for mobility.
  • 7.8 million of this age group reported difficulty in seeing words or letters, including 1.8 million who reported being completely blind.
  • More than 16 million individuals reported difficulty with cognitive, mental, or emotional functioning.
  • 4.7 million children aged 6 to 14 (approximately 13%) reported having a disability, most of whom had a problem doing regular schoolwork.
  • People with a severe disability reported earning $1,458 per month, compared to $2,539 for those without disabilities.

BEPB Update 

The Business Enterprise Program for the Blind has awarded a contract to the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind in the amount $300,000. This contract will be for the purpose of marketing the BEPB program to private businesses in and around Chicago. This innovative partnership with the Lighthouse will, hopefully, significantly increase the number of sites where BEPB vendors will operate their businesses in the future. This investment in the blind vendor program should offset the declines in revenues the program has recently experienced.

The Lighthouse has started a marketing blitz and has developed a list of over 1,200 leads for possible vendor locations throughout the area. The top leads are Blue Cross and Blue Shield, JP Morgan Chase and UIC. The BEPB website is now up and linked with the Chicago Lighthouse website. This is the website: 

The Lighthouse was able to secure television advertising for BEPB. Chicago 2 News recently aired a story titled "Old Law Gives New Opportunities To The Blind." The segment featured several blind managers at their locations. The broadcast can be seen at: The Lighthouse is on schedule to complete a BEPB brochure and power point presentation by early January.

Pepsi Beverage Contract and the BEPB

The State of Illinois' beverage contract with Pepsi will change the selections of beverage products that are available at state facilities, including those operated by BEPB blind vendors. Blind managers in the BEPB are keenly aware of this latest challenge; Raven Pulliam and his staff at the BEPB are committed to do what they can in order to ameliorate any possible negative ramifications for individual vendors in the state.

Community Reintegration Program 

Several Personnel changes have occurred within the CRP program. Garland Burt, HSP CRP Liaison, has moved into another position; therefore, Maria Carde will handle Garland's caseload with the exception of IVCIL and RAMP. To date, the CRP program has reintegrated 76 consumers this fiscal year.

Money Follows the Person Update 

MFP is expected to start in January. Staff are still being trained on new forms and protocols. Along with MFP, the Illinois Housing Development Authority will be developing a Housing Database expected to be up and running in Spring '09. This will be a public website where anyone can search for housing by a number of criteria including location, rent range, # bedrooms, accessibility features, proximity to transit, etc. It will be supported by a call center that will make sure property listings are continuously updated by landlords to ensure vacancy status and other info is accurate.

Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD)

Marcos Rodriguez, 18 year old senior at ISD, was a winner in the Lincoln Stamp Art Contest, sponsored by the Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration Committee and the Lincoln Library and Museum. His "stamp" was chosen as the winning entry for category 8th through 12th grade and will be featured on envelopes to be sold in January and February. Marcos' name will also be included on the envelope.

Marcos, his parents and teacher will be special guests at the first issuance of the postage stamp ceremony at 10:00 a.m. on February 9, 2009 at the Old State Capitol. The U.S. Postmaster General and Senator Richard J. Durbin are scheduled to speak.

Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

SDHH is planning workshops in early March at William Rainey Harper College targeting students in high school who are deaf and hard of hearing. This will allow more interaction among the students, Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf, and SDHH staff for thorough transition planning for successful career opportunities. This is the 2nd annual event.

Bureau of Disability Determinations

The Chicago SSA Office Staff and Regional Commissioner Jim Martin met with Ann Robert and BDDS staff on November 24 in Springfield. Our federal partners were extremely effusive about the work of Ann and the Bureau. Some highlights from this meeting included:

Illinois exceeded their goal of completing 99,414 initial claims by more than 1,729 in the past fiscal year. Productivity per work year statistic was 300.2, up by more than ten percent from the previous year. The regional average was 290.5 and the national standard was 265.7. This means that our taxpayer money is being used extremely efficiently in Illinois.

In FY'08 the average time it took to process a claim in Illinois was 74.6 days for SSDI applicants, compared to 81.2 in the nation. For SSI applicants, these time frames were 76.4 and 81.9, respectively. In short, individuals are finding out the status of their disability claim faster in Illinois than in the rest of the nation.

In Illinois the BDDS made an accurate disability determination 97.1% of the time, compared to regional and national averages of 96.2% and 96.6%, respectively.

More than twelve thousand Continuing Disability Reviews were cleared in Illinois in FY'08; this amounted to BDDS exceeding their annual goal by 17.5%. Illinois has approximately 281K individuals receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); more than 231K receive Supplemental Security Income or SSI. Some receive support from both sources. The monthly disability payments made to these beneficiaries was nearly $400 million per month this past year.