Order of Selection Planning FAQs

The Department of Services for the Blind will implement an Order of Selection on October 1, 2018. Please review the information below to learn more about Order of Selection and how it may affect Washingtonians with visual impairments seeking DSB Vocational Rehabilitation services.

What is “order of selection”?

Order of selection is the process that a state vocational agency utilizes when resources are not adequate to meet the vocational rehabilitation service needs of all eligible individuals at the time eligibility is determined. If an agency doesn’t have the resources to serve every eligible person who requests services, then the agency must create a prioritized wait list, and begin to serve those eligible individuals by priority category. Through the order of selection prioritization, the agency is assuring we are providing services to those most in need.

Why is DSB discussing implementing an order of selection now?

We anticipate we will not have adequate dollars to serve every eligible individual who will apply for services in the coming federal fiscal year. For some historical background, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 effectively cut the vocational rehabilitation adult services budget to 85% of what it had been.

The decreased budget - along with rising costs - have resulted in fiscal projections that show we will no longer be able to serve every eligible person who requests services in FFY 2019. In order to meet our obligations for all eligible individuals who are in planned services, we will need to create a wait list for newly eligible individuals.

When will an order of selection start?

The agency anticipates a start date of October 1, 2018. There are many steps to implementing an Order of Selection smoothly, and the process required may result in implementing at a later date.

How does OOS change the process for someone who is interested in applying for services?

The process for taking application and determining an individual’s eligibility for vocational rehabilitation services through DSB will be unchanged under an Order of Selection.

What will change is that, once eligibility has been determined, the individual’s case may need to be put on the waiting list for services. Once the agency determines it has enough resources to serve some or all cases on the wait list, then it will take only the number of cases it can fully fund off the wait list, by priority category and by date of application.

How does OOS change the process for someone who is already active in receiving services from DSB and is progressing through their plan of employment?

There is no change for those individuals who have a signed plan for employment, and are actively working towards their employment goal.

While this change impacts new applicants for services, the agency will continue to provide comprehensive services to those individuals (like you) who are actively engaged in their current vocational plan. Those currently working with the agency and who have a signed plan for employment should not be impacted by this wait list.

What is a priority category, and how is that determined?

When the agency only has adequate resources to serve some, but not all, those individuals who are eligible for services, then we are required by federal law to develop a system of priority categories so we are serving as soon as we can those individuals who have the greatest need for our services.

After a person applies for services, they will work with their counselor to identify barriers to employment, based on functional limitations due to their visual and other disabilities.

If a person is currently working and is at risk of losing that job due to requiring immediate and substantial services, then that person qualifies for the agency’s top priority.

If a person is not working, and has many functional limitations to employment due to disability (such as lack of work skills or stamina, ability to get oneself from place to place, use relevant technologies, or manage home tasks and self-care), and requires substantial services for each, then that person qualifies for the next priority level.

Alternatively, if a person is not working, and has one or two functional limitations due to disability, and requires substantial services for each, then that person qualifies for the third level of priority.

When the agency has adequate funds to serve new individuals, the cases in the highest priority, with the earliest date of application, will come off the wait list first.

If I have to wait for services, why should I apply now?

We acknowledge this can feel like a “hurry-up-and-wait” situation. It is frustrating for the agency and staff to not be able to serve immediately every eligible person who needs services. However, there is potential benefit to you in this OOS scenario if you apply for services as early as you can.

When there are funds to serve some but not all of the cases within a priority category, not all in that category will be able to get services in that moment. The determining factor within a priority category is the date of application. If a person applies one day sooner than another, that early bird may be able to receive services sooner than someone who applied a day later.

As you are working together with your DSB counselor to determine if you are eligible for services, your counselor will be working with you to identify some things you need to become employed. There may be resources in the community that can get you started on some or all of those needs while you are waiting for DSB services. Your counselor will work to get you connected to any relevant resources that might get you started to prepare for employment.

How long will I have to wait on the wait list before I get services?

There will never be a definitive answer to that question for anyone, unfortunately. The situation will always be in flux, and dependent on financial projections that show with certainty the agency has adequate resources to fully serve any person’s case it takes of the wait list.

How long will the agency be in OOS?

It is uncertain how long DSB might be in OOS at this point.  Until we know with certainty that the agency has the resources to comprehensively and consistently serve everyone who comes through the door, we'll need to maintain OOS.

It may be that at some point we are able to open all categories and serve everyone who is found eligible, and still be under OOS. We will likely be cautious to end OOS until we are quite certain we have the adequate resources to serve anyone who is eligible over time.

What happens with youth services under OOS? Are youth on a wait list as well? Are Pre-ETS services affected?

With the advent of WIOA, youth has a specific meaning, though in your question you may be asking about youth more broadly. We will define and address each group separately. Under WIOA, the term “youth” means specifically those individuals aged 14 – 24 who are eligible for VR services.

You might also be meaning “students”, which for DSB includes individuals who are ages 9 – 21, in school, and either potentially eligible or actually eligible for VR services. You may also be asking about our Birth – 8 population.

  • For youth: OOS will impact youth in the same way as adults applying for and becoming eligible for VR services. For individualized VR services, each youth applicant will be categorized for functional limitations and estimated need for substantial services, and be assigned to a wait list if one is applicable for their determined significance of disability categorization.
  • For students: whether a student is potentially eligible or eligible for VR services, that student will be eligible for the Pre-Employment transition services that focus on career exploration in a group setting. Because WIOA requires VR agencies to set-aside 15% of the federal VR grant for Pre-Employment transition services, and because we currently roll over a substantial amount of last year’s Pre-Employment funds for use in the current year, Pre-ETS services will not require a wait list.
  • For Birth – 8: The Birth – 8 services are funded through an annual endowment, the Moffitt Fund. The amount of the fund is relatively small, and services are therefore limited, but there is no need or intent to create a wait list for the Birth – 8 services.

If the agency needs to save monies, why doesn't it just reduce or limit the number or total cost of services we provide, and serve every eligible person that comes through the door?

Federal regulations clearly state that a vocational rehabilitation agency is responsible for providing for all necessary services that will allow an eligible participant who is in plan status to achieve their employment goal. Limiting services is not an option. Please note: the agency is not obligated to pay for all necessary services, but to ensure all necessary services are provided; identifying and securing other resources and supports within the community is a key aspect to the VR Counselor’s and agency’s role.

If the projections show serving all eligible participants becomes a challenge next federal fiscal year, why are we talking order of selection now?

The process for invoking an order of selection takes time, with many complex steps to consider before implementing. There are many stakeholders that need to be alerted and be provided opportunity for input; the processes for working effectively under an order of selection need to be created, put in place, tested, communicated and trained; and our federal partners at the Rehabilitation Services Administration need to review the revised state plan describing how the agency will implement the order of selection, and provide feedback and/or approval.

Also, any money savings derived through a wait list will not be immediate once an order of selection process is implemented. Because most case costs happen later after a plan is developed, it is expected that any cost savings will start to be realized six to nine months after the order of selection is implemented. Costs will remain static in the meantime as the agency provides the necessary services to all those who were in plan before the order of selection is implemented.

Will there be communication to individuals whose cases are on the wait list to let them know their status?

There will be communication from DSB staff to individual whose case is on the wait list to check in, and to confirm the wait list situation continues. The DSB staff will not have specific information to offer about how soon a case might come off the wait list.

Are there any exceptions to who gets on or off the wait list?

There should be no exceptions to the established OOS categorization process and wait list order, by law and for fairness of all served.

Will order of selection change the way DSB staff perform their job?

The basic functions of VR counselor, Rehab Tech, Rehab Teacher/O&M, AT Specialist, OTC instructor, or Admin Team – are unchanged. As a rehabilitation agency for individuals with visual disability, we will continue to provide the high caliber of vocational rehabilitation services we are known for to those individuals in plan.

With an order of selection, some aspects of work processes will be changed – deeper connections to identifying and utilizing comparable services and community resources; developing new communications strategies internally and among community stakeholders; coordination among staff to ensure balanced workloads.

There will be new ways of doing business under an order of selection, and wait times for services that didn’t used to exist, but the core of who we are as an agency doesn’t change.

What if I have specific questions you didn’t talk about here?

The agency wants to know your questions and input. Feel free to send any questions or thoughts you might have to info@dsb.wa.gov, and we will respond to you. If the information provides general interest, we may add the question and response to this to this FAQ as well.