This past legislative session, House Bill 1146 became law and created the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA). This agency fully came into effect on July 1 and consists of five vocational service programs that were all formerly administered by the Georgia Department of Labor.
This agency is heavily funded from federal funds with 72 percent of the total. The state funds only $20.1 million, or 11 percent, of the $184.2 million budget. The newly created agency will now be attached to the Department of Human Services and receive administrative services such as human resources, legal assistance, and facility support from DHS.
GVRA will be governed by the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Services Board comprised of nine members who will all be appointed by the governor. Over the years, the services offered by the five merging programs have proven to be successful in returning and aiding people to work. This week, we will explore these programs.
Vocational Rehabilitation Program
The most frequently utilized program of GVRA is the Vocational Rehabilitation program, which had over 39,000 recipients in fiscal year 2011 with a budget of $79.5 million, including $65.6 million in federal funds.
This program provides services to eligible persons with disabilities to start and maintain employment with the goal of creating productive and independent members in their community. Services provided include physical therapy, speech therapy, work readiness training, on-the-job training, and career counseling and guidance. Currently, Vocational Rehabilitation has 50 offices in 12 regions of the state. Their staff works with communities that have allowed the staff to attain in-depth knowledge of the marketplace and support services that are available for those served by the program.
The Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation
The Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation is one of the country’s eight state-managed rehabilitation centers and has a budget of $31.3 million. For more than 50 years, the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute has offered therapies and training with the focus of improving functional independence, self sufficiency, quality of life and employability.
Disability Adjudication Services
The Disability Adjudication Services program works with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make disability determinations for Georgia citizens who apply for entitlement programs administered by the SSA. This includes Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance for individuals under the age of 65. Disability Adjudication Services also provides adjudicators and medical consultants who are trained to advise and make decisions for claims filed in Georgia. The Adjudication Agency has a total budget of $55.5 million, all of which come from federal funds.
Georgia Industries for the Blind
Georgia Industries for the Blind (GIB) provides jobs in manufacturing and packaging for blind individuals. GIB was established with the passage of the Wagner-O’day Act of 1938. The act stated that the federal government would purchase products from agencies employing the blind. Today there are four plants and are located in Bainbridge, Albany, Griffin, and in Warner Robins at the Robins Air Force Base. As of FY11, the program has employed 100 legally blind people every year since FY2008. These employees generated almost $11 million in revenue from their products and services and have a budget of $11.8 million.
Products that are manufactured and packaged in these facilities include pillows, laundry bags, safety vests and flags, binders, file folders, card guides, plastic cutlery, and box reclamation for the military.
Georgia’s Business Enterprise Program
Finally, the Georgia’s Business Enterprise Program (BEP) provides work opportunities to persons who are blind and want to manage small businesses such as vending machine routes, snack bars, cafes/grills, and full-service cafeterias.
Clients should expect no disruptions in services provided during this transition. Governor Deal has already taken steps in assuring this by appointing Gregory A. Schemieg as the first executive director of GVRA. Schemieg is the former executive director of the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, a position he held for five years. His familiarity with the program as well as his commitment to vocational rehabilitation provides a promising beginning for the new agency.
In a move of efficiency and reaching more clients, many of the Vocational Rehabilitation offices have moved into shared offices with DHS programs. For further information regarding the program transfers, service locations in your area, and the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Services Board visit http://gvra.ga.gov/ or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I may be reached at
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E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
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