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Individuals with Disabilities Employment Program

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to increasing the representation of qualified individuals with disabilities in all levels of its workforce.  The VA’s Individuals with Disabilities Program is designed to ensure that individuals with disabilities enjoy equal opportunity in all aspects of employment within VA, including intern programs, promotions, training, and reasonable accommodation.

The Disability Program at VA is part of our effort to address the low employment rate of individuals with disabilities, especially those with targeted disabilities.  The targeted disabilities are:  blindness, deafness, missing extremities, partial paralysis, total paralysis, epilepsy, severe intellectual disability, psychiatric disability, and dwarfism.  VA’s National Disability Program is part of the Outreach and Retention Team, ODI.

Program Objectives

  • Ensure that individuals with targeted disabilities are recruited for vacant positions at all levels of VA.
  • Help VA meet its annual 3% hiring goal and the 2% on board goal for individuals with targeted disabilities.
  • Create a workplace environment where VA employees with disabilities are valued and respected.
  • Increase the ratio of employees with disabilities, especially those with targeted disabilities, at all levels of the VA workforce.
  • Identify and address any barriers to equal employment of individuals with disabilities at VA.
  • Improve the retention rate for employees with disabilities, especially those with targeted disabilities.
  • Educate managers and supervisors on their responsibilities regarding the laws and directives concerning individuals with disabilities.
  • Educate managers and employees on the accommodation process.
  • Establish cooperative relationships with both internal and external organizations in order to recruit and employ qualified individuals with disabilities.

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Employment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has the lead on Federal policy and guidance regarding equal rights for applicants and employees with disabilities.  EEOC classifies the following disabilities as “severe” or “targeted:”  deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial paralysis, total paralysis, epilepsy, severe intellectual disability, psychiatric disability, and dwarfism.  The EEOC tracks the employment of individuals with these targeted disabilities.

At VA, the on board ratio for employees with targeted disabilities at the end of fiscal year 2013 was 1.99%.  This was higher than the Federal average of 0.96% but lower than the Federal high of 2.67%.  Within VA, the ratio was 1.97% in the Veterans Health Administration, 2.35% in the Veterans Benefit Administration, 2.79% in the National Cemetery Administration, and 1.76% in the Staff Offices.

VA’s hiring goal for individuals with targeted disabilities is 3% of all hires, or one in every 33 new hires.  At the same time, VA needs to improve the retention rate for this group by providing accommodations on request and when possible, providing training and developmental opportunities.  If we are unable to retain employees with targeted disabilities, we will need to increase the hiring goal.  VA strives to improve the employment ratios for individuals with disabilities, particularly those with targeted disabilities. 

Individuals with disabilities can apply for VA positions through the competitive process or, if they have a severe disability, apply for a non-competitive appointment to a Title 5 position via Schedule A.  For additional information, applicants can review the brochure that explains the non-competitive Schedule A appointment authority.  The health related positions in VA are covered by Title 38, and are not covered by the Schedule A excepted appointment authority. These positions are non-competitive, but applications must be submitted by the deadline listed in the announcement.

While ODI has the lead for disability outreach, every Human Resources office and VA manager is obligated to ensure that sufficient efforts are made to recruit qualified candidates with disabilities, especially those with targeted disabilities, for each job announcement.  Each HR office has a Selective Placement Coordinator who can provide information on recruiting individuals with disabilities and the Schedule A hiring authority, and VA’s Title 38 positions.  HR staff can review the Schedule A brochure written for HR staff for additional information. A separate brochure provides information for managers. Commonly asked questions and answers may also be helpful.

VA managers are encouraged to ensure that employees with disabilities are aware of and participate in training opportunities so that they can qualify for future promotions.  This is required by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.  Additionally, VA is working hard to ensure that our employees with disabilities are treated with respect and encouraged to stay with the agency.

Please see the Library section for additional information on employing individuals with targeted disabilities.  

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Disability Accommodation Procedures

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act requires agencies to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities.  A “reasonable accommodation” is a change in the work environment or in work processes that enables a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.  The accommodation must be effective in meeting the needs of the individual by addressing the barrier created by the functional limitations.

Types of reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to:

  • modification or adjustment to a job application process to permit an individual with a disability to be considered for a job,
  • modification or adjustment necessary to enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, and
  • modification or adjustment that enables an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.

It is the policy of VA to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities unless VA can show it will cause an undue hardship to the operation of the program.  The budget of VA as a whole must be considered, so cost is not usually a reason for denial based on undue hardship.   VA’s policy is that applicant requests should be processed as soon as possible, but in no more than ten calendar days, and employee requests must be processed in no more than 30 calendar days. Time waiting for medical documentation (for a disability that is not obvious or already documented) is not included when calculating the request processing time. For information on VA’s reasonable accommodation process, please see VA Handbook 5975.1 “Processing Requests for Reasonable Accommodation.”

Managers and employees are encouraged to contact their Local Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator (LRAC) with questions, but if an issue cannot be resolved at the local level, they are welcome to contact the National Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator (NRAC).  Before denying any request for accommodation, managers are required to discuss the request with the NRAC, ODI, or the Regional Office of General Counsel. 

Most accommodations, such as working from home or modifying a work schedule, have no cost.  Others are obtained for free from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Computer Accommodation Program (CAP) by visiting their web site, at http://www.tricare.mil/cap/.   Accommodations, such as interpreters and readers that are not provided by CAP must be obtained by the employee’s office, but the cost will be reimbursed from the Centralized Fund managed by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  The memorandum announcing this fund is available along with instructions and the form to be submitted for reimbursement.  The goal of this fund is to ensure that VA applicants and employees with disabilities receive the accommodation they need to apply for a job, perform the essential duties of the job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.  The Centralized Fund closes the gap between the accommodations provided by DoD’s CAP and those that do not require any funds.  Only the Secretary, VA, can approve a denial based on cost. Updated guidance for the Centralized Fund is available.

 

If an employee with a mobility impairment is located in a VA facility that is not fully accessible, the employee’s manager should contact the local facility engineer to request building modifications.  In some situations, the Administration’s Director of Engineering may need to be contacted.  Facility modifications that are needed for a specific individual fall under the category of reasonable accommodation, but are not covered by the Centralized Fund; the cost comes out of the Facility Engineering budget.

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Accessibility

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires VA to ensure that all events are fully accessible to our employees with disabilities.  For large events where it is not possible to determine who will attend, we recommend the following language be used in the event announcement:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to providing equal access to this training for all participants. If in order to attend, you need alternative formats or services because of a disability, please contact (name) at (phone number) or via email at (email) with your request by X date. 

When planning a staff meeting, training, or even a retirement luncheon, VA management must ensure that employees with disabilities receive any accommodation needed to be able to attend.  All VA events must be held in fully accessible venues.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all electronic technology be fully accessible to employees with disabilities.  This includes software, web pages, videos, phones, copy machines, etc.  This law requires VA to ensure that all software and hardware is compliant with Section 508 requirements and all videos are captioned.  For additional information, please see VA’s Section 508 web page at http://www.section508.va.gov/

Please see the Library section for additional information on employing individuals with targeted disabilities.  

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Annual Reporting Requirements

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued MD 715 in 2003.  The Management Directive includes a Part J which specifically addresses employment and promotion of individuals with targeted disabilities.  Pasted below is the specific language from Part J of the MD 715.

“Agencies with 1,000 or more permanent employees are to use the space provided below to describe the strategies and activities that will be undertaken during the coming fiscal year to maintain a special recruitment program for individuals with targeted disabilities and to establish specific goals for the employment and advancement of such individuals. For these purposes, targeted disabilities may be considered as a group. Agency goals should be set and accomplished in such a manner as will effect measurable progress from the preceding fiscal year. Agencies are encouraged to set a goal for the hiring of individuals with targeted disabilities that is at least as high as the anticipated losses from this group during the next reporting period, with the objective of avoiding a decrease in the total participation rate of employees with disabilities.

Goals, objectives and strategies described below should focus on internal as well as external sources of candidates and include discussions of activities undertaken to identify individuals with targeted disabilities who can be (1) hired; (2) placed in such a way as to improve possibilities for career development; and (3) advanced to a position at a higher level or with greater potential than the position currently occupied.” The URL for EEOC’s MD 715, Part J is: http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/directives/715instruct/part_j.html

During FY 2011, in addition to working on improved recruitment, hiring, and retention, VA will be exploring various ways to provide career development training and advancement opportunities for employees with targeted disabilities.  Ideas and suggestions would be appreciated.

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Library: Program Overview and Plans

Library: Hiring Goal

Library: Reasonable Accommodation

Library: Schedule A

Library: Useful Information

Library: Training PowerPoint Presentations

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Tools and Resources:

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List of Selective Placement Program Coordinators

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List of Local Reasonable Accommodation Coordinators

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External Resources

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Workforce Recruitment Program:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) has established a centralized fund for fiscal year (FY) 2015 to reimburse facilities VA-wide who hire Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) interns.  The WRP is an internship and candidate referral program that provides work experience opportunities for college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are interested in working 10-14 weeks during the winter (December through February), spring (March through May) and summer (June through August) months.

The WRP centralized fund is a VA-wide initiative in support of Executive Order 13548, “Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities” and the Secretary’s three percent goal for hiring individuals with targeted disabilities. To apply for centralized funding for a WRP intern, review the instructions and complete the required forms below.  Please note that the WRP 2015 database (www.wrp.gov) is expected to go live mid-December and top candidates will go fast.  Please plan accordingly.

Hiring officials are strongly encouraged to use the WRP to hire qualified individuals with disabilities to further efforts to make VA the best Federal employer for individuals with disabilities.  If you have any questions regarding the WRP, please contact Aurelia Waters, VA WRP Program Manager, ODI, at (202) 461-4124 or send an email to VAWRP@va.gov.

  • WRP FY2015 Funding Memo (TBA)
  • WRP Step-by-Step Instructions (Word)
  • WRP FY2015 Payroll Reimbursement Request Form (Word)
  • WRP Memorandum of Understanding (Word)
  • WRP Fact Sheet (PDF, Word)
  • WRP Pathways Resource Guide (Word)

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