Veterans Affairs People with Disabilities Employment Program
Author: Thomas C Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
Published: 2013-01-31 : (Rev. 2016-03-25)
Synopsis and Key Points:
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to increasing representation of qualified persons with disabilities in every level of its workforce.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to increasing representation of qualified persons with disabilities in every level of its workforce. The VA's, "People with Disabilities Program," is one that is designed to make sure that people with disabilities have equal opportunity in every aspect of employment within the VA to include internship programs, promotions, training, and reasonable accommodation.
In the Veterans Administration, the on-board ratio for permanent employees with disabilities at the end of fiscal year 2012 was 1.8%, a rate that was higher than the Federal average of 0.96%, yet lower than the VA's goal of 2.55%. In the VA the ratio was 1.78% in the Veterans Health Administration, 1.49% in Staff Offices, and 2.26% in the National Cemeteries Administration. The Disability Employment Program through the VA is a part of the administration's effort to approach the low employment rate of people with disabilities, particularly those with specific forms of disabilities.
The VA's targeted disabilities include deafness, blindness, partial paralysis, missing extremities, epilepsy, total paralysis, psychiatric disabilities, severe intellectual disabilities, as well as dwarfism. The VA's National Disability Program is a part of its Outreach and Retention Team or, 'ODI.' The program has a number of objectives which include:
- Educating managers and employees on the accommodation process
- Identifying and addressing any barriers to equal employment of people with disabilities at the VA
- Helping the VA to meet its annual 3% hiring goal and 2% on-board goal for people with disabilities
- Creating a workplace environment where VA employees with disabilities are respected and valued
- Ensuring that people with targeted disabilities are recruited for vacant jobs at every level of the VA
- Improving the retention rate for employees with disabilities, particularly among those with targeted forms of disabilities
- Educating supervisors and managers on their responsibilities in regards to the laws and directives concerning people with disabilities
- Increasing the ratio of employee's with disabilities, particularly people with targeted forms of disabilities, at every level of the VA workforce
- Establishing cooperative relationships with both external and internal organizations with the goal of recruiting and employing qualified people with disabilities
Employment, the EEOC, and the VA
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has lead the way concerning Federal guidance and policy in relation to equal rights for applicants and employees with disabilities. The EEOC classifies the following forms of disabilities as, 'targeted,' or, 'severe:'
- Total paralysis
- Partial paralysis
- Missing extremities
- Psychiatric disability
- Severe intellectual disability
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) tracks the employment of people who experience these targeted forms of disabilities. The VA's hiring goal for people with targeted disabilities is 3% of all hired or 1 in every 33 new hires. The VA, at the same time, needs to improve the retention rate for people with disabilities by providing them with accommodations upon request and when possible - providing training and developmental opportunities. It the VA is unable to retain an employee with a targeted form of disability, it needs to increase its hiring goal. The VA is working to improve the employment ratios for people with disabilities, especially people who experience targeted forms of disabilities.
A person with a disability can apply for a VA position through the competitive process or, if they experience a severe form of disability, they can apply for a non-competitive appointment to a Title 5 position through Schedule A. For more information, people who wish to apply can review the brochure that explains the non-competitive Schedule A appointment authority. The health related jobs in the VA are covered by Title 38 and are not covered by Schedule A excepted appointment authority. The jobs are non-competitive, but people with disabilities who are applying need to submit applications by the deadlines that are listed in the announcements.
Even though ODI has the lead for disability outreach, every Human Resources office and VA manager has the obligation to make sure that sufficient efforts are made to recruit qualified people with disabilities - particularly people with targeted forms of disabilities, for every job announcement. Every HR office has a, 'Selective Placement Coordinator,' who has the ability to provide information on recruiting people with disabilities and the Schedule A authority, as well as the VA's Title 38 jobs. HR staff can review the Schedule A brochure written for HR staff for more information. A separate brochure exists that provides information for managers.
VA managers are encouraged to make sure that employees with disabilities are aware of and take part in training opportunities so they can qualify for future promotions. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires this. In addition, the VA is working to make sure that employees with disabilities are treated respectfully and are encouraged to remain with the VA.
Procedures Related to Disability Accommodation
Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act requires agencies to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants that are qualified and employees with disabilities. A, 'reasonable accommodation,' is a change in a work process or in the work environment that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. The accommodation has to be effective and meet the needs of the person by addressing the barrier they face that creates a functional limitation. Types of reasonable accommodations may include, yet are not limited to, things such as:
- Adjustment or modification of a job applicants process to permit a person with a disability to be considered for a job
- Adjustment or modification that enabled a person with a disability to enjoy equivalent benefits and privileges of employment
- Modification or adjustment needed to enable a qualified person with a disability to perform the essential functions of their job
The VA's policy is to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities unless the VA can demonstrate that it will cause an undue hardship to the operation of a program. The VA's budget as a whole is something it must take into consideration and cost is not commonly a reason for denial based upon undue hardship. The VA's policy is that applicants' requests should be processed as quickly as possible, yet in no more than 10 calendar days, and that employee requests have to be processed in no more than 30 calendar days. Time spent waiting for medical documentation for a disability that is not as obvious or previously documented is not included when the VA calculates the request processing time. More information is available through VA Handbook 5975.1, 'Processing Requests for Reasonable Accommodation.'
The VA and Accessibility
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires the VA to make sure that every event is completely accessible to its employees with disabilities. The VA has committed itself to providing equal access to training for every participant. When the VA plans a training event, staff meeting, or even a retirement luncheon, its management has to ensure that employees with disabilities receive any accommodations they need in order to attend these kinds of events. Every VA event has to be held in a fully-accessible venue.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all electronic technology be fully-accessible to employees with disabilities. The Veterans Administration is no exception. The electronic technologies covered include videos, web pages, copy machines, phones and more. The law requires the VA to make sure that all software and hardware is compliant with Section 508, and that all videos are captioned as well.
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