This chapter explains how to gather the information that is necessary to develop a case and to support the eligibility determination.
This process includes
The word “you” refers to the counselor or the rehabilitation services technician (RST), as appropriate. The term “consumer” refers to any customer of the VR program at any point from pre-application to closure.
Numerous community sources, such as organizations, schools, clinics, employers, and doctors, refer persons to DRS for services. Some referral sources, such as the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation, have specific processes that may affect the consumer's success. Outreach efforts by DRS staff inform potential referral sources of the purpose of and services available from DRS rehabilitation programs. Accurately record the referral source in the electronic case management system.
For more information about workers' compensation and managing referrals, see
DARS3415 Workers' Compensation Contact Verification Letter may be provided to the individual to record the level of participation in the VR program.
A consumer's first contact with DRS is a critical point in the vocational rehabilitation process. It is a time for the consumer not only to exchange information with DRS staff but also to form an impression about the staff's sincerity, concern, and professionalism. A successful exchange of information means that both counselor and consumer fully understand what is being discussed. It is your responsibility to communicate with the consumer in a way that best accommodates any limitations the consumer has.
During this contact with the consumer, develop an understanding of the consumer's needs, and identify and explain the purpose of the DRS program that seems most suited to meet those needs.
If DRS is not the appropriate resource, refer the consumer to another agency or organization that may be able to help.
If the consumer's primary disability is visual, or if the consumer is legally blind, refer the consumer to the DARS Division for Blind Services (see Chapter 3: Eligibility, 3.8 Required Assessments and Policies for Selected Disabilities/Visual Disorders).
If the consumer has an existing DRS case, refer the consumer to the current counselor.
If the consumer had a previous case, see 2.7 Reopening or Adjusting the Phase of a Previously Closed Case.
If DRS is the appropriate division, obtain the information to complete the fields for the Initial Contact. Assign the consumer to a caseload in the electronic case management system.
If the consumer cannot be seen for an application at the time of the initial contact, schedule an appointment for the earliest possible date (see 2.3.6 Scheduling the Application).
*Counselors must complete the application within 30 days of initial contact. If the application cannot be completed within 30 days, the case file documentation must reflect a good-faith effort to meet this time standard.*
*Based on 34 CFR Section 361.41(a)
Ask for the consumer's Social Security number (SSN), but do not deny services to a consumer solely because the consumer will not provide a Social Security card or SSN.
*Section 7(a) of the Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits “any federal, state or local government agency” from denying any “right, benefit, or privilege provided by law” because a person refuses to disclose his or her Social Security number.*
If the consumer refuses to provide an SSN,
If the consumer does not have an SSN or prefers not to provide it, the electronic case management system assigns a temporary SSN.
If the consumer later presents a Social Security card, replace the temporary number with the SSN.
When scheduling the appointment, *determine the consumer's
*Based on 34 CFR Section 361.37(a)
When appropriate, use DARS5003, Application Appointment Letter, to schedule the appointment.
Ask the consumer to bring appropriate records, including
The application process includes
Ask the consumer to provide original documents that establish that the consumer can work legally in the United States. The consumer must present one original, unexpired document from Column A or one each from Column B and C when applying for services:
Even if the consumer does not have any of the above documents, allow the consumer to complete the application. Counsel the consumer on the need for identification and employment verification documents before DRS can determine eligibility for services.
Examine the documents presented. Expired documents cannot be accepted. If the documents are not expired, but will expire in the near future, counsel the consumer that unexpired documents will be required by an employer.
Do not delay presumption of eligibility for a consumer who receives Social Security disability benefits if the consumer does not have any of the above documents. But work with the consumer to acquire these documents because the employer will require them when the consumer starts working.
Place a copy of available documents in the case file. If the consumer is reluctant to allow you to make copies of the documents, or if you do not have immediate access to a copy machine, for each document examined, enter the following information in a case note:
DRS may purchase a photo ID, if needed, for work and work-related activities (for example, employment application, driving vehicles).
For additional information on obtaining a Texas driver's license or ID card from the Texas Department of Public Safety, refer to Texas Driver's License or Identification Certificate.
For policy and procedures, see Business Procedures Manual, Chapter 21: Common DARS Consumer Service Policies, 21.1 Voter Registration Requirements.
Explain in detail the expected outcomes and services related to the specific DRS program (VR, ILS, or CRS) that most meets the consumer's needs. Reassess whether DARS DRS is the appropriate agency and division. If not, refer the consumer to another community resource.
Ensure that all information entered on the application is accurate. Most of DARS' state and federal reports are compiled from this information, and the accuracy of the reports depends on correct application information.
Enter a disability classification based on the consumer’s report or your observation. For further information, see Chapter 11: Technical Information and References, Section 11.2 Disability Classifications and Codes.
The application information is usually recorded electronically in the case management system; see the Quick Start Guide and Help information for guidance. Use DARS5057 Application for Services Vocational Rehabilitation Program, DARS5058 Application for Services Independent Living Program, or DARS5059 Application for Services Comprehensive Rehabilitation Program when the electronic file is not available.
The intake room must be private.
The application information is usually recorded electronically in the case management system; see the ReHabWorks Help information for guidance. Use the appropriate version of the application on the Electronic Bookshelf, if ReHabWorks is not available.
Maintain confidentiality of information at all times (see Business Procedures Manual, Chapter 20: Confidentiality and Use of Consumer Records and Information).
Explain to the consumer the circumstances when confidential information about him or her will not be kept private. See the guidance piece, Situations Requiring Release of Confidential Consumer Information.
Before the application is signed, discuss with the consumer the
Provide a copy of the application statements to the consumer.
Approval by the counselor and the signature of the consumer, or the consumer's representative, verify that the consumer was provided the above information.
If a representative is signing the application statements for the consumer, explain to the consumer that information in his or her case file will be made available to the representative.
Although the consumer may choose whomever he or she wants as a representative, inform the consumer that you will not purchase goods or services from a provider who serves as his or her representative because of the conflict of interest. For further information, see Chapter 7: Purchasing, 7.5.18 Identifying the Provider and Payee.
The consumer signs the application electronically by using a personal identification number (PIN) (see PIN Procedures, below).
The electronic case management system automatically assigns the last four digits of a consumer’s SSN as his or her temporary PIN at initial contact. At application, the consumer must choose a new PIN to replace the temporary PIN.
The consumer enters a four-digit PIN as a signature of authorization on the application and all other electronic documents that require a signature of authorization (for example, the application and IPE).
Help the consumer choose an appropriate PIN. Suggest using a number that is easy to remember, such as a birth date, and record the prompt in a case note. Do not, however, record the actual PIN in the case note.
When the consumer cannot enter a PIN, follow the procedures in 2.4.9 When DRS Staff Members May Enter a PIN on Behalf of a Consumer.
If the consumer cannot remember his or her PIN and the electronic case file is available,
To learn how to reset the consumer’s representative, parent, or guardian PIN, refer to the ReHabWorks Help.
The signature of either a parent or guardian is required when the consumer is
Note: Usually a foster parent is not the legal guardian for his or her foster child and cannot sign an application for services, releases, or the IPE on behalf of the child. The child’s managing conservator has the legal authority to sign these documents. Locate the conservator through the Department of Family and Protective Services DFPS Offices Web site.
Note: A person under 18 years of age and legally married is not considered a minor under Texas law.
Have the parent or guardian enter either his or her
A consumer may designate someone to serve as his or her representative in all or part of the rehabilitation process. The representative may be authorized to sign documents, speak on the consumer's behalf, or serve in other capacities indicated on the DARS1487, Designation of Applicant or Consumer Representative. In some cases, a representative can play an important role in facilitating communication and helping the rehabilitation process move forward to a successful outcome.
The following forms, in addition to the application, are signed to permit the exchange of information needed during the rehabilitation process:
File the signed forms according to Chapter 11: Technical Information and References, 11.3 Case File Maintenance.
In addition to a copy of the application statements, explain and provide the following:
*Based on 34 CFR Section 361.57(b)
During any DRS process requiring the consumer's signature, there are only three circumstances when DRS staff members may enter a PIN on behalf of the consumer:
In those instances, follow the procedures outlined below.
When the electronic case management system is not available or the case file has been checked out, do the following:
If the consumer is not present and with the consumer's permission,
When a consumer cannot physically enter a PIN, you
Before checking out a case from the electronic case management system, contact the consumer to verify that the consumer remembers his or her PIN. If the consumer does not remember the PIN, it is critical to reset the consumer’s PIN before checking the case out of the system. Update the PIN number the next time the consumer is in the office.
The counselor must conduct a diagnostic interview with every consumer. If the counselor completes the application, he or she should, in most circumstances, conduct the diagnostic interview at the same time.
The primary purpose of the diagnostic interview is to obtain information that is relevant to determining eligibility. It is an opportunity to identify knowledge, skills, abilities, and key attributes from the consumer's perspective.
A good diagnostic interview includes
Prepare for the diagnostic interview by
Unless unavailable, review the Counselor's Desk Reference (CDR) chapters that are relevant to the disability, paying particular attention to the sample questions listed. For additional information about a consumer’s condition and treatment and the condition’s possible impact on employment, consult the Medical Disability Guidelines.
Encourage the consumer to speak freely since only the consumer can describe what he or she has been experiencing in regard to perceptions of disability and vocational impact. However, to accomplish the purpose of the interview, you must direct the course of the interview to gather the information needed to establish eligibility. In addition to the consumer's perspective, you record impressions of the consumer's behavior that will
Through probing and exploration, the productive diagnostic interview establishes information that helps you understand the consumer's
Exploring work and disability history may reveal the need for further diagnostic review. Order records and/or purchase evaluations as necessary.
Select the "Requires Special Attention" action item in the electronic case management system if at any time during the rehabilitation process, the consumer
This action item alerts any staff accessing the computer case record.
Exercise extreme care in using this item to avoid unnecessarily "labeling" a person.
If you are later convinced that the person no longer poses a threat, delete this action item and explain circumstances in a case note.
When a DRS employee or other reliable source observes such behavior, document the behavior in a case note as specifically and factually as possible. Include
Report any incident affecting the security of a DRS employee or DRS property to DRS management and, if appropriate, to the local law enforcement authority. When appropriate, use DARS1741, Security Incident Report. Place a copy of the police report in the paper file if police were involved.
When a consumer has a DRS case that was previously closed, it is necessary in some instances to either
Reopen—opens a new case for a previous DRS consumer. Verify and complete information in the Initial Contact in the electronic case management system, and enter application information the same way as for any new case.
Phase adjustment—reestablishes a case from Closed Plan Initiated to Plan Initiated. This activity removes closure information and changes the closure flag on employment information from Yes to No.
A new case may be opened (that is, reopened) on a previously closed case using the eligibility policies and procedures for any new consumer. Update the old case information for the new case.
When a consumer reapplies for VR services after a previous unsuccessful case closure, gather information that describes the reasons for opening a new case.
You must consult with the area manager before opening a new case for a consumer who has had two or more cases closed as unsuccessful (not rehabilitated) after being found eligible for services.
If the consumer requires
The area manager must approve a phase adjustment for a previous case that was closed within the last twelve months if
For guidance on reopening or adjusting the phase of a previous case, see the Counselors' Toolbox, How to Open a Previously Closed Case.