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PRESS RELEASE

October 7, 2003

Frances Marine
(850) 245-0413

Vocational Rehabilitation Meeting Federal Requirements
Improvement in VR program also lauded by recent OPPAGA report

TALLHASSEE — Education Commissioner Jim Horne today announced that Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program is now meeting federal requirements imposed by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). The federal government matches VR's state dollars about four to one. Last year, Florida received $92 million to provide vocational services in the state.

"I am pleased to see the tremendous improvement in our Vocational Rehabilitation program, which serves thousands of disabled Floridians. Last year, an additional 1,400 Floridians gained employment thanks to the program - a 14 percent increase over the previous year. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated professionals, we have turned Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation program around and ensured that disabled Floridians will continue to receive the assistance they need to become self-sufficient and contribute to our economy," said Commissioner Horne. "In fact, our VR contracting program was recently presented as a model for other states at a national conference."

Auditors found in October 2000 that VR was not meeting federal requirements. Commissioner Horne appointed Loretta Costin to take over VR in January 2002 to bring it back into federal compliance. VR issued a corrective action plan in February 2002 and federal officials visited the program in March 2003. Last week, the federal government found the VR program to be in compliance with federal requirements.

Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of the workforce. VR assists people with disabilities with training, medical treatment, and accommodations so they may become employed.

"We have all worked very hard to make sure all federal requirements are being met," said Costin. "It took a lot of effort to improve the division's processes to comply with required timeframes. The end result is that VR consumers in Florida will be better served."

The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) issued a scathing report about problems in the program shortly after VR was designated high-risk. Last week, an OPPAGA report praised the division for all of the improvements that have been implemented since January 2002.

For more information about VR and its services, contact 866-515-3692 or www.rehabworks.org.