11.0 - Review of Division of Blind Services Personnel Determinations and Consumer Rights Notification
11.1 - Consumer Rights Notification (Division Policy 2.5)
All applicants or eligible clients or, as appropriate, his/her representative must be notified of:
- The right to obtain review of a determination made by Division of Blind Services that affects the provision of vocational rehabilitation services to that client in an impartial due process hearing.
- The right to pursue mediation with respect to such determination; and
- The availability of assistance from Disability Rights Florida.
Such notification must be provided in writing or other appropriate modes of communication. Rights have been provided at each phase of the rehabilitation process as indicated below:
- At the time a client applies for vocational rehabilitation services.
- At the time the Individualized Plan for Employment for the client is developed, as well as any amendments to the plan; and
- Upon reduction, suspension, or cessation of vocational rehabilitation services for the client.
11.2 - Informal Reviews
DBS has three procedures for conducting informal reviews as requested by an applicant or eligible client with regard to decisions made by a Rehabilitation Specialist or Supervisor concerning the provision or denial of services.
- A District review is to be conducted by the Specialist's direct Supervisor or District Administrator at the verbal or written request of an applicant or eligible client or, as appropriate, his/her representative.
- If the client is dissatisfied with the outcome of a supervisory review or chooses to bypass a supervisory review, he/she can contact the state office by phone, make a written request for an Administrative Review to be conducted by the Bureau Chief of Client Services or his/her designee. The Bureau Chief must receive this written request within 30 days of the decision regarding the furnishing or denial of services.
- If a client prefers mediation, the individual can request mediation at any time during the informal or formal procedures at the local or state level.
11.3 - Mediation Procedures CFR 361.57 (Division Policy 2.5)
An applicant or eligible client has the right to pursue mediation with respect to any decision concerning the furnishing or denial of services by Division of Blind Services. The process of mediation is voluntary, must not be used to delay or deny a client’s right to a formal hearing, and will be conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques. (The State Office maintains a list of qualified mediators on statewide basis.) The cost of mediation is the sole responsibility of Division of Blind Services.
Each session in the mediation process must be scheduled within 60 days of a client’s written request. The client must submit such a request within 30 days of the decision regarding service provision to the Bureau Chief of Client Services and Program Support.
If the parties to the dispute in the mediation process reach an agreement, it will be set forth in a written mediation agreement.
Discussions that occur during the mediation process are confidential and will not be used as evidence in any subsequent due process or civil proceedings. Each party to the mediation will be required to sign a pledge of confidentiality prior to the commencement of the mediation process.
The process of mediation must not delay a formal hearing if so desired by the client unless the client agrees upon an extended time frame or, as appropriate his/her representative.
11.4 - Impartial Due Process Hearing Procedures
An applicant or eligible client may request a formal review of a decision concerning the furnishing or denial of services through the process of a Fair Hearing. An impartial hearing officer conducts Fair Hearings within 60 days of a written request by the client, unless informal resolution is achieved prior to the 60th day or the parties agree to a specific extension of time. The client must submit such a request within 30 days of the decision regarding service provision to the Division of Blind Services Director.
Division of Blind Services does not suspend, reduce, or terminate services being provided under an evaluation, assessment, or Individual Plan for Employment (IPE). Such services will be provided pending a final resolution through either mediation or an impartial due process hearing unless there is evidence that services have been obtained through misrepresentation, fraud, collusion, or criminal conduct on the part of the individual.
The client, or client’s representative, must be afforded the opportunity to provide additional evidence, information, and witnesses as well as the opportunity to examine all witnesses and other relevant information and evidence. The client may elect to be represented by counsel or other appropriate advocates including a representative from Disability Rights Florida.
The impartial hearing officer will make a decision based on the provision of the approved State Plan, the Rehabilitation Act, Federal VR regulations, and State regulations and policies that are consistent with Federal requirements. A written report of the findings will be provided to the client or, if appropriate, his/her representative within 30 days of completion of the hearing.
Either party involved in the hearing may choose to seek an impartial review of the decision of the hearing officer by the Commissioner of the Department of Education. A request of such review must be submitted to the DOE Commissioner within 20 days of the mailing of the impartial hearing officer’s written decision. This process must provide an opportunity for submission of additional evidence and information relevant to a final decision concerning the matter under review.
The Commissioner may overturn or modify the impartial hearing officer’s decision only if, based on clear and convincing evidence, the decision is clearly erroneous because it is contrary to the approved State plan, the Rehabilitation Act, Federal Vocational Rehabilitation regulations, or State regulations or policies that are consistent with the Federal requirements. A final decision, full report of findings and grounds for decision will be provided in writing to both parties within 30 days of providing notice of review.
Except for time limitations established in 34 CFR 361.57 (b) (1) and 361.57(b) (5), reasonable time extensions may be provided for good cause shown at the request of either or both parties.
A decision made by the Commissioner is final unless the party aggrieved by such decision brings a civil action in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States of competent jurisdiction without regard to the amount of controversy.
11.5 - Participant Confidentiality and Privacy
The Division staff must protect the confidentiality and privacy of clients’ rights and records. Division staff should not solicit private information from clients unless it is essential to providing services or conducting evaluation or research. Once private information is shared, standards of confidentiality will apply. (Division Policy 2.3)
NOTE: Whenever vocational rehabilitation services are reduced, suspended, denied or terminated the Denial of Services letter in the AWARE Letters section must be sent, with a copy of the client’s rights.