(Sara Michele Crusade/Examiner.com) – Recently I learned that Larry Mosley, the Director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation gave his resignation notice to Governor Sandoval effective July 1st. I can’t say that I know what type of Director he was administratively, as I had minimal contact with him when I was a state of Nevada employee. What I can say is; his resignation is likely an attempt to jump ship before accountability issues come to the fore.
I worked in DETR, as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, until I was downsized. But this op-ed isn’t about my loss of work, rather about integrity – or a lack thereof – in DETR (Voc Rehab anyway). As for the job loss; well, I firmly believe that when G-d closes one door, He opens another. I’ve been blessed in many ways since January.
What I know from working in BVR is that funds are acquired on an approximately 20/80 split. Twenty percent of the funding comes from state revenues, and about 80% comes from federal funds. First, let me just go on the record as stating my opinion that if a state or governmental entity doesn’t have the funds to run a program with local revenues; the program should be scaled back or deleted. Being beholden to the federal government for any public program puts the state in a submissive position and weakens 10th Amendment autonomy.
The other problem with receiving funds from the federal government is that the system is set up to reward misuse and abuse of funds. For example; in Voc Rehab, we had a set amount of funds each counselor was allotted over the course of the fiscal year. At the beginning of the fiscal year, we were told to budget our funds wisely; not to spend too much on expenditures, such as glasses, clothing, etc. Toward the end of the year, we were told to hurry and spend those funds, because any funds not utilized would be given back to the federal government and then decreased from the next year’s grant award.
The purpose of the Vocational Rehabilitation program within DETR, is to assist people with disabilities to find work, or to keep work they already have by making appropriate accommodations. There are times when the program does an exemplary job of assisting clients; such as providing cataract surgery for an employee who is going blind and will lose her job; or providing special equipment, such as chairs and one-handed computer keyboards for employees with significant impairments to their job.
One problem I saw with the program, when I was there anyway, was that clients were given too much power over counselors by using the threat of a CAP (client assistance program) appeal, which led to a misuse of funds in order to avoid a hearing.
I experienced working with clients who demanded excessive gas cards, inappropriate schooling, and disproportionate calling card minutes for the pre-paid phone the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation provided for job search. One client blatantly used his phone minutes to make personal calls, despite knowing the phone was provided only for employer contact. He went so far as to admit it, but when I refused to provide him with the calling card minutes based on his fraudulent use of the phone and his unwillingness to comply with BVR rules for job search and reporting, this client complained to my supervisor and threatened to go to CAP.
Suddenly I was no longer supported in doing my job, which I believed was to assist clients while being a conservative steward of tax-payer money, and the client was given phone card minutes above and beyond the norm.
Another client I had was granted retraining, prior to joining my caseload. The paperwork he’d signed in order to get retrained stated that he had researched his area of interest and was sure he could find work after schooling. Tax-payers spent $10,000 retraining this person who, as soon as he graduated, complained his training wasn’t sufficient to be employable and that further training was needed. I denied his request for further training, as I had originally denied his request for high-end specialty glasses which far exceeded his allotted vision budget and which weren’t listed as tools appropriate for his retraining.
This particular client filed multiple written complaints, using unsavory language to describe his counselor (me). My supervisor initially supported my decisions to remain fiscally conservative; however, it seemed that, as I was approaching the end of my own employment, my supervisor was bending over forward to be as accommodating to the client as possible.
I’ve heard of other cases where clients have been customers of BVR repeatedly; sometimes up to five times; getting new clothes each time, sometimes more training, and monthly bus passes to get around town. Others have been clients for years at a time, getting bus passes or gas cards, and other “benefits” without finding work or holding a job.
One of the last clients I assessed for eligibility (although we must be clear that BVR is not an eligibility program) was a recovering alcoholic who had been sober over six months; thereby making him not disabled by BVR guidelines. However I was ordered to make him eligible to avoid a CAP hearing. Interestingly, as an aside, after I lost my job, I applied for vocational rehabilitation services as I’m a disabled veteran and have a 70% disability in my left shoulder due to two bouts with cancer and a radical surgery. I was denied for services.
Some clients have been provided education leading to a Master’s Degree, others expensive laptop computers, and still others have been given services prior to even having been assessed eligible for the program. I’ve heard of one such client who was given surgery before even becoming a client, and the counselor given the case was directed to create fraudulent records to make things appear copasetic.
As a matter-of-fact, a couple of months ago, an internal investigation was launched into the shady dealings in BVR. And I know of at least one legislator who was contacted about the fraud and waste, and asked to assist in holding the state accountable.
So it comes as no surprise to me that Mosley stepped down. After I lost my employment with the state, I started blogging my experiences (Taking on the State) and the unprofessional way in which I was handled by DETR administrators. In my dealings with Janice John, the Deputy Administrator, I became privy to a conversation she had with Karen Bellini, the Personnel Officer III, when they both failed to hang up their phones after leaving me a voice mail in response to my call.
Ms. John to Ms. Belleni, “I think I’ll ask her for a time… I won’t talk to her. I think I’ll just simply say we want to meet – the three of us.
“You might have someone with you, just as a witness…,” responded Belleni, later adding, “I would try to keep her out of the Maryland Parkway office.”
My call had been a request for an exit interview in order to learn what would take place with my benefits and pay. I was denied an exit interview.
As an applicant, I was treated poorly by the counselor assigned to me, someone different than the counselor whom I’d chosen, and I was denied services after meeting the very qualifications I was trained to qualify applicants with.
The point being; DETR, and the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation specifically, need to be held accountable for how funds are spent, what standards are used in assessing applicants, and what the outcomes are with clients. With my caseload of 40 – 70 clients, the majority were utilizing financial resources but not actively looking for work, or not maintaining employment. And my situation was the norm, not the exception.
Some like to blame discrepancies and problems on the employees in the trenches. Although we are each responsible for our own actions, it is the leader of an organization who needs to be held accountable when fraud, waste, and graft occur.
So I say, “Farewell, Mosley,” and here’s hoping the interim Director, Dennis Perea, runs a tighter ship and maintains accountability for DETR. I also hope that Governor Sandoval will take a long hard look at the true Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation statistics and make changes as necessary.
(Sara Michele Crusade has been a freelance writer and photographer for over 20 years. Her work has been published stateside, as well as in Germany. She has been concerned with politics most of her adult life, however has found her calling in the conservative movement. Sara is a veteran of the U.S. Army, and holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.)