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Existing Business Policy

Effective July 1, 2021

This Existing Business Policy is used to guide DVR staff working with consumers whose goal is to maintain their existing business. Through this policy, DVR assists existing business owners with information, referral and assistive technology costs that are due to disability-related factors negatively impacting the performance of the consumer's essential job task functions.

Assistive Technology (AT) is any item, device, or piece of equipment used to maintain or improve the functionality of people with disabilities, allowing them to be more independent in education, employment, recreation, and daily living activities. AT includes the services necessary to get and use the devices, including assessment, customization, repair, and training.

This policy is not designed for:

  • Starting a new business
  • Purchasing an existing business
  • Employees of a business
  • Businesses that do not file annual taxes
  • Diversifying an existing business (e.g. increase revenue through a new profit arm)
  • Existing businesses whose goal is to change their operation (e.g. changing the scope of their business)
  • Expand or grow an existing business
  • Independent contractors who are classified as an employee by the IRS

DVR policy does not support:

  • Multi-level marketing or Pyramid selling businesses
  • Businesses that do not comply with the IRS Self Employment Tax Obligations
  • Hobbies (as determined through the Employment and Wage Assessment)

If the business type is not supported (as listed above):

The application process, eligibility determination and vocational guidance and counseling for all consumers, including existing business owners, should not vary from the standard process. Development and provision of services for an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) with a vocational goal related to maintaining an existing business requires additional steps. These steps are described in this policy and are to be reviewed with the consumer.

As with any complex set of vocational rehabilitation services, please consult with your WDA team and management as appropriate. Use the DVR Exception Process when applicable. DVR Exception Process Form

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These conversations will inform the consumer about the DVR process and gather information necessary to determine the appropriate DVR path. Please share the Overview of Steps with the consumer and review the information below.

  • Prepare for the initial conversation by reviewing the consumer's medical records and any past files prior to meeting. Document the consumer's abilities, limitations, prior services provided and pertinent case history.
  • Gain a good understanding about the consumer's existing business, goals for the business and what assistance they are interested in receiving from DVR. Share that DVR requires on-site visit(s), which will include DVR staff and other professionals. Document the discussion details in IRIS.
    • DVR support for Existing Business is limited to providing assistive technology to address disability-related limitations negatively affecting job tasks.
    • DVR does not provide technical assistance, business guidance or supports that are not related to the disability-related limitations. If the consumer is requesting these services, please share the business resource document with them.
  • Inquire if (1) the business is a for-profit company based in Wisconsin, (2) the consumer is a documented legal owner, and (3) the business taxes are current. Inform the consumer that ownership documentation, tax returns for the three most recent years, and business financial records (e.g. balance sheets) may be requested for review during the Employment and Wage Assessment (EWA). If they have just started their business and have less than 3 years of taxes an exception can be considered. DVR Exception Process Form
  • Explain DVR services are individualized and based on the disability-related limitations affecting them in their essential job task(s). Although they may feel a disability or business of others is similar to theirs, services are based on factors specific to each individual and business and may be very different.

    Share that the Existing Business Policy follows the Addendum B DVR Fee Schedule allowance of up to a total of $10,000 (not per item) for AT to address disability-related limitations negatively impacting their performing the essential functions of their job task(s). Share that an exception request can be considered. DVR Exception Process Form
  • DVR does not provide:
    • Services or equipment identified for business use only. DVR support is limited to providing assistive technology to address disability-related limitations negatively affecting job tasks.
    • Accommodations to be installed on equipment or property not owned by the consumer.
    • Maintenance, repair, replacement or upgrade, real estate, capital improvements, vehicles, machinery or equipment customary for the size and scope of the business. These are considered standard expenses and the cost of doing business. The consumer should plan for these in order to maintain their business. DVR supports only the AT cost of modifications or adaptations.
    • Training or services to establish or improve the business operations.
  • Explain that DVR may support the adaption or modification of an item or piece of equipment for the purpose of AT (Ex. bump gates, steps on a tractor, adaptive keyboards, etc.). If an item, or piece of equipment, cannot be adapted or modified, the consumer will be responsible for the cost of any new item or piece of equipment, and DVR will be responsible for the adaptation or modification portion. Consumers can trade in equipment to help defray the costs associated with a new item or piece of equipment. Use the DVR Exception Process when applicable. DVR Exception Process Form
  • Provide an overview of the existing business steps and explain how each is designed to help determine if it is appropriate to continue on to the next step.

Information will be gathered to assess and determine the consumer's ability to perform their essential job task(s) safely in their work environment. This is necessary to determine if the vocational goal and continuing with the Existing Business Policy is appropriate.

  • Review with the consumer their physical and non-physical disabilities, medical records and how their limitations affect them in performing essential job task(s) safely. If additional information is needed, authorize for additional assessments (e.g., Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE), neuropsychological testing, etc.).
  • Determine if it is appropriate for DVR to support the vocational job goal and continue with the Existing Business Policy. Consult with your team or management as needed. Explain to the consumer why the vocational goal is or is not supported. Document the justification for your decision in an IRIS case note.
  • During this discussion, also share and recommend utilization of any additional self- employment resources that may be available (e.g., Small Business Development Center, Easterseals FARM Program, AgrAbility, UW-Extension, DATCP Farm Center, Office for the Blind, etc.).
    • If the vocational goal is supported:
      • Continue with the Existing Business Policy
    • If the vocational goal is not supported:

The Employment and Wage Assessment is used to determine if wages earned meet competitive, integrated employment (CIE).

  • Authorize the Employment and Wage Assessment (EWA) - Explain the purpose of the Employment and Wage Assessment. Complete an authorization case note and send the purchase order with referral information. (Assessments are not required to be in an IPE.)
    • Share with the consumer their responsibility to provide all documentation necessary to complete the EWA as soon as possible. Explain why this will help avoid wait time before the assessment can begin.
  • Review the Employment and Wage Assessment (EWA) - Review the EWA Report and contact the service provider for any clarifications necessary to gain a good understanding of the findings prior to the scheduled meeting with the consumer. Determine if the service provider and DVR management should attend the review meeting.
    • Review the EWA Report with the consumer within 10 working days of receiving the report; include the service provider and DVR management as needed. Discuss the report and business financials thoroughly for all to gain a good understanding. Document this discussion in IRIS.
    • In order to meet the requirements of Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) and continue with the Existing Business Policy, all of the following criteria must be met:
      • Consumer is a documented legal owner of a for-profit, WI-based business.
      • Business earnings meet the Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) wage requirement for each of the most recent three years through one of the following:
        1. Minimum wage was earned from the business earnings allocated to the consumer for the average hours worked (wage calculation is a maximum of 40 hours/week even if the consumer regularly works more than 40 hours/week).
        2. If minimum wage is not met, the calculated earned wage is comparable to that achieved by non-disabled business owners in similar occupations.
  • If the EWA determines Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) is met, develop the IPE.
  • If the EWA determines Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) is not met, ask the consumer if they would like to proceed with a Debt/Asset Assessment to determine comparable wage.
    • If the consumer says no, do not proceed with the Existing Business Policy:
    • If the consumer agrees to proceed with a Debt to Asset Ratio Assessment, complete the authorization to a service provider. Inform the consumer that they will be required to provide a business balance sheet. If they do not already have one, DVR can pay to have one created. Debt to Asset Ratio

The self-employment IPE is developed for the approved vocational goal. It will include the necessary services, responsibilities, progress measures and timelines established to address the disability-related factors.

  • Develop the IPE to include the following:
    • "Self-Employment (Status18)" as the plan type and choose "Existing Business" as the Business Type. Vocational goal is "Self-employment as (insert occupation)."
    • Primary Services:
      • Vocational guidance and counseling
      • Assistive Technology Assessment
      • NOTE: The IPE may include other assessments or services deemed necessary (e.g., benefits analysis).
  • Use the progress measures and responsibility statements to establish the consumer's role and agreed to timelines for completion of services.
  • Inform the consumer development of the IPE does not guarantee DVR financial support of Assistive Technology.
  • Review and Sign Fiscal Responsibilities Agreement Form.
  • Complete the Existing Business Review Form – Discuss the business, job duties of all workers, and the average hours worked by the consumer. Be detailed in completing each section of the form. This is completed with the consumer prior to the Business Walk-Through and can be done at the office or via phone. Attach the form to the IRIS case file.
  • Schedule the Business Walk-Through with the consumer. Ask if there are any precautions to be aware of for the visit and invite another staff to attend with you. Bring a manager if deemed appropriate.
  • Prior to the Walk-Through, review the Existing Business Review Form, medical records and, if authorized for the case, the Functional Assessment Rating (FAR), and note the documented limitations affecting the consumer's ability to perform the essential functions of their routine job task(s).
  • Perform the business walk-through. Be sure to dress appropriately for the type of business and your safety. Document on the Existing Business Review form the conditions of the business operation, any changes to the job task(s) listed, the frequency of those task(s) and how they are currently being performed (by someone else, manually, with equipment, etc.), previous assistive technology purchased by DVR and any other details learned during the walk-through. This information will be used for the AT referral.
    • If the consumer self-reports new limitations that impact their routine job task(s) ensure medical documentation supporting the limitations is attached to the file and is provided with the AT Assessment referral. If needed, discuss providing an on-site (Functional Capacity Evaluation) FCE:
      • Explain the value of the on-site FCE to the consumer.
      • Provide informed choice on service provider selection.
      • Amend the IPE to add the on-site FCE, including timelines and responsibilities.
      • Share the next step will be to review the FCE findings and determine if appropriate to continue with AT assessment.
  • Review the completed Existing Business Review form with the consumer and collect the required signature.
  • Document the walk-through and any other relevant information in an IRIS case note. If providing an on-site FCE, complete the authorization, coordinate the service, and review the findings with the consumer, including the vendor if necessary, when the report is received.
  • If the findings of the walk-through or any additional assessments provided support continuing to the AT Assessment, continue with the next step.
  • If the findings at the walk-through and/or any additional assessments completed cause uncertainty in proceeding, consult to determine the next steps. If determined not to proceed after consultation:

The AT Assessment is provided to determine reasonable, necessary, and appropriate assistive technology devices and services available to address documented disability and health-related limitations.

Assistive Technology Device is defined by the Federal AT Act as: Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Assistive Technology Service is defined by the Federal AT Act as: The term ‘assistive technology service’ means any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.

Assistive Technology used as accommodations provide a disability-related device or service required by the worker that is not typically required by non-disabled individuals performing the same or comparable job tasks. These accommodations are necessary due to job-related limitations caused by the disability. DVR may participate in the purchase of assistive technology services and equipment identified as necessary for the consumer to perform the essential functions of their job task(s). Addendum B DVR Fee Schedule

Examples include, but are not limited to, a change or adjustment to a job (including reassignment or altering of job task(s)), use of adaptive equipment (i.e., screen readers, fatigue mats, carts, adjustable height tables, speech recognition), modifications necessary to perform a job duty (i.e., steps on a tractor; modified steering wheel or throttle), etc.

  • Inform the consumer the AT Assessment is provided at their business to determine the appropriate assistive technology to address their limitations in performing the essential job task(s) as listed in the AT referral, Existing Business Review form and supported by the medical documentation. Any assistive technology agreed to must be provided utilizing the least-cost option to DVR.
  • Provide informed choice on service provider selection and complete the AT Assessment referral form and the authorization using Code 33 Rehabilitation Technology: Assessment and Devices.
  • Send the Existing Business Review form and medical records related to functional limitations and restrictions (include all FCEs) with the referral and purchase order.

The recommendations in the AT Assessment report will be discussed to determine if the suggested assistive technology will address the limitations.

  • Complete a thorough review of the AT report and recommendations prior to meeting with the consumer. Contact the service provider with any questions or clarifications as needed.
    • Ensure all assistive technology recommendations address documented disability-related limitations in performing the essential job task(s) and are reasonable, necessary, and appropriate.
    • Consult with management if any of the assistive technology exceeds your delegated spending authority.
  • Schedule a meeting with the consumer to review the AT report and following discussion points. Include the service provider if needed.
    • Review the DVR Fee Schedule which allows support up to $10,000 for assistive technology. An exception may be requested if the approved AT exceeds the fee schedule. DVR Exception Process Form
    • Discuss that DVR supports only the assistive technology portion of any disability-related item or service required that is not typically required by non-disabled individuals performing the same or comparable duties.
    • Share that if an item cannot be adapted or modified and a new item or piece of equipment is needed to use the adaption or modification, DVR will only be responsible for the adaption or modification portion. The business owner will be responsible for the remainder. The business owner may trade in equipment to assist with defraying costs.
    • Explain the DVR purchasing policies and establish how to obtain the necessary quotes.
    • Discuss the consumer's responsibility to work with the AT assessment service provider and the vendor(s) to address any concerns with the items purchased. The consumer will have full ownership responsibilities for maintenance and replacement.
    • Discuss each recommendation to determine if they address the limitations, follow DVR policies and that the consumer is in agreement. Discuss any training necessary to use the assistive technology provided.
      • Each assistive technology recommendation must be reasonable, necessary, and appropriate for DVR support at the least cost option.
      NOTE: Agreement on purchase of assistive technology may not be determined at this meeting if further research, review and/or additional meetings are necessary to finalize the services and costs of recommendations.
    • As with any extenuating circumstances, please consult with your WDA team and management as appropriate. Use the DVR Exception Process when applicable. DVR Exception Process Form

The IPE is amended to include the DVR supported assistive technology and agreed to timelines. DVR purchase of service does not begin until the services and goods are included in the IPE and all consumer obligations have been met.

  • Amend the IPE to include the agreed upon assistive technology goods and services that address the consumer's limitations at the least cost option to DVR. All items exceeding your spending level authority must be discussed with management and documented in the IRIS file prior to being added to the IPE. Establish appropriate start and end dates for each item and include the selected vendor.
    • The consumer may choose their preferred provider or product that exceeds the least cost option; however, they will be responsible for the excess amount unless an exception has been granted.
  • Verify and document the consumer share agreed to and the timelines established for completion in the Responsibilities Section of the IPE. Attach verification that the consumer share is readily available in IRIS.
  • Follow all DVR policy and purchasing requirements.

During this time it is critical that DVR staff and the consumer remain in contact and have frequent updates on the progress of the case. DVR staff should continue to provide guidance and counseling and DVR services as necessary and appropriate.

  • Complete the authorization with a detailed accommodation justification, attach the estimates and quotes and send the Purchase Orders for the supported assistive technology goods and services.
  • Maintain contact with the consumer and vendors to verify they are following through with any actions necessary to ensure the assistive technology is received, ready for use within the agreed upon timeline and the consumer is aware of how to use it.
  • Confirm with the consumer that the assistive technology is functioning as intended prior to the receiving process being completed. Discuss with the consumer it will be their responsibility to resolve any issues with the vendor and activate any warranties.
  • Remind the consumer of the requirement to provide wage verification.
  • Initiate the 90-day follow-along period when all assistive technology DVR has agreed to provide has been received and is operational.

Case closure occurs 90 days after all assistive technology DVR has agreed to provide has been received, is operational and the consumer has stability in performing their essential work task(s).

  • Complete the closure page and federal requirements according to DVR Policy. Reference the internal Closure Tip Sheet.
  • Consult with the consumer on wage verification and closure. Ask if there is a substantial change in their wage since the wage assessment was completed. If not, use the most current year that met minimum or the comparable wage from the wage assessment. If there has been a substantial change, consult with management on how to proceed.
    • The wage must be equal to minimum wage or higher. If not, DVR will consider earnings comparable to those achieved by non-disabled business owners in similar occupations for consumers who are self-employed in meeting competitive integrated employment requirements. Use of the comparable earnings could result in an hourly income less than the minimum wage.
    • Advise the consumer of their responsibility as a business owner to independently plan for future business needs, including maintenance, replacement, business expansion, etc. and provide the business resource document. Document this discussion in IRIS.
    • Remind the consumer they are responsible for reporting their annual earnings and expenses to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Wisconsin Department of Revenue and the Social Security Administration if applicable.
  • Inform the consumer that federal regulations require we report wages for the second and fourth quarter after the consumer exits the program in the RSA 911 Report and they may be contacted in the future for this.