Personal Assistance Services on the Job

Personal Assistance Services on the Job
By Diana M. Hinton

“This information brief is for anyone who interacts with youth with disabilities and would like to know about the programs under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The brief provides background on those parts of the Workforce Investment Act that cover service to youth so that youth, families, and service providers can better connect to the workforce development system.”

Personal assistance services (PAS) help people with disabilities do tasks that someone could perform if he
or she did not have a disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), some of these services allow
employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to help disabled employees achieve employment goals.
Similar accommodations would include job-related services, such as reading, business-related travel, communication and similar tasks.
Services for the personal benefit of the individual with a disability, such as help with eating, using the restroom, taking medicine or similar activities of daily living, generally are not considered reasonable accommodations. But not having extra help with these basic daily tasks at the workplace can create a significant barrier to employment for some people with disabilities.
Personal Assistance Services States and employers are working hard to find ways to use public and private resources to provide a broader range of personal assistance services in the workplace. In addition to meeting their reasonable accommodation requirements, employers may provide services if they choose, through their health insurance plans or as part of medical
spending accounts.
Several states are seeking to expand public coverage of personal assistance under Medicaid. Medicaid personal assistance services have typically been limited to the home setting. Many
states have broadened traditional PAS programs with a range of home and community-based waiver services — meal preparation, grocery shopping and the like — to support the community residence of the elderly or youth with disabilities.
Waiver services are distinguished from state plan services by being available for a specific group of people rather than for all Medicaid beneficiaries. But while waiver services are designed to support independence and community integration, they typically have not been designed for service to people in the workplace.
Since jobs have become a larger part of the lives of people with disabilities, several states are adapting their existing Medicaid personal assistance programs (and often their waiver programs as well) to workers with disabilities. This often involves amending medical eligibility requirements, outlining new types of services or assistance and identifying appropriate providers for the workplace. At the same time that they are extending Medicaid PAS service, 26 states have crafted more generous financial eligibility rules for working persons with disabilities through the Medicaid Buy- In Program.