Abstract

Disparities in proportions of competitive job placements and provision of vocational rehabilitation services by level of mental retardation were identified for 28,565 individuals. Chi-square results reveal that consumers with mild mental retardation are significantly more likely to achieve competitive jobs compared to those with more severe levels. Logistic regression indicated that the odds of achieving a competitive job for consumers receiving job placement services, business/vocational training, and counseling were nearly two times that of individuals not receiving such services. Findings suggest that a significantly lower proportion of these services were provided to consumers with severe/profound mental retardation. Implications of findings for service, research, and policy are discussed.

Historically, administrators of the state–federal vocational rehabilitation program have placed great emphasis on the number of “successful” outcomes, namely, job maintenance for a minimum of 90 days (Institute on Rehabilitation Issues, 1997). Consequently, state vocational rehabilitation agencies have for some time utilized the number of successful closures as a standard for evaluating counselor performance. Such standards, however, resulted in a diversion of effective services from individuals with more significant disabilities to those with less significant disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, however, changed the service priority for the 56 state and territorial vocational rehabilitation agencies. With gainful employment as the goal, each state was required to target individuals with significant disabilities for services via an order of selection process (Rubin & Roessler, 1995).

Securing and maintaining employment are important and tangible outcomes of successful vocational rehabilitation programs (Thomas, Menz, & Rosenthal, 2001). Such outcome criteria serve as a means of examining the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation programs in assisting persons with disabilities to obtain and maintain competitive jobs (Johnston & Granger, 1994; Thomas & Menz, 1997). Consequently, employment outcomes have often been used as a benchmark of vocational rehabilitation program success (Thomas et al., 2001). For example, Moore (2001a) established a national benchmark for competitive employment outcomes for persons who were deaf, late-deafened, and hard-of-hearing. He encouraged state vocational rehabilitation agencies to examine their own Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) 911 databases to assess service delivery patterns for persons with hearing loss and compare them to national benchmarks generated from the national RSA-911 database.

Although recent research has produced new knowledge regarding competitive employment acquisition and maintenance for persons who are deaf, late-deafened, and hard-of-hearing (Moore, 2001a), scant attention has been paid to such patterns for consumers with mild, moderate, and severe/profound mental retardation. There is no recent RSA-911 data-driven outcome research in which the effects of type of mental retardation (i.e., mild vs. moderate vs. severe/profound) on competitive job placements or vocational rehabilitation services provided has been investigated. Specifically, national benchmark findings on service delivery patterns for these extensive target populations are relatively nonexistent.

Rehabilitation counselors' competencies for providing effective vocational rehabilitation services to consumers with mild, moderate, or severe/profound mental retardation may dictate, to a large degree, the type of employment outcomes achieved. Rehabilitation practitioners are the primary agents for delivering a range of professional vocational rehabilitation services (e.g., business/vocational training, maintenance, on-the-job training, transportation, adjustment training, and job placement) to persons with mild, moderate, and severe/profound mental retardation. The ultimate goal of these practitioners is to assist individuals with mental retardation in obtaining, maintaining, and advancing in the competitive employment arena.

Recent investigators have examined the relationship among customer characteristics, vocational rehabilitation services, and employment outcomes for persons with mental retardation (i.e., Gilmore, Schuster, Timmons, & Butterworth, 2000; Moore, 2001b; Moore, Alston, Donnell, & Hollis, 2003; Moore, Feist-Price, & Alston, 2002a, 2002b; Moore, Flowers, & Taylor, 2000; Wehman, Gibson, Brooke, & Unger, 1999). For example, Gilmore et al. reported that 34,408 (48%) of persons with mild, 19,605 (27.6%) with moderate, and 4,120 (5.8%) with severe/profound mental retardation were classified as closed rehabilitated cases (i.e., maintained a job for a minimum of 90 days). One year later, Moore reported that vocational rehabilitation consumers with mild/moderate mental retardation who were provided business/vocational training, on-the-job training, job placement, transportation, and maintenance were more likely to be successfully closed into Status 26 than those who did not receive such services.

Moore et al. (2000) found that consumers with mild/moderate mental retardation who received job-placement services were significantly more likely to achieve closure success. Two years subsequent to the previous study, Moore et al. (2002a) identified the provision of job-placement services as a significant determinant for competitive employment among consumers with severe/profound mental retardation. In the same year, Moore et al. (2002b) reported that individuals with mild/moderate mental retardation who were provided job-placement services were more likely to achieve competitive jobs compared to consumers who were not provided with such services. In a more recent investigation, Moore et al. (2003) found that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries with mild mental retardation who were provided with job-placement services were significantly more likely to achieve closure success compared to those not receiving such services. Other factors, such as family support, well-trained employment personnel, arrangement of appropriate work supports, and the opportunity for developing work competences on the job site, have also been cited as contributors to successful competitive job placement (Wehman et al., 1999).

Although previous researchers have investigated the impact of mental retardation on competitive employment (Gilmore et al., 2000; Moore, 2001b; Moore et al., 2003; Moore et al., 2002a, 2002b, Moore et al., 2000; Wehman et al., 1999), there is little applied empirical research focused on the impact of vocational rehabilitation services (i.e., presence vs. absence) on rates of competitive job placements. Because of the tremendous functional differences that exist between persons with mild, moderate, and severe/profound mental retardation, rehabilitation counselors should be aware of the types of vocational rehabilitation services most often needed and those services that more often result in high quality employment outcomes for each respective target group. The current “snapshot” study is expected to generate new knowledge that rehabilitation counselors can apply to the field for enhancing competitive employment outcome placements for consumers at each level of mental retardation. Further, this inquiry will advance knowledge by providing a national benchmark that state vocational rehabilitation agencies can use to compare both state-specific rates at which consumers with mild, moderate, and severe/profound mental retardation achieve competitive jobs and rates at which these target groups are provided selected vocational rehabilitation services. Our purpose in this study was to identify disparities in the proportions of competitive job placements between consumers with mild, moderate, and severe/profound mental retardation. The following research questions were addressed: (a) Which consumer target group(s) (i.e., mild, moderate, or severe/profound) is more likely to get competitive jobs? (b) Are assessment; restoration; college/university, business/vocational, adjustment, and on-the-job training; counseling; and job-finding, job placement, and maintenance services associated with achievement of competitive jobs? (c) Which consumer target group(s) receive a higher proportion of selected vocational rehabilitation services?

Method

Data Collection

In this study we utilized data obtained from individual client closure reports and RSA-911 national data tape, provided by the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The state–federal vocational rehabilitation program has developed a national standard for consumer outcomes that includes a Status 26, or closed rehabilitated category (Rehabilitation Services Administration, 1995). Closure Status 26 indicates that a client has been suitably employed for a minimum of 90 days. Consumers who are closed rehabilitated are further coded within one of six specific work statuses at closure categories: competitive employment, extended employment, self-employment, state-agency-managed business enterprises, homemaker, and unpaid family worker. Because we sought to evaluate consumers on the basis of whether they achieved competitive jobs, people who were not closed into this category were collapsed into the noncompetitive jobs category. Consequently, there were two categories of the dependent variable: competitive jobs and noncompetitive jobs.

Population

In order to derive data specific to the three target groups of interest, we included all consumers who were identified with mild (major disability code = 530), moderate (major disability code = 532), and severe/profound mental retardation (major disability code = 534). As such, the sampling frame for this study was comprised of 28,565 consumers—mild (n =17,033, 60%), moderate (n = 9,784, 34%), and severe/profound (n = 1,748, 6.1%) mental retardation—who were closed into Status 26 by the vocational rehabilitation system (nationally) during fiscal year (FY) 1998 (October 1, 1997, through September 30, 1998). The relatively small percentage of participants with severe/ profound mental retardation could be attributed to the fact that rehabilitation counselors more often determine that such consumers might not benefit from vocational rehabilitation services. On the other hand, many individuals with mild and moderate mental retardation possess a higher level of functioning and, therefore, might be considered more likely to benefit.

Data Analysis

We used two tests of statistical significance: chi-square and logistic regression analysis. Chi-square tests are appropriate for evaluating dichotomous independent and dependent variables (Huck & Cormier, 1996). Logistic regression analysis is appropriate for evaluating the linear relationship between two or more predictor variables (i.e., vocational rehabilitation services) and a dichotomous dependent variable (Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003).

Chi-square analyses were first conducted for type of mental retardation (mild, moderate, severe/ profound) and work status at closure (competitive jobs, noncompetitive jobs). Because this analysis involved three comparison groups (i.e., individuals with mild, moderate, or severe/profound mental retardation), a statistically significant outcome does not provide insight as to which populations differ. To gain such insights, we conducted post hoc pairwise comparisons (2 × 2 chi-square) for mild by moderate, mild by severe/profound, and moderate by severe/profound mental retardation. Whenever two or more separate chi-square tests are conducted within a post hoc investigation, the chances of a Type I error will exceed the nominal level of significance (Huck & Cormier, 1996). To guard against possible Type I errors, we implemented the Bonferroni technique, which resulted in an adjusted alpha of .003 (i.e., .01/3).

We then used logistic regression analysis to evaluate the linear relationship between vocational rehabilitation services and work status at closure. Third, chi-square tests were employed to evaluate the proportions of significant vocational rehabilitation services received by consumers with mild, moderate, and severe/profound mental retardation. Last, the relationship between type of mental retardation and work status at closure was evaluated for consumers who received significant vocational rehabilitation services. Those consumers who had not received these selected vocational rehabilitation services were eliminated from the sample. Thus, two-way interactions among type of mental retardation, work status at closure, and vocational rehabilitation services (chi-square) were examined by evaluating only those consumers who had received those selected vocational rehabilitation services. The desktop version of the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) for Windows, Version 11.5, was used in these calculations.

Results

For the period under study (October 1, 1997, to September 30, 1998), there were 15,861 males and 12,704 females (55% and 45%, respectively). Overwhelmingly, the population consisted of Caucasians (73%), followed by African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans, accounting for 24.8%, .7% and 1.5% of the population, respectively. A small percentage of the population received vocational rehabilitation sponsored support in restoration, college or university training, business and vocational training, on-the-job training, transportation, or maintenance. Assessment, adjustment, counseling, job-finding services, and job-placement services were received by 81%, 34%, 78%, 60%, and 58%, respectively.

Target Groups and Competitive Jobs

An analysis of the available data revealed that 24,219 (85%) of the 28,565 participants were closed into competitive jobs following vocational rehabilitation intervention. First, 2 × 2 cross tabulations between each target group (mild, moderate, and severe/profound mental retardation) and work status at closure (competitive job or noncompetitive job) were examined visually to determine the relationship (if any) among each variable. Cross tabulations revealed proportional differences between the percentages of consumers with mild (90%), moderate (81%), or severe/profound (61%) mental retardation closed into competitive jobs.

Chi-square analysis revealed that type of mental retardation was significantly related to work status at closure, χ2 (2, N = 28,565) = 1168.69, Φ = .20, p < .01. Pairwise comparisons were significant for mild versus moderate, χ2 (1, N = 26,817) = 412.98, Φ = .12, p < .003, mild versus severe/profound, χ2 (1, N = 18,781) = 1105.90, Φ = .24, p ≤ .003, and moderate versus severe/profound mental retardation, χ2 (1, N = 11,532) = 319.35, Φ = .16, p < .003. That is, consumers with mild mental retardation were significantly more likely to achieve competitive jobs when compared to those with moderate or severe/profound mental retardation. Further, consumers with moderate mental retardation were significantly more likely to be placed into competitive jobs compared to those with severe/ profound mental retardation. Although strength of relationship coefficients appears small in statistical terms, small effect sizes (i.e., Φ correlations) can be important (Prentice & Miller, 1992). Further, such measures for ex-post-facto research are generally small and cannot be interpreted for practical significance (Cohen & Cohen, 1983).

Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Competitive Jobs

Second, the distributions of vocational rehabilitation services (i.e., assessment, restoration, college/university, business/vocational, adjustment, on-the-job training, counseling, job-finding services, job placement, transportation, and maintenance) were examined. Ideally (for analytic purposes), those variables should exhibit a 50%/50% split or distribution (i.e., half of the participants would receive the service and the other half would not). Although distributions of 80%/20% are appropriate for logistic regression analyses, variables with distributions greater than 80%/20% (e.g., 95%/5%) should be excluded from the procedure (Cohen & Cohen, 1983). Sparseness of data (having cells with low counts) decreases the power of the logistic regression statistics and may also cause difficulties in estimation (Cohen et al., 2003). The college/university variable (97%/3%) did not meet this criterion and was excluded from further analysis.

Third, 2 × 2 cross tabulations between each vocational rehabilitation service (assessment, restoration, business/vocational, adjustment, on-the-job training, counseling, job-finding services, job placement, transportation, and maintenance) and work status at closure (competitive or noncompetitive jobs) were examined visually to determine the relationship (if any) among each of the variables. If the percentage of consumers who received job-placement services and achieved competitive jobs was higher than the percentage of those who did not receive this service and achieved competitive jobs, the job placement service variable would be retained. As a general rule, differences of more than 5% on the independent variables for each level of the dependent variable were considered for further analyses (Bullis, Davis, Bull, & Johnson, 1995). Six variables were dropped at this point because they did not meet this criterion: assessment, restoration, adjustment, on-the-job training, transportation, and maintenance.

Fourth, we calculated phi-correlations among the remaining four vocational rehabilitation services (business/vocational training, counseling, job-finding services, and job placement) and between the vocational rehabilitation services and work status at closure. Intercorrelations among these variables ranged from .01 to .83. The correlation coefficient for job placement and job-finding services, r = .83, indicated that multicollinearity was an issue. Therefore, the job-finding service was dropped from further analyses. Intercorrelations among the remaining predictor variables ranged from .02 to .28 and were sufficiently low to conclude that multicollinearity was no longer an issue. Correlations among the predictor variables and the criterion variable ranged from .03 to .16.

Fifth, we used a logistic regression analysis to investigate the linear relationship between business and vocational training, counseling, job placement, and work status at closure. The odds ratio provides the estimated coefficients that predict competitive employment. The coefficients (B) are the log odds of the event occurring (i.e., change in the log odds associated with one-unit change in the independent variable). Of the three vocational rehabilitation service variables entered into the logistic regression, business and vocational training, odds ratio = 2.14, B = 76, SE = .09, counseling, odds ratio = 1.52, B = .42, SE = .03, and job placement, odds ratio = 2.05, B = .72, SE = .03, were significant predictors of competitive jobs, all ps < .01. The odds of obtaining competitive employment for clients who received business and vocational training were 2.14 times the odds of obtaining competitive employment for clients who did not receive these services. The odds of obtaining competitive employment for consumers who received counseling were 1.52 times the odds for those who did not receive counseling. The odds of obtaining competitive employment for individuals who received job placement were 2.05 times the odds for those not receiving these services.

Target Groups and Selected Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Sixth, chi-square analyses were conducted between the type of mental retardation and selected vocational rehabilitation services (business and vocational training, counseling, and job placement). These analyses revealed that type of mental retardation was significantly related to business and vocational training, χ2 (2, N = 28,565) = 43.79, Φ = .04, p < .01 (see Table 1). Post hoc comparisons (pairwise) were significant for mild versus moderate and mild versus severe/profound, but nonsignificant for moderate versus severe/profound. That is, consumers with mild mental retardation were provided with business and vocational training at a significantly higher proportion when compared to consumers with moderate and severe/profound mental retardation.

Table 1

Relationship and Proportions Between Groups and Types of Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Relationship and Proportions Between Groups and Types of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Relationship and Proportions Between Groups and Types of Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Chi-square analysis revealed that type of mental retardation was significantly related to counseling (see Table 1). Pairwise comparisons were nonsignificant for mild versus moderate but significant for mild versus severe/profound, and moderate versus severe/profound mental retardation. That is, consumers with mild mental retardation were no more likely to be provided with counseling services than were those with moderate mental retardation. However, individuals with mild and moderate mental retardation were more often provided with counseling services when compared to people with severe/profound mental retardation.

Chi-square tests indicated that type of mental retardation was significantly associated with job-placement services(see Table 1). Pairwise comparisons were nonsignificant for mild versus moderate, but significant for mild versus severe/profound, and moderate versus severe/profound mental retardation. That is, consumers with mild and moderate mental retardation more often received job-placement services when compared to individuals with severe/profound mental retardation.

Target Groups, Competitive Jobs, and Selected Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Last, 2-way interactions between type of mental retardation, work status at closure (competitive vs. noncompetitive jobs), and selected vocational rehabilitation services (business and vocational, counseling, and job placement) were examined. Interaction models were created by separating the group that received each of the vocational rehabilitation services from the group that did not receive the service. Subsequent chi-square analyses were conducted to evaluate the association between type of mental retardation and work status at closure. Interactions were, therefore, interpreted by comparing the contingency table cells (chi square) for type of mental retardation and work status at closure only for those consumers who were provided each of the vocational rehabilitation services. Two-way interactions were identified for further analysis: type of mental retardation by business and vocational training, counseling, and job placement services.

Interaction effects indicated significance for type of mental retardation by business and vocational training (see Table 1). A closer inspection of business and vocational training utilizing post hoc pairwise comparisons revealed significance for individuals with mild versus moderate and mild versus severe/profound mental retardation. Conversely, moderate versus severe/profound was not significant. That is, for consumers who received business and vocational services, those with mild mental retardation achieved competitive jobs at a significantly higher proportion than those with moderate and severe/profound mental retardation.

Interaction effects indicated significance for type of mental retardation by counseling (see Table 1). A closer inspection of counseling utilizing post hoc pairwise comparisons revealed significance for mild versus moderate, mild versus severe/profound, and moderate versus severe/profound mental retardation. That is, for consumers who received counseling, those with mild mental retardation achieved competitive jobs at a significantly higher proportion when compared to those with moderate and severe/ profound mental retardation. Further, consumers with moderate mental retardation were significantly more likely to achieve competitive jobs when compared to individuals with severe/profound mental retardation.

As can also be seen in Table 1, interaction effects indicated significance for type of mental retardation by job placement services. A closer inspection of job placement utilizing post hoc pairwise comparisons revealed significance for mild versus moderate, mild versus severe/profound, and moderate versus severe/profound. That is, for consumers who received job placement services, those with mild mental retardation achieved competitive jobs at a significantly higher proportion than their counterparts with moderate or severe/profound mental retardation. Further, those with moderate mental retardation were significantly more likely to achieve competitive jobs than individuals with severe/profound mental retardation.

Discussion

Our findings serve to clarify the influence of type of mental retardation on competitive job-placement rates and vocational rehabilitation service-provision patterns. First, results indicate that consumers with severe/profound or moderate mental retardation were closed into competitive jobs at a significantly lower rate than those with mild mental retardation. Second, consumers who were provided with business and vocational training, counseling, and job-placement services were significantly more likely to achieve competitive jobs. Third, a significantly lower proportion of these services were provided to consumers with severe/profound mental retardation.

Two plausible explanations exist for the finding on competitive employment outcome differences. First, it is possible that factors such as task production competency variances between the target groups or selective vocational rehabilitation service provision contributed to such differences on the criterion. Task production competence refers to the performance of required tasks that satisfy company standards at the competitive work site (Salzberg, Lignugaris/Kraft, & McCuller, 1988). Individuals with mental retardation who possess such competencies are, obviously, more likely to be successful in the employment arena (Salzberg et al., 1988). Perhaps persons with mild mental retardation, due to vocational rehabilitation service program participation, are more likely to possess such competencies that lead to greater attainment and maintenance of competitive jobs.

Second, the significantly higher proportion of persons with mild mental retardation achieving competitive jobs could relate to the specific services they more often receive. The current findings indicate that business and vocational training, counseling, and job-placement services are closely related to competitive jobs, and persons with mild mental retardation are more likely to receive these services. The finding on the relationship between job-placement services and positive employment outcomes (i.e., competitive jobs) corroborates results from prior studies (i.e., Moore et al., 2003; Moore et al., 2002a; Moore et al., 2000). Perhaps persons with mild mental retardation are more likely to achieve competitive jobs because they are more likely to be provided with job-placement services when compared to those with severe/profound mental retardation.

Although the current findings substantiate the importance of job placement and counseling services for achieving positive outcomes and indicate that persons with mild or moderate mental retardation are more likely to receive such services, one question still remains: Why are persons with mild or moderate mental retardation more likely to receive job placement and counseling services when compared to those with severe/profound mental retardation? In some cases, counselors might have objectively determined that some consumers with severe/profound mental retardation would not benefit from receiving such services. Too much attention to objective assessment/testing results and other nonrelevant dimensions of a task could prohibit the provision of effective services. Perhaps the objective basis for making such service provision determination, in some instances, is overridden by a more deeply subjective belief that places a lesser value on the overall potential of persons with significant cognitive disabilities. One other possibility is that counselors may more often provide job placement and counseling services to persons with mild mental retardation because they are easier to place into a competitive job.

Rehabilitation counselors are frequently called upon to provide specific intervention components (such as career guidance, career education, and job placement) for individuals with mental retardation. Despite counselor training and competencies in job placement, disappointing employment outcomes persist for the majority of individuals with severe mental retardation. Many counselor variables (e.g., knowledge, self-appraised competencies, self-efficacy beliefs, and perceptions) affect their professional judgment and work performance (Roessler & Mullins, 1995), each of which has an influence on the other. In a study of counselor views of vocational rehabilitation success and failure, Murphy (1988) found that counselors described success as the attainment of employment, regardless of other rehabilitation benefits. Counselors identified a multitude of problems that precluded achieving consumer goals, including large caseloads, agency financial restraints, poor job markets, placement pressures, uncooperative employers, and individuals' skill deficits. These factors influenced counselors to lower their expectations of consumer success and reformulate their perceptions of them. In fact, one can raise the question: Does discrimination exist among counselors against consumers with a certain type (mental retardation) and level (severe) of disability? Given that counselors often believe consumers with severe mental retardation are more difficult to place, their expectation of successful employment outcomes may result in less significant placement efforts for this population. Unfortunately, this perception dilutes the advantage of psychological gain, which is an integral part of the definition of success.

Another important issue to consider is the characteristics of counselors with disabilities. Does a counselor with a disability, especially a cognitive impairment, exhibit more sensitivity for consumers with mental retardation and, subsequently, work more diligently to place them or at least have the same or similar level of expectations for vocational outcome? Conversely, do counselors with disabilities work less conscientiously to place consumers? Due to limitations associated with the RSA-911 database, we cannot address these questions. However, a survey of counselors might explain the impact of counselors' perceptions, attitudes, and characteristics on their service delivery decisions for persons with mental retardation. It may also prove beneficial to survey counselors to determine how often services such as job placement and counseling are seen as useful for job seekers with severe/profound mental retardation.

Last, the results of this study have implications for policy development and policymakers. The inclusion of supported employment as a rehabilitation outcome has opened the doors for many consumers who were traditionally considered not employable due to the severity of their disability. Results of this study in conjunction with recent developments within the disability movement have also influenced the way employment is viewed and approached. Rehabilitation agencies should not consider their definition of competitive employment as the primary criterion of successful outcome. Policy must move beyond the binary distinction of successful rehabilitation as competitive employment and toward “individualized” categorization of maximum accomplishment (e.g., independent living, alternative employment, and individualized selective placement). Counseling can also be an outcome for consumers with severe mental retardation to achieve maximum accomplishment, especially because they receive less counseling than do those with mild and moderate mental retardation.

Policymakers must continuously reassess existing policy to determine whether any changes are required in the existing infrastructure that would make it user-friendly for consumers with severe mental retardation. It is important to remember that implementing a new protocol will require commitments of time and resources by rehabilitation agencies. If a comprehensive approach seems out of reach, then smaller, sequential components may be appropriate. The end result is to implement policy that will make a substantial difference to individuals with mental retardation.

Future Research

Similar to other studies based on archival databases, the current investigation has several inherent validity concerns that could limit the generalizability of findings. First, due to limitations associated with the RSA-911 database, we could not evaluate quality of employment outcomes. For example, researchers utilizing the RSA database have failed to consistently specify whether employment outcomes achieved were permanent or temporary, full time or part time (Johnston, 1991). Therefore, we are unable to provide sufficient detail to describe more fully what the generated results mean. Due to these limitations, we can only state that individuals with moderate and severe/profound mental retardation did not achieve similar rates of competitive job placements when compared to persons with mild mental retardation. Second, one cannot argue with absolute certainty that all data were correctly entered into the fields representing specific variables. Third, individual state agencies report state-specific information to the Rehabilitation Services Administration. In this exchange of information, it is possible that the databases became contaminated with “bad” or inaccurate data.

In the future, researchers may wish to employ face-to-face personal interviews with individuals who have mental retardation and their significant others rather than relying solely on archival data. Such procedures may limit the aforementioned concerns regarding the integrity of the data. Further, an empirically derived operational definition for a high-quality outcome that consists of relevant dimensions (e.g., average earnings, potential for advancement, work hours, job satisfaction) could extend the meaningfulness of generated findings. A multidimensional approach may produce findings with greater practical significance, given that the current competitive job criterion is a one-dimensional factor. Future research questions could include the following: (a) Does type of mental retardation have an impact on high-quality employment outcomes? (b) What vocational rehabilitation services are significantly associated with high-quality employment outcomes?

Our findings raise questions that we could not address due to the limitations of the RSA-911 database. For instance, this database does not provide information on reasons for the provision of certain services to persons with mild, moderate, or severe/ profound mental retardation. In addition, as previously noted, the database does not contain information on counselors' perceptions of service effectiveness or how they provide the specified services. Last, the relatively small proportion of individuals with severe/profound mental retardation receiving services raises an important questions about the decision-making process that counselors use to determine whether a consumer can benefit from rehabilitation services. Four questions, if addressed, might provide useful information: (a) Why are persons with mild or moderate mental retardation provided job-placement services significantly more often than are those with severe/profound mental retardation? (b) What are counselors' perceptions as to the effectiveness of select vocational rehabilitation services? (c) What service delivery modalities for selected vocational rehabilitation services are more effective in assisting consumers in achieving positive rehabilitation outcomes? (d) What factors comprise counselors' decisions as to which consumers might benefit from the provision of vocational rehabilitation services?

In conclusion, overall findings clearly document that the federal–state vocational rehabilitation system provides services that lead to positive employment outcomes for significant numbers of persons with mild, moderate, and severe/profound mental retardation. We hope that the present findings will be used to focus service delivery efforts and prompt other research. Investigators may wish to extract state-specific cases representing persons with mild, moderate, or severe/profound mental retardation from the national RSA-911 database and replicate the current research design. Significant comparisons might corroborate the current findings and assist in the development of a more effective vocational rehabilitation service delivery policy model for assisting persons with mental retardation in their pursuit of meaningful employment outcomes.

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Author notes

Authors: Corey L. Moore, RhD, Associate Professor and Director, Graduate Program in Rehabilitation Counseling, Langston University, 4205 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105 (clmoore@lunet.edu). Debra A. Harley, PhD, Professor, Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40500. David Gamble, MA, Teacher, The Compass School, 6001 12th Ave., Tuscaloosa, AL 35405