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Audit: Monitoring of Centers for Independent Living Needs Upgrade

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education's inspector general says the Rehabilitation Services Administration didn't provide adequate oversight of the Centers for Independent Living program. The program was created to integrate people with disabilities into mainstream American society.

The audit, which covers the years from 2007 through 2010, found that far too few onsite reviews were conducted—40 rather than the 153 required over three years. Also, the centers reviewed by the inspector general didn't have adequate records to document their compliance with independent living activities; some didn't have documentation to show they served the number of people they claimed they had; and some misreported financial information.

The centers could serve—and may in many communities—as a powerful link to work, education, and other opportunities and people with disabilities. Some details about the programs are here. Looking at the websites of a few Centers for Independent Living—you can find a state-by-state listing here—they seem to offer a wide range of services, from helping parents advocate during IEP meetings to helping adults with disabilities get jobs and navigate public transportation. At least 51 percent of the staff of each of these centers must be people with disabilities.

But sound monitoring is a part of making sure those centers are serving their purpose, the inspector general said.

"As a result of the inadequate monitoring and oversight ... the [Rehabilitation Services Administration ] did not have sufficient, accurate information to provide required oversight of the grant programs...," the audit concluded. "Appropriate oversight is essential to ensuring that the program goals are met."

The Rehabilitative Services Administration told the inspector general that it has too few staff and not enough resources to conduct the required reviews of the centers nationwide.

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