On the left is a smiling young woman wearing a blue denim shirt with an orange apron standing with a more mature woman wearing a white blouse and cream apron to her right, who is also smiling. The young woman has a disability and is confident and happy working at her retail job.

Defining CIE

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) defines competitive integrated employment (CIE) as work that is performed on a full-time or part-time basis for which an individual is:

  • Compensated at or above minimum wage and comparable to the customary rate paid by the employer to employees without disabilities performing similar duties and with similar training and experience;
  • Receiving the same level of benefits provided to other employees without disabilities in similar positions;
  • At a location where the employee interacts with other individuals without disabilities; and
  • Presented opportunities for advancement similar to other employees without disabilities in similar positions.

ODEP’s Initiatives Focused on Increasing CIE

Beginning with its Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP), ODEP has provided targeted technical assistance to twenty-seven states since 2012, focused on aligning state policies across multiple service systems. EFSLMP was the predecessor to VOICE (Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment), Veterans RICE (Returning to Integrated Competitive Employment), and NEON (National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network) initiatives, as well as the ASPIRE (Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment) Initiative. These initiatives have supported state cross-disability, cross-systems change efforts that lead to improved CIE outcomes for individuals with significant disabilities through a national model of knowledge translation, policy development and peer-to-peer mentoring.


WIOA defines CIE. The official definition and final rule can be used to increase policy development.

Blending, Braiding and Sequencing

An image of messy lines in various colors braiding together and blending into a single red line with an arrow pointed ahead.Resource Leveraging & Service Coordination to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities — ODEP and DOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) joined seven other federal agencies in a joint communication that encourages state and local governments throughout the nation to blend, braid and sequence funding to proactively maximize resources and improve CIE outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities. Blending, braiding and/or sequencing enables state and local agencies to effectively leverage available funds across multiple systems to contribute appropriate resources and/or services on behalf of individual job seekers to advance CIE outcomes. The joint communication also includes a set of frequently asked questions on leveraging resources.

A Framework for Community Engagement — A Pathway to Competitive Integrated Employment — Developed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, in partnership with ODEP and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this brief paper for policymakers and service providers explains the meaning and benefits of community engagement. The paper also includes information about the wide variety of services, that with planning and delivery coordination expand opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities to achieve CIE.

10 Critical Areas to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment

ODEP identified 10 critical areas to increase CIE based on the recommendations put forth in the — Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID) Final Report. Below are resources produced by ODEP to address each criterion.

1. Employment First Policy

Employment First Policies come in various forms — legislation, executive orders and state plans. Regardless of the form, an effective Employment First policy defines CIE and describes the roles of various state agencies and partners to achieve CIE for people with disabilities.

  • National Plan To Increase Competitive Integrated Employment — The National Plan was authored by Dr. David Mank and Dr. Rich Luecking in collaboration with the five NEON National Provider Organizations (NPOs): ACCSES, ANCOR, APSE, The Arc of the U.S. and SourceAmerica. The plan provides information and recommendations useful to policy makers, funding entities and in-the-field activities in the overall national effort to increase CIE. A webinar on the National Plan was held on January 27, 2022. This webinar provided several points of view on the importance of CIE including Dr. David Mank and Dr. Rich Luecking; NPOs and their participating LPO members; and people with disabilities thriving in CIE.
  • Employment First Community of Practice (CoP) Webinar Series — This webinar series provides Employment First technical assistance. CoP participants benefit from national subject matter experts (SMEs) presenting information and resources to support Employment First efforts.
  • The LEAD Center — The National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD) brings together a range of organizations, thought leaders and best-practice innovators to expand policy, employment, leadership and economic advancement opportunities and outcomes for all people with disabilities. It is fully funded by ODEP as the WIOA Policy Development Center. It has created numerous webinars and tools that discuss CIE.
  • Criteria for Performance Excellence in Employment First State Systems Change & Provider Transformation — The EFSLMP developed a set of criteria to help states and service delivery systems successfully implement systems change within a comprehensive Employment First strategic framework. A blended approach of top-down systems-change strategies, combined with community-based capacity building activities initiated by key stakeholders, is critical to the successful implementation of an Employment First strategic framework.

2. Rate Reimbursement Restructuring

Rate reimbursement restructuring requires states to determine which employment services they incentivize and which they do not. To increase CIE, rates may need to be revised to promote employment services that result in CIE.

  • Medicaid Buy-in Q & A — Created collaboratively by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and this guide answers questions on Medicaid Buy-In programs. Medicaid Buy-In is an optional Medicaid eligibility group that allows workers with disabilities with income above traditional limits to access Medicaid community-based services.
  • Value-Based Payment Methodologies to Advance Competitive Integrated Employment: A Mix of Inspiring Examples from Across the Country — Developed by Dr. Lisa Mill, a Medicaid expert, this guide provides examples of best practices as states determine their Medicaid service rates. The guide tells stories of strategies states used to enact rates that incentivize services that lead to CIE. Along with the guide, ODEP hosted a three-part webinar series highlighting key components from the guide with examples from states and state systems.

3. Capacity Building

The ACICIEID final report defines capacity building as creating policy and funding priorities that promote CIE along with community agencies with skilled personnel to deliver supported and customized employment (CE) to individuals with disabilities. Building capacity at the state level requires (but is not limited to) funding priorities, use of outcome data, skilled personnel and leadership from federal and state agencies.

4. Interagency Coordination

Interagency coordination means that state agencies and other partners serving people with disabilities work together seamlessly. To increase coordination and collaboration, some states sign formal memorandums of understanding, but other states find that a comprehensive state plan to increase CIE (or Employment First) can achieve interagency coordination.

5. Provider Transformation

Provider Transformation is the realignment of a disability service provider agency’s business model from non-CIE to promoting CIE for the people with disabilities they serve. Provider transformation is a gradual process that starts with a self-assessment.

6. 14(c) Phase Out

The ACICIEID final report recommends the phase-out of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Section 14(c) allows providers to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages. In order to effectively reduce reliance on Section 14(c) in accordance with the ACICIEID recommendations, state agencies and partners can develop policies and practices that will responsibly phase out its use. Aligning policy and funding in support of strategies that support CIE (such as customized and/or supported employment) can assist providers of employment services to reduce reliance on 14(c).

7. Employer Engagement

Employer Engagement involves engaging with businesses and employers on disability employment, with emphasis on individuals with learning/developmental disabilities and other significant disabilities. It specifically recognizes that effective marketing to promote disability employment includes featuring businesses that successfully recruit, hire and retain employees with disabilities and share their experiences with other businesses.

8. Mental Health

Increasing CIE for people with mental health conditions requires identifying specific applications of Medicaid and other funds and joining with other services necessary for working-age people who use mental health supports for other life needs that must be addressed to pursue employment.

9. Seamless Transition

Seamless transition is the transition of youth with disabilities from school to CIE and a clear career path.

10. Data Collection System

Data and information systems that collect and report a number of important pieces of information about employment and integration outcomes are important. Data collection helps states understand where they are and where they need to go.

  • Participant Individual Record Layout (PIRL) Data Visualization Tool — PIRL is a set of common definitions that are shared across multiple programs within American Job Centers for performance reporting and shows states how they are doing with disability reporting. PIRL was developed collaboratively by DOL and the U.S. Department of Education as part of the WIOA performance accountability-related provisions.
  • Understanding WIOA Disability-Related Reporting: Tools for Data Visualization — In Part 1 of this two-part webinar series by the LEAD Center, presenters share an online interactive data visualization tool that helps states and local areas better understand the comprehensiveness of their disability-related reporting. It also discusses Wisconsin's workforce system practices and how they benefit programs, employers and participants with disabilities. 
  • WIOA Disability-Related Reporting: A Deep Dive into the Participant Individual Record Layout (PIRL) — In Part 2 of this two-part webinar series by the LEAD Center, presenters discuss the definitions and coding for each of the ten disability-related PIRL data elements, why to collect this data, and how it benefits participants and programs. Additionally, Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development highlights best practices related to their case management system, guidance for their local areas and staff training.