This topic provides a variety of information about the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA). You may read the topic sequentially or jump to specific sections by following the links below.
· Contact Information
The Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA) is Virginia's Protection and Advocacy System and operates under the authority of both Federal and State statutes. It helps with disability-related problems like abuse, neglect, and discrimination and also helps people with disabilities obtain services and treatment. Everyone can receive some level of help with these problems from VOPA. In many cases, callers receive information and referral services, while individuals with problems targeted in VOPA's program priorities may also receive advocacy services and/or legal representation.
The former Department for Rights of Virginians with Disabilities ceased to exist as an executive branch State agency in 2002, and was replaced by a newly created independent State agency, the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA). The new agency's Governing Board has three separate appointing authorities: the Governor appoints three members; the Speaker of the House appoints five members, and the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee appoints three members. The law ensures that the Board will include broad representation of persons knowledgeable about the needs of persons with disabilities, including consumers, family members, guardians, and advocates, and disallows any elected official or current service provider from serving on the Board.
VOPA services are funded through both State and Federal programs. Additional information, where available, may be found by following the links in each program description.
The Virginians with Disabilities Act (VDA) makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals on the basis of disability in employment, voting, programs or activities conducted by the Commonwealth of Virginia, education, access to public places, transportation, and housing.
For additional information, see The Virginians with Disabilities Act Legislation at Section 51.5-40 et. seq. of the Code of Virginia. The Code of Virginia is available online through the General Assembly's Legislative Information System website at:
The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act funds this program to provide legal and advocacy services to assist children and adults with severe, lifelong disabilities who require special care, housing, treatment, and services and who have been abused, neglected, or discriminated against, due to their disability. Problems related to education, residential care, training centers, community rehabilitation programs, infant programs, and activity centers are handled under this program. The most common DD issues include: special education services; abuse and/or neglect of persons in special programs; the right to live, learn, and work in the most integrated setting; assistive technology and assistive technology services to support independence; freedom to make independent decisions whenever possible; and access to programs and services.
For additional information, see: Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PADD).
The Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act funds this program to provide legal and advocacy services for people with mental illness who live in a hospital or other facility providing care and treatment for their illness. People who have problems while being taken to or from a facility, getting admitted to a facility, or within 90 days of leaving a facility may also be eligible for PAIMI services. Depending on federal funding levels, persons with mental illness who live in the community independently or with family or friends may also be eligible. PAIMI protects the right to: obtain appropriate services; make complaints about services or treatment; ask questions of anyone who is supposed to provide services or treatment; be safe from harm; make decisions about services received; keep records private; and have a written plan in place before leaving a mental health facility.
For additional information, see: Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI).
The Client Assistance Program was established as part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to explain and protect the rights of and benefits to persons who are clients of or applicants for services provided by the Department of Rehabilitative Services, Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, Centers for Independent Living, or programs funded under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. VOPA can assist eligible individuals to help resolve problems with a client's counselor or case manager, mediate disagreements about services, provide information on additional resources, and represent clients who are denied services or provided inappropriate services.
For additional information, see: Client Assistance Program (CAP).
The Assistive Technology Program assists individuals with disabilities seeking access to assistive technology devices and services, with emphasis on obtaining funding from vocational rehabilitation and special education providers, and Medicaid or Medicare. Assistive technology is any device, adaptive equipment, or service that enables people with disabilities to accomplish a task that would otherwise not be possible. VOPA can help people learn about the great potential of assistive technology and help them find funding assistance. VOPA provides advocacy and legal representation services to persons who have been denied funding for assistive technology services or devices.
For additional information, see: Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT). Also see: VA Assistive Technology System (VATS).
The Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights Program allows VOPA to expand its services to individuals with disabilities in the community who are not eligible for other advocacy programs. An individual with a disability who requires information or services to overcome discrimination, barriers to living independently, or barriers to accessing benefits and services may be eligible for VOPA assistance under the PAIR Program. Additionally, individuals who need access to goods or services provided by private businesses may be eligible for legal advocacy or representation by VOPA. Individuals may be eligible for services under the PAIR Program only if they are not eligible for DD or PAIMI and are not receiving services under CAP.
For additional information, see: Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR).
Funded by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security Program is funded by the Social Security Administration. Virginia became a ticket state in November 2002. When fully implemented, the Ticket to Work program will provide eligible SSI recipients and SSDI beneficiaries with a "ticket" that they can use to obtain vocational rehabilitation (VR), employment services, and other support services from an Employment Network (EN) of their choice. Currently, under this program, VOPA is providing assistance and representation to Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities who have: experienced employment discrimination based on disability; or have been inappropriately denied Medicaid (1619b status) benefits and are at-risk of losing their job due to a loss of Medicaid benefits or are unable to take a job because of the denial of 1619b status.
For additional information, see: Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) Program.
Traumatic Brain Injury Program (TBI)
The Traumatic Brain Injury Program (TBI) is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Traumatic Brain Injury Program, as part of a range of activities to help prevent and rehabilitate persons from the impact of TBI. The role of VOPA and other Protection and Advocacy Systems agencies is to improve access to comprehensive, high quality services for people with TBI and to reduce the incidence of discrimination against individuals with TBI. VOPA works through the TBI grant to help Virginians with TBI and their families know their rights, have barriers reduced to becoming eligible for community services, and to have access to quality health care, rehabilitation, and other services.
Help America Vote Act Program (HAVA)
Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to improve the administration of elections in the United States. States are provided funding to replace outdated voting systems and to create minimum standards to follow in key areas of election administration. Among other things, these key areas include voting systems, voting accessibility, statewide computerized voter registration lists, provisional voting, voter education, and voter registration by mail. VOPA monitors the way the Act is carried out with regard to persons with disabilities. VOPA surveys polling sites across the state to make sure they are accessible for persons with visual, sensory, and mobility impairments; provides voting rights information to persons with disabilities; provides voter registration materials to the public; and provides technical assistance, legal advocacy, and legal representation to persons who have been discriminated against in the voting process.
VOPA offers a large number of publications online about the rights of people with disabilities. Many of these publications can be requested in alternative formats, such as hard copy or large print. To see the available publications, go to:
VOPA produced a Public Service Announcement video, featuring former Lieutenant Governor John Hager. It was designed to promote awareness of the availability of Assistive Technology for Virginians with disabilities. See the video (requires Windows Media Player) online at:
1910 Byrd Avenue
Richmond, VA 23230
Phone: 800-552-3962 (Toll-Free in Virginia)
Phone: 804-225-2042 (Voice/TTY)
The Staunton Field Office closed effective April 16, 2004. VOPA will continue to offer services in that area of the state. Calls should be directed to the main number at: 1-800-552-3962 (toll-free) or 804-225-2042.
The Virginia Beach Field Office closed effective January 15, 2008. VOPA will continue to offer services in that area of the state. Calls should be directed to the main number at: 1-800-552-3962 (toll-free) or 804-225-2042.
VA Board for People with Disabilities
Protection and Advocacy Systems - Overview
Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) Program
Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act)
State Councils on Developmental Disabilities
University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD)
Information for this topic was drawn from the VOPA website at:
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