January 12,1999

Bipartisan Leadership to Introduce Legislation to Remove Barriers to Work for People with Disabilities

In a bipartisan effort to see that people with disabilities have access to the services they need to enter and stay in the workforce, Senators Jeffords (R-VT), Kennedy (D-MA), Roth (R-DE) and Moynihan (D-NY) will introduce the Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999.

"We have a simple goal with this legislation: helping Americans with disabilities go to work. Under current law, individuals with disabilities are actually punished if they want to work. The threat of losing federal health benefits is a powerful disincentive which prevents disabled people who want to work from entering the workforce," the sponsoring Senators said.

The proposed legislation is intended to remove two of the most serious barriers to the employment of people with disabilities by providing:

• adequate and affordable health insurance when a person on SSI or SSDI goes to work or develops a significant disability while working; and

• a user-friendly, public-private approach to job training and placement assistance for individuals with disabilities who want to work.

More than 8 million adults from ages 16 - 64 receive benefits under federal disability programs, and the number continues to grow annually. Fewer than 1/2 of 1 percent of those on the disability rolls actually work, even though a 1998 Harris survey found that 72 percent of these Americans want to work.

The sponsoring Senators added, "We intend to make 1999 the year that Congress fulfills the dream of all Americans with disabilities to be a part of our Nation's workforce and growing economy."

The Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 will be introduced in late January, with a mark-up in the Senate Finance Committee targeted for early spring.