HELP Democratic Staff Releases Disability Employment Report

The Democratic staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP Committee) has released a report  examining disability employment outcomes using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), summarizing disability employment law, describing programs that are “out of step with modern disability employment policy in the United States,” and providing an update on the Committee’s oversight of state practices to implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act). 

The document includes the results of an investigation into reports that state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies were not complying with key requirements of WIOA and the Rehabilitation Act. To investigate these reports, the HELP Committee wrote to the administrative head of each of the 79 general, blind, and combined state VR agencies requesting information related to three areas: informed choice of VR clients, case-by-case analysis of an employment setting, and referral procedures related to AbilityOne. Based on these responses, the HELP Committee Democratic staff found that state VR agencies are complying with the dual requirements to refer clients to the job they choose while also using WIOA funds to support and promote competitive integrated employment. 

 The report makes four recommendations for future action, including that Congress should modernize the AbilityOne program to bring it into alignment with modern disability employment policy and should phase out the authority that permits employers to pay people with disabilities wages that are less than the federal minimum wage.