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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Employment & Social Security

Participate in an Online Dialogue to Share Your Thoughts on Subminimum Wage!

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is hosting a National Online Dialogue about Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The dialogue is intended to gather input on Section 14(c) from people across the country in the form of “ideas, individual stories, and personal experiences illustrating the impact of Section 14(c) on the employment of people with disabilities.”

The Independent Living community has long opposed the use of Section 14(c) certificates to pay disabled people subminimum wages. Employers use 14(c) certificates to pay disabled employees lower than the minimum wage – sometimes just pennies per hour. Paying people lower wages on the basis on their disability is discrimination, and this is one of the factors that has contributed to disproportionate rates of poverty among disabled people. This online dialogue provides us with an opportunity to share stories and information about our position, experiences, and ideas on this discriminatory and harmful practice. It is critical that our input be heard!

[Read more…]

Competitive Integrated Employment Updates and Action Alert

New Coalition to Advance Competitive Integrated Employment

Disabled people deserve to be fully included in the workforce, working real jobs for real pay. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) established competitive integrated employment (CIE) as a priority, which means the opportunity for disabled people to work for the same wages and benefits and in the community alongside nondisabled coworkers.

NCIL has joined the Coalition to Advance Competitive Integrated Employment, a coalition of over 20 other national organizations working to promote competitive integrated employment. You can check out our new website, learn more about the coalition and current efforts around CIE, and find out how you can get involved in the effort to protect CIE at

Upcoming Hearing

Today, Tuesday May 21, the House Committee on Education and Labor are holding a hearing entitled “Eliminating Barriers to Employment: Opening Doors to Opportunity”. The hearing will include a focus on the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act. Read more about this hearing.

Take Action for the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act!

The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873 / S. 260) was introduced earlier this year by Senators Casey and Van Hollen, Chairman Scott, and Representative McMorris Rodgers. The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act will phase out the use of 14(c) certificates and provide funding for grants to states and employers to transform business models to support competitive integrated employment. Read the fact sheet (PDF) and the letter NCIL signed (PDF).

Please contact your Senators and Representative and ask them to cosponsor the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873 / S. 260)! It’s time to expand opportunities for competitive integrated employment and end subminimum wages! Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY) and ask to be connected to your Representative or Senator’s office, or contact their office directly using the directory for the House or Senate.

The Future of Employment of People with Disabilities

By Melissa Carney, NCIL Policy Intern

From a very young age, we are taught that the main focal points of our lives are education, employment, extracurricular involvement, and continuous self-growth. We are pushed to receive stellar grades so that we may land the perfect job, or climb a metaphorical ladder until we obtain success. We are expected to put the money we earn towards our future endeavors, whether that be housing, transportation, insurance, or food on the table. If you cannot meet certain societal standards, you are often thought as lazy or unproductive. However, what many fail to realize is that there are systematic barriers in place that infringe upon one’s ability to secure employment, particularly in regards to people with disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 65.7 percent of nondisabled people are employed, while only 18.7% of people with disabilities are employed in 2018. Why is this the case? Don’t certain laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act level the playing field and prohibit discrimination?

While the above laws have granted people with disabilities copious opportunities to receive adequate education, prioritized accessibility, accommodations, and greater participation in the workforce as a whole, the lack of supported education to career paths, accessible professions, and segregated employment continue to hinder those with disabilities. It is not enough for people with disabilities to be employed out of a set of federal guidelines or pity; greater quality should be ensured as well. There is a common misconception that people with disabilities are not able to compete as equally in the workforce as their nondisabled peers due to the extra support they may require. For this reason, thousands of people with disabilities are placed into sheltered workshops. These workshops support segregation and subminimum wages. Pay rate is often based on how much an individual is able to produce per hour, which discriminates against those who require accommodations or slower working speeds. Some receive only a handful of pennies per hour.

[Read more…]

Sign on to Support the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act by COB Today!

The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (S. 260 and H.R. 873) has been introduced in Congress by Senators Casey and Van Hollen and Chairman Scott and Representative McMorris Rodgers. The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act will phase out the use of 14(c) certificates and provide funding for grants to states and employers to transform business models to support competitive integrated employment.

If your organization is interested in signing on in support, below is a link for state level organizations and affiliates to use to sign on. We’re sorry for the short notice, but signatures must be received by close of business today, February 19, 2019.

Read the previous version of the letter signed on by national organizations (PDF), including NCIL, and add your organization as a signatory.

An Update from the NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee

By Sam Liss and James Turner, Subcommittee Co-Chairs

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee has been meeting regularly, on a monthly basis, with consistently good attendance. Sam Liss, Subcommittee Co-Chair presented at the NCIL’s 2018 Annual Conference on Independent Living on behalf of the Subcommittee’s legislative priorities. The presentation was well-received and several attendees expressed interest in joining the Subcommittee, although none have yet followed through.

Our Subcommittee’s first priority appears to be moving forward significantly. We have commitments for Congressional sponsorship, in both House and Senate, for our two policy proposals to eliminate employment disincentives for people with disabilities at / beyond retirement age. Congressman Welch (Vermont) and Senator Casey (Pennsylvania), have agreed to introduce both of our proposals as a stand-alone bill. Indeed, Congressman Welch has requested an event in Vermont to announce his introduction of the House bill.  [Read more…]

California, North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York: Paid Family and Medical Leave and Disability Study

Columbia University and The Arc are doing a study on paid family and medical leave with people affected by disabilities and need your help. For the study, they’d like to interview workers with disabilities and those who provide support to a friend or family member with a disability in California, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina. They plan to conduct remote, one-on-one interviews by phone, web conference, or email to look at how paid family and medical leave programs can work better for them.

Can you help us recruit people who:

  1. Work in California, New Jersey, New York, or North Carolina or have worked in these states in the past 2 years, AND
  2. Have a disability OR provide support to a friend or a family member with a disability?

Interested people can call 929-900-5398 or email with ‘The Arc’ in the subject line.

Anyone who is eligible and completes an interview will receive a $20 gift card.  [Read more…]

Survey for Legal Professionals: Understanding Workplace Experiences

Legal professionals are invited to participate in a first-of-its-kind project aimed at better understanding the workplace experiences of today’s legal professionals.

The research project examines the opportunities and challenges facing individuals in the legal profession of the 21st century, with consideration of women, minorities, people of differing sexual orientations and gender identities, people with disabilities, and others. The American Bar Association is partnering with the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University on this study.

The 15-minute survey is anonymous and voluntary. It is approved by the Syracuse University Human Subjects Review Board. The findings will be used to help develop best practices in the legal profession.

[Read more…]

An Update from the NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee

The NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee Co-Chairs have been pleased that meetings have been well attended and much interest has been shown in topics discussed and in projects being actively considered.

First and foremost, the Subcommittee has been steadily progressing with regard to its two policy initiatives to enhance employment incentives for people with disabilities of retirement age; both initiatives have been deemed “reasonable” upon scrutiny by the Social Security Administration but require Congressional action:

  1. Eliminating the termination age (65) of MBI’s within the authorization language of the Ticket-to-Work-Work Incentive Improvement Act of 1999 (TTWWIIA)

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe Subcommittee had a meeting with minority staffer for House Energy and Commerce Committee (committee of jurisdiction) and the proposal was received with support. Additional information requested was forwarded. A meeting with majority staff was agreed upon but has been delayed.

This proposal would simply align Medicaid Buy-In (MBI) authorization language within the TTWWIIA with parallel language within the Balanced Budget Act (1997), language which does not contain a termination age. More people with disabilities at/above retirement age desire to and are able to work and should not need to encounter a “spend-down” to retain vital Medicaid services (such as attendant care). They should not need to lose everything they have earned to retain such services – services needed, in turn, to be employed and socioeconomically productive.  [Read more…]

An Update from the NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee

Sam Liss and James Turner, Co-Chairs

The NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee is encouraged by the increasing participation of new and veteran members and is excited about real movement of its legislative policy initiatives. The Subcommittee also appreciates hosting several constructive discussions relevant to its charge.

Our efforts to accelerate interest in our policy proposals, both of which would eliminate key barriers to employment for people with disabilities who reach retirement age, has received notice from the Congressional committees of jurisdiction. An initial meeting with senior staffers of the House Social Security Subcommittee (of Ways and Means) led to a request for data culling and analysis from the chief Social Security Administration actuary. The actuary agreed to the request and suggested that the task will be completed within one month. Upon our receipt of the data and of the results of fiscal analysis, we will return to the House Social Security Subcommittee and present them with cost rationale for moving forward with legislation.  Such legislation, which has achieved apparent bipartisan support thus far, would remove employment restrictions for Childhood Disability Beneficiaries (CDBs) upon reaching retirement age. CDBs are the only population with such restrictions.  [Read more…]

NCIL Medicaid Buy-In Task Force Seeks Personal Stories from Beneficiaries

The Medicaid Buy-In (MBI) Task Force of the NCIL Employment Subcommittee has been working for more than a year on two policy proposals that would remove work disincentives for people with disabilities of retirement age or older. We have already had meetings with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Congressional staff, and we are looking for your help to move these proposals forward.

We need the NCIL membership to help identify individuals who fit in either of these two situations / scenarios:

  1. Childhood Disability Beneficiaries (CDB) who are past or reaching full retirement age – within a year or two. We want to change SSA rules so that a CDB would have the same work rules (lack of earning restriction) that all SSA retirees have at full age of retirement. As the rules stand now, they have to continue with SSDI work rules even past age of full retirement.
  2. Beneficiaries using the Medicaid-Buy-In who are approaching or passed age 65. We are proposing a change to Ticket to Work legislation to remove the current age limit (65), or at least make it full age of retirement.

Upon identifying these individuals, we are hoping to cultivate personal stories to be provided to elected officials, SSA staff, etc. to help bolster our policy ideas and arguments. Because we have some great momentum on our policy ideas, the value of these stories cannot be overstated and will play a critical role in continuing to move these ideas forward.

Please contact the Employment Subcommittee Co-Chairs, Sam Liss ( or James Turner (