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

Employment & Social Security

The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation 2018 Public Policy Fellowship Program

The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation is seeking exemplary professionals, and/or persons experiencing disability and/or family members of persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are currently working or volunteering in the field of inclusive services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation Public Policy Fellowship is a one-year, full-time, intensive immersion experience in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the Fellowship is to prepare emerging leaders to assume leadership roles in the public policy arena at the state and/or national levels. During this one-year Fellowship, the successful applicant will learn how federal legislation is initiated, developed, and passed by the Congress, as well as how programs are administered and regulations promulgated by federal agencies. Fellows also learn how the organized disability community works to shape public policy impacting people with disabilities, and their families.  [Read more…]

NCIL Employment/Social Security Subcommittee Gains Momentum

By: Sam Liss and James Turner, NCIL Employment/Social Security Subcommittee Co-Chairs

NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee Co-Chairs James Turner and Sam Liss are pleased to acknowledge that participation in NCIL’s Employment/Social Security Subcommittee seems to be gaining momentum over the previous few months. Fortuitously, this comes at a time when the Subcommittee is tackling many important issues within its purview. In conjunction with heightened interest, the Co-Chairs are asking members of the Subcommittee to assume leadership on particular issues.

At this time, the Subcommittee is heartened and encouraged because its two policy proposals, arising from its Medicaid Buy-in (MBI) Task Force, appear to be gaining traction within Congress: the Subcommittee was granted a ½ hour teleconference by the House Social Security Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee. Staffers asked critical questions about the Childhood Disability Beneficiary (CDB) proposal and requested follow up. The other proposal, regarding changing MBI authorization language in the Ticket-to-Work/Work Incentive Improvement Act, was referred to House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which holds jurisdiction.  Approaches to key members of Congress in both parties are under way. Both policy proposals would enhance employment incentives for those people with disabilities at retirement age.  [Read more…]

Ticket to Work Announcements

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal contractors and subcontractors – companies doing business with the federal government – take affirmative action to recruit, hire, employ, promote, and retain qualified people with disabilities. You can learn more about Section 503 with latest resource from Ticket to Work: Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act: Working for a Federal Contractor. This document answers frequently asked questions, including:

  • What is Section 503?
  • What does self-identification mean?
  • What does Section 503 mean to Social Security disability beneficiaries?

Ticket to Work is also hosting a Work Incentives Seminar Event (WISE) webinar on September 27, which will focus on Ticket to Work and Work Incentives for people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Register for this free webinar online.

Trump Budget Cuts Social Security – An Update from the NCIL Employment and Social Security Subcommittee

Greetings from the NCIL Employment and Social Security Subcommittee! As we all know, we are in strange, uncharted political waters these days (to say the least). More than ever, it seems, we do not know what the future holds with regards to people with disabilities and the wonderfully diverse, vibrant, cross-cultural, and intersectional community they comprise and represent. Many of the programs we champion and support are in danger of being cut and thus many of our brothers and sisters, family members, community members, etc. are facing great uncertainty if not abject peril.

In these days of “fake news” and distorted facts, we encourage all NCIL activists to be well-versed regarding the President’s proposed budget, especially its designs on cutting Social Security despite assurances this would not happen. We know it is often difficult to make a salient and defensible argument to those who would seek to support these cuts without hard evidence backing up our assertions. The following article from The Hill sheds some great light and provides at least a layperson’s background to speak effectively to this important issue. As is the case with myriad issues we, as purveyors of the Independent Living Movement and all it entails, are often the strongest, most trusted voice when it comes to issues affecting the disability community locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Our Truth is undeniable!

Join Our Partner, the LEAD Center, for a Free Webinar – Guided Group Discovery: Paving the Way to Employment

LEAD Center Logo - www.leadcenter.orgDon’t miss this webinar on Guided Group Discovery: Paving the Way to Employment, in which we will share materials you can use to implement Guided Group Discovery through cross-system partnerships. You also will hear about the many pilot projects in which Guided Group Discovery has been used, and hear from implementers from the public workforce system and their disability partners.  [Read more…]

Raise the Wage Act of 2017 Will Eliminate Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities

Earlier today Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), Senator Patty Murray (WA), Congressman Bobby Scott (VA), and Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2017. NCIL supports this legislation and is thankful to its sponsors for taking a step in the right direction toward fair pay for workers, including workers with disabilities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThere are several key provisions in this bill: the minimum wage would be incrementally increased to $15 an hour; tipped minimum wage would be phased out; and the ability of employers to pay employees with disabilities subminimum wage would be sunset. NCIL is very excited to see the inclusion of people with disabilities and the use of 14(c) waivers in this bill.

The use of 14(c) waivers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage – sometimes just pennies per hour – is a practice NCIL has long opposed. Paying people lower wages on the basis of their disability is discrimination, and this discrimination is one of the factors that has led people with disabilities to experience double the rate of poverty as people without disabilities. This bill takes a practical approach to the issue by providing transition assistance for businesses that have relied on 14(c) certificates to ensure the successful shift to higher wages. Moreover, information on competitive integrated employment will be provided to people with disabilities employed under these programs. These are both important measures that will help to ensure a successful move away from subminimum wages and toward closing the massive wage gap.

People deserve to be paid fairly for their labor, and NCIL applauds the introduction of this legislation. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 is a step toward eliminating the inequality that low-wage workers face, and a shift toward fair pay for people with disabilities. This bill will benefit workers, but it will also benefit communities, the economy, and the very businesses that employ these workers. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 is a strong piece of legislation that we hope to see pass in the 115th Congress.

Join Our Partner, the LEAD Center, for a Webinar on ABLE Accounts

The LEAD Center, in collaboration with the ABLE National Resource Center, will be holding a webinar focused on how individuals with disabilities, and their families, can use ABLE Accounts to increase their financial stability and produce more positive employment outcomes.

LEAD Center Logo -

The webinar will take place on April 27 at 3:00-4:30 p.m. EST and aims to demonstrate how provisions in the ABLE Act can enable people with disabilities to achieve competitive integrated employment, begin to save more than $2,000 without fear of loss of SSI and Medicaid eligibility and set longer term goals for financial stability and self-determined and self-directed lives.  [Read more…]

Research Finds Individuals with Disabilities More Likely to be Employed in States with Expanded Medicaid

Individuals with disabilities are significantly more likely to be employed if they live in a state that has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a new study has found. The findings show expansion has allowed individuals with disabilities to increase their employment and not be required to live in total poverty to maintain their Medicaid coverage. Expansion not only enables people with disabilities to work more, which research has shown leads to greater quality of life, but contradicts the argument some have made that Medicaid expansion would “kill jobs” or be prohibitively expensive.

“Our finding has two major health and policy implications. First, in Medicaid expansion states, working-age adults with disabilities no longer will be required to be impoverished and apply for federal disability benefits to be eligible for public health insurance coverage,” the researchers wrote. “Second, to the extent that increased earnings and asset accumulation lead to improved health outcomes and decreased dependence on cash assistance, the shift from means-tested Medicaid coverage to expansion coverage could result in long-term cost savings to state and federal governments.”

Debate about the Affordable Care Act has been intense and discussions of repealing or replacing it have intensified since the election. This article sheds a great deal of light on the importance of the ACA and its impact on Medicaid expansion across the nation, both for states that have opted to expand Medicaid and those still considering this option.

“Medicaid expansion is empowering people with disabilities to go to work, and we would hate to see that rolled back because we could lose those gains.” – Jean Hall  [Read more…]

Host A Screening of the Bottom Dollars Premier!

Sparking discussion and encouraging action on important issues is the goal of the new documentary, Bottom Dollars, produced by Rooted in Rights. The film exposes the sub-minimum wages and segregated work environments for people with disabilities through personal stories and expert interviews. It also presents clear employment alternatives with competitive wages and community inclusion.

The film is now available for free for Centers for Independent Living that wish to host screenings and hold panel discussions to help raise awareness and educate audiences about this important topic.

“I can’t say enough as to the importance of Centers for Independent Living screening the film, Bottom Dollars. For our staff it was a revelation as to the dirty secret that is sub-minimum wage. For our community, it was an awakening that despite the ADA and other prominent federal laws, people with disabilities are legally being deprived their right to earn pay commensurate with their work. Truly the film is a call to action.”

– Anastasia Baciagalupo, Westside Center for Independent Living, Los Angeles, CA

We encourage Centers for Independent Living across the country to host screenings of Bottom Dollars, and panel discussions to further the effort in transitioning to community-based employment and fair wages for ALL people.

To host a screening, fill out the form at to receive a free DVD.

You can also contact for more information.

Join Our Partner, the LEAD Center, for A Free Webinar: Customizing Employment: Success through Partnerships

LEAD Center Logo - www.leadcenter.orgJoin this webinar to gain information you can use about Customizing Employment: Success through Partnerships. This webinar is particularly relevant for people who are involved in implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), directly or as a partner. Participants will gain insight on approaches and strategies for customizing employment by leveraging the resources of the workforce system and its partners (e.g., vocational rehabilitation, education, developmental disabilities, behavioral health, Medicaid, etc.).

This webinar will highlight opportunities for collaborations that enable people who experience barriers to employment, including youth and adults with disabilities, to use Customized Employment strategies to achieve employment outcomes. This is the first webinar in the LEAD Center’s Customized Employment webinar series, which will share practices that are being successfully implemented in different parts of the country and will provide resources to assist participants in replicating Customized Employment approaches.  [Read more…]