Washington Insider Header
June/July 2010
NDI Testifies at Public Hearing of National Commission on Fiscal Reform and Responsibility:  Proposes Key Reform Strategies to Promote Economic Advancement of Citizens with Disabilities

NDI Executive Director testified before the National Commission on Fiscal Reform and Responsibility on 30 June 2010, sending a firm message to the Commission that fiscal reforms should focus on economically advancing citizens with disabilities. Over thirty individuals testified during the half-day public hearing, but Morris was one of only two individuals who spoke specifically on the impact of the Commission's work on the disability population.
Describing the strong correlation between disability and poverty, Morris cautioned against any short-sighted approach toward reducing federal costs that would result in the cutting of benefits and services to people with disabilities. Additionally, Morris urged the Commission to look carefully at policy recommendations and systemic reforms aimed at elevating the economic self-sufficiency of citizens with disabilities and their families, including transforming several federal systems from an approach of continued dependency toward one of optimal self-sufficiency:
The Government Accountability Office has found great need for rationalization and coordination among these programs[1] and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has questioned the efficacy of many programs.[2] Perhaps the greatest problem identified within the federal infrastructure of disability support programs is that the programs don't offer a path to self-sufficiency. In many cases, their complicated means-testing ensures continued dependency. A focus on enabling people to acquire and build assets is increasingly recognized as the only long-term solution to escalating costs and frustrated hopes. This would require our country's largest entitlement programs to use public resources to leverage and encourage savings rather than as punishment for such efforts. To do this, we need to transcend the notion of sharp demarcation lines between eligibility and ineligibility, and allow people to retain benefits, including health insurance through Medicaid and other key supports, long enough and reliably enough to acquire the tools for self-sufficiency. By relaxing rigid means-testing in ways that have been successfully demonstrated in numerous program settings, and by turning the benefits cutoff cliff into a manageable, sloping hill, we can achieve the goals of personal independence and long-term expenditure reductions that have until now eluded us.
Download Morris' full testimony (PDF)

[1] General Accounting Office, 2007 and 2008.
[2] Congressional Budget Office, 2004.

Advocates Rally to Urge House Passage of ABLE Act prior to August Recess

After two years of rigorous advocacy, passage of the ABLE Act is starting to appear close. The ABLE Act encourages savings through a tax-advantaged savings vehicle that will reduce the reliance of citizens with disabilities and their families on public resources for needed services and supports. Through the use of ABLE Accounts, individuals and families will be able to plan for their children with disabilities as parents are able to plan for children without disabilities.   The inability to plan for the future due to current asset limitations is a perverse punishment and unfair burden placed on parents of children with disabilities.

The bill, H.R. 1205, currently has 185 cosponsors (including 19 members of the House Ways & Means Committee). Recently, a coalition of 35 national organizations sent the House Democratic leadership a letter urging swift passage of the bill prior to the August recess. The coalition of organizations supporting the ABLE Act are working closely with House W&M Committee staff and our Senate champions to secure a pay-for, which would pay for the majority of the $1.3 billion over ten years that the Joint Committee on Taxation scored it at.

Additionally, an independent cost-benefit analysis of the ABLE Act was recently conducted by Jon Hockenyos, CEO of TXP, a nationally recognized economics & public policy firm based in Austin, TX. Applying the same methodology used by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in estimating the impact of similar transfer programs resulting from enactment of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Hockenyos model illustrates the following key findings:
  • The ABLE Act would result in approximately $2.4 billion in total economic activity among citizens with disabilities over the course of a ten-year period.
  • Assuming that the majority of this economic activity is spent among five categories (housing, medical, transportation, education and retail), an estimated 4,300 permanent jobs will be created within these five categories at an average wage of $43,720.
  • Additionally, 23.9% of the $1.6 billion cost to the Treasury is offset by federal taxes generated by the new economic activity, a figure that rises to 36.5% if the state and local taxes are included in the equation.
Download the full executive summary of the Hockenyos model.
Senate Champions Support Significant Funding Increase to VITA Program in FY2011; Introduction of VITA Act of 2010 Forthcoming

Acknowledging the merits of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant program in helping local VITA sites provide free tax preparation and other financial services to low-income taxpayers, 23 Senators sent a letter on 29 June 2010 to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Operations urging the Subcommittee to support an increase in FY2011 funding for the VITA grant program to $35 million.
Although the Appropriations Committee funded the program at $12 million over the past fiscal year, the signatories argue that, "Despite this federal investment, demand for grants continues to outstrip availability."  During the 2010 filing season, for example, the IRS was able to make awards to only 147 VITA sites, although 379 centers applied for over $30 million in grant funding.  The Senators who signed the letter also conveyed concerns about additional pressures being placed on the VITA sites to roll out new IRS initiatives with no administrative funding support. 
In terms of timing, it is likely the appropriations cycle will extend into early next year, with Congress passing a continuing resolution to keep the government operating at FY2010 budgetary levels until the new Congress convenes in January 2011.  Meanwhile, it is predicted that the VITA Act of 2010 will be introduced in late July.
ETA-commissioned Study Reveals Progress in Securing Employment Opportunities for Citizens with Disabilities through Generic Workforce Development System

A study recently completed by Mathematica Policy Research Inc on behalf of US Dept. of Labor's Employment and Training Administration.  The purpose of the study was to complete a quantitative evaluation fo the Disability Program Navigator (DPN) Initiative through the use of the One-Stop Career Center system by SSI and SSDI beneficiaries. Data from the Workforce Investment Act and Wagner-Peyser in four states who were early adopters of the DPN initiative (including CO, IA, MD and OR) were used in the assessment to look at the following four issues:
  • Extent to which One-Stop Career Centers are serving persons who are SSA disability beneficiaries;
  • Characteristics of SSI/SSDI beneficiaries receiving services;
  • Nature of the services received; and
  • How services and outcomes for beneficiaries compared with SSI/SSDI beneficiaries nationally.
The results of this study confirm that One-Stop Career Centers are serving a larger share of persons receiving SSA disability benefits than other federal work systems, and the public workforce system is providing important support for SSA disability beneficiaries who want to work.  Some key findings that are particularly noteworthy include:
  • The numbers of SSA disability beneficiaries receiving support through the public workforce system greatly exceed participation levels of beneficiaries in other programs including VR.  When former SSA beneficiaries are counted along with current SSA beneficiaries, the number and % accessing WIA and W-P nearly doubled in each of the four states.
  • Employment retention rates ranged from 73-80% for three of the four states.
  • Of SSA beneficiaries who became employed after using One-Stop services, roughly 35-50% had earnings above the equivalent of the SSA substantial gainful activity (SGA) level.  Additionally, during a 12-month period after exit, 11-24% of SSA cash benefits were reduced to zero compared to the national average of 6%.
While the study determined that the completion of a rigorous quantitative evaluation of the DPN initiative was impossible and thus non-conclusive, the research team did state that "The steady and increasing trend....suggests that the DPN might have facilitated the collection of disability information, possibly by raising awareness of disability issues among staff and improving administrative processes". 

While the complete Mathematica study has not been released, an executive summary is available (Word).

In related news, DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy recently commissioned the National Association of State Medicaid Directors (NASMD) to examine how state Medicaid programs are investing in employment services and what the outcomes are for beneficiaries with disabilities. The report is expected to be available in the fall of 2010.





June 2010

June 2009

June 2010

June 2009

% of population in the labor force





Unemployment rate





Employment-population ratio





As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6
Vol: 2 Issue: 5
In This Issue
1. NDI Testifies at Public Hearing of National Commission on Fiscal Reform and Responsibility
2. Advocates Rally to Urge House Passage of ABLE Act prior to August Recess
3.Senate Champions Support Significant Funding Increase to VITA Program in FY2011
4. ETA-commissioned Study Reveals Progress in Securing Employment Opportunities for Citizens with Disabilities

NDI's First Video Contest is here!

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, National Disability Institute presents Economic Empowerment - Defining the New American Dream, a nationwide video contest open to all persons with disabilities.

Visit dream.realeconomicimpact.org today for complete contest rules. Contest begins July 1, 2010 and all entries must be received by August 13, 2010.

One grand prize winner will receive $1,000 and a trip to Washington, DC to present their video at NDIs 6th Annual Real Economic Tour Kick-off Event, held at the National Press Club October 19, 2010!

Donate to National Disability Institute

NDI is building a better economic future for Americans with disabilities. Your tax-deductible contribution builds empowerment projects that promote economic self-sufficiency and a better financial future for individuals with disabilities. Your donation links individuals with disabilities to free tax assistance, the earned income tax credit, financial literacy, benefits advisement and asset building opportunities.

National Disability Institute gets social with Real Economic Impact Online!

Join Our Mailing List
National Disability Institute

The National Disability Institute (NDI) is a not-for-profit research and community development organization and creators of the Real Economic Impact Tour, dedicated to promoting work, saving, and asset building for persons with disabilities and their families nationwide.