National Disability Institute's Washington Insider

National Disability Institute's Washington Insider is a monthly newsletter highlighting key federal policy news that impacts the financial futures and economic empowerment of all people with disabilities. The Washington Insider tracks legislative and policy initiatives gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, specifically in the areas of taxation, asset building and economic development.


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July/August 2015 | Vol. 7, Issue 7
Bridging the Economic Divide: Lawmakers, Feds and Financial Heads Join Forces to Advance Needs of Americans with Disabilities
New Bill Proposes Solution to SSDI Insolvency
Legislation Introduced to Outlaw Subminimum Wages
ABLE Act Update
Bill Will to Encourage States Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities
White House Holds 25th ADA Anniversary Celebration
ABLE National Resource Center Seeks Input Regarding ABLE Accounts
July Employment Profile


Bridging the Economic Divide: Lawmakers, Feds and Financial Heads Join Forces to Advance Needs of Americans with Disabilities

On July 22nd, four days prior to the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), National Disability Institute (NDI) assembled a stellar cast of policymakers, stakeholders and thought leaders at the first Economic Advancement and Financial Inclusion Summit to address the financial status of Americans with disabilities and the barriers that prevent their full participation in the economic mainstream.

A little more than a quarter century has passed since former President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in that time to ensure persons with disabilities have equal access to the traditional financial services and products available to many of their non-disabled peers.

As the nation’s first nonprofit dedicated exclusively to improving the financial health and future of all people across the spectrum of disability, NDI has long documented the unique financial challenges and hurdles individuals with disabilities face everyday. Two recently issued NDI reports, The Financial Capability of Adults with Disabilities and The Banking Status and Financial Behaviors of Adults with Disabilities, provided critical data and research which served as catalysts for the Summit.

“Disability in America crosses the dividing lines of gender, race, ethnicity and age,” Michael Morris, NDI Executive Director, said. “However, the most common characteristic across these dividing lines is living at or below poverty and not making ends meet.” Morris continued, “The Economic Advancement and Financial Inclusion Summit deepens our understanding and commitment to change this sobering reality.”

As part of the day’s program, the Federal Reserve Board, for the very first time, released new findings from the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households that examined the financial differences between individuals with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. In addition, the overflow crowd heard from a diverse set of speakers representing both public and private interests, including the nonprofit sector. Special guests included: Senator Robert Casey Jr. (D-Penn.); Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.); former Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa); Martinl Gruenberg, Chairman, FDIC; Lex Frieden, ADA architect and internationally known disability advocate; and Naomi Gendler Camper, Managing Director and Head, Office of Nonprofit Engagement, JPMorgan Chase.

Each speaker highlighted their own and/or organization’s work to build a society where Americans with and without disabilities can take the much-needed steps to build a more financially secure and independent life. Kelvin Boston, host of "PBS Moneywise", served as the Summit’s emcee.

Following an afternoon break, Summit attendees formed working groups to identify pathways to create better economic futures for all individuals with disabilities. The goal was to hone and develop strategies to fulfill the ADA promise of “economic self-sufficiency” within the next five years - the 30th Anniversary of ADA.

For more information on the Economic Advancement and Financial Inclusion Summit, or to view an archived recording of the historic event, please visit:

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New Bill Proposes Solution to SSDI Insolvency

Representative Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), supported by 75 House cosponsors, introduced H.R. 3150, the One Social Security Act.

The recent Social Security actuarial estimates project the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) trust fund will be unable to meet its full financial obligations beginning in late 2016. Time is running short, and should Congress fail to act, SSDI recipients will be subject to a catastrophic 19 percent reduction in benefits.

However, H.R. 3150 would prevent such a cut from occurring by combining the Old Age and Survivor Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund with the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. If combined, the unified Social Security Trust Fund would be solvent until 2034. This would extend the current projected solvency of the DI Trust Fund by 17 years, while decreasing OASI solvency by a mere 12 months.

NDI believes this bill is a common sense solution to an all too important issue. As a result, we add our name in support of H.R. 3150 and look forward to joining with a network of supporters in the disability advocacy community to educate policymakers and relevant stakeholders on the need for and impact of the One Social Security Act.

** Currently, nearly nine million workers with disabilities, as well as two million spouses and dependents, rely on SSDI to pay their bills and for income support. **

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Legislation Introduced to Outlaw Subminimum Wages

Earlier this month, legislation was filed in the U.S. Senate to repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), S.2001, the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act, would end the practice of paying workers with disabilities wages below the federal minimum wage.

As outlined in Section 14(c), a worker who has a disability can be paid less than the federally-imposed prevailing wage by an employer holding a special certificate issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. This certificate authorizes the employer to set and pay a worker with a disability a special minimum wage that is calculated on the worker’s individual productivity, in proportion to the wage and productivity of workers who do not have disabilities performing the same type, quantity and quality of work in the same geographic area. As a result of 14(c), many individuals with disabilities can earn an hourly wage of one dollar or less.

Every American deserves a fair shot at achieving the American Dream. We know employment is a crucial building block. Unfortunately, Section 14(c) prevents people with disabilities from reaching their full potential - both individually and economically. That is why we applaud Senator Ayotte for her leadership on the TIME Act, and we will do everything in our power to see the bill advance to the Senate Floor for a vote.

To learn more about the TIME Act, please visit Senator Ayotte’s website. You may also be interested to know that a companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Gregg Harper (H.R. 188).

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ABLE Act Update

NDI is excited to report on the continued acceleration and implementation of ABLE programs nationwide. To date, more than 30 states have enacted ABLE legislation, while several other states are considering similar bills.

Additionally, NDI, in collaboration with several national disability-related advocacy groups, is seeking comments related to the Department of Treasury’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Interested individuals have until September 21st to share their feedback. Please read the Federal Register notice for more information and instructions on submitting comments.

Also of note, the ABLE National Resource Center, led by NDI and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), hosted an informative webinar on July 14th highlighting the key components of the NPRM. If you were unable to attend the webinar, an archived recording can be found on the NDI website.

Lastly, the ABLE National Resource Center is gearing up to launch its interactive website in September. The website will house a wealth of information related to the implementation of the ABLE Act, including state-by-state updates on the development of individual programs and how potential beneficiaries can access them.

Be sure to follow NDI on Facebook and Twitter for future updates.

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Bill Will Encourage States Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

Recently, Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced S. 1604, the Transition to Independence Act, a bill to establish a new demonstration project with 10 Medicaid Buy-in states to improve the employment outcomes of people with disabilities.

The project’s aim will be to: (1) improve integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities, thereby reducing their relegation to subminimum wages and segregated environments; (2) modernize and coordinate systems to offer cost-effective supports and services to people with disabilities, consistent with the increased expectations of and for people with disabilities; and (3) ensure people with disabilities and their families receive the latest up-to-date information on services and supports that promote self-determination, independence, productivity, integration and inclusion.

The Transition to Independence Act seeks to accomplish the aforementioned goals by offering participating states bonus payments for meeting benchmarks related to expanding integrated and competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities receiving home or community-based services (HCBS).

NDI applauds Senator Grassley, along with the supporting co-sponsors, for their efforts to advance the need for increased competitive, integrated employment for individuals with disabilities.

Learn more about the Transition to Independence Act by reading the bill’s fact sheet.

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White House Holds 25th ADA Anniversary Celebration

On July 21st, NDI was invited to the White House to take part in the Obama Administration’s 25th Anniversary celebration of the ADA.

Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama spoke about the need for greater opportunities among all people, highlighted the significant contributions and achievements of individuals with disabilities, and discussed the role ADA played in advancing the rights and improving the lives of the 53 million Americans with disabilities.

As President Obama stated during the event, “Thanks to the ADA, the places that compromise our shared American life ‐ schools, workplaces, movie theaters, courthouses, buses, baseball stadiums, national parks ‐ they truly belong to everyone.” In that spirit, we at NDI remain resolute in our mission to ensure the entire financial marketplace is also available and accessible to every American.

Read more about the Administration’s ADA celebration, by visiting the White House website.

Going forward, please be assured NDI will continue to work with the White House, federal agencies, state and local governments, stakeholders and the entire disability community to guarantee each American has the opportunity to determine, plan and save for their own future.

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ABLE National Resource Center Seeks Input Regarding ABLE Accounts

From now until the end of September, the ABLE National Resource Center is conducting an informal survey to gauge the level of enthusiasm in creating ABLE accounts, and how potential beneficiaries will utilize such accounts for the purposes of maintaining and increasing their financial health, independence and quality of life. Survey responses will be analyzed by the ABLE National Resource Center and be used to develop effective and responsive state ABLE programs.

Please take the time to complete the survey. Your responses are invaluable. Thank you in advance for your participation, and if you know someone else who may be interested in filling out the survey, please feel free to share it with them.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact NDI Senior Policy Advisor Chris Rodriguez at:

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July Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for July 2015 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 10.4 percent. While this is a 1.7 percent reduction from July 2014, only 19.8 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 69 percent of people with no disability. Data on people with disabilities covers those from the ages of 16 to 64 who do not live in institutions.

U.S. Disability Employment Profile
With Disability
Without Disability
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
Employment-Population Ratio
Unemployment Rate
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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National Disability Institute


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