October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a tradition with roots tracing back to 1945.
The Committee on Ways and Means is proud to be a leader in addressing the barriers that can keep individuals with disabilities from returning to the workforce. But significant challenges remain. For example, while about 40 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries say that they are interested in working, studies suggest that the share who succeed in returning to work is much lower.
Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) has long championed legislation to make it easier for individuals who receive disability benefits and want to return to work to do so.
For example, earlier this year Chairman Johnson introduced the Social Security Online Tools Innovation Act, a bill which requires the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to develop online tools that can help DI beneficiaries understand how potential earnings may affect their disability benefits.
The bill has support from a variety of groups, including the AARP, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the National Council on Independent Living. The Committee on Ways and Means unanimously approved this bill on July 18, 2018.
Chairman Johnson also has sponsored legislation to help our wounded veterans as they return to civilian life. The Health Equity and Access for Returning Troops and Servicemembers (HEARTS) Act of 2018 seeks to help our nation’s wounded veterans who have returned to work keep the affordable health care coverage they have earned.
Most DI beneficiaries have the option to temporarily keep their Medicare Part B coverage when they return to work and no longer receive cash benefits, but they do not have to keep Medicare Part B. In contrast, when veterans return to work, they must keep Medicare Part B in order to maintain access to the TRICARE coverage they have earned.
The HEARTS Act of 2018 allows veterans who return to work after receiving DI benefits to maintain their TRICARE coverage without having to retain Part B coverage. This bill was unanimously approved by the House on September 28, 2018.
Action on these and other important bills shows how, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month and beyond, the Committee on Ways and Means remains committed to addressing the barriers that can make it more difficult for individuals with disabilities who want to work to reenter the workforce.