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February 12, 1999

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Today, I am pleased to announce that we are taking important steps to prevent people with disabilities from choosing between critical protections and work.

Vice President Al Gore
February 12, 1999

Today, Vice President Al Gore unveils a new regulation that will improve economic opportunities for at least 250,000 Americans with disabilities. The Vice President will also reaffirm the Administration's proposed comprehensive initiative to improve economic opportunity for all Americans with disabilities.

Expanding Economic Opportunities For More Than 250,000 Americans With Disabilities. Many people receiving Federal disability benefits want to return to work, but hesitate because they fear loss of critical benefits. Under current rules, a person cannot receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if they earn more than $500 a month. Today, the Vice President announces a new regulation increasing the amount of income Americans with disabilities receiving SSDI or SSI can earn -- from $500 to $700 per month -- a 40 percent increase, and still receive critical cash and medical benefits.

A Comprehensive Initiative To Expand Economic Opportunities For Americans With Disabilities. The Clinton-Gore Administration's fiscal year 2000 budget includes the Work Incentives Improvement Act, which was recently introduced by Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Moynihan, and Roth. This proposal would:

  • Improve Access To Health Care by expanding States' ability to provide a Medicaid buy-in (1) for people with disabilities who return to work whose assets and/or income exceed current limits; (2) for people who do not meet the current disability standard, but who can work only because of medical treatment or (3), in limited circumstances, people with a specific physical or mental impairment that is not yet severe enough to qualify for health care assistance, but that is reasonably expected to lead to a severe disability in the absence of medical treatment. It also extends Medicare coverage for people with disabilities who return to work;
  • Modernize The Employment Services System by creating a "ticket" that will enable SSI or SSDI beneficiaries to go to any of a number of public or private providers for vocational rehabilitation. If the beneficiary goes to work and achieves substantial earnings, providers would be paid a portion of the benefits saved;
  • Create A Work Incentive Grant Program to provide benefits planning and assistance, facilitate access to information about work incentives, and better integrate services to people with disabilities working or returning to work.

Providing A Tax Credit To Help People With Disabilities Get To Work. Under this new proposal, workers with significant disabilities would receive an annual $1,000 tax credit to help cover the formal and informal costs that are associated with employment, such as special transportation and technology. This tax credit, which will assist 200,000 to 300,000 Americans, will help ensure that people with disabilities have the tools they need to return to work.

Improving Access To Assistive Technology. The Administration's initiative would double funding for the development and adoption of information and communications technologies that can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and enhance their ability to participate in the workplace. The initiative would:

  • Help make the Federal government a "model user" of assistive technology;
  • Support new and expanded state loan programs to make assistive technology more affordable for Americans with disabilities;
  • Invest in research and development and technology transfer for people with disabilities.

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