Disability Employment and Benefits

Disability employment and benefits legislation introduced before recess

By PVA National Staff

Just before the August congressional recess, several bills were introduced that would improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities, expand the inventory of accessible housing, and provide faster access to Social Security disability benefits for those with terminal illnesses.

On July 25, Representative Josh Harder (D-CA) introduced the House version of the Disability Employment Incentive Act (H.R. 3992) to expand tax credits and deductions that are available for employers who hire and retain employees with disabilities and to make their places of business more accessible. Like its Senate companion, S. 255 introduced at the beginning of the year by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), the bill expands the work opportunity tax credit to include the hiring of employees who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. For employers who hire vocational rehabilitation referrals, Supplemental Security Income recipients, or SSDI recipients, the bill also (1) increases the amount of wages that may be taken into account for the credit, and (2) allows an additional credit for second-year wages. H.R. 3992 and S. 255 also increase a tax credit for expenditures by eligible small businesses to provide access to disabled individuals and expand the tax deduction for expenditures to remove architectural and transportation barriers to persons with disabilities and the elderly. In addition, the legislation allows the deduction to be used for certain improvements in the accessibility of Internet or telecommunications services.

Also on July 25, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act. Introduced as S. 2291 in the Senate and H.R. 4064 in the House, the bill would require all newly constructed, federally assisted, single-family houses and town houses to meet minimum standards of “visitability” for persons with disabilities. Housing developed with assistance from the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, VA, or Agriculture would have to comply with Standards for Type C (Visitable) Units of the American National Standards Institute (commonly known as “ANSI”) Standards for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities (section 1005 of ICC ANSI A117.1-2009). These generally require a no-step entrance to the property, a usable bathroom on the main level, and an accessible path of travel throughout the main floor.

Lastly, July 25 also saw introduction of the Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act, S. 2262, which expedites the payment of SSDI benefits to individuals who will not live long enough to receive any benefits under the five-month waiting period in existing law. Under the legislation, eligible individuals would begin receiving benefits in the first month of eligibility. “Terminally ill” is defined as a person who has a medical prognosis that his or her life expectancy is six months or less. To prevent fraud and abuse, at least two physicians, who are unrelated and not in the same physician group practice, must certify that the individual is terminally ill. This is bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). It is a companion bill to a similar measure introduced in January by Representative Rodney Davis (D-IL), H.R. 142. In addition to Barrasso and Brown, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Jack Reed (D-RI).

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