In his column of June 30, "Dilemmas of Disability," Robert Samuelson criticized the Americans With Disabilities Act for its failure to help more people with disabilities enter the work force. He then dismissed legislation designed to get people off Social Security disability benefits and into the work force.

In fact, the Work Incentives Improvement Act, which passed the Senate on June 16 by a vote of 99 to 0, is well designed to remove the barriers in current disability laws that keep large numbers of people with disabilities unemployed or underemployed.

As numerous studies have demonstrated, the high unemployment rate among people receiving federal disability benefits is not because their federal benefits programs have "front doors that are too big" -- i.e., have eligibility criteria that are too loose -- but because they have "back doors that are too small" -- i.e., once persons are on the rolls, it is too risky to come off.

They pay heavy financial penalties for taking a job, because most jobs do not provide the health insurance coverage they need. Often they have no access to the special job training services they need before they can even seek work. The pending legislation would widen the back doors for people with disabilities by giving them opportunities for employment and banishing the condescending mentality that says disabled people are unable.


U.S. Senator (D-Mass.)