Release Date: 
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

National Federation of the Blind Praises Bill to Create Work Incentives and Opportunity

Blind Persons Earnings Fairness Act Introduced by Congressman Lewis

Washington, D.C. (October 16, 2007):  Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) has introduced legislation designed to help blind persons receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to return to work.  The Blind Persons Earnings Fairness Act of 2007 (H.R. 3834), which has already drawn bipartisan support, will eliminate penalties that prevent blind persons from reentering the workforce and will facilitate their transition to employment.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, which has long advocated this change in policy, said: “This proposal will allow thousands of blind people to rejoin the workforce and become productive, tax-paying citizens.  Many blind people are understandably reluctant to take entry-level jobs because they are penalized by an immediate loss of SSDI benefits, and their work income rarely compensates for that loss.  This legislation will allow blind persons to make a smooth transition from dependence to opportunity.  We will work with Congressman Lewis to ensure the swift passage of this landmark legislation.”

Congressman Lewis said: “Americans who are blind deserve the same opportunities as all other Americans.  Their blindness does not prevent them from making valuable contributions to our society, as evidenced by the many successful blind people I have personally met over the years.  The gifts and opportunities of these citizens should not be hindered by policies that discourage them from entering the workforce.  That is why I am proud to stand with my blind brothers and sisters and introduce this much-needed legislation.”  
The legislation will increase the amount of monthly income that a blind person can earn while still receiving SSDI benefits.  The earnings limit will gradually rise from its current level of $1,500 per month to $2,850 per month in 2011.  In 2012, the earnings limit for blind people will be tied to that applicable to senior citizens in the year they attain full retirement age.