Release Date: 
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

Senators Dodd and McCain Introduce Blind Persons Return to Work Act

National Federation of the Blind Applauds a Common Sense Work Incentive for Blind Social Security Beneficiaries

Washington, D.C. (January 28, 2010): Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today introduced the Blind Persons Return to Work Act of 2010 (S. 2962), which will allow blind Americans to more easily transition from Social Security beneficiaries to income-earning, productive members of the workforce.    

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a program meant to provide disabled Americans with financial support, actually discourages blind people from seeking employment by placing a limit on how much money they can earn.  This bipartisan bill replaces the monthly earnings limit with a gradual phase-out, allowing blind beneficiaries to systematically replace benefits with earned income. 

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind applauds Senators Dodd and McCain, both longtime champions of the blind and other Americans with disabilities, for advancing this wise proposal to reform SSDI so it encourages blind beneficiaries to reach their full employment potential rather than discouraging them from becoming independent.  Blind people want to work, and with the right training and opportunity, we can hold any job to which we aspire.  Yet because of misconceptions about blindness and flawed work incentives in the SSDI program, 70 percent of working age blind people are unemployed or underemployed.  We are confident that the Blind Persons Return to Work Act will reduce the fear of termination of benefits resulting from an earnings limit and encourage blind people to join the workforce.” 

“Blind Americans deserve the opportunity to enter or advance in the workplace without their financial security being threatened by some arbitrary limit,” said Senator Dodd.  “We can encourage blind people to take advantage of their independence without punishing them for working.  This bipartisan legislation will protect millions of Americans from the risk of losing their benefits and will increase the productivity of our workforce.”  

“Blind Americans who want to work should not be discouraged from pursuing employment,” added Senator McCain.  “The current SSDI program creates government dependency and limits achievement among blind people.  The proposed reform will enable blind Americans to fully reach their potential in the workforce and reduce the overall number of federal beneficiaries, saving tax dollars for every American.”

This legislation joins its House companion bill, H.R. 886, introduced by John Lewis (D-GA) earlier this session.