Consumer Employment

This page needs to be completely revamped (any volunteers?)  Until we get there, we are going to just put some helpful links up here at the top:

We all know that a major problem for consumers is finding appropriate employment (and we don't mean the Three Fs: Food, Filing and Filth).  In addition to discrimination by employers, the mental health system, itself, creates barriers to employment.  The purpose of this web page is partly to describe and discuss the problem, but mostly to describe ways to overcome these problems.   Thus, this web page is divided into four  parts:

The Problem Employment Resources Work Incentive Initiatives Employment Disability Laws

The Problem

An Alaskan Task Force on the issue recently published its Final Report on barriers to employment for mental health consumers (and developmentally disabled) in Alaska. 

"Less than one-half of 1 percent of beneficiaries with disabilities leave the SSDI [Social Security Disability Insurance] rolls to go to work and less than 10 percent of SSI [Supplemental Security Income] recipients are gainfully employed."  (page 4 -- references are to the PDF version on the web) 

The Final Report recognizes that the so-called "income cliff" under disability income is the biggest problem:

"The greatest disincentive created by the current public benefit system is what has become known as the "DI Cliff," this occurs when an SSDI beneficiary goes back to work, is employed for more than nine months, and consistently earns in excess of $500/month. This individual is considered to be engaged in "substantially gainful activity" by SSA and cash benefits are terminated following a three-month grace period, even though medically and functionally the disability remains."

(page 44).  The Final Report also cites the federal Department of Education  description of the specific work disincentives that exist in current laws and public program practices (Federal Register, June 3, 1998).  

(page 5)  

Employment Resources

There are a growing number of employment resources on the web:

Work Incentive Initiatives

While it is recognized that the existing SSDI, SSI and other welfare programs make it very difficult for consumers to go to work, there are some programs in place and there is a new effort to change the system to be more oriented towards allowing consumers to work.   For example, on April 14, 1999, the Social Security Administration raised the maximum income to $700 from $500, starting July 1, 1999.   The Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation has a lot of resources on its website . In addition, is an extensive website devoted to employment issues. The following links are what we found most useful from the Boston University website and from the Social Security Administration.

Other Work Incentives Links
  Social Security Administration Improving Incentives to Work
(from Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Disability Programs:Managing for Today Planning for Tomorrow)
Employment Links from Independent Living USA Social Security: Working While Disabled...How We Can Help


Other Consumer Employment Resources
Sign up for for the Disability, Work and Social Security Benefits Listserv by e-mailing
  Sign up for Work Incentives Update listserv by emailing Alana R. Theriault at

Employment Disability Law

Starting with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which only applies to programs conducted by Federal agencies, those receiving federal funds, such as colleges participating in federal student loan programs, Federal employment, and employment practices of businesses with federal contracts, Congress began addressing the problem of discrimination against mental health consumers.   Then in 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" to persons with disabilities, including mental health consumers.  The Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation  also has a lot of information on consumers' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including a whole section on what constitutes "reasonable accommodation" under the ADA .  Particularly useful Web Pages from the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation on the ADA and related laws include:

A description of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Filing Complaints about Discrimination in the Workplace Issues and Answers in the Office
Summary of the new EEOC Enforcement Guidance on the ADA and Psychiatric Disability A description of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which applies to the federal government A description of how the Family and Medical Leave Act fits into the issue of consumer employment and interrelates with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Consumers Working in Professional and Managerial Jobs Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer discusses considerations in deciding whether to disclose and how to go about it. Dealing with a Difficult Boss

Jim Gottstein:

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minor modifications: