Joint Press

Senate Aging Committee Examines Aging with Disabilities

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Click HERE for a copy of Senator Collins’ opening statement

Click HERE for a copy of Senator Casey’s opening statement

Washington, D.C.—People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are living longer with medical and public health advancements. In order for people living with IDD to achieve financial security during their working years and in retirement, employment opportunities and supportive services that help them secure and maintain a good paying job are key.  

Today, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, led a hearing that examined the unique challenges of people with IDD as they age. Titled, “Working and Aging with Disabilities: From School to Retirement,” the hearing focused on the transition of disabled older Americans from school to employment and into retirement.  Through vocational training, employment, education, medical, and social support, and accessible transportation services individuals with disabilities can thrive in adulthood.


“Studies show that employing individuals with disabilities is not simply a social good -- it is also good business,” said Senator Collins. “Individuals with disabilities offer many advantages including a highly motivated workforce, lower rates of absenteeism and employer turnover, greater loyalty, and higher rates of satisfaction and productivity among the entire workforce.” 


“Holding a job provides many benefits including creating social networks, economic self-sufficiency and a sense of self-worth. But, for far too many individuals with disabilities, the dignity of work is still out of reach,” Senator Casey said. “We must do more to address barriers to employment and ensure people with disabilities have the support needed to succeed in the workforce and can enjoy a healthy retirement. I will continue to champion legislation that helps all Americans find good-paying jobs and achieve financial security.” 


The hearing featured testimony from experts who have built programs to support people with IDD in the community, academics who have studied the trends of aging with disabilities, and those who have directly benefited from employment opportunities and services that provide independence to people with IDD. All of the witnesses highlighted the importance of work for the health and well-being of individuals with IDD and organizations that provide guidance and support to those with IDD.   


Among individuals ages 65-69, there is a 25 percent chance of having a disability, while those over 80 years of age have a 70 percent chance of having a disability. Approximately 6.3 million people in the United States live with an IDD.


At the hearing, Chairman Collins announced her co-sponsorship of the ABLE to Work Act (S.818), a bill introduced by Ranking Member Casey and Aging Committee member Richard Burr (R-NC). The ABLE to Work Act expands on the goals of the ABLE Act, which became law in 2014, by encouraging employment and self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. The legislation would allow individuals with disabilities and their families to save more money in an ABLE account if the beneficiary works and earns income. Specifically, an ABLE beneficiary who earns income from a job could save up to the Federal Poverty Level, which is currently at $12,060. The bill would also allow ABLE beneficiaries to qualify for the existing Saver's Credit when they contribute savings.