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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 4, 1999

                             June 4, 1999

Today, President Clinton will sign an executive order ensuring that the federal government has the same hiring and promotion standards for people with psychiatric disabilities as it has for people with other disabilities. The President will also challenge the Congress to pass the historic, bipartisan Work Incentives Improvement Act by July 26, the ninth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Since the beginning of the Clinton-Gore Administration, the American economy has added more than 18 million new jobs, and unemployment is at record lows, yet over 75 percent of individuals with psychiatric disabilities remain unemployed. The President's action, together with the new provisions in the Work Incentives Improvement Act, will help to eliminate the institutional barriers that prevent individuals with psychiatric disabilities from bringing their enormous energy and talent to the workforce. Today, the President will:

Sign an Executive Order Expanding Hiring Opportunities for People with Psychiatric Disabilities. In January, Tipper Gore announced that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would explore measures to eliminate the stricter standards that are currently applied to job applicants who have psychiatric disabilities. The executive order ensures that individuals with psychiatric disabilities are given the same hiring opportunities as persons with severe physical disabilities or mental retardation. The civil service rules will be changed to ensure that people with psychiatric disabilities are covered by the same hiring rules and authority used for individuals with other disabilities. The executive order also permits people with psychiatric disabilities the same opportunity to acquire competitive civil service status after two years of successful service. This authority will allow adults with psychiatric disabilities the same opportunity for conversion into the competitive civil service as employees with other disabilities.

Challenge Congress to Pass the Historic, Bipartisan Work Incentives Improvement Act. This historic new legislation, which has bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate under the leadership of Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth, and Moynihan and Representatives Lazio, Waxman, Bliley, and Dingell, removes significant barriers to work for people with disabilities by: improving access to health care through Medicaid; extending Medicare coverage for people with disabilities who return to work; and creating a new Medicaid buy-in demonstration to help people with a specific physical or mental impairment that is expected to lead to a severe disability without medical assistance. One of the biggest barriers to entering the workplace for individuals with disabilities is that, under current law, people with disabilities often become ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare if they work which forces them to choose between health care coverage and employment. Today, the President will urge Congress to pass this important and long overdue legislation by July 26, the ninth anniversary of the ADA.