Returning Veterans and Disability Law
53 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2009 Last revised: 10 Apr 2010
Date Written: March 23, 2009
Federal laws and policies as they relate to the employment of people with disabilities are at war with themselves. Antidiscrimination law, primarily through the Americans with Disabilities Act, is premised on the empowering idea that people with disabilities can and should work once discriminatory societal barriers are removed. But antidiscrimination law does not work alone. There is a separate sphere of social welfare policies that provides more affirmative forms of assistance to people with disabilities. These older programs contain significant work disincentives and are often conditioned on detachment from the labor force. These divergent views of disability and employment have contributed to the low success rate in moving and keeping people with disabilities in the workforce.
The federal laws and programs for veterans with disabilities demonstrate that a more coherent policy is possible. Federal employment policy for veterans with disabilities is more integrated and encourages workforce participation through both antidiscrimination law and social welfare policies. The occasion of the largest wave of returning veterans with disabilities in recent history, combined with the renewed need to create employment opportunities for all groups in light of rising unemployment rates, creates a unique opportunity to analyze what can be learned from this more coherent framework.
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