Coach Mike

Helping Kids with Autism



Special Report by Mike Frandsen

August 22, 2008
www.coachmike.net

SPECIAL REPORT:  FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HIRING OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES THROUGH THE SCHEDULE A HIRING AUTHORITY

Statement

The federal government’s Schedule A program intended to facilitate the hiring of people with disabilities is severely underutilized, especially in hiring people with cognitive and psychiatric disabilities.  

Background

The Office of Personnel Management created the Schedule A program more than 20 years ago to allow for greater recruitment and hiring of individuals with disabilities.  It allows federal agencies to bypass the competitive process to provide disabled individuals a unique opportunity to demonstrate their ability to successfully perform the essential duties of a position with or without reasonable accommodation.  OPM states that the Schedule A certification is used to "appoint persons who are certified that they are at a severe disadvantage in obtaining employment…Certification also ensures that they are capable of functioning in the position for which they will be appointed, and that any residual disabilities are not job-related." 

Reasons for Study

In order for the federal government to have an adequately diverse workforce, agencies should hire people from all segments of society, including those with all disabilities.  People with disabilities are not only inadequately represented in the federal government, but government agencies are not implementing the programs that have been created to help decrease this disparity.

The Schedule A program, specifically developed to help reduce the more than 70% unemployment rate of people with disabilities – people who want to work and are more than capable of working – has been severely underutilized and virtually ignored by most government agencies.  Even years after the federal government was notified of the lack of progress in hiring people with disabilities through the Schedule A hiring authority, the government continues to show a reckless disregard for this issue.  There has been no recent increase in the number of such individuals hired.

Summary of Results

I submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to federal government agencies asking how many times the Schedule A certification was used to hire people with disabilities in the three categories defined by OPM as:  physical disability, mental retardation, and psychiatric disability.  I changed the title in my table for the second category from mental retardation to cognitive disability to include those hires listed who had cognitive disabilities but did not necessarily meet the threshold of mental retardation.    

The table below shows the number of times federal government agencies hired people with disabilities using the Schedule A hiring authority for the years specified, based on the information provided by agencies.  Different agencies provided different timeframes so the data is not consistent across all agencies.  However, the ratios of hires from different categories are fairly consistent. 

Most federal agencies underutilized the Schedule A program or did not use it at all.  In almost all cases in which the hiring authority was used, hires of people with physical disabilities outnumbered those with cognitive disabilities and psychiatric disabilities by an extremely wide margin.  Noteworthy results from the survey include the following:

  • The U.S. Forest Service hired 818 employees with disabilities through the Schedule A program from 1991 to 2008.  While the Forest Service hired a large number of people with physical disabilities (816), it hired just two with psychiatric disabilities and none with cognitive disabilities.

  • Between 2002 and 2007, the OPM, the agency that developed the Schedule A program, used the hiring authority to hire just 9 people with disabilities, and none with a psychiatric disability.   

  • From 2003 to 2008 the Department of Commerce hired 36 employees with disabilities under Schedule A.  All were in the physical category except for one in the psychiatric category (none were hired with cognitive disabilities).  The Department of Commerce has approximately 36,000 employees. 

  • Between 1998 and 2008, the Department of Education made 58 Schedule A hires of people with disabilities.  All were in the physical category; none were in the categories of cognitive or psychiatric disabilities.

  • The Department of Health and Human Services reported that it hired 213 people with disabilities through the Schedule A program from 2000 to 2008.  Of those, 198 had physical disabilities; 15 had cognitive disabilities, and not one had a psychiatric disability (After the survey, one HHS agency hired a person with a psychiatric disability).

  • Of the 89 people the Department of Homeland Security hired with disabilities through the Schedule A program, 81 had physical disabilities, 4 had cognitive disabilities, and 1 had a psychiatric disability (3 were not specified). 

  • The Department of the Interior, which has approximately 75,000 employees, used the Schedule A program for people with disabilities to hire exactly three of its current employees.

Several agencies did in fact hire a significant number of employees in either the cognitive or psychiatric disability categories.  

  • The Department of the Navy used Schedule A to hire 374 employees with disabilities between 2002 and 2007.  The Navy hired 221 people with physical disabilities, 5 with cognitive disabilities, and 148 with psychiatric disabilities.   The 148 hires with psychiatric disabilities were nearly twice as many as all other agencies combined.  Not including the 66 hires with psychiatric disabilities by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 2003 to 2007, the Department of the Navy hired 8 times more people with psychiatric disabilities through the Schedule A program than all other agencies combined (15 hires total).

  • The EEOC reported that between 2003 and 2007, it hired 3420 people with disabilities through the Schedule A program.  Of these, 2296 had physical disabilities, 66 had psychiatric disabilities, and 1058 were listed as "handicap."

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs submitted a bar graph rather than numerical data.  It appears that the Department of Veterans Affairs hired a significant number of employees with disabilities, including those with psychiatric disabilities, through the Schedule A program.

  • The National Archives and Records Administration hired 86 people with disabilities through Schedule A from 1985 to 2004.  NARA is the only major agency that hired more people in the cognitive disability category than in the physical disability category (46 to 36).  NARA hired four people with psychiatric disabilities. 

It is important to note that there are people working in the federal government with disabilities who were hired without using the Schedule A certification.

Recommendations

Federal agencies should not only develop policy on making the hiring process as inclusive as possible, but should also be accountable to those claims by ensuring that the policies are effectively implemented in a way that will mutually benefit the agencies, the public whom they represent and work for, and the employees who conduct work for these agencies.  The federal government should recruit more people with disabilities into their workforce by utilizing the Schedule A hiring authority.  Congress should enact laws to ensure that the federal government’s workforce is representative of society as a whole.  Finally, categories of disabilities should be reworked to ensure that people with all disabilities are included.

Specific recommendations include:

1. The federal government should increase recruitment of job candidates with disabilities.

The federal government should recruit more people with disabilities, especially those with cognitive, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities.  According to the data provided by federal agencies, the total number of Schedule A hires was as follows: 4069 hires with physical disabilities (73% of all Schedule A hires with disabilities), 124 hires with cognitive disabilities (2% of all Schedule A hires with disabilities), and 229 hires with psychiatric disabilities (4% of all Schedule A hires with disabilities).  The remaining 21% were unspecified.  Counting statistics from all agencies except the Department of the Navy and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Schedule A hires of people with psychiatric disabilities accounted for just 1% of all people hired with disabilities through Schedule A.

Based on the data, the federal government seems to give preference to people with physical disabilities over those with other disabilities, and may discriminate against those with other disabilities, if a lack of recruitment can be considered discrimination.  The scarcity of Schedule A hires in the cognitive and psychiatric categories is staggering, disappointing, and shameful.  People with cognitive disabilities can perform certain jobs very effectively and people with psychiatric disabilities often have a very high intellect.  As with people with developmental disabilities, these potential employees may simply require reasonable accommodations.  Agencies should empower Special Placement Coordinators with more authority to recruit and hire people with disabilities.  Although the OPM website states that this is currently the case, in fact, they often do not have the leeway or the incentive to do so.

2. The federal government should revise classifications of disabilities to include those with developmental disabilities.

The federal government should change the current classifications to include developmental disabilities.  This would include people on the autism spectrum.  In the hundreds of pages of responses I received from government agencies, not once was there a mention of someone hired who had autism.  While there must have been cases in which autistic people have been hired using the Schedule A certification or otherwise, in the descriptions of the types of disabilities listed by federal agencies in their FOIA responses, the term "autism" never came up, though some agencies did not go into detail other than listing the three major categories.   

The categorization of disabilities under the Schedule A program seems to exclude most people on the autism spectrum. The Schedule A Program lists people with disabilities in three broad categories. The first category, "severe physical disability," would only sometimes apply to a person with autism. The second category, "mental retardation," may apply to a percentage of people on the autism spectrum, but it is now believed by many experts that far fewer people with autism than previously believed have mental retardation, a term, which incidentally, is being phased out in favor of "intellectual disability" or "cognitive disability." Finally, the third category, "psychiatric disability" does not cover those with autism, which should be classified as a "developmental disability," a term that would be much more accurate and inclusive. 

Regarding psychiatric disabilities, it is important to note that the federal government states that this third category is only for "hiring people who have recovered from mental illness." Unfortunately, most mental illnesses are chronic, so this wording discriminates against those who retain a diagnosis of a mental illness or psychiatric disability. People with psychiatric disabilities should be given a fair chance to work and contribute to the missions of federal agencies rather than being explicitly discriminated against through government policies. 

The federal government should also not restrict employment of those on the autism spectrum to those who have "recovered," because while some people on the spectrum make remarkable progress and some eventually become indistinguishable from the general population, most people with autism do not become completely "recovered."

3. Congress should pass laws that require agencies to hire people with disabilities.

Congress should pass laws that require agencies to hire people with disabilities or provide incentives for doing so.  Those with psychiatric, cognitive, or developmental disabilities should be adequately represented.  For the past 20 years, the Schedule A program has been severely underutilized and often ignored by many agencies.  The vast majority of Schedule A hires have come from the physical disability category.  It has been proven that most agencies will not do what is right in this area; they will only do what they are required to do.  Therefore strong laws need to be enacted.  Unfortunately, lobbyist groups for disabled people do not exist in the way that they do for high-powered, money-making special interest groups such as the oil and pharmaceutical industries.  Still, lawmakers should pass laws that will facilitate the hiring of people with disabilities because the costs of not doing so in the long term are certainly more than the short term costs.  Legislation requiring the federal government ensure that people with various disabilities are adequately represented will help prevent institutional, systematic discrimination against people with disabilities.  People with disabilities face enough problems without being discriminated against.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the federal agency FOIA representatives who responded to my requests for information.   



Federal Government Hiring of People with Disabilities through the Schedule A Hiring Authority
   
Employees with Disabilities Hired through the Schedule A Program
Agency
Years Reported
Physical Disability
Cognitive Disability
Psychiatric Disability
Other Disability or Not Specified
No response from parent agency; only some of its sub-agencies responded.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection  Service

 

16

1

0

 

  • Food Safety and Inspection Service

2003-2007

3

0

1

 

  • Forest Service

1991-2008

816

0

2

 

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service              

2000-2008

29

9

0

9

  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration

No response or refused to provide information.

  • Office of the Inspector General

2003-2007

0

0

0

 

  • Research, Education and Economics Agricultural Research Service

1998-2007

36

5

0

 

  • Rural Development

No response or refused to provide information.

Department of Commerce

2003-2008

35

0

1

 

2003-2008

9

4

0

 

No response from parent agency; only sub-agencies responded.
  • Air Force
No response or refused to provide information.
No response or refused to provide information.
General
No response or refused to provide information.

2001-2008

16

3

1

5

2004-2008

0

1

0

 

2005-2007

75

9

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

2001-2007

5

1

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.
No response or refused to provide information.
No response or refused to provide information.
  • Defense Technical Information Center
No response or refused to provide information.

2001-2005

7

2

1

 

No response or refused to provide information.

Referred request to the Navy.

No response or refused to provide information

 

0

0

0

 

 

0

0

0

 

  • Department of the Navy

2002-2007

221

5

148

 

No response or refused to provide information.
No response or refused to provide information.

Department of Education

1998-2008

58

0

0

 

Department of Energy

2000-2007

11

3

0

 

Department of Health and Human Services

2000-2008

198

15

1

 

  • Administration for Children and Families

2000-2008

3

0

0

 

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

2000-2008

1

0

0

 

  • Centers for Disease Control

2000-2008

43

0

0

 

2000-2008

31

2

0

 

2000-2008

62

2

1

 

  • Health Resources and Services Administration

2000-2008

12

0

0

 

1998-2008

21

4

1

 

  • Office of the Secretary 

2000-2008

4

0

0

 

  • Program Support Center

2000-2008

15

7

0

 

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

2000-2008

5

0

0

 

Department of Homeland Security

2003-2008

81

4

1

3

2003-2008

29

3

0

 

2003-2008

17

0

0

 

2003-2008

5

0

0

 

2003-2008

2

0

0

 

  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center

 

1

 

 

3

2003-2008

11

0

0

 

2003-2008

1

0

0

 

  • National Protection and Programs Directorate

2003-2008

1

1

0

 

  • Office of the Secretary

2003-2008

9

0

0

 

2003-2008

5

0

1

 

2003-2008

0

0

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

2005-2007

3

0

0

 

Department of the Interior

Includes all current employees

2

0

0

 

  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center

 

1

 

 

3

2003-2008

11

0

0

 

2003-2008

1

0

0

 

  • National Protection and Programs Directorate

2003-2008

1

1

0

 

  • Office of the Secretary

2003-2008

9

0

0

 

2003-2008

5

0

1

 

2003-2008

0

0

0

 

Department of Housing and Urban Development

2005-2007

3

0

0

 

Department of the Interior

Includes all current employees

2

0

0

 

Department of Justice

No response or refused to provide information.

Department of Labor

No response or refused to provide information.

Department of State

No response or refused to provide information.

Department of Transportation

Did not receive FOIA request.

2000-2006

26

0

1

 

No response from parent agency; only some of its sub-agencies responded.

1992-2008

 

 

 

30

No response or refused to provide information.

2003-2007

0

0

0

 

Department of Veterans Affairs

Submitted a bar graph rather than actual data.  It appears that the Department of Veterans Affairs hired a significant number of employees with disabilities, including psychiatric disabilities, through the Schedule A program.
Other Federal Agencies
No response or refused to provide information.

American Battle Monuments Commission

 

0

0

0

 

Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corporation)

 

0

0

0

 

Broadcasting Board of Governors

No response or refused to provide information.

Central Intelligence Agency

No response or refused to provide information.

Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

No response or refused to provide information.

Commission on Civil Rights

1989-2008

1

0

0

 

Committee for Purchase from People who Are Blind or Severely Disabled

1993-2008

 

 

 

2

Commodity Futures Trading Commission

 

0

0

0

 

Consumer Product Safety Commission

No response or refused to provide information.

Corporation for National Service

No response or refused to provide information.

Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

No response or refused to provide information.

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board

 

0

0

0

 

Environmental Protection Agency

1974-2008

84

14

2

25

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

2003-2007

2296

unknown

66

1058 (indicated as “handicap”)

Executive Office of the President

 

0

0

0

 

2000-2007

 

 

 

1

 

0

0

0

 

 

0

0

0

 

1993-2008

0

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Export-Import Bank

1989-2008

0

0

0

 

Farm Credit Administration

 

0

0

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

Federal Communications Commission

 

4

0

0

 

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
No response or refused to provide information.

Federal Election Commission

 

0

0

0

 

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

 

3

0

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

Federal Labor Relations Authority

 

0

0

0

 

Federal Maritime Commission
No response or refused to provide information.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

1988-2007

0

0

0

 

Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission

 

0

0

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

Federal Reserve System

 

0

0

0

 

Division of Monetary Affairs

 

0

0

0

 

Thrift Investment Board

 

0

0

0

 

Federal Trade Commission

1998-2007

0

0

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

Institute of Museum and Library Services

 

0

0

0

 

Inter-American Foundation

No response or refused to provide information.

Legal Services Corporation

No response or refused to provide information.

Merit Systems Protection Board

 

0

0

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

1993-1997

 

 

 

30

National Archives and Records Administration

1985-2004

36

46

4

 

National Capital Planning Commission

 

0

0

0

 

National Credit Union Administration

No response or refused to provide information.

National Endowment for the Arts

 

2

0

0

 

National Endowment for the Humanities

2005

 

 

 

1

National Indian Gaming Commission

 

0

0

0

 

National Labor Relations Board

No response or refused to provide information.

National Mediation Board

No response or refused to provide information.

National Science Foundation

No response or refused to provide information.

National Transportation Safety Board

No response or refused to provide information.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

 

0

0

0

 

Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

 

0

0

0

 

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

No response or refused to provide information.

Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight

No response or refused to provide information.

Office of Government Ethics

2002-2008

0

0

0

 

Office of Personnel Management

2002-2007

6

2

0

1

Office of Special Counsel

2004-2008

0

1

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

Peace Corps

 

0

0

0

 

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

 

0

0

0

 

Postal Regulatory Commission

2001-2007

0

0

0

 

Railroad Retirement Board

 

0

0

0

 

Securities and Exchange Commission

 

0

0

0

 

Selective Service System

No response or refused to provide information.

Small Business Administration

No response or refused to provide information.

Social Security Administration

No response or refused to provide information.

Surface Transportation Board

1993-2008

0

1

0

 

Tennessee Valley Authority

 

0

0

0

 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

No response or refused to provide information.

United States Copyright Office

No response or refused to provide information.

United States International Boundary and Water Commission

No response or refused to provide information.

United States International Trade Commission

 

0

0

0

 

No response or refused to provide information.

United States Trade and Development Agency

 

0

0

0

 

Totals

 

4069 (73%)

124 (2%)

229 (4%)

1165 (21%)

Totals excluding Navy and EEOC

 

1552 (87%)

119 (7%)

15 (1%)

107 (6%)