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President Clinton Announces End To Discriminatory Federal Hiring Practices For People With Psychiatric Disabilities

Chris Marshall
For Immediate Release
4 Jun 99

President Clinton announced today an end to unfair and restrictive hiring practices by federal agencies using personnel policies that have discriminated against people with severe mental illnesses for decades. The President has issued an executive order that gives people with psychiatric disabilities the same hiring and promotion protections as workers with physical disabilities and mental retardation.

Agencies within the federal government were given a special hiring authority over 20 years ago to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. People with psychiatric disabilities were not given the same rights as people with physical disabilities or mental retardation, in fact, people with psychiatric disabilities have been held to a very limited and strict standard. Currently, the special hiring authority allows agencies to temporarily hire people with psychiatric disabilities for two years, at which time the individual is often forced to leave the position or engage in an open competitive process for their job. People with physical disabilities and mental retardation are allowed to keep their jobs and become permanent employees.

President Clinton’s executive order establishes equal employment opportunities for all people with disabilities and gives federal agencies the authority to permanently hire persons with psychiatric disabilities. The rule change also exempts people with psychiatric disabilities from the competitive appointment process, the same as employees with physical disabilities and mental retardation.

The change in policy made by the President, illustrates the advances that have been made in ending pervasive stigma and discrimination experienced by people with severe mental illnesses. It sends a powerful message to the public that people with mental illnesses should be given the same opportunities to work as are afforded all other people in this country.

The announcement occurred as part of a series of announcements being made by the President in conjunction with the White House Conference on Mental Health, chaired by the President’s Mental Health Advisor, Mrs. Tipper Gore.

The President is also expected on Monday during to renew his call to Congress to pass the Work Incentives Improvement Act (S. 331 and H.R. 1180). The Work Incentives Improvement Act would extend Medicare and Medicaid coverage for SSI and SSDI recipients who want to work. Before Congress adjourned for its Memorial Day recess, Senate leaders negotiated a compromise on this important legislation. However, Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) blocked the Senate from taking up the bill. NAMI advocates are encouraged to contact their Senators and ask them to urge Senator Gramm to lift his "hold" on the bill.