States are testing innovative strategies to help at-risk workers stay employed | Urban Institute

RETAIN is a major development in the movement to help disabled workers stay connected to the workforce, but it is only the beginning. Though musculoskeletal conditions are an important issue, many other health conditions, like mental illness, also cause workers to drop out of the workforce.

Source: States are testing innovative strategies to help at-risk workers stay employed | Urban Institute


Bipartisan federal and state policy innovations are laying the groundwork for new worker-based strategies, including a program that aims to help workers with new illnesses or injuries stay employed.

With the support of the Social Security Administration and the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at the US Department of Labor, eight states have begun developing immediate intervention strategies for employees whose work has recently been disrupted by an illness or injury that puts them at risk of losing their jobs and permanently leaving the labor force. The Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) demonstration project has the potential to expand our understanding of early intervention strategies to improve employment outcomes.

Proposed under the Trump administration and funded by Congress, RETAIN will evaluate how states can best deliver early intervention strategies to help at-risk workers stay employed. In September 2018, ODEP announced an initial round of grants of roughly $2.5 million each to eight states to develop their plans. The project has a multiyear budget of $100 million.

The key inspiration for the RETAIN project was a program developed by Washington State’s workers’ compensation program. The Centers for Occupational Health and Education (COHE) is a short-term program focused on the first 12 weeks after the occurrence of occupational (or work-related) injuries and illnesses.

The COHE program contends that, for the working population, getting back to work as quickly as is medically safe should be considered an important health care outcome. The program pays fees to physicians for best practices that trigger COHE involvement and clarify the worker’s current work ability. When necessary, COHE staff members proactively engage the key parties (worker, treating doctor, and employer) to resolve any kind of obstacles to return to work, such as educating and reassuring a hesitant worker or helping an employer understand how to temporarily adjust a job.

A recent eight-year follow-up evaluation of the COHE model found that relative to a comparable group of injured workers, those receiving COHE intervention had a 30 percent reduction in workplace-based disability and 30 percent lower rate of injured workers transitioning to Social Security Disability Insurance. In our new brief—the third in our disability policy series—we examine successful early intervention programs such as COHE and others in the US and abroad.

Even though Washington’s workers’ compensation system is unique and would not be easily replicated in other states, ODEP has asked states to learn from COHE’s accomplishments and propose ways to test key features of the program given their state’s circumstances. Here are noteworthy aspects of the proposals the eight states submitted:

  • Most states are focused on early intervention services for workers experiencing musculoskeletal conditions resulting from both occupational and nonoccupational injuries. Musculoskeletal conditions—such as low back pain from a workplace injury or muscle damage from a car accident—are among the most common health conditions causing workers to leave the labor force. Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont, and Washington are considering additional health conditions.
  • Kentucky’s proposal includes looking at how substance abuse disorders intersect with treatment for pain from musculoskeletal conditions. A study of the COHE program found that the program could also help combat the opioid crisis by detecting and addressing excess opioid prescriptions.
  • Many states are proposing a range of private and public partnerships with health systems, hospital, insurers, and other providers to help identify at-risk workers and deliver early intervention services. Connecticut is partnering with The Hartford insurance company, while Minnesota is partnering with Mayo Clinic. Kansas is partnering with the Susan B Allen Hospital System, and Ohio is partnering with Mercy Health.
  • States are exploring how state-funded temporary disability benefit programs could help identify and assist at-risk workers. California is looking at partnering with beneficiaries in its state disability insurance program, and Washington is targeting state employees who receive long-term disability insurance benefits.

Of the eight states receiving development grants in the first phase, ODEP will select four states to implement their plans during the second phase. Each of the four selected projects will be rigorously assessed by an independent evaluator funded by the Social Security Administration.

RETAIN is a major development in the movement to help disabled workers stay connected to the workforce, but it is only the beginning. Though musculoskeletal conditions are an important issue, many other health conditions, like mental illness, also cause workers to drop out of the workforce.

Some mental health–focused early intervention programs, such as the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) intervention, have been shown to help workers with serious mental illness, but funding to expand the IPS approach has been limited. Additional funding could provide states more opportunities to innovate early intervention strategies for a wider range of populations and health conditions.

The RETAIN effort shows how bipartisan cooperation could help workers overcome potentially disabling health conditions, stay in the labor force, and avoid the need for long-term assistance from programs like Social Security Disability Insurance.

Office of Disability Employment Policy Publications

Source: Office of Disability Employment Policy Publications |

Disability Employment Publications

Order FREE disability employment guides for employers, job-seekers, educators, and employment service providers.

Employers can find information to help recruit, hire, and retain employees with disabilities. Job-seekers with disabilities can find information to develop their skills and find the support they need to get a job.

You may preview products by clicking on each product’s name. Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view the products and is available for download at:

“America’s Workforce: Empowering All” 

Source: NDEAM 2018 | “America’s Workforce: Empowering All” | Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Blog

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), observed each October, celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and promotes the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. Reflecting a commitment to a robust and competitive American labor force, this year’s NDEAM theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”

To recognize NDEAM, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will publish a series of blogs, in partnership with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, throughout the month. The series will celebrate the career successes of individuals with disabilities who received vocational rehabilitation (VR) services and highlight some of the partnerships state VR agencies have established with businesses across the country.

For more information about NDEAM, visit our partners at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Mathematica Policy Research: Transition Strategies for Youth with Disabilities

Transition Strategies for Youth with Disabilities
Mathematica Policy Research has released three new reports on how transition services are being used for youth with disabilities. The goal of these services is to help youth with disabilities-particularly those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)- find employment and earn higher wages. Mathematica’s reports focus on which services are the most promising according to the current base of evidence.

Guided Group Discovery: Online Participant Workbook for Employment

Online Participant Workbook
Guided Group Discovery assists job seekers who face barriers to employment in identifying jobs that would be a good fit for them and an employer. The LEAD Center released the Guided Group Discovery Online Participant Workbook to help these job seekers in their search. This user-friendly tool allows youth and adults to create a personalized Blueprint for Employment. Each participant receives a private link that allows them to add to, edit, or review their information at any time. The Workbook can also be printed out to review with counselors, teachers, and others. The Online Participant Workbook is a companion piece to a suite of LEAD Center resources for Guided Group Discovery.

State Employment First Policies: Research to Practice State

This brief is the first in a series focusing on Employment First implementation as it relates to one of the seven elements within the High-Performing States in Integrated Employment model1. It examines the background of circumstances under which Employment First efforts began in seven states, and introduces each state’s values, mission, and goals around increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. States may use the lessons in this brief to develop an Employment First policy, or to evolve existing efforts.

Download State Definitions, Goals, and Values By Jennifer Bose and Jean E. Winsor

Source: ThinkWork 

ThinkWork is a research and training center focused on advancing employment for individuals with intellectual/ developmental disabilities (IDD). ThinkWork has published this brief as the first in a series of briefs on the implementation of Employment First policies. The principles of Employment First state that individuals with IDD can perform work, should should be paid at minimum or prevailing wage rates for this work, and that providing work-specific supports should be the top support priority.

The relationship between employment and health and health care among working-age adults with and without disabilities in the United States

The relationship between employment and health and health care among working-age adults with and without disabilities in the United States

Source: The relationship between employment and health and health care among working-age adults with and without disabilities in the United States: Disability and Rehabilitation: Vol 0, No 0

Purpose: To better understand the relationship between employment and health and health care for people with disabilities in the United States (US).

Methods: We pooled US Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (2004–2010) data to examine health status, and access to health care among working-age adults, comparing people with physical disabilities or multiple disabilities to people without disabilities, based on their employment status. Logistic regression and least squares regression were conducted, controlling for sociodemographics, health insurance (when not the outcome), multiple chronic conditions, and need for assistance.

Results: Employment was inversely related to access to care, insurance, and obesity. Yet, people with disabilities employed in the past year reported better general and mental health than their peers with the same disabilities who were not employed. Those who were employed were more likely to have delayed/forgone necessary care, across disability groups. Part-time employment, especially for people with multiple limitations, was associated with better health and health care outcomes than full-time employment.

Conclusion: Findings highlight the importance of addressing employment-related causes of delayed or foregone receipt of necessary care (e.g., flex-time for attending appointments) that exist for all workers, especially those with physical or multiple disabilities.

  • Implications for rehabilitation
  • These findings demonstrate that rehabilitation professionals who are seeking to support employment for persons with physical limitations need to ensure that overall health concerns are adequately addressed, both for those seeking employment and for those who are currently employed.

  • Assisting clients in prioritizing health equally with employment can ensure that both areas receive sufficient attention.

  • Engaging with employers to develop innovative practices to improve health, health behaviors and access to care for employees with disabilities can decrease turnover, increase productivity, and ensure longer job tenure.

Mobile Accommodation Solution

The free Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS) app is designed to streamline the disability accommodation process. The MAS app serves as a first-generation mobile case management tool to help employers, service providers, and individuals effectively address accommodation requests in the workplace.

Source: JAN Training Downloads

The app will support talent management, human resources, and/or accommodation staff to create inclusive workplaces by facilitating the process of accommodating applicants, candidates, and employees. The app will also support service providers to help people with disabilities better manage the accommodation process. In addition, the app will enable people with disabilities to develop an accommodation request letter, send the request, and track the progress of the request.

County-Level Disability Prevalence and Employment Statistics Compendium | Now Available

These reports complement and provide greater depth to the topics found in the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium and Annual Disability Statistics Supplement. Each report provides statistics on the prevalence and employment of people with and without disabilities for each county in any given state in the US. Reports include a background and interpretive text specific to each state and are intended for advocates, policy-makers, and researchers to support programs and services for people with disabilities.

Source: County Reports | Annual Disability Statistics Compendium


Work-Life Balance & Disability


The NIDILRR-funded project on Getting and Keeping People with Disabilities in the Workforce: Negotiating Work, Life, and Disability recently debuted a new web resource, Work-Life Balance & Disability, resulting from the project’s exploration of individual and organizational factors that support effective work-life management among employed people with disabilities. The site includes personal stories, plain language research briefs, and other resources. A polling feature enables collection of data to help inform future projects related to the well-being and employment success of people with disabilities. The site will continue to be updated with new polling questions, featured publications, and more stories from employed people with disabilities.
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