Rehabilitation Act of 1973, (8 March 1973) Washington, D.C.

Speech Text


[1] MR. BRADEMAS. Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill (H.R. 17) to amend the Vocational Rehabilitation Act to extend and revise the authorization of grants to States for vocational rehabilitation services, to authorize grants for rehabilitation services to those with severe disabilities, and for other purposes.

[2] The motion was agreed to.


[3] Accordingly the House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill H.R. 17, with Mr. MONTGOMERY in the chair.

[4] The Clerk read the title of the bill.

[5] By unanimous consent, the first reading of the bill was dispensed with.

[6] The CHAIRMAN. Under the rule, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. BRADEMAS) will be recognized for 30 minutes and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. QUIE) will be recognized for 30 minutes.

[7] The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Indiana.

[8] Mr. BRADEMAS. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to rise in support of H.R. 17, the Rehabilitation Amendments of 1973.

[9] I believe H.R. 17 can be one of the most substantial and significant advances in Federal aid to the handicapped in half a century.

[10] The bill before us, Mr. Chairman, is a result of bipartisan cooperation and compromise.

[11] I would like here to express my warm appreciation to the distinguished chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, Mr. PERKINS of Kentucky, and the distinguished ranking minority member of the committee, Mr. QUIE of Minnesota, who have labored long and hard on this legislation to better the lives of the handicapped people.

[12] I would be remiss, Mr. Chairman, if I did not also thank the gentlelady from Hawaii (Mrs. MINK), the gentleman from Idaho (Mr. HANSEN), the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. ESHLEMAN), the gentleman from Washington (Mr. MEEDS), the gentleman from New York (Mr. PEYSER), the gentlelady from New York (Mrs. CHISHOLM), the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. SARASIN), the gentlelady from Connecticut (Mrs. GRASSO), the gentleman from New York (Mr. BADILLO), the gentleman from Florida (Mr. LEHMAN), and the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. MAZZOLI) for their fine efforts in reporting this legislation successfully from the committee.


[13] Mr. Chairman, during the 92d Congress, the Select Subcommittee on Education, which I have the honor to chair, held 4 days of hearings on various bills to extend and amend the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. The subcommittee received testimony from a variety of witnesses including the administration.

[14] A measure was reported unanimously from the subcommittee and the Education and Labor Committee. Subsequently, it was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate.

[15] To the surprise of most of us, Mr. Chairman, on October 22, after Congress had adjourned, the President vetoed the Rehabilitation Act of 1972.

[16] When the 93d Congress convened on January 3, I joined Mr. PERKINS, the distinguished chairman of the full Committee on Education and Labor, and the distinguished ranking minority member, Mr. QUIE, together with the other members who had been conferees on this measure, to introduce an identical bill to the measure vetoed.

[17] I would like to observe that since January 3 over 120 Members of the House, of both parties, have joined in cosponsoring this measure.

[18] Next, Mr. Chairman, the subcommittee which I chair held hearings on the new measure and received testimony from the Assistant Secretary for Legislation of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as to the administration’s position and objections to the measure.


[19] Mr. Chairman, we all know that one of the most successful illustrations of Federal-State cooperation in working toward a national goal is the vocational rehabilitation program created by legislation enacted in 1920 and amended many times since. The goal of the program through the years, Mr. Chairman, has been to assure that physically and mentally handicapped persons have, as near as it is possible, the same opportunity to succeed as have nonhandicapped persons.

[20] Mr. Chairman, for 50 years vocational rehabilitation has been a great success. Nearly 3 million disabled persons have been returned to productive activities since the act became law in 1920. During fiscal year 1971, a total of 291,272 persons receiving rehabilitation training and services has returned to the labor market. The earnings of those 291,272 persons increased by an estimated $770 million of what they had earned the year before they entered the vocational rehabilitation program. Average earnings of the persons rehabilitated had been $15.95 a week when they were first accepted into the program, but upon completion, their average earnings rose to $68.86 a week.


[21] The Vocational Rehabilitation Act has often been the difference between poverty and financial independence, between despair and hope. Successful as the program has been, however, there is still much to be done to insure the rehabilitation of the handicapped people of this country. Despite the millions who have successfully completed rehabilitation programs, many crippled people receive no services at all. The simple fact is that, contrary to what many people think, the total number of seriously disabled people in the United States is increasing every year. As medical skills improve, persons who in years past would have succumbed to certain types of illness and injuries are today surviving to live lives of disability. An example of this is the thousands of disabled young men who have come out of the Vietnam war. Because of advances in evacuation techniques and treatment of catastrophic injuries, men who would have died on the battlefield in earlier wars are surviving in this war. Of the 400 Americans with spinal paralysis carried off the battlefields of World War I, 90 percent were dead within a year of receiving their wounds. Today soldiers receiving spinal cord injuries are surviving to live long lives in wheelchairs.

[22] In fiscal year 1972, approximately 1,110,045 disabled persons were served by State vocational rehabilitation agencies and the Rehabilitation Services Administration in HEW reports that 326,138 of them were considered to be rehabilitated. This is not an insignificant achievement if these figures can indeed be verified, but even this number of successful cases must be taken in the context of an estimated 7 to 12 million handicapped individuals in the Nation who have not realized their vocational potential.

[23] With the level of funding authorized in the bill, rehabilitation services could be provided to a total of approximately 2 million handicapped individuals over the next 2 fiscal years using today’s per case cost.

[24] This would mean 5.36 million handicapped persons who, at today’s spending level, would not be served.

[25] The simple fact is, Mr. Chairman, that we have only begun to scratch the surface in meeting the needs of our disabled fellow citizens. The bill before us today contains provisions that will enable us to improve and enlarge the work of rehabilitating physically and mentally handicapped persons to enable them to return to their places in their families and communities as effective participating members of society.


[26] Mr. Chairman, in my opinion, H.R. 17 is an historic measure.

[27] Mr. Chairman, this is the major piece of legislation affecting handicapped individuals in the United States.

[28] The bill before us today was reported by the subcommittee by a vote of 12 to 0 with one vote of “present.”

[29] The Committee on Education and Labor subsequently, on February 27, reported the bill favorably by a vote of 33 to 1.

[30] Briefly, Mr. Chairman, the bill would –

[31] Extend the 52-year-old vocational rehabilitation program for 2 years which assists handicapped individuals return to employment;

[32] Provide a new program for handicapped individuals who are so severely handicapped that they might never be able to work, but who might be expected to develop some self-sufficiency, and thereby lessen some of the strain on their families and allow those members to seek employment;

[33] Prove the necessary help to persons suffering from serious kidney disease;

[34] Provide for a special program for persons suffering from spinal cord injuries; and

[35] Provide special program to deaf and older blind individuals.

[36] In addition, Mr. Chairman, in light of the administration’s testimony presented to the committee last month, H.R. 17 reduces the appropriation authorized in the vetoed bill from approximately $3.5 billion over 3 years to $2.6 billion over the same period—a cut of some $900 million. The bill otherwise does not alter the bill vetoed last year.

[37] Mr. Chairman, I view the vote of the committee as evidence of the wide bi-partisan support this measure enjoys and I urge that we move expeditiously to approve this measure once again.