Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

a

More and more this provision has become a tantalizing symbol of the good intentions of a day long since passed; it has become a symbol to the ambitious blind person of the futility of effort, a mockery of his struggle for economic self-sufficiency, and a steel-jawed trap for the profits of his labors—for each dollar he earns above $12 a week reduced his aid grant by that amount.

Though he works steadily and tirelessly in a profession or business, trade, or common calling, to acquire stability and solvency in his endeavors, he is stifled by the restrictiveness of the $50 monthly limit placed upon his earnings—and though he may work hard and long, though he may sacrifice, struggle, and strive, he is like a man on a treadmill, going round and round in the same small circle: If he earns more than $12 a week, his aid check is reduced by the amount of the excess; but to get established in his small variety store, in his backyard chicken business, he needs far more than $50 a month and to prosper in his small store or business he needs more than this amount.

Thus, however much he may try, he remains permanently on public assistance, courageously, stubbornly, trying to work his way off

, but never quite succeeding, and finally he has no more heart for the uneven struggle and one more chance is lost to return a man to the normal productive channels of community life.

Mr. Chairman, I urge you and the members of this committee not to abandon the work so finely begun in 1950—the conversion of the aid to the blind title from a program offering bare subsistence, to a program by which men who are blind, who are in need of financial help, may receive help in their valiant efforts to rebuild their lives.

S. 3067, too, is a bill which merits your most careful consideration. Introduced into the Senate by Hon. Hubert Humphrey, of Minnesota, and cosponsored by Hon. Jacob Javits, of New York, this bill would liberalize the disability insurance provisions of the Social Security Act.

It would make disability cash benefits available as an absolute right, without regard to age, income or employment status, related exclusively to the establishment of the disability of blindness within the generally accepted definition of blindness; it would reduce the minimum requirement of coverage from 20 quarters to 1 quarter in covered employment; the present provision of compulsory acceptance of vocational rehabilitation would be abolished, and disability insurance benfits would be made available to persons who have earned coverage after the onset of blindness on the same basis as set forth above. Finally, I urge that you adopt the provisions of S. 3470, and incorporate them into title X of the Social Security Act.

This bill, introduced into the Senate by Hon. Eugene McCarthy, of Minnesota, a member of this committee, would prohibit the States from imposing a residence requirement for eligibility to receive aid to the blind payments, and further, would provide that should an applicant for such aid not be a resident of the State of application for a certain length of time, then the entire cost of such person's aid grant would be met by Federal funds until the person resided in the State the required period of time.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, for allowing me the opportunity of making known to you the views of the National Federation of the Blind with regard to certain bills now before you for consideration. Thank you.

. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Nagle, I want to congratulate you in the way you read your address. You have done much better than those who can see every word. You didn't hesitate on a single word.

Mr. NAGLE. Mr. Chairman, I would like permission to submit for the record a statement by a Mr. Perry Sundquist. This program that I speak of, the earned income exemption of $1,000 plus 50 percent above that, has been in operation in a program in California functioning entirely through State funds for the past 19 years, and I believe that a statement from the person who is director of this program would be of benefit to the gentlemen of the committee.

It would give much more ample information about this operation than I have provided in my statement.

The CHAIRMAN. The insertion will be made in the record. (The document referred to follows:)

[ocr errors]

STATEMENT PREPARED AND SUBMITTED BY PERRY SUNDQUIST, CHIEF, DIVISION

FOR THE BLIND, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE, CALIFORNIA IN SUPPORT OF S. 3449

CALIFORNIA'S AID TO POTENTIALLY SELF-SUPPORTING BLIND RESIDENTS STATUTE I. Purpose

California has two public assistance programs for the blind-aid to needy blind and aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents. The aid to needy blind program was enacted by the legislature in 1929. In March 1960, there were 13,486 recipients receiving aid to needy blind and the average grant was $100.32, excluding medical care.

The aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents statute was enacted by the legislature effective July 1, 1941, and in March of 1960 the statewide caseload was 302 and the average grant was $114.41. This second program of public assistance for the blind in this State, which is distinct from the older category of aid to needy blind, resulted clearly from recognition on the part of the legislature of the fact that relief from the distress of poverty alone is not sufficient for those blind persons who wish to have an opportunity to achieve self-support.

The constructive purposes of the aid to potential self-supporting blind residents law are eloquently set forth in section 3400 of the statute. “The purpose of this chapter is to provide a plan for this State whereby the blind residents of this State may be encouraged to take advantage of and to enlarge their economic opportunities to the end that they may render themselves independent of public assistance and become entirely self-supporting. To achieve this objective, resources and income beyond the necessities of bare decency and subsistence are required. This chapter, by allowing the retention of necessary income and resources by those of the blind showing a reasonable probability of being able and willing to undertake the acquisition of resources and income necessary for self-support will encourage them in their efforts to become self-supporting." This program is financed entirely by the State and county governments since the Federal Government will not participate because of the liberal provisions for exempt income and property in the statute. The rehabilitative aspects of the program, however, seemed ample recompense for loss of Federal funds.

In aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents the eligibility requirements are the same as for the federally reimbursed aid to needly blind program, except that: (1) a maximum of $1,200 a year of net income from all sources is allowed without deduction from the maximum monthly grant of $115 a month, plus 50 percent of all net income above $1,200; (2) a maximum of $5,000 in assessed value of real and/or personal property, less encumbrances, is allowed together with and additional $5,00 in such property if needed as an integral part of the plan for self-support; and (3) the recipient of aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents must have a reasonably adequate plant for self-support and must give evidence that he is attempting to carry out that plan through a sincere and sustained effort.

II. Operation and results of the program

Since the aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents program began in 1941, the State social welfare board has provided two criteria for eligibility in addition to the usual requirements with respect to property, income, degree of blindness, etc. The criteria are (1) a reasonably adequate plan which may lead to self-support; and (2) a sincere and sustained effort to further that plan. Evaluation of a plan for self-support by the county social worker is, of necessity, anticipatory in nature if the individual is just embarking on a plan the adequacy of which can only become apparent with the passage of time. However, reevaluation of a current plan for self-support is usually slanted toward its success as shown by progress made toward achieving self-support. Experience has indicated that even though originally a plan may have been subject to some question, the encouragement given the blind person often leads him to more satisfactory results than originally appeared possible. The amount of money earned by an individual is only one factor in determining adequacy of a plan. It is the probability of future earnings sufficient for self-support which is a more final determinant. It is important to consider the length of time a given plan has been in effect. However, a plan which requires a long period of preparation and training may be acceptable even though it may not produce immediate income, as for example, university training which experience has proved to be perhaps the best type of plan for self-support of all.

Whenever a blind person is a recipient of aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents, or applies for aid under the program, it is crucial that a very thorough and intensive and individual examination be made of his particular situation. It is, of course, up to the blind person himself-with such help, consultation and advice as he can secure-- to determine his own plan which he hopes will lead him to self-support. But whether the plan is one which is likely to eventuate in complete self-support or not, is a matter of his judgment and the judgment of the county social worker and the employer. In order to make this judgment a sound one it is indispensable that a very intensive examination be made of the individual situation. It is not simply enough to say, if a blind man wants to go into a certain occupation, that that occupation is one in which few blind persons have succeeded. It very well could be an occupation in which that particular individual can succeed. This is the clear-cut illustration which is most sharply made by a case like that of Dr. Bradley Burson. Dr. Burson is a blind man, totally blind, who is a nuclear physicist, an experimental nuclear physicist. If he had offered as a plan for self-support going to a university and becoming a nuclear physicist, in all likelihood most persons might have said that this was not a plan likely to lead to self-support, but this would be a generalized conclusion about a plan and in this area it is extremely important to avoid generalized conclusions. As a matter of fact, someone who examined Dr. Burson's talents and his individual situation might very well have concluded that his was a good plan even before he demonstrated that it was by succeeding at it.

In 1955 the department prepared for and submitted to the legislative auditor a study of the aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents program. In that study a comparison was made of the caseload as of December 1950, June 1953, and September 1954. Since December 1950, and aid to potentially selfsupporting blind residents program has been administered with increasing emphasis on demonstrated progress in the achievement of self-support by recipients and transfer to aid to needy blind of those who did not meet this criterion, or who could not develop a more adequate plan. The result has been a progressive reduction in caseload, but also a caseload of much greater potentiality for eventual self-support.

This study also showed an increase in the number of students aided by the id to partially self-supporting blind residents program, both numerically and proportionately. It should be noted again that this group of recipients (students) is known to have a much higher potential for eventual self-support than any other group.

The substantial success of this department and of the counties to weeding out recipients with low potential for self-support from the aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents program was made very apparent by the tabular material included in this study. The number of recipients with annual earnings of less than $100 declined from 21.6 percent in December 1950 to 5.3 percent in September 1954. The number with annual earnings of less than $600 declined from 71.6 percent in December 1950 to 32.6 percent in September 1954.

On the other hand, only 5.6 percent of the recipients had earnings of $1,000 or more in December 1950, compared with 25.7 percent in September 1954. Median earnings reported in December 1950 report were about $380, in June 1953 about $740, and in September 1954 about $820.

By December 31, 1947–612 years after the program began—a total of 847 blind men and women had been granted aid under the aid to potentially selfsupporting blind residents statute. There were 173 of these individuals, or approximately 20 percent who had become self-supporting.

As of June 30, 1949—after 8 years of operation of the program-933 different blind men and women had been granted aid under the program. There were 316 persons, or almost 32 percent of the total who had achieved self-support for periods of time varying from several months to permanent self-maintenance.

During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1953, almost 25 percent of all cases discontinued were due to income from earnings of the individual.

During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1954, a total of 173 recipients of aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents had their aid discontinued for various reasons, and 32 percent of this number were discontinued because of earnings.

During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1955, a total of 155 recipients of aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents were discontinued, 49.1 percent because of earnings.

During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1956, a total of 137 recipients were discontinued for all causes. Of this number, 33 percent were discontinued because of earnings. Stated in another way, there were 46 persons discontinued due to earnings. Since the statewide caseload during that fiscal year was 391 cases, this means that almost 12 percent were discontinued because of earnings.

During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1957, 11.5 percent of all aid to po tentially self-supporting blind residents cases became self-supporting for periods of time varying from several months to presumably complete self-maintenance.

During the calendar year of 1958 a total of 174 recipients of aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents were discontinued for all causes. Of this total, 30 percent were disconti because of earnings. Some of these will have their aid restored while others have achieved permanent self-support. The rehabitative values of the aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents program can be seen by comparison with the results under aid to needy blind. During this same period only 2 percent of all discontinuances were due to the earnings of the recipient.

In other words, during the calendar year of 1958 some 52 recipients of aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents were discontinued because of earnings. This means that over 17 percent of the caseload achieved self-support for varying periods of time. It should be noted that for every recipient under the program who achieves permanent self-maintenance, there is a saving in public funds of approximately $1,475 every year. Thus, if 52 blind persons achieved full self-support during the calendar year 1958 (and some of these may have reapplied after several months) it would mean an annual saving in public assistance funds of over $76,000. III. Summary and conclusions

The number of recipients under aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents who have achieved full self-support during the past 19 years is most encouraging and constitutes a tribute to the courage of these blind persons. We do not feel that this happy result could possibly have been achieved under the small amounts of exempt income and property permitted under the aid to needy blind program. This is particularly true in those many instances where the blind recipient moves gradually toward full self-support through the practice of a trade or profession or an operation of a business or agricultural enterprise.

One of the basic objectives in the social welfare programs for the blind in California is to assist blind persons to decrease dependency in all of its many forms. Self-support and self-care have recently been incorporated in title X of the Federal Social Security Act as basic objectives of aid to the blind. The provision of liberal exemptions of earned income and property ownership under the aid to potentially self-supporting blind residents statute have undoubtedly been powerful incentives to many blind men and women in their quest for economic independence since 1941. If the self-support objective of title X is to become at all meaningful, far more liberal exemptions of income and property must be permitted by the Federal Government in the States' aid to needy blind programs.

(The following letter was also recorded for the record :)

MISSOURI FEDERATION OF THE BLIND, INC.,
AFFILIATE OF NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND, INC.,

St. Louis, Mo., June 26, 1960.
Senator HARRY F. BYRD,
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee,
Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

DEAR SENATOR BYRD: Long before Congress passed the Social Security Act, both Missouri and Pennsylvania maintained their own entirely State financed aid to the blind programs. Designed to encourage their clients to strive for rehabilitation, leading to partial or full self-support, these programs have been of incalculable social and economic value. Moreover, since Congress provided for Federal aid to the blind, these State programs have saved the Federal Treasury a very considerable sum by bearing the full expense of all grants-in-aid to blind Missourians and Pennsylvanians whose "estimated need” disqualified them from maximum assistance under the Federal plan. In other words, these States continued to assume full responsibility for the grants-in-aid to all their blind citizens who could qualify for some, but not maximum, Federal assistance.

Strange as it may seem, ever since the Social Security Act became law, the Federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has tried to destroy these splendid programs. At first, HEW withheld Federal participating funds in aid to the blind pending elimination of these State-financed plans. In 1950 however, the ban on such funds was temporarily lifted, Since then, four special acts of Congress have mercifully extended the cutoff date originally set by the Department of HEW as a deadline for Missouri and Pennsylvania to choose between abandoning their incomparable programs or forfeiting Federal participating funds in aid to the blind.

The current cutoff date is June 30, 1961; but H.R. 12580 provides for 3year extension to 1961. Although this bill will undoubtedly undergo many changes before meeting with Senate approval, please give your full support to the 3-year extension of the cutoff date on Federal participating funds in aid to the blind of Missouri and Pennsylvania. By protecting these State-financed programs, you will be protecting the Federal Treasury as well. And through helping us to thwart unjust pressure from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, you may be instrumental in helping other States to see the folly of bartering their rights and duties in exchange for administrative funds from powerful Federal Bureaus. Cordially yours,

ALMA MURPHEY, President. Senator HARTKE. I just want to say I agree with the statement with regard to the statement by Mr. Nagle and also the fact that one of the most serious problems that the blind people have today is not the question of whether or not they can do the job but some of the prejudices against hiring them in the first place.

Thank you, sir.
Mr. NAGLE. Thank you.

The CHAIRMAN. The next witness is Dr. Eugene McCrary, American Optometric Association.

Doctor, have a seat, sir, and proceed.

STATEMENT OF DR. V. EUGENE MCCRARY ON BEHALF OF THE

AMERICAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION

Dr. MCCRARY. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, my name is Eugene McCrary and I am an optometrist practicing in College Park, Md.; for the past 3 years I have been a member of the Department of National Affairs of the American Optometric Association. I am also president of the Maryland Association of Optometrists, and a member of the Maryland State Board of Examiners (in optometry).

« PreviousContinue »