Disability hiring on the rise, OPM says

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

Four years after a push from the President, the federal government is hiring employees with disabilities at a rate that’s higher than it’s been in decades, according to a new report from the Office of Personnel Management.

The new OPM report finds that in fiscal year 2013, the federal government hired 16,024 employees with disabilities — representing 18 percent of the fiscal year’s new hires. In total, the government has an onboard workforce of 234,395 workers with disabilities. In terms of real numbers and as a percent of the total workforce, there are now more federal workers with disabilities than in the past 33 years, according to the OPM report.

“This success has led to more people with disabilities onboard in federal service, both in real terms and by percentage than at any time in the past 33 years,” OPM director Katherine Archuleta wrote in an executive summary of the report addressed to President Barack Obama.

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In July 2010, at a time when workers with disabilities made up 5 percent of the 2.5 million employees in the federal workforce, Obama signed an executive order that reformed hiring and retention policies across agencies, and doubled down on an executive order by President Bill Clinton to add 100,000 employees with disabilities to the federal workforce within five years. Obama said little progress was being made in meeting Clinton’s goal.

In the four years following Obama’s executive order, OPM reports that 57,491 workers with disabilities have entered the federal workforce, more than half of the executive order’s goal.

“Because of the hard work and dedication of Federal employees and the disability community, we have made outstanding progress toward meeting the President’s goal,” Archuleta wrote in a blog post to OPM’s website.

The OPM report also charts the number of workers with disabilities by agency. The Defense Department, including all the branches of the military, is the largest employer of disabled workers. In FY 2013, DoD had 59,098 employees with disabilities. The Department of Veterans Affairs comes in second with 39,362 employees with disabilities on board.

The Departments of Homeland Security and Treasury fall at a distant third, each with more than 8,000 workers with disabilities on board.

“As OPM Director, I am committed to making sure that the Federal government is a model employer. And that means our workforce must reflect the rich mosaic of the American people we serve,” Archuleta wrote in her blog post announcing the report.

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