United States President Donald Trump signed legislation today protecting the jobs of more than 2,000 people with disabilities across the nation, many of whom are veterans, including dozens who work at Alphapointe, the largest employer of blind/visually impaired people in both the Kansas City and the New York City metropolitan areas.
President Trump signed H.R. 4920 into law, which ensures that the AbilityOne program can continue to be a supplier of goods and services to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation corrects federal court rulings that had effectively barred AbilityOne from being a supplier to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The law allows AbilityOne to continue to provide goods and services to the Department and, in so doing, provide employment to people with disabilities, including veterans. The AbilityOne program, first enacted in 1938, works with approximately 500 nonprofit organizations across the country, including Alphapointe, to employ people who are blind or have other significant disabilities to provide quality products and services to the federal government. Nearly 50,000 Americans who are blind or have significant disabilities, including more than 7,000 veterans, are employed through AbilityOne.
“We fought for more than four years to protect the jobs of our employees and are grateful for this action; it means the jobs of employees who are blind, including many who are veterans, are safe,” said Reinhard Mabry, Alphapointe President & CEO. “Alphapointe, along with many other organizations that serve people with disabilities, has been operating under a cloud for more than four years because of ongoing litigation. We are grateful to the leadership and bi-partisan support provided by Senators Jerry Moran and Chuck Schumer and Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, Gregory Meeks and Grace Meng as their efforts directly resulted in the passage of this critical legislation.”
The legislation results in the continued production of nearly 80 million prescription bottles that Alphapointe employees, many of whom are blind and veterans, produce for the Veterans Administration mail order pharmacies each year; a contract that started in 1994.
The need for legislation arose following a series of federal court decisions. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs apply a “rule of two” on purchasing decisions that involved veteran-owned businesses. In 2017, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that the “rule of two” should be applied to the AbilityOne program, which would have resulted in the termination of contracts and thousands of lost jobs for non-profit organizations across the country that employ people with disabilities, including many who are veterans. The new legislation ensures that both the AbilityOne program and veteran-owned businesses can supply goods and services to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The legislation also ensures that Alphapointe will continue to be able to provide services to blind and visually impaired individuals – in 2019 alone, the organization served more than 2,000 people.