Press Releases

NAMI Salutes 13 For Leadership in Supporting Employment of Individuals with Serious Mental Illnesses

Feb 29 2000

Washington, D.C.  - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) this evening honored members of Congress and the Clinton Administration for their leadership in making the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 a reality.

The honorees included Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman; Senators James Jeffords (R-VT), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), and William Roth, Jr., (R-DE); and Representatives Tom Bliley, Jr., (R-VA), John Dingell (D-MI), Kenny Hulshof (R-MO), Nancy Johnson (R-CT), Rick Lazio (R-NY), Robert Matsui (D-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

"These distinguished individuals were the driving force in removing a major employment barrier for millions of Americans with disabilities, including those with mental illnesses," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "This historic measure finally recognizes that people with brain disorders shouldn’t be denied the dignity of work just because they have an illness. Nor should they have to choose between taking a job and having critical health care."

The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act, signed into law by President Clinton on December 17, 1999, eliminates the potential loss of healthcare benefits under Medicare and Medicaid when an individual, who receives income supports through Social Security’s disability programs, returns to work.

"Passage and enactment stands as a tremendous bipartisan accomplishment of the 106th Congress," said Flynn. The legislation navigated through numerous House and Senate committees and passed muster under complicated congressional budget rules that govern federal entitlement programs. "Its success came as a result of the tireless efforts of its supporters in the Congress and through the leadership of Secretary Herman and President Clinton."

NAMI also recognized the work of Marriott International, Inc., and the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities for leadership in giving employment opportunities to people with disabilities, including mental illnesses, and for encouraging that mission in the larger business community. Marriott’s "Bridges...from school to work" program has placed more than 4,000 young people with disabilities with more than 1,200 different employers.

Former ABC News medical and health correspondent George Strait served as master of ceremonies for NAMI’s awards ceremony, held at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Strait currently serves as chairman of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Each NAMI honoree was noted for his or her general accomplishments and specific contribution to the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999:

  • Secretary Alexis M. Herman has served as Secretary of Labor since 1997. Prior to becoming Labor Secretary, she served as Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison from 1993 until 1997. Her early support for the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act proved critical to an early endorsement by the Clinton Administration. Since 1998, she has chaired the President’s Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities, which is successfully implementing measures to reduce the 70 percent unemployment rate among adults with severe disabilities.
  • Senator James M. Jeffords (R-VT) has represented Vermont in the U.S. Senate since 1989. He served in the House from 1974 to 1988. Senator Jeffords is the original cosponsor of the Work Incentives Improvement Act. He also introduced the original Senate version in 1996 and a later version in 1998. His outstanding efforts in pushing Social Security work incentives legislation comes on top of a 25-year career in Congress as a leader in health care and education.
  • Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) has represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate since 1962. Over his long career, he has been associated with every major piece of federal legislation on health, education and civil rights affecting people with disabilities that has come before the Senate. His influence has been directly felt on key issues of concern to NAMI such as scientific research on mental illness, insurance discrimination and reform of our nation’s public mental health system. In 1998, Senator Kennedy became the original Democratic cosponsor of the Work Incentives Improvement legislation and became the guiding force behind the effort to gain an endorsement from President Clinton.
  • Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) has represented New York in the U.S. Senate since 1977. His support for the legislation as an original cosponsor was instrumental in convincing every Democratic senator to cosponsor the bill. Widely recognized as the Senate’s leading expert on Social Security and welfare policy, Senator Moynihan brought tremendous historical perspective to the debate over work incentives reform. He has been a leader on public mental health policy since the Community Mental Health Center Act of 1963 and as an aide to former New York Governor Averell Harriman in the 1960s.
  • Senator William V. Roth, Jr., (R-DE) has represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate since 1977. He served in the House from 1967 to 1971. Throughout his career, he has been a leading advocate for reform and modernization of Social Security’s disability programs, Medicare and Medicaid, working closely with the Senate’s leading disability advocate, former Senator Bob Dole. As Chairman of the Finance Committee, his early support for the legislation proved critical in garnering the bipartisan support of 79 cosponsors and the overwhelming votes of 99-00 in June, and, again, 98-1 in November.
  • Representative Tom Bliley, Jr. (R-VA) has represented the 7th Congressional district of Virginia (Richmond and Culpeper) since 1981. Since 1995, in his role as Chairman of the House Commerce Committee, he has forged bipartisan agreements on some of the most complicated bills to come before Congress in recent years, including major reforms of laws governing health care, banking, insurance, securities, telecommunications, energy and environmental regulation. In 1997, he played an instrumental role in the development of the Balanced Budget act that included authorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and modernization reforms of the Medicare and Medicaid Programs. In 1999, he led the Commerce Committee in passing the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement legislation by a unanimous vote and played a key role in shaping the final compromise that eventually cleared Congress by overwhelming bipartisan margins.
  • Representative John D. Dingell (D-MI) the Dean of the House has represented Michigan’s 16th congressional district (Dearborn) since 1955. As the Ranking Minority Member of the Commerce Committee, Representative Dingell played a critical role in the final negotiations over the scope and financing of the Work Incentives Improvement Act. He made sure that the health coverage in new state Medicaid options and extended Medicare are extensive enough to allow people with disabilities to stay in the workforce.
  • Representative Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) has represented the 9th district of Missouri (Columbia and Hannibal) since 1997. Representative Hulshof was the lead sponsor of the alternative bill, The Ticket to Independence Act. His persistent efforts made it possible to broker a final compromise version that cleared the Ways and Means Committee by a 33-1 vote in October 1999.
  • Representative Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT) has represented Connecticut’s 6th congressional district (New Britain and Windsor Locks) since 1983. As a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and Chair of its Human Resources Subcommittee, Representative Johnson is a formidable voice for reforms that reward—rather than penalize—work. During debate on this legislation, she repeatedly pushed for expansion of the Medicare extensions in the legislation to cover prescription medications so that it meets the real needs of people with severe mental illnesses.
  • Representative Rick A. Lazio (R-NY) has represented New York’s 2nd congressional district (Suffolk County) since 1993. Since coming to Congress, he has spoken up and been heard on issues of great concern to NAMI. As Chairman of the Housing Subcommittee, he has been a champion for increasing housing opportunities for all adults with disabilities, including individuals with severe mental illnesses. He is currently leading the fight to ensure that nearly 1,000 formerly homeless adults with severe mental illness are not unfairly displaced from HUD Shelter Plus Care housing. As a member of the Commerce Committee, Representative Lazio was the lead House sponsor of a House version of the legislation that eventually garnered 249 cosponsors. It was his support that made certain the legislation got through the Commerce Committee.
  • Representative Robert T. Matsui (D-CA) has represented the 5th district of California since 1979. Representative Matsui is widely recognized as a leading expert in the House on Social Security and tax policy. In early 1999, he played a key role in ensuring that the emerging legislation was introduced by a bipartisan coalition of nearly 50 cosponsors.
  • Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) has represented California’s 29th congressional district (Los Angeles) since 1975. No single member of the House has had more influence in reshaping federal health care policy in the past 25 years than Representative Waxman. His expertise on federal Medicaid legislation proved essential in crafting The Work Incentives Improvement Act and guiding it through the House. He has also greatly influenced other programs of concern to NAMI, including the direction of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the federal Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).