The Democrat National Convention will feature disabled persons tonight, as delegates focus on a theme developed yesterday, that the party of FDR is the only friend of diversity and its leaders seek equal treatment for all. While history may recall Roosevelt’s refusal to bomb the rail lines bringing millions to their death at Auschwitz or the interment of American citizens who had Japanese ancestry, nothing can deter a political gathering in its hunt for continuing the status quo.
And the status quo for many disabled Americans is a disgrace. They have begged for jobs and officials of both the Obama and Bush administrations have worked the system to repudiate their efforts to be contributing citizens.
In 1971 President Richard Nixon (not a Dem) signed the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (JWOD), a law to create employment for people with disabilities, who might not otherwise be able to find work. It created the AbilityOne program. The AbilityOne Program should be among America’s largest providers of jobs for those who are blind or have significant disabilities. The program planned to use the purchasing power of the Federal Government to buy products and services from participating nonprofit agencies that train and employ workers with disabilities.
Last month, The new Senate National Defense Authorization Act expressed strong concerns about the integrity of the AbilityOne program, and its outsourced management agency, SourceAmerica. SourceAmerica has been accused of unfairly awarding contracts based on inside connections, such as granting lucrative deals to companies with executives who also sit on the board of SourceAmerica.
This is not a new controversy. Last year, Edward Snowden (WikiLeaks) said that $2.3 billion a year, is funneled from AbilityOne through non-profit SourceAmerica to more than 1,000 other designated partner organizations.
This subsidized disabled labor is then placed for a fee with government and industry. Most of the labor is pushed to the military sector, including the DoD, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin & Boeing–who are also “patrons” of SourceAmerica.
It is alleged that nearly half of the $2.3 billion a year does not go to the severely disabled, but instead goes to corrupt, favored placement organizations that recruit the able-bodied or the mildly-disabled, instead of the mandated 75% severely disabled. The result is billions in tax payer funded labor subsidies and increased profits for the placement organizations.
To those who might point to one political party or another, the AbilityOne program is overseen by 15 appointees to the Committee for Purchase. The members at the time of revelations in November, last year were:
- James M. Kesteloot, Chairperson, private citizen (appointed Obama 2010)
- Lisa M. Wilusz, Vice Chairperson, Department of Agriculture (appointed Obama 2011)
- J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo, Chief Financial Officer, Defense Logistics Agency (appointed Bush 2007)
- Dr. P. Edward (Ed) Anthony, Deputy Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration, Department of Education (appointed Bush 2006)
- Jan R. Frye, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics, Department of Veterans Affairs (appointed Obama 2011)
- Harry P. Hallock, Deputy Assistant Secretary Of the Army (Procurement), U.S. Army (appointed Obama 2011)
- Robert T. Kelly, Jr., Private Citizen appointed Bush 2003)
- Anil Lewis, Private Citizen (appointed Obama 2012)
- Karen J. McCulloh, Private Citizen (appointed Obama 2011)
- Thomas D. Robinson, Executive Director, Air Force Installation Contracting Agency, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, U.S. Air Force (appointed Obama 2013)
- William Sisk, Deputy Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service, General Services Administration (appointed Obama 2011)
- Virna L. Winters, Director for Acquisition Policy and Oversight in the Office of Acquisition Management, Department of Commerce (appointed Obama 2014)
- Rear Adm. Jonathan A. Yuen, Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and 47th Chief of Supply Corps, Department of the Navy (appointed Obama 2012)
- (vacant, not appointed)
- (vacant, not appointed)
The Committee for Purchase is responsible for publishing the AbilityOne procurement list, and implementing the program. The Committee may not directly implement most of the AbilityOne program, and instead outsources and delegates some of the administrative and executive work to two “central nonprofit agencies.”
When they were created 1974, these were known as the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH). NIB continues under that name, but in July 2013, NISH was renamed SourceAmerica.
There is no investigation of the NIB, only SourceAmerica, whose board members include:
- Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc
- Genie Cohen, CEO, IAJVS
- Michael Fischetti, Executive Director, National Contract Management Association
- Jim Gibbons, President and CEO, Goodwill Industries International, Inc.
- Steven Katsurinis, Director of Mission Driven Business, United Cerebral Palsy
- Steven King, President and CEO, Beacon Group SW, Inc.
- Barbara LeDuc, President and CEO, Opportunities, Inc.
- Mark Lezotte, Attorney and Shareholder, Butzel Long
- Norm Lorentz, Independent Consultant
- Carol Lowman (Chair-Elect), President and CEO, L2NL
- Catherine Meloy, President & CEO, Goodwill of Greater Washington
- Mark Nackman, Partner, Jenner & Block
- Bill Ogletree, EVP/CFO, Three Wire Systems
- Steve Perdue, President, Grand Traverse Industries
- Belinda Porras, Project Manager, Employment Source
- Carol Salter, Asst. VP, Workforce Development National Director, SCSEP Easter Seals, Inc.
- Rick Sebastian, President, Didlake, Inc.
- Steve Soroka, President and CEO, SourceAmerica
- Wes Tyler (Secretary), Vice President, Phoenix Manufacturing, Inc.
Along with bid rigging and corruption, federal grand jury investigators are checking into allegations the program is operating numerous contracts illegally, and not hiring enough disabled people to fill contracts as required by law, according to CNN and other reports.
The potential for abuse was known for years. A 2007 Congressional Report on Federal Disability Assistance explained:
The Committee for Purchase delegates most of its oversight responsibilities to two central nonprofit agencies that also represent the interests of the JWOD nonprofit agencies they oversee. This arrangement, as well as the fact that they receive a percentage of the total value of the contracts from the JWOD nonprofit agences, raises questions about their independence and gives them little incentive to identify instances of noncompliance that could result in the JWOD nonprofit agency losing its federal contract.
This disaster for the disabled is an example of government/private partnerships that lead to corruption and waste of public monies to benefit those supporting and connected to the political class. Meanwhile, blatantly parading the disabled as objects of pity on public tv, while denying them jobs, rises above the usual political hypocrisy to just plain despicable tactics.