AbilityOne Program Provides Jobs for Disabled Veterans
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2008 The Defense Department is a strong supporter of the federally managed AbilityOne program, which works with private and public groups to provide goods and services to the government and jobs for the blind and other people who have severe disabilities, including wounded veterans.
“As the largest customer of this program, the Department of Defense has a responsibility and a tremendous opportunity to increase support by procuring more goods and services provided by the AbilityOne program,” John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, stated in a March 24 memorandum.
AbilityOne, formerly known as the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, or JWOD, is administered by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, an independent federal agency.
More than 1,300 wounded military veterans are part of the program’s 43,000-strong work force, according to a DoD news release. The Defense Department is the program’s largest customer, the release said, as it purchases more than $1.3 billion in goods and services each year, including laundry services, uniforms, office supplies and grounds maintenance.
Work contracts arranged through the AbilityOne program provide most of the chemical-protection coats and pants used by U.S. servicemembers. Skilcraft-brand office supplies found across the federal government also are part of the AbilityOne program.
President Bush, in a White House document dated Feb. 11, stated that the AbilityOne program “has taken steps to embrace successful business practices, including e-commerce and performance-based contracting.” The program, he said, provides work for tens of thousands of disabled Americans employed at more than 600 community-based nonprofit organizations.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England will host a Pentagon ceremony tomorrow to honor the AbilityOne program.
The AbilityOne program can trace its roots to the passage of the Wagner-O’Day Act of 1938, sponsored by Sen. Robert F. Wagner and U.S. Rep. Caroline O’Day. This legislation mandated that the federal government purchase brooms, mops and other items provided by nonprofit agencies employing people who are blind.
The Wagner-O’Day Act was expanded in 1971 through the efforts of Sen. Jacob Javits. The resultant legislation, known as the Wagner-O’Day-Javits Act, permits nonprofit agencies serving people with other severe disabilities in addition to blindness to participate in the JWOD program and authorized nonprofit agencies to provide not only supplies, but also services to the federal government.
The executive-branch Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, the National Industries for the Blind, and NISH, formerly known as National Industries for the Severely Handicapped, form a triad of support for JWOD, whose name was changed to AbilityOne by the U.S. Congress in 2006.