Obama Exceeds Hiring Goal For Disabled Federal Employees

Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said she looks forward to building on this progress. Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said she looks forward to building on this progress. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The Obama administration announced Thursday that it has exceeded its five-year goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities into the federal government.

Between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, the federal government hired 109,575 part- and full-time employees with disabilities, exceeding President Obama’s 2010 executive order goal of 100,000 new hires during that time, according to a new report from the Office of Personnel Management. Full-time permanent employees with disabilities represented 14.41 percent of the overall federal workforce, or 264,844 people in fiscal 2015 – that’s more disabled people working for the federal government than at any time during the past 35 years – and an increase from 13.56 percent in fiscal 2014.

Since 1980, the federal government has hired 139,777 disabled employees – most of them during the Obama administration -- bringing the fiscal 2015 total to 264,844.

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The number of new full-time hires with disabilities, which includes 30 percent of more disabled vets, also increased by 5,848 people between fiscal years 2014 and 2015 from 20,618 to 26,466.

“We remain committed to supporting the federal government’s efforts to be a model employer for people with disabilities, and I look forward to continue building on our progress,” said Beth Cobert, OPM’s acting director. The White House on Thursday hosted an event with various administration officials, including Cobert, to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and tout the number of federal disabled hires over the last five years.

The agencies employing the most disabled workers as a percentage of their workforce in fiscal 2015 included the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Defense Department and the Railroad Retirement Board, according to OPM’s data.

Agencies can hire people with disabilities various ways, including through the Schedule A hiring authority, and the special hiring authority available for veterans who are 30 percent or more disabled. OPM said in its latest report that the number of disabled employees hired through Schedule A has risen over the past five years, in part because of more training for agencies on how to use the authority.

The number of disabled people hired via Schedule A totaled 2,403 in fiscal 2015 – an increase of 573 from fiscal 2014.

OPM’s report also detailed the number of disabled people (total and new hires) in each pay grade in the General Schedule as well as within the Senior Executive Service between fiscal years 2013 and 2015. For instance, the government hired 717 new disabled full-time employees in fiscal 2015 into GS-14 and GS-15 jobs, representing 15.24 percent of all new hires for those pay grades. The government overall had 164,711 GS-14 and GS-15 employees in fiscal 2015; of that number, 16,596 were disabled.

As for the SES, the government gradually has added more disabled employees to the top career ranks. Of the 7,697 career senior executives in government in fiscal 2015, 455, or 5.91 percent, were disabled. That’s up slightly from 443 disabled senior executives in fiscal 2014, according to the report.

Obama has sought to increase diversity within federal agencies, largely through executive orders, to make the government workforce a model for the rest of the American workforce. 

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