[Jobs] Washington seminar/resolution idea

Steven Atkinson sm.atkinson at comcast.net
Fri Aug 10 14:38:36 UTC 2018

Good morning Steve,


I appreciate your message to me this morning.  I agree with you 100%!  I do understand the dylema the Social Security Administration faces with blind people like me who worked for several years as a perfectly sighted person and suddenly became blind.  I appreciate the exceptions the Social Security Administration gives to blind people and I do plan on taking advantage of everything I can in the future.  I am not going to be so brave to give up my S.S.D.I. benefits again though and I don’t feel guilty about the so called “Double Dipping”!  I am not becoming wealthy by working while I am receiving S.S.D.I. and I have no guilt about taking advantage of every working deduction I possibly can to keep me at the S.S.D.I. max. income for blind people.  I think the amount for 2018 is $1,970.00 a month.  I don’t like to be one to B. and complain about things since I am so thankful and appreciative for the opportunities I have enjoyed since I have been blind.  I appreciate the Virginia Department for the Blind for everything I have received in the past and for what I will continue to receive while I am learning to perfect my new position.  I never will like being blind, but I sure do love being good at being blind!  2018 is a much better time to be blind for someone  in the United States than it was in the past and it is only getting better for all of us!  I had to unfortunately  figure out things the hard way because of me being so brave to give up 100% of my S.S.D.I. benefits!  But, I am still here to talk about my experiences and if I am able to help just one blind person with making the best decision for their self, I will continue to sleep well!  

From: Jobs [mailto:jobs-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Steve Jacobson via Jobs
Sent: Friday, August 10, 2018 9:52 AM
To: 'Jobs for the Blind'
Cc: Steve Jacobson
Subject: Re: [Jobs] Washington seminar/resolution idea




It is really too bad that you had to go through what you went through, and I can understand your frustration.  Further, I think some system of work insentives need to be part of the law.  However, what if your job had succeeded and you were fortunate enough to keep it and were still working?  It is natural that people are going to shy away from a job that either has significant risk or pays little more than the SSDI benefits one is receiving.  I hate to see us exclude jobs, though, that may be long term or provide an opportunity for higher income after a period of time.  It should also be noted that there is some ability to exclude work expenses when calculating what one is earning for SSDI that can increase the effective allowable income.  


This is an old and a difficult problem.  The NFB has unsuccessfully tried several means of correcting this over the years and we have not been successful.  For years, we tried to get something called Disability Insurance passed which, in effect, eliminated the level of income one could earn and still get SSDI.  We were able to play a role in other programs to get a sliding scale implemented in other programs where each two dollars earned reduced benefits by a dollar.  Disability Insurance just never got real traction, and f course, it would not help people who did not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance.  One reason that a work insentive has been hard to sell is that Social Security is to some degree thought of as an insurance program, and one is either disabled in terms of that program or one is not in the eyes of lawmakers.


The other strategy we have used is to tie the benefits given to blind persons to those given to seniors.  This connection was also broken by Congress a couple of decades ago.  As it currently stands, we have a more liberal set of benefits than do most other disability groups, but there still exists the possibilities you raise.


Best regards,


Steve Jacobson


From: Jobs <jobs-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Steven Atkinson via Jobs
Sent: Thursday, August 9, 2018 10:41 PM
To: 'Jobs for the Blind' <jobs at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Steven Atkinson <sm.atkinson at comcast.net>
Subject: Re: [Jobs] Washington seminar/resolution idea




I agree with you if I am hearing you correct.  It does not make too much sense to me to give up almost $2000.00 Social Security Disability Income a month to work a job making $2,500.00-$30,000.00 a year and then actualy end up with a less net amount of money each month after taxes to support a family.  I know this first hand since I saw it happen with my own two eyes!  I gave up 100% of my S.S.D.I. for a job and after a job lay-off I had $0.00 to live off of for way too long since I had to prove to the Social Security Administration that I was still blind in order to get my S.S.D.I. benefits re-instated.  I should have not given up my S.S.D.I. benefits and played the deduction game down to the very last penny and maybe a few extra pennys.  But, I not only lost my eyesight, I must have lost my brain when I gave up my S.S.D.I. benefits.  I am still blind, but Thank the Lord for giving me my brain back!From: Jobs [mailto:jobs-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Karen Rose via Jobs
Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2018 11:14 PM
To: Jobs for the Blind
Cc: Karen Rose
Subject: Re: [Jobs] Washington seminar/resolution idea


I think the problem here goes back to work disincentives. If people are working but want to keep their SSD only benefits, and therefore need to earn less than their potential, is that really what we want? Could we not structure blindness benefits in the way that they are structured in Germany for example? My understanding is that in Germany, if one is blind one receives an allowance of a certain amount of money from their government. This is not income dependent. A blind person can choose to live on this government allowance or can choose to invest this allowance in technology in order to work or can save it for vacation while working in a profession or whatever they wish. Karen

On Aug 9, 2018, at 8:09 PM, Jordan Gallacher via Jobs <jobs at nfbnet.org> wrote:

I also do not think the Government should pay for a service.  Also, you have to think about all the jobs that pay in the mid to upper 1900 to about 2100 a month.  One can pretty easily set things up to where they can get below the cut off for SSDI and keep those benefits thus make more than they would otherwise.


Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 9, 2018, at 9:56 PM, Elizabeth Campbell via Jobs <jobs at nfbnet.org> wrote:

Hello Jim, I think that your proposal is interesting. However, I don't think the government should be in  the business of paying for Aira subscriptions. I am employed and use Aira although I don't have the unlimited plan. Aira is a fantastic service, and the company is finding ways to provide services where users are not paying for minutes such as site access at a growing list of airports and with tasks related to finding a job. I think we should focus  on doing what we can to invest in the Aira service as the company is working to keep costs reasonable while expanding services such as having agents available 24 hours.. By investing, I mean that we pay for the service as Aira has a pricing plan in place. I think that shows people and the government if you will that we see Aira as a valuable tool. I will also say that Aira does not take the place of having good blindness skills. If someone uses Aira outside of a home or building, the agent will ask if the person is using a cane or a guide dog.

I hope this helps.

Best regards


On Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 8:24 PM, Jim Reed via Jobs <jobs at nfbnet.org> wrote:

Hello all,

For those that don’t know, AIRA is a human-powered, remote- assistant  software program from google to help the blind with almost anything they might need or want using smartphone cameraphone technology, and other powerful google tools such as GPS, google transit, the internet, and so on. It cost $300 per month for unlimited use. I got to experience AIRA a few weeks ago navigating a crowded festival; it was seamless, perfect, and easy,  and my response to my friend was “with this service, it is like we are not even blind.” Why not make it available free to every blind person in America? This is what I am proposing in this email. If you really want to impact the lives of the every-day/ordinary blind person, I can think of no better way to do it that give everyone free AIRA.  Unfortunatly, it is just too expensive for the average blind person to afford—I work 40 hours a week in a professional position, and I can’t/won’t get it due to cost. So what is the unemployed blind person on $1,00 per monthof SSA benefits supposed to do? Obviously they cant afford it either.


Here is my rough math; it would take someone with more reliable statistics and modeling software to see if this would be worth it or pay for itself.

If I were on disability benefits instead of working, my check would be about $2,000/mont plus health insurance, plus food stamps, plus possible public housing assistance, and so on. Just focusing on the SSA cash benefit, 2000 per month times 12 months equals 24000 per year in cash benefits the federal government just paid. A full year of unlimited AIRA cost $3600 at $300/month. If AIRA were to get someone like me a job they would not have otherwise had, the government just saved $21,000 per year. At 3600 per year for AIRA, the money saved from this 1 person getting a job would be able to pay for an additional 5.8 people to get AIRA for a year. If 1 of those 5.8 people gets a job, and get off benefits, now the cash benefits not paid to person #1 and #2  can pay for 12 people to get AIRA.  If 2 of those 12 get a job, now you have 4 people off benefits saving the government about  96000 per year then you minus full-year AIRA cost for these 4 people (3600 x 4=14,400)  for a total cost savings of 81600. This is now enough to buy  22.6 AIRA subscriptions, which might result in 4 jobs, And this snowball will just get bigger and bigger (and be able to pay for more AIRA subscriptions) the longer it rolls downhill.  Theoretically, this would be an exponentially increasing feedback loop with constantly increasing numbers of subscriptions, followed by more employed blind persons,  and increasingly large SSA and public assistance savings, which lead to more subscriptions and more jobs, until every blind person in America has AIRA and all blind persons desiring to work are employed. And if we all think about it realistically, government subsidy of this type of service is all-but-inevitable and guaranteed 30-50 years in the future—just think of the money being currently spend on all blindness services combined; it will be impossible for the government not to provide this service in the future, especially when a nation’s worth of blind people are demanding access to it. I’m just proposing we jump the gun by about 20 years and get right to it.  


This very simple model doesn’t account for lots of other variables such as the number of students who are more able to finish college or trade school, thus are more qualified to get and keep a job;   less emergency room visits from the blind due to things like taking the wrong medication; less nursing home care from the elder blind who are now better able to manage their own personal care;  less use of food stamps and public housing because these people are self-sufficent.  Less students in private and public blind  training centers (at $40,000 each for 9 months), less mental health issues, less depression, less suicides, and less  drug and alcohol use—all problems and cost avoided due to a higher quality of life, a greater involvement in society,  a greater sense of self-worth, and a greater ability to do something positive with someone’s life.

This model also doesn’t account for the fact that the cost of AIRA will come down with automation, improved efficiency, more people using the service, and a fat, long-term government contract.


I absolutely think the NFB should use some Washington Seminar resources to advocate that Congress give every blind person free AIRA for life.   $1 million from congress would pay for 277 people to have AIRA for 1 year—and that is just a straight up appropriation not accounting for any of the cost savings described above that would multiply this number. Want to guess how much it would cost to send each of these 277 people to training for 9-months at an NFB training center?  Over $11 million. Like I said, the math, statistics, modeling, and etc are way over my head, but I think this would be worth pursuing. 



P.S. before the folks on the NFB jobs list start complaining about being off topic, think about how many more people would be working, and how many possible jobs/profession types  that would be made available to us if we had 24/7, reliable sighted assistance?   I’m trying to think of the most extreme blind-unfriendly occupations such as secretary, gas station clerk,  cook, executive chef, courier/delivery, event planner, inspector, and so on…without AIRA most of these jobs would be impossible as an independent blind person with no support; most of these positions would be very do-able with AIRA.  And…one problem a lot of blind people have is that the low/no-skill entry-level positions (such as bartender, janitor, cook)  that would be available to sighted students and those without degrees are not available or do able by the blind, leaving us perpetually unemployed and unable to gain experience, while the vast majority of positions blind people can do involve using their intellect which all requires education and degrees which means that most blind people are flat-out excluded from the entry-level, no-skill type positions, and face a huge hurdel called “college” before they are considered “qualified” for the entry-level type of jobs most blind people are suited for. It is almost like if you are blind you need a college degree to qualify for your first job, while all a sighted person needs is a strong back and a work ethic; AIRA would change this. 


Just something to think about…



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Elizabeth Campbell

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