Fast Facts

We looked at federal agencies’ efforts to hire and retain individuals with disabilities.

Agencies hired about 143,600 persons with disabilities from 2011-2015—exceeding the federal target of 100,000. Agencies made an additional 79,600 hires in 2016 and 2017.

About 39% of those with disabilities hired in 2011-2017 stayed less than a year, compared to about 43% of those without disabilities. About 60% of hires—both those with and without disabilities—stayed less than 2 years.

We made 6 recommendations, including that the Office of Personnel Management track and report retention data of employees with disabilities to help determine why they leave.

The federal government generally increased hiring of persons with disabilities, fiscal years 2011 through 2017

Bar chart showing number of persons with disabilities employed in full-time permanent positions and part-time or temporary positions

Bar chart showing number of persons with disabilities employed in full-time permanent positions and part-time or temporary positions

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Highlights

What GAO Found

Approximately 143,600 persons with disabilities were hired during 2011 through 2015—plus an additional 79,600 hires in 2016 and 2017—across the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies, exceeding the stated goal of 100,000 by 2015.

The Federal Government Generally Increased Hiring of Persons with Disabilities, Fiscal Years 2011 through 2017

The Federal Government Generally Increased Hiring of Persons with Disabilities, Fiscal Years 2011 through 2017

About 39 percent of individuals with disabilities hired during 2011 through 2017 stayed less than 1 year and approximately 60 percent stayed less than 2 years. Of the total individuals without disabilities hired during that same time period, approximately 43 percent stayed less than 1 year and approximately 60 percent stayed less than 2 years.

Although targeted data tracking and analyses could help pinpoint root causes contributing to departure rates, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not track or report retention data on disabled employees. Doing so, and making such data available to agencies would facilitate more comprehensive analyses of the retention of employees with disabilities and identify needed improvements.

Officials at three agencies GAO examined—Department of Justice (DOJ), Small Business Administration (SBA), and Social Security Administration (SSA)—used various practices to increase hiring, such as training staff on Schedule A—a commonly used hiring authority to employ individuals with disabilities. However, the agencies neither assess the impact of training nor how it relates to contributing to performance goals of increasing the number of disabled hires.

Agencies are expected to track performance related to providing reasonable accommodations. The selected agencies reported having processes in place for receiving reasonable accommodations requests, but only SSA has procedures for obtaining feedback from employees after an accommodation is provided. Without such feedback, DOJ and SBA are limited in their ability to assess the continued effectiveness of reasonable accommodations provided to employees.

Why GAO Did This Study

Federal agencies are required to provide equal opportunity to qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of federal employment.

GAO was asked to examine agencies' efforts to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities. Among other objectives, this report examines: (1) the extent to which agencies met the 2010 federal goal to hire an additional 100,000 individuals with disabilities by 2015, and the retention rates of those employees between 2011 and 2017; and (2) practices selected agencies used to increase hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities.

GAO analyzed data and documents from OPM and interviewed agency officials. GAO interviewed officials from DOJ, SBA, and SSA about their efforts to enhance employment opportunities for disabled persons. GAO selected these three agencies because they represent a range of agency size and relatively high or low percentages of total employees with disabilities.

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Recommendations

GAO is making 6 recommendations: OPM should track and report retention data; DOJ, SBA, and SSA should assess training impacts; and DOJ and SBA should obtain employee feedback on reasonable accommodations. OPM and SSA concurred with GAO's recommendations; SBA concurred with one and partially concurred with one recommendation; DOJ did not agree or disagree with the recommendations. GAO continues to believe all recommendations are warranted.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Personnel Management 1. The Director of OPM should routinely track and report retention data for employees with disabilities and make such data available to federal agencies, including EEOC, through a centralized web portal—such as MAX.gov. For example, OPM could track and report such data by General Schedule level pay groupings, which could help pinpoint root causes that contribute to retention rates, inform assessments of government-wide progress on employee retention, and identify needed improvements. (Recommendation 1)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Justice 2. The Attorney General of the United States should develop and implement policies and procedures for assessing the impact of training provided to agency hiring managers and human resources staff on Schedule A hiring authority. This includes assessing the impact of its training on agency performance goals related to increased hiring of individuals with disabilities and targeted disabilities. (Recommendation 2)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Justice 3. The Attorney General of the United States should develop and implement policies and procedures for obtaining employee feedback about the agency's reasonable accommodations efforts and use such information to evaluate the ongoing effectiveness of the program. This may include identifying any effects on employee retention, identifying potential risks, and determining any improvements that may be warranted. (Recommendation 3)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Small Business Administration 4. The Administrator of SBA should develop and implement policies and procedures for assessing and tracking the impact of training provided to agency hiring managers and human resources staff on Schedule A hiring authority. This includes assessing the impact of its training on agency performance goals related to increased hiring of individuals with disabilities and targeted disabilities. (Recommendation 4)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Small Business Administration 5. The Administrator of SBA should develop and implement policies and procedures for obtaining employee feedback about the agency's reasonable accommodations efforts and use such information to evaluate the ongoing effectiveness of the program. This may include identifying any effects on employee retention, identifying potential risks, and determining any improvements that may be warranted. (Recommendation 5)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Social Security Administration 6. The Commissioner of SSA should develop and implement policies and procedures for assessing and tracking the impact of training provided to agency hiring managers and human resources staff on Schedule A hiring authority. This includes assessing the impact of its training on agency performance goals related to increased hiring of individuals with disabilities and targeted disabilities. (Recommendation 6)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Full Report

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