Cleveland, August 6 – Former Gov. George Pataki calls for more assistance for veterans who return with disabilities.
“When I think now of people with disabilities, what really comes to mind are veterans,” the Republican presidential hopeful said in an interview with The RespectAbility Report. “We should be doing far more for our veterans, both from the health standpoint obviously because our treatment of them is horrific. This government is failing our veterans’ health needs and that has got to change. But also assisting them with counseling, training and with jobs. Because ultimately the best social program is a job and we need to do that.”
When discussing employment for people with disabilities, the former governor of New York also praised sheltered workshops.
“We work very hard to do that, working with the non-for-profit groups in particular to have things like sheltered workshops and other places where people could gain employment, and it was a very successful program.”
Sheltered workshops are very controversial in the disability community. Seventy percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are out of the workforce (compared to 28 percent of Americans without disabilities), and of those people with disabilities who are working, more than 400,000 are earning sub minimum wage (as little as 20 cents an hour) in sheltered workshops.
But there are corporations that are promoting competitive, integrated employment. Walgreens and Walmart are inclusive in hiring of people with disabilities.
Pataki is one of the only candidates talking about mental health issues. When asked why, he said it is a very important issue.
“People talk about the horrible mass violence we saw at Newtown and Columbine and in other places and virtually everyone of those incidents, it’s someone who is mentally ill,” Pataki also said during the interview. “And someone who wasn’t getting or rejected the treatment they were supposed to get.”
“When I was governor, I did everything in my power to change the criminal justice system,” he continued. “We were the most dangerous state in America when I took office, and we were the fourth safest when I left. One of the things was we changed the mental health law. We had a horrible incident where a mentally ill person, obviusly violently mentally ill, pushed a young tourist in front of the subway and she was killed. I was able to get passed legislation authorizing involuntary confinement of someone who was mentally ill and clearly posing a threat to themselves or others, against their will. When they had been examined by a number of independent professionals, all of whom concluded it was in the public need to do that. So I have experience with it from my days as governor of New York, but I also see these horrible incidents and know we can be doing more.”