Capuano Files Bill to help Disabled Workers
Introduces bill named in honor of the late Joseph Keane of Somerville

November 3, 2005

Congressman Mike Capuano has introduced H.R. 4201 — the "Joseph E. Keane Federal Employees Freedom Act" — to increase the attendant care allowance so our most severely disabled federal employees can continue to live independently in their own homes. The bill is named in honor of the late Joe Keane, a Somerville resident severely injured in a 1962 training exercise while he was enrolled at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. As a result of his injuries, Mr. Keane was paralyzed from the chest down at the age of twenty and confined to a wheel chair until he passed away in February of 2005.

"Joe Keane was an inspiration, a man who fought to maintain his independence despite significant physical challenges. In 1990, he was instrumental in getting Congress to increase the attendant care allowance, something that had not happened since 1974," stated Congressman Mike Capuano.

Under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), severely disabled Federal employees injured on the job are eligible for an "attendant allowance" — reimbursement for personal care in their home. Personal care attendants provide assistance with needs such as getting out of bed, shaving, bathing, meal preparation, and other daily tasks.

The attendant care allowance is capped at a monthly maximum of $1,500. This amount has not increased since 1991, despite a clear increase in medical costs. Currently, the most severely disabled face monthly attendant costs far greater than $1,500. For these individuals, who wish to remain independent and avoid entering a costly long-term care institution, an increase in the monthly attendant care allowance is critical. Mr. Keane worked in the past with Congressman Capuano's office to introduce legislation that would establish an increase and create a framework for future increases. It was first filed in 2004.

"Joe frequently spoke to me about his efforts to pass this legislation and how much he enjoyed working with Congressman Capuano and his staff on this issue. I know it would make him very happy that the bill is being filed and that we may be able to help others in their struggle to keep living independently," stated Bob Keane, Joe's brother.

The Department of Labor has estimated that in 2003, only 278 individuals nationwide received the attendant allowance for some or part of the year. Congressman Capuano's legislation increases the allowance only for those who demonstrate that their attendant care needs exceed the current limit. It sets a new cap of $4,000 per month. The bill also establishes a biennial update, to ensure that this small group of affected individuals will not have to return to Congress every time inflation outpaces the cost of care.

"Severely disabled Federal employees injured in the course of public service deserve the dignity of remaining in their homes if they wish to do so. This legislation will make it just a little easier for them to maintain their independence. It is fitting that the bill be named for Joe Keane, who helped focus attention on this issue," stated Congressman Mike Capuano.


Contact: Alison M. Mills (617) 621-6208