The following “Dear Colleague” letter was just issued by Assistant Secretary Martinez of the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. For more information, go to

Dear Colleague:

I am writing to let you know about a new study on health care transition and employment just released by my office, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 56.7 million (1 in 5) individuals of all ages, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and educational attainment in the United States live with at least one disability. Included within this population are people with high-prevalence chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, chronic pulmonary disease, and obesity; less-common disorders historically considered “childhood conditions” such as cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, sickle cell anemia, and spina bifida; and other chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS. Every year at least 500,000 to 750,000 young people with special health care issues become adults. Many of these youth have multiple conditions.

Because the ability to manage one’s health is critical to going to school, learning, and transitioning into employment, in 2012 ODEP commissioned this study to better understand the relationship between disability (including chronic health conditions); health and wellness; and transition and employment outcomes for youth with disabilities. In addition, the study examined the role health care providers play in establishing employment expectations.

Despite growing recognition of the importance of health care transition in the overall transition from school to work and independent living within the health care community, the study revealed that youth with chronic health conditions and other disabilities face a number of challenges in accessing health care transition services. Included among these are low expectations, lack of time, and inadequate payment and training related to employment among providers; systems with distinct and disparate outcomes and goals, and the application of a biological/physiological versus bio-psychosocial treatment approach. In addition to explaining how a number of provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have significant potential to transform health care transition planning, the study addresses the need to:

• underscore the interdependence between health and wellness, and employment through education and outreach to youth and their parents and other caring adults; and
• provide health-care providers and other youth service professionals with professional development opportunities to gain the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to guide youth through a coordinated self-determined, cross-discipline transition planning process.

To learn more about the challenges and opportunities associated with implementing purposeful planned health care transition planning and its impact on employment for youth with chronic health conditions and other disabilities, view the full policy brief at:


Kathy Martinez
Assistant Secretary of Office of
Disability Employment Policy
U.S. Department of Labor