Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Disabled blind veterans heading to unemployment line after VA kills contract

47 workers lose jobs after IFB loses contract appeal

Winston-Salem Journal
By Richard Craver
September 10, 2019
“Already, the VA has cancelled numerous contracts held by AbilityOne qualified nonprofit agencies, which will result in the near-immediate termination of employment of hundreds of blind and severely disabled individuals, many of whom are veterans themselves.
A worker processes lenses after polishing in the optical department at IFB Solutions on Tuesday in Winston-Salem. Walt Unks/Journal
A federal judge has denied a stay request that would have allowed IFB Solutions Inc. to keep one of its three optical contracts with the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs, leaving 47 workers without jobs.

The Winston-Salem nonprofit agency said Tuesday that the contract was terminated Sept. 4.

“We are devastated for our employees whose positions have been eliminated with the loss of this VA contract,” David Horton, IFB’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

Horton said it appears likely the other contracts will end on Sept. 30 and Oct. 31, affecting an additional combined 90 employees. Of the overall 137 jobs, 76 are held by employees who are blind and 15 by veterans.

IFB has been providing prescription eyewear to the VA since the late 1990s. The Winston-Salem company is the largest employer of the blind in the United States with about 1,000 employees overall and 556 locally.
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