Winston-Salem-based IFB Solutions, nation’s largest employer of blind workers, to lose 137 jobs due to federal policy changes

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — IFB Solutions could lose 137 jobs due to policy changes at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Winston-Salem-based company, which touts itself as the largest employer of people who are blind in the country, made the announcement Tuesday.

The company said in a news release that IFB Solutions will undergo several rounds of job cuts "that will have a devastating effect on the blind community."

137 people who work in the optical lab, including 76 people who are blind and 15 veterans, will lose their jobs.

The first wave of job cuts, including 47 positions, would hit the company at the end of July.

According to IFB Solutions, Department of Veterans Affairs has had long-term contracts with the company since 2000.

The company says the VA made these changes due to a court order. The court order states that the Rule of Two gives priority to veteran-owned companies over AbilityOne nonprofits such as IFB Solutions.

“We do not believe that Congress ever intended to benefit veteran-owned small businesses at the expense of people who are blind or severely disabled,” said Dan Kelly, chief operating officer at IFB Solutions. “There is plenty of business for both veteran-owned small businesses and AbilityOne nonprofits, many of whom, like IFB Solutions, also employ a significant number of veterans.”

IFB Solutions is now teaming up with other AbilityOne nonprofits that employ people who are blind to ask Congress to clarify the intention behind the Rule of Two.

IFB Solutions CEO David Horton and IFB optical lab employee Scott Smith, as well as other AbilityOne representatives, will head to Washington D.C. to meet lawmakers and make their case on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I’ve spent my entire career creating and fighting for jobs for people who, like me, are blind and face a job market with limited opportunities,” said Kelly. “70% of working-age adults who are blind are not employed. AbilityOne nonprofits like IFB Solutions provide employment for more than 45,000 people who are blind or severely disabled.

"If we aren’t vigilant in protecting the jobs as intended by Congress when it created the AbilityOne program back in 1938, those individuals may have nowhere to turn.”

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