Frontline Initiative: Advocacy and Voting

Advocacy in Action
An Invitation for Direct Support Professionals to Advocate


Joe Macbeth is President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. Joe can be reached at

A map of the United States in blue, with the letters NADSP across it, followed by a megaphone. The letters are large and white. Advocacy Symposium. Building a Grassroots Movement. April 30-May 1, 2024.

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds have been flowing into states to address the pandemic rebuilding. Many of the solutions funded by ARPA have been designed to provide short-term solutions. Let’s be clear: There are no short-term solutions that will adequately address the long-term systemic failure to invest in our workforce. We need long-term solutions to fulfill the promises made to people with disabilities and their families. To that end, I strongly believe that empowering direct support professionals to lead your own advocacy issues on state and federal levels is a major step in long-term systemic change.

Middle-aged man with shoulder-length, thick, wavy hair, parted in the middle. He is wearing dark, horn-rimmed glasses and a dark blue button-up shirt with a small dot pattern. He is looking at the camera, caught in the middle of what he's talking about.

Joe Macbeth

On April 30 and May 1, the NADSP will bring together hundreds of DSP and allies in the field to participate in our third virtual National Advocacy Symposium. On April 30, we will train and prepare direct support professionals and allies on how to hold meetings with your Members of Congress, how to share your stories, and how to advocate for meaningful legislation that directly impacts your livelihood. If you feel unsure about your advocacy skills, we will make sure you feel equipped. We will train you to be an advocate for yourself and the profession.

On May 1, there will be scheduled appointments for you and others from your state to speak about a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate that would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to propose a revision of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system to establish a separate code for direct support professional (DSP). The bill, “Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act,” was introduced by Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire). The bill will need our support. Direct support professionals need to show up and speak up about our profession.

Why do direct support professionals need an occupational classification?

The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is a federal statistical standard . Federal agencies use the SOC to classify workers into occupational categories to collect, calculate, or share data. Currently, all workers in the United States are classified into one of 867 detailed occupations, according to their occupational definition. Direct Support Professional is NOT one of the 867 occupations. You are grouped within other “caregiver” titles that do not adequately describe the true nature of your work. The result is a lack of accurate information about how much the DSP workforce is needed. It will take comprehensive, sustainable strategies to address this lack of accurate information, and after that, the workforce shortage, DSP wages, and other problems facing the direct support workforce.

The NADSP believes there are three positive outcomes from the bill being passed:

  1. Improves Data for Identifying Workforce Shortages – Without an SOC, there is no real measure to identify staffing needs, service gaps, and risks of service interruption. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will lead to a better understanding of our workforce shortages and begin to develop lasting solutions.
  2. Values the Unique Contributions of the Direct Support Workforce – Despite the fact that a direct support work requires complex skills, high-level independent decision-making, providing person-centered supports, and deep ethical reasoning, there is a failure to identify this occupation on the scale it deserves. An SOC would create a clear understanding of the contributions and the true skills required of the direct support workforce rather than mistakenly grouping you with other caregiving titles like home health aide, personal care attendant, or certified nursing assistant. Although these occupations share some core competencies, the skill requirements differ significantly. All of them are important and essential, but they are different occupations.
  3. Addresses Service Reimbursement Rates – When states do not have an SOC for classifying the roles of direct support professionals, they use a combination of other classifications and struggle to set appropriate reimbursement rates for services provided by direct support professionals. These reimbursement rates fund direct support professionals’ wages. What’s most alarming about this process is that all states use different percentages of job classifications.

Strong, clear, and persistent advocacy works. Good things happen when hundreds of direct support professionals come together to advocate for yourselves and your profession. I’m pleased to share that last fall the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act (S.1332), unanimously passed through the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. But our work is not done to establish a separate SOC for direct support professionals. To me, advocacy is the true essence of direct support practice. You need to use these skills to advocate for yourselves. Please join us and use your voice to advocate for your profession on April 30 and May 1, 2024. You can register by using this link for the NADSP Advocacy Symposium: Building a Grassroots Movement .

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