Employment/Rights – CMS Announces Performance-Based Payment Options for Employment Services

In late August 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), announced new performance and outcome-based options for funding employment supports and services through a Section 1915(c) waiver. CMS announced that they will begin accepting payment structures that include outcome payments for: Discovery or Supported Employment Assessment Service and Report; or Job Development, Placement, Customized Employment Position, as a single unit of service. These outcome payments will be made as long as the service is time-limited, and has a defined tangible outcome.  Under this new payment structure, states can also make milestone payments in addition to fee-for-service payments to reimburse providers when certain employment outcomes are achieved. This would allow states and service providers to capture funds for all phases of job placement based on outcomes.

Employment – Settlement Reached in Oregon over ADA Violations in Employment Services

On September 8, 2015, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it has entered into a proposed settlement agreement with the State of Oregon. The proposed agreement will resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. The agreement will impact more than 7,000 Oregon citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who can and want to work in community employment. The statewide agreement addresses the rights of people with disabilities to receive state-funded employment services in integrated settings, such as supported employment services provided in typical employment settings, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops.  The agreement also provides relief to transition-age youth at risk of segregation.

Social Security – Institute of Medicine Issues Report on “Mental Disorders and Disabilities Among Low-Income Children”

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has issued a new report, “Mental Disorders and Disabilities Among Low-Income Children.” The Social Security Administration commissioned this report to identify trends in the prevalence of mental disorders among U.S. children and to compare those trends to changes observed in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) childhood disability population. The report “provides evidence-based findings and conclusions concerning trends in the prevalence of mental disorders in children and also the diagnosis and treatment of these children,” including previously unreleased data on the rates of mental disorders and disabilities among low-income children from the SSI and Medicaid programs.

Education/Rights – Justice Department Issues Guidance on Testing

The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued technical assistance on the obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of testing entities to ensure that test scores of individuals with disabilities accurately reflect aptitude, achievement, or skill.  The document discusses who is entitled to testing accommodations, what types of testing accommodations must be provided, and what documentation may be required. The document also discusses prohibited flagging policies and proper reporting of test scores. See the Guidance Document or to find out more about the ADA, visit www.ada.gov or call the DOJ’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD).

Rights – Department of Health and Human Services Issues Proposed Rule Against Discrimination in Health Care

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a proposed rule to implement protections against discrimination in access to health care. The rule would extend non-discrimination provisions to health insurance plans offered in health care market places created under the Affordable Care Act and would expand non-discrimination provisions already applicable to entities receiving funds from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Insurers and providers would be required to provide people with disabilities with reasonable modifications, including sign language interpreters and other communication aids, and accessible information technology. Public comments are due on November 6. The Arc will be working with other disability organizations to submit comments. More information can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Transportation – Department of Transportation Issues Guide for Airlines Accommodating Passengers with Developmental Disabilities

The Department of Transportation, with the assistance of The Arc and Autistic Self Advocacy Network, has issued a new guide for airlines regarding their requirements to accommodate passengers with developmental disabilities under the Air Carrier Access Act. The document is not a new law or regulation, but a clarification of existing requirements. Topics covered include what questions airlines are allowed to ask passengers seeking accommodations, how to seek assistance, special seating, service and emotional support animals, when airlines may deny boarding, when airlines may require someone to travel with an individual with a developmental disability, escort and personal care services, what do if your rights have been violated, and tips for airline employees interacting with people with developmental disabilities. It clarifies that airlines may not deny boarding to passengers because of their disability unless they pose a “significant risk to the health or safety of others” that cannot be eliminated by a reasonable accommodation. A diagnosis alone is not sufficient for determining a passenger poses such a risk. The Arc was pleased to provide suggestions for the guide as it complements the work being done through The Arc’s Wings for Autism program, an airport rehearsal program.

Rights/Family Support – Federal Agencies Clarify Rights of Parents with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly issued a document in August that clarifies that children should not be taken from their parents just because a parent(s) has a disability. HHS also noted that people with disabilities should not face additional barriers to adopting or fostering children based solely on their disability.   See “Protecting the Rights of Parents and Prospective Parents with Disabilities: Technical Assistance for State and Local Child Welfare Agencies and Courts under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Acthere.

Family Support – Dept. of Labor Clarifies that Siblings May Be Eligible for FMLA

The Department of Labor has clarified when siblings may be eligible to take job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  For the first time, the Department has included siblings among those eligible for FMLA job-protected leave under certain circumstances.  The Arc joined other disability advocates last year in advocating for the eligibility clarification.  The Arc is pleased with this change in interpretation of the law, but will continue to seek a full legislative fix to ensure that siblings are covered under FMLA. See the updated guidance documents:

  • Fact Sheet #28B: FMLA leave for birth, placement, bonding, or to care for a child with a serious health condition on the basis of an “in loco parentis” relationship.
  • FAQ:  Miscellaneous Questions

Education – U.S. Department of Education Alters Rule for Testing Students with Disabilities

On August 21, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) released a final rule to end the use of the Alternate Assessment based on Modified Academic Achievement Standards (AA-MAS) for eligible students with disabilities. This rule rescinds the so called “2% rule” that allowed states to use the AA-MAS for up to two percent of students with disabilities. The new rule reflects research studies and best practice that show that most students with disabilities can successfully learn grade-level content and make academic progress when they receive appropriate services and supports. The “1% rule” remains in effect for “the small number of students with disabilities who are unable to participate in the regular state assessment, even with appropriate accommodations” to take an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS). These regulations are effective September 21, 2015. Learn more about alternate assessments for students with disabilities here.

Social Security – New National, State, and Congressional District Data

The Social Security Administration has published state SSDI fact sheets that provide data by state and Congressional district on how many workers with disabilities, their children and spouses receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); the average annual SSDI benefit in relation to the poverty threshold; and the total annual benefits for all SSDI beneficiaries. The agency has also published a national SSDI issue paper, “Social Security Disability Insurance at Age 60: Does It Still Reflect Congress’ Original Intent?” Among other statistics, the paper reports that on average, beneficiaries worked and paid into Social Security for 22 years before qualifying for SSDI. Learn more about SSDI and the action that we need Congress to take to maintain this lifeline on The Arc’s blog and in a new edition of The Arc’s National Policy Matters, “Social Security and SSI for People with I/DD and Their Families.”