New HCBS Resource: Questions and Answers About the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Settings Rules

The Arc is pleased to share a new Q&A document designed to be a resource to assist advocates understand the impact of the HCBS Settings Rule as the March 17, 2015 deadline for states to submit a transition plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approaches. The document provides answers to frequently asked questions about the Rule as well as links to primary source documents and additional information members of The Arc may find helpful as they advocate for the full inclusion and community participation of people with I/DD.

President’s Budget released; Mostly Protects and Level Funds Disability Programs

The Obama Administration submitted its Budget Request for FY 2016 to Congress on February 2. This document signals administration’s priorities but does not have the force of law. While most disability-related programs were generally level funded, it included a number of increases for specific programs. A few of the highlights for the disability community are:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): Continue paying full benefits beyond 2016 by replenishing the trust fund through reallocation of payroll tax collections between the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund and the Old-Age, Survivors (OASI) Trust Fund, as has been done many times before.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation (VR): An increase of $56.7 million in funding for the VR state grant program (but only 1.7%);
  • Early intervention: An increase of $115 million for early intervention and pre-school services; and
  • Housing: $25 million in additional funding to create approximately 700 new units of Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities.

The next step in the budget and appropriations process is for the House and Senate to develop their own overall budget proposals, taking the President’s Budget Request into consideration. The Arc and other advocates will be working to ensure that Members of Congress understand the importance of these and other programs as they begin to develop individual funding bills over the spring and summer. See a spreadsheet of proposed funding amounts for disability-related programs.

House Committee Marks Up ESEA Reauthorization Bill

On February 11, The House Education & the Workforce Committee marked up H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA is the law that governs general education – where most students with disabilities spend most of their time – in public schools. The Arc opposes H.R. 5 as it would remove accountability mechanisms for students with disabilities. View the archived webcast on the committee website.

Senate Holds Hearing on Social Security Disability Insurance Financing

Last week, the Senate Committee on the Budget held a hearing on “The Coming Crisis:  Social Security Disability Trust Fund Insolvency”.  Witnesses were: Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Social Security Administration; Dr. Mark Duggan, Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics, Stanford University; Dr. Philip de Jong, Professor of Economics, University of Amsterdam – Amsterdam School of Economics; and Kate Lang, Staff Attorney, National Senior Citizens Law Center (testifying as a co-chair of the Income Security Committee of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations or LCAO).  The Arc joined with other members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities to submit a statement for the record of the hearing. Visit the Committee website to review testimony and video of the hearing.

Bills Introduced to Cut Concurrent Social Security Disability Insurance & Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chair Sam Johnson (R-TX), and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced the “Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act” in both the Senate and House (S. 499, with 4 cosponsors; H.R. 918, with 10 cosponsors). The bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Finance and House Committee on Ways and Means, respectively. As previously reported, the prior week, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced S.343, the “Reducing Overlapping Payments Act”. While different in their mechanics, all three bills would reduce or delay Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for individuals who also receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) (such as, after attempting to work but losing their job through no fault of their own and therefore qualifying for UI).

The Arc strongly opposes cuts to SSDI benefits, including cuts to concurrent SSDI and UI benefits. As noted in a fact sheet by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, SSDI and UI are separate programs established for different purposes; receipt of concurrent SSDI and UI benefits, while rare, is both legal and appropriate. Cutting these benefits would harm the economic security of SSDI beneficiaries and their families, single out SSDI beneficiaries and treat them differently from other workers under the UI program, and create disincentives to work for SSDI beneficiaries. For these reasons, The Arc strongly opposes S. 499, H.R. 918, S. 343, and similar proposals.

Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), held its first meeting January 22-23 in Washington, DC. Several panels of experts discussed various aspects of competitive integrated employment, and public testimony was provided. The panelists’ presentations and the public testimony are now available online. The next WIOA Advisory Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 23-24 in Washington, DC.

Tax Exempted Waiver Payments

Last week, The Arc reported on IRS Bulletin (2014-4) and an accompanying Q&A clarification document which, as of January 3, 2014, under IRS Code §131, allow payments to qualified Medicaid waiver providers to be excluded from gross income tax for reporting purposes. The clarification document states, in part, “… the IRS will treat ‘qualified Medicaid waiver payments’ as difficulty of care payments excludable from gross income under §131 of the Internal Revenue Code.  For purposes of the notice, qualified Medicaid waiver payments are payments by a state, a political subdivision of a state, or a certified Medicaid provider under a Medicaid waiver program to an individual care provider for nonmedical support services provided under a plan of care to an individual (whether related or unrelated) living in the individual care provider’s home.” The Arc sought clarification from the Internal Revenue Service and learned that individual providers can amend previous tax returns according to standard amendment practice. The IRS will release additional FAQs next month.

Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment For Health Insurance Marketplaces Ends

Open enrollment for health insurance offered through the marketplaces ended February 15, 2015.  Extra time is allowed for people who started the enrollment process but did not finish.  There are also special enrollment periods for people who lose their health coverage or experience another qualifying change in their situation.  The administration is reporting that 11.4 million people signed up or were re-enrolled for health insurance during the open enrollment period.   For more information about health insurance visit: https://www.healthcare.gov.

Senate to Hold Hearing on Social Security Disability Trust Fund Insolvency

On Wednesday, February 11th, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on “The Coming Crisis:  Social Security Disability Trust Fund Insolvency”.  Social Security Disability Insurance was created in 1956 to provide financial assistance to people who are unable to work due to disability or health issues.   Witnesses at the hearing will include: Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Social Security Administration; Dr. Mark Duggan, Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics, Stanford University; Dr. Philip de Jong, Professor of Economics, University of Amsterdam – Amsterdam School of Economics; and Kate Lang, Staff Attorney, National Senior Citizens Law Center.  Visit the Committee website to learn more and to view live video on the day of the hearing.

Open Enrollment for Health Plans Ends February 15th

Open enrollment for health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act ends February 15.  This is an opportunity for people who do not have health insurance to purchase it.  There is also help with paying the costs of health insurance for low and moderate income individuals.  To learn more about what is available in your state visit the health care website.