Transportation – DOT Announces Changes in Services Animal Enforcement Priorities and Regulations

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has released an Interim Statement of Enforcement Office Priorities and Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding regulations of service animals under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). DOT will now prioritize enforcement cases involving dogs, cats, and miniature horses over cases involving other animals. Additional priorities include the general prohibition on advance notice; a requirement that identification cards, other written documentation, presence of a harness, tags, or the credible verbal assurance of a passenger be accepted as proof of that an animal is a service animal; and the prohibition on requiring passengers with service animal to check-in at the counter.

DOT is seeking public comment to help ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals while also helping to ensure that the fraudulent use of other animals not qualified as service animals is deterred and animals that are not trained to behave properly in public are not accepted for transport as service animals. The ANPRM contains ten questions covering topics such as psychiatric service and emotional support animals, the number of animals allowed per passenger, leash and harness requirements, and allowable documentation requirements. Public comment on the ANPRM is due by June 9. Click here to comment.

Health – CBO Releases New Affordable Care Act Premium Estimates

On May 23, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report titled “Federal Subsidies for Health Insurance Coverage for People under Age 65: 2018-2028.” The report projects premiums for nongroup marketplace plans to increase by an average of 15 percent. The repeal of the individual mandate to have health insurance that was included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is a major contributor to the projected increase. The exit of people with lower health care costs from health insurance markets leads to higher premiums for those who remain. Additionally, enactment of a proposed rule expanding the use of time limited plans could lead to further exits and higher premiums.

Education – DeVos Testifies before House Committee

On May 22, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified for the first time before the House Education and Workforce Committee. The hearing, entitled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education” covered a range of issues, including for profit colleges, student loan programs, state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, apprenticeships, funding for the Office for Civil Rights, school discipline, and the reporting of suspected undocumented students to authorities. View the archived webcast here.

Budget & Appropriations – Appropriations Committees Approve FY 2019 Spending Allocations

On May 23, the House Appropriations Committee adopted allocations for its 12 subcommittees for fiscal year (FY) 2019 that starts on October 1. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) subcommittee – which funds the majority of disability related programs – received no increase from FY 2018. The following day, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted allocations for its subcommittees. The L-HHS-ED bill will get a $2.2 billion (1.2%) increase. The difference in allocations for the 12 subcommittees between the House and Senate make it more challenging for Congress to negotiate a final spending package though the regular process and increases the chances of using a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.

Education – Study Shows Students with Intellectual Disability Have Low Rates of Inclusion

A study soon to be published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities shows that students with intellectual disability are still rarely educated with students without disabilities. The study examined placement trends for students with intellectual disability between ages 6 and 21 between 1976 and 2014. Over this time period, between 55 and 73 percent of students with intellectual disability were in segregated settings for all or most of the day. In 2014, only 17 percent of students with intellectual disability spent 80 percent or more of the school day in the general education classroom. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires students with disabilities be educated alongside students without disabilities to the “maximum extent appropriate.” Placement in a less inclusive setting should occur only when “the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”

Education – LCEF to Hold Call on Discipline Guidance

On May 23 at 3:00 p.m. EDT, the Leadership Conference Education Fund (LCEF) will hold a conference call for advocates regarding the proposed rescission of the Education and Justice Departments’ nondiscriminatory school discipline guidance. This guidance outlines the obligation of schools to ensure that students are not disproportionately punished based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. Speakers will be Liz King, Director of Education Policy, Leadership Conference Education Fund; Elizabeth Olsson, Senior Policy Associate, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.; Diane Smith Howard, Senior Staff Attorney, National Disability Rights Network; Adaku Onyeka-Crawford, Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center; and Paul-Winston Cange, Field Associate, LCEF. Register here.

Medicaid/Rights – CMS Issues Guidance on Electronic Visit Verification

On May 16, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance on implementation of electronic visit verification (EVV) required in the 21st Century Cures Act. Congress directed CMS to issue this guidance at least one year before the implementation deadline of January 19, 2019. The statute requires EVV for personal care services and home health services. However, the guidance provides a very expansive interpretation that includes any service where assistance with activities of daily living or instrumental activities of daily living is provided in part in the home. Furthermore, it leaves many decisions with privacy implications up to states. The Arc believes the short time frame is insufficient for states to engage with stakeholders to implement these requirements in a way that does not put an undue burden on providers and does not violates the privacy of beneficiaries.

Education – House Committee to Hold Hearing on “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education”

On May 22, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing on “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education”. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be the only witness. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.

Income Support – House Defeats Farm Bill with SNAP Cuts

On May 18, the House of Representatives defeated the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2), more commonly known as the “Farm Bill,” by a vote of 198-213. If passed, this bill would have caused significant cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “Food Stamp” benefits and dramatically expanded work requirements. New job training programs would be paid for by cuts in SNAP which would be insufficient to meet the need created by the work requirements. In total, the bill would have caused an estimated 2 million people to lose their SNAP benefits. For more information, read The Arc’s official statement.

Rights – U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Holds Public Briefing on Hate Crimes; The Arc’s Director of Rights Policy Testifies

On May 11, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a public briefing titled “In the Name of Hate: Examining the Federal Government’s Role in Responding to Hate Crimes”. Nicole Jorwic, Director of Rights Policy at The Arc of the United States, testified about hate crimes against people with disabilities. She discussed the many barriers to the reporting and prosecution of hate crimes, including untrained officers believing that victims with disabilities are not credible, lack of standardized protocols for handling complaints from victims with disabilities, lack of training for prosecutors and other court officials, hate crimes being minimized and viewed as pranks or bullying, and people with disabilities being afraid to report someone they know. Watch Nicole’s testimony here.