Older Americans Act Reauthorization Introduced in Senate; Expands Eligibility for Family Support Services

The Senate reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (S. 192) was introduced on January 20 by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Among many other things, it includes a fix to the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP)  which provides information to caregivers about available services, assistance in accessing services, individual counseling, support groups, and caregiver training, respite care, and supplemental services.   The Arc supports this legislation as it would extend NFCSP eligibility to older caregivers of their adult children (age 19 to 59) with disabilities.

Home Care Final Rule

As anticipated, last week the Department of Labor (DOL) filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the lawsuit brought by associations of home care companies (Home Care Association of America v. Weil, Civil Action No. 14-967), which challenged the Home Care Final Rule. In particular, the suit challenged DOL’s authority to 1) revise the definition of companionship services and 2) discontinues the exemption of overtime compensation by third party employers of home care workers who provide companionship services.

Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities Meeting Held

Last week, the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, which was mandated by Section 609 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, held its first meeting. David Mank, PhD, was elected to chair the committee. The Committee is an excellent opportunity to bring together stakeholders to recommend programs and policies to increase competitive integrated employment for people with I/DD. To access the Committee Charter, meeting agenda, testimony, meeting minutes, and other updates, visit the ODEP website.

Agency to Expand Field Office Hours

Last week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that the agency will expand its hours nationwide. Effective March 16, 2015, SSA field offices will be open to the public for an additional hour on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  A field office that is usually open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. will remain open until 4:00 p.m.  Offices will continue to close to the public at noon every Wednesday. As previously reported, over the last several years SSA has reduced the hours that its field offices are open to the public as well as field office services, due to funding constraints. The Arc strongly supports adequate administrative funding for SSA to ensure that the service needs of the public, including people with disabilities, are met.

State of the Union Address

Last week President Obama addressed the nation through the State of the Union Address. Sara Wolff, member of The Arc of Pennsylvania’s board of directors and ABLE advocate, was in attendance as an invited guest of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and granted The Arc a phone interview about her experience.

Within the address, the President outlined proposals which stand to benefit people with I/DD and their families including: supports to working families (e.g., child care, paid leave, minimum wage), tools needed to increase workers’ wage earning potential (quality pre-K, community college, student loans, apprenticeships), and what businesses need to generate more jobs and higher wages (e.g., trade, tax reform, and research and development). Among his remarks, President Obama specifically mentioned disability, stating “I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen – man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”

Marchand Internship – Application for Summer 2015 Session Due Feb 15

The Paul Marchand Internship Fund will provide $3,000 per semester or summer session to assist interns interested in pursuing careers in public policy advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). See Application information and Internship FAQs for more information. For 38 years, Paul Marchand was a dedicated disability policy advocate and recognized leader working on behalf of people I/DD and the larger disability community. Upon his retirement in 2011, The Arc, with substantial contributions from United Cerebral Palsy, other organizations, and individuals with whom Paul worked during his decades in Washington, established an internship to honor Paul and to continue to cultivate disability policy advocates.

Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act Language Published

Last week, we reported that Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) introduced H.R. 188, Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2015 on January 7, 2015. Since then, the bill text was published as the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act. The bill would phase out the issuance of special wage certificates [14(c)] under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, allowing individuals with disabilities to be employed at subminimum wage rates. The proposal would discontinue the issuance of such certificates upon enactment; transitioning entities holding such certificates within three years; and repealing the relevant section of the Fair Labor Standards Act. An identical bill was introduced in 2013 under a different name, though it did not advance in the House of Representatives. It was referred to the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative Releases New Fact Sheets

Last week, new fact sheets were released for the National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative (NDNRC).  These latest installments are part of a series that will help health care assistors with information they need to help specific populations within the disability community chose an appropriate health care plan.  Previously released fact sheets include information on Autism, Intellectual Disability, Multiple Sclerosis, Mental Illness and Veterans Affairs.  In addition, educational webinars will be offered on a variety of topics. The Arc is a participating organization with the NDNRC. For additional information visit the NDNRC website.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Leader Resigning

Marilyn Tavenner, the chief administrator for the federal agency that oversees Medicaid, Medicare and most of the Affordable Care Act is resigning at the end of the month. She was confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate in May, 2013 and oversaw the roll out of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to her announcement, several other key leaders at CMS had resigned including Cindy Mann, who was the Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. Under the leadership of Ms. Tavenner and Ms. Mann, several important initiatives were advanced and there was increased openness to working with advocates and stakeholders.