Education – Senate Held Hearing on Nominee for Education Secretary

President Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, responded to questions from the members of the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee. The nearly four hour hearing on January 17 included a series of questions related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In response to questions posed by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) regarding whether all schools that receive federal funding -whether public, public charter or private – should be required to meet the requirements of IDEA, Ms. DeVos replied, “I think they already are” and “I think that is a matter that is best left to the states,” and “I think that is certainly worth discussion.” In response to a follow-up question on the same topic by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), DesVos stated “Federal Law must be followed where federal dollars are in play.” Watch the archived hearing here(IDEA discussion begins at the 3 hour and 31 minute mark).

Budget & Appropriations – Senate Committee Approves Budget Office Nominee

On February 2, the Senate Budget Committee voted to favorably report the nomination of Rep. Mike Mulvaney (R-SC) to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OMB is the largest division within the Executive Office of the President. It is charged with developing the budget and overseeing the implementation of the President’s agenda across the Executive Branch. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access the archived video of the hearing.

Health Care/Medicaid – Bills To Repeal ACA and Cut Medicaid Being Analyzed

Late last week, a draft bill believed to be under consideration for the House Republican approach to restructuring Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act was “leaked”. It is believed that the draft bill and perhaps other draft bills have been sent to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to obtain cost estimates (known as “scoring”) expected to assist the House Energy and Commerce Committee in preparing legislation for possible mark-up during the week of March 6. It is, of course, unknown until the Committee releases its own bill what the actual legislation will try to achieve. However, given the elements of the leaked version and the proposals that have been discussed to date, it is likely to involve repeal of key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and drastic cuts to Medicaid through permanent restructuring of the federal/state partnership relationship. Therefore, continued advocacy is more urgent than ever. See action alert: TAKE ACTION TO PREVENT GUTTING OF THE ACA AND MEDICAID.

Education/Rights – Supreme Court Unanimously Rules in Favor of Student in Disability Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the case of Ehlena Fry, a student with cerebral palsy, who sought to use a service dog in school for tasks such as “retrieving dropped items, helping her balance when she uses her walker, opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights, and helping her take off her coat, [and] helping her transfer to and from the toilet.” The school refused to allow the service dog, arguing that a human aide was sufficient. Her parents sued the school district for violating her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. A federal district court had dismissed the case on the basis that the parents must exhaust the administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) before seeking relief under the ADA and Section 504 and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The Supreme Court, in an 8-0 decision in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, ruled that a student does not need to exhaust the IDEA’s administrative process if the claim is not is not related to the adequacy of his/her education. Read The Arc’s statement on the ruling here.

Disability Policy Seminar – Less than a Month Away!

We are less than a month away from the 2017 Disability Policy Seminar! Join us in the heart of Washington D.C. from March 20-22 to cultivate champions on Capitol Hill and advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Learn from the experts about the issues that matter to you and network with other advocates from across the country as you prepare to interface and build relationships with your representatives. The Disability Policy Seminar is your chance to make an impact! Register here.

Miscellaneous News – The FINDS Survey is here!

We need your input and help disseminating this crucial survey! The Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota in collaboration with The Arc, is seeking caregivers to share their perceptions on a range of life-span issues impacting individuals with I/DD. We are invitingfamily or unrelated caregivers aged 18 years or older who provide frequent primary support to a person with an I/DD to participate. The results of the 2010 Survey provided unique insight into the growing gaps in education, employment, and other life-span activities that exist between persons with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, which has informed further dialogue and policy changes at the Federal and State levels. Take the survey and share it widely in your networks! Deadline: March 30.

Tax – Vermont Opens ABLE Program

On February 27, Vermont became the 17th state to launch a qualified ABLE Program. This program is currently only open to Vermont residents. The plan has five investment options. There is a monthly fee of $5 and annual asset-based fees that range from 0.19% to 0.34% depending on the investment option. Additionally, there is a minimum initial deposit of $50. More information about state implementation the ABLE Act can be found here. General information about ABLE programs can be found in the National Policy Matters: ABLE Accounts for People with Disabilities here.

Miscellaneous News – The Arc Seeking Caregivers for FINDS Survey

With the new year comes a new Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) Survey. We need your input! The Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with The Arc, is seeking caregivers to share their perceptions on a range of life-span issues impacting individuals with I/DD. The Arc invites people aged 18 years or older who provide frequent primary support to a person with I/DD to participate. Take the survey here.

Disability Policy Seminar – Registration for the 2017 Seminar is Open

The 2017 Disability Policy Seminar will be held in Washington, D.C. on March 20-22. This event is the premier opportunity to cultivate champions on Capitol Hill and advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). For over 40 years, this unique platform has offered the opportunity to come together with passionate advocates, self-advocates, experts, and professionals in the field to learn about key issues.

The first 100 days of any new Administration and Congress are key to setting the agenda-and this year, more than ever, The Arc needs you in Washington, DC to advocate. Access to health care and community living supports, bedrock civil rights protections, and Medicaid are at risk. The Disability Policy Seminar is your chance to make an impact! Register here.

Posted in DPS

Employment – RSA Releases Technical Assistance Manual

The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) released its Fiscal Year 2017 Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Supported Employment Services Programs Monitoring and Technical Assistance Guide. The guide covers the Vocational Rehabilitation program under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act and the supported employment program under Title VI of the Rehabilitation Act. It covers five focus areas to be addressed during technical assistance visits: 1) performance of the VR and Supported Employment programs, including competitive integrated employment outcomes; 2) transition services and employment outcomes for youth with disabilities, including pre-employment services; 3) supported employment for individuals with the most significant disabilities, including youth; 4) fiscal integrity of the programs; and 5) progress of VR agencies toward implementing planning and accountability requirements.