Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act Introduced in the House and Senate

Last week, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act (SSI Restoration Act) was introduced in the Senate (S.1387) by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and in the House (H.R. 2442) by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and 25 cosponsors. The bill seeks to restore the SSI program’s original intent of protecting beneficiaries, including people with disabilities and the elderly, against extreme poverty. The bill modernizes SSI resource limits for individuals and couples, to $10,000 and $15,000, respectively. These limits have not been adjusted for inflation since 1989. The bill would also update the general income disregard (to $112 per month) as well as the earned income disregard (to $364 per month) to the amounts they would be currently, if they had been adjusted for inflation since SSI’s inception in 1972. Moving forward, both the SSI resource limits and income disregards would be updated annually for inflation. Lastly, the bill would repeal the SSI in-kind support and maintenance provision as well as the SSI transfer penalty. The SSI Restoration Act was referred in the Senate to the Committee on Finance, and in the House to the Committee on Ways and Means. The Arc applauds the introduction of this bill.

The Arc Calls on Advocates to Support Lifeline Programs

Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and other lifeline programs for people with I/DD are under attack. The House and Senate passed a concurrent budget resolution that calls for significant cuts, setting in motion a process to restructure the Medicaid program. It’s time to act! We are calling on our advocates to engage their Members of Congress in support of these critical programs.  Please register your concerns by responding to the action alert posted above.  To assist you with engaging in other activities, The Arc has created a toolkit with tips and key messages to convey.   The Memorial Day recess and the July 4th recess are excellent times to step up our activities by writing, calling or visiting your Member of Congress.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

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 third meeting via webinar. The agenda, presentation materials, and public comment can be accessed here. For more information on the Committee, please visit their website.

The Arc Calls on Advocates to Support Lifeline Programs

Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and other lifeline programs for people with I/DD are under attack. The House and Senate passed a concurrent budget resolution that calls for significant cuts, setting in motion a process to restructure the Medicaid program. It’s time to act! We are calling on our advocates to engage their members of Congress in support of these critical programs.  Please register your concerns by responding to the action alert posted above.  To assist you with engaging in other activities, The Arc has created a toolkit with tips and key messages to convey.   The Memorial Day recess and the July 4th recess are excellent times to step up our activities by writing, calling or visiting your Member of Congress.

Concurrent Budget Resolution Passed in Senate

On May 5 the Senate approved a concurrent budget resolution for FY 2016 which begins October 1. The measure was approved by a vote of 51-48. The U.S. House of Representatives had approved the same plan the previous week by a margin of 226-197. While this budget framework is not legally binding, it serves as the blueprint for making decisions about spending and revenues in the coming fiscal year. The 2016 concurrent budget resolution includes several attacks on major programs that will harm people with disabilities, such as:

  • Possible permanent cuts and elimination of the entitlement to services in the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides the vast majority of long term supports and services (LTSS), including home and community-based services (HCBS), and many employment supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The proposed block grants to the states would require fundamental structural changes to the basic Medicaid program which could lead to states restricting eligibility and services or increasing costs for individuals, or other options to replace the reduced funding.
  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA includes numerous protections and benefits for persons with disabilities, such as prohibiting private health insurance exclusions for pre-existing conditions, eliminating annual and lifetime caps in private insurance policies, and restricting the consideration of health status in setting premiums.
  • Dramatic cuts to non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. NDD programs – which include early intervention, education, employment, housing, and much more – would be cut by another $496 billion from 2017-2025 on top of the sequestration cuts that extend through 2021. This would more than double the cuts in NDD programs over the coming decade. See the funding chart showing cuts to disability programs since 2010.

Learn more about the Congressional budget plan at http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-budget/ten-serious-flaws-in-the-congressional-budget-plan.

Fair Labor Standards Act (Homecare Rule)

Last week, three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments related to Home Care Association of America v. Weil which challenges the Home Care Final Rule issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) and intended to be implemented on January 1, 2015. The rule was put on hold due to a pair of rulings from the US District Court vacating the challenged provisions. The suit challenges 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 from overtime compensation. The Court of Appeals is expected to issue a decision this summer. For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/homecare/.

National Council on Disability Releases Transportation Report

The National Council on Disability (NCD) released a report entitled “Transportation Update:  Where We’ve Gone and What We’ve Learned” a comprehensive update of a 2005 study sponsored by the NCD.  The report provides an overview of transportation in the United States, the changes since the last report, and recommends public policy to address new and persistent problems.

Civil Rights Data on Students With Disabilities Released

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released its FY 2013-2014 Report to the President, Protecting Civil Rights, Advancing Equity. This annual report contains data and case examples of reported cases of discrimination under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The report shows that the greatest number of complaints of discrimination pertain to receiving a free and appropriate education (FAPE), retaliation, and different treatment/exclusion/denial of benefits.   In addition, the report includes data on combating disparities in school disciplinary practices (including restraint and seclusion); ensuring equal access to comparable educational opportunities; providing necessary academic adjustments for post-secondary students; safeguarding accessibility to appropriate technology; ensuring accessibility of programs, services, and facilities; and combating bullying and harassment on the basis of disability. See the report at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/ocr/report-to-president-and-secretary-of-education-2013-14.pdf

Senate Briefing on Wandering (also known as elopement) by Persons With Autism

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is sponsoring a briefing on “Elopement in Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders” on Tuesday, May 19th from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EDT in the Russell Senate Building, Room 485. Speakers will include: Scott Badesch, President/Chief Executive Offi­cer, Autism Society of America; Robert Lowery, Jr., Vice President, Missing Children Division, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; Scott Martin, Director, SafetyNet Division of LoJack Corporation; former State Police Captain (Retired), Connecticut State Police; and Lori McIlwain, Co-founder & Board Chairperson, National Autism Association.   This briefing aims to raise awareness of the problem of wandering and how law enforcement agencies are responding.

Fair Labor Standards Act/Subminimum Wage

Recently, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor posted a PowerPoint presentation which provides a general overview of section 14(c) and requirements for certificate holders.  This presentation is accessible by the public at http://www.dol.gov/whd/sec14c/14c-presentation.ppt.  For additional guidance on section 14(c), please see the Wage and Hour Division webpage.