Transportation – Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Conducts Survey on Airline Lavatory Accessibility

Paralyzed Veterans of America is conducting a survey to gather input for the Department of Transportation’s ACCESS Committee on barriers to the accessibility of airplane bathrooms. The purpose of the survey is to determine the impact on people with disabilities and to try to make a case for requiring accessible lavatories on single-aisle airplanes. While preliminary results are due to the committee on July 22, the survey will remain open until August 1.

Miscellaneous – The Arc Wisconsin Seeks State Director

The state director of The Arc Wisconsin will build and lead a growing, vibrant and effective movement of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), their parents, siblings and family members, and the professionals and organizations that serve them, to promote and protect the civil rights of people with I/DD and to actively support their inclusion and participation in their communities throughout their lifetimes. The state director will build a new state office of The Arc Wisconsin that will advance the vision, goals and strategies set forth in Strategic Framework for the Future of The Arc, 2010-2019. The state office is charged to influence public policy developments in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government which affect people with I/DD, promote public awareness about their needs, issues and concerns, and encourage, assist and support local chapters of The Arc. Read more and apply here.

Social Security – House Holds Hearing on “Modernizing Social Security’s Information Technology Infrastructure”

Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on “Modernizing Social Security’s Information Technology Infrastructure”. Witnesses were Robert Klopp, Deputy Commissioner, Chief Information Officer, Social Security Administration; Richard E. Warsinskey, President, National Council of Social Security Management Associations; Kimberly Byrd, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audit, Financial Systems and Operations Audits, Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration; Valerie Melvin, Director, Information Management and Technology Resources Issues, Government Accountability Office; and William Hayes, Principal Engineer, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. Visit the Committee web site to access testimony or view archived video of the hearing.

Income Support – Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Clears House Committee

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act (H.R.670) on July 13. This bill will allow individuals to establish special needs trusts on their own behalf. Due to a technical drafting error when the Medicaid statute was modified in 1993, current law only allows a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a court to establish a Special Needs Trust for an individual. This leads to unnecessary legal expenses for eligible individuals who do not have a guardian or a living parent or grandparent. The Senate approved its version, S.349 in September of 2015.

Autism – Wandering Bill Clears the Senate

The Senate passed S. 2614, Kevin and Avonte’s Law, by unanimous consent on July 14. This bill, sponsored by Senators Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), would provide grant funds to state and local law enforcement agencies and nonprofit organizations for education, training, and technology to help prevent and reduce the harm from wandering (or “elopement”). The Arc supports Kevin and Avonte’s Law and encourages our members to thank their Senators and reach out to their Representative about the House bill, H.R. 4919, during the long summer recess. Click here for more information.

Budget & Appropriations – House Committee Passes Labor-HHS-Education Spending Bill; Senate Blocks Spending Bill; Continuing Resolution Expected

On July 14, the House Appropriations Committee passed a fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED). The measure provides $161.6 billion in discretionary funding, a cut of $569 million from FY 2016 and $2.8 billion below the President’s budget. It was passed following a long debate on how to combat infectious diseases, including the Zika virus. Most disability-related programs were level funded, except for a few education programs that would take large cuts. Click here to see the line item funding levels and the percentage change from FY 2016. The measure also includes $300 million to address the Zika virus.

Also on July 14, the Senate was unable to clear a procedural motion to vote on a spending bill that includes $1.1 billion to address the Zika virus. The measure was blocked due to opposition to policy changes added to the funding bill, including one to prevent funding of Planned Parenthood clinics. Both chambers recessed that evening, leaving spending bills unfinished prior to their seven-week recess. One or more continuing resolutions are expected to fund the federal government after the start of FY 2017 on October 1.

LTSS – Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Issues Guidance on Nursing Facility Residents’ Rights to Return to the Community

HHS has issued a guidance document that details how to properly administer the Minimum Data Set (MDS) to ensure that nursing facility residents are afforded the right to return to community living. The MDS is a mandated quarterly assessment administered to all nursing home residents. It includes questions that can connect long term care residents with opportunities to live in the community. The document asserts that the MDS is often improperly administered, meaning that in practice, most long term care facilities are not adequately implementing plans to transition residents to more integrated settings. This document details how to avoid many common misapplications of the MDS.

Rights – Department of Justice Provides Technical Assistance on Polling Place Accessibility

The Department of Justice has issued a technical assistance document instructing states on how to ensure that people with disabilities have access to polling places. The document is not a formal legal interpretation, but does provide advice on how to remedy certain accessibility barriers. It contains a checklist written to be understandable by people who do not have technical expertise.

Autism – Autism Committee Seeking Comments on Strategic Plan

The federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) that was reauthorized by the Autism CARES Act of 2014 is looking for comments from people with autism, family members, service providers, advocates and other interested parties as it gears up for its 2016 update. Comments should be related to the seven key topics traditionally addressed by the panel: 1) screening and diagnosis, 2) underlying biology of autism, 3) risk factors, 4) treatments and interventions, 5) services, 6) lifespan issues, and 7) surveillance and infrastructure. Click here to submit comments by the July 29 deadline.

Social Security – House to Hold Hearing on “Modernizing Social Security’s Information Technology Infrastructure”

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “Modernizing Social Security’s Information Technology Infrastructure”. The hearing will focus on the current state of the Social Security Administration’s Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, the agency’s IT modernization plan, and best practices for IT modernization efforts. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video the day of the hearing.