The Social Security Trustees have released their annual report on the current and projected financial status of the Social Security trust funds. Similar to 2013, the 2014 findings show that Social Security is fully solvent until 2033, but faces a moderate long-term shortfall. In 2013, Social Security took in roughly $32 billion more than it paid out. Its reserves were $2.76 trillion in 2013, and are projected to grow to $2.9 trillion at the beginning of 2020. If Congress does not act before 2033, the reserves would be drawn down, and revenue coming into the Trust Funds would cover about 77 percent of scheduled benefits. The 2014 Trustees Report also continues to project that the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund by itself can pay all scheduled benefits until 2016. If Congress takes no action before 2016, the Trustees project that the DI trust fund will be able to pay about 81 percent of scheduled benefits.
To read more visit The Arc’s blog.
The Arc is pleased that President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law last week. This bipartisan and bicameral law reauthorizes and updates existing federal workforce development programs including the Rehabilitation Act, which provides for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services for people with disabilities. WIOA focuses VR outcomes on competitive, integrated employment as well as promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities by emphasizing coordination between VR and other agencies, extending the initial time period for VR supported employment services from 18 to 24 months, and modifying eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant disabilities.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on “Social Security: A Fresh Look at Workers’ Disability Insurance.” Witnesses included Stephen Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration; Marianna LaCanfora, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration; Rebecca Vallas, Associate Director, Poverty to Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress Action Fund; and Dr. Richard Burkhauser, Professor, Adjunct Scholar, Cornell University, American Enterprise Institute. Visit the Committee website for written testimony and video of the hearing.
President Obama and senior advisors hosted a meeting with a small group of disability leaders to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the ADA. They discussed the critical efforts that federal agencies are leading to protect the rights of, and participation by, people with disabilities in our communities. The President also formally announced the appointment of his new disability policy advisor, Taryn Mackenzie Williams. Taryn joins the Office of Public Engagement from the U.S. Department of Labor, where she served as a Senior Policy Advisor with the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Watch the President’s video message and read his 24th ADA anniversary proclamation at whitehouse.gov.
The Arc joined with 78 other endorsing organizations to oppose removing the six disability questions from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). These questions are the backbone of the data we have about people with disabilities and help shape our programs and funding. They are being threatened with removal from the survey because some survey respondents, Members of Congress, and others view the questions as intrusive or unnecessary. The Census Bureau is doing a content review of the questions on the ACS and is looking for the statutory references and programmatic uses of the data. The CCD response can be found on the CCD website.
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) out of committee with a vote of 12-6. Advocates are hopeful that it will be put to a floor vote in the Senate this week, prior to the August recess. The Treaty is supported by nearly 850 disability organizations (including The Arc of the US and many chapter affiliates), civil rights groups, faith organizations, veterans groups, and major business groups including the Chamber of Commerce. Members of The Arc will be joining hundreds of other advocates on July 29th for a march and rally hosted by the National Council on Independent Living in support of CRPD. To learn more about CRPD, please see: The Arc’s fact sheet and blog entry, as well as a video message from Sen. Harkin. To contact your Senator about this critical issue, please visit The Arc’s Action Center or Tweet using #ISupportCRPD.
On Thursday July 31, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing on the nomination of The Honorable Carolyn W. Colvin to be Commissioner of Social Security. Visit the Committee web site for more information and live video the day of the hearing.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) aims to build public awareness and improve education about the unique needs of children with special health conditions and adults with disability during disasters. Personal stories are being sought to help CDC improve its emergency preparedness and response efforts for adults with disability and families who have children with special health care needs. Learn more and see the story collection form at The Arc’s website.
Last week, the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight held a hearing, “Saving for an Uncertain Future: How the ABLE Act can Help People with Disabilities and their Families” on the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE Act) . The ABLE Act would create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities that would not count toward the $2,000 individual asset limits that apply to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs.
Reflecting on the need for an update in current tax-code policies, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA),whose son Cole has Down syndrome, offered this statement as a part of her testimony,”Our outdated laws encourage women and men with disabilities to resign themselves to a life of dependence by spending down their assets rather than saving them for future expenses.”
Other witnesses included Mr. Robert D’Amelio, volunteer advocate for the North Carolina chapter of Autism Speaks; Chase Alston Phillips, a financial advisor from northern Virginia; and Sara Wolf, self-advocate with Down Syndrome and board member of the National Down Syndrome Society.
Introduced in February 2013, the Senate version, S. 213, sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), has 74 co-sponsors; the House version, HR.647, sponsored by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), has 371 co-sponsors. Visit the Committee website to view video of the hearing and written testimony.
Last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) held a briefing to address joint employment in consumer-directed programs as outlined in the Federal Register in October 2013. Officials reviewed an Administrator’s Interpretation from last month that defines companionship services, clarifies the duties test, and limits the use of the companionship services exemption and the live-in domestic service employee overtime exemption to individuals or their representatives only. Most workers in consumer-directed programs will have a third-party joint employer and therefore must be paid in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. However, the exemption may be applied in situations in which the consumer is the sole employer. Third party employers may no longer claim exemptions under this rule. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently released guidance on state options for Medicaid reimbursement for overtime and travel costs that may result from the Final Rule. For more information, please visit www.homecare.gov for a fact sheet and other information related to minimum wage and overtime pay for direct care workers.