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.

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 second meeting. To access the Committee Charter, meeting agenda, testimony, meeting minutes, and other updates, visit the Department of Labor website.

Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), held its first meeting January 22-23 in Washington, DC. Several panels of experts discussed various aspects of competitive integrated employment, and public testimony was provided. The panelists’ presentations and the public testimony are now available online. The next WIOA Advisory Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 23-24 in Washington, DC.

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.

New Subcommittee Chairs and Members Announced for House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Last week, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, announced 8 new and 14 returning Republican Members who will be serving on the Committee for the 114th Congress. The Committee has jurisdiction over programs and policies important to The Arc and its members including: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Head Start, the Higher Education Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, equal opportunity and civil rights in employment including under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

House Announces New Members and Subcommittee Chairs for Key Committees

House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) has announced Chairs for the Committee’s 12 Subcommittees. Among the changes, Tom Cole (R-OK) will replace Jack Kingston (R-GA) as Chair of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee, Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) will replace Tom Latham (R-IA) as Chair of the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Subcommittee, and John Culberson (R-TX) will replace Tom Wolf (R-VA) as Chair of the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. Chairman Rogers also welcomed new members to the Committee: David Jolly (R-FL), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), and David Young (R-IA).

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) has also announced chairs for the Committee’s 6 Subcommittees. Joe Pitts (R-PA) will continue to Chair the Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, with Brett Guthrie (R-KY) replacing Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) as Vice Chair. Tim Murphy (R-PA) will chair Oversight and Investigations, with David McKinley (R-WV) replacing Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) as Vice Chair.

Senate Holds Hearing on 15th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead Decision; Chairman Harkin Introduces the “Community Integration Act”

Last week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on “Moving Toward Greater Community Inclusion – Olmstead at 15,” in recognition of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s June 26, 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C. In its decision, the Supreme Court held that the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities violates their civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Witnesses included Ricardo Thornton and Donna Thornton, two self-advocates from Washington, DC who have a long history of working closely with The Arc. The Thorntons shared their experience of living at DC’s former public institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – and subsequently leaving the institution, getting married, and raising a family together. Other witnesses included Emmanuel Smith, PABSS (Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security) Advocate, Disability Rights Iowa, Des Moines, IA; Norma Robertson-Dabrowski, Director of Nursing Home Transitions, Liberty Resources, Philadelphia, PA; Gail Godwin, Executive Director, Shared Support Maryland, Baltimore, MD; and Dr. Troy Justesen, Director of Public Policy, Utah Developmental Disabilities Council, Orangeville, UT. Visit the Committee web site to view video of the hearing and written testimony.

At the hearing, Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced his introduction of the Community Integration Act (S. 2515), to ensure “people with disabilities can choose to live in the community and receive the same supports and services they would receive in institutional settings.” As summarized in Chairman Harkin’s announcement, the Act would:

  • Eliminate the Nursing Home Bias in Medicaid by clearly allowing the provision of similar care or services in home- and community-based settings.
  • Prohibit states from making anyone ineligible for home- and community-based services based on a particular disability.
  • Require states that have found an individual to be eligible for nursing or institutional care to similarly find those same individuals to be eligible for care in home- and community-based settings.
  • Set clear requirements for states regarding the provision of services in home- and community-based settings.
  • Require annual reporting by states about the number of individuals with disabilities in institutional settings and the number that have been transitioned to home- and community-based settings.

Senate Finance Committee Approves Nominees to the Social Security Advisory Board

Last week the Senate Committee on Finance approved three nominees to the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB): Doctors Henry Aaron, Lanhee Chen, and Alan Cohen. Dr. Aaron was approved by a 13-11 vote and Doctors Chen and Cohen were approved unanimously. The SSAB is an independent, bipartisan board created by Congress and appointed by the President and the Congress to advise the President, the Congress, and the Commissioner of Social Security on matters related to the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs. A vote by the full Senate has not yet been scheduled.

House Committee Scheduled to Mark up Tax Extenders Bills

Tomorrow, the House Way & Means Committee is scheduled to debate bills that permanently extend several tax breaks. Two of these tax breaks benefit a small number of multinational corporations and would add $79 billion over 10 years to our deficits. These bills are important to the disability community because tax dollars that are lost (also known as “revenue forgone”) increase our deficits and, consequently, increase pressure to cut critical programs like Medicaid.   Two tax extenders, in particular, included in H.R. 4429 & H.R. 4464 would benefit wealthy, multinational corporations that ship jobs and profits offshore.