New Report Highlights Affordable Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities

The Technical Assistance Collaborative and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force have released Priced Out in 2014, a new study which highlights an ongoing barrier to community living for people with disabilities – the lack of accessible, affordable housing. This publication is released every two years, and includes national, state and local data. The 2014 results show that the national average rent for a modestly priced one-bedroom apartment is greater than the entire average Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment for a person with a disability living in the community. “This report makes an important contribution to our understanding of the full dimensions of the rental housing affordability crisis. It is required reading for policymakers and the public alike,” write Former HUD Secretary Cisneros and Former Senator Bond, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission, in the Priced Out in 2014 forward. To read the report and access state and local data, visit the Priced Out web site.

Senate Highway Trust Fund Bill Moves Forward Without Amendment to Cut Social Security Disability Insurance

The Senate Finance Committee marked up the Preserving American’s Transit and Highways (PATH) Act last week without adopting harmful amendments that threatened to cut SSDI benefits. In early July, the Senate Finance Committee took up legislation to address a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund with the PATH Act. Senator John Thune (R-SD), along with Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), introduced two amendments to partially pay for the bill by cutting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for people who also receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) also co-sponsored one of the amendments. The Arc and other members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities strongly opposed the amendments, noting that SSDI and UI are separate programs established for different purposes; receipt of concurrent benefits, while rare, is both legal and appropriate. Cutting these benefits would harm the economic security of SSDI beneficiaries and their families, single out SSDI beneficiaries and treat them differently from other workers under the UI program, create disincentives to work for SSDI beneficiaries, and cut Social Security to pay for an unrelated program. Fortunately, the Senate Finance Committee marked up the PATH Act last week without adopting these harmful amendments. With different bills to shore up the Highway Trust Fund moving to the Senate and House floors, The Arc will closely monitor and oppose the potential for these amendments to be reintroduced.

Cuts to SSDI Proposed to Pay for Highway Trust Fund

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee took up legislation to address a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, the Preserving American’s Transit and Highways Act (PATH Act). Senator John Thune (R-SD), along with Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), introduced two amendments to partially pay for the bill by cutting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for people who also receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) also co-sponsored one of the amendments. These amendments are similar to proposals introduced in the Senate last January as part of its consideration of extending emergency UI benefits. The Finance Committee recessed last Thursday without completing its markup, and is expected to return next week to resume consideration of the bill. Senator Thune stated during last week’s Committee markup that he may continue to offer his amendments. The Arc strongly opposes cuts to SSDI benefits, including cuts to concurrent SSDI and UI benefits.  As noted in a January 2014 letter from The Arc and other members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, SSDI and UI are separate programs established for different purposes; receipt of concurrent benefits, while rare, is both legal and appropriate. Cutting these benefits would harm the economic security of SSDI beneficiaries and their families, single out SSDI beneficiaries and treat them differently from other workers under the UI program, create disincentives to work for SSDI beneficiaries, and cut Social Security to pay for an unrelated program. The Arc strongly opposes these amendments and is urging the Senate Finance Committee to reject these harmful SSDI benefit cuts.

Save the Date – June 12 is the National Call-In Day to Prevent Restraint & Seclusion

The Arc urges all advocates to participate in the June 12 national call in day to support the Keeping All Students Safe Act, the restraint and seclusion bills (S. 2036 and HR 1893) introduced by Senator Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Miller (D-CA), respectively.  Restraint and seclusion have resulted in numerous serious injuries and fatalities and are disproportionately used on students with disabilities. The day is being planned in collaboration with the national Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), and other coalitions. Congress must hear from parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors regarding this important legislation! See our Action Alert for more details.

Save the Date – June 12 is the National Call-In Day to Prevent Restraint & Seclusion

The Arc urges all advocates to participate in the June 12 national call-in day to support the Keeping All Students Safe Act legislation to prevent restraint and seclusion (S. 2036 and HR 1893), introduced by Senator Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Miller (D-CA), respectively.  This legislation will prohibit the use of physical restraint unless a student’s behavior poses an imminent danger of physical harm to self or others, while ensuring that personnel receive proper training, that parents are aware of any restraint used with their children, and that the most dangerous types of restraint and seclusion are eliminated. Restraint and Seclusion have resulted in numerous serious injuries and fatalities and are disproportionately used on students with disabilities.

The day is being planned in collaboration with the national Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), and other coalitions. Congress must hear from parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors regarding this important legislation! Stay tuned for the action alert.

The Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities International Task Force Releases Report That Makes Further Arguments For Why U.S Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is Important

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) International Task Force released a report which compiles just a few examples of the severe treatment, abuse, and discrimination faced by individuals with disabilities in other countries, and argues that U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will enhance the ability of the U.S. to work to improve the lives of people with disabilities around the world.  The report, Neglected and Abused Abroad: A Look at the Severe Mistreatment of Individuals with Disabilities Around the World and How the U.S. Can Help, is available on the CCD website.

A new Facebook page is available to provide accurate information and build support for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The page includes information about advocating ratification of the treaty as well as blog posts from Patricia Morrissey, former Commissioner of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and a video from Secretary of State, John Kerry. It includes talking points in English and Spanish and short animated videos explaining the treaty and arguments for its ratification. The page is also a place to share stories, feedback from Senate contacts, talking points and other resources.

The Senate HELP Committee Voted to Approve the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013

The Health, Education Labor and Pensions committee voted along party lines to approve the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, S.1094, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). S.1094 is in line with the CCD Principles on reauthorization.

The bill has the support of all 11 Democratic Members of the HELP Committee, although no Republican supporters. The bill would strengthen accountability for subgroups of students, including those with disabilities, in the areas of academic growth and achievement and graduation from high school ready for college or a career. It would allow the 37 states that have waivers to continue using them. States could count 1% of students with significant cognitive disabilities to be tested on alternate standards. If schools miss their goals for subgroups, there would have to be some type of intervention from the state.

Ranking Member of the HELP committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has also introduced a bill called Every Child Ready for College or Career Act, S.1101. It tracks closely with a draft bill by Congressman John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which would eliminate federal accountability systems in favor of state standards. Both plans would also block grant most federal education spending in order to increase state and local flexibility and allow much broader use of alternate and modified achievement standards for students with disabilities. The House plans to consider its version of ESEA reauthorization this summer.

Disability Community Urges HHS to limit cost sharing in Medicaid

The Arc joined with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) to weigh in on proposed rules that address cost sharing in the Medicaid program, appeals processes, aspects of choosing the alternative benefit plan that will be offered to people who enroll in Medicaid as part of the expansion and guidance on the essential health benefits that must be included in the Medicaid alternative benefit plans. While there were numerous issues to comment on, CCD was very concerned about an issue that HHS raised that would allow cost-sharing for long term services and supports.   We urged HHS to not include this language in the final rule.  Read our comments at http://www.c-c-d.org/

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities annual meeting held last week

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the coalition of over 100 national disability organizations, held its annual meeting on January 9.  The coalition elected its leadership and made recommendations for the organization of its task forces for 2013.  The Arc’s TJ Sutcliffe was elected to the CCD Board of Directors and Marty Ford ended her tenure as the Immediate Past Chairperson.  In addition, The Arc staff volunteered to take on leadership roles in ten task forces (education, employment & training, financial security, fiscal, health, housing, long term services and supports, rights, Social Security, and the ad hoc autism and developmental disabilities task force).  The event also included panel discussions with Hill staff from the offices of Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) (Chair of the  Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (Ranking Member of the Finance Committee).  The day also featured a panel discussion celebrating the coalition’s 40 year history, including key founders such as Paul Marchand who served in The Arc’s public policy office for 38 years. Learn more at: http://c-c-d.org

House Holds Hearing on Disability Appeals Process

The House Ways and Means Committee, Social Security Subcommittee held the fourth in a hearing series on securing the future of the Social Security Disability Insurance program. The hearing focused on the Social Security appeals process.  Ethel Zelenske of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives testified on behalf of members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.  The Arc signed on in support of Ms. Zelenske’s testimony.  Visit the Committee web site to view testimony and a recording of the hearing (when posted).