Last week, the House and Senate passed, and the President signed, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353) which reauthorizes federal career and technical education (CTE) programs. The law includes several disability community priorities such as including individuals with disabilities among the stakeholders who must be consulted in the development of the state plan; creating a new set aside for the recruitment of individuals with disabilities to CTE programs that lead to high-wage in-demand careers; including provisions around public reporting on student subgroups and special population performance by program of study; and expanding access and requirements for teacher professional development in universal design for learning and other research-based teaching methods. See the statement from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Education Task Force here.
Last month, Delaware and New Jersey opened new Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) programs. There are now a total of 39 jurisdictions with qualified ABLE programs. Both programs are open to all eligible individuals nationwide. Both have six investment options and a checking option with a debit card. Their minimum initial deposit is $25. The programs have a quarterly maintenance fee of $15 with a $3.75 discount for opting to receive statements via email, and monthly asset-based fees ranging from 0.34% to 0.38% depending on the investment option chosen. Delaware’s program has an additional $1.25 quarterly discount for state residents. More information about state implementation of the ABLE Act can be found here.
On July 25, the House Committee and Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “Examining Changes to Social Security’s Disability Appeals Process.” As stated in the Committee’s announcement, “[t]he hearing will focus on recent and planned changes affecting the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability appeals process, the metrics the SSA uses to evaluate process changes, and the progress the SSA has made to address the appeals backlog.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. John Larson (D-CT) introduced the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 3147; H.R. 6251), joined by 6 cosponsors in the Senate and 31 in the House. The bill would set Social Security Administration’s (SSA) administrative funding at 1.5 percent of overall benefit payments, a significantly more adequate level compared to current funding. The bill would also eliminate the five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the 24-month waiting period for SSDI beneficiaries to qualify for Medicare. Finally, the bill would implement a moratorium on all closures of SSA field offices and contact stations. H.R. 6251 has been referred to the Committees on Ways and Means, Budget, Rules, and Energy and Commerce; S. 3147 has been referred to the Committee on Finance. The Arc supports this legislation to strengthen administration and customer service across Social Security’s programs and to end unnecessary and harmful waiting periods that SSDI beneficiaries currently endure.
Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means marked up the Social Security Online Tools Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX). As amended by the Committee, the bill would require the Social Security Administration to create within 2 years an online tool or tools to allow Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries to estimate the potential impact of earnings on their benefits. The bill would also prohibit recovery of any overpayments that arise from a beneficiary relying on inaccurate information from the tool (in the event of inaccuracy by the tool). The Committee reported the amended bill favorably by a voice vote. The Arc supports the bill, as amended and approved by the Committee, to provide SSDI beneficiaries with important information about opportunities to work and the impact of earnings on their SSDI benefits.
On July 17, the Senate approved H.R.6042 without amendment by unanimous consent. This bill delays by one year electronic visit verification (EVV) requirements for tracking when personal care services are provided to people with disabilities. The bill also expresses the sense of Congress that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should hold at least one public meeting and solicit ongoing stakeholder input on its recently-issued guidance. The House of Representatives passed this bill last month. The bill now awaits President Trump’s signature. The Arc applauds passage of this bill which gives advocates more time to work with CMS and state Medicaid agencies to ensure EVV is implemented in a way that doesn’t place an undue burden on providers and protects the privacy of beneficiaries.
Oklahoma recently opened a new ABLE program, bringing the total number of jurisdictions with ABLE programs to 37. The program is currently only open to Oklahoma residents. It has five investment options. Accounts have a $3.50 monthly maintenance fee and asset-based fees ranging from 0.19% to 0.33% for investment options. The minimum initial deposit is $50. More information about state implementation of the ABLE Act can be found here.
On July 11, the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy held a hearing on “Examining the Importance of Paid Family Leave for American Working Families.” Witnesses were Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA); Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Andrew Biggs, Ph.D., Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Vicki Shabo, Vice President for Workplace Policies and Strategies, National Partnership for Women & Families; and Carolyn O’Boyle, Managing Director, Deloitte Services, LLP. Visit the Committee web site for more information including opening statements, testimony, and archived video of the hearing.
The Senate is expected to vote as early as today on a bill to delay by one year Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) requirements for tracking when personal care services are provided to people with disabilities. The bill also expresses the sense of Congress that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should hold at least one public meeting and solicit ongoing stakeholder input on its recently-issued guidance. The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill (H.R.6042) by voice vote last month. Learn more about this bill here. The Arc urges advocates to contact their Senators as soon as possible.
On July 12, the AT3 Technical Assistance and Training Center will host a webinar titled “Assistive Technology Programs: AT Resources for Family Caregivers and Respite Care Providers.” This webinar will share how caregivers and respite providers can connect and avail themselves of AT Act programs and activities. Presenters will share information about resources for access (resources to find and select AT) and acquisition (resources to obtain needed AT). Presenters will be Rob Groenendaal, Assistive Technology Program Manager, Center for Integrated Programs, Office of Consumer Access and Self-Determination, Administration for Community Living, US Department of Health and Human Services; Mary Exline, AT3 Center Director; and others be announced. The webinar will take place from 2:00-3:00 PM EDT. Register here. Learn more about the webinar here.