Action Alert: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

With Congress’ return next week, there is a possibility that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) could come to the Senate for approval. Sixty votes would be needed for approval. The Arc and other advocates have been working hard to educate Senators about what the treaty would mean for the US. Ratification of the treaty would reinforce the leadership role our country plays in disability rights. Ratification would require no change to any of our existing laws. Contact your Senators and urge them to vote YES on the CRPD.

Call Today: Help Protect Federal Disability Programs

Help Protect Disability Programs – Call to End Tax Cuts for the Top 2 Percent

Congress will vote this month on whether to renew the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 under the presidency of George W. Bush.  Please tell Congress to end these tax cuts for the top 2 percent.  As we fight to protect the Medicaid lifeline, it’s time to end tax cuts for those who need them the least.

The Arc has longstanding language in our legislative agenda supporting increased revenue if necessary.  A fair tax system will help ensure that revenue is raised to pay for critical disability services and supports.  This starts by allowing the tax breaks that were intended to be temporary to expire as scheduled for the top 2 percent.  Our nation must also make critical investments that create and sustain jobs while taking a balanced approach to addressing America’s fiscal challenges.

What disability advocates should know about the tax cuts:

  • Allowing the tax cuts to expire for the top 2 percent – those households making over $250,000 a year – would generate about $1 trillion.  But if these special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans continue, it will be harder to protect important disability programs, like Medicaid, Social Security, housing, education, and employment from deep cuts and reduce the deficit.
  • A wealthy person who earns $1 million a year gets an average tax break of about $143,000, while a middle-class person making $50,000 gets an average tax break of only about $1,000, a low income individual earning $15,000 only gets an average tax break of $323.

Take Action

CALL YOUR 2 U.S. SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVE NOW, toll free 888-744-9958

If you need to know who your Senators and Representative are, insert your zip code here.

What to say:

  • Allow the tax cuts to expire for the top 2 percent—those making more than $250,000 a year.
  • Oppose any extension of tax cuts for the top 2 percent—even a temporary one.
  • It’s time for the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share so that we can protect disability programs, like Medicaid, which is a lifeline to people with disabilities and their families.

Voice your support for the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be holding a hearing on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on Thursday, July 12, at 9:00 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room G-50.  Please attend this important hearing, if possible.

It is vital that Americans with and without disabilities make support for the CRPD heard in the Senate.  Follow one of the links below to sign on as an individual or for your organization.

Autism and Other DD Interventions At Risk – Take Action!

Take Action!

Help Make Sure that the Combating Autism Act gets Reauthorized

Time is Running Out.  The Combating Autism Act (CAA) will expire at the end of this month. If it is not reauthorized before then, people with Autism and other developmental disabilities stand to lose appropriate diagnostic, early intervention, and support services.

What Does the CAA Do?  It provides funding to educate professionals about proper screening, diagnosis, and intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.  It also funds autism research and surveillance.  The
Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program is just one of the things that the CAA supports.  Click here to learn more.

What is Happening in Congress?  The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA –H.R. 2005) is facing two serious obstacles in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  1. We understand that the House majority leadership is holding up action on this and other “disease or condition specific” legislation
  2. Some members believe that the CAA does not need to be reauthorized in order for activities authorized under the law to continue.  This is NOT the case!  In fact, some CAA programs have clear sunsets, and in this difficult budget climate, it could be almost impossible for federal agencies to fund the CAA’s programs on their own.

Take Action:
Call your Representative today. Urge him/her to cosponsor H.R. 2005 (if he/she has not already done so – click here for current list of co-sponsors) and ask him/her to urge the House leadership to schedule a vote on it.

If you have a representative who is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, it is especially important that you educate him/her about H.R. 2005 and urge him/her to schedule action on this bill soon.

Click on the “Take Action” link above to obtain your Representative’s telephone number in Washington.

What to Say:

  • Hello. I am a constituent.
  • May I please speak to the person working on health or disability issues?
  • I am calling about the urgent need to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act (HR 2005).
  • This law funds training for thousands of professionals to screen, diagnose, and treat individuals with a broad range of developmental disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities and epilepsy.
  • If the law is not reauthorized, many of the activities authorized under it would expire due to the September 30, 2011 sunset provision.
  • I would like to request: 1) that Representative _________ cosponsor HR 2005 (if he/she has not already done so) and 2) that Representative _________ urge the House leadership to schedule a vote on HR 2005 well before the Sept 30 sunset date.

Time to get back on the phones and say “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

Take Action!

Congress is returning from its August recess this week and between now and Thanksgiving, Members will make momentous decisions about next year’s federal budget and deficit reduction due to the recent debt ceiling deal.

We are urging you to welcome Congress back to Washington with a reminder that we want them to support a fair and responsible budget and plan that protects programs vital to people with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families.  They must not balance the federal budget on the backs of people with I/DD – “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

It only will take you a few minutes to call your Senators and Representative and deliver this crucial message.

Click on the “take action” link above and enter your zip code to get their phone numbers.

What should I say?

  • The budget cannot be balanced on the backs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Medicaid and programs that serve low-income people must be exempt from deficit reduction plans.
  • New revenues must be part of the solution.  It’s not possible to reduce the deficit fairly by cutting programs that provide critical supports to people with disabilities and others in need.
  • Share your story!  There is nothing more powerful than sharing your personal experience, so please tell your elected official about your support service needs.
  • Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!

Thank you for letting Congress know that a range of federal programs are truly a “lifeline” to you and your family.

Recess? Not for Advocates! The Fight to Protect Medicaid Continues!

After a long and unusually arduous process, Congressional leaders and President Obama reached a deficit reduction and debt deal in time to avoid defaulting on the Nation’s debt.  Your work to convince legislators to protect Medicaid in the short term made a difference!  Now, we must redouble our efforts as more grave threats lie ahead…

What’s in the deal?

On August 2nd, President Obama signed a bill into law to raise the debt ceiling and place spending caps on discretionary programs, reducing spending by $1 trillion over ten years.  These cuts must be balanced between defense and non-defense spending, which could include important disability-related programs like housing, education, employment, and transportation. Entitlement programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are protected from cuts in this first step.  Over the next two months, committees in Congress will finalize what programs bear the brunt of the cuts.

What’s next?

This fall, Congress is charged with cutting an additional $1.2 to $1.5 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years.  This will be initiated by a twelve-member bipartisan Congressional “super committee” (Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction) that proposes specific spending cuts by November 23rd.  The Committee’s plan must get the support of at least 7 of its members to be voted on by the full Congress.  Congress will then hold an up-or-down vote, with no amendments allowed, on the spending cuts legislation by December 23rd.  Cuts to important disability-related discretionary and entitlement programs, like Medicaid, could be proposed by the Committee and enacted by Congress.

If this committee fails to obtain agreement from at least 7 of its Members to cut $1.2 trillion or if Congress fails to enact it, then automatic, across-the-board spending cuts will be triggered for 2013-2021.  However, any automatic, across-the-board cuts would exempt the low income entitlement programs, such as the Medicaid and SSI programs.  Small Medicare cuts are allowed but will fall on the providers.

What does this mean for the Medicaid lifeline?

Medicaid and other programs that serve people with I/DD are still extremely vulnerable to cuts.  The Arc is deeply concerned that the next proposals in this process could include significant cuts to Medicaid.

What can I do?

Right now, Members of Congress are home on recess until September.  With Members of Congress in their districts, reading their local newspapers, we are asking you to write letters to the editor to share your story.  Tell your Members of Congress “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

Find your local newspapers that take letters to the editor, and submit one today!

What should I include in my letter?

  • Medicaid is our lifeline to services and supports.
  • Medicaid and other programs that serve low-income people must be protected in deficit reduction plans.
  • Increased revenues must be part of any deficit reduction agreement to ensure that the budget is not balanced on the backs of people with I/DD.
  • Share your story!
  • Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!

Need a sample to guide you?

Newspapers often have a word limit for letters to the editor.  This letter shows you how to weave a personal story into a short, 150-word letter.

To the Editor:

Now that Congress is moving forward on further cuts to balance the budget, it must not be done at the expense of people with disabilities.

My teenage son has autism and a debilitating connective tissue disorder.  Medicaid is lifeline for our family.  Thanks to Medicaid, he receives health care and long term services when I’m at work and unable to support him.  It pays for his medications, surgeries, and therapies to stay healthy and his personal care services to stay safe.

Without Medicaid, I would have to quit my job and go on public assistance or else place my son, against his will, in an institution where he would be isolated and lose many of the skills he is now developing. I believe the United States is better than that. Congress should be able to find a balanced budget solution without jeopardizing effective, essential programs like Medicaid.

— Linda Guzman, Chapel Hill, NC

Finally…

The August recess is often when Members of Congress hold town hall meetings.  Be on the lookout for these opportunities to ask your elected officials questions about their views on Medicaid and deficit reduction.  We will be providing more information soon on how to advocate at a town hall meeting.

How Important is Medicaid to You?

Do you or someone you know:

  • receive home and community based services from your state developmental disability agency?
  • rely on Medicaid to pay for doctor’s visits and other health care?

Unless we mobilize to support the Medicaid program, these critical services could disappear for many people.  The U.S. House of Representatives has already voted to:

  • cut Medicaid by 20% (or about $770 billion over 10 years)
  • cap the amount the federal government spends on it.  The funding would not keep up with health care inflation.
  • block grant it to the states.  This means that states can spend the money almost any way they like and can just cut out groups of people or services.  They could even return to placing people in institutions.

Take Action

Call your U.S. Senators today and ask them to speak up and support us in this fight.  Click on the Take Action link and/or enter your zip code in the “Call Now” box.

Here is what to say:

  • Medicaid is a lifeline for people with I/DD and we need you to be our champion;
  • Please oppose block grants or caps for Medicaid that would hurt programs that help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live in the community; and
  • Don’t risk the health and safety of people with I/DD by slashing funding for Medicaid.

** View the alert at: http://capwiz.com/thearc/callalert/index.tt?alertid=43046501 **