Michael Keith Yudin Nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

On July 10, Michael Keith Yudin, was nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Department of Education. Yudin is currently Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Previously, he was a staff member in the former Disability Policy Collaboration of The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy, and spent nine years in the United States Senate, serving as legislative director for Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, senior counsel to Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and HELP Committee counsel to Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont.

Yudin’s nomination, along with five others, was sent to the Senate for consideration.

Disability and aging advocates ask that HHS to be given time to develop CLASS program

The Urban Institute held a panel presentation on the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program and what can be done to “fix” it.  The CLASS Act was passed as part of the health care reform act to establish a voluntary long term services insurance plan to assist people to meet their needs without impoverishing themselves to qualify for Medicaid.  Marty Ford of the DPC was a member of the 6-person Urban Institute panel.  Ms. Ford made the point that the Secretary of Health and Human Services has been given the responsibility to develop a plan that is actuarially sound and that the Secretary should be given the time and resources she needs to develop the plan which will be offered to the public. A similar message was delivered by Rhonda Richards representing AARP. For more information, including the archived webcast, see http://www.urban.org/events/How-to-Fix-the-Class-Act.cfm

Public policy collaboration comes to a close this week

March 31 marks the end of the Disability Policy Collaboration of The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy. After eight years, The Arc and UCP have decided to resume their own public policy program while continuing to join together on select projects as well as actively participate as members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

DPC staff testify at Senate Appropriations Committee on impact of proposed spending cuts

On March 9, the DPC’s Marty Ford testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies in her capacity as Co-Chair of the Social Security Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). She testified on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget request for the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the impact of possible cuts to the Fiscal Year 2011 budget on the agency’s administrative resources with which to process claims for people with disabilities and seniors. In describing the impact of the House-passed continuing resolution (CR) for the remainder of FY 2011, she stated, “If SSA is forced to furlough employees to address the full $430 million shortfall from the current CR spending level, it will result in nearly a month of furloughs, having devastating effects on service to the American public. In one month of furloughs, SSA would complete 400,000 fewer retirement, survivor, and Medicare claims; 290,000 fewer initial disability claims (with processing time increasing by a month); 70,000 fewer hearings; and 32,000 fewer continuing disability reviews. In addition, H.R. 1 severely cuts funds for vital information technology (IT) improvements and funds to build the critical new National Computer Center, which must be built to protect Social Security electronic information and infrastructure.” Read her full testimony at http://appropriations.senate.gov/ht-labor.cfm?method=hearings.download&id=f7b3c5f6-ec78-4299-bf55-af8e7ee780d7

Disability advocates address accessibility issues with the State Department

The DPC and other members of the CCD International Task Force met with Judy Heumann, the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the Department of State. Ms Heumann described her efforts to infuse the issue of disability throughout all parts of the State Department. International task force members shared concerns with Ms. Heumann about inaccessible embassies, the difficulty people with disabilities have in obtaining a tourist visa, hiring practices, the State Department’s compliance with Section 508 web accessibility standards, and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The task force plans to meet with Ms. Heumann periodically.

The DPC urges HHS to make electronic health records accessible to people with disabilities

The DPC submitted comments to a workgroup that is preparing recommendations for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning standards for electronic health records. The workgroup sought comments about making electronic health records accessible for people with disabilities. We had previously urged HHS to include accessibility standards in its health information technology requirements. In our comments we urged the workgroup to include accessibility as a requirement for EHRs to avoid costly retrofitting in the future. Read our comments at http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=2973

Senate to hold hearing on SSA’s funding in 2011 and 2012

The Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 9. The hearing is expected to address the impact that the House and Senate’s separate FY 2011 continuing resolutions and the President’s FY 2012 Budget Request would have on people applying for Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. The DPC’s Marty Ford has been invited to testify.

The Arc and UCP – New policy operations to be created

Since 2003, the Disability Policy Collaboration (DPC) has been the shared public policy arm of The Arc and UCP. The DPC focuses on federal legislative and regulatory efforts to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. Since its inception, the DPC has been a vital force in shaping federal legislation to advance the lives of people with disabilities and, most recently, played a significant role in the passage of Health Care Reform as well as Rosa’s Law. With the announced retirement of Staff Director Paul Marchand in December 2010, the two organizations began a reassessment of the collaboration to determine the most effective way to engage in advocacy and policy efforts in the future. Effective April 1, 2011, the DPC will cease and each organization will resume its own public policy program while continuing to join together on select projects as well as actively participate as members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

“The efforts of the DPC have had an immeasurable impact on federal legislation and regulatory efforts that improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc. “As we move forward, The Arc and UCP will continue to be vigorous advocates for people with disabilities and to create opportunity in every aspect of their lives.”

“We are proud of all that the DPC has accomplished over its eight years, pushing for civil rights protections and public policies that provide support to ensure fair and full citizenship for people with disabilities,” said Stephen Bennett, President and Chief Executive Officer of United Cerebral Palsy. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with The Arc, both as a member of CCD and through shared, targeted projects. We believe that our new approach will only expand the number and strength of advocates striving to create a life without limits for people with disabilities.”

The Arc and UCP to urge habilitation services be considered as essential benefits

On Thursday, The DPC’s Marty Ford will provide testimony to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on the development of the essential benefits package under the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contracted with the IOM to develop recommendations that HHS can use to develop regulations implementing this part of the law. Her comments will focus on the inclusion of habilitation services as part of the benefit design. Habilitation services are those that enable a person with a significant disability to acquire, retain, improve or prevent deterioration of activities of daily living (ADL) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) skills and function over time.

The Arc and UCP submit comments on essential benefits

The Arc and UCP, in collaboration with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), submitted extensive comments to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on policy related to the essential benefits package in the ACA. The IOM has put together a panel to provide HHS with recommendations on how to implement this provision, including critical questions such as how to define “essential”, what is medical necessity, how to prevent discriminating against people with disabilities and health conditions, and how to ensure that benefits are balanced among categories. CCD strongly supports having a robust essential benefits package which includes rehabilitation and habilitation services and devices, as well as mental health benefits. CCD also provided comments to the Centers on Medicare and Medicaid on the implementation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO).  ACOs are intended to create greater heath care efficiencies by having health care providers work together in new ways. Providers are incentivized to do this by sharing in the health care cost savings they achieve. CCD is concerned that people with greater health care needs will be underserved and urges that any savings be linked with improved patient outcomes. See our comments at http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=2865