Capitol Insider

Recent Major Events

Autism/Health – Senate Passes Autism CARES Act

Late on July 31, the Senate unanimously passed “Autism Collaboration,
Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014” or the
“Autism CARES Act” (S. 2449), sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez
(D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and
Mike Doyle (D-PA) .  The bill reauthorizes the Combating Autism
Reauthorization Act of 2011 for an additional five years.  Since its original
enactment in 2006, the law has advanced the science and practice in the
autism field by increasing the number, scope, pace, a nd coordination of
research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts.
The new measure will continue these efforts and includes a number of
welcome changes: a name change that uses more respectful language, a
designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services
to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self-
advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating
Committee
(IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning
youth.  For more information on the accomplishments of the Combating
Autism Act, click here.

Tax Policy – Achieving a Better Life Experience Act Act Clears
House Ways and Means Committee

The House Ways and Means Committee marked up the Achieving a Better
Life Experience Act (ABLE) last week.  The bill has significant bi-partisan
support in the House and Senate and the lead sponsors are hopeful it can
clear Congress in the early fall.  The ABLE Act would create tax-favored
savings accounts for people with disabilities that would not count toward the
$2,000 individual asset limits that apply to the Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs.  To address cost concerns, the scope
of the bill was significantly narrowed from the legislation that was introduced
in 2013.  Among the changes are a cap on contributions at $14,000 a year;
requiring that individuals open accounts in their home state or with a state
which contracts with their home state; limiting individuals to only one ABLE
account; and limiting the availability of ABLE accounts to people who acquire
the disability before age 26.  The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT)
estimated the new bill to cost about $2 billion over 10 years and a new
estimate by the Congressional Budget Office is expected soon.  During the
mark-up, Chairman Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Levin (D-MI)
discussed their commitment to work over the August recess to find “pay-fors”
acceptable to both sides in order to allow the bill to move quickly following
Labor Day.  For more information please see the materials provided by the
JCT.

Social Security – Field Office Changes Affect SSN Printouts as of
August 1; Benefit Verification Letters Remain Available

On August 1, the Social Security Administration (SSA) began to move forward
with its plan to eliminate the issuance of Social Security number (SSN)
printouts in its field offices. Individuals requesting a SSN printout will be
directed to apply for a replacement SSN card, a process which takes about 2
weeks
. However, SSA has indicated that it will ensure service to those with a
dire need and that each field office will designate a point of contact to assist
local organizations with obtaining SSN verifications, with consent, in emergency
situations and in cases of hardship. More information about the dire need
exception process is availa ble in SSA’s Emergency Message EM-14009 REV.

Earlier this year, SSA announced plans to eliminate the provision of both SSN
printouts and benefit verification letters at its field offices. These documents
are often used by people with disabilities and others who need to promptly
verify their SSN to secure a job or get a drivers’ license or non-drivers’ ID, or
who need to verify their Social Security, SSDI or SSI benefits in order to secure
housing, a loan, or public benefits (and for many other purposes). The Arc
joined with other national disability organizations to oppose these service cuts.

The Arc is pleased that local Social Security offices will continue to provide
benefit verification letters until further notice, as outlined in a SSA press
release
. The Arc continues to express concern about the reduction in access
to SSN printouts.

Social Security – Trustees Release Annual Report on Social Security
Finances

Last week the Social Security Trustees released their annual report on the
current and projected financial status of the Social Security trust funds. Similar
to 2013, the 2014 findings show that Social Security is fully solvent until 2033,
but faces a moderate long-term shortfall. In 2013, Social Security took in
roughly $32 billion more than it paid out. Its reserves were $2.76 trillion in 2013
, and are projected to grow to $2.9 trillion at the beginning of 2020. If
Congress does not act before 2033, the reserves would be drawn down, and
revenue coming into the Trust Funds would cover about 77 percent of
scheduled benefits. The 2014 Trustees Report also continues to project that
the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund by itself can pay all scheduled benefits
until 2016. If Congress takes no action before 2016, the Trustees project that
the DI trust fund will be able to pay about 81 percent of scheduled benefits.
Learn more on The Arc’s blog.

Social Security – Senate Holds Hearing on Nomination of Social
Security Commissioner

Last week the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing to consider the
nomination of Carolyn W. Colvin to be Commissioner of Social Security. Visit
the Committee web site to view testimony, opening statements, and video
of the hearing.

Health – Legislation Introduced to Extend the Children’s Health
Insurance Program

Congress is considering what actions to take regarding the Children’s Health
Insurance Program (CHIP).  CHIP was enacted in 1997 and after FY 2015
there will be no new funds for the program.  CHIP has had bipartisan support
and has helped expand affordable health insurance coverage to low and
moderate income children.  Earlier this summer, Senator Rockefeller (D-WV)
introduced S. 2461 to extend the program for four years.  Representatives
Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) introduced similar
legislation in the House of Representatives.  Finance Committee Chairman
Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) joined Energy
and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Henry
Waxman (D-CA) in sending a letter to governors asking for input on extending
the program and seeking additional information about enrollment and design
of each state program. The Arc has supported the CHIP program and will be
closely monitoring Congressional actions.

Employment – President Obama Signs Legislation Updating Critical
Workforce Programs

On July 22nd, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and
Opportunity Act
(WIOA) into law last week. This bipartisan and bicameral law
reauthorizes and updates existing federal workforce development programs
including the Rehabilitation Act, which provides for vocational rehabilitation
(VR) services for people with disabilities.  WIOA focuses VR outcomes on
competitive, integrated employment as well as promotes greater emphasis
on transition services for youth with disabilities by emphasizing coordination
between VR and other agencies, extending the initial time period for VR
supported emplo yment services from 18 to 24 months, and modifying
eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most
significant disabilities.

Social Security – Senate Holds Hearing on Social Security Disability
Insurance

Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on “Social
Security: A Fresh Look at Workers’ Disability Insurance.”  Witnesses
included Stephen Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration;
Marianna LaCanfora, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Retirement and
Disability Policy, Social Security Administration;  Rebecca Vallas, Associate
Director, Poverty to Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress
Action Fund; and Dr. Richard Burkhauser, Professor, Adjunct Scholar,
Cornell University, American Enterprise Institute.  Visit the Committee
website
for written testimony and video of the hearing.

Civil Rights – President Commemorates 24th Anniversary of
Americans with Disabilities Act

President Obama and senior advisors hosted a meeting with a small group”
of disability leaders to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the ADA.
They discussed the critical efforts that federal agencies are leading to
protect the rights of, and participation by, people with disabilities in our
communities.  The President also formally announced the appointment of
his new disability policy advisor, Taryn Mackenzie Williams.  Taryn joins
the Office of Public Engagement from the U.S. Department of Labor,
where she served as a Senior Policy Advisor with the Office of Disability
Employment Policy (ODEP). Watch the President’s video message and
read his 24th ADA anniversary proclamation at http://www.whitehouse.gov/
blog/2014/07/25/celebrating-24-years-americans-disabilities-act .

Civil Rights – The Arc Advocates to Keep Disability Questions on
Census Bureau Survey

The Arc joined with 78 other endorsing organizations to oppose removing
the six disability questions from the Census Bureau’s American Community
Survey (ACS).  These questions are the backbone of the data we have
about people with disabilities and help shape our programs and funding.
They are being threatened with removal from the survey because some
survey respondents, Members of Congress, and others view the
questions as intrusive or unnecessary.  The Census Bureau is doing a
content review of the questions on the ACS and is looking for the
statutory references and programmatic uses of the data.  The CCD
response can be found on the website.
http://www.c-c-d.org/fichiers/ACS-project_7-16-14final.pdf

Civil Rights – Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities Passes Senate Committee

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the UN Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) out of committee with a vote
of 12-6.  Advocates are hopeful that it will be put to a floor vote in the
Senate this week, prior to the August recess.  The Treaty is supported by
nearly 850 disability organizations (including The Arc of the US and many
chapter affiliates),civil rights groups, faith organizations, veterans groups,
and major business groups including the Chamber of Commerce.  Members
of The Arc will be joining hundreds of other advocates on July 29th for a
march and rally hosted by the National Council on Independent Living in
support of CRPD.  To learn more about CRPD, please see: The Arc’s fact
shee
t and blog entry, as well as a video message from Sen. Harkin. To
contact your Senator about this critical issue, please visit The Arc’s Action
Center
or Tweet using #ISupportCRPD.

Announcements

Schedule for Capitol Insider

This will be the last edition of Capitol Insider until Congress reconvenes in
September.  While both chambers of Congress are out of session there
may be little to report, please check the Capitol Insider Blog and The Arc’s
Action Center f
or updates.

Employment – Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American
Opportunity

The day that President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and
Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law, Vice President Joe Biden released his report,
Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity.”  During his
January 28th State of the Union Address, President Obama called up on Vice
President Biden to ‘to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training
programs to make sure they have one mission: Train Americans with the skills
employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right
now.”  Highlights related to people with disabilities include :

Disability Employment Initiative: According to the report, “This fall, grants will
be awarded to expand the capacity of American Job Centers to improve
employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities (including those with
significant disabilities) by increasing the participation of this population in
existing career pathways programs that provide a full education and training
programs along with supportive services.”

Pathways to Careers for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities: “This fall,
grants will be awarded “to develop, test, and evaluate new integrated education
and career training strategies to help ensure that youth and young adults with
disabilities acquire the skills, degrees, and credentials needed for high-wage,
high-skill employment.”

A cross-agency group, including DOL, ED, DOJ, HHS VA, SSA, the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, National Council on Disability, and
Office of Personnel Management will “…help people with disabilities prepare
to qualify for the array of jobs offered by federal contractors; connect federal
contractors with jobs to qualified job seekers with disabilities; and provide
federal contractors with the tools and resources they need to recruit, retain
and promote people with disabilities.”

Workforce System Guidance Issued

A Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL, No. 3-14) to stakeholders
issued July 30, 2014, communicated the vision for an integrated, effective,
job-driven workforce system. Seven job-driven elements, which President
Obama directed all Federal Departments and Agencies to integrate and will
drive DOL’s implementation of WIOA, were discussed. Workforce system
leaders and partners are encouraged to use resources and incorporate
elements into strategic planning, operations, and collaborations.

Online Dialogue on Careers and People with Disabilities

The National Council on Disability (NCD) and the Office of Disability
Employment Policy (ODEP) are hosting an online dialogue: Encouraging
People with Disabilities to Pursue Careers in STEM
(Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics).  This dialogue comes in response to a report
from the Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration
which revealed a growth in STEM jobs three times the rate and at a 26% higher
wage rate as compared to non-STEM jobs. People with disabilities are
underrepresented in the STEM fields. NCD and ODEP would like to ensure
that job opportunities in the STEM fields are open to everyone, including
those with disabilities.  The organizations are gathering input on
recommendation to ensure such access. To participate,
visit: http://stemcareersforpwd.epolicyworks.org.

Emergency Management – CDC Seeking Stories on Emergency
Management and People with Disabilities

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) aims to build public awareness and
improve education about the unique needs of children with special health
conditions and adults with disability during disasters.  Personal stories are
being sought to help CDC improve its emergency preparedness and response
efforts for adults with disability and families who have children with special
health care needs.  Learn more and see the story collection form
at: http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=4794


Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
 
Tony@www.thearcofil.org