Education – Higher Education Bill Introduced in Senate
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced the Higher Education Affordability Act (S. 2954), a bill to reauthorize and improve the Higher Education Act (HEA). The bill seeks to improve affordability and accountability in the nation’s colleges and universities and includes a number of improvements for students with disabilities including:
Creating national technical assistance centers to help high school students with disabilities identify schools with appropriate supports and to help institutions better provide physical, programmatic, and instructional accommodations;
Creating a national data center to collect information about the recruitment, retention, graduation, and employment of students with disabilities; and
Requiring institutions to ensure their instructional materials are accessible.The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP Committee).
Housing / Social Security – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Issues Bulletin on Lenders’
Standards for Verification of Social Security Disability Income
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has issued a bulletin to help lenders avoid imposing illegal burdens on consumers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) who apply for mortgages. The bulletin reminds lenders that requiring unnecessary documentation from consumers who receive Social Security disability income may raise fair lending risk. The bulletin calls attention to standards and guidelines that may help lenders comply with the law, and help ensure that SSDI and SSI beneficiaries receive fair and equal access to cr edit. In a related blog post, the CFPB reminds consumers that anyone having an issue with a financial product or service can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB.
Social Security – House Bill Introduced to Enhance Social Security Child’s Insurance Benefits
Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) have introduced the Child’s Insurance Benefits Improvement Act (H.R. 5715). The bill seeks to enhance Social Security’s Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit. The DAC benefit allows a person age 18 or older who meets the Social Security disability standard to receive benefits based on the prior contributions of a parent, who is themselves eligible for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, or who is deceased and was insured under Social Security. Currently, t o qualify for the DAC benefit a person’s disability must have started prior to age 22. H.R. 5715 would increase that age from 22 to 26. The bill would apply this change retroactively, so that individuals who acquired disabilities between age 22 and 26 could qualify for benefits, regardless of their current age. Additionally, H.R. 5715 would increase the ages associated with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recent work requirements by 4 years. This would extend SSDI coverage to more individuals ages 22 to 28 who have a limited work history, such as youth enrolled in post-secondary education. The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Miscellaneous – President Obama Announces New Appointment to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
President Obama has announced his intent to appoint Michael A. Strautmanis to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Mr. Strautmanis is currently Vice President of Strategic Programs for Corporate Citizenship at the Walt Disney Company. Visit the White House announcement to learn more.
Miscellaneous – House Announces New Members and Subcommittee Chairs for Key Committees
House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) has announced Chairs for the Committee’s 12 Subcommittees. Among the changes, Tom Cole (R-OK) will replace Jack Kingston (R-GA) as Chair of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee, Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) will replace Tom Latham (R-IA) as Chair of the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Subcommittee, and John Culberson (R-TX) will replace Tom Wolf (R-VA) as Chair of the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. Chairman Rogers also welcomed new members to the Committee: David Jolly (R-FL), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), and David Young (R-IA).
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) has also announced chairs for the Committee’s six Subcommittees. Joe Pitts (R-PA) will continue to Chair the Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, with Brett Guthrie (R-KY) replacing Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) as Vice Chair. Tim Murphy (R-PA) will chair Oversight and Investigations, with David McKinley (R-WV) replacing Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) as Vice Chair.
Major Events Ahead
Tax Policy – Possible House Vote on ABLE Act Announced
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), in announcing the House schedule for the week of December 1st, included “possible consideration” of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 (H.R. 647) on the House floor this week. The ABLE Act would create tax-favored savings accounts for people with disa bilities that would not count toward the $2,000 individual asset limits that apply to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs. As previously reported, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up the ABLE Act in July, 2014 and, to address cost concerns, significantly narrowed the scope of the bill 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 Committee’s report provides more details on these changes; the revised bill was reported back to the House in November. Following the Ways and Means Committee July mark up, in August the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicated that a person earning over the SSI substantial gainful activity (SGA) level would not be eligible for an ABLE account. Since then, Senate and House leaders have worked to fix the language to ensure that such earners would be eligible. The final language of the bill for possible consideration on the House floor this week, including the SGA language and provisions to pay for the legislation, is not yet available.
Medicaid – House to Hold Hearing on Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
On Tuesday Dec 2nd, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “The Future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program” (CHIP). CHIP provides affordable health coverage for millions of children across the United States, including many children with disabilities. The program originally began in 1997 and was reauthorized in 2009 to expand eligibility and provide states with additional tools to successfully meet the needs of uninsured children. Visit the Committee’s web site to learn more and to view live video on the day of the hearing.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423