Major Events This Week
Social Security – House to Hold Hearing on Protecting Social Security from Waste, Fraud and Abuse
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “Protecting Social Security from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.” The witness will be Patrick O’Carroll, retiring Social Security Administration Inspector General. Visit the Committee web site for more information, including testimony and live video the day of the hearing.
Prevention – House Zika Prevention Spending Bill to be Released; Senate to Vote on Separate Bills
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) announced that he will release a stand-alone Zika funding bill on Monday, May 16. He declined to offer a specific dollar figure, but said it would be lower than the $1.1 billion emergency funding proposal in the Senate. Chairman Rogers has insisted that the package be offset by cuts to other programs or by reprogramming. On the Senate side, lawmakers are expected to take votes on three different Zika aid packages on Tuesday. Two of the measures are emergency funding packages and one from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) contains offsets. See The Arc’s action alert.
Rights/Health – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Releases Final Wellness Rules
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is issuing two final rules making changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) regulations as they relate to employee wellness programs. The ADA regulation changes provide guidance on the extent to which employers may use incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs that ask them to respond to disability-related inquiries and/or undergo medical examinations. The GINA regulation addresses the extent to which an employer may offer an inducement to an employee for the employee’s spouse to provide information about the spouse’s manifestation of disease or disorder as part of a health risk assessment (HRA) administered in connection with an employer-sponsored wellness program. The regulations will be published in the Federal Register on May 17 and The Arc will provide additional analysis.
Major Events Last Week
Tax Policy – House Companion Bill Introduced to Stop Taxation of Forgiven Student Loan Debt Due to Disability or Death
Last week, Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Ron Kind (D-WI), Ryan Costello (R-PA), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced H.R. 5204, the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act. H.R. 5204 is the House companion bill to S. 2800, introduced in April 2016 by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), and Rob Portman (R-OH). The bills would end federal taxation of discharged federal student loans under the “Total and Permanent Disability (TPD)” standard or in the event of the death of a borrower. Under current law, federal student loan debt forgiven in these situations is considered income for tax purposes. As a result, borrowers who have their federal student loan debt forgiven due to a qualifying disability, and families of borrowers who die, can be charged tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. The Arc supports H.R. 5204 and S. 2800, which will end this unnecessary and harmful tax provision. H.R. 5204 was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Committee on Ways and Means.
Health/Rights – Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Releases Final Rule on Non-Discrimination in Federally Funded Health Programs
On Friday, May 13, HHS released an advanced notice of a final rule implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The final rule clarifies the responsibilities of covered providers and insurers regarding non-discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. It applies to Health Insurance Marketplaces and every program or activity administered by HHS, with the exception of Medicare Part B. The Arc will be reviewing the regulations and will provide additional analysis.
Employment/Rights – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Releases Publication on Leave as an Accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
On Monday, May 9, the EEOC released a publication detailing employer obligations with respect to leave under the ADA. Topics addressed include equal access to leave, leave as a reasonable accommodation, maximum leave policies, return to work and reasonable accommodation, and undue hardship. This publication provides places existing guidance in one centralized location.
Miscellaneous – Department of Education Releases Additional Information on Federal Student Loan Discharge
Last month, the Department of Education announced a new process to identify and notify federal student loan borrowers with disabilities who may be eligible for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) loan discharge. The Department has worked with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify a subset of federal student loan borrowers who receive Social Security disability benefits and meet the eligibility criteria for a TPD loan discharge. Approximately 387,000 current borrowers have been identified. Beginning in April, the Department began sending out customized letters to these 387,000 borrowers explaining the steps they can take to apply for a TPD loan discharge. Last week, the Department released additional Questions & Answers including information related to the impact of a TPD loan discharge on Supplemental Security Income and Social Security disability benefits, Medicaid eligibility, and eligibility for premium tax credits and cost assistance under the Affordable Care Act. Borrowers considering a TPD loan discharge, as well as information and referral specialists, may wish to consult this new background information.
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