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Major Events Last Week
Budget – Report on automatic spending cuts released
On Friday, September 14, The Obama administration released its highly anticipated report to Congress
detailing spending cuts that will be required if Congress fails to reach a deficit reduction deal by the end of the year. The automatic across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, resulted from last summer’s Budget Control Act
and will total about $1.2 trillion between 2013 and 2021. The report includes information on more than 1,200 budget accounts, breaking down what is exempt from sequestration and what’s not. Sequestration is estimated to result in an 8.2% decrease in non-defense, non-exempt discretionary funding. Although the report provided additional information about the effects of the sequester, it did not fully explain how the cuts would affect many federal programs.
Appropriations – House passes short term FY 2013 Continuing Resolution
On September 13, the House of Representatives passed (H J Res 117
), a “clean” six-month stopgap spending bill. The Senate is expected to complete action on the measure this week. The Continuing Resolution (CR) would fund the government through March 27 and increase spending by 0.6% for most federal programs and agencies. The bill incorporates the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending level set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (PL 112-25) rather than the lower $1.028 trillion level desired by the House. Most disability-related programs would receive the small 0.6% increase over the amount they received in 2012 (Visit The Arc’s website
to see the FY 2012 funding levels). Of note, the CR also includes an extension of the highly qualified teacher amendment (HQT amendment) for just one year rather than two. Under the HTQ amendment, teachers who are participating in alternative teacher preparation programs and are still in training can be called highly qualified. These teachers are disproportionately assigned to students with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. The CR also includes a requirement that the Secretary of Education submit a report to Congress that includes information on the number of students with disabilities that are taught by teachers who are deemed highly qualified.
Social Security – The Arc’s Marty Ford testifies at hearing on securing the future of SSDI
The House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security held the fifth hearing in a series on securing the future of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The hearing looked at options to address the key structural and fiscal challenges facing the program. The Arc’s Marty Ford testified on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force. Her testimony emphasized the vital importance of SSDI for people with significant disabilities and recommended a variety of ways to strengthen SSDI to enhance opportunities and outcomes, and to secure its financial future. Visit the Committee web site for written testimony and video from the hearing.
Social Security – Hearing on an investigation of the Social Security Administration’s disability programs
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing on its investigation of the Social Security Administration’s disability programs. As stated in the hearing notice, the Subcommittee examined “issues related to the quality of disability benefit awards involving 300 case files of claimants under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplement Security Income (SSI) programs involving initial applications and subsequent levels of appeal.” The Committee issued a Minority Staff Report summarizing its findings and recommendations, and has indicated that it plans to continue to review and examine the Social Security disability programs. Visit the Committee web site for hearing materials and video.
Social Security – Hearing on the direct deposit of Social Security benefits
The House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on direct deposit of Social Security benefits. At the hearing, witnesses discussed the impact on beneficiaries of electronic payment of Social Security benefits, efforts to educate beneficiaries about these changes, and efforts to reduce the risk of identity theft. Visit the Committee web site for written testimony and video from the hearing.
Employment – House marks up resolution of disapproval of state TANF waivers
In July, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted an Information Memorandum (IM) and sent a letter to state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) officials to “notify states of the Secretary’s willingness to exercise her waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.” The notice specifies that “HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF.” Examples provided by HHS showed the different types of projects for which a waiver might be granted, including “projects that demonstrate strategies for more effectively serving individuals with disabilities, along with an alternative approach to measuring participation and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.”
On September 4th, the General Accountability Office issued an opinion that the IM must be submitted to Congress before taking effect. Last week, two House Committees marked up a disapproval resolution H.J.Res. 118, introduced by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), to prevent implementation of the IM. A parallel measure S.J.Res. 50, introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
The Arc supports efforts to secure appropriate supports and services for TANF recipients with disabilities, who are estimated to make up a sizable proportion of TANF recipients.
Civil Rights – Department of Justice releases a letter of findings to the state of Florida
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a letter of findings to the state of Florida concerning its placement of children with disabilities in nursing homes rather than in their families’ homes or in other more integrated community settings in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. DOJ visited six large nursing homes and found over two hundred children with disabilities, ranging in age from infancy to young adulthood, living in the facilities. DOJ also found that Florida has made cuts to its community-based services and supports program while increasing the amount paid to nursing facilities for the care of the children. Further, DOJ found that Florida fails to assess children with disabilities at the time of their admission to a nursing home in order to identify any services and supports they might need to live in the community. To learn more read the full letter.
Employment – New report aimed to enhance the employment of people with disabilities in the federal government
The Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy has released a new report, “Summary of Promising and Emerging Practices for Enhancing the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities.” The document identifies promising and emerging practices for advancing the recruitment, hiring, and retention of individuals with disabilities identified in 10 selected agency plans submitted under Executive Order 13548, Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals With Disabilities (issued July 26, 2010).
Health Care – U.S. Census Bureau announces the first decrease in number of individuals without insurance since 2007
The U. S. Census Bureau announced last week that the number of people without health insurance dropped from 50 million to 48.6 million in 2011, marking the first decrease since 2007. The number of uninsured dropped significantly for children and young adults, decreasing by 841,000. The percentage of people covered by Medicaid increased from 15.8 percent to 16.5 percent. The report also shows that the poverty rate remains at 15.0 percent with 46.2 million people in poverty.
Civil Rights / Housing – Department of Justice reaches Settlement with Bank of America over alleged discrimination against loan applicants receiving Social Security disability benefits
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bank of America N.A. have announced a settlement to resolve allegations that Bank of America violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act for discriminating against home loan applicants who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The bank had asked applicants to provide details of their medical conditions and required a letter from their doctor documenting their SSDI income. Under the settlement, Bank of America has agreed to revise its policies on documenting disability income, hold employee trainings, and pay monies to the loan applicants who were affected by the alleged misconduct. The bank will hire a third party administrator to search approximately 25,000 loan applications involving SSDI income to identify any other victims.
Medicaid – California is the first state to win approval to adopt the Community First Choice Option
California is the first state to win approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to adopt the Community First Choice Option provision of the Affordable Care Act. The state will make home and community-based attendant services and supports and assistance with health-related tasks, including hands-on assistance, cuing, and supervision available to low-income people with disabilities who otherwise would have to receive care in a nursing facility or intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The state will receive a 6% increase in federal matching funds for the new community-based services and supports.
Civil Rights – Prominent Washington, DC publication prints op-ed on voting rights for people with disabilities
In advance of the upcoming National Forum on Disability Issues, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, the major Senate sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and former California Rep. Tony Coelho, a primary sponsor of the bill, co-wrote an opinion piece about voting rights for people with disabilities. Read more on Politico’s website.