Major Events Last Week
Medicaid / Medicare – Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) offers 5 suggestions to change Medicare and Medicaid
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the ranking member of the Finance Committee, released five ideas to change Medicare and Medicaid that he suggests should be included in a deficit reduction package. In Medicaid, Senator Hatch suggests limiting the amount of federal dollars spent for each Medicaid beneficiary (per capita caps). The suggestions for Medicare are similar to Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI). Under Senator Hatch’s plan, beneficiaries would receive a fixed amount of money to purchase private health insurance coverage or traditional Medicare. Senator Hatch also suggests increasing the eligibility age over time until it reaches 67 (currently the eligibility age is 65). The remaining ideas concern Medigap policies and creating combined annual deductibles and a catastrophic cap.
Civil Rights / Hate Crimes – Department of Justice uses hate crimes statute on behalf of individuals with disabilities for the first time
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed numerous charges against five defendants, including four counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, based on the alleged mistreatment, theft, forced labor, sex trafficking, denial of nutrition, and imprisonment of individuals with disabilities over several years and across several states. At least two of the victims died. This is the first time charges have been filed based in part on alleged hate crimes based on disability. To read more about this case, see http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/January/13-crt-098.html
Social Security – The Social Security Administration announces its intent to stop using the phrase “mental retardation”
This week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced its intent to stop using the phrase “mental retardation” and start using “intellectual disability” in its official Listing of Impairments. The Arc applauds SSA for this action which comes in the form of a notice of proposed rulemaking.
This change, which The Arc and many other organizations advocated for, comes a little over two years after President Barack Obama signed Rosa’s Law. In 2010, The Arc was very involved in efforts to end the use of the “r-word” and worked to enact Rosa’s Law, which substituted the stigmatizing word with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal health, education, and labor policy statutes. While the legislation did not cover programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, it was an important stepping stone for shaping future legislation and efforts that will transform these outdated terms in all federal laws. The Social Security Administration’s actions are a welcome result of the success of Rosa’s Law. The proposed regulation published today has a 30 day public comment period, and people are encouraged to submit comments in support of the changes online by February 27, 2013.
To submit comments visit the Federal eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov and use the search function to find docket number SSA-2012-0066.
Congress – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will not seek a sixth term in 2014
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced last week that he will not seek re-election in 2014, after more than 40 years in Congress. Senator Harkin has been a longtime friend to The Arc and the disability community as a whole.
Harkin currently serves as Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and as Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. Through these dual roles he has had great influence on the critical health, education, employment and disability programs that support people with disabilities. He played a key role in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 and has been a tireless advocate for its implementation.
The Arc deeply appreciates Senator Harkin’s strong leadership and advocacy on disability and health issues.
Housing – HUD issues guidance on temporary compliance assistance
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a new notice, PIH 2013-03, “Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Program – Temporary Compliance Assistance.” The notice establishes temporary guidelines for how public housing agencies (PHAs) can fulfill program requirements in light of their diminished resources. Among other provisions, the notice
- Allows for optional streamlined annual reexamination for elderly families and disabled families on fixed incomes; and
- Allows PHAs to establish a payment standard of not more than 120 percent of the fair market rent without HUD approval as a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities.
These temporary guidelines are in effect through March 31, 2014.
Employment – Department of Labor issues guidance on use of family medical leave to care for adult children with disabilities
The Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division has issued Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2013-1, to clarify that the age of a son or daughter at the onset of a disability is not relevant in determining a parent’s entitlement to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). A parent is entitled to take FMLA leave to care for a son or daughter 18 years of age or older, if the adult son or daughter has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, is incapable of self-care due to that disability, has a serious health condition, and is in need of care due to the serious health condition. The new DOL guidance clarifies that the age of onset is not relevant to a determination of whether a parent is entitled to FMLA leave. The Administrator’s Interpretation also provides guidance on the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 on the FMLA definition of son or daughter, and the impact on FMLA leave for parents caring for adult children wounded in military service.
Education – Schools must provide students with disabilities equal access to extracurricular sports
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has issued guidance on the legal responsibilities of school districts to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities. The letter urges school districts to work with community organizations to increase athletic opportunities, and provides examples of types of reasonable accommodations schools may need to make. Students with disabilities have the right, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, to an equal opportunity to participate in their schools’ extracurricular activities.
Visit Disability.gov for more information about laws that protect the rights of students with disabilities.