AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 27, 2014

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
   May 27, 2014   |  Vol. XIV, Issue 21
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Congressional Schedule

The House will hold a short session this week, reconvening on Wednesday to consider bills related to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill. The Senate is in recess until June 2.


The Senate Appropriations committee voted 16-14 on Thursday to approve the FY15 discretionary spending allocations (known as 302(b) allocations) proposed by Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). All Republican members of the committee voted against the allocations, saying that they relied on too many budget "gimmicks" and do not adhere to the "sprit" of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 that set topline discretionary spending figures for FY15. However, Ranking Minority Member, Richard Shelby (R-AL), has said that minority members will continue to work the majority on the 12 annual appropriations bills. For the Labor-HHS-Education bill, the committee approved $156.8 billion, the same amount as the current fiscal year and slightly higher than the $155.7 billion approved by the House Appropriations Committee.


Combating Autism Reauthorization Act

The House Energy and Commerce Committee just announced that it will mark up a bill (H.R. 4631) to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Smith (R-NJ) and Doyle (D-PA), reauthorizes the law for an additional 5 years and creates a new National Autism Spectrum Disorder Initiative that directs the federal Secretary of Health and Human Services to implement a strategic plan and ensure that ASD programs are not "unnecessarily duplicative."  The bill also makes small changes to the makeup of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee by allowing House and Senate leadership to appoint members. Finally, the bill authorizes the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a study and report that addresses the demographics and services needs to transitioning youth with ASD; and to provide policy recommendations to improve the outcomes for this population.

Oversight of Autism Activities

On May 20, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations held a hearing on current federal government activities regarding autism. The hearing, titled "Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders" focused on the GAO report released in November 2013 that focused on "potential" overlap in autism research activities and the extent to which federal agencies coordinate and monitor autism activities. Dr. Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health and chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, provided a summary of the latest autism research results.  He also discussed the need for more replication to validate research findings, arguing that we know so little about autism that "we need more people working on the same problems and, to the extent possible, using exactly the same techniques to see if we get the same answers." Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary of OSERS and Marcia Crosse, Director of Health Care at the Government Accounting Office, also testified.  The text and video archive of the testimony is available on the committee website.

Behavioral Health and Military Families

The Military Children with Developmental Disabilities Act (H.R. 4630), introduced by Reps. John Larson (D-CT) and Tom Rooney (R-FL) on May 9 passed the House of Representatives on May 21 as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bill improves access to behavioral health services, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), for TRICARE beneficiaries with developmental disabilities. Despite the proven and widely recognized benefits of these interventions, access to them remains difficult for TRICARE beneficiaries. Behavioral health services are often delayed, received at less than recommended levels, or not provided at all. H.R. 4630 works to correct these issues.  A similar bill (S. 2333) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Murray (D-WA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) on May 14 and is expected to be included as an amendment to the NDAA bill when it is considered by the full Senate, hopefully soon.  AUCD signed on to a CCD letter of support for this improvement to TRICARE.


Workforce Investment Act

After months of negotiations, leaders from the House and Senate have announced a bipartisan, bicameral Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, HR 803).  The draft bill represents a compromise between the House-passed SKILLS Act (see March 11, 2013 In Brief) and Senate committee-approved Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (see August 5 In Brief). AUCD believes this compromise bill is a step in the right direction and should be supported. AUCD is especially pleased with the strong emphasis on providing more training and other supports and services for youth with disabilities transitioning from school to work or postsecondary education.  The unemployment rate of people with disabilities remains stubbornly high and many youth exiting school currently lack the specialized counseling and other supports needed to help them be successful in finding and keeping good jobs. The bill raises expectations for youth with disabilities and mandates services and supports to ensure their success.For more information on the bill, see the one page fact sheet, section-by-section analysis, and summary of changes from current law. AUCD Executive Director Andy Imparato was quoted in the Huffington Post regarding the disability sections of the law. No date has been set for committee markup.

EEOC Notice of Proposed Rules

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on Friday that it is inviting public input on potential revisions to the regulations implementing Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a law that governs employment of individuals with disabilities by the federal government. The current regulations prohibit employment discrimination based on disability and explain the standards for determining whether discrimination has occurred. The regulations also impose a separate obligation on federal agencies to be "model employers" of individuals with disabilities, but do not explain what federal agencies must do to comply with this obligation. The Commission is proposing to revise its regulations to include a more detailed explanation of the model employer obligation. The Commission is specifically seeking answers to seven questions, such as what barriers exist to the hiring, retention, and advancement of individuals with disabilities in the federal government, what regulatory requirements could eliminate these barriers, and whether numerical goals should be established for the employment of people with disabilities by the federal government. AUCD plans to provide comments.  Please contact Kim Musheno if you would like to be part of a workgroup to help prepare answers these questions. Comments on this Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) are due by July 14, 2014.

Long-Term Services and Supports

Medicaid Expenditures

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have released the 2012 Medicaid Expenditures for Long-Term Services and Supports Report. The report shows that Federal Fiscal Year 2012 was the second year in a row with almost no growth in national Medicaid spending for LTSS. The proportion of spending on home and community-based services (HCBS) increased from 48.7 percent in 2011 to 49.5 percent in 2012. The shifting balance was attributable to both an increase in HCBS spending of 2.4 percent and a decrease in spending for institutional services of -2.3 percent. The national average masks differences across population groups. HCBS accounted for 70 percent of spending in programs targeting people with developmental disabilities, 39 percent of spending in programs targeting older people or people with physical disabilities, and 35 percent of spending in programs targeting people with serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance. The growth of managed care is also noticeable in FFY 2012, accounting for 6.6% of LTSS spending. 

Health and Human Services

On May 21 the Senate Finance Committee approved Sylvia Mathews Burwell's nomination to be the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by a vote of 21-3. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has already filed for cloture on the nomination and the Senate is expected to vote after they return from recess June 2.

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For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.
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