AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 17, 2014

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
    November 17, 2014   |  Vol. XIV, Issue 45
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Congressional Schedule

Congress has reconvened following the mid-term elections. The Republican Party had major gains in the election, increasing their majority in the House of Representative and gaining control of the Senate for the 114th Congress. With this upcoming change in leadership, very few legislative items will be taken up in the short special session, only those that are non-controversial and have broad bipartisan support. The first few days were spent on caucus meetings to elect leadership in the House and Senate. The House re-elected Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  The Senate also re-elected current leadership, except that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will now be the Majority Leader and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will be the Minority Leader.

FY 2015 Appropriations

With the current continuing resolution (CR) set to expire on December 11, Congress must take action on FY 2015 appropriations.  It is still unclear whether Congress will pass an omnibus bill to finalize funding for the fiscal year that began on October 1 or pass another short-term CR to continue funding until the new Congress convenes in January.  In either case, it appears that the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education funding bill that funds most AUCD network programs will continue at level funding.

Medicare Coverage of Communication Devices

On November 6, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) opened a public comment period regarding the coverage of speech generating devices (SGDs). While the official coverage determination of SGDs dates back to 2001, CMS has recently taken action that had the effect of limiting access to SGDs, especially advanced technologies like eye-tracking. These generated disability community advocacy and Congressional inquiry (see September 15 In Brief). According to this announcement, CMS is internally generating a reconsideration of their coverage decisions in light of changes in technology since 2001. The AUCD Assistive Technology Special Interest Group will be formulating comments in response to the request. If you would like to participate, email Kim Musheno.

Health Care

Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplaces began on Saturday, November 15. Enrollment is open in both the federal exchange at and state-based exchanges. Individuals and families without health insurance are encouraged to explore their options on; those who purchased insurance last year through the site are also encouraged to compare new plans and prices before December 15. The White House has just published a video about how the Affordable Care Act helps people with disabilities. AUCD network member may be interested to explore the datasets available for researchers on and Open enrollment ends February 15, 2015.

AUCD central office and network are official partners with the National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative, which provides cross-disability information and support to Navigators and other assistance personnel. Three AUCD network members - the Center for Persons with Disabilities in North Dakota, Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University in Michigan, and Center for Development and Disability at the University of New Mexico - are sites for Community Outreach Collaboratives working to increase collaborations in the community, dissemination and outreach efforts and enrollment of people in the ACA.


The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, together with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, issued joint guidance about the rights of public elementary and secondary students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities to effective communication. The guidance, in the form of a letter to educators (available in Spanish) with an attached Frequently Asked Questions document, is intended to help schools understand and comply with federal legal requirements on meeting the communication needs of students with disabilities. The department also released a fact sheet on the guidance for parents (available in Spanish).

Traumatic Brain Injury

On Thursday, November 13 the Senate passed S. 2539, the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Reauthorization Act of 2014, sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Bob Casey (D-PA). The House passed a companion bill in late June, sponsored by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Tom Rooney (R-FL). The next step is for the bill to be signed by the President. The bill authorizes funding through FY 2019 for grants to States and Protection and Advocacy Systems to improve access to rehabilitation and community services and to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to gather data on surveillance, conduct prevention and public education programs. The bill also allows the Secretary of HHS to move the program from its current agency at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to another agency within HHS, such as the Administration for Community Living (ACL). The bill also calls for the Secretary of the HHS to develop a TBI Coordination Plan and directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a scientific review of the management of children with the TBI.

Child Care and Development Block Grant

A bill that is likely to see final action is the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (S.1086) reauthorizes the CCDBG for the first time since 1996 when it was extended as part of the TANF welfare reform bill. The Senate passed the bill on March 13 by a vote of 96-2 and the House passed the amended version of the bill on September 15. Because of a "hold" on the bill by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), it cannot be passed via unanimous consent. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to schedule a vote on the amended bill as soon as this week. The bill makes improvements to meeting the needs of children with disabilities, including requiring states to explain how they will meet their needs; and ensuring that block grant provisions are coordinated with IDEA programs. Child care funding includes $2.3 billion in annual appropriations as well as $2.9 billion mandatory funding for child care included in TANF. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on supportive housing and services for the elderly and persons with disabilities. This rule proposes to implement certain reforms to HUD's Section 202 program and Section 811 program made by statutory changes to the programs in the Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act of 2010 and the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010. The Section 202 program and the Section 811 program are HUD's core programs for providing supportive housing to the elderly and persons with disabilities. This proposed rule includes provisions that would establish the requirements and procedures for the use of new project rental assistance for supportive housing for persons with disabilities and modernize the capital advance for supportive housing for persons with disabilities. The rule also proposes to establish the regulations for the Service Coordinators in Multifamily Housing program and the Assisted Living Conversion program. Comments are due December 8.

National Family Caregivers Month

On November 1, 2014 President Barack Obama made a presidential proclamation in recognition of National Family Caregiver Month. President Obama said, "In the United States, more than 60 million caregivers provide invaluable strength and assistance to their family members... Caregivers support the independence of their family members and enable them to more fully participate in their communities, and as a Nation, we have an obligation to empower these selfless individuals... Not only this month, but every month, let us work alongside our Nation's caregivers and make certain they are able to provide the best possible care for their loved ones for as long as necessary. Together, we recognize those who place service above self, including the women and men looking after our veterans. By offering them the same comfort, social engagement, and stability they bring to others, may we remind them that they are not alone."

AUCD Annual Conference

Thank you for a fantastic annual conference! Presentations and follow up materials are available at If you attended the conference, please take a moment to complete or online survey about your experience. If you went on hill visits, Kim and Rachel will be emailing you with a survey this week. Save the date for AUCD 2015: November 15-18 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC!

Editor's Note: Correction: The November 3 issue of In Brief listed Representative Suzan DelBene as a Democrat from Connecticut. She is actually from Washington State. The corrected story is reprinted below:

Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Suzann DelBene (D-WA) are circulating  Dear Colleague and sign-on letters calling for Congressional leadership to ensure that funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is restored to pre- sequester levels in any omnibus or continuing resolution to finish out the remainder of 2015. They argue that sustained funding for the NIH will ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in biomedical research.

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For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.
For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website:

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