Disability Policy News In Brief

March 9, 2015

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March 9, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 10
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Congressional Schedule

The Senate is in session but the House of Representatives is not. The Senate is expected to hold confirmation votes for four executive nominations and debate a bill related to Iran's nuclear program.

Voting on The Student Success Act (HR 5) - a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) - remains stalled in the House of Representatives. The House debated the bill on February 26 and 27, but House leaders stopped the debate when it became apparent there were not enough votes to pass the bill.  Meanwhile, Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Murray (D-WA) have been negotiating a bipartisan agreement and released the following statement today: "During the last several weeks we have been working together to build the base for legislation to fix the problems with No Child Left Behind. We are making significant progress in our negotiations. We are aiming to consider and markup legislation to fix the law during the week of April 13th." For more information, see last week's In Brief. AUCD staff have been very involved in helping to educate key legislators about the importance of accountability provisions within the ESEA for students with disabilities.

Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies last week. The hearing is archived on the committee website.

Assistive Technology

Bipartisan members of Congress have introduced the Steve Gleason Act of 2015 (HR 628). Led by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) in the Senate and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) in the House, the bill would amend the Social Security Act to ensure access to communication technologies in the Medicare program for people with serious disabilities. It would particularly ensure that eye-tracking technologies are covered under Medicare; it also rolls back some recent decisions by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that had the effect of reducing access to communication technology or "speech generating devices" as they are called in Medicare. Steve Gleason is a former professional football player with the New Orleans Saints who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2011.

Health Care

Children's Health Insurance Program

Majority leaders in the House and Senate have released a draft bill to extend the Children's Health Insurance (CHIP) program, which expires September 30, 2015.  This effort is being led by Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), House Energy & Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), and House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts (R-PA). In addition to extending authorization for the program, the draft makes a number of policy changes, including allowing states to impose waiting periods, eliminating funding for states to cover children with family incomes above 300 percent of poverty, and reducing federal matching funds for those above 250 percent of poverty. It also rolls back Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions that leveled income limits for Medicaid for children of all ages.  Earlier this month Democrats had introduced a four-year extension that did not make major policy changes to the program. Learn more about the proposal in a discussion draft summary, and in responses from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.

Workplace Wellness Programs

Representatives John Kline (R-MN), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Phil Roe (R-TN), and Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) have introduced legislation to roll back protections for workers with disabilities in workplace wellness programs being enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Currently, the EEOC has been defending ADA protections for workers with disabilities who may be required disclose medical information unrelated to the ability to do their jobs, or face discrimination in health insurance due to inability to participate in a wellness program because of disability. AUCD recently signed on to a CCD letter to President Obama  urging the administration not to erode the workplace rights afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Child Abuse Prevention

AUCD signed onto a letter to Members of Congress to support continued funding of the Social Service Block Grants (SSBG).  AUCD joined a coalition of groups serving vulnerable populations represented by the National Child Abuse Network.  SSBG is a major funder for state and local child abuse prevention services, child protective services (CPS), and in some state provides a significant source of local funding for adult protective services.   It supports services for those adults in jeopardy of entering a nursing home or institution and helps to fill the numerous state and local budget gaps in areas as diverse as senior services, mental health services, and services to people with disabilities.

Family Support

Last Tuesday Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) launched the Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus, which will focus on the needs of family caregivers. Each member of Congress spoke during the launch about the importance of family caregivers and were joined by caregivers from their states who shared compelling stories. Representative Grisham stated her committment to reintroducing the National Care Corps Act, a national service organization dedicate to providing services for elderly and disabled Americans. Watch the webcast of the event.

Employment/Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

The U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services held a webinar on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) intended to assist states with implementation.  Presenters focused on the need for stakeholders to begin building partnerships necessary for creation and execution of the state unified plans due in March of 2016.  The WorkforceOne website also contains a series of Powerpoint files and other resources related to implementation of WIOA.  The Administration is expected to publish draft regulations for public comment later this Spring.

Disability Policy Seminar

The Disability Policy Seminar is coming up April 13th- 15th, in Washington, DC. AUCD network members are encouraged to participate: register today! Early bird registration and discounted pricing ends March 13th. If you are an AUCD Network trainee or faculty, don't forget to sign up for the free AUCD Trainee Policy Summit, held Sunday night before the Seminar begins. Participants will have in-depth training on policy and educating policymakers.

The Disability Policy Seminar is hosted by The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), with promotional support from Sibling Leadership Network and American Association of People with Disabilities.


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

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