Disability Policy News In Brief

August 10, 2015

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August 10, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 32
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate have adjourned for the month-long August recess. Recess offers a good opportunity to meet with your Members of Congress while they are in their home states/districts.  If you do get a chance to see them, please discuss the impact of recent budget cuts and the need to negotiate a budget that will lift sequestration caps.  For more ideas about policy topics, please see AUCD's online action center.


Earlier this summer Senators Grassley (R-IA), Wyden (D-OR), and Casey (D-PA) introduced the Transition to Independence Act, S. 1604. This bill seeks to establish a five-year Transition to Independence Medicaid Buy-In Option demonstration program, which will give ten Medicaid Buy-In states an opportunity to receive bonus payments for meeting benchmarks tied to expanding individual integrated employment and reducing subminimum wage work, congregate setting work, or facility-based day habilitation placement for people with disabilities who receive Medicaid-funded home and community-based services (HCBS).The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. There is currently no House companion bill.  AUCD and other national disability advocates are currently reviewing the bill and considering any recommendations for improvements.  If you have comments regarding this bill, please email Kim Musheno.

Mental Health

Three bills related to mental health have been introduced recently. Senators Cassidy (R-LA) and Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Mental Health Reform Act (S.1945) and Representatives Murphy (R-PA) and Johnson (D-TX) introduced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) intended to help make psychiatric, psychological and supportive services available,; Senate HELP Committee Chairman Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) introduced the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act (S. 1893) to reauthorize and improve programs related to mental health.  AUCD has not taken a position on any of these bills to date.

Restraint and Seclusion

AUCD joined 20 other disability organizations in a sign-on letter drafted by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to the department of Education.  The letter provides comments in response to the Department of Education's proposed revision of the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). AUCD supports the recommendations of the ACLU, namely, that the CRDC revise its collection to require school districts to report on the restraint and seclusion experienced by district students placed into nonpublic special education school settings. 

Last month, How Safe is the Schoolhouse, An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies , a report previously shared with the AUCD network, was updated and published by the Autism National Committee.  Several states adopted new laws protecting school children from non-emergency restraint and seclusion. The new report contains several maps and charts for ease of use.  There is a brief bullet point executive summary at the beginning.


On August 5, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced S.2001, a bill to phase out special wage certificates under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act that allow individuals with disabilities to be paid at subminimum wage rates. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final decision memorandum stating that speech generating devices will still be considered durable medical equipment (DME) even though they can perform other functions. However, the memorandum excludes coverage for computers, tablets, and similar devices used in conjunction with speech generating applications as they do not meet the definition of DME. For example, laptop, desktop computers, personal digital assistant (PDAs), which may be programmed to perform the same function as a speech generating device, are non-covered since they are not primarily medical in nature and do not meet the definition of DME. Medicare will also not cover internet or phone services or any modification to a patient's home to allow use of the speech generating device because such services or modifications could be used for non-medical equipment.

SSDI and Unemployment Benefits:

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has introduced S. 2005, a bill to cut benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries who also qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI). The SSDI program has provided important support to millions of workers with disabilities and their families, helping many individuals who are unable to work stay out of poverty. AUCD opposes such cuts.  SSDI and UI are separate insurance programs established for different purposes, and though receipt of concurrent SSDI and UI benefits is rare, it is both legal and appropriate.  For more information, see Fact Sheets prepared by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.


The White House concluded its series of aging events with a day-long meeting held on July 31 at the White House where President Obama, HHS Secretary Burwell, Secretary of Labor Perez and other speakers discussed various policy issues related to aging.  Please see the full agenda and video highlights on the Conference on Aging website.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

Last week, for Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, recapped the 25th Anniversary of ADA events. For tomorrow's edition, Liz interviews Karen Edwards AUCD President-Elect and co-director of the
Westchester Institute for Human Development, New York Medical College, a bout this year's AUCD conference.  Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All is a fun, accessible way to get involved in national disability policy. 


For more from AUCD, follow @AUCDNews and like AUCD on Facebook

For updates from our Executive Director Andy Imparato, follow @AndyAUCD.

For more policy news, follow Kim on Twitter at @kmusheno

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


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