Disability Policy News In Brief

March 14, 2016

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March 14, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 63
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Today, March 14, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a full committee markup to consider a bill - H.R. 4725, the Common Sense Savings Act of 2016. Introduced by Health Subcommittee Chairman Joseph Pitts (R-PA), this bill includes $25 billion in cuts (over 10 years) to Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), including the Medicaid provider tax. It also calls for the elimination of the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) in CHIP.  The bill also eliminates the Affordable Care Act's Prevention and Public Health Fund.


On Thursday, March 10, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) held a hearing to consider the Department of Education's FY17 budget request. Acting Secretary Dr. King was the witness for the Department. Questions focused on a variety of topics, including funding for priorities in the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and highlighted the $69.4 billion request in the Department's FY17 discretionary budget request, which is a $1.3 billion, or 2% increase, above FY16.

Health Care

On March 11, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Burwell announced that $94 million in ACA funding would be distributed (through HRSA) to 271 health centers located in 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The money is intended to expand access to medication-oriented treatment for substance abuse disorders, especially those that involve opioid abuse. The federal government estimates that the funding will allow health centers to hire 800 new healthcare providers, enabling them to treat 124,000 new patients.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

On March 1, the Kevin and Avonte's Law (S. 2614) was introduced by Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Schumer (D-NY), the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This legislation reauthorizes an existing program - Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program - designed to assist in locating persons with dementia who wander from safe environments and now adds new support for children with developmental disabilities (DD), including ASD. It allows Justice Department grants to be used to develop training and emergency protocols, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make local tracking technology programs available for individuals who may wander because of their condition. This bill currently has two cosponsors and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Approximately 27% of children with DD wander from safe settings each year. Senator Grassley also released a statement for the Congressional Record.  CCD sent a letter in support of the introduction.

Employment Data

The national unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities grew to 12.5 percent in February, even as the unemployment rate for the overall population remained static at 4.9 percent. The shift constitutes a 1.7 percent increase from the most recent earlier figures and contrasts with overall employment patterns, as more than 242,000 new jobs were created in the U.S. economy. However, while unemployment rates for individuals with disabilities increased, so did the labor force participation rate, which is a measure of whether a person is actively seeking employment. This indicates that more individuals with disabilities looked for jobs in February than in previous months, but that a greater percentage of them have not been successful yet.


The Department of Education has issued a proposed rule that would require states to use a standardized approach to assess representation in special education across racial and ethnic groups. The proposed rule is intended to identify and make corrections to areas where minority students are overrepresented in special education. A report issued last month by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services found that a disproportionate number of youth from minority ethnic groups are placed in special education classes, and the new measure is intended to ensure that children are not wrongly placed there or incorrectly identified as having a disability.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee confirmed John B. King as Secretary of Education in a 16-6 vote on March 9. Having served as Acting Secretary since the resignation of Arne Duncan in January, Secretary King received bipartisan support during the nomination vote and is expected to serve out the remainder of President Obama's term. He also testified before the committee regarding the President's education budget as the Department prepares to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.  AUCD sent a letter supporting the nomination.

Education for All: An Evening with AUCD

More than 350 advocates, network members, allies and family members attended Education for All: An Evening with AUCD, held on March 7 in DC. During the gala, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) praised AUCD's impact on improving education outcomes for youth with disabilities and presented the evening's award to Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Mr. Henderson has championed inclusion of individuals with disabilities within the broader spectrum of civil rights and has long been a crucial partner for AUCD. When accepting the award, he spoke about AUCD's involvement in advancing crucial education legislation, including the Every Student Succeeds Act, and called on advocates and network allies to renew commitment to civil rights by participating in the upcoming election. View photos and a transcript of Education for All here

Mental Health

On March 7, a bipartisan group of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee members, including Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), announced their plan to improve the country's mental health system. The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 is intended to improve accountability and evaluations and the coordination between federal agencies and departments; requires that federal agencies and programs incorporate the most up-to-date approaches; and increases access to training. AUCD will continue to track this legislation.


The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) has launched their REV UP Toolkit Template, a tool used to eliminate barriers to voting, promote accessible voting technology and polling places; educate voters about issues and candidates; promote turnout of voters with disabilities across the country; and protect eligible voters' right to participate in elections. Feel free to use the tool to create a personalized toolkit for your state.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

This week Liz Weintraub, AUCD's advocacy specialist and host of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, interviews Sara Luterman, AUCD program assistant, on how to include people with autism in the workforce. In case you missed last's week edition, Liz interviewed Dr. Adriane Griffen, AUCD's Director of Public Health, about the Zika virus and its association with conditions such as microcephaly.       

Disability Policy Seminar 2016

Early Registration has been extended to Wednesday, March 16th, 2016: https://www.thearc.org/dps. On Sunday evening immediately before the Disability Policy Seminar, AUCD is hosting a special Trainee Policy Summit. Attendees will have exclusive access to Hill staffers and former trainees now working in policy, and learn from the experts how to prepare for Wednesday's Hill visits. An evening reception will allow trainees to meet and network with over 200 peers from around the country.  A webinar to trainees and other newcomers plan for the event will take place on March 29.

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


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