Disability Policy News In Brief

April 18, 2016

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April 18, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 68
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On April 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted its 302(b) spending allocations by a vote of 29-1, allowing the 12 subcommittees to begin writing their individual spending bills. The numbers reflect the $1.07 trillion in base discretionary spending allowed under last year's budget deal. The sole "no" vote came from Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). The allocation for Labor-HHS-ED is $161.9 billion, which is a $270 million cut from the amount provided in the FY 2016 omnibus bill. The House usually takes action first; however, the Republican caucus has been unable to agree on an overall budget resolution, which has slowed the process.  With a shortened election year schedule, it will be difficult to move all 12 annual appropriations bills in time for the Oct. 1 new fiscal year.  AUCD is monitoring the process closely and making visits to Appropriations Committee members this week.

Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Financing Reform

In early 2016, several bipartisan and nonpartisan organizations, including the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Long-Term Care Financing Collaborative, released reports on future financing of America's long-term care needs. These reports examined concerns over the failure to develop a national plan to pay for healthcare and long-term support services even as the U.S. population is aging and people are living longer with disabilities. Our current system relies on Medicaid and unpaid family caregivers, both of which impede family financial planning and hinder economic opportunities. The LTSS Task Force, of which AUCD is a member, will be releasing a statement to weigh in on the recent reports on long-term care financing, expressing our support for Medicaid improvements and supporting the emerging consensus on the need for a public insurance program.  

Health Care

Medicaid Expansion

Last week, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), alongside seven original co-sponsors, introduced a bill (S. 2787) that addresses the President's recent budget proposal to promote Medicaid expansion in states that have not yet moved forward with expanding health coverage to those who need it. This bill would amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to provide the same level of federal matching assistance for every State that chooses to expand Medicaid coverage to newly eligible individuals, regardless of when such expansion takes place.  The companion bill (H.R. 4588), the Incentivizing Medicaid Expansion Act, was introduced earlier this year in the House by Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) and currently has 17 co-sponsors. Both bills would address the President's proposal to give all states three years of full federal funding when they expand Medicaid so that states that have not yet adopted expansion, or recently expanded states, receive three full years of the 100 percent federal match. AUCD will continue to monitor these bills as they move through the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce respectively.

New Autism CARES Coordinator

HHS Secretary Burwell named Dr. Thomas Novotny as the new HHS Autism Coordinator, authorized under the Autism CARES Act of 2014 (see Sec. 2 (a)).  Dr. Novotny's duties, according to the law, are to 1)implement autism spectrum disorder activities, taking into account the strategic plan developed by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee; and 2) ensure that autism spectrum disorder activities of the Department of Health and Human Services and of other Federal departments and agencies are not unnecessarily duplicative.

Dr. Novotny, a graduate of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (MPH Epidemiology), is Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego.  He is Board Certified in Preventive Medicine, has specialized in health systems development, non-communicable disease control, health diplomacy and served in the National Health Service Corps.  For more information, please read a blog by Dr. Novotny and ACL's Aaron Bishop on autism awareness.  


AUCD collaborated with the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, chaired by Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to hold a briefing on the current challenges and opportunities facing individuals with disabilities who seek competitive, integrated employment. Before a packed hearing room, this briefing provided an overview of the current landscape of federal disability employment policy following enactment of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a discussion of the preliminary recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, and efforts to build the necessary disability employment resources and services at the state and local levels.

Featured speakers included Dr. David Mank, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities and Director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community; Taryn Williams, Chief of Staff, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP);  Dr. Anthony (Tony) Antosh, Director of the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College;  Dr. Jean Winsor, Research Associate, Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts, Boston; and Jack Brandt, Policy Specialist, Partnership for People with Disabilities, Virginia Commonwealth University.       



On April 12, Secretary of Education John King appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing regarding the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In Mr. King's testimony, he emphasized that ESSA advances equity by upholding critical protections for America's disadvantaged students.  He also stated that the law maintains dedicated resources and supports for students from low‐income families, students with disabilities, English learners, Native American students, foster and homeless youth, and migrant and 2 seasonal farmworker children.

Federal Student Loan Discharge

On Tuesday, April 12, the Department of Education announced a new data match with the Social Security Administration to identify and notify certain federal student loan borrowers with disabilities about potential eligibility for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge. If a student is eligible for a TPD discharge, he or she will no longer be required to repay the loans. This effort was called for by President Obama in his Student Aid Bill of Rights, which details measures to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for Americans. The Higher Education Act allows loan forgiveness for borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled. By proactively identifying and engaging borrowers who may be eligible for TPD loan discharge, the Department is fulfilling its commitment to ensure that borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled have the information needed to take full advantage of the debt relief to which they are entitled.

Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of this loan forgiveness is that students have faced enormous tax bills because the discharged debt is considered income by the IRS.  To fix this problem, Senators Coons, King, and Portman introduced S. 2800, the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act of 2016, "to provide an exclusion from income for student loan forgiveness for students who have died or become disabled." This bill would fix the problem of taxation of discharged student loans under the TPD standard or in the event of death.  AUCD joined the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities in supporting Senator King in this critical legislation. AUCD's Kim Musheno, CCD Chair, was also quoted in King, Coons, and Portman press release, saying that "it is common sense that someone who cannot pay back their student loans due to a total and permanent disability cannot afford to pay taxes on the discharge of those loans."

2016 Disability Policy Seminar

Approximately 700 people with disabilities, parents, students, and allies gathered in Washington, DC for two days of intensive training on current legislative and policy issues that impact people with disabilities.  Over 200 of these were LEND and UCEDD trainees. On Wednesday, individuals used this information to help them educate their Members of Congress and their staff.  AUCD was a co-sponsor of the Disability Policy Seminar along with The Arc, AAIDD, NACDD, SABE, and UCP.  All the fact sheets and available presentations can be found on the DPS website.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviews Shannon Haworth, AUCD's Public Health Program Manager, about the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) and the role it plays in federal efforts to address autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed Logan Haworth, a fourth grader on the spectrum, about his interests and experiences.



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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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