Disability Policy News In Brief

May 16, 2016

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May 16, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 72
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Last week, AUCD met with staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees responsible for most disability program funding.  According to staff, they are committed to moving as many annual funding bills through the committee process as possible before the Congress recesses in July.  A markup of the Labor, HHS, Education funding bill is currently scheduled for the end of June. 

This week, the House and Senate are focused on passing proposals to respond to the Zika virus. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee, recently announced a compromise deal that would provide $1.1 billion to address the Zika virus, including approximately $200 million to the NIH to support vaccine development. The bill also provides $126 million for emergency response in Puerto Rico, where the CDC estimates one in five residents could become infected with the virus.  This afternoon the House Appropriations Committee released a statement and draft of its own proposal, the "Zika Appropriations Response Act."  The bill proposes to provide $622 million in funds, available only under strict conditions and only until the end of SeptemberIn February, the White House had asked for $1.9 billion for Zika vaccine development, better testing, and mosquito reduction.  With no action taken by Congress, in April the White House transferred $589 million from money set aside to fight Ebola and other problems. 

AUCD signed onto a letter with 52 other national organizations urging Congress to support the greatest possible level of funding, which is needed for both prevention and response purposes. There is currently no vaccine for Zika, and insufficient funding could potentially delay development by years, possibly beyond 2018. Money is also needed to facilitate public health education and mosquito eradication efforts in high-risk areas, which will include large sections of the United States as the weather becomes warmer.

Health Care

LTSS Financing Reform

The CCD Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Task Force has finalized its response to recommendations  on future financing of America's long-term care needs recently put forward by several nonpartisan organizations, including the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Long-Term Care Financing Collaborative, reports. These reports examined concerns over the failure to develop a national plan to pay for healthcare and LTSS. The recommendations offered by CCD express support for Medicaid improvements and the emerging consensus on the need for a public insurance program.

Accountable Health Communities

AUCD signed on to a letter by National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Department of Innovation and Quality addressing concerns regarding the Accountable Health Communities (AHC) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), released on January 5. The primary recommendation addressed the need to include adequate funding for community-based services at the center of the AHC model as opposed to only building awareness about available community services and facilitating the connection between beneficiaries and services, as currently outlined in the FOA. The letter also asks CMS to address diversity that exists in Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary populations; limitations on core health-related services assessments; lack of involvement of family caregivers or assessment of their needs for support; and unrealistic expectations and evaluation criteria.

HHS Final Rule

On May 13, the Department of Health and Human Services released a final rule that implements Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, and disability. The final rule clarifies the applicability of these elements within the law and establishes new standards that protect against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping and takes new steps to ensure effective communication for individuals with disabilities in healthcare settings.

State Applications for Zika Funds

The CDC has announced that U.S. states and territories can now apply for $25 million to build local capacity to fight the spread of the Zika virus. The funds will go to 53 states, cities and territories that the CDC determines to be at risk for outbreaks of mass Zika virus infection, based upon the locations' histories of mass epidemics, population size, and the extent to which the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes (which transmit the virus) are known to be present in the local environment. Applications for funding are due June 13, 2016 and funds will be distributed during the summer, lasting through July 2017. More information about the grant application process can be found here.


Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Student Loan Discharge

On May 9, the Department of Education released a Q&A factsheet explaining recent efforts the department and the Social Security Administration undertook jointly in order to identify and notify federal student loan borrowers with disabilities who are eligible for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge from their loans. The factsheet explains how the federal government will inform borrowers who are eligible for such a loan discharge about their status, as well as what impact a TPD loan discharge may have upon SSI/SSDI benefits, Medicaid eligibility and eligibility for premium tax credits and cost assistance under the ACA.

Civil Rights of Transgender Students

On May 13, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued joint guidance to inform educators about protections surrounding the civil rights of transgender students. The guidance notes that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on a student's gender identity, which includes discrimination based on a student's transgender status. It also outlines how they evaluate schools' compliance with their obligation to meet Title IX requirements by not discriminating against their students. The newly released document is not a set of new regulations, but merely explains how schools' long-standing obligation to comply with Title IX applies with regard to transgender students. See the Department of Education for more resources on this issue.

Perkins Act
Tomorrow, the House Education and Workforce Committee will hold a hearing entitled, "Helping Students Succeed by Strengthening the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act." Career and technical education programs offer high school and community college students the opportunity to gain the skills and experience necessary to compete for jobs in a broad range of fields. The hearing will provide members an opportunity to examine how federal law supports career and technical education and discuss ways to reform the law to strengthen support for young Americans.

International Disability Rights

On May 11, Finland ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol. In doing so, it becomes the 164th country to ratify the convention and the 89th to ratify its optional protocol. Although the Finnish Parliament only formally approved ratification in April, Finland originally signed the convention and the optional protocol in 2007, becoming one of the first countries in the world to do so. The U.S. still has not ratified CRPD, following an unsuccessful vote in the Senate in 2013.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All       

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviews Laura Fortman, Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor about work protections for individuals with disabilities. In case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed Chris Rodriguez, Senior Public Policy Advisor at the National Disability Institute, about ABLE resources in different states.

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


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