Disability Policy News In Brief

September 18, 2017

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September 18, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 140
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Congressional schedule

The House is on recess while the Senate continues in session to work on the National Defense Authorization bill.


On September 14, the House of Representatives passed a package of funding bills (H.R. 3354) to provide all discretionary funding for the federal government for the 2018 fiscal year. The bill, also known as the "Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act," was passed on a vote of 211-198. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its bill on September 8.  AUCD developed a detailed summary of the bill's funding for programs within the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education.  The summary contains a table comparing the two bills to FY 2017 funding and the President's Budget.  Programs continue to operate using a continuing resolution that expires Dec. 8.

Health Care

In a last-ditch effort to use reconciliation procedures to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make massive cuts to Medicaid, Senators Cassidy (R-LA) and Graham (R-TX) (also co-sponsored by Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin) introduced a new bill last Wednesday.  The bill ends the Medicaid Expansion and the current tax credits and cost sharing reductions (by 2020) that assist low income individuals purchase health insurance, replacing this assistance with a block grant that would reduce funding by $239 billion by 2026. After 2026, there would be no federal funding to help the millions of Americans who rely in on Medicaid Expansion and Marketplace coverage to access health care. The bill will also allow states to waive protections and eliminate essential benefits from people with preexisting conditions. Like previous repeal bills, it would also eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which would result in a 20 percent cut to CDC's budget. The result would be millions of people losing access to health and long term services and supports, just like similar bills before it that were rejected by bipartisan majorities. AUCD sent an alert to its membership today urging them to educate policymakers about the impact this bill would have on people with disabilities.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) want the Congressional Budget Office to conduct a robust analysis of the GOP proposal offered by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) before the bill comes to the floor for a vote.

"A comprehensive CBO analysis is essential before Republicans force a hasty, dangerous vote on what is an extreme and destructive repeal bill," Pelosi and Schumer wrote to CBO Director Keith Hall in a letter first obtained by POLITICO. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), ranking members of the Senate and House Budget committees, also signed on.

Hearing: On September 26, the Homeland Security & governmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing entitled Block Grants: How States Can Reduce Health Care Costs. The hearing is chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson, one of the co-sponsors of the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill.


Hill news outlets report that Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee plan to introduce legislation this fall to update the higher education law. While not yet finalized, the bill to reauthorize the 2008 law (PL 110-315) is expected to consolidate the number of grant, loan and other student aid programs and emphasize how well colleges and universities that receive tax dollars are preparing students for the workforce. Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., a former community college president, has stated that financial aid reform will be one of her priorities.

AUCD signed a CCD letter of support for a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (H.R. 3199), the "Improving Access for Higher Education Act," introduced by the Committee's Ranking Minority Member Bobby Scott (D-VA). CCD feels strongly that this bill addresses many of the barriers that students with disabilities have encountered on their road to higher education.  The letter specifically applauds the provision of grants to train faculty at Institutes of Higher Education (IHEs), the establishment of an Office of Accessibility at each IHE, the provision of grants for universal design for learning across IHEs and within distance learning, pathways to increase access to instructional materials, the expansion of learning opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities, and the improvement of data collection and closed captioning training. Unfortunately, there are no Republican co-sponsors. AUCD submitted its own letter of support, as well, on the day of introduction.

Family Support

The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act (H.R. 3759) was introduced in the House by Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) with Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) on Wednesday.  The Senate HELP Committee passed its bill back in May and is trying to fast-track it to the full Senate this week.  The CCD DD and Family Support Task Force sent a letter of support to House bill sponsors.

The RAISE Family Caregivers Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a strategy to support family caregivers. The strategy would identify recommended actions that communities, providers, government, and others are taking and may take to recognize and support family caregivers and be updated biennially.          

Social Security

On September 6, the House Committee on Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing on "Determining Eligibility for Disability Benefits: Challenges Facing the Social Security Administration." The witnesses spoke about a number of issues including: hearing backlogs, adequate resources to administer SS programs, the CARES plan, earlier screenings of denials, and more. Lisa Ekman provided testimony on behalf of the CCD. For a full list of witnesses, their testimonies, and to view the archived video of the hearing please visit the Committee website.

Disaster Relief
AUCD's participation in disaster response efforts continues in partnership with FEMA's Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, Portlight Strategies, the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, Pass It On Center, AT3 Center, and AUCD's Emergency Preparedness interest group, along with many other national and local organizations and governmental agencies. Many AUCD Centers prepared durable medical equipment and related supplies to send to areas hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Information is now available regarding how/where to send DME to people who lost their equipment and supplies in the flooding. All information to help is available on the hurricane response page of the Pass It On Center's website.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviews Conchita Hernández , the chair of METAS - Mentoring Engaging and Teaching all Students. Liz and Conchita spoke about METAS and what blindness skills means. In case you missed it,  last week Liz interviewed Meg Grigal, Co-Director of Think College, about the importance of post-secondary educational opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental 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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