Disability Policy News In Brief

November 11, 2019

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November 11, 2019   |   Vol. MMXIX, Issue 44
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This December will mark the 5th anniversary of the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which created tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities who have a disability before age 26. Since 2014, over 50,000 individuals have opened ABLE accounts. Unfortunately, millions of people with disabilities aren't eligible for ABLE accounts because they did not acquire their disability before age 26. So as we are celebrating this anniversary, we are urging Congress to pass the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651, H.R. 1814).  The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would make six million more people with disabilities eligible to open an ABLE account. It would also greatly enhance the sustainability of all ABLE programs nationwide.

Action Steps:

  • Learn more about the ABLE Act and accounts.
  • Help build support for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act by participating in our National Call-In Day on Thursday, November 14. Here are some things you can do:
    • Like and share the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2461276014090352/
    • Share on social media using the hashtag #ABLEAgeNow. Here are some sample messages:
      • Facebook: Today we are asking Members of Congress to support the ABLE Age Adjustment Act! ABLE accounts help people with disabilities save money without jeopardizing access to Medicaid home and community-based services and other federal supports they need to live in their communities. But right now millions of people are left out, because ABLE Accounts are limited to people who acquired their disability before age 26. We need to expand ABLE now and Congress should pass the ABLE Age Adjustment Act! Call now: https://tinyurl.com/yxgf37ok!
      • Twitter: ABLE Accounts help PwD save money and keep their benefits, but right now not everyone with a disability can get an ABLE account! Call your Members of Congress and tell them we need #ABLEAgeNow. Numbers + scripts here: https://tinyurl.com/yxgf37ok!

Budget and Appropriations

We are two weeks away from the current stop-gap continuing resolution (CR) expiring on November 21st. A vote on the Defense, Labor, HHS, and Ed package (HR 2740) has not advanced due to partisan disagreements. This would likely require Congress to pass a new CR. Under a CR, agencies can't start new projects or increase buying rates on long-term contracts. (Image Source: Tucker Doherty/POLITICO Pro DataPoint)legislative passage and funding levels (in billions) for FY 2020 appropriations bills

Action Step:

  • View the legislative process thus far and where we stand on this appropriation package.
  • Learn more about the budget and appropriations process.
  • This is an opportunity to contact your members of Congress about your center's appropriations request. Share with them about the work of your center and the need for continued federal funding to make an impact in your state.

Social Security

On October 30, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act of 2019 (S.2753). The bill would update and enhance the SSI program by adjusting income limits upward, something Congress has not done in many years. In addition, the SSI Restoration Act would repeal SSI's in-kind support and maintenance provisions as well as penalties for resource transfers, marriage, and state tax credits.

Action Steps:

  • Learn more about earned income disregard.
  • Contact your Senator with your SSI stories. United States Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Health Insurance Open Enrollment

ACA open enrollment for 2020 health care coverage began on Friday, Nov. 1, and ends Sunday, Dec. 15. Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or are looking for affordable health insurance to enroll in a private health insurance plan available through state marketplaces. During open enrollment, a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available to people with low and moderate incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at their plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in their current plan. Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income.

Action Step:

National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month. This month is dedicated to recognition of the vital role family caregivers play in the lives of people with disabilities and to educating the public about the need for greater support. This year's theme is #BeCareCurious.

Action Steps:

  • Family caregivers should share their stories (with consent from those for whom they are providing care) and ask questions about care options for their loved ones. Use #BeCareCurious.
  • Read President Trump's 2019 Proclamation here.

Department of Education

Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett recently left the Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The new Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner, Mark Schultz, has taken over as acting assistant secretary. With this change in leadership, members of the disability community drafted a public letter addressing concerns about competitive integrated employment regulations in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and opposing any considerations of opening the regulations at this time. AUCD signed on to this letter.

Action Steps:

  • National, state and local groups can sign on to this letterPlease sign on using this link. Sign-ons are due by Monday, November 18th.


Last week, local and state elections saw potential impacts on Medicaid expansion. In the governor's race in Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear claimed victory against incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who was among the first in the country to try to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Those rules are tied up in court, as a federal judge blocked them back in March. Former Gov. Steve Beshear - the governor-elect's father - was among the first to expand Medicaid under the then-new Affordable Care Act, and his son has also made this a key part of his platform. In Virginia, Democrats regained control of the state legislature with Medicaid expansion being a platform message.

Action Steps:

  • Centers in KY and VA have the opportunity to meet with newly-elected state officials. Share with them the work you do for the state and the impact of Medicaid for people with disabilities. 

The territories are facing a major cliff on November 22 -- after the current CR expires -- when the 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) will expire and revert back to statutory levels. Before the current CR, it was projected that Puerto Rico would exhaust the federal funds available by March 2020; with the CR FMAP through November they will run through the cap even sooner. If they hit the cap, difficult choices on how to keep Medicaid operating without federal funds could include disenrolling beneficiaries, cutting core benefits, cutting payment rates and seeing more providers drop out of the program.

Action Step:

  • Read a sign-on letter supported by AUCD asking Congress to extend the higher FMAP and allocate additional funds for Medicaid in Puerto Rico and the other territories.

Campaign 2020

Elizabeth Warren is the latest candidate to release a Disability Plan: Fighting for an Accessible & Inclusive America.

Mike Bloomberg is the latest to join the Democratic presidential race. You can learn more about him here.

AAPD, REV Up!, and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) have been working on a Presidential candidates questionnaire. The questionnaire collects responses on disability issues from a range of candidates. To date, the following candidates have replied: Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Joe Sestak, Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson.

Action Steps:

  • You can see the responses so far here.

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Action Steps:

Policy at AUCD's Annual Conference

The AUCD policy team is excited to see you in a month at our Annual Conference! Don't forget to schedule your Hill Visits for Wednesday, November 20th.

Action Steps:

  • Check out the policy related sessions this year.
  • Let us know what Hill visits you have. By completing this survey, we will be able to prepare packets for you to take to your meetings.

AUCD Policy Talk:

logo of AUCD Policy Talk

Just posted! Read our latest blog post: What is a QALY?  Are you impacted by QALYs? Does the work in your state connect to this policy? Share our blog post widely to start a conversation.

Action Steps:

Tuesdays with Liz: Beyond the Data - Addressing Gaps in Health Care for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

How has life improved for people living with intellectual disabilities? What needs to improve? Liz Weintraub hares her views as a person with an intellectual disability in her interview with Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver.

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