AUCD Legislative News In Brief

February 22, 2010

Congressional Schedule
The Senate is expected to vote Monday on a package of infrastructure funding and business tax breaks intended to create jobs. The House votes later in the week on a bill to repeal the antitrust exemption for health insurers. Hearings continue in both chambers on the President's FY 2011 budget proposal. The President will hold his bipartisan, bicameral health reform summit on Thursday, which will be televised beginning at 10 a.m. ET.

Health Care Reform
President Obama released a detailed outline of his healthcare overhaul proposal this morning in anticipation of the summit (see above). The bill is based on the Senate's final bill, HR 3590 but incorporates House provisions in an attempt to gain broad consensus. AUCD is pleased to report that the proposal includes the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, Community First Choice Option, extension of the Money Follows the Person demonstration, and other improvements to home and community based services. It also equalizes Medicaid expansions for all states.

As expected, the plan does not include a public option. The proposal appears to construct the exchange marketplace where consumers can comparison-shop for insurance on a state-by-state basis, rather than in a national exchange. The president's proposal adopts the Senate bill's way of handling the individual mandate by assessing a flat rate on those who do not purchase coverage, though it decreases the amount of the rate from $495 to $325 in 2015 and $750 to $695 in 2016. Subsequent years are indexed to $695. The measure does not include an employer mandate like the House-passed bill did, but rather takes the Senate bill that fines companies that do not offer affordable insurance coverage.

Budget reconciliation remains a possible strategy for moving health reform forward if bipartisan agreement is not reached at the summit.

Civil Rights
In response to the September 30th letter signed by 31 disability organizations, including AUCD, the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division has announced that they have initiated an official investigation of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Mass. JRC is a special needs school known for using painful and dehumanizing techniques such as restraint, seclusion, food deprivation and electric shock for behavior modification. The school is being investigated for alleged violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by public accommodations.

Social Security
On February 11, the Social Security Administration issued a press release announcing the addition of 38 new conditions to its list for the Compassionate Allowance (CA) initiative, including early onset Alzheimer's.  The CA initiative makes it possible for SSA to expedite favorable disability decisions for people who apply for disability benefits based on documented diagnosis of listed disabling conditions.  The initiative not only assists those whose applications are quickly processed, but also assists those whose applications need more time and attention from SSA adjudicators because staff time is freed up to address the more time-consuming applications. 

The House passed H.R. 4532, the Social Security Disability Applicants' Access to Professional Representation Act of 2010 on February 4.  This bill would make permanent two provisions included in the Social Security Protection Act of 2004 (SSPA), P.L. 108-203, designed to improve access to representation for claimants applying for Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits.  Section 302 of the SSPA authorized the withholding and direct payment of attorneys' fees in Supplemental Security Income cases. Section 303 established a demonstration project to allow withholding and direct payment of fees to eligible non-attorney representatives.  Both programs are scheduled to sunset on February 28, 2010.  Because both programs have been successful, advocates support their permanent continuation.  The bill is expected to be considered by the Senate on the unanimous consent calendar to avoid having the successful provisions expire.

ACYF Commissioner
The Senate has confirmed Bryan H. Samuels as Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF). Mr. Samuel's experience includes serving as Chief of Staff for Chicago Public Schools, the Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and as professor at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration.  He holds a Master's Degree from the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy Studies and a Bachelor's of Arts Degree from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Samuels has stated that his commitment to public service is largely motivated by his own success in overcoming great personal hardship during his eleven and half years of growing up in a residential school for disadvantaged children.  The Administration on Developmental Disabilities is one of the agencies under the jurisdiction of ACYF.  AUCD hopes that this announcement will be followed by one of a Commissioner of ADD.

Disability Policy Seminar
AUCD recently emailed an
announcement with instructions for registering for the 2010 Disability Policy Seminar to take place in Washington, DC on April 12-14.  There are only two weeks left to receive the early bird rates! Registration, hotel, and preliminary program information are all on AUCD's Events website.

Note from the Editor
The AUCD Legislative Affairs report to the Board of Directors is now online, with minor revisions to the President's Budget proposal chart.