Policy & Advocacy Newsline ~ August 21, 2018

NDSC Calls on Secretary DeVos to Issue New Guidance Regarding Postsecondary Education and Employment Funding for Students with ID

NDSC issued a press release calling on U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to issue new guidance clarifying that federal special education and vocational rehabilitation funds may be used to support postsecondary students with intellectual disability (ID). The media statement was released in conjunction with a letter from 71 local, state, and national organizations requesting that Secretary DeVos issue this guidance. A comprehensive report, “Addressing the Policy Tangle: Students with Intellectual Disability and the Path to Postsecondary Education, Employment and Community Living” accompanied the letter. It outlines the legal and policy background of the issue and the need to meet the Congressional intent to encourage postsecondary education and competitive, integrated employment for individuals with ID.

LRP Publications published an article on this issue and other news outlets have expressed interest. Disability Scoop just published an article yesterday. NDSC is the lead organization in this effort and is pleased with the tremendous support from other organizations.

Carl D. Perkins Career & Technical Education Act Has Been Reauthorized!

On July 31, 2018, the President signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act into law. This bill reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. This law increases access to employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities by supporting education opportunities that combine academic study and career and technical education (CTE) with work experience in a related field. The first reauthorization of the Perkins CTE Act since 2006, this legislation would encourage states, schools and local CTE providers to update education and job training to meet the needs of the local economies, ensuring students have the skills needed to remain competitive. It would also increase alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Every Students Succeed Act (ESSA), and promote collaboration between stakeholders so that local businesses can communicate their needs to states and educators as strategies and programs are developed.

NDSC would like to thank the bipartisan group of legislative champions of the Perkins legislation, including the leadership of the Senate HELP and House Education & Workforce Committees, as well as Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY).

New Disability Employment Bills Introduced

In July, to celebrate the ADA Anniversary, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris VanHollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the Disability Employment Incentive Act (S. 3260). This bill would encourage employers to hire and retain employees with disabilities by enhancing three existing tax credits to support employers who hire individuals with disabilities: The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Disability Access Expenditure Tax Credit and Transportation Barrier Tax Credit. These tax credits provide incentives to small and large employers to hire and retain people with disabilities and to make workplaces more accessible. For more information, HERE is a one-pager about the bill.

The second bill, introduced on the same day by Senators Casey, Hassan and Duckworth, the Office of Disability Policy Act (S. 3261), would create a nonpartisan federal Office of Disability Policy in the Government Account Office (GAO) to examine how all proposed policies would affect people with disabilities, their families and service providers. NDSC supports both of these bills and is grateful to this group of Senators for introducing them.

Advocacy Toolkit for Self-Advocates

Be sure to check it out! Online version now available. 

During the Advocacy Training Day at the NDSC Convention, Christopher Bennett presented and unveiled his Self-Advocate Toolkit that he created with the help of NDSC. He had been hard at work on this for months before the convention. The toolkit includes information on how a bill becomes a law, tips when meeting with legislators, ways to become involved, and much more.

This toolkit contains valuable information for self-advocates or anyone interested in beginning advocacy.

Click HERE to view an online version.

Thank you to the Bennett family for covering printing costs.

ABLE Age Adjustment Act

NDSC continues to be one of the leaders in the effort to pass the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/HR 1874)  this session of Congress. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would amend Section 529A(e) of the Internal Revenue Code to increase the eligibility threshold for ABLE accounts for onset of disability from before age 26 to before age 46. This increase would result in millions of additional individuals with disabilities becoming eligible to open an ABLE account, which is an important savings tool to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve and maintain health, independence and quality of life.

To celebrate the recent 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), NDSC co-hosted a national disability call-in day and issued an Action Alert to encourage advocates to call their congressional members to cosponsor the bill (see Action Alert HERE). Although the ADA anniversary has passed, we have kept this Alert active and encourage you to use its talking points and email template to ask your Members of Congress to cosponsor the ABLE Age Adjustment Act.

Electronic Visit Verification Delay Bill Signed Into Law

Another recent victory for the disability community has been enactment of the bipartisan Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) Delay bill (HR 6042). EVV is a tracking system that requires electronic verification of when a person receives Medicaid-funded home health care or personal care. Many people are concerned that EVV will violate their privacy and limit their independence. This bill delays the implementation of new EVV requirements by one year and requires that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) convene stakeholders to discuss implementation. For more information about EVV, see HERE.

New Health Care Disparities Bill Introduced

On July 26, Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS) introduced the Healthcare Extension and Accessibility for Developmentally Disabled and Underserved Populations (HEADs UP) Act of 2018 (HR 6611). This bill would declare people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including individuals with Down syndrome, to be a medically underserved population (MUP) under the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA). This long overdue designation will open up access to critical primary and specialist services, funds to increase workforce development and training, for better reimbursement rates for providers who treat people with developmental disabilities, and preference to Federal government research that studies this population. NDSC applauds Representatives Moulton and Harper for introducing this important piece of legislation and is working to gather support for it.

Medicaid Update: Work Requirements

More and more states are seeking waivers from the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) to tie Medicaid eligibility to work requirements. NDSC opposes these work requirements, as we believe that they will negatively impact some people with disabilities and their caregivers. While some individuals with disabilities, including Down syndrome, would be exempt if they are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or SSDI, others who are not receiving SSI could be subjected to the onerous and detailed work requirements (For explanation of how work requirements will harm some people with disabilities, see here: https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/how-medicaid-work-requirements-will-harm-people-with-disabilities-and-serious). For an update on Medicaid work requirement waiver proposals in approximately 30 states, we recommend viewing the follow-up summary provided by the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy group.

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