the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Websites Down for Maintenance

NCIL’s websites (ncil.org; advocacymonitor.com; and visitability.org) are undergoing maintenance this week. During this time, these websites may be temporarily unavailable.

We are working to get back online as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience as we work to transition to a new server in order to improve security and performance.

Organizers Forum: Census Outreach Inside & Outside Disability Communities

We must make sure that people with disabilities are counted in the 2020 census, to ensure recognition of our diverse communities in every way — program funding, voting, city planning, education, employment, and more. Join the call to learn about and discuss how we can make sure disabled people participate in the census, despite the barriers. We’ll hear from people who have planned census outreach targeting people with disabilities, and we’ll learn from people doing census outreach in other marginalized communities.

[Read more…]

Recent FTA Announcements: New Funding Opportunity and Matching Funds Webinar

New Funding Opportunity

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that provides assistance to local public transportation systems, recently announced a new funding opportunity called the Mobility for All Pilot Program. Approximately $3.5 million will go to projects that enhance mobility and access to community services for older adults, people with disabilities, and people with low income. You can find out more about these grants in the FTA’s notice of funding. Applications are due January 6, 2020.

Matching Funds Requirement Webinar

Under federal law, funds from federal government programs – including many ACL-funded programs like Title VII grants – can be considered “matching funds” for FTA public transit formulary grants. On Thursday, November 21, the FTA and the Administration for Community Living are hosting a webinar entitled Expanding Access to Transportation for Older Adults and People with Disabilities. On the webinar they will discuss how ACL and FTA have partnered to leverage federal investments in  transportation to increase access for people with disabilities and older adults; the new Mobility for All Pilot Program (link above); and the opportunity for FTA applicants to use ACL grants funds spent on transportation to satisfy the 20% match requirement of the FTA grant. Learn more and register online.

Today: Call-In Day for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act!

This December will mark five years since the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which started to allow disabled people to create tax-free savings accounts (“ABLE Accounts”). Over the past five years, ABLE Accounts have helped over 50,000 people with disabilities save money and pay for things like housing, transportation, and healthcare costs without jeopardizing their access to Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS) and other needed supports. Learn more about ABLE accounts at www.ablenrc.org.

Unfortunately, millions of people don’t have access to ABLE Accounts, because a person is only eligible if they acquired their disability before the age of 26. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651 / H.R. 1814) has the potential to change that. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would dramatically expand eligibility for ABLE Accounts by allowing people who acquired their disability before the age of 46 to become eligible. If the ABLE Age Adjustment Act is passed into law, approximately six million more disabled people will be eligible for an ABLE Account!

Take Action Now!

Today, Thursday, November 14, there is a National Call-In Day for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. 

  1. RSVP, Share, and Participate in today’s National Call-In Day! Find more information, including sample talking points, at the Facebook event. RSVP and share widely!
  2. Boost the event on social media! Use the handle #ABLEAgeNow
  3. Call your Representative and Senators! Tell them to support the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651 / H.R. 1814) and pass it immediately! Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY). You can find your Senators’ direct phone number and contact form at senate.gov and your Representative’s direct number and contact form at house.gov/representatives.

Marriage Equality Is Still Not a Reality: Disabled People and the Right to Marry

By Eryn Star, NCIL Summer Policy Intern

“We’re done fighting for marriage equality; we have it now, so we have to focus on other issues instead!” is something I’ve been hearing a lot in queer spaces for the past couple of years. I understand where many people are coming from; marriage is an institution that has been used as a tool of oppression against marginalized people, and the focus on marriage equality did lead to many LGBTQ+ rights issues getting pushed aside. However, that should not be used to deny that marriage equality remains an issue in the United States for disabled people. It is necessary for us to address this because it is both a healthcare and civil rights issue.

A major reason why many disabled people are unable to marry is because of SSI and Medicaid. SSI and Medicaid are needs-based and focus on current assets and income. If you are on SSI and/or Medicaid and you marry a partner not on those programs, your partner’s income and assets are taken into consideration, and so both of your incomes and assets will be used to determine your eligibility. Because the assets and income combined often becomes too high to qualify for these programs, many disabled people have lost their SSI and Medicaid benefits. As a result, some disabled people have been forced to divorce and live separately in order to keep SSI and/or Medicaid. If both partners are on SSI and/or Medicaid, they have an even higher risk of losing their benefits. Not only would their income and assets be combined, but they are also hit by a marriage penalty. Married couples are allowed to have less in assets than the partners would be allowed to have as individuals. They receive a maximum total benefit that’s significantly less than what they would receive on individual benefits, and is in fact only slightly more than one person’s individual benefits.

[Read more…]

Call-In Day for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act!

This December will mark five years since the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which started to allow disabled people to create tax-free savings accounts (“ABLE Accounts”). Over the past five years, ABLE Accounts have helped over 50,000 people with disabilities save money and pay for things like housing, transportation, and healthcare costs without jeopardizing their access to Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS) and other needed supports. Learn more about ABLE accounts at www.ablenrc.org.

Unfortunately, millions of people don’t have access to ABLE Accounts, because a person is only eligible if they acquired their disability before the age of 26. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651 / H.R. 1814) has the potential to change that. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would dramatically expand eligibility for ABLE Accounts by allowing people who acquired their disability before the age of 46 to become eligible. If the ABLE Age Adjustment Act is passed into law, approximately six million more disabled people will be eligible for an ABLE Account!

Take Action Now!

On Thursday, November 14 there is a National Call-In Day for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. 

  1. RSVP, Share, and Participate in Thursday’s National Call-In Day! Find more information, including sample talking points, at Thursday’s Facebook event . RSVP and share widely!
  2. Boost the event on social media! Use the handle #ABLEAgeNow
  3. On Thursday, call your Representative and Senators! Tell them to support the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651 / H.R. 1814) and pass it immediately! Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY). You can find your Senators’ direct phone number and contact form at senate.gov and your Representative’s direct number and contact form at house.gov/representatives.

Action Alert: Support the Office of International Disability Rights Act!

NCIL’s International Subcommittee, USICD, and NCIL are asking our members, the U.S. disability community and our allies, to respond by communicating your support for the bipartisan Office of International Disability Rights Act (H.R. 3373). The bill was introduced on June 20, 2019 by Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) and has 17 co-sponsors as of today. We have one Republican co-sponsor (Representative Don Young; R-AK) and need more to show strong bipartisan support for the bill.

The Office of International Disability Act establishes a permanent office at the U.S. Department of State. The bill also requires the appointment of a Special Advisor and mandatory disability inclusion training for all civil service, foreign service personnel, and chiefs of mission. Read the Office of International Disability Rights Act.

Please visit the USICD Call to Action web page to learn more and to download the Call to Action Packet (Word document). The packet contains a letter from USICD’s President, Dr. Patricia Morrissey and a sample letter to send to members of the House of Representatives. The last page of the packet contains a list of Representatives we would like you to contact as soon as possible. Please share this important announcement with your friends, family, and colleagues!

NCIL and USICD support establishing a permanent Office of International Disability Rights. We hope you can help! 

Sign-On Opportunity for Competitive Integrated Employment!

NCIL is part of a national coalition working to advance competitive integrated employment. Among other efforts, the coalition has strongly opposed opening the regulations implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014. The WIOA regulations, issued in 2016, focus on competitive integrated employment (CIE) as a national priority.

In the past three Unified Agendas from the Department of Education Secretary (which list the agency’s key priorities and regulatory actions the agency is considering), Secretary DeVos has notified the public that they may reconsider these regulations. This may include amending the regulatory definitions, where CIE is defined.

The coalition has consistently opposed this, including in multiple letters to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. View the most recent letter (PDF). The regulations, including the definition of CIE, are critical. Opening the regulations risks undermining progress toward expanding competitive integrated employment.

TAKE ACTION – Sign on!

The new Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Commissioner, Mark Schultz, is now serving as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). It is important that we reinforce our message to him and tell him that the regulations implementing the WIOA must not be opened!

[Read more…]

CILs: Urge Your State Medicaid Director to Apply for an EVV Good Faith Effort Exemption Request

The 21st Century Cures Act (Section 12006(a)) requires that states implement electronic visit verification (EVV) systems for Medicaid personal care services and home health services. After the passage of the EVV delay bill last year, states are now required to implement EVV for personal care services by January 1, 2020 (states are still required to implement EVV for home health services by January 1, 2023).

The Cures Act allows states to delay implementation of EVV for up to a year if they can show they’ve made a “good faith effort” to comply with the requirements but have encountered “unavoidable system delays.” While the EVV systems rolling out across the country vary from state to state, the one constant of these systems is the threat to our privacy and our independent living. Further, we’ve seen widespread exclusion of disabled stakeholders throughout the process in almost all states.

[Read more…]

NCIL Applauds Courts’ Preliminary Injunctions Against the Public Charge Rule!

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is thrilled that five district courts have issued preliminary injunctions to stop the Administration’s public charge rule from going into effect. Last Friday, October 11, 2019, injunctions were issued in New York, Washington, and California, and on Sunday, Illinois and Maryland followed with two more. NCIL, along with seventeen other national disability rights groups, filed an amicus brief (PDF) in several of these cases.

The final public charge rule would have gone into effect yesterday, October 15. The public charge rule would create significant additional barriers for immigrants – and especially disabled and poor immigrants – to enter the US or become lawful permanent residents. Under the new rule, receiving certain public benefits – like Medicaid, housing assistance, SNAP, or healthcare subsidies – or having a medical condition or disability can be used to deny entry or permanent residency. Disabled and low-income immigrants are clearly targeted by this rule, and the decisions from last week and yesterday are a huge victory.

The fight against the public charge rule is not over though, and NCIL will continue our work to oppose it. We will keep you updated as things move forward and as any need for advocacy arises. In the meantime, thank you for your work on this issue already.

Read more about the public charge rule.