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

Healthcare Update: CBO Score Released – Take Action Over the Memorial Day Recess!

Earlier this week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their score (PDF) of the updated version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that passed the House earlier this month. Unsurprisingly, it estimates that the bill would still cut over $800 billion from Medicaid. In addition, 23 million fewer people would have access to health insurance than under the current law.

35th Anniversary Logo: NCIL – National Council on Independent Living. Celebrating 35 Years of Advocacy. Graphic features party candles.We have long understood that this is a dangerous bill for people with disabilities. It would slash Medicaid funding, eliminate the enhanced Federal funding for the Community First Choice Option, increase healthcare costs for people with disabilities, and decrease access to coverage (see more in our May 5 and May 2 Action Alerts). These changes mean fewer home and community-based services (HCBS), higher premiums, and more out-of-pocket costs. For some people with disabilities, they mean being forced into institutions, or even death.

Take Action Over the Memorial Day Recess!

The House failed the disability community when they passed the AHCA. But, healthcare reform now lies with the Senate, and Republican leaders and staff will be working on a draft of their healthcare bill over the recess. It’s important that they hear from their constituents with disabilities when they are back at home for recess next week (May 29-June 2)! Even though the AHCA passed through the House, it was a very close vote, and we know that every Republican “no” vote was a result of the advocacy efforts going on around the country. We need to keep up the pressure to make sure our Senators know why the disability community opposes the AHCA!

Individuals: Meet With Your Senators!

Now is the time to get some more face-to-face time with your Senators. Make an appointment with your Senators while they’re at home so you can voice your concerns in person. Tell them the many ways that the AHCA will hurt people with disabilities. In addition to meeting with your Senators, make sure to call them, Tweet them, attend Town Halls (visit townhallproject.com) and protests, and take every opportunity you’re able to educate your Senators on the dangers ACA repeal and Medicaid per capita caps pose to us!

CILs: Invite Your Senators to Visit Your Center!

Inviting your members of Congress to visit your Center for Independent Living is a great way for them to learn about the vital work CILs do in their communities and hear directly from their constituents with disabilities. Contact your Senators now and invite them to visit your CIL during the upcoming recess! Make sure to coordinate with staff and consumers to ensure that your members of Congress are able to speak directly with some of their constituents who can speak to how ACA repeal and Medicaid per capita caps will impact their access to healthcare, their ability to work or live independently, and their freedom to live in their community. People with disabilities have the most to lose from ACA repeal and Medicaid cuts, and we need Congress to understand how harmful the proposed changes will be. Also, while they’re visiting, make sure to talk about funding for the Independent Living Program, because FY 2018 appropriations are just around the corner! Please see our recent budget alert for more information on the cuts the President’s budget proposes for Independent Living.

Raise the Wage Act of 2017 Will Eliminate Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities

Earlier today Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), Senator Patty Murray (WA), Congressman Bobby Scott (VA), and Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2017. NCIL supports this legislation and is thankful to its sponsors for taking a step in the right direction toward fair pay for workers, including workers with disabilities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThere are several key provisions in this bill: the minimum wage would be incrementally increased to $15 an hour; tipped minimum wage would be phased out; and the ability of employers to pay employees with disabilities subminimum wage would be sunset. NCIL is very excited to see the inclusion of people with disabilities and the use of 14(c) waivers in this bill.

The use of 14(c) waivers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage – sometimes just pennies per hour – is a practice NCIL has long opposed. Paying people lower wages on the basis of their disability is discrimination, and this discrimination is one of the factors that has led people with disabilities to experience double the rate of poverty as people without disabilities. This bill takes a practical approach to the issue by providing transition assistance for businesses that have relied on 14(c) certificates to ensure the successful shift to higher wages. Moreover, information on competitive integrated employment will be provided to people with disabilities employed under these programs. These are both important measures that will help to ensure a successful move away from subminimum wages and toward closing the massive wage gap.

People deserve to be paid fairly for their labor, and NCIL applauds the introduction of this legislation. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 is a step toward eliminating the inequality that low-wage workers face, and a shift toward fair pay for people with disabilities. This bill will benefit workers, but it will also benefit communities, the economy, and the very businesses that employ these workers. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 is a strong piece of legislation that we hope to see pass in the 115th Congress.

Tom Olin Needs Your Cards and Letters

Tom Olin is in Intensive Care Unit in Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. We are asking everyone in the Independent Living community to send him cards and letters for two reasons:

  1. To show our love and support.
  2. Tom is seriously ill and needs the best medical care possible. Hospitals are like all institutions. If doctors and staff know people are watching and that Tom is important to many people, they may well give more attention and better medical care.

Image: Tom Olin stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Please send your cards and letters today to:

Tom Olin
Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital
8026 Floyd Curl Dr.
San Antonio, TX 78229

Tom is the social documentarian of the disability rights movement. He spent his life in the grassroots, building that incredible collection of iconic photos of our historic struggle for civil rights and inclusion. Many of you know him from the Annual Conference on Independent Living and the Road to Freedom Bus Tour, which toured the country twice, in 2007 and 2014-2015 during the 25th anniversary of ADA.

Now is our chance to give back to Tom. Please distribute this notice widely.

President Trump’s Budget Released: Major Cuts To Programs and Services for People With Disabilities

The President released his budget proposal today, and while the $4.1 trillion request is slightly higher than FY 2017 spending levels, it significantly reallocates where the money would go. The budget proposal, entitled “A New Foundation for Greatness,” would put more money into spending on defense, border security, and infrastructure. It would slash nondefense discretionary funding, already historically low, by $54 billion next year and an additional 2% per year through 2028, for an estimated $3.6 trillion in cuts to spending over 10 years.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingKelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) said of the President’s budget: “The President’s budget proposal is irresponsible and would be detrimental to many of the programs and services people with disabilities rely on. The programs that support our health, well-being, and independence have been targeted, with proposed funding for these programs being brought to unrealistic and dangerously low levels. If enacted, hundreds of Centers for Independent Living may be forced to close, and people around the country will die from the cuts to Medicaid. The results of this budget would be disastrous.”

Despite the fact that the President previously promised not to cut Social Security, the proposed budget would make $72 billion in cuts to disability programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Part of those cuts would result from the Administration’s efforts to limit eligibility and ‘encourage’ work. While eliminating disincentives to work is a priority for NCIL, we believe the Administration’s efforts are misguided, operating under the assumption that these programs are rampant with people ‘gaming the system’. In reality, these programs, particularly SSDI, have strict requirements that must be met and rigorous screenings already in place. The proposed budget cuts will largely serve to put vital benefits out of reach for even more people with disabilities.

Moreover, the budget proposal includes huge cuts to Medicaid funding, both from the repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and additional cuts to the program. The budget proposes well over $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts (estimates have been as high as over $1.4 trillion) over the decade from a combination of repealing and replacing the ACA and an estimated $610 billion in additional cuts. President Trump’s budget also proposes allowing states to choose between per capita caps or block grants for their Medicaid program for all beneficiaries. The block grants in the President’s budget would make even further cuts than those allowed under the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

The Department of Health and Human Services budget appendix (PDF) also contains some major changes and cuts. As we saw in the leaked budget tables, the budget proposes a $142.4 million decrease in overall funding for the Administration for Community Living (for total funding of $1.85 billion). With regards to the Independent Living Program, the President’s proposal level funds Part C Independent Living funding at $78 million, but it completely changes Part B funding. The budget proposes ‘consolidating’ funding from Part B Independent Living funding ($23 million in the FY 2017 budget), the State Council on Developmental Disabilities ($73 million), and Traumatic Brain Injury funding ($6 million of the $9 million in FY 2017) into one “Partnership for Innovation, Inclusion, and Independence.” The funding for this new Partnership line item is $45 million, a $57 million loss from the $102 million combined in funding in FY 2017. The cuts resulting from this consolidation would be detrimental to all three programs. Moreover, these programs each have distinct statutory requirements in different statutes, which not only would make this consolidation injudicious, but also demonstrates a real lack of understanding on the part of the Administration.

On top of all this, the President’s budget proposal would also reduce spending on many other programs that people with disabilities and others rely on, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It would also make major funding cuts for housing, education, research, and much more.

Through this budget proposal, President Trump’s priorities come through clearly. The massive cuts to vital programs – including the Independent Living Program – on top of the cuts to Medicaid, SSDI, and SSI, display a complete ignorance about the needs of the people in this country; especially people with disabilities. That said, the President’s budget proposal is only one step in the federal budget process, and the President’s budget is never the final result. President Trump’s budget does not have the support of Democrats in Congress, and it has gotten mixed feedback from Republicans, with many expressing grave concerns. This proposal shows where our President’s priorities lie, but it is on Congress to develop the funding bills that will determine actual spending levels.

Take Action!

We need to fight now against any cuts that will negatively impact the Independent Living Program and people with disabilities in FY 2018. We need you to continue talking with your Senators and Representatives. Invite them to visit your Center for Independent Living (CIL) to see the invaluable work being done in their communities. Make sure they know how important the work of your CIL is to you, and let them know how harmful it would be to adopt the proposed ‘consolidation’ in the President’s budget. Also, make sure they know how important the programs our community relies on (like SSDI and Medicaid) are to the disability community. Congress needs to hear from their constituents now more than ever!

Deadline Extended: 2017 Youth Transitions Fellowship – Apply By May 29!

The HSC Foundation, in partnership with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), is now accepting applications for a paid fellowship position with the organizations’ disability youth transition and collaboration work. This fellowship is ideal for a person with a disability who has an interest in youth career transitions and employment solutions. The fellowship starts in June 2017, and continues for 12 months. Under the supervision of NCIL’s Operations Director, the Youth Transitions Fellow (YTF) will gain exposure to youth programs serving people with disabilities and will have the opportunity to facilitate collaboration among internship, fellowship, and apprenticeship programs based in the Greater Washington, DC area.

Preferred Skills and Qualifications:

  • Ability to facilitate collaboration among large groups
  • Ability to work with people in all levels of an organization, including young people with a variety of disabilities
  • Strong communication skills and strong organizational skills
  • Creative and innovative personality
  • Familiarity with technology and social networking tools
  • Strong interest in youth transition for people with disabilities and organizing.

Eligibility:

College graduate 26-or-younger who self-identifies as an individual with any type of disability is invited to apply. You will not be required to disclose your specific disability; however, your application for this program will signify that you consider yourself a person with a disability. Please Note: This fellowship is specifically for people with disabilities.  [Read more…]

Disability Integration Act Introduced in Both Houses: Urge Your Senators and Representatives to Co-Sponsor this Important Legislation!

NCIL is excited to inform you that the Disability Integration Act (DIA) has been reintroduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives! Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced S. 910 in the Senate on April 7, and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced H.R. 2472 in the House just last week, on May 16.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingIf passed, the DIA will establish new federal law that addresses the constitutional right of people with disabilities to live in the community. The DIA addresses the fundamental issue that people who need long term services and supports (LTSS) are often forced into institutions and lose their basic freedom and civil rights. This legislation will require states and insurance providers that pay for LTSS to reverse this institutional bias, provide community-based services first, and offer home and community-based services (HCBS) to people currently in institutions.

The DIA builds on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Olmstead decision, and programs like Money Follows the Person and the Community First Choice Option. The DIA is the next logical step in the disability community’s fight to FREE OUR PEOPLE. For more information on the DIA, please visit www.disabilityintegrationact.org and see the list of organizations supporting the legislation. See below for a list of current co-sponsors of the DIA and take action!

Take Action!

Now that the bill has been introduced in both the Senate and the House, we want to keep up the momentum! Please contact your members of Congress and tell them to co-sponsor this bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation!

Senate: S. 910, introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on April 7, 2017

Co-Sponsors:

  • Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

House: H.R. 2472, introduced by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on May 16, 2017

Co-Sponsors:

  • Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE)
  • Representative Robert Brady (D-PA)
  • Representative Lacy Clay (D-MO)
  • Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN)
  • Representative John Conyers (D-MI)
  • Representative Danny Davis (D-IL)
  • Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
  • Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO)
  • Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
  • Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
  • Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA)
  • Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI)
  • Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
  • Representative Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
  • Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)
  • Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
  • Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY)

President’s Budget Expected to be Released on Tuesday

Now that Congress has funded the remainder of FY 2017, they are ready to get to work on FY 2018 funding (see our May 10 Action Alert). One key step in the federal budget process is the President’s budget request to Congress, which is expected to be released on Tuesday.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingUntil now, all we’ve seen from President Trump is the “skinny budget” (PDF) he released in March, which outlined some of his priorities. There have been rumors about his upcoming budget, and late last week Third Way (a centrist think tank) released a leaked spreadsheet containing President Trump’s proposed budget plan. Among other major cuts, the spreadsheet shows a decrease in funding for the Administration for Community Living (a $142.4 million decrease, for total funding of 1.85 billion). It does not address funding for the Independent Living Program specifically. Please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of this leaked document, and if accurate, there is a good chance that changes may be made before it is released on Tuesday.

We know that the President’s skinny budget and other rumored priorities have drawn criticism on both sides of the aisle. We also know that the funding levels the President sets forth will likely not be the final amounts when we see the Congressional appropriations bills. That being said, it has been made clear that Congress hopes to make major cuts, and the President’s proposed budget clues us in to where we may see the biggest decreases.

As a reminder, the Independent Living Program was level funded in the FY 2017 spending bill. Level funding does not meet our needs, but right now our focus must be on fighting against any cuts that will negatively impact the Independent Living Program in FY 2018.

We ask that you please continue talking with your members of Congress. Please continue trying to get them to visit your CIL to see for themselves the irreplaceable work CILs are doing in their own communities. Cuts to the IL program would be detrimental to CILs and people with disabilities all across the country, and it’s on us to make sure that our Senators and Representatives know how much IL matters to their constituents with disabilities. Now it’s more important than ever that we keep up the pressure!

Call For Stories: Voices of Pre-Existing Conditions

35th Anniversary Logo: NCIL – National Council on Independent Living. Celebrating 35 Years of Advocacy. Graphic features party candles.If you have a pre-existing condition or know someone who does, share your story and we will make certain the Senate hears it. You can either submit on Facebook at facebook.com/voicesofpreexistingconditions or submit privately by email at voicesofpreexistingconditions@gmail.com. It does not have to be long, but personal stories make a difference.

Deadline for stories has been extended to Tuesday, May 30th.

Note: This project is separate from the #IAmAPreexistingCondition video project. Participate in one or both – all of our voices need to be heard!

What CBOs Need to Know: Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS)

Source: NASUAD: National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities

As a Community Based Organization (CBO)*, your mission is rooted in supporting people with disabilities and/or older adults to have vibrant and meaningful lives in their community. Part of fulfilling that mission is staying up to date on efforts to move toward greater integrated health care, primarily through Managed Long-Term Services and Supports (MLTSS). Join NASUAD to learn more about the basics of what a MLTSS program is and how community based organizations, states, and the health plans responsible for the management of the long-term services and supports can work together.

Please join on May 24, 2017 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Eastern for the one hour webinar: “What CBOs Need to Know: Managed Long-Term Services and Supports (MLTSS)”. [Read more…]

California Independent Living Conference: Leading the Charge – Registration Open

Monday, June 12th, 2017; Sacramento, CA

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers is excited to announce its first statewide Independent Living: Leading the Charge Conference. Join us at the Sacramento Convention Center on June 12th, 2017. This gathering is intended to bring together Independent Living Center staff, boards and volunteers from across California and the western region to learn and share best practices related to Independent Living Center core services, innovations and partnerships.

Also plan to stay an extra day for the 2017 Disability Capitol Action Day on Tuesday, June 13th at Cesar Chavez Park and march to the Capitol for disabled rights!

Read more and register for the conference at the CFILC website.