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National Disability Institute's Washington Insider is a monthly newsletter highlighting key federal policy news that impacts the financial futures and economic empowerment of all people with disabilities. The Washington Insider tracks legislative and policy initiatives gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, specifically in the areas of taxation, asset building and economic development.

 

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May 2013 | Vol. 5, Issue 4
CONTENTS
ABLE Act Update
2014 Budget Proposal Offers Support for Persons with Disabilities
Disability Insurance System Draws Mixed Media Attention
CFPB Request for Information on Financial Capability Programs
Disability Community Leaders Meet at Department of Justice
Bureau of Labor Statistics Findings on Unemployment
April Employment Profile
 

ABLE Act Update

The House Ways & Means Committee has established a formal process for tax reform and the ABLE Act working group is endeavoring to get the ABLE Act included.

Ways and Mean Committee chairman Dave Camp has established 11 workgroups for the tax reform process to review the current law in designated issue areas and then identify, research and compile feedback related to the topic of the working group. The ABLE Act will fall under the Education & Family Benefits Workgroup, which is chaired by Congresswoman Dianne Black (R-TN) and Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL).

The working group has developed a collaborative submission on the ABLE Act, which highlights the need for the legislation. This joint submission will include background information, facts and data for the House Ways & Means Committee.

The ABLE Act currently has 139 cosponsors in the House and 30 in the Senate.

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2014 Budget Proposal Offers Support for Persons with Disabilities

President Obama’s recently unveiled 2014 budget proposal includes a number of proposed changes for persons with disabilities. The President outlined a Universal Displaced Worker program, which the administration suggests will modernize and accelerate the delivery of training and employment services to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The new program will help more than a million workers a year, including many veterans with disabilities, receive high-quality job search assistance, and will replace two more narrowly targeted programs that have more limited resources. The administration is also calling for an expansion of the Workforce Innovation Fund to allow states to test new ideas for delivering employment and training services.  The $150 million request would provide funding to test innovative strategies and replicate evidence-based practices in the workforce system, helping to strengthen education and employment outcomes for participants. The budget also proposes $8 billion for a Community College to Career Fund, to be administered jointly with the U.S. Department of Education, which will invest in partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train workers for good-paying jobs in high-growth and high-demand industries. The program would begin in 2015 and would take the place of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program.   

In other areas of the budget affecting persons with disabilities, the administration asserted that its controversial proposal to cut Social Security and veterans’ benefits through what is known as “chained CPI” would not affect means-tested benefit programs, including the Supplemental Security Income program, which covers many of the lowest income senior and people with disabilities; however, that contention is without merit, as discussed in the January issue of the Washington Insider.  The budget proposal maintains the current funding level for IDEA, at $11.6 billion, supports the continued implementation of the interagency pilot program, Promoting Readiness of Minors in SSI (Promise), which provides grants to test and evaluate interventions that reduce the need for children to remain in the SSI program, and it increases by 9 percent over the previous year funding for the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, which is responsible for enforcing Federal laws prohibiting discrimination against a job applicant or employee.

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Disability Insurance System Draws Mixed Media Attention

A number of recent news stories have addressed challenges to the fiscal stability of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Program. The Wall Street Journal reported that SSDI, which was created in 1957, “is set to soon become the first big federal benefit program to run out of cash.” The article noted that without government intervention, the fund will “run dry” in about four to seven years. The report cited the ailing economy and an “uneven selection process” that creates a disparate system of success for applicants among the states, highlighting the case of Puerto Rico and noting that nine of the top 10 U.S. zip codes for disabled workers receiving benefits can be found on that island territory.

The article quoted a number of analysts who suggested the disparity was the result of abuse of the system, noting that SSDI decisions area based in large part on medical opinions and “because someone else pays the bills, local officials have little incentive to keep the numbers low.” Additionally, consistency across the federal system has been difficult to achieve. Outlays for the system first began to exceed the amount of money coming in through tax receipts in 2005. In 2010, the number of beneficiaries grew by nearly 500,000, the highest one-year increase ever.

National Public Radio’s Chana Joffe-Walt and “Planet Money” offered a more extensive examination of the growth in the SSDI system and the nationwide variations in benefits. This was followed up by a conversation with Washington Post economic blogger Ezra Klein, in which Joffe-Walt discussed a number of reasons for the problematic growth of the system. These include an aging workforce, increased unemployment, in which “people left without a lot of options for a job” find a better option with disability, and welfare reform, “which gave states an incentive to move people who they couldn’t get into jobs into disability programs,” which saved the state money.

Klein comments that Joffe-Walt’s “takeaway” “is that the disability insurance system has become a kind of catch-all program for all these different problems, many of which are about economic opportunity as much or more than they are about physical or mental disability.” Joffe-Walt further suggested that she thought she knew “what being disabled meant,” but she didn’t. “Disability is a social construct that changes over time, and that has changed over the life of these programs.”

The conclusions of Joffe-Walt and the NPR series were challenged by Donna Meltzer, the Executive Director of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, who suggested that the analysis paints a misleading and often inaccurate picture of the Social Security programs “that serve as a vital lifeline for millions of Americans with severe disabilities.”

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CFPB Request for Information on Financial Capability Programs

National Disability Institute (NDI) recently submitted a response to a Request for Information (RFI) from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) concerning the availability of programs to help to build the financial capability for people with disabilities. The dual purpose of the RFI was to gather information about the availability of tools and services that will help achieve this goal and to determine the ability and approach of potential vendors for delivering them.  The information NDI provided to CFPB included a discussion of “key elements” for creating an effective program to help people with disabilities build financial capability, a description of the best opportunities for delivering such services, policy and access barriers to provided such assistance, specific engagement and intervention strategies, and how to evaluate the impact of successful financial capabilities programs.

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Disability Community Leaders Meet at Department of Justice

On Friday, April 26th, the Policy and Strategy and Disability Rights sections of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division hosted a working meeting on disability rights issues.  The Civil Rights Division met with representatives from disability rights organizations, including NDI, to discuss civil rights priorities within the disability community – including strategic enforcement, legislative and policy goals.

Representatives from several sections of the Civil Rights Division were in attendance, including the Disability Rights, Education Employment, Housing and Civil Enforcement and Special Litigation sections.

Priorities for the meeting, which were set by members of the disability community were:

  • Enforcement of Olmstead as applied to health care and/or residential facilities, employment settings, and education;
  • Protecting civil rights of people with disabilities in health care delivery and insurance, including by addressing disability discrimination in Medicaid managed care and ACA health exchanges, and where possible enforcing EPSDT and federal parity requirement;
  • Protecting the civil rights of students with disabilities in education, through challenging failure to provide students with accommodations, accessible technology  (including assistive technology for communication) and instructional materials, and the services they need, including behavioral services and other special education and related services, to succeed in mainstream classrooms;
  • Ensuring information accessibility (including web access, 508, equipment, information accessibility across workplace, health, education and employment) through enforcement and regulations;
  • Ensuring fair treatment for individuals with disabilities in the criminal justice system, including competence of law enforcement personnel, courts, first responders to recognize and appropriately address the needs of individuals with disabilities; collaborative relationships between law enforcement, mental health and other systems so that arrest and incarceration are a last, not a first resort; accommodations and treatment for individuals with disabilities in correctional facilities, including juvenile justice facilities; access to education and related services to youth in custody; physical, communication and programmatic accessibility of prisons, jails and juvenile halls;
  • Ensuring access to, and fair treatment in, employment, including through addressing disability discrimination in public employment, ensuring accessible technology, ensuring accessibility and equal opportunity in American Job Centers, addressing illegal pre-employment inquiries, working with other federal agencies to address federal qualification standards that needlessly exclude people with disabilities, and promoting access to integrated employment opportunities with regular wages.

NDI’s Executive Director Michael Morris gave a statement to the group on employment: “For working age adults with disabilities, employment services in integrated settings are the only pathway out of poverty. Such a Title II ADA and Section 504 inquiry should expand the lens to also scrutinize local education agency practices that limit work experience for youth in transition to segregated settings and examine equal opportunity and full and effective participation by youth and adults with disabilities in the workforce investment system and American Job Centers.”

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Bureau of Labor Statistics Findings on Unemployment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a report in late April entitled “Persons with a Disability: Barriers to Employment, Types of Assistance and Other Labor-Related Issues—May 2012”. The report was compiled from a supplement to the May 2012 Current Population Survey (CPS), which is a monthly survey of 60,000 households that obtains information on national employment and unemployment for the civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over, including information on citizens with disabilities.

The report provides an analysis of the many barriers to employment that people with disabilities face, including lack of education or training, lack of transportation and the need for job accommodations.

Most of the survey respondents had work experience : among persons with a disability who were not in the labor force, 87.7 percent had worked before. About 58.5 percent of persons with a disability received financial assistance within the past year from Workers Compensation, SSDI, SSI, Veterans Disability compensation, disability insurance payments, Medicaid, Medicare and other payments or programs. Over half reported that their disability caused difficulty in completing their current work duties.

Respondents reported that working at home, working part time and flexible work arrangements were solutions that allowed them to work and thereby manage some of the barriers that making working difficult.

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April Employment Profile

U.S. Disability Employment Profile
Statistic
With Disability
Without Disability
 
Apr
2012
Apr
2013
Apr
2012
Apr
2013
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
20.3
20.7
69.1
68.8
Employment-Population Ratio
17.8
18.0
63.8
64.0
Unemployment Rate
12.5
12.9
7.6
6.9
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

Disability.gov reported that the Disability employment statistics for April show an unemployment rate among people with disabilities that dropped from 13 percent in March to 12.9 percent last month. The percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force was 20.7 percent, and the percentage of people with no disability in the labor force was 68.8 percent. A year ago the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 12.5 percent.

Data on people with disabilities covers those over the age of 16 who do not live in institutions. The first employment report specific to this population was made available in February 2009 and are now released monthly.

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