Disability in America – Second Article in Series Continues Biased, Flawed Reporting

by T.J. Sutcliffe, Director, Income & Housing Policy

In March, The Washington Post launched a new series, “Disabled, America,” to look at how disability “…is shaping the culture, economy and politics…” of rural communities. The first article in the series met with widespread criticism for multiple errors in its data and facts, and for leaving the public with negative, false impressions about Social Security’s disability programs and rural beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, the second article in the Post’s series only went further down the path of reporting by stereotype and anecdote. The article profiles a family in Pemiscot County, Missouri with several members who have disabilities, including a mother and her adult daughter who receive Social Security disability benefits.

Media Matters summed up the outrage at the article’s portrayal of the family as “…a ‘mean-spirited’ and ‘cartoonish’ illustration of the struggles of those living with poverty in rural America.” In Poynter, S.I. Rosenbaum noted that the article failed to provide even basic facts about Social Security’s disability programs, writing that “…without them, in my opinion, the story is incomplete and even misleading.” The Urban Institute pointed out many of those missing facts.

Notably, the second article failed to provide important context, such as the fact that Missouri has a relatively high statewide rate of residents with disabilities, particularly in many rural Missouri counties. In addition, record numbers of Americans today live in multigenerational households, and disability often runs in families for reasons that include genetics, common exposure to environmental hazards, and similar past and ongoing access to (or lack of) health care.

With President Trump having recently proposed over $72 billion in cuts over 10 years to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, reporting that focuses on anecdote, with little to no context, runs the risk of leading policymakers down a dangerous and harmful path. In letters responding the Post’s first article and second article, over 50 national organizations urged Congress to “…ensure that any discussions about how to strengthen the nation’s Social Security system are informed by facts—not well-debunked myths and offensive stereotypes.”

Here’s a round-up of analyses and responses to the second Post article – and if you missed it, be sure to read our round-up of responses to the first Post article, as well.

It’s Budget Season in Washington – So Far These are the 5 Worst Things for People with Disabilities

By Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy

The President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget released last month would make unprecedented cuts to public education, health, transportation, housing, and countless other effective federal programs. These massive cuts would affect most Americans in one form or another, and would be particularly devastating to people with disabilities and their families. The budget is titled “The New Foundation for American Greatness” – but the reality couldn’t be more different. Here are five reasons the President’s proposed budget is anything but great for people with disabilities.

  1. More Cuts to Medicaid
    Under the President’s proposed budget, Medicaid, the primary health insurance and long term services and supports program for people with disabilities, would lose $610 billion over 10 years (on top of the over $830 billion in cuts in the American Health Care Act passed by the House of Representatives in March). The combined cuts roughly halve the program’s federal budget by 2027. Medicaid’s “optional” services, expected to take the brunt of such a drastic cut, include prescription drugs, physical therapy, and all home and community based services under state plan and “waiver” programs. Medicaid, including home and community based services, makes it possible for millions of people with disabilities to survive and to live and work in the community.
     
  2. Breaks the Promise on Social Security
    Despite President Trump’s promises to not cut Social Security, the budget also calls for over $72 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs over the next 10 years, including cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security and SSI benefits are modest, but absolutely essential for people with disabilities to put a roof over their head, food on the table, and to pay for their out-of-pocket medical expenses and disability related costs.
     
  3. Slashes Community Living Supports
    President Trump’s proposed budget would sharply reduce – or even eliminate – a wide variety of effective federal programs that help to make a life in the community possible for millions of people with disabilities. These include:

    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides essential nutrition assistance for millions of people with disabilities, would face a 29 percent cut over 10 years. By 2027, over 5 million households that include a person with a disability could lose their SNAP benefit under this cut.
    • Affordable housing programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development would face a nearly 15 percent cut in 2018. The President’s budget targets the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program for a proposed $25 million cut in 2018. This would leave the Section 811 program with insufficient funds to renew all existing project-based rental assistance contracts thereby placing current lease compliant tenants in 811 properties at imminent risk of homelessness.
    • Councils on Developmental Disabilities, independent living services, and traumatic brain injury services would see their funding to states eliminated and replaced with a new “innovation” program with less than half of the funding for the three programs.
       
  4. Click here to see a listing of discretionary programs and their proposed percentage cuts.

  5. Inadequate, Unworkable Paid Leave
    The President’s budget proposes a new paid leave program that would provide up to 6 weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. According to the Associated Press, “states would be required to provide leave payments through existing unemployment insurance programs and would have to identify cuts or tax hikes, as needed, to cover the costs.”The proposal has been widely criticized as both unworkable – creating an unfunded mandate to states that would burden and undermine already-fragile unemployment systemsand inadequate. It leaves out the 75% of people who take leave in the U.S. for family caregiving and medical reasons – including people with disabilities who need leave to address their own health, and people who need leave to care for a family member with a disability or illness. In addition, 6 weeks often simply isn’t enough – particularly if you have a disability, are caring for a family member, or have a newborn in intensive care. In comparison, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Finally, benefits would likely be insufficient: on average, state unemployment insurance programs presently only cover one third of a worker’s wages.
     
  6. Uses Bad Math and Benefits the Most Prosperous
    President Trump’s proposed budget purports to cut $3.6 trillion in spending to balance the budget in 10 years, while also offering more than $5.5 trillion in tax reductions. The outsized tax cuts come primarily from reducing or eliminating taxes that are paid predominantly by wealthy households. These include the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, and individual income tax on income earned through “pass-through” entities. The end result is that the budget would overwhelmingly benefit profitable corporations and wealthy individuals.In addition, the entire budget is based on bad math that virtually all independent economic analysts have dismissed.

    • It assumes massive amounts of new revenue from a 50% increase in economic growth resulting from tax cuts, renegotiated trade deals, and deregulation.
       
    • It claims there will be no deficit after 10 years as dramatic economic growth will allow the government to collect about $2 trillion more in tax revenue. However, the budget doesn’t include the cost of the proposed tax cuts, therefore relying on its tax cuts to both pay for themselves and add $2 trillion in additional tax revenue.

Next Steps in the House and Senate

Federal budgets are statement of our nation’s values – and it’s clear to The Arc that this budget simply doesn’t reflect what most Americans value. Fortunately, the President’s budget merely conveys the Administration’s priorities and is non-binding. The House and Senate must each develop their own budgets and reconcile any differences to implement their budget plans.

The House is presently developing its budget and may release it after the July 4 recess and the Senate could take the House’s budget shortly afterwards. The House budget may include many of the harmful provisions in the President’s Budget outlined above.

The Arc and numerous organizations representing civil rights, human services, and other communities are deeply committed to preventing the passage of harmful budgets. We’re working together to put a face on these proposed cuts and to urge Congress to reject the President’s proposed budget.

Research to Practice Webinar: State of the States in IDD 2017

State of the States LogoAs part of its inaugural Research to Practice series, The Arc of the United States and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities co-sponsored a timely webinar: The State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 2017 presented by Dr. David Braddock, Senior Associate Vice President of the University of Colorado (CU) System and Executive Director of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities. The State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Project of National Significance has provided critical information on national and state revenues, spending, and programmatic trends in IDD services and supports for 35 years. The information collected through collaboration with state agencies reveals the longitudinal impact of federal and state fiscal policies on innovations in the support and services system in the states and nation.

The webinar has been archived and can be accessed here. Learn more about the importance of Medicaid to people with disabilities here. Learn more about the State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities here.

New Video: How President Trump’s Budget Breaks a Promise to Protect Social Security and the Families That Rely on It

Washington, DC – Today The Arc and the Center for American Progress released a video showcasing two personal stories about how Social Security is more than just retirement income. Social Security is a system that protects workers and families throughout their lives. If President Trump’s $72.4 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs in his budget were to be implemented, the impact on families like those featured in this video would be dire.

“Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are part of Social Security and the promise of that program must be honored for Katie, Will, Heather, and millions of people who need to access these basic but crucial benefits. Social Security is far too often the only thing keeping the lights on and food on the table for a person with a disability or a chronic condition.

“Heather, Katie, and Will are terrified by what this budget proposal could mean for them and for people who in the future need these benefits. This budget lays the cards on the table – and advocates across the country need to share their stories with elected officials and urge them to reject these cuts to Social Security,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

This video highlights the stories of Will, a child with a disability, and Heather, a woman with terminal cancer. Will and his family relied on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to pay for medication to prevent his seizures. SSI is part of Social Security that supports children and adults with disabilities. Without SSI, Will’s family wouldn’t have been able to afford his medicine or medical expenses, or meet his basic needs.

Heather was working internationally promoting fair elections and democracy when she got sick. By the time she was diagnosed, her cancer had metastasized and she feared she would end up impoverished paying for her cancer treatments. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) helps American workers like Heather if they are faced with a life-changing disability or illness. Once her cancer spread Heather was unable to continue working. Without SSDI, she wouldn’t be able to afford chemotherapy and the prescription drugs that she relies on to survive.

These stories highlight the value of SSI and SSDI for those families who find themselves in need of additional support.

Share this video with your network to help people understand all that Social Security does to support families across the country.

Join Our Fight – as new threats to the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities arise, we want to keep you in the loop with the most up to date information.

Read more about The Arc’s position on President Trump’s proposed budget.

If you are a member of the media and interested interviewing the people in this video, contact Kristen McKiernan, mckiernan@thearc.org or Sarah Bal, bal@thearc.org.

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

“Don’t Take Away Javi’s Chance at a Future”: Watch a Parent’s Plea to Eliminate Proposed Medicaid Cuts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, The Arc released a video which highlights how the House-passed cut to Medicaid funding negatively impact people with disabilities’ ability to live independently. The video features a conversation with Linda and her son, Javi, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Javi has autism and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that affects connective tissues in the body and causes joint dislocations, bleeding, pain and fatigue. He has had multiple painful surgeries over the past decade and requires medication and other therapies to live independently. Due to his Medicaid-funded medical treatment and supports, Javi was able to attend college and graduate with skills that he can take into the workforce. If federal Medicaid funding is cut, Javi risks losing the supports he needs to be able to work in the community and live at home.

Recently, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which included over $800 billion in cuts over 10 years to federal funding for Medicaid programs. The Arc is launching this video amidst negotiations in the Senate on this bill, and on the heels of the Trump Administration releasing its first budget proposal with includes an additional $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid.

The AHCA cut would not only force states to cut eligibility for state Medicaid programs, but will also diminish the quality and quantity of services that are provided to people who are already enrolled in these programs. For many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Medicaid generally is the only source of funds for them to live and work in the community with friends and families and avoid costly, harmful, and segregated institutions.

“I lay awake at night worrying. Without Medicaid, I don’t even see a future (for Javi),” says Linda in the video. “If I were to say one thing to the President and Congress I would say: Don’t take away Javi’s chance at a future.”

“Javi is living a life of his choosing, contributing to his community and thriving. These drastic cuts to Medicaid could take it all away from Javi and the millions of other people with disabilities who rely on daily supports and services to be in the community. The AHCA takes away independence, dignity, and decades of progress. We must now rely on the Senate stop this catastrophe,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer, The Arc.

This video is the fifth in a series of videos The Arc is releasing, sharing the personal stories of people with disabilities and their families, and the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid on their lives.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

The Arc Takes to the Air for Autism Acceptance Month

Wings for Autism® event volunteers
Photo Credit – Duncan Moffat

Thank you so much for facilitating the Wings for Autism program which was held in Mobile, AL Saturday. We attended this activity with our daughter who has Down Syndrome. She has never flown. She thrives on rehearsing a situation prior to its occurrence and her participation in this event allowed her to store background knowledge of what to expect when she takes a trip. – Parent from Mobile, AL.

Every April, The Arc joins many other disability rights in the US and around the world in celebrating Autism Acceptance month. It is a time to promote greater understanding of the myriad societal barriers that people on the autism spectrum face on a daily basis and encourage greater inclusion within our communities. For The Arc, April marks one of the busiest and most exciting times for one of its most highly celebrated and recognized national programs: the Wings for Autism®/Wings for All® program.

This year, The Arc of the US worked with local chapters of The Arc, airlines, airports and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to bring the Wings for Autism®/Wings for All® program to seven different airports across the country during Autism Acceptance month. Nearly 200 families attended these events, many of whom had no prior air travel experience out of fear that being in an airport or on an aircraft would be too difficult and frightening for their loved one with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

WCNC forecaster Larry Sprinkle
Photo Credit – Duncan Moffat

The month began with a festive and historic Wings for Autism® event at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). The Arc of Mecklenberg County and The Arc of Union/Cabarrus County teamed up with The Arc of the US, Delta Air Lines, TSA an the Doug Flutie Foundation to bring the event to CLT airport for the first time in the program’s history. To honor the occasion, local celebrity and weatherman for WCNC-Charlotte, Larry Sprinkle, was on hand to greet families, take photos and announce the Wings for Autism® flight prior to boarding.

After boarding the plane and visiting the cockpit, participants took their seats for a brief taxi around the runway, which allowed for passengers with disabilities get accustomed to the sensations of a moving plane. As the aircraft came back to the gate, all those on the plane and gate area were surprised with a water cannon salute – an honor reserved only for retiring pilots, inaugural flights for new flight routes, and other rare occasions during which two firefighting rigs spray arcs of water over an arriving or departing flight. This came as a surprise to all families on board, event staff and even several of the flight crew who had never witnessed this unique aviation tradition.

I wanted to say thank you again for you and your organization putting on such a fun, non-stressful event today! We all had such a great experience. We learned so much today and how we can make traveling easier. – Parent from Atlanta, GA

A full flight
Photo Credit – John McHugh/Ocaid Photography

 
We were delighted to take part in South Bend International Airport’s second Wings event. Not only did Wings provide our new officers with valuable experience of working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it also allowed them to share in the joy felt by parents and children as they successfully passed through our security checkpoints. – Armand Collins, Transportation Security Manager, TSA.
 

These events have an incredible impact on people with disabilities and their families, and we often get heartfelt notes after the event. One such note read: “I don’t have the words to adequately express my thanks for this evening’s Wings for Autism event. We have been so worried about how our daughter would deal with the plethora of unknowns associated with air travel and you have now made future air travel a reality for us. Too many times, as a parent of a child with ASD, you feel like doors are closed to your child and/or your family. Well, tonight, you gave her wings!”

Representatives from Delta Air Lines, CLT airport and TSA were also amazed and humbled by their Wings experience. “Being able to host a Wings for Autism Event was a very special moment for the Delta team in Charlotte,” said Jill MacDonald, Delta Air Lines. “As airline employees we take air travel for granted and for our team to be able to open up the possibility of flying for the families of children and young adults with autism, that was extremely gratifying. This was an unforgettable experience and one that we look forward to hosting for many years to come.”

The Arc of Mecklenberg and The Arc of Union/Cabarrus were thrilled and look forward to another Wings event in the future. “Wings for Autism was probably the most meaningful and impactful event I have been part of professionally,” said Nancy Hughes, Executive Director, The Arc of Mecklenberg. “Delta, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and TSA all went above and beyond to make the event amazing for participating children and families. The consensus feedback from families indicated that it was life-changing, because it opened the door to travel that many thought was closed.”

Looking for a Wings event in your city? Keep an eye on our event listing!

Originated by the Charles River Center, a local chapter of The Arc in Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Port Authority, Wings for Autism® was created to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. The program also provides TSA agents, airline and airport staff with a unique perspective on the challenges that individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities face in air travel and much-needed training on how to better meet the needs of individuals with disabilities and their families.

Numbers Confirm Worst Fears of People with Disabilities: AHCA Devastating to Medicaid

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the Congressional Budget Office’s report on the House-passed American Health Care Act:

“Millions of people will be impacted by the American Health Care Act if it becomes law – yet astonishingly, Members of Congress voted without sufficient information on the real world impact of their actions. Now we know, and our worst fears are confirmed – 14 million fewer people enrolled in Medicaid by 2026, and $834 billion in spending cuts to Medicaid over a decade.

“The states will be hard-pressed to make up for the loss of funding from the Medicaid program and the per capita cap restructuring that permanently eliminates the federal guarantee to partner in delivering these services. The hole will be vast and it will consume decades of progress in investing in supports and services for people to be served in the community instead of in isolated and segregated institutions or facilities. People with disabilities and their families fear the loss of community based supports and a return to institutional services.

“We are at a critical juncture in our history as a disability rights movement. Now more than ever, people with disabilities, families, professionals in the field, and the general public need to rise up to protect the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live a life like anyone else,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer, Public Policy, The Arc.

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Owning a Home with a Special Needs Trust

By Amy R. Tripp, Esq., Special Needs Alliance

To say that adequate housing options for persons with disabilities is a challenge is an understatement. As a result, in the process of future planning, housing is almost always one of the most important topics. Some people with disabilities would like to continue living in the family home, with appropriate supports, after Mom and Dad are gone, and parents often agree that would best serve their son or daughter’s interest. Other parents anticipate leaving funds that would allow their son or daughter to own appropriate alternate housing. In both cases, it must be determined if it makes sense for the house to be owned by a special needs trust (SNT) that is likely at the center of their plan. And as noted below, individuals and families must also weigh the benefits of home ownership versus renting to determine the best fit.

The short answer is that, in many cases, is does make sense for an SNT to own a home, but there are numerous considerations and caveats that come into play. This is an overview of the rules and issues that can arise when an SNT owns a home.

It is important first to identify what type of trust would own the home. We should distinguish between “first party” and “third party” trusts. A first party SNT is funded with the individual beneficiary’s assets and, after the death of the beneficiary, requires reimbursement to the state for Medicaid services. A third party SNT, which is funded with someone else’s assets, such as an inheritance from a parent or proceeds from a life insurance policy, is more flexible and does not require reimbursement to the state.

Options for Titling Homes

A threshold consideration in deciding whether a residence is better owned by an SNT or the individual is whether that person has legal capacity to hold title on their own and what decision-making supports the person might need. Minors simply cannot hold title and would require a guardian (in some states, a conservator) be appointed. Many adults may also need support to manage home ownership. If an adult is under guardianship or conservatorship, the guardian or conservator would likely have legal authority to manage the property. Many other adults with I/DD would benefit from using decision-making supporters to help them meet the obligations of home ownership.

For an adult with I/DD, home ownership can be empowering, as it is for all of us. The responsibilities of home ownership, as well as the status of a property owner, can have very positive impact. Families should take care to ensure that appropriate decision-making supports are in place.

If direct ownership isn’t practical, leaving a family home to a third party SNT, or buying one with trust assets, protects the property from creditors and leaves financial and maintenance issues in the hands of a trustee.

While a residence purchased by a first party SNT gains these advantages during the beneficiary’s lifetime, the home is subject to recovery by the state upon the beneficiary’s death to the extent of the costs paid by Medicaid.

Finally, it is important to look at who else might be living in the home. If the home is owned outright by a first party SNT, there may be complications if other family members also reside there. Distributions from first party SNTs are supposed to be for the sole benefit of the beneficiary, and this may be interpreted differently by various Social Security offices. Depending on the level of caregiving performed by family members, they may be required to pay rent in order to avoid affecting the beneficiary’s eligibility for government benefits. There may even be issues regarding what maintenance the trust should pay for.

Some trustees, seeking to avoid a first party trust payback, arrange for the SNT to purchase a life estate interest in the family residence. By paying a portion of the home’s value, the beneficiary has a right to live there, rent free, as long as he or she lives. In some states, however, this won’t avoid the Medicaid lien, and other family members residing in the home still may need to pay rent to avoid conflict with the sole benefit rule.

Running the Numbers

Of course, as attractive as the idea is, whether it is practical to plan to provide a house to an adult son or daughter with disabilities after you’re gone comes down to dollars.

Any time the purchase or transfer of ownership of a residence is begin considered, it is critical to prepare a detailed budget which takes into consideration things such as the cost of modifications needed for accessibility, long-term maintenance, utilities, taxes, insurance, and general upkeep. A common planning mistake is for people to create SNTs which purchase homes, only to have the housing costs consume such a large part of the available resources that other important purposes of the SNT are compromised, leading to deterioration of the property and forcing sale at a discounted price.

On occasion the solution may be as simple as finding a roommate. The trend today is for families to consolidate resources and purchase housing that provides for more than one adult. While there are some great examples of these types of arrangements, there are also many situations in which such plans simply don’t work. And many trustees are unwilling to deal with their complexity.

Beyond the numbers, persons with disabilities and their families should consider other pros and cons to homeownership, including whether the person may in the future want to live in a different neighborhood or area, the suitability of the home for future family configurations and the potential for aging in place.

Effect on Benefits

The ownership of property and the payment of housing expenses can impact the government benefits the individual may be receiving, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Notably, for persons who receive SSI, mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities and other housing costs paid on their behalf by an SNT are considered in-kind support and maintenance (ISM) and will reduce SSI. Good planning can often reduce the impact of these rules, but not always.

Likewise, depending on how a home is titled, the purchase or sale of a home can trigger interruptions or reductions in benefits in the months in which these events occur. While the home is an exempt asset for SSI and Medicaid benefits, the sale of the home in the future, if titled to the individual, will result in converting an exempt asset into countable resources. If the home is titled to the SNT, then the sale of the home would have no impact on eligibility.

Medicaid liens and other estate recovery claims are potential pitfalls when persons receiving benefits own their own homes, or have homes held in some SNTs. When a first party SNT owns the home, extra attention needs to be provided if other family members are living in the home and providing support to the beneficiary. When the beneficiary dies, Medicaid is reimbursed from the remaining assets in the first party SNT. If the Medicaid lien exceeds the balance of the assets in the first party SNT and the house is owned by the SNT, then the house may be lost. This can be a great hardship for some families who provide support and services to the beneficiary.

Conclusion

Housing is always a challenge in future planning for persons with disabilities. Arranging for a stable living environment is a high priority, but the considerations are many and complex, and families and their counselors are becoming increasingly creative as they struggle with the housing shortage. Whether an SNT can or should own a house involves a number of considerations, and families should seek advice from a qualified attorney to ensure that their objectives are met.

Amy Tripp is a member of the Special Needs Alliance, a national nonprofit dedicated to assisting individuals with disabilities, their families and the professionals who serve them. SNA is partnering with The Arc to provide educational resources, build public awareness and advocate for policies on behalf of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families.

 

Trump Budget and Health Care Cuts are Devastating for People with Disabilities, Including Soojung’s Family

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Trump Administration released its first ten year budget proposal, and the numbers are devastating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. On top of the more than $800 billion in Medicaid cuts already approved by the House of Representatives, the Trump Administration is planning for $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid; $72.4 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs; and hundreds of billions more in cuts to other effective federal programs that are vital to people with I/DD.

“Where we invest our federal dollars is a measure of our values as a nation. Today the Trump Administration showed its cards, and coupled with the devastating Medicaid cuts already approved by the House of Representatives in the health care bill, the deck is stacked against people with disabilities.

“In the last few weeks, I’ve traveled to chapters of The Arc in Maryland, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and even Alaska. Chapters of The Arc sprang up in these communities and across the country decades ago because people with disabilities and their families were appalled by the segregation of people with disabilities in inhumane institutions, and they were determined to make progress. And we have fought for rights, closed institutions, opened up the community and classroom, and paved the way to employment. Two effective programs built on bipartisan policy over the years – Medicaid and Social Security – have been essential to this progress. Medicaid provides health care and long term supports that help make a life in the community possible for many people with disabilities, and Social Security is far too often the only thing keeping the lights on and food on the table for a person with a disability.

“That these proposed cuts come in the very same package that is proposing the largest tax cuts in our nation’s history is simply obscene. Giving $5 trillion in tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy individuals and corporations while simultaneously threatening the lives of everyday people defies comprehension.

“This budget – this Trump card – along with the health care cards being played in Congress as we speak, will dismantle decades of progress for people with disabilities and their families. So I’m calling on all advocates to do what they have done for decades, band together to put a face on these cuts. Share your story in your community and with your elected officials, and tell them to reject these cuts, before we go back in time to an era of discrimination and isolation,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

In tandem with this budget news, The Arc is releasing a video which shares the story of a Maryland family which risks losing access to critical care for one of their children due to impending cuts to federal Medicaid funding. The video features Soojung, whose 11-year old daughter Alice, has Rett Syndrome and relies on overnight nursing services to be able to live at home with her family. Soojung speaks about the challenges she and her husband faced accessing these services, including having their requests turned down by private insurers. After years of waiting and uncertainty, Alice was finally accepted to a Medicaid program that provides her with nightly nursing services. These services have led to a great improvement in Alice’s health, making 2016 the first year of her life without a hospital stay.

For many families like Soojung’s, their health and lives could dramatically worsen if the Trump Administration’s proposed Medicaid cuts became a reality or if the over $800 billion in cuts over 10 years to federal Medicaid funding, proposed in the House-approved American Health Care Act (AHCA), go into effect. These cuts would not only force states to cut eligibility for their Medicaid programs, but would also diminish the quality and quantity of services that are provided to people who are already enrolled in these programs.

This video is the fifth in a series of videos The Arc is releasing, sharing the personal stories of people with disabilities and their families, and the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid on their lives.

o   Meet Bryan

o   Meet Thelma

o   Calvin’s Story

o   If I could say one thing

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

The Arc@School Releases Report on Special Education Advocacy and The Arc’s Chapter Network

School may be almost out for the summer, but The Arc@School is still in session.  Now in its second year, The Arc@School continues its mission to build the capacity of The Arc’s nationwide network of chapters to provide individual advocacy that helps students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) navigate the special education system.  Equal access to education is a fundamental right for all citizens and an important building block for a strong society.  For students with I/DD, a high-quality education can make an enormous difference in the quality of life and degree of independence they enjoy in adulthood. Special education advocacy is instrumental in ensuring that students’ rights are respected and that they receive the services and supports necessary to graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education and employment.

With these ideals in mind, The Arc@School conducted an investigation of existing special education advocacy practices and published a report entitled Special Education Advocacy and The Arc’s Chapter Network: Findings from The Arc@School.  Students with I/DD, parents, educators, and advocates can find:

  • A brief overview of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the growth of non-attorney lay advocacy in special education;
  • A description of the curriculum, length, and cost of current advocacy training programs, such as Wrightslaw and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA);
  • A description of The Arc networks’ current capacity for providing individual special education advocacy;
  • A summary of the current limited academic research on best practices in special education advocacy; and
  • A list of program recommendations that The Arc@School intends to implement in the coming years, such as a suggestion that The Arc@School collaborate with the COPAA, PTI Center, and protection and advocacy networks to ensure that scarce special education advocacy resources reach as many families as possible.

To read the report, please see Special Education Advocacy and The Arc’s Chapter Network.