The House and Senate are out of session this week for the President's Day holiday. Federal offices were also closed yesterday due to snowfall in the Washington, DC area.
The House Education & the Workforce Committee marked up last week, H.R. 5 The Student Success Act, to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. AUCD has signed on to a Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities letter opposing the bill because it would remove accountability mechanisms for students with disabilities included in No Child Left Behind. View the archived webcast on the committee website. The Senate has also been working on an update to No Child Left Behind, see the February 2 issue of In Brief for more information.
On February 3, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative hosted the White House Summit on Disability and Employment. Several AUCD staff attended the summit, which provided businesses, philanthropies, and disability advocates with information about new and existing Federal resources designed to help employers hire more individuals with disabilities, including the new Resource Guide for Employers. Learn more on the White House Blog.
AUCD signed on to a letter to President Obama supporting the efforts of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to ensure that workers with disabilities are ensured the workplace protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act with regard to workplace wellness programs. In late January, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing about wellness programs and EEOC's actions, and included testimony from Jennifer Mathis, Director of Programs at the Bazelon Center on Mental Health Law, on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.
On Wednesday, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing titled "Social Security Disability Trust Fund Insolvency." Witnesses included Carolyn Colvin, acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Dr. Mark Duggan of Stanford University, Dr. Phillip de Jong of the University of Amsterdam, and Kate Lang, Staff Attorney at the National Senior Citizens Law Center. Commissioner Colvin's testimony focused on the proposal in the President's Budget - supported by AUCD - for a short-term temporary reallocation of the payroll tax between the Disability Insurance and Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust funds. Republican members of the committee focused on the long-term solvency of the combined trust funds and Social Security programs. Under current law, the DI program will be unable to pay 100% of scheduled benefits by the end of 2016. With the reallocation, the combined trust funds will be able to pay scheduled benefits until 2033. Learn more from The Washington Post.
Members of Congress from the House and Senate have also introduced legislation to prevent people from receiving both Social Security disability benefits and unemployment benefits at the same time. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch (R-UT) and Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Johnson (R-TX) introduced H.R. 918, The Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act of 2015; Senators Flake (R-AZ) and Manchin (D-WV) have also introduced S.343, the Reducing Overlapping Payments Act. Representatives The legislation would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to temporarily suspend Disability Insurance (DI) benefits during any month in which a beneficiary also receives Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. The change would only apply to new beneficiaries and, unlike previous legislation, not affect their eligibility for DI in the future. AUCD and CCD opposed similar legislation from the 113th Congress and oppose this bill. Learn more from the CCD Social Security Task Force Fact Sheet on UI/DI.
On Tuesday, February 10 AUCD staff attended an event at the White House hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and attended by several Members of Congress to highlight the benefits and achievements of the ABLE Act. The Act, signed into law in December, creates a new savings account for families with people with disabilities. These tax-preferred accounts allow families to save for future disability-related expenses without losing Medicaid and Social Security benefits. The next step for ABLE Act implementation is for states to take action to include ABLE Accounts in their state 529 savings plan programs. Learn more in two fact sheets (short summary and longer, more detailed) from The Arc of the US.
National Council on Disability
The National Council on Disability (NCD) as announced the appointment of Neil Romano, nominee of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Under the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014, four Council Members whose terms are expiring will be or have been replaced by appointments made by the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the House Minority Leader. Mr. Romano was Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy in the George W. Bush administration and a former director of communications for the White House Office of Drug Abuse Policy, working on public awareness campaigns including "Just Say No" and "America Responds to AIDS".
Disability Policy Seminar
Registration is now open for the Disability Policy Seminar! Join AUCD and five other national disability groups for two days of intensive policy updates and visits to Capitol Hill. Early Bird Registration is open through March 13. AUCD will host the Trainee Policy Summit on April 12 just for trainees and network members the night before the seminar begins. Don't forget to register for both events!
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For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms