House Committee Advances Bill to Cut Off Basic Income for Adults with Disabilities and Seniors

by The Arc

Yesterday, by a vote of 23 to 14 the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means advanced legislation to cut off Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for potentially hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities and seniors.

As amended by the Committee, H.R. 2792 would revive a failed former policy by targeting SSI recipients with outstanding arrest warrants for alleged felonies or alleged violations of probation or parole. This former policy ended following the resolution of class action litigation.

Federal law already prohibits payment of SSI benefits to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment, and the Social Security Administration has a process in place to notify law enforcement of the whereabouts of such individuals.

Based on experience with the former policy, H.R. 2792 would not help law enforcement to secure arrests, but instead would target people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. Most of the warrants in question are decades old and include warrants routinely issued when a person was unable to pay a fine or court fee, or a probation supervision fee. Many people are not even aware that a warrant was issued for them, as warrants are often not served on the individual. Some people will be swept up because of mistaken identity, or paperwork errors, which can take months or even years to resolve. Many people will face barriers to clearing their records based on the nature of their disabilities or their current circumstances, for example, an individual with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.

Resolving an old arrest warrant can often involve significant time and expense, such as when a person has moved and lives far from the jurisdiction that issued, but never pursued, a decades-old warrant. Anecdotally, a very high percentage of people affected by the former policy were people with mental impairments, including people with intellectual disability.

“SSI benefits average $18 per day and are the only personal income for over one in three beneficiaries. Cutting off these modest SSI benefits will cause significant hardship and will only make it more difficult for people to resolve old, outstanding arrest warrants. Congress should reject this extreme and unconscionable proposal,” said T.J. Sutcliffe, Director, Income and Housing Policy.

As discussed at the Committee markup, the House is expected to propose to use savings from cuts to SSI under H.R. 2792 to pay for legislation to reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, also marked up by the Committee yesterday.

“Home visiting helps to improve maternal and child health and increases access to screening and early intervention for children with disabilities. Reauthorization of this valuable program should not be paid for by cutting off SSI for people with disabilities, seniors, and their families,” said Sutcliffe.

As highlighted in a fact sheet by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, here are two stories of people harmed by Social Security’s former failed policy: Rosa Martinez, the lead plaintiff in one of several class action law suits brought against the policy, and a juvenile survivor of childhood abuse:

  • Mistaken Identity: Rosa Martinez, the lead plaintiff in Martinez v. Astrue was, in 2008, a 52-year old woman who received notice from SSA that she was losing her disability benefits because of a 1980 arrest warrant for a drug offense in Miami, FL. Ms. Martinez had never been to Miami, never been arrested, never used illegal drugs, and is eight inches shorter than the person identified in the warrant. Despite an obvious case of mistaken identity, Ms. Martinez was left without her sole source of income while she cleared up the error on her own, without any help from SSA. It was only after filing a lawsuit that Ms. Martinez was able to receive her benefits.
  • Juvenile Survivor of Childhood Abuse: A young man in California with intellectual disability and other mental impairments had his SSI benefits stopped because of an Ohio warrant issued when he was 12 years old and running away to escape an abusive stepfather. The 4’7” tall, 85-pound boy was charged with assault for kicking a staff member at the detention center where he was being held until his mother could pick him up. Many years later, he had no recollection of the incident.

More stories of people harmed by SSA’s former failed policy are available from Justice in Aging.

 

The Arc Responds to Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Health Care Proposal

by The Arc

Architects of this bill are still ignoring the pleas of their constituents with disabilities

Today, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and former US Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) unveiled the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Arc released the following statement in response:

“While this piece of legislation has a new title and makes new promises, it is more of the same threats to Medicaid and those who rely on it for a life in the community. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal cuts and caps the Medicaid program. The loss of federal funding is a serious threat to people with disabilities and their families who rely on Medicaid for community based supports.

“Many of the provisions in this legislation are the same or worse than what we encountered earlier this year, which shows that the architects of this bill are still ignoring the pleas of their constituents with disabilities. The talking points sugar coat it, but the reality is simple – under this proposal less money would be available despite the fact the needs of people who rely on Medicaid have not decreased.  The Arc remains staunchly opposed to legislation that includes per capita caps or block granting of Medicaid. We need Members of Congress to find a solution that actually takes into consideration the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of the The Arc.

Choosing Between a Paycheck and Health: New Report on Paid Family Leave and the Disability Angle

by The Arc

Washington, DC –Today, The Arc and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality are releasing a first of its kind paper outlining why paid family and medical leave is a necessity for the economic security and stability of people with disabilities and their families.

The need for paid family and medical leave is universal. Nearly all of us will need paid leave at some point – to care for a family member’s or our own serious medical condition, or to welcome a new child into a family. Missing from the national conversation is the disability angle. One in five Americans live with a disability. Yet the reality is, in the U.S. workforce, only 1 in 7 workers has access to paid family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Roughly 2 in 5 workers report they lack access to any paid leave.

“Millions of workers in our economy either have a disability, or have a family member with a disability. Yet largely under the radar has been the disability community – too many people are being forced to choose between a paycheck and their own health or a family member’s health. This paper aims to elevate the disability angle on paid leave, a national issue with growing momentum,” said co-author TJ Sutcliffe, Director, Income and Housing Policy, The Arc.

“If policymakers are serious about improving employment outcomes of people with disabilities, they should work to establish a comprehensive and inclusive paid family and medical leave program,” said co-author Kali Grant of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. “We know paid leave has wide-reaching benefits, and that’s particularly true for people with disabilities and their families.”

Many people in the U.S. struggle to get by and pay for basics. That’s particularly true for people with disabilities and their families, who are more likely to live in poverty, have limited savings to fall back on, and face added disability-related expenses and barriers to work.

The paper found that households with one or more members with a disability have an average household income that is only about two-thirds that of households where no one has a disability. As highlighted in the paper, according to the National Disability Institute, 31% of people with disabilities say it is “very difficult” to cover their monthly expenses, compared to 15% of people without disabilities. And 4 in 5 people with disabilities lack any sort of rainy day fund.

Workers with disabilities are particularly likely to be in part-time, low-wage jobs that often don’t offer even basic benefits – much less paid family and medical leave. Over 2 in 3 part-time workers don’t have even one sick day. Workers with disabilities are twice as likely as workers without disabilities to be part-time.

“By offering job-protection, continuing health coverage, and temporary replacement income, comprehensive paid leave has the potential to ensure financial stability for the millions of working families with a member with a disability,” said Grant.

To fully address the needs of all Americans, including people with disabilities and their families, the paper recommends that a national paid leave approach should, among other things, be accessible to all working people and reflect a modern definition of family, cover all the major reasons that people need to take leave (one’s own health, a family member’s health, a new child), replace sufficient wages so that people can make ends meet, be for long enough to promote positive outcomes, ensure that people can keep their jobs and health insurance, and include education and outreach that is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

“Knowing that your job will be there for you if you take paid leave is a must for nearly all of us. And disability knows no geographical, socio-economic, or political boundaries. Other countries have done better, and American workers, including people with disabilities and their families, desperately need better,” said Sutcliffe.

Hear one family’s story about paid leave, and meet others who have personal experience with paid leave.

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 Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) works with policymakers, researchers, practitioners, and advocates to develop effective policies and practices that alleviate poverty and inequality in the United States. Further information about GCPI and their Economic Security and Opportunity Initiative (ESOI) is available at www.georgetownpoverty.org.

The Arc on the DACA Announcement: “Ending DACA is an assault on community inclusion”

by The Arc

Washington, DC – Today, The Arc released the following statement on the news that President Trump will wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program:

“The Arc’s public policy goals include protecting against forms of discrimination including that based on disability, ethnicity, race, religion, language, national origin, or any other protected status. The goals also call for providing a fair opportunity for people with disabilities to reside legally in the U.S. and to become citizens. We also urge appropriate waivers of immigration law to allow for active recruitment of direct support workers.

“For hundreds of thousands of young people with the DACA protected status, their nightmare came true with the news that the program will end and they are at risk of deportation for a decision years ago made by others when they were children. Many would be sent to countries they have no real knowledge of or contacts in. In some cases, deportation could be dangerous.

“Amongst those at risk are people with disabilities, their parents, siblings, friends, and allies. The natural support system for a person with a disability tends to be their family, and over the last several decades, American society has moved toward inclusion in the community instead of isolation for people with disabilities. And so when the family is ripped apart – siblings sent thousands of miles away, a person with a disability separated from their parents – life is turned upside down. When communities lose people of different abilities and backgrounds, we all lose. Ending DACA is an assault on community inclusion and would move our country backwards.

“This is a cruel outcome that Congress must fix before it’s too late – before people are shown the door and their lives, families, and communities are impacted forever,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.