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

An Update from the NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee

Sam Liss and James Turner, Co-Chairs

The NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee is encouraged by the increasing participation of new and veteran members and is excited about real movement of its legislative policy initiatives. The Subcommittee also appreciates hosting several constructive discussions relevant to its charge.

Our efforts to accelerate interest in our policy proposals, both of which would eliminate key barriers to employment for people with disabilities who reach retirement age, has received notice from the Congressional committees of jurisdiction. An initial meeting with senior staffers of the House Social Security Subcommittee (of Ways and Means) led to a request for data culling and analysis from the chief Social Security Administration actuary. The actuary agreed to the request and suggested that the task will be completed within one month. Upon our receipt of the data and of the results of fiscal analysis, we will return to the House Social Security Subcommittee and present them with cost rationale for moving forward with legislation.  Such legislation, which has achieved apparent bipartisan support thus far, would remove employment restrictions for Childhood Disability Beneficiaries (CDBs) upon reaching retirement age. CDBs are the only population with such restrictions. 

As of this writing, we also have been asked to participate in a teleconference with House Energy and Commerce Committee staffers to discuss our other policy proposal – eliminating the termination age of 65 for Medicaid Buy-in (MBI) programs authorized by the Ticket-to-Work Act (1999). (There is no termination age in those MBI programs authorized by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.)

We are looking ahead to appending our policy proposals to germane bills (such as H.R. 3309 and H.R. 4547 – both sponsored by House Social Security Subcommittee).

We are heartened also by willingness of peers to share stories of the benefit of such policy changes with regard to increased self-sufficiency and dignity, two markers of independent living. We have collected such stories to bolster our arguments as we move forward.

Our Subcommittee has been monitoring developments enhancing the ABLE Act account structure. We are disappointed that the age of eligibility (as per onset of disability) has not been raised and we will continue to fervently advocate for this change. In addition, we are guardedly following the three changes that were incorporated in the Tax and Jobs Act of 2017.

The Subcommittee has heard regular presentations from CareerACCESS experts with regard to the program’s evolution and current status. We are encouraged that interest continues in the program’s curriculum and in the possibility of implementation, albeit in modified form, without the discrete Federal funding that was hoped for initially.

Discussions were held regarding bipartisan efforts to eliminate sheltered workshops and subminimum wages. Various views were heard during healthy exchanges of ideas but there was general agreement on the need to monitor and support such legislation as the TIME (Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment) Act, H.R. 1377.

Although the Subcommittee made note of the Congressional Task Force on expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities, led by Rep. Kathy McMorris-Rogers, caution was expressed regarding attempts to support and / or collaborate.

Discussions before our Subcommittee were also held on possible negative implications for persons with disabilities of the recent directive allowing states to impose employment requirements upon Medicaid beneficiaries. We will monitor the situation and advocate as needed.

Our Subcommittee also broached the issue of whether a Presidential initiative to rapidly repair and expand the nation’s infrastructure would benefit people with disabilities, directly or indirectly. For example, would more employment opportunities be made available or would transportation options improve?

To summarize, the NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee has been diligently considering issues within its purview, actively driving legislation and advocating as appropriate. In that vein, it has, upon request, advised NCIL as to signing on to letters which clearly support our interests. We hope to gain further momentum and see our efforts come to fruition.