Social Security Trustees Release 2014 Report

The Social Security Trustees have released their annual report on the current and projected financial status of the Social Security trust funds. Similar to 2013, the 2014 findings show that Social Security is fully solvent until 2033, but faces a moderate long-term shortfall. In 2013, Social Security took in roughly $32 billion more than it paid out. Its reserves were $2.76 trillion in 2013, and are projected to grow to $2.9 trillion at the beginning of 2020. If Congress does not act before 2033, the reserves would be drawn down, and revenue coming into the Trust Funds would cover about 77 percent of scheduled benefits. The 2014 Trustees Report also continues to project that the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund by itself can pay all scheduled benefits until 2016. If Congress takes no action before 2016, the Trustees project that the DI trust fund will be able to pay about 81 percent of scheduled benefits.

As noted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the National Academy of Social Insurance, the long-term growth in DI has been predicted since the mid-1990s and is largely due to demographic factors. The U.S. population and the number of workers insured for DI (particularly, women) have grown over the last several decades, and the baby boomers are now in their high disability years.

Traditionally, Congress has reallocated payroll tax revenues between the OASI and DI trust funds to address projected shortfalls. According to the Social Security Chief Actuary as summarized by the CBPP, a modest reallocation of the total OASDI payroll tax, enacted prior to 2016, would allow both programs to pay full scheduled benefits through 2033 — their current combined depletion date. After that, modest increases in revenue can ensure the long-term solvency of the Social Security system for generations to come.

The Arc strongly supports these types of adjustments to ensure the short- and long-term solvency of the trust funds, so that Social Security can remain a lifeline for people with disabilities and their families for generations.

The Arc Calls on the Federal Government to Hire More People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC – Yesterday, The Arc submitted comments to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) calling on the federal government to become a model employer of people with disabilities, including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“While the last few years have seen some modest increases in the numbers of people with disabilities employed by the federal government, The Arc remains deeply concerned that many people with the most significant disabilities, including jobseekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are being left behind,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

Data obtained by The Arc from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reveal that in fiscal year 2012, the federal government employed only 813 non-seasonal, full time permanent employees with intellectual disability (ID), representing 0.044% of all federal employees.   Only 28 people, or 3/100ths of one-percent of total new hires, were people with ID.  That same year, the federal government employed only 118 part-time employees with ID.  Only 17 people with ID were hired as part-time employees, about 9/100ths of one-percent of new hires.

“While we are pleased that the EEOC is moving forward with strengthening federal regulations, the shockingly low rate of federal employment of people with intellectual disability is unacceptable. The Arc calls on the federal government to act immediately to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities in the federal workforce, establish strong goals for hiring of people with disabilities, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and hold agencies accountable for meeting those goals.

“There is no need for OPM to wait for the EEOC to complete the rulemaking process before it takes action to address this problem.  OPM already has authority under existing law and under Executive Order 13548 to take action now,” Berns said.

Issued by President Obama on July 26, 2010, E.O. 13548, titled “Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities,” calls on the Federal Government to hire 100,000 people with disabilities over five years.

“As a first step, OPM should direct federal agencies to update and revise the “agency-specific plans for promoting employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities” required under the Executive Order so that they specifically address employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There are other steps that can be taken today.   The Federal Communications Commission has already embarked on an initiative to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in that agency.  Other agencies should get started too.

“Across the United States, The Arc has nearly 700 state and local chapters in 49 states and DC that stand ready to assist the federal government in identifying people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are ready to work and whose abilities will be an asset to federal agencies. The federal government can and should be a model employer of people with disabilities. The Arc will continue to closely monitor annual reports on the federal employment of people with disabilities to ensure progress and accountability,” said Berns.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly reports that the percentage of working-age people with disabilities in the labor force is about one-third that of persons with no disability. On average, workers with disabilities face significant gaps in pay and compensation, compared to workers with no disability. Additionally, about one in three employment discrimination charges filed with the EEOC allege discrimination on the basis of disability (often, in combination with charges of other types of discrimination).

The Arc’s own research suggests that the employment picture for people with I/DD may be even bleaker. In 2010, The Arc conducted a national online survey, called the FINDS Survey, to obtain perceptions of people with I/DD and their families on a range of life-span issues. Over 5,000 people participated. Only 15% of FINDS survey respondents reported that their family member with an intellectual and/or developmental disability was employed.

Employment – Congress Reauthorizes Vital Workforce Programs

This summer has seen Congressional action on several critical issues for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). One long-awaited – and a top legislative priority for The Arc – was last week’s House passage of legislation to reauthorize vital workforce programs, including Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services under the Rehabilitation Act. The Arc applauds the bipartisan, bicameral leadership that led to this important reauthorization and the Members of Congress who voted in favor of the legislation.

On July 9th, the House of Representatives passed the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) by a vote of 415 to 6, with 11 abstaining. The House vote followed Senate passage in late June by a vote of 95-3. WIOA now goes to President Obama who is expected to sign the bill soon.

WIOA reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act for 6 years, from FY 2015 to FY 2020. The bill is a bipartisan, bicameral compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in July of 2013. The proposal was develop by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX).

In general WIOA focuses VR outcomes on competitive, integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities. WIOA also provides increased emphasis on coordination between VR and other agencies including school systems; extends the initial time period for VR supported employment services (from 18 to 24 months); and modifies eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant disabilities.

The provisions in WIOA related to VR services and the Rehabilitation Act are generally similar to proposals put forward by the Senate HELP Committee over the last several years, with some modifications and refinements that represent elements from the SKILLS Act. For example:

  • In one version of its discussion drafts, the Senate HELP Committee proposed moving the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) from the Department of Education to the Department of Labor. In contrast, under WIOA, RSA will stay at the Department of Education.
  • In an early version, the SKILLS Act had proposed consolidating many core workforce programs – including VR Supported Employment Services – into a single block-grant type structure, and giving states the option to further consolidate all VR services into that single state structure. The Arc strongly opposed this proposal. In contrast, WIOA does not include this sweeping consolidation; it permits some limited consolidations, but not of VR or Supported Employment Services.

Many details of how WIOA will operate in states will need to be worked out in new regulations and policies developed after passage of the bill. It is likely that the Departments of Labor and Education will work closely with other agencies, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Department of Justice, in developing regulatory and policy guidance.

Congress last reauthorized the Workforce Investment Act in 1998. Over the last few years, reauthorization of these workforce programs, including VR services under the Rehabilitation Act, has been a top priority for The Arc. The Arc advocated for many improvements now incorporated under WIOA, consistent with our past and current position statements on Employment, and joined with other national disability groups to express strong support following the announcement of the WIOA compromise this past May.

A one-page summary of WIOA can be found here.

The statement of managers, including a section-by-section summary of the legislation, can be found here.

A summary of key improvements WIOA makes to current workforce development programs can be found here.

 

The Arc Applauds Passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

The Arc released the following statement applauding the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  WIOA is a bipartisan, bicameral compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in July of 2013. The proposal was developed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX).

“Everyone should have the opportunity to earn a competitive salary while contributing to their community, which is why we are thrilled with the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The Arc applauds the bill’s focus on integrated, competitive employment for individuals with disabilities, and on essential transition services for youth with disabilities who need them to attain and hold a job. We are grateful to the Members of Congress who developed and supported this important legislation and stood up for individuals with disabilities who want to work, but need additional supports to reach their career goals,” said, Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc joined with other national disability groups to express strong support for WIOA.  Congress last reauthorized the workforce investment programs under WIOA in 1998. Over the last few years, reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, including the vocational rehabilitation (VR) services under the Rehabilitation Act, has been a top priority for The Arc’s public policy agenda. The Arc advocated for many improvements to the system now incorporated under WIOA, consistent with its past and current position statements on Employment.

In general WIOA focuses vocational rehabilitation (VR) outcomes on competitive, integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities. WIOA also provides increased emphasis on coordination between VR and other agencies including school systems, extends the initial time period for VR supported employment services (from 18 to 24 months), and modifies eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant disabilities.

Chapters of The Arc Selected for National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability’s “Pathways to Justice” Training Program

We are pleased to announce that five chapters of The Arc were selected to pilot implementation of The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability’s (NCCJD) “Pathways to Justice” Training Program. Through this program, chapters will help build the capacity of the criminal justice system to effectively identify, serve and protect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), many of whom have “mild” disabilities that often go unnoticed among criminal justice professionals without appropriate training.

Each chapter will create and/or strengthen their current multidisciplinary team on criminal justice and disability issues (what NCCJD is referring to as “Disability Response Teams”) and gather roughly 50 trainees from law enforcement, victim advocacy and the legal profession for a one-day training on criminal justice issues. The selected chapters are listed below:

“When individuals with I/DD become involved in the criminal justice system as suspects or victims, they often face miscommunication, fear, confusion and prejudice. The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability plays a critical role in improving first response and communication between people with I/DD and the justice system nationally.

“Through NCCJD’s “Pathways to Justice” training program we are tapping into the most powerful resource The Arc possesses – our chapter network. The five chapters selected either have longstanding criminal justice programs or a commitment to building their capacity in providing such training, both of which are invaluable to achieving NCCJD’s overall goals. We look forward to working closely with each chapter and learning from their work. Through this collaborative effort NCCJD will become a national focal point for the collection and dissemination of resources and serve as a bridge between the justice and disability communities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Last year, The Arc was awarded a two-year grant for $400,000 by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to develop the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability.  This is the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with I/DD under one roof.  The goal of this project is to create a national clearinghouse for research, information, evaluation, training and technical assistance for justice and disability professionals and other advocates that will build their capacity to better identify and meet the needs of people with I/DD, whose disability often goes unrecognized, and who are overrepresented in the nation’s criminal justice system – both as victims and suspects/offenders

Easy Approaches to Safety and Injury Prevention

Safety firstFalls are a large cause of traumatic brain injuries and physical disabilities in the US and can happen to anyone at any age. We should strive to make sure that the environments we are working and residing in are safe for ourselves, as well as the ones we care for, and that we are taking the necessary precautions to prevent abuse of prescribed medicines, alcohol and daily mishaps.

One of the biggest safety issues is preventing falls. While some falls are inevitable and can’t be controlled we can do our best to ensure the area around us is as safe as possible to prevent the ones that we can. Some individuals with disabilities are already at a higher risk of falling due to mobility issues that can make getting around already a daily struggle for them. Small changes in your home, such as adding a railing on stairways or a handle bar in the bathroom/shower, can make a big difference. Most often these small things are simple to overlook daily, but very easy to correct. Another easy change is to make sure that there is plenty of area between furniture and tables so that individuals with walking aids will have plenty of room to pass by without hitting items around them. Remove area rugs or make sure that they are secured tightly to the floor with double sided tape or non-slip grips underneath.

Each room in your house should have proper lighting and light switches and lamps should be easy to get to when entering a room. Making sure the individual you care for receives regular check-ups to maintain their vision is also helpful, so that they can clearly see the environment around them. Blurry vision can cause dizziness or make them lightheaded which could contribute to losing their balance and tripping. Staying physically active will also help build bone density and muscle to make individuals stronger and increase coordination and balance, so that they are able to support themselves more and reduce injuries.

It is important to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs. Individuals with an intellectual disability may not intentionally misuse their drugs, but unknowingly forget to take their medicine, take too much of it, or not be aware and combine it with something else that could be potentially harmful. This is why it is necessary for individuals to learn and be aware of what medicines they are taking, potential side effects, and things to stay away from when on certain medications (such as alcohol, other prescription drugs, etc.). A pill container that has the days of the week on it is a great idea to use to distribute what pills are taken at what time of the day. They also serve as a good indicator of whether the medicine has been taken that day in case the individual forgets. This will reduce the risks associated with taking too much/too little of the prescribed medicine. Providing individuals with disabilities with this knowledge will help them understand the importance of each medication and the amounts that they take.

Future injuries and accidents can be prevented by ensuring that the environment around you is safe and the ones you care for are empowered with the knowledge of potentially harmful situations. In the case that something does happen make sure there are emergency numbers near all phones for 911, poison control and the fire department. Watch The Arc’s HealthMeet webinar to learn more about how to prevent and improve emergency care for when accidents do happen.