Friday, January 12, 2018

Moving Mountains in 2018 and Beyond

First, some updates.  I promised to let folks know about the new DDS deputy for Rehabilitations Services, and that person is Dave Bush, who took up his functions on January 8.  I’m told he has experience in vocational rehabilitation in both Ohio and D.C., and some of you may have known him when he served in RSA 2013-14.  He also has experience in the Veterans Administration and in college disability support.  There’s been a lot of discussion of late about the new streamlined DDS intake system, and I find it interesting that the intake unit, headed by Chris Nace, is actually reporting through RSA rather than to the DDA deputy.  I suppose this can work if the Nace shop collaborates well with Robin Exton’s eligibility unit in DDA, but it’s a bit confusing and the proof will, as always, be in the pudding.

On other fronts - DDS director Andy Reese opened the New Year with a message (https://dds.dc.gov/publication/message-director) looking back on the accomplishments of 2017, most significantly the District’s exit from the Evans lawsuit.  As the New Year dawns, we’re close – yes, very close – to reaching another milestone, namely an end to the requirement of legal commitment (court-appointed lawyer and judge’s determination) for some people to receive services in D.C.  On January 9, the D.C. council voted unanimously in favor of bill B22-0154, and if it makes it through a second vote - perhaps as soon as February 6 - the bill will be passed and sent on to the mayor for signature.  Then of course – unique to D.C. – the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate will have their 30 days to review the bill before it can become law.

I sincerely hope that in January 2019, Andy will be reporting that court commitment is a thing of the past for everyone except those already receiving services in this way who choose to keep doing so.  Just as the closure of the Evans case withdrew court oversight for the overall functioning of the disability services system in D.C., the passage of B22-0154 will lift court oversight for individuals in the future, giving people and their family members or other trusted supporters the right to speak for themselves.  The establishment of Supported Decision Maker agreements under the bill will provide a new and important vehicle for people who want help in making decisions about their care (more about this in a future blog post).

This isn’t the end of needed reform, though.  If you want to understand what I mean, search “DDRA” over to the right and you’ll find that the Developmental Disabilities Reform Act that died in the council in 2010 contained one fundamental reform that still hasn’t seen the light of day – namely, extension of eligibility to people with developmental disabilities who do not have an intellectual disability (defined as IQ of 69 or below based on testing before the age of 18).  This means that folks with “only” autism or another developmental disability don’t qualify for supports and are left high and dry.  In a recent meeting of the Family Support Council this issue received some discussion, and I hope that group will indeed take it up in future discussions with DDS.  Perhaps then, in his January 2020 New Year’s message, DDS director Reese will be able to announce the District’s success in expanding eligibility for Medicaid supports to all of those who need them. 

Mountains can be moved - as recent successes have shown - but it takes a lot of strong backs.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Unfinished Business and a Small Favor!


When I last wrote, I promised a more complete readout on the December 8 Supporting Families event.  In the meantime, though, I wanted to let you know the latest on the Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017 (B22-0154), which I covered in my last post.  The Human Services Committee unanimously voted to send it on to the full council, where it will receive its so-called “first reading” – the first step before full passage – on January 9.  Now is the time to let your council member know that you favor the bill!

As for the Supporting Families Community of Practice - I was there only in the afternoon, but Emily Price already has posted all the materials from the meeting on the DDS website, at https://dds.dc.gov/node/1296551.  She also plans to make the next meeting (on March 9) available remotely by Webex for those who can’t attend. There were important presentations on the new Cultural and Linguistic Competency Community of Practice, the OSSE "report card," and other issues, so I hope you'll look at all of those.

During the afternoon session, Erin Leveton made a presentation on accomplishments during the first five years of the SF CoP.  This group has had a real impact, not least of all in reaching a broad cross-section of families in D.C.:  Erin reported that from an initial mailing list of only 50 people, the SF CoP now reaches close to 1000 people in one way or another.  She also gave a presentation on changes to the I/DD waiver that were recently approved by CMS.  (If you don’t know what these acronyms stand for, see my page on Acronyms and Organizations.  Also, Power Points for both her presentations are at the link above.)

Andy Reese showed up during lunch to talk with the group.  He took a great many questions on the recent reorganization of DDS, and we learned:

-          Maximum effort has gone into providing shared services for both DDA and RSA.  Particularly on the Quality Assurance front, RSA was in need of an upgrade, and establishment of the Quality Management Administration under Jared Morris is intended to help with that.

-          I informed Andy that some have expressed concern about that the exodus of people with specialized expertise, particularly in Incident Management.  He expressed confidence that those departures will not affect the quality of services and oversight by DDS, and Winslow Woodland, now acting deputy for DDA, also joined the meeting briefly to underscore this.

-          The DDA intake process has been improved so that it takes less time and starts by identifying the needs of the person and their family up front.  (This is undoubtedly a customer-service improvement but does not change eligibility requirements for the waiver, based primarily on an IQ score of 69 or below before age 18.)  People interested in paid work receive assistance in getting started with their RSA application as well.

-          I mentioned my hope that Andy would restore the word “State” to the name of the Office of Policy Planning and Innovation (see “Changes Surely Afoot,“ November 9), and I understand he has agreed to do so.

With respect to the realignment, the Family Support Council met on December 21, and their next public meeting, on January 25, will be attended by senior DDS officials and will focus on this subject.  Daisy Brown, who chairs the FSC, wants to ensure that the FSC continues to track DDS progress following the reorganization, and she plans regular briefings at this and future FSC meetings.  Although no one asked in the December 8 meeting when DDS would be recruiting for the RSA deputy position that was vacated by Pamela Downing-Hosten, I’m told that the position is filled or very close to being filled.  I’ll let you know when I learn the name, but this is excellent news.


That’s the update, now for the favor!  I’ve been writing this blog for over three years now, and during that period I hope you’ve come to rely on it for information and advice about what’s happening and where you can make a difference for D.C. citizens with developmental disabilities in D.C.  I regularly come across new folks who are faithful readers, and I thank all of you for letting me know you find my blog useful.  In this holiday season, though, I’m asking you to give me a gift – feedback!  What would you like to see more of here?  Are there changes that would make it more interesting or helpful to you?  Use the Comments or just tell me what you have on your mind.  And pass the word along – not everyone can make it to meetings, and I worry about those who are too busy – with paid work, caregiving, and so many other demands – to make their voices heard. 

Thanks in advance for your reactions, and Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, best of the holiday season to one and all - 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Gift You Can Give Right Now!


There were a lot of announcements and discussions at last Friday’s Supporting Families Community of Practice, and I’ll cover those shortly in another blog post.  Right now, though, I need to get this out in a hurry since you have action to take over the weekend

One of the announcements at the SF CoP was that there would be a markup on December 12th in the D.C. council’s Human Services committee of bill B22-0154, which you previously have seen referred to here as the Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Civil Rights Restoration Act, or CIDCRRA.  It’s now been renamed the Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017.  That markup took place as planned, and the new text of the bill is attached (https://tinyurl.com/ybkyyuua), as well as the background report on the bill including a summary of testimony at the June hearing (https://tinyurl.com/y8sl4nsn).
Now that this bill is finally on the move, I’m told the committee, and the council, plan to move quickly on it.

I’ve written at length before about this bill, particularly in my posts “Slow and Steady Wins the Race” and “No Overnight Successes” from June of this year, and “Yes, You Really Can do Something” (July 2016), “A New Year, A Chance for New Beginnings” (January 2016) and “Overdue Change for the District” (November 2015).  Just to remind you, though, if passed the bill would do these key things:

-          Eliminate the requirement for people with a moderate to significant intellectual disability to be “committed” by the court before receiving services.  Currently people in this category must be assigned a court-appointed lawyer and must have the amount and type of their services decided by a judge.  This is a separate issue from guardianship, which allows the court to name a trusted individual to oversee care and services if necessary.  In fact, the commitment system can undermine the role of the guardian by permitting the court to make final decisions.

-          Allow those currently under the system of court commitment to remain under the system if they choose toPeople currently under court commitment may continue with the system to which they are accustomed.

-          Establish an enhanced complaint system within DDS.  This is new, and resulted from testimony and discussion at the committee’s June hearing on the bill.

-          Create a Supported Decision Maker role as a possible alternative to guardianship in addition to existing roles such as Power of Attorney.

My view on this bill, as you know if you read my testimony from the June hearing (https://tinyurl.com/yc2ttz67), is that this is a crucial bill that recognizes we now have a system that can be responsive to people and their families, not just to the courts (the enhanced complaint process will help).  Please recall that my own son receives services without court commitment – I trust my own voice more than a court-appointed lawyer’s - and that local disability advocacy organizations that are in the forefront of safeguarding disability rights (such as Project Action!, Quality Trust and Disability Rights DC) are in favor of this bill.  Whether your family member is or is not under court commitment, you should favor this bill, too.

Please write to the council – your own councilmember as well as every member of the Human Services Committee (http://dccouncil.us/committees/committee-on-human-services) to express your strong support for this bill.  It’s overdue, its day has come, and I assure you the lawyers with a stake in the current system are flooding the committee with statements in opposition.  Take the time now to give a gift to people with disabilities in D.C. – write to the committee, and the council, to express your strong support for B22-0154. 

Take a break from trimming the tree and do it this weekend!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Not a Time for Slowing Down


We’re between those busy holidays and there’s a temptation to think of nothing but that!  But there are some important events and issues that still deserve our attention this month.

I’m thinking in particular of the Supporting Families Community of Practice, which will be meeting this Friday, December 8.  Here’s the agenda:  https://tinyurl.com/y8x8khms.  Come if you possibly can – I know that’s hard for many folks, but if you think you’d be more likely to make it to SF CoP meetings if they weren’t on weekdays, it’s a good time to speak up.  Why?  Because there’s a new person coordinating the SF CoP, someone you may know already through her work on No Wrong Door and Person-Centered Thinking.  With Alison having left, Emily Price has now taken on the SF CoP, in addition to her other functions, and she’s getting off to a great start by reaching out for ideas.  In case you’d like to give her some input for her new position, you’ll find her at emily.price@dc.gov.

As for Friday’s meeting, the SF CoP will be celebrating its five-year anniversary with, among other things, an update on the recent federal approval of D.C.’s revised Home and Community-based Waiver and the public kickoff of the new Cultural and Linguistic Competency Community of Practice.  There also will be a chance to talk with “DDS leadership” – I hope this means Andy Reese! – about recent changes in DDS organization and what comes next.  What won’t be on the SF CoP agenda this time around is the briefing on finance and investment issues that’s needed to help folks who may be thinking of opening an ABLE account.  Hopefully next time!

On Friday there also will be a brief discussion led by Molly Whalen of the D.C. Association for Special Education, on the “OSSE School Report Card Focus Group.”  (OSSE is the Office of the State Superintendent of Education” – and I wish we still had a State Office Although I don’t know much about this initiative, I’m looking forward to learning more.  One concern I know will be covered is the slowdown in funding for key reforms launched in legislation by the D.C. council in 2014, most particularly the plan to lower the age for transition planning from 16 to 14.  You can read more about this important issue at:  http://dcase.org/2017/11/dcspedreform.

And on the subject of youth, councilmember David Grosso, who chairs the education committee, will be hosting a roundtable this Thursday at 4:00 on “Issues Facing D.C. Youth” (https://tinyurl.com/yc26eukj). Young people aged 21 and younger are encouraged to sign up by 5:00 today.  Seems to me the subject of funding for special education reforms should be very high on his agenda, and I know we’ll hear more about that roundtable at the Sf CoP on Friday. 


I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at DDS this Friday!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Welcome News



I got a couple of reactions from DDS to my last blog post, and both conveyed welcome information so I wanted to share the news promptly.

First, Andy Reese reached out with the new DDS organizational chart, which you can find here:


and which he says will soon be posted to the DDS website (https://dds.dc.gov).  I’ve updated my page, “Acronyms and Organizations You Should Know,”  to reflect these changes.

Second, Erin Leveton (formerly with the State Office, now the DDS Office of Policy, Planning and Innovation), sent reassuring words with respect to ongoing activity in the Supporting Families Community of Practice.  She let me know that the next SF CoP meeting will take place on December 8 at DDS (250 E St. SW).  According to Erin: “Topics will include employment, the new cultural and linguistic community of practice, update on the HCBS waiver, and hopefully a presentation by Capital Asset Builders related to ABLE accounts + more.” 

Hurray for the potential Capital Asset Builders briefing!  I’m still exploring ABLE accounts, and have been surprised that the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), which is the designated contact point for D.C. ABLE, hasn’t yet been able to clarify some pretty basic questions.  Still, from what I can tell the D.C. account is a pretty solid choice.

Erin also wanted me to know that the SODA’s transformation into the Policy office is a good thing.  She notes they’re still in the DDS director’s office, and adds: “We have added the person who does RSA policy to my team, which is great from an Employment First perspective.”  I definitely agree with anything that fosters DDA/RSA collaboration and helps folks find appropriate jobs (more on that in an upcoming post!), but I’m still not buying the idea that removing a state-level oversight office is a positive development. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Changes Surely Afoot


On October 27 I received an email that DDS director Andy Reese circulated broadly among DDS partners.  It described a number of personnel and organizational changes intended to eliminate duplication of operational and quality assurance services for DDA and RSA.  The most significant announcement was the creation of a new Quality Assurance Administration to be headed by Jared Morris, and the elevation of Winslow Woodland (“temporarily” according to the message) to be acting deputy director for DDA.

What’s most noteworthy is what the email doesn’t say.  A significant number of (mostly) senior-level folks have in fact been let go, foremost among them Pamela Downing-Hosten, named just last year as deputy director for the Rehabilitation Services Administration.  (I hear Andy will be overseeing RSA directly until a successor is chosen.)  But there are quite a few others leaving who, though their names may be less familiar, have been linchpins of the Incident Management and Enforcement Unit (which now will report directly to Winslow) and the Health and Wellness Unit.  I did not know most of these individuals well enough to judge for myself whether the changes are for the good or not, but I know some are concerned about whether too much expertise has walked out the door.  We’ll see. 

I’ll also be watching a couple of other developments.  Andy’s message announced that the State Office of Disability Administration, or SODA, will now become the Office of Policy, Planning and Innovation in the DDS director’s office.  While the new name may better describe what the SODA has been doing recently, its original designation as the “state” office gave it a potentially more robust oversight and coordination role vis-à-vis the “city” Department on Disability Services.  These state offices have been established across the D.C. government to assert that we are a jurisdiction equivalent in many ways to the fifty states, so I see the name change as unfortunate and symbolically important.  I hope it doesn’t also mean a demotion for the SODA.

I’m also hearing that Andy is lighting a fire under service coordinators, expecting more of them than pushing papaers and chairing ISP meetings.  It’s hard to argue with this change, if it’s implemented properly and doesn’t lead to a “gotcha” mentality among service coordinators trying to look active.  For the moment though, most of the service coordinators I’ve encountered have been too passive, so I’m watching this cautiously and will judge by the results.

From what I can tell, most other folks are adopting a similar “wait and see” attitude.  Some also expect there will be more changes to come, so keep your ears to the ground, as I will!

Before closing, just a couple of postscripts on subjects I’ve covered in other recent posts:

·         Bill 22-0154, also known as the CIDCRRA (https://tinyurl.com/y75822ov), has happily not faded away.  I understand that the chair of the council’s Human Services Committee, Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), has a new staffer who’s getting up to speed on the bill and also looking at the shape of a stronger DDS internal grievance mechanism, which was discussed quite a bit in the June 15 hearing on the bill (see my post, “Slow and Steady Wins the Race,” June 28).

·         ABLE accounts.  In several recent posts I’ve talked about briefings in the SF CoP (see my Acronyms page!) on ABLE accounts in general, and the new D.C. ABLE account in particular.  I’m still waiting for answers to a few questions I’ve posed directly to the D.C. government and we haven’t yet opened an account – I’ll let you know more when I hear more or actually open one.  I’m also still hoping that there will be follow-through in the SF CoP on the financial briefings that were promised at the last meeting.

·         And speaking of the Supporting Families Community of Practice, things may be on a go-slow due to the departure of Alison Whyte, a longtime staffer at the DDS/SODA (last time I’ll write that!).  Wishing her well, let’s hope someone energetic picks up the ball soon on all the good work that group has done.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thinking about ABLE


In my September 18 post (“News, News, News”), I wrote about the briefings on ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts at the June 29 and September 15 Supporting Families (SF CoP) sessions (https://tinyurl.com/yczvmduh).  It was clear at that last meeting that some folks were skeptical, and I’m sure that DDS is now hard at work to arrange a financial workshop soon, maybe with Capital Area Asset Builders (http://www.caab.org/en), to help answer some of people’s more fundamental questions about finance and investing.  But since I was the one who pushed DDS to arrange these briefings, I owe it to you to try to give a little more of my own thinking about why folks needed to know about this opportunity.

As most of you know, I’m the parent of a young man with a developmental disability.  I first “tuned in” to the issue of ABLE accounts at the national Arc’s Disability Policy Seminar back in the spring of 2016 (https://blog.thearc.org/2016/04/20/financial-capability-creates-independence), and I realized at that point what a powerful tool ABLE accounts can be for people with disabilities who want to save for a life goal.  A lot depends on personal circumstances though, and in my opinion, these are some of the most important things to know when it comes to ABLE:

·         Anyone with a documented disability can qualify for an ABLE account (http://www.ablenrc.org/about/what-are-able-accounts), but ABLE is especially important for folks like my son who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid supports.  Without an ABLE account, if you want to save for a car to get to work, to pay for a class you want to take, or to buy some specialized equipment, you risk going over your $2000 asset limit and losing your SSI payments and your eligibility for Medicaid services. But if you save for these types of expenses in an ABLE account the money won’t count against that asset limit.  This is big, if you have a source of money and you’d like to save for important purchases to make your life better.

·         So, do you have any money you could save?  Maybe you’re lucky enough to be earning a little, but you have to make sure every month that your income doesn’t push your bank account above $2000.  Or maybe – just maybe – there’s a parent, or a relative or friend, who would like to help you out, but can’t give you money because they don’t want you to lose your Medicaid supports.  With an ABLE account, that income – earnings or gifts – won’t put your safety net at risk while you plan for your future.

·         What happens to the money in an ABLE account?  It’s invested – in stocks, bonds, and maybe a little cash – so it can earn interest for you.  Every ABLE account (more on the choices below) has different investment options – some options carry a little higher risk and so the interest you earn will be higher to reflect that, and some options are less risky so you’ll earn lower interest with those.  At the September SF CoP session, some people were worried that folks just wanted to gamble with their limited resources.  It’s true that there’s a risk with any investment except a traditional bank account – but there’s also the very strong likelihood of much higher returns.

·         Since the law was passed in 2015 allowing states to make ABLE accounts available, over 20 states have done that (http://www.ablenrc.org/state-review#overlay-context=home, or http://www.thearc.org/what-we-do/public-policy/issues/able-program-implementation).  D.C.’s ABLE account is one of the most recent (https://savewithable.com/dc/home.html).  Many states allow non-residents to open accounts, so D.C. ABLE isn’t your only choice.  The investment options, fee structure (see below!) and other details are all a little different, so it’s hard to generalize about what’s best for a particular individual to do.  Eventually people will be able to look at different states’ record of money management and earnings, but it’s too soon to know that yet because they’re so new.  What you do need to know is that you can always move your money to another state’s ABLE account if you don’t like how things are going.

·         But there is something you do need to think about before you start putting money into an ABLE account.  Most accounts have a low minimum deposit to open an account – in D.C. that amount is $25.00 - but every account has management fees and when those are fixed fees they can quickly “erase” small amounts of money.  D.C. ABLE, for example, carries an annual fixed fee of $45 -55, plus a percentage based on the amount in the account.  A few states’ ABLE accounts – Tennessee’s is one that I know (http://abletn.gov) only carry a percentage fee, so those might be more attractive for people who can only invest a small amount to start with.

There’s more to know, but these are the basics.  I would just leave you with this: 

1)      Don’t distrust ABLE accounts right off the bat, they aren’t a scam. 
2)      ABLE benefits people who have sources of money available to save for important expenses but have concerns about pushing their savings above the $2000 asset limit.  If that’s not you, then don’t think any more about ABLE right now.
3)      Finally, If you have less than $100 to start an account, it still may be worthwhile for you, but I’d suggest you look only at the ABLE accounts that don’t carry a fixed fee.  You may pay a slightly higher percentage, but you’ll still be earning interest on your money.

Finally, please remember that although I’ve tried to be fully accurate, I’m not the ABLE expert.  So check the official websites – I’ve tried to provide the best links above – and think it through.  Hopefully DDS will host a financial workshop soon and you can get more of your questions answered then.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Here's How It Went Down


As I write this, I’m hearing the news that the Congressional Budget Office has issued a preliminary analysis saying the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act has found that millions would be left without insurance if the bill passes.  I’m also hearing that Senator Collins of Maine has come out in opposition.  The word is that this is the death knell for the bill, but like I said in my last post, the Obamacare repeal effort is like Dracula:  it just keeps rising from the dead.  So keep writing to your senators (if you have them, that is).

Yes, I was at the Dirksen Senate Office Building today.  I was wearing the orange and white colors of the Arc of the United States, but there were many, many other disability groups from around the country, there to protest the proposed cuts to Medicaid.  Unfortunately, few if any got into the hearing room.  As Senator Wyden of Oregon noted, the Republican chair of the Senate Finance Committee had chosen to hold the hearing in one of the smallest available hearing rooms, dismissing a request by Democrats to choose a larger room so more American citizens could attend.  As it was, the corridor outside the tiny hearing room was lined with folks in wheelchairs who were prevented from entering due to inadequate space.  Around 2:00, when the hearing was supposed to begin, a chant went up, “No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty” which resonated down the halls of the Senate office building.  Since I was much further back in line, I left at that point for the overflow room, where I heard the same chants over the closed-circuit TV as Senator Hatch tried to start the hearing. 

I didn’t know until much later that some protesters had been dragged from the hearing room, but when I finally left the building around 4:30 the sidewalks just outside the Hart and Senate office buildings were lined with Americans in wheelchairs, including our own Heidi Case, formerly with Project Action!  I thought the view of all those folks locked out of a hearing in which issues so central to their lives were being decided was a powerful and depressing symbol of what was going on in the Senate today.  It wasn’t a pretty sight, and not our American democracy’s finest hour.  (But of course, in D.C. we’re locked out of the Senate every day, so that’s kind of familiar territory.)

I was worried as I watched the hearing that the event was so obviously structured to give senators Graham and Cassidy a soapbox to make whatever claims they wanted about their bill – a bill that has been changing day by day and that its sponsors have wanted to vote on quickly, without time for sound analysis.  If enough Republican senators have now stepped up to kill it, then bravo.  Maybe then there can be a serious bipartisan effort to make improvements to Obamacare without denying millions of Americans, in D.C. and elsewhere, with and without disabilities, the health care and other supports they need.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Say No to Graham-Cassidy!


Since Senator McCain expressed his opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal Obamacare, a lot of people are saying the bill is dead.  But it isn’t.  It isn’t dead until the vote takes place.  Tomorrow there will be a hearing by the Senate Finance Committee, at 2:00 tomorrow.  I plan to be there, along with others from the Arc (https://blog.thearc.org/2017/09/14/arc-responds-graham-cassidy-heller-johnson-health-care-proposal).  But it’s important for the committee to hear from individuals about what this horrible piece of legislation would mean for them.  Here’s what I wrote:

I live and vote in Washington, D.C., so I realize I am no one’s constituent.  But there are real living, breathing people in D.C., and my son, who has a developmental disability, is one of them.  If not for the benefits he receives under one of D.C.’s Medicaid waivers for persons with disabilities, he would be in a very difficult position – and so would we.  I hope that you are hearing howls of protest in opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill from friends and family whom I am actively trying to mobilize in the states you represent, but I must add my own voice as well.  Even though D.C. is unrepresented in the Senate, I hope the broader concern of Medicaid supports for people (children and adults) with disabilities will move you to do the right thing and oppose this bill.  Although some states will benefit in the short term from the reshuffling of Medicaid funds, over the longer haul Medicaid block grants, and per-capita Medicaid caps, are going to do only one thing:  reduce resources for people who need them, including people with disabilities – not to mention many, many others.

Improving on Obamacare is going to require serious, bipartisan effort.  Rushing to approve a bill with such far-reaching, and damaging, consequences without full consideration would be unconscionable, and a single hearing such as the one planned for September 25 does not begin to be adequate consultation.  This absurd rush to overturn Obamacare has to stop.  Human lives are at stake.

Carol A. Grigsby
Washington, D.C.


Send your own email, to GCHcomments@finance.senate.gov.  It only takes a few minutes and it’s important!

Monday, September 18, 2017

News, News, News


It’s fall again, with its new starts and new energy.  Unfortunately, at the national level there is a new energy behind the effort to repeal Obamacare, complete with cuts and caps on Medicaid that would have a serious impact on supports for people with disabilities throughout our country:  https://tinyurl.com/ybfv3n4o.  Since most of my readers are in D.C. though, we are unrepresented at the national level and can’t do a thing to head off this legislation, so if you’re a reader who actually has senators and representatives, please write to them and see that this bill never sees the light of day.

Things got off on a better foot at the local level.  On September 15 DDS hosted the Supporting Families Community of Practice (https://dds.dc.gov/page/dc-supporting-families-community-practice).  The meeting included kickoff consultations by DDS about the possibility of instituting self-direction in D.C. – which allows a person receiving Medicaid waiver supports to have greater control over staffing and budget.  There will be plenty more discussion on this, since DDS won’t submit its plan to the federal government until December 2018.  (Possibly the much-discussed Individual and Family Support waiver plan will be submitted at the same time – stay tuned.)

I’ve been pushing hard for briefings on ABLE accounts (http://www.ablenrc.org/about/what-are-able-accounts), which allow people with disabilities who have the resources to save for important purchases without exceeding the $2000 SSI asset cap or losing Medicaid eligibility.  You’ll recall I wrote in July (“Walking the Talk,” July 14, 2017) that Rebecca Salon had provided a good overview of these new vehicles, but the good news is that the D.C. ABLE program is now in place – the website is https://savewithable.com/dc/home/plan-benefits.html, which (if you were at the meeting Friday) is different from the link provided by the speaker.  D.C. residents can also choose to invest in another state’s ABLE account if they want, so it’s important to shop around and pick the one with the lowest fees and the best investment plan for you.  What was obvious in the discussion was that ABLE accounts are not for everyone, and also that there is a need for the SF CoP to facilitate some briefings on basic financial skills to help folks understand the world of investing and how they might benefit.

Employment and post-secondary transition were also key themes of Friday’s SF CoP meeting, and questions on these subjects dominated the Q and A with DDS director Andy Reese.  We heard about new initiatives by DDS/RSA (confused? click on my page over to the right, “Acronyms and organizations you should know”) to set up internships in D.C. agencies, and by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to develop vocational programming for adults (https://osse.dc.gov/service/career-and-technical-education-cte).  Speaking from personal experience in trying to help my son in his search for employment, I suggested that there are too few part-time jobs in the D.C. government as stepping stones for residents with disabilities, and Andy promised to look into this.

To follow up on my most recent blog post (“OK, Then I’ll Ask You This Way,” September 11), you should know that I also raised those concerns with Andy, and he has promised to get back to me.  But as I’ve been saying for years, while I appreciate his accessibility (and his predecessor’s), it should not be necessary to go to the head of the agency in order to get follow-up.

Other tidbits of news:

-          I haven’t heard anything since the D.C. council returned to business with respect to action on the CIDCRRA (https://tinyurl.com/y75822ov).  Hopefully councilmember Nadeau, chair of the human services committee, will not be too distracted by her campaign for re-election to follow up on this important bill.

-          Sadly, Heidi Case, energetic adviser to Project Action! in that organization’s advocacy efforts, left that position over the summer.  I missed PA!’s first fall meeting on September 16, but understand efforts are under way to find a qualified replacement.  I hope Heidi will find other ways to continue her vocal advocacy on mobility and other issues affecting our local disability community.

-          Another recruitment on the horizon is for the executive director of the DD Council, as Mat McCollough is being promoted to head the Office of Disability Rights.  As a member of the DD Council, I will be involved in the selection process, but Mat’s will indeed be big shoes to fill.

Whew! Have I missed anything?