Disability in the Budget: Why It Matters
By David Heymsfeld, Policy Advisor, AAPD
On May 12, 2011, AAPD staff attended a field hearing of the National Council on Disability (NCD) focusing on how the projected deficits in the federal budget will affect people with disabilities. NCD is a small independent federal government agency that advises the Congress and the President about federal disabilities policies, programs, practices and procedures. In his opening statement, NCD Chairman Jonathan Young said that the federal government’s current fiscal path is unsustainable, and that a failure to deal with the problem now will ultimately force draconian actions that will harm all Americans, including people with disabilities. The focus of the hearing was maintaining supports for the independent living of people with disabilities in the community.
Disability Community Testimony
The first was Kelly Stuart Woodall, Executive Director, Association of Self-Advocates of North Carolina. She testified about her personal experiences with the Medicaid program known as Community Alternatives Program (CAP) for Developmental Disabilities. CAP workers come to her home to help her dress, eat and get to work, medical appointments, and community and social activities. Without these services she would have to live in an institution, and would not be able to get to a job. The CAP services cost $27,000 a year, while an intermediate care facility would cost $75,000.
Also speaking was Bonnie Miller, Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Self-Determination Consumer and Family Group. She spoke about her experience with CAP services for her daughter who has intellectual disabilities. Her daughter was not thriving under programs that required her to live or spend days in confined settings. Ms. Miller has insisted upon exercising her right to direct services for her daughter, including hiring, managing and training support staff. She reported that these services cost less than a sheltered workshop or group home.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, emphasized that having a disability should not mean automatic confinement or institutionalization, or a life of government dependence. She stated that government policies should enhance help for people with disabilities to enhance their abilities and ambitions to the fullest extent possible.
Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, emphasized that the recession has had a severe impact on people with disabilities. As of April 2011, the percentage of persons with disabilities in the work force was 20.6%, as compared to 69.6% for persons without disabilities. He urged that budget cutting measures not cut programs that will enable individuals with disabilities to achieve a higher level of independence, productivity and inclusion within society. He supports reforms in Social Security and Medicaid to relieve concerns of individuals that if they return to work they will lose their health coverage.
The final government witness was Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, U.S. Department of Agriculture. He emphasized the importance to people with disabilities of the fifteen government nutrition assistance programs. He discussed the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP-formerly known as food stamps), which is currently utilized by 3.2 million households that have at least one person with a disability.
- Write to the National Council on Disability urging them to oppose actively any reductions in funding for Medicaid that will result in limitations in eligibility or the services provided.
- Monitor the Council’s website for future field hearings at www.cd.gov and for other events at which you may want to appear.
- Be ready for the next round of Action Alerts in regard to Medicaid proposals.
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