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?