Synopsis: The year 2012 was a busy and rather wild one for People with Disabilities in America. Many public transit systems, older rail and bus systems in particular, as well as Amtrak, remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. The nastiness out of Washington in the year 2012 certainly did not stop with the labeling of Social Security Insurance as an, 'entitlement,' or calling People with Disabilities, 'seniors.'
The year 2012 was a busy and rather wild one for People with Disabilities in America. From dealing with concerns about the potential for Ryan Plan like medical plans in our future to the continued prejudicial treatment of People with Disabilities in the area of employment, the year has been one of continued challenges and upsets. The year is ending with our favored leadership actually suggesting a change in Social Security, promoting the notion of linking the vital program with a, "chained CPI." We faced uphill battles in all of the areas that are most important to us, including health care, Social Security, housing, employment, transportation, and education.
As people who experience forms of disabilities, we already have enough on our plates to deal with, we don't need to have a bunch of politicians being presented through every single media source in America, raising every frightening specter about cuts to the very health care programs we rely upon. Yet this is exactly what happened in the year 2012. Paul Ryan certainly added to the anxiety and depression levels of people with disabilities in America with his plans for Medicaid, which suggested three large changes:
Mr. Ryan's suggestions were met with overwhelming disapproval by millions of people with disabilities, perhaps unsurprisingly so. His proposals would have actually increased the deficit in this nation for the first decade and more while placing an incredible health care and financial burden on people with disabilities.
Americans with Disabilities also witnessed the election cycle and the battle between Mitt Romney and President Obama over Medicare, which was projected to consume 3.7% of the economy in the year 2012 and 5.3% by the year 2030. By the year 2024, Medicare is projected to have insufficient funding to cover all of its bills. President Obama pointed towards the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as the way to strengthen Medicare. Prior to the ACA, Medicare was expected to fall short of the money needed to cover all of its costs by the year 2016.
The ACA calls for cutting $716 billion out of Medicare through cuts to skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, home health care agencies, and private insurers who provide Medicare Advantage Plans. It also created an independent board whose goal is to keep costs under control if they exceed a preset cap. The ACA specifies that benefits cannot be cut in order to reduce expenses.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, wanted to open up Medicare to the private market. He said the change would cut costs through an increase in competition. He stated the changes would not affect people over the age of 55, and that, 'seniors,' would receive a voucher to purchase insurance plans. If a person chose a more expensive plan than the voucher would cover, they would have to pay for the difference. If they chose a less expensive plan, they would have the option to use the leftover funds to pay for co-pays and deductibles. Mr. Romney stated that traditional Medicare would remain an option, although the voucher might not cover the premium cost and the plan might be left for the sickest of, 'seniors.' The election, of course, is now history.
Politicians love labels and verbiage, something the year 2012 demonstrated yet again. Social Security programs, among others, were repeatedly labeled, 'entitlements,' although millions of Americans have paid into Social Security Insurance all of their lives. While this abusive verbiage continues to be casually thrown around by the leadership of America, People with Disabilities as a population can only look at these, 'leaders,' and wonder just what is going through their minds. Social Security is a paid for program these same politicians have been stealing from for years, presenting us with, 'IOU's,' instead and failing to repay when our time of need comes.
The nastiness out of Washington in the year 2012 certainly did not stop with the labeling of Social Security Insurance as an, 'entitlement,' or calling People with Disabilities, 'seniors.' While the nation's, 'leadership,' considers ways to avoid falling off of the so-called, 'fiscal cliff,' they actually made a proposal that would hurt us in a major way as people who experience forms of disabilities. It was presented as merely being a, 'technical change,' to the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) related to Social Security. It would affect Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as well as a number of other safety net programs.
The, 'chained CPI,' would in reality comprise a substantial cut to these benefits and harm vast numbers of America's People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children with Disabilities, and Veterans with Disabilities. The CPI measures inflation and is used to adjust benefits for Social Security, SSI, Veterans Benefits, and other programs. The CPI is also used to adjust federal poverty guidelines - something that affects eligibility and benefits related to more than 30 different programs such as Head Start, food stamps, and school meals.
When inflation rises, using the CPI to provide a COLA protects the buying power of millions of people in America, to include more than 56 million people on Social Security and 8 Million people who receive SSI. Even though the CPI might appear to be just another acronym used in Washington, it translates into real money that affects millions upon millions of Americans. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the CPI in different ways for different purposes.
The CPI's desire to calculate inflation as it is experienced by consumers in their daily living expenses, examining different spending categories to include:
Each CPI measures inflation a little different from the other and may include a different mix of goods and services. At the moment, Social Security COLA is based upon the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers or, 'CPI-W.' A frightening fact for People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children with Disabilities, and Veterans with Disabilities is that even though cuts from the chained CPI begin small, they get bigger every single year.
The COLA increase for the year 2013 is 1.7%, meager enough to make people wince. Yet surprisingly, and in direct betrayal of the voters who supported them, it is the Democratic Representatives in Washington who are actually supporting a connection between the chained CPI and Social Security, led by Nancy Pelosi. One has to wonder if we have any friends in Washington anymore at the end of 2012.
A report presented by The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in the year 2012 titled, 'Equity in Transportation for People with Disabilities,' and The Leadership Conference Education Fund documented the lack of funding, enforcement, and oversight of transportation programs that allow people with disabilities the chance to fully participate in their own communities. The findings of the report demonstrate that both federal and local policymakers failed to fulfill the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and provide equal access to transportation that is affordable for all communities through federal surface transportation legislation. The report presented a number of findings including:
The reported included recommendations for making sure that the next surface transportation re-authorization bill might start to meet the needs of everyone living in America today. Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund stated, "This report underscores how much the civil rights community has at stake in the transportation debate. Because of inadequate funding and enforcement, countless people with disabilities can't reliably vote, work, attend medical appointments, or enjoy full independence."
Mark Perriello, President of the AAPD, said that, "access to transportation is a prerequisite to full civil rights for people with disabilities. The goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act - economic power, independent living, political participation, and equal opportunity - can only be realized with affordable, accessible transportation systems."
The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), during the year 2012, continued to state that its policies and procedures focus on ensuring that all passengers, despite their personal situations and needs, are treated equally and with dignity, respect, and courtesy. The TSA continued to state that while every person and item must be screened prior to entering each secure boarding area, all disability-related equipment, aids, and devices are allowed through security checkpoints after being cleared through screening. Personally, this veteran with disabilities will not be flying until the TSA has been completely dismantled.
The year 2012 found Development Secretary Donovan announcing $31.3 million in grants to assist more than 14,000 seniors and people with disabilities to receive meals, health care, and other important supportive services. The grants are awarded through the Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) Multifamily Housing Service Coordinator Program (MHSC). The grants are awarded to owners of private housing developments who are eligible and receive rental subsidies from HUD to house people who are low-income in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
The property owners or their management companies either hire or contract service coordinators with backgrounds in providing social services, particularly to seniors and people with disabilities, to help residents with special needs. Development Secretary Donovan stated, "These service coordinators help us connect senior citizens and those living with disabilities with the services they need to live independently. We're getting older as a nation and these grants go a long way toward ensuring these vulnerable populations are well served and allowed to age in place."
The grants were awarded and designed as an initial 3 year period to permit owners of multifamily housing for seniors or people with disabilities who are eligible to hire and support a service coordinator. The funding covers costs such as:
A report from 2008 and HUD discovered that aging in place reduces rates of premature institutionalization for seniors who are on low-incomes, reducing the costs to taxpayers. A lack of affordable housing that is accessible is a key issue for people with disabilities, according to the California State Independent Living Council. The report stated that around 54 million Americans experience at least one form of disability, making us the largest minority population in America.
The report also stated that People with Disabilities spend a disproportionately high share of our incomes on housing that is safe and meets our needs. Bob Hand, Executive Director of Resources for Independence in Central Valley stated, "The reality is that most all of us will experience a disability within our lifetime, which may prompt the need for affordable, accessible housing. However, for people with permanent disabilities, the need is "now" and affordable housing resources simply aren't available."
The year 2012 in America found charter schools enrolling a smaller percentage of students with disabilities than public schools, according to the GAO report. In the state of Ohio, overall charter schools and traditional public schools enrolled similar numbers of students with disabilities; approximately 15%. Gary Tonks, Executive Director of the Arc of Ohio, stated the concentration of students with disabilities in some schools is most likely a result of, 'segregation by choice,' with parents choosing schools they felt their children would be most comfortable attending.
What can be said about the employment of People with Disabilities in America? We have always had the highest rates of unemployment in this nation, for the entire history of this nation. The unemployment rate of People with Disabilities in America in 2012 was 12.9%, while for those who do not experience a form of disability it was 8.7%. What was that about, 'entitlements'
The unemployment rate for People with Disabilities as a population has been improving, if one percentage point in the rate of employment is an improvement; it was 13.6% at this time last year. The numbers of people who experience a form of disability who are unemployed remains disproportionately high in comparison to those who do not have a form of disability. The number might actually be higher considering the fact that many people with disabilities have given up looking for work.
While the politicians of America speak comforting words concerning programs out of one side of their mouths, the 10th Circuit Court in, 'Elwell v. State of Oklahoma,' offered public employees a ruling stating they are not subject to discrimination claims under Title II of the ADA. In a September 11th, 2012 decision, the Court joined other Courts in the finding. The district court found that Title II does not have cause of action for employment discrimination and the University of Oklahoma as a state entity has immunity from discrimination claims because the state did not waive its immunity to allow claims under the ADA. The 10th Circuit upheld the ruling.
The ADA statutory language questioned was, "Subject to the provisions of this sub-chapter, no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity."
The 10th Circuit chose to reason that the programs, services, and activities discussed in the stature were the, 'outputs,' of a public entity and that employment was more of an, 'input,' and was therefore not covered under the language in question. The Circuit's decision read, "If Congress had wanted to prohibit discrimination in all aspects of a public entity's operations, it easily could have said just that indeed, it has in other anti-discrimination statutes."
All in all, the year 2012 was a rough one for People with Disabilities in America in many more ways than one mere article has the ability to present. At the end of this year, the battle against us is still going on, with politicians struggling with the nation's deficit and insisting that Social Security programs somehow contribute to it. Medicaid is still being hotly debated, leaving many of this nation's poorest people who experience forms of disabilities in limbo where health care is concerned. The coming year promises to bring financial opportunities for the wealthy, while making those of us who are least able to afford it pay for this nation's deficit.