Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

National Trends in Disability Employment: Webinar July 8th

On the first Friday of every month, corresponding with the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report, the nTIDE Lunch & Learn Webinar will take place as a live broadcast via Zoom Webinar to share the results of the latest nTIDE findings. In addition, we will provide news and updates from the field of Disability Employment, as well as host an invited panelist who will discuss current disability related findings and events. The archived webinar will be available as a video as well as an audio-only download the following week.

Agenda:  July 8, 2016
  • 12:00 pm: Overview of National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) Jobs Report Release – John O'Neill, Kessler Foundation
  • 12:10 pm: nTIDE open Question & Answer period for attendees
  • 12:20 pm: Announcements from the field of Disability Employment – Michael Gamel-McCormick, AUCD
  • 12:30 pm: Open Question & Answer period for attendees
  • 12:40 pmAllison Wohl, APSE
  • 12:50 pm: Open Question & Answer period for attendees

The EPM-RRTC is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, NIDILRR – Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTCs) Program under grant number 90RT5022-02-00, from 2015 - 2020.

U.S. Access Board Meeting and Webcast (July 13)

Laptop with Board meeting on screenThe U.S. Access Board will hold its next meeting July 13 from 1:30 – 3:00 (ET) at the Board's conference space in downtown Washington, D.C. The public is welcome to attend in person or through a live webcast of the meeting. The meeting agenda includes updates on Board rulemaking and other activities.

A public comment period will be held during the final 15 minutes of the meeting. Those interested in making comments in person or by phone should send an email to Rose Bunales at bunales@access-board.gov by July 6 with "Access Board meeting - Public Comment" in the subject line. Please include your name, organization, state, and topic of your comment in the body of the message.
Further information is posted on the Board's website.
Meeting of the U.S. Access Board  
July 13, 1:30 – 3:00 (ET)
Webcast link: www.access-board.gov/webcast
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrance

New York's MTA's $21M Renovation Failed to Make Public Transit Station Wheelchair Accessible: Lawsuit

Disability Rights Advocates Press Release 0f June 28, 2016.

Bronx Subway Station Still Inaccessible For Wheelchair Users $21.85 Million Later
New York, NY – June 28, 2016 – A class-action lawsuit filed today in federal court alleges the Metropolitan Transit Authority (“MTA”) and New York City Transit Authority (“NYCTA”) ignored the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act when they completed a $21.85 million rehabilitation to the Middletown Road station in the Bronx, but failed to install an elevator. The MTA closed the station for seven months in 2013 to 2014 to undertake extensive work that included replacing staircases, structural steel framing, ceilings, walls, floors, and track structure, and yet this station serving a busy area of the borough is still inaccessible to persons who use wheelchairs or other mobility assistive devices.

“This is not the first time that the MTA has spent millions of dollars improving a subway station while ignoring the legal mandate to simultaneously make it accessible,” said Michelle Caiola, Managing Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, “which is why New York City has one of the worst public transportation systems for people with disabilities in the United States.” Almost 26 years after the passage of the ADA, only 19% of New York City subway stations are fully accessible to persons with disabilities. By contrast, 100% of Washington DC stations, 100% of San Francisco Bay Area stations, 74% of Boston stations, 68% of Philadelphia stations, and 67% of Chicago stations are wheelchair-accessible.

Disability Rights Advocates brings the suit on behalf of the Bronx Independent Living Services (“BILS”), Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York (“DIA”), and two Bronx residents with mobility disabilities who need elevators to access subway stations.

“Inaccessible public transportation interferes with the ability of people with disabilities to hold down jobs, keep medical appointments, and partake in community activities,” said Brett Eisenberg, Executive Director of BILS.

“Many may take access to the subway system for granted, but for our members and constituents, the exceedingly few elevators is a daily reminder of how little effort the MTA has placed on making it a system open to all,” said Anthony Trocchia, President of DIA. He continued, “Hopefully, this suit can initiate a change in MTA priorities.”

Click here for case documents

About Disability Rights Advocates
Disability Rights Advocates is one of the leading non-profit disability rights legal centers in the nation. With offices in Berkeley and New York City, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. To advance that mission, DRA regularly advocates for greater access to all types of transportation systems, including subway systems, taxi fleets, car-sharing services, and sidewalks. DRA and the MTA entered into a groundbreaking settlement in 2011 requiring the MTA to construct an elevator at the newly-renovated Dyckman Street subway station on the 1 line. For more information, visit http://www.dralegal.org.


DNAinfo June 28, 2016 article: 
MTA's $21M Renovation Failed to Make Station Wheelchair Accessible: Lawsuit

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

U.S. Access Board Webinar (July 28th): Accessible Office Spaces and Interior Design

The next webinar in the Board's free monthly series will take place July 28* from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and cover accessible office spaces and interior design. Presenters will review how to apply and satisfy requirements in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards in the design of office space. A representative from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) will join Board staff in conducting the webinar and discuss common office design issues, including product selection, installation details, and furniture placement and offer best practice design tips.

laptop with Access Board sealFor more information or to register, visit www.accessibilityonline.org. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session (total limited to 25) or can be posed during the webinar. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits.

The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site.

* originally scheduled for July 7. Those who already registered for the webinar do not have to do so again.

Guardsmark Settles EEOC Disability & Genetic Information Discrimination Cases For $329,640

from a Press Release on June 23, 2016.
U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission

Over 1,000 Job Applicants Subjected to Illegal Medical  & Family Medical History Inquiries,  Federal Agency Charged
LITTLE ROCK,  Ark. and HONOLULU, Hawaii - One of the largest security companies in North  America, Guardsmark, has agreed to settle disability and genetic information  discrimination charges for monetary relief totaling $329,640, the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. The settlement of EEOC  charges of discrimination impacts over 1,100 job applicants who were required  to disclose their disabilities and/or family medical history.
Charges were  filed with EEOC's Little Rock and Honolulu offices in 2011 and 2012 alleging  that Guardsmark required job applicants to disclose their disabilities and/or  family medical history, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). EEOC's  investigation found that Guardsmark required applicants to complete  questionnaires with questions pertaining to their medical condition and family  medical history during the application process. Such pre-employment inquiries  are prohibited under the ADA and GINA.
Without  admitting liability, Guardsmark agreed to enter into a two-year conciliation agreement with EEOC and the alleged  victims, thereby avoiding litigation. During the course of EEOC's investigation,  Guardsmark ceased asking about genetic information and removed the questionnaires  from the application process. Aside from the monetary relief, the company  further agreed to remove prohibited medical inquiries in the application  process. EEOC will monitor compliance with the agreement.
"Guardsmark  has been cooperative in working with EEOC to resolve this charge without having  to resort to litigation," said Katharine W. Kores, district director for EEOC's  Memphis District, which includes Little Rock in its jurisdiction. "We commend  Guardsmark's willingness to reassess and change their application process so  that applicants and employees do not have to divulge such private personal  medical information. We hope employers take note of this agreement, because EEOC  will continue to actively pursue and enforce ADA and GINA."
Rosa M. Viramontes, district director for  EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes Honolulu in its jurisdiction,  added, "Employers need to be mindful that asking questions relating to a job applicant's  family medical history, medical condition and disability prior to hire is a  violation of federal law that can negatively impact an applicant's prospects. Although charges were filed in different parts of the  country, EEOC's Little Rock and Honolulu Offices worked collaboratively to  settle this matter on behalf of over 1,100 job  applicants."
Genetic  information includes information about an individual's genetic tests and the  genetic tests of an individual's family members, as well as information about  the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an individual's family members  (i.e. family medical history). GINA forbids discrimination on the basis of  genetic information when it comes to any aspect of employment, including  hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe  benefits, or any other term or condition of employment. It is unlawful for an employer to ask,  acquire or maintain such information.
Under the  ADA, an employer may not ask disability-related questions and may not conduct  medical examinations until after it makes a conditional job offer to the  applicant. This helps ensure that an applicant's possible hidden disability  (including a prior history of a disability) is not considered before the  employer evaluates an applicant's non-medical qualifications. An employer may  not ask disability-related questions or require a medical examination pre-offer  even if it intends to look at the answers or results only at the post-offer stage.
Eliminating  barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and  hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups,  older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national  priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
EEOC enforces  federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC  is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov .

Disability Law Center Investigation Finds Massachusetts State Hospital At Fault For Death Of Patient

Disability Law Center Investigation Finds Bridgewater State Hospital At Fault For Death Of Patient

BOSTON, June 27, 2016 – The Disability Law Center (DLC) today recommended Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) be placed into receivership until a long-range plan can be devised to transfer control of the facility from the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to the state Department of Mental Health (DMH).

Another Senseless Death at Bridgewater
“This case is the perfect storm of everything that's wrong with treating patients with mental illness at a correctional facility,” said Christine Griffin, DLC’s Executive Director. “Correctional officers and Massachusetts Partnership for Correctional Healthcare staff lack the ability to care for the patients who are sent there for treatment, not punishment. Until the Department of Mental Health has the sole responsibility for caring for Bridgewater State Hospital patients, nothing will change – and other patient deaths will certainly follow.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Tell the FDA: Ban Electric Shock Torture of People with Disabilities: Comment period ends July 25, 2016

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network shared the following important issue to consider, and comment:

On April 22, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a proposed rule to ban the use of electrical shock devices such as those used at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts. ASAN has issued a statement with more information here. The FDA is currently taking public comments on the proposed rule. 

ASAN has prepared and submitted our comments, which you can read here -- but we also need all self-advocates and allies to submit your own public comments! The JRC’s supporters will undoubtedly be submitting comments of their own; it is crucial that the voices of self-advocates, our allies, and all those who oppose the inhumane use of electric shock to control the behavior of people with disabilities be heard. We need to send the message that these shock devices cause real harm and are never “medically necessary.”

To comment, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FDA-2016-N-1111-0382 and follow the instructions to submit a comment.

We need your help to make sure that this proposed rule becomes an actual rule with real power. Below, we have some suggested language and scripts you can use in your public comments.

We can end the use of electric shock torture against people with disabilities in the United States. But we can’t do it without you. The deadline for sending in comments has been extended - which means more time for JRC supporters to send in THEIR comments. Now more than ever, it's crucial that you let the FDA know that this rule should become law. SEND IN YOUR COMMENTS TODAY.

Suggested Script: 
[I, Name,] strongly urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to proceed with their proposed ban of electrical stimulation devices (ESD)s. Devices that deliver painful electric shocks pose an unreasonable and substantial risk of harm and have been the cause of incredible pain and suffering for people with disabilities. Their use is condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. 
The FDA is allowed to ban any medical device if it finds that the device presents a substantial and unreasonable risk of illness or injury. As the FDA notes in the proposed rule, there are and there have been countless adverse effects, both psychological and physical, of the use of these devices. There is no evidence that they are a valid or effective treatment. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the nation’s leading organization run both by and for Autistic people, has heard many firsthand accounts from people with disabilities who have had ESDs used on them. They report nightmares, overwhelming fear and anxiety, and traumatic memories associated with the use of these devices. Some have later developed psychiatric disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We have also seen records and videos from the only facility known to use the devices in the United States, the Judge Rotenberg Center, showing that these devices have frequently been used to abuse Judge Rotenberg Center residents. Although these devices can cause severe injuries, trauma, and distress even when used as intended, the potential for abuse poses yet another substantial and unreasonable risk. 
[Write why the FDA’s ban is important to you in a few sentences to a paragraph here. The FDA may discard your comments without this.]
I therefore urge the FDA to ban these harmful devices without further delay and their use in the United States. 
[End Script]


Twitter Tweet Chat on Travel Training and Accessible Transportation: June 29th #AllCanRide

Stay connected as Easterseals Project Action Consulting hosts a Tweet Chat on travel training and accessible transportation this coming Wednesday, June 29th at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central. 

You can participate by using hashtag #AllCanRide within your tweet to post your thoughts, share resources, and talk about travel training for all ages. Our co-hosts will join us for a fast-paced Q&A that will last about an hour.
Get ready to chat! All are welcome and #AllCanRide!

40 DAY CHALLENGE - Aug. 29-Oct. 8, 2016 - ONE GOAL. running 1200 mile to raise awareness for people with severe physical disabilities

From August 29-October 8, 2016, Tim Wambach, Founder of Keep On Keeping On (Team KOKO), is challenging himself to the ultimate test of endurance - he is running 1,200 miles between Orlando, FL and Chicago, IL. Tim's goal is to continue to raise as much awareness and community support as possible on behalf of those living with severe physical disabilities. We ask that you join Team KOKO in this effort by committing to your own unique 40-day challenge. By joining this movement, together we will succeed in improving the lives of those who need our help most. 

Founded in 2007, the Keep On Keeping On Foundation is dedicated to assisting those with severe physical disabilities, and educating and empowering all others to make a difference in their community.
Did you know?
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the average lifetime cost of living with a disability is over $1 million. 
  • Over 80% of those afflicted with severe physical disabilities rely on special mobility equipment such as wheelchairs, braces, or walkers to assist daily activities.
  • People with disabilities constitute the nation's largest minority group, and is the only group that any of us can become a member of at any time.



Friday, June 24, 2016

Illinois woman sues Fox Theatre over lack of captioned performances for patrons with hearing impairment

photo of the Fox Theatre
article By Robert Patrick St. Louis Post-Dispatch | June 23, 2016

ST. LOUIS, MO • An Illinois woman filed a federal civil lawsuit against the Fabulous Fox Theatre Wednesday claiming that the theater refused to provide captioning at an upcoming performance for patrons with hearing impairment.

Maria C. "Tina" Childress' lawsuit also seeks class-action status.

Maria Childress, (photo_L) from Champaign, is an avid theater-goer and member of the Association of Late Deafened Adults, which advocates for “greater access through captioning to public places,” the suit says.

Childress became totally deaf at 29 due to an illness, the suit says. Although her cochlear implants allow her to “function normally under ideal circumstances,” she can't fully understand stage dialog or lyrics masked by music, the suit says.

The suit says that some theaters provide captioning for the audience, using the final script synced to the performance and displayed on a small screen or a hand-held device.

When Childress asked the Fox to provide captions for next summer's show “Rent,” Fox refused, and instead offered to schedule a sign language interpreted performance or provide “volume-enhancing assistive-listening devices,” neither of which would work for Childress, the suit says.

The suit says Fox has also not responded to a letter from a Childress lawyer telling them that they were required to provide captioning under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A Fox representative did not return calls seeking comment.

The suit says that the Association of Late Deafened Adults has successfully fought for captioning equipment in California movie theaters.

A few things parents of special needs kids want you to know about public restrooms

North Carolina's newly passed House Bill #2 (HB2) — the so-called "bathroom law" which prohibits anyone over the age of 7 from using a public restroom for a gender they weren't anatomically born into — might have unintended consequences for families with older special-needs children.
thoughtful article by Allison Slater Tate, Contributor for TODAY Parents | June 2016
TODAY Parents asked some of those families what they wish the public knew about the challenges they face in public restrooms in light of this national debate. Here are some of their answers:
1. Sometimes, disabilities are invisible.
Melissa Sharp, a mother of four in Roseville, California, is usually comfortable with Owen, her 12-year-old son who has autism, using a public restroom on his own. But in some situations, she is too uneasy to let him go alone if there isn't a male family member to accompany him or a family or single restroom available. In these cases, she takes him into the women's restroom with her.
Owen is perfectly capable of attending to his needs in a restroom alone, but he is "oblivious to his surroundings all of the time," Sharp told TODAY Parents. "Owen is literally the real life embodiment of Buddy the Elf: He is naive and innocent and only ever sees the good in everyone," Sharp said. "He would be such an easy target."
2. "Family" or "companion" restrooms are often occupied, and not necessarily by those with special needs.
Wendy and Matt Greenawalt of Laurel, Maryland, must sometimes travel great distances with their daughter Nora, 9, who has Down syndrome as well as extensive medical complications. Nora uses a wheelchair and cannot be left unattended.
Wendy Greenawalt told TODAY Parents that restrooms marked "family" or "companion" are usually the most useful restrooms to someone with a disability, but they still are difficult to use because of high demand from non-disabled users.
"In those large restrooms I've seen everything from people changing for work to moms monitoring the restroom use of their fully capable, ambulatory, older children," said Greenawalt. "I've more than one time encountered a companion restroom being used for a lengthy period of time for a mom to nurse her baby. I've had people cut in front of me, bang on the door because I was taking too long."
3. Many stalls just aren't big enough.
The slightly larger handicapped stall with grab bars found in most public places, Greenawalt said, is totally unusable to her family. Nora's wheelchair is larger because it is tilted, and it doesn't fit in these stalls. "In fact, I don't know that anyone in a mobility device could truly use one of these with any semblance of privacy," said Greenawalt.
Last week, while on vacation in Northern California, Vera Hough of Little Silver, New Jersey, posted this picture of Thomas, her 7-year-old son who uses a wheelchair, in a too-small public handicapped stall.
4. They are almost certainly more uncomfortable than you are.
Tikvah Scheit, a Seattle, Washington, mother of three children, two of whom have autism, said she sometimes receives looks when she brings her 13-year-old son Kieran into the women's restroom with her. "At no time whatsoever could my son safely go to the men's room by himself," Scheit told TODAY Parents. "He picks up trash off the floor and puts things in his mouth. He doesn't understand that he needs to wait to take his clothes off after the door is shut, and if he were in trouble, he wouldn't have the words to tell someone that he needed help."
Though her son doesn't notice who is in the bathroom with him, she worries about his future, especially in a climate where women are being made to feel afraid of public restrooms. "What happens when my son is an adult?" she asked. "Unless something drastically changes, this isn't going to be something that I can just stop doing."
5. You can make a difference.
For caregivers of children with special needs, the simple task of using a public restroom can be an enormous challenge, but you can help. "I've had kind people allow us to cut in line when the handicapped stall is free and heard many teaching their children what the handicapped symbol means and why they can use the 'small' stall," said Greenawalt.
"One simple action can make a world of difference: Choose compassion," said Scheit.
Each of the parents expressed worries about HB2's potential ramifications on their families. "If I were to take my son to the store and not be able to have him use a bathroom when he needed to simply because he is a male coming into a woman's bathroom, it would be a massive incident for us," said Scheit.
Greenawalt agreed. "Losing the freedom for Nora to enter the men's room, such as in North Carolina, where we actually used to live, would be detrimental to our ability to take her to do fun things and participate in our family life," she said.
For more from TODAY Parents, visit: http://www.today.com/parents

Anti Donald Trump for President Ad Featuring Teen with a Disability

YouTube posted by Stop Hate

by Jim Watkins, Ability Chicago Info | June 24, 2016
A leading super PAC backing Hillary Clinton for president released an ad on June 23, 2016 targeting Donald Trump's portrayal of reporter Serge Kovaleski who has a disability.

The ad produced by Priorities USA features a 17yr old teen with a disability named Dante who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on his spine when he was one year old.

In the ad, Dante shares his thoughts on Trump's mockery of reporter Serge Kovaleski (photo) from The New York Times with a physical handicap at a rally in South Carolina last November, and it shows a clip of Trump imitating him.

The 30 second ad is also part of a multi-million dollar "Stop Trump/Stop Hate" campaign.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Social Security COLA Projected for 2017, with Big increases for some Medicare premiums expected

Social Security’s more than 60 million beneficiaries are projected at this point to receive a tiny 0.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment next year, while some Medicare recipients could see steep premium increases. That’s according to the annual trustees reports released June 22 about the financial health of Social Security and Medicare.

article by Eileen Ambrose and Patricia Barry, for AARP | 06/22/16
The long-term outlook for Social Security old-age and disability benefits, taken together, remains the same as a year ago, with promised benefits payable until 2034 and then, without changes to the law, 79 percent of promised benefits payable through 2090. Meanwhile, the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital coverage is fully funded until 2028, two years less than projected a year ago.

During a press conference, U.S. Treasury Secretary and managing trustee Jacob J. Lew urged Congress to “not wait until the eleventh hour to address the fiscal challenges given that they represent the cornerstone of economic security for seniors in our country.”

The AARP Take a Stand campaign has been asking presidential candidates to commit to securing the future of Social Security. “Candidates who don’t take a stand on Social Security in this important election year choose to put the program’s strength at risk in the long term,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “Though people of all ages rely on it, its importance to older Americans — already under tremendous pressure from wage stagnation and shrinking pensions — is only likely to grow.”

Social Security annually weighs whether to give beneficiaries a cost-of-living adjustment based on the inflation rate during the third quarter of the year compared to the last year a COLA was awarded. Beneficiaries didn’t receive a COLA for 2016 because the inflation rate had fallen, the third time since 2010 they didn’t get a bump in payments. The 0.2 percent COLA that the trustees project for 2017 could yet change with inflation. The final word will come in October.

Gasoline prices have been rising this year, and the higher employment rate means that employers will have to increase wages to attract workers — both signs of inflation, said James Angel, an associate professor of finance at Georgetown University. Still, Angel said, Social Security beneficiaries should not expect much when it comes to a COLA next year.

The big question for Medicare beneficiaries is what happens to the Part B premium in 2017. With no COLA for 2016, about 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries were “held harmless” from cost increases and are paying the same standard premium as they had in the previous three years ($104.90 a month). The rest are required by law to share the load of increased costs and pay a lot more. Congress, though, stepped in last year with a solution that limited the impact of the increases for 2016.

The small COLA now projected for 2017 would still have an impact on Part B premiums. The report estimates that standard premiums for most of those in the 30 percent not currently held harmless would jump by $27.20 to $149.00 a month next year. The other 70 percent would pay $107.60 a month in 2017 — $2.70 more than they pay now, according to the nonprofit National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Among the 30 percent affected in 2017 would be people who did not have their premiums deducted from Social Security checks in 2016 (including those new to Medicare in 2017) and those who already pay higher premiums because they have higher incomes. The report estimates that higher-income beneficiaries would see even higher jumps in premiums next year — from $166.30 to $204.40 a month for the lowest affected tax bracket, and from $380.20 to $467.20 for those in the highest.

A third group ­— low-income people whose states pay their Part B premiums — are not personally affected, but their states will bear the added costs.

This year’s report also projects an increase in the annual Part B deductible from $166 to $204 for all beneficiaries.

Under Medicare law, Part B (which covers doctor services, outpatient care and medical equipment) is funded differently from Part A hospital insurance. Part B premiums are set to cover 25 percent of total costs, and the federal government contributes the remaining 75 percent out of general revenues. The higher income-related premiums are set to cover 35, 50, 60 or 80 percent of the costs, depending on income level.

The rise in Medicare costs, which trigger increases in Part B premiums, is mainly due to the high prices of some recently developed prescription drugs, the report says. “High cost drugs are a major driver of Medicare spending growth,” said Medicare’s acting administrator, Andy Slavitt. “For the second year in a row, the spending growth for prescription drugs dramatically outpaced cost growth for other Medicare services.”

For more from AARP, visit: www.aarp.org/

Are Workers with Disabilities Seeing Long-Delayed Employment Improvement? 2016 Labor Report

Workers on the margins of the labor pool often get a second look as the job market heats up. After years of steady job creation, are we now at that point in the business cycle?
Even amid the recent uptick, the share of disabled workers has still seen a long-term decline
article by ANNA LOUIE SUSSMAN, for The Wall Street Journal | June 22, 2016
A new report from the Labor Department suggests the answer could be “yes.” For working-age persons with disabilities, rates of employment and labor-force participation increased between 2014 and 2015, following steady declines in both measures in the period following the recession, through roughly the end of 2014. (The report’s figures are not adjusted for seasonality.)

For example, men aged 16-64 with a disability saw their employment-to-population ratio, or the share of the overall population that is employed, fall from an average of 31.7% in 2009 to 28.1% in 2014. In May it hit 32%, up sharply from 30.1% in May 2015. For their non-disabled peers, the same measure hit bottom in 2010 and has risen each year since.

In one sense, the sluggish recovery of persons with disabilities so long after the recession ended reflects similar experiences among other workers on the fringes of the labor market. Workers who are 25 years and older and have less than a high school diploma, for instance, saw their labor-force participation start rising again only in 2015.

But the upturn in 2015 follows a longer-term trend of falling employment and labor-force participation among people with disabilities, said Richard Burkhauser, an economist at Cornell University and the University of Texas at Austin. A separate 2015 report from the nonpartisan think tank the American Institutes for Research found that labor force participation and employment rates among people with disabilities have steadily fallen since 2001, from 25% to less than 17% among workers aged 21-65. Mr. Burkhauser attributes that decline to a “tremendous increase” in the share of workers with disabilities who receive disability insurance, which rose to 9 million people as of 2014, up from 5.3 million people in 2001. That discourages them from working, he said, with people using the disability insurance program as “a long-term unemployment program.”

Even if 2015 marks the beginning of a turnaround, persons with a disability still work at rates vastly lower than their non-disabled counterparts, who are about 3.7 times more likely to be employed, the new Labor Department report said. In 2015, 17.5% of persons with a disability 16 and over were employed, while 65% of the non-disabled population was employed. However, the population with disabilities is generally an older group, with nearly half –47%– aged 65 or over, three times the rate of those without disabilities. And they are less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Disability experts caution that the employment experiences differ widely depending on the type of disability. For example, people with cognitive disabilities were employed at less than half the rate of those with vision or hearing disabilities. AIR researcher Michelle Yin, who co-authored the 2015 report, said that policies intended to facilitate hiring disabled workers needed to factor in their broad range of needs and experiences.

“In an uncertain job market, policies that do not address the needs and opportunities of people with specific types of disabilities will not be sustainable, as these individuals weigh guaranteed benefits against an uncertain future,” she said.

Disability Rights Washington Report outlines need for accommodations for inmates with disabilities

from a Press Release on June 22, 2016.
Disability Rights Washington

As many as 31 percent of U.S. inmates in state prisons report having at least one disability. Inmates with disabilities often spend more time in prison, under harsher conditions, than inmates without disabilities. Today, the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Prison Project (a project of Disability Rights Washington) released the report, "Making Hard Time Harder". This report outlines the lack of accommodations for inmates with disabilities across 21 states.
The report includes case summaries in which essential mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and walkers, were taken from inmates. One case resulted in an inmate’s inability to access showers or the outside yard for almost two years. Other cases include inmates who are deaf or hard of hearing not being given access to video phones, and inmates with intellectual disabilities unable to access medical care due to their inability to fill out a written request for such care.
From individual assistance to large scale federal litigation, the case summaries in this report demonstrate the breadth and depth of work by protection and advocacy agencies (P&As) such as DRW, in our nation's prisons, and demonstrate that despite the passage of the ADA over two decades ago, much state prison work remains to be done.
More case studies, videos, and the full report are available at AVID prisonproject.org, where original interviews with inmates with disabilities and experts on disability issues in correctional settings, can be accessed.
People are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment. In drafting this report, we have found that inmates with disabilities are often neglected and excluded from programs, rehabilitation, and basic medical care, subjecting them to additional forms of punishment solely due to their disability.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

17th Anniversary of 1999 Olmstead Supreme Court Decision, June 22, 2016

June 22, 2016 is the 17th Anniversary of the 1999 Olmstead U.S. Supreme Court decision. The fight to realize the intent of the the Olmstead decision continues for people living in Intermediate Care Facilities for people with Developmental Disabilities, people living in Institutes for Mental Diseases, and people living in Nursing Homes, to live in communities throughout the country. 
The following is information is a privilege to share this important part of ADA History. 

as posted at Department of Justice ADA.gov:

Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone

About Olmstead

The story of the Olmstead case begins with two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, who had mental illness and developmental disabilities, and were voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit in the State-run Georgia Regional Hospital. Following the women's medical treatment there, mental health professionals stated that each was ready to move to a community-based program. However, the women remained confined in the institution, each for several years after the initial treatment was concluded. They filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for release from the hospital.

The Decision

On June 22, 1999, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Court held that public entities must provide community-based services to persons with disabilities when (1) such services are appropriate; (2) the affected persons do not oppose community-based treatment; and (3) community-based services can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the public entity and the needs of others who are receiving disability services from the entity.

The Supreme Court explained that its holding "reflects two evident judgments." First, "institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable of or unworthy of participating in community life." Second, "confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment."

Faces of Olmstead

The personal stories of a few of the thousands of people whose lives have been improved by the Olmstead decision and the Department's Olmstead enforcement work can be accessed at https://www.ada.gov/olmstead/olmstead_about.htm
YouTube published by OlmsteadRights YouTube

To learn about Olmstead and how to Advocate using Olmstead by visiting OlmStead Rights at www.olmsteadrights.org.

For all previous posts on Olmstead: CLICK HERE

National Health Care Fraud Takedown Results in Charges against 301 Individuals for Approximately $900 Million

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, along with state and federal law enforcement partners, participated in the largest health care fraud takedown in history in June 2016. Approximately 300 defendants in 36 judicial districts were charged with participating in fraud schemes involving about $900 million in false billings to Medicare and Medicaid. Takedowns protect Medicare and Medicaid and deter fraud -- sending a strong signal that theft from these taxpayer-funded programs will not be tolerated. The money taxpayers spend fighting fraud is an excellent investment: For every $1.00 spent on health care-related fraud and abuse investigations in the last three years, more than $6.10 has been recovered.
###from a Press Release on June 22, 2016.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Most Defendants Charged and Largest Alleged Loss Amount in Strike Force History
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced today an unprecedented nationwide sweep led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 36 federal districts, resulting in criminal and civil charges against 301 individuals, including 61 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $900 million in false billings.  Twenty-three state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s arrests.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is suspending payment to a number of providers using its suspension authority provided in the Affordable Care Act.  This coordinated takedown is the largest in history, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and loss amount.  
Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Burwell were joined in the announcement by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, FBI Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich, Inspector General Daniel Levinson of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), Acting Director Dermot O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), and Deputy Administrator and Director of CMS Center for Program Integrity Shantanu Agrawal M.D.
The defendants announced today are charged with various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.  The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services, including home health care, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME) and prescription drugs.  More than 60 of the defendants arrested are charged with fraud related to the Medicare prescription drug benefit program known as Part D, which is the fastest-growing component of the Medicare program overall.
“As this takedown should make clear, health care fraud is not an abstract violation or benign offense – It is a serious crime,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “The wrongdoers that we pursue in these operations seek to use public funds for private enrichment.  They target real people – many of them in need of significant medical care.  They promise effective cures and therapies, but they provide none.  Above all, they abuse basic bonds of trust – between doctor and patient; between pharmacist and doctor; between taxpayer and government – and pervert them to their own ends.  The Department of Justice is determined to continue working to ensure that the American people know that their health care system works for them – and them alone.”
“Millions of seniors depend on Medicare for essential health coverage, and our action shows that this administration remains committed to cracking down on individuals who try to defraud the program,” said Secretary Burwell.  “We are continuing to put new tools and additional resources to work, including $350 million from the Affordable Care Act, for health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts.  Thanks to the hard work of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, we are making progress in addressing and deterring fraud and delivering results to help ensure Medicare remains strong for years to come.”
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare and Medicaid for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided.  In many cases, patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were allegedly paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never performed.  Collectively, the doctors, nurses, licensed medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged are accused of submitting a total of approximately $900 million in fraudulent billing.
“The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a model of 21st-Century data-driven law enforcement, and it has had a remarkable impact on health care fraud across the country,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “As the cases announced today demonstrate, the Strike Force’s strategic approach keeps us a step ahead of emerging fraud trends, including drug diversion, and fraud involving compounded medications and hospice care.”
“These criminals target the most vulnerable in our society by taking money away from the care of the elderly, children and disabled,” said Associate Deputy Director Bowdich.  “The FBI is committed to working with our partners and the public to stop fraud and ensure that healthcare dollars are used to help the sick, and not line the pockets of criminals.”
“While it is impossible to accurately pinpoint the true cost of fraud in federal health care programs, fraud is a significant threat to the programs’ stability and endangers access to health care services for millions of Americans,” said Inspector General Levinson.  “As members of the joint Strike Force, OIG will continue to play a vital role in tracking down these criminals and seeing that justice is done.”
“DCIS, in partnership with our fellow federal investigative agencies, will continue to uncompromisingly investigate and bring to justice the people who perpetrate these criminal acts,” said Acting Director O’Reilly. “Their actions threaten to cripple our vital national health care industry, and place our citizenry at risk.  We will remain vigilant.”
“Taxpayers and Congress provided CMS with resources to adopt powerful monitoring systems that fight fraud, safeguard program dollars, and protect Medicare and Medicaid,” said Deputy Administrator and Center for Program Integrity Director Agrawal.  “The diligent use of innovative data analytic systems has contributed or led directly to many of the law enforcement cases presented here today.  CMS is committed to its collaboration with these agencies to keep federally-funded health care programs safe and strong for all Americans.”
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.  The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations and since its inception in March 2007 has charged over 2,900 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $8.9 billion. 
Including today’s enforcement actions, nearly 1,200 individuals have been charged in national takedown operations, which have involved more than $3.4 billion in fraudulent billings.  Today’s announcement marks the second time that districts outside of Strike Force locations participated in a national takedown, and they accounted for 82 defendants charged in this takedown.
For the Strike Force locations, in the Southern District of Florida, a total of 100 defendants were charged with offenses relating to their participation in various fraud schemes involving approximately $220 million in false billings for home health care, mental health services and pharmacy fraud.  In one case, nine defendants have been charged with operating six different Miami-area home health companies for the purpose of submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, including for services that were not medically necessary and that were based on bribes and kickbacks.  In total, Medicare paid the six companies over $24 million as a result of the scheme.
In the Southern District of Texas, 24 individuals were charged in cases involving over $146 million in alleged fraud.  One of these defendants is a physician with the highest number of referrals for home health services in the Southern District of Texas.  This physician has been charged with participating in separate schemes to bill Medicare for medically unnecessary home health services that were often not provided.  Numerous companies that submitted claims to Medicare using the fraudulent home health referrals from the physician were paid over $38 million by Medicare.
In the Northern District of Texas, 11 people were charged in cases involving over $47 million in alleged fraud.  In one scheme, a physician allowed unlicensed individuals to perform physician services and then billed Medicare as if he performed them.  Additionally, the physician certified patients for home health care that was often medically unnecessary.  Home health companies submitted approximately $23.3 million in billings to Medicare based on the physician’s fraudulent certifications.    
In the Central District of California, 22 defendants were charged for their roles in schemes to defraud Medicare of approximately $162 million.  In one case, a doctor was charged with causing almost $12 million in losses to Medicare through his own fraudulent billing, including performing medically unnecessary vein ablation procedures on Medicare beneficiaries.  
In the Eastern District of Michigan, 19 defendants face charges for their alleged roles in fraud, kickback, money laundering and drug distribution schemes involving approximately $114 million in false claims for services that were medically unnecessary or never rendered.  Among these are owners of a physical therapy clinic who lured patients through the payment of cash kickbacks and medically unnecessary prescriptions for Schedule II medications for the purpose of stealing more than $36 million from Medicare.   
In Tampa, Orlando and elsewhere in the Middle District of Florida, 15 individuals were charged with participating in a variety of schemes including compounding pharmacy fraud and intravenous prescription drug fraud involving $17 million in fraudulent billing.  In one case, the owner of several infusion clinics allegedly defrauded the Medicare program of over $8 million through a scheme involving reimbursement claims for expensive intravenous prescription drugs that were never purchased and never administered to patients.
In the Northern District of Illinois, six individuals were charged in cases related to three different schemes involving bribery and false and fraudulent claims for home health services and disability benefits.  The charged defendants include individuals who owned or co-owned the fraudulent providers and a medical doctor.  In total, these schemes resulted in over $12 million being paid to the defendants and their companies. 
In the Eastern District of New York, 10 individuals were charged in six different cases, including five individuals who were charged for their roles in a scheme involving over $86 million in physical and occupational therapy claims to Medicare and Medicaid.  In that case, the defendants are alleged to have filled a network of Brooklyn clinics that they controlled with patients by paying bribes and kickbacks.  Once at the clinics, these patients were subjected to medically unnecessary therapy.  The defendants then laundered the proceeds of the fraud through over a dozen shell companies. 
In the Eastern District of Louisiana, three defendants were charged in connection with a health care fraud and wire fraud conspiracy involving a defunct home health care provider.  This scheme centered on the payment of kickbacks through patient recruiters in exchange for patients who oftentimes never received nor qualified for home health care as billed.  Once admitted, patient medical records were routinely fabricated and altered to support false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.
In addition to the Strike Force, today’s enforcement actions include cases brought by 26 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, including the unsealing of search warrants in investigations being conducted by the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern District of Georgia, District of Columbia, Eastern District of Texas, Southern District of West Virginia, Middle District of Louisiana, District of Minnesota, and the Northern District of Alabama.
In the Northern District of Georgia, nine defendants were charged for their roles in two health care fraud schemes involving $7 million in fraudulent billings.  Eight defendants were charged in a scheme where bribes and kickbacks were allegedly paid to a state of Georgia official in exchange for falsifying applications and licensing requirements and recommending the approval of unqualified mental health providers.
In the Middle District of Alabama, two defendants were charged for their roles in a mental health services scheme allegedly involving $246,000 in fraudulent billings.
In the Middle District of Tennessee, a doctor was charged for his role in an illegal kickback scheme under which he allegedly referred patients to a certain DME supplier in exchange for cash kickbacks.
In the Western District of Kentucky, a business entity was charged for its role in a health care fraud scheme.
In the Southern District of Ohio, two defendants were charged for their roles in a $7.5 million home healthcare fraud scheme.
In the Western and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania, three defendants were charged for their roles in drug diversion and embezzlement schemes.
In the Southern District of New York, a pharmacist was charged for his role in a scheme involving over $51 million in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid billings. 
In the Districts of Maine, Alaska, Kansas, Connecticut and Vermont, five defendants were charged for their roles in Medicaid-related schemes.
In the Eastern District of Missouri, four defendants, including a doctor and pharmacist, were charged for their roles in schemes involving over $3 million in billings.
In the Southern District of California, eight individuals were charged in health care-related cases.  In one case, five individuals, including a doctor and a pharmacist, were charged in a scheme to pay bribes and kickbacks to doctors in exchange for prescribing expensive durable medical equipment and compound pain creams that were not medically necessary.  The indictment alleges that approximately $27 million in false and fraudulent claims were submitted to insurers.
In the District of New Mexico, two defendants were charged for their roles in a Medicaid fraud scheme.
In the Northern District of Iowa, a settlement agreement was reached with a corporate entity for its role in a health care fraud scheme in a juvenile residential treatment facility.
In the District of Oregon, one defendant was charged for his role in a $1.7 million optometry services scheme.
In the District of Puerto Rico, civil demand letters were issued to six individuals for their roles in a scheme to defraud the Medicaid program.
In addition, in the states of Florida, Iowa, South Dakota, Indiana, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Oregon, Kentucky and Alaska, 49 defendants have been charged in criminal and civil actions with defrauding the Medicaid program and 57 sites were searched, pursuant to search warrants.  These cases were investigated by each state’s respective Medicaid Fraud Control Units. 
The cases announced today are being prosecuted and investigated by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide, along with Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Southern District of Florida, Eastern District of Michigan, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas, Central District of California, Eastern District of Louisiana, Northern District of Texas, Northern District of Illinois and the Middle District of Florida; and agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG, Drug Enforcement Administration, DCIS and state Medicaid Fraud Control Units.
A complaint or indictment is merely a charge, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The court documents for each case will posted online, as they become available, here:https://www.justice.gov/opa/documents-and-resources-june-22-2016-medicare-fraud-strike-force-press-conference.
The Affordable Care Act has provided new tools and resources to fight fraud in federal health care programs.  The law provides an additional $350 million for health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts, which has allowed the department to hire more prosecutors and the Strike Force to expand from two cities to nine.  The act also toughens sentencing for criminal activity, enhances provider and supplier screenings and enrollment requirements and encourages increased sharing of data across government.
In addition to providing new tools and resources to fight fraud, the Affordable Care Act clarified that for sentencing purposes, the loss is determined by the amount billed to Medicare and increased the sentencing guidelines for the billed amounts, which has provided a strong deterrent effect due to increased prison time, particularly in the most egregious cases.
Since January 2009, the Justice Department’s Civil Division, along with U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country, has recovered a total of more than $29.9 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $18.3 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.