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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What Does Stigma have to do with Mental Health and Disasters?

According to the World Health Organization, 44-70 percent of people that needed mental health interventions do not receive treatment in any given year. Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher said that stigma was perhaps the biggest barrier to people seeking mental health care. Stigma is a negative and often unfair projection of shame or judgment onto people in a particular circumstance. It occurs when people socially distance a group of “others” based on perceived negative stereotypes. People with mental illness can also self-stigmatize, which can lead to denial, unwillingness to seek treatment or poorer prognosis. Disasters create conditions that may foster or exacerbate stigma for people experiencing emotional distress or symptoms of mental illness.

Author: Sarah Alcala, Senior Management Analyst with Aveshka Inc
Although many other barriers prevent people from seeking mental health care - lack of access to mental health care professionals, cost, cultural barriers, lack of symptom recognition - stigma remains one of the most concerning and, perhaps, preventable of all the things that make it difficult for people to pursue mental health care. It is an important factor for disaster responders to be aware of.

Following a disaster, people with pre-existing mental health needs or people with newly existing needs because of the disaster might experience stigmatization. Disasters can create situations where people may not have access to their medication, routines, caregivers, or providers, exacerbating existing mental illness symptoms. Congregate settings, such as shelters, can lend themselves to points of stigmatization because people are under stress, at a heightened sense of fear or anxiety and are often surrounded by strangers. Additionally, traumatic experiences in a disaster can worsen symptoms in people with pre-existing mental health needs and lead to behavior that is disruptive or upsetting to others. This may result in prejudicial treatment by other survivors or to misconceptions on the part of responders about those in need of care or support.

Disaster survivors are not the only ones that may need mental health interventions following a disaster. First responders may also experience trauma and need some degree of mental health intervention after disasters, but are unlikely to seek it because of stigma. First responders may feel seeking emotional support is a sign of weakness or failing in their abilities. They may be concerned they will experience ridicule from peers, or be labeled mentally unfit if they talk about distressing symptoms they may be experiencing. This stigmatization of mental health issues and treatment creates barriers that must be broken down to ensure responders seek the care they need when they are struggling to cope.

So, what can we do to break the stigma? Emergency planners and responders can engage mental health professionals in disaster planning and make addressing mental health part of the health and medical response. In congregate settings, planners and responders should recognize that mental illness may play a role in some behavior and facilitate access to a mental health professional. If a mental health professional is not immediately available, ensure staff and volunteers have the training to refer people to appropriate resources.

Everyone, including you, can create a culture where mental illness is treated as manageable medical diagnosis by:
  1. Educating yourself and others about metal health. Check out these websites for more information:
  2. Seeing the person, not the illness;
  3. Talking openly about mental health to family, friends, and colleagues, and;
  4. Being empathetic and compassionate about people experiencing mental illness – don’t use words like “crazy” or “psycho”.
When we take steps to reduce stigma around mental illness, we create and encourage a supportive, respectful culture that promotes health.
Author: Sarah Alcala, Senior Management Analyst with Aveshka Inc. in support of the Division for At-Risk Individuals, Behavioral Health & Community Resilience and Rachel E. Kaul, LCSW, CTS, Senior Policy Analyst and Behavioral Health Team Lead, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 5/30/2017 2:41:00 PM

source: U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services

Audio-Described Theatre Performance June 14th at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois

Northlight Theatre is offering an upcoming Touch Tour/Audio-Described performance of our current production, Relativity, a new play about Albert Einstein. 

In 1902 Albert and Mileva Einstein had a baby daughter. After 1904 she was never seen or spoken of again. Forty years later, a reporter interviews Einstein about this mysterious piece of his past, revealing shocking secrets about his family and his personal life. While the reporter questions Einstein on his theory of relativity and his decisions, she also poses a query of her own: to be a great man, does one first need to be a good man?

Relativity ​by Mark St. Germain
​June 14 at 7:30pm Touch Tour/Audio-Described performance 

This performance will include a live audio-description of the visual and physical events on-stage for patrons who are blind or have low vision. A pre-performance touch tour begins at 6pm, preceding the performance at 7:30pm. The touch tour will include information about the design and characters that add to the world of the play. $40 tickets using code AUDIO. Call the Box Office at 847.673.6300 and please indicate interest in the touch tour when you order your tickets;
 or buy online at: http://bit.ly/2rV2p58​

​Northlight Theatre is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, Illinois, inside the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts.​

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Quebec Superior Court Authorizes Disability Discrimination Class Action Suit against Montreal Public Transit

A Quebec Superior Court judge has authorized a class action lawsuit against the City of Montreal, the STM and the AMT which alleges discrimination against all people with a physical disability.

article by CTV Montreal on May 29, 2017 

                                            Of Montreal's 68 metro stations, 11 are wheelchair accessible.                                                 
Justice Marie-Anne Paquette authorized the suit Monday, a moment Laurent Morissette said he feels has been a long time coming.

“It's a small victory in a sea of battles to come but we're confident this is a step in the right direction,” said Morissette, who works with Regroupement des Activistes Pour L’Inclusion au Québec(RAPLIQ), a group dedicated to fighting for the rights of people who have disabilities.

The class action suit includes about 20,000 people and alleges systemic discrimination by public transit services the STM and AMT.

Anyone in quebec who uses a uses a wheelchair, or is visually impaired is automatically included in the suit and potentially each could receive $75,000.

RAPLIQ President Linda Gauthier is fighting on their behalf.

“I have to work hard to ask justice for them, to lead them toward justice, to have their rights recognized,” she said.

Of Montreal's 68 metro stations, 11 are wheelchair accessible.

Of 71 commuter train stations, nine are.

The suit is also going after the City of Montreal for what they call a failure to act.

“It’s the effect of the failure to do something that will result in people being denied the right to full equality, in terms of access to public transit,” explained Fo Niemi of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, or CRARR.

Lawyer Gilles Gareau is gearing up for a long fight, but said he hopes it won’t come to that.

“Probably, however if we're dealing with common sense -- if there was ever a case that should be settled, this is one. It's seems plain and obvious if people can’t have access, there's discrimination,” he said.
Other cities, they argue, have far better access:
  • Toronto's metro stations are 49 per cent accessible
  • Cities such as Seoul and Stockholm are 100 per cent
  • Chicago is 69 per cent metro and rail accessible
  • Montreal is at 13 per cent
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the city is working to change that and this suit will have to run its course.
“If there's a legal process, well the legal process will go. But I know one thing is we have a policy for universal access and we're totally dedicated to that. We've been putting up a new plan in urban planning to make sure everyone feels like a first-class citizen,” he said.
Morissette said it doesn't feel that way when he can't get on a bus or into a metro.
“They definitely forget that this is a question of basic human rights and dignity,” he said.
A judge will now determine if Montreal's transit system is accessible enough.

Medicare Advantage Organization and Ex COO to Pay $32.5 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

May 30, 2017 - Freedom Health Inc., a Tampa, Florida-based provider of managed care services, and its related corporate entities (collectively “Freedom Health”), agreed to pay $31,695,593 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by engaging in illegal schemes to maximize their payment from the government in connection with their Medicare Advantage plans, the Justice Department announced today. In addition, the former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Freedom Health Siddhartha Pagidipati, has agreed to pay $750,000 to resolve his alleged role in one of these schemes.

Siddhartha Pagidipati 2009 photo
“When entering into agreements with managed care providers, the government requests information from those providers to ensure that patients are afforded the appropriate level of care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Today’s result sends a clear message to the managed care industry that the United States will hold managed care plan providers responsible when they fail to provide truthful information.”

The government alleged that Freedom Health submitted or caused others to submit unsupported diagnosis codes to CMS, which resulted in inflated reimbursements from 2008 to 2013 in connection with two of their Medicare Advantage plans operating in Florida. It also alleged that Freedom Health made material misrepresentations to CMS regarding the scope and content of its network of providers (physicians, specialists and hospitals) in its application to CMS in 2008 to expand in 2009 into new counties in Florida and in other states. The government’s settlement with Mr. Pagidipati resolves his alleged role in this latter scheme.

“Medicare Advantage plans play an increasingly important role in our nation’s health care market,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow. “This settlement underscores our Office’s commitment to civil health care fraud enforcement.”

“Medicare Advantage insurers must play by the rules and provide Medicare with accurate information about their provider networks and their patients’ health,” said Chief Counsel to the Inspector General Gregory Demske of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “OIG will investigate and hold managed care organizations accountable for fraud. Moving forward, the innovative CIA reduces the risks to patients and taxpayers by focusing on compliance issues unique to Medicare Advantage plans.”

The allegations resolved by these settlements were brought in a lawsuit under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the Federal False Claims Act and the Florida False Claims Act. These statutes permit private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to receive a share of any recovery. The whistleblower in this action is Darren D. Sewell, who was a former employee of Freedom Health. The whistleblower’s share in this case has not yet been determined.

The corporate entities related to Freedom and which were part of today’s settlements are: Optimum HealthCare Inc., America’s 1st Choice Holdings of Florida LLC, Liberty Acquisition Group LLC, Health Management Services of USA LLC, Global TPA LLC, America’s 1st Choice Holdings of North Carolina LLC, America’s 1st Choice Holdings of South Carolina LLC, America’s 1st Choice Insurance Company of North Carolina Inc. and America’s 1st Choice Health Plans Inc.

Today's settlements were the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, The U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Middle District of Florida, HHS-OIG and the Florida Office of the Attorney General.

The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. The case is captioned United States ex rel. Sewell v. Freedom Health, Inc., et al., Case No. 8:09-cv-1625 (M.D. Fla.).
source: Department of Justice press release

Monday, May 29, 2017

USAGov’s 2017 Guide for Seniors

As a senior, your confidence and experience give you an important role in your family, friendships, and community. But you may also face some challenges—from managing your finances and avoiding scams and fraud to staying healthy and more. In honor of Older Americans Month, USAGov developed a guide that can help empower you to meet those challenges and make the most of life.

USAGov’s Guide for Seniors

source: USA.gov

“Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact” 2017 Annual Study Available

May 2017 - The most recent annual “Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact” study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) indicated that the majority (59 percent) of workplace accommodations cost nothing, while for those that do, the typical small expenditure pays for itself in the form of reduced workers’ compensation and training costs and increased productivity and morale. Employers in the JAN study, which has been conducted since 2004, represented a range of industry sectors and sizes and contacted JAN for information about workplace accommodations, the ADA, or both.

Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact Study

What is the bottom line? Workplace accommodations are low cost and high impact, and JAN can help employers make them, free of charge.
source: United States Department of Labor

Free Tool to Assess Workplace Technology Accessibility for All U.S. Employers

The ODEP-funded Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) has enhanced TechCheck, a free, interactive tool that helps organizations evaluate their accessible workplace technology efforts and find resources to develop them further. TechCheck gives users a confidential benchmarking “snapshot” of the current state of their workplace technology, recommended accessibility goals and steps they can take to achieve them. Updated features of the tool include automatic scoring and a customized list of resource links based on user responses, making TechCheck a natural step for employers seeking to build or fine-tune an accessible workplace technology initiative.

TechCheck is scalable and intended for U.S. employers of all types—public or private sector, large or small.
What you can expect:
  • It’s quick and easy. TechCheck takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.
  • You’ll get rapid feedback. After completing the questions, you’ll receive a Readout evaluation of where you stand across several dimensions, from internal training efforts to procurement policies.
  • It’s completely confidential. PEAT does not retain your answers except to create your customized Readout. And we will never publish any of your answers, or share that you have participated in TechCheck without your explicit permission.
  • A foundation for building a more accessible workplace. TechCheck provides formal documentation that you can use to win support from management to develop your accessible technology efforts further.

Learn more about TechCheck

source: United States Department of Labor

National Trends in Disability Employment Webinar June 2, 2017

Join 'nTIDE Lunch & Learn Webinar Series' for the monthly webinar detailing findings of the latest Jobs Report release, announcements from the Disability Employment field, and a guest presentation by Meg O'Connell, Vice President of the Workplace Initiative & President of the Global Disability Inclusion.

Register for the nTIDE Lunch & Learn Webinar on Friday, June 2, 2017 at 12 Noon EST

  • 12:00 pm: Introduction & Welcome
  • 12:05 pm: Overview of National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) Jobs Report Release
    Andrew Houtenville, UNH-IOD & John O'Neill, Kessler Foundation
  • 12:15 pm: Announcements from the field of Disability Employment
    Denise Rozell, AUCD
  • 12:30 pm: Guest Presentation
    Meg O'Connell, Vice President, Workplace Initiative & President, Global Disability Inclusion
  • 12:45 pm: Open Question & Answer period for attendees

About the nTIDE Lunch & Learn WebinarOn 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.

source: 'Research on Disability'  press release

Steppenwolf Theatre presents Accessible Performances of 'The Infinite Wrench' on June 2 & 3 in Chicago

The Neo-Futurists are taking our new late-night show The Infinite Wrench (one of The Chicago Tribune's "Top 30 Shows to See This Summer") to Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre for two accessible performances on June 2nd and 3rd. The Infinite Wrench is a show that unleashes a barrage of two-minute plays that each offer something different—some are funny, others profound. Some are elegant, disgusting, topical, irrelevant, terrifying, or put to song. All of the plays are truthful and tackle the here-and-now, inspired by the lived experiences of the performers.

The Infinite Wrench - Friday, June 2nd - 7:00pm
Open Captioning and ASL

The Infinite Wrench - Saturday, June 3rd  - 7:00pm
Audio Description & Touch Tour
(touch tour begins before the show, at 5:30pm)

Both performances are in The 1700 Theatre (wheelchair accessible and equipped with an induction hearing loop for people who use personal hearing devices that have a T-coil). Front Bar, directly in front of the 1700 Theatre, has a push-button entrance, wheelchair accessible seating and multi-stall all-gender restrooms.

We'd love to share it with you. Click below to purchase tickets.
Buy tickets to The Infinite Wrench at Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (312) 335-1650
Copyright © 2017 The Neo-Futurists, All rights reserved.

Houston-Area Psychiatrist Riaz Mazcuri Convicted of Health Care Fraud for Role in $158 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A federal jury convicted a Houston-area psychiatrist on May 23, 2017 for his role in a $158 million Medicare fraud scheme.  
Acting Assitant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Region, Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Kristin Osswald of the Railroad Retirement Board Office of Inspector General’s (RRB-OIG) Chicago Regional Office and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.
After a five-day trial, Riaz Mazcuri, 65, of Harris County, Texas, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and five counts of health care fraud.  Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 10, 2017, before U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore of the Southern District of Texas, who presided over the trial. 
According to evidence presented at trial, from 2006 until February 2012, Mazcuri and others engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare by submitting to Medicare, through Riverside General Hospital (Riverside), approximately $158 million in false and fraudulent claims for partial hospitalization program (PHP) services.  A PHP is a form of intensive outpatient treatment for severe mental illness. 
The evidence presented at trial showed that Mazcuri participated in a scheme by which Riverside paid bribes and kickbacks to group home owners and nursing home employees in exchange for sending Medicare patients to Riverside’s PHPs.  Mazcuri indiscriminately admitted and readmitted these patients into these intensive psychiatric programs – often for years on end – many of whom suffered from severe Alzheimer’s or dementia and were unable to participate in the treatment purportedly provided at the PHPs, and who therefore did not qualify for the services, the evidence showed. 
In addition, evidence presented at trial showed that Mazcuri rarely saw patients and that he visited the PHPs briefly every week or so to sign documents and briefly see patients.  Additionally, Mazcuri falsified medical records and signed false documents purporting to show that patients admitted to the PHPs qualified and required the intensive psychiatric services, the evidence showed.  Evidence also showed that Riverside did not actually provide the intensive, psychiatric treatment that a PHP is supposed to provide and falsified documentation to make it appear to Medicare that intensive treatment was being provided to qualifying patients.  
Evidence at trial demonstrated that Mazcuri personally billed Medicare for over $4.5 million for psychiatric treatment he purportedly provided to Riverside’s PHP patients.  Mazcuri’s signature on patient documents enabled Riverside to bill Medicare for $55 million of the total $158 million that Riverside billed Medicare for fraudulent psychiatric services, the evidence showed.
To date, 15 others have been convicted of offenses based on their roles in the fraudulent scheme.  These include Earnest Gibson III, the former president of Riverside; Earnest Gibson IV, the operator of one of Riverside’s PHP satellite locations; Regina Askew, a group home owner and patient file auditor; and Robert Crane, a patient recruiter, all of whom were convicted after a jury trial in October 2014.  Earnest Gibson III was sentenced to 45 years in prison.  Earnest Gibson IV was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Regina Askew was sentenced to 12 years in prison.  Robert Crane has not yet been sentenced.  Mohammad Khan, an assistant administrator at the hospital, who managed many of the hospital’s PHPs, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.  Sharon Iglehart, a physician, was also convicted after a jury trial in August 2015.  She was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Walid Hamoudi, a physician, pleaded guilty in August 2015.  He was sentenced to five years in prison.
The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG, IRS-CI RRB-OIG and the MFCU, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Ashlee McFarlane and Trial Attorneys Kevin Lowell and Aleza Remis of the Fraud Section.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 3,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $11 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
source: Department of Justice press release

Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day 2017 free meals, discounts, deals and sales, for veterans and all military, plus offers for everybody

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. The holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.. (Wikipedia)

Memorial Day will be observed on Monday, May 29, 2017.

"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  President John F. Kennedy

History of the Holidays: History of Memorial Day 

YouTube published by HISTORY Channel

Memorial Day free meals, discounts, deals and sales, for veterans and the military, plus offers for everybody.
Blue Star Museums – Free Admission to over 2,000 museums
More than 2,000 museums across America offer free admission to active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 29, through Labor Day, September 4, 2017. There are also Blue Star Theatres, a program offering discounted or complimentary movie admission to all military personnel and their families, as well as veterans.

California’s Great America Free Admission
Opening Day through Memorial Day (March 25­-May 29), any member of the armed services, active or veteran, will receive free regular admission to the park. Plus, each military guest will be able to bring up to six additional guests at a discounted rate of just $30 per person.

Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg offers free admission over Memorial Day weekend, Friday through Monday, May 26 – 29. This offer is available to all active duty military, reservists, retirees, veterans, national guardsmen, and their immediate dependents.
Free Admission – Many other local places are providing free admission to active duty military and veterans this Memorial Day weekend. Call ahead to confirm. Parks, zoos, aquariums, amusement parks, museums, concerts, local events and others may also provide free admission and discounts to military family members and dependents over Memorial Day weekend.

Fogo de Chão
On Memorial Day 2017, veterans or active duty will receive 50% off of their meal at Fogo de Chão, and three of their guests will receive 10% off. Restrictions apply. Present Military ID to redeem offer.

Food Lion Military Discount
Memorial Day is a good day to buy groceries! Active or retired military personnel may receive a 10 percent MVP Military Appreciation discount on Monday, May 29th, 2017.

Hickory Tavern
Hickory Tavern is offering a free hamburger to all veterans and active duty military on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, at all 27 locations. The offer includes a side of French Fries, Tavern Chips, Tater Tots or Broccoli. Please show valid ID.

Home Depot
A 10% discount is offered to all military veterans on Memorial Day to all veterans up to a maximum of $500. A year round 10% discount is available at all U.S. locations to active duty personnel, reservists, retired or disabled veterans and their immediate families. Must present a valid military ID. Unfortunately Home Depot does not accept state ID cards with veterans designation (some locations may). Note: Home Depot has unfortunately removed the military discount policy from their website while keeping the discount intact.

On Monday, May 29, current and former U.S. military members can enjoy a free entree from the Hooters Memorial Day Menu, by presenting a valid military ID at participating Hooters locations nationwide.

IKEA: Whether you're a service member or not, your entire family can eat for free on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday—provided you are planning on doing some shopping there. Customers must be members of the free IKEA Family program to take advantage of the deal. You must pay for your meal at an IKEA restaurant, and you'll be given a coupon with your receipt. The food total will be deducted from any home furnishings purchase of $100 or more.

King’s Island
Free admission to active and retired members of the U.S military during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, May 26 through May 29. Military who qualify for the free admission ticket include active military, retired military, National Guard, veterans with honorable or medical discharge and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps with government issued ID.

All Veterans receive a 10% discount on Memorial Day. This is not to be confused with the Everyday 10% Military Discount which is available to those who are currently serving, Retired Veterans, or VA Recipients and their immediate family. See link for official rules.

Massanutten Resort – Indoor/Outdoor WaterPark
On Monday, May 29th, Military Veterans, Active, and Non-Active Military receive free admission to the waterpark. $10 for Immediate Family Members. Present valid military ID to receive discount.

McCormick & Schmick’s Free Meal
Military veterans, active-duty, and Gold Star honorees may receive a complimentary lunch or dinner on Memorial Day. Show your military ID, and pick a free entrée off the Memorial Day Menu.

Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub
Veterans and active duty military can enjoy a free entree from the “9 Real Size Entrées for $9.99 Menu” with every entrée purchased on Memorial Day, Monday, 5/29/17.

SeaWorld: Active-duty military can get free admission to SeaWorld and sister parks Busch Gardens and Sesame Place throughout the year by ordering them in advance. Veterans get specially discounted tickets too. Admissions must be purchased ahead of time here; they cannot be picked up at the gate.

Texas de Brazil
For Memorial Day, Texas de Brazil is offering a 20% discount on take-out orders, and 50% off dinner for veterans and active duty military. Offer is valid for up to 4 guests/table only on Monday, May 29, 2017!

Twin Peaks Eat Free
Monday, May 29, in honor of all armed forces past and present, Twin Peaks is offering a free select meal in honor of Memorial Day.

If more information becomes available, will update. - PLEASE SHARE THE POST! 

Jessica Cox Is A Disability Activist, & Pilot Who Shares Her Story in ‘Right Footed’ Documentary

Born without arms as the result of a severe birth defect, Jessica Cox never allowed herself to believe that she couldn’t accomplish her dreams. An expert martial artist, college graduate and motivational speaker, Jessica is also the world’s only armless airplane pilot, a mentor, and an advocate for people with disabilities.
 Jessica Cox in Planes Cockpit

Directed by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Nick Spark, Right Footed chronicles Jessica’s amazing story of overcoming adversity and follows her over a period of two years as she becomes a mentor for children with disabilities and their families, and a disability rights advocate working in the U.S.A. and abroad.

The multi-award winning, feature documentary Right Footed tells the story of Jessica Cox, a 29-year-old woman with a disability who, over the course of the film, transforms from a speaker and mentor into a disability rights activist and leader working on a global level. Despite a childhood full of enormous mental and physical challenges, we see how a young Jessica earned a college degree and two Taekwondo black belts, learned to drive a car and, incredibly, became the first person in the world to pilot a plane — using her feet. Jessica’s achievements launch her career as a public speaker and, as the film begins, we see her begin to mentor children with disabilities. Fueled by relentless personal drive and strong personal faith, her mission is to tell her story and spread the idea that ‘disability does not mean inability’. We see her mentoring children with disabilities and their families in ways that are beautiful, moving and effective. Soon an important opportunity presents itself, as Nobel Prize winning NGO Handicap International invites her to visit Ethiopia to promote inclusion of people with disabilities, especially in schools. Ethiopia is a place where those born with a disability are marginalized, denied an education, and viewed as cursed. Jessica appears in the media and does her best to debunk these beliefs, and works one-on-one with children to encourage them to attend school. After returning from Africa, Jessica begins to wonder whether she might make a larger impact through political advocacy. She questions how much love and personal connection can really achieve. How many people do you have to touch to really change the world?

Despite a previous disinterest in politics, Jessica transforms herself into a disability advocate — working with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, including those disabled as a result of their injuries, and lobbying Senators in Washington D.C. for ratification of a major disability treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Based on the Americans With Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation that directly benefited Jessica when she was growing up, the CRPD represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to extend civil rights to people with disabilties globally.

The documentary is both a portrait of Jessica’s unexpected journey as she becomes a disability activist and a very personal story — spanning more than two-and-a-half years of her life during which time she gets married and begins a new life with her husband Patrick while also taking care of her mother Inez who is stricken with cancer. The film also reveals much about Jessica’s religious faith and the reasons that she does not see herself as a victim of her condition.

Right Footed is about the power of human will, and examines how much one individual’s life can affect people on a deeper level. It is also story about perseverance — the perseverance and fortitude of Philippine immigrant mother Inez and how she passed that capacity on to her daughter Jessica, who has overcome her limitations beyond her mother’s wildest dreams. Born under circumstances that initially appeared absolutely tragic and heartbreaking, Jessica’s story is also about our ability to heal from a great trauma, and the power of transformation — about how one person was able to convert the greatest disaster that befell her, into one of her greatest assets.

Shot in the USA, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. Right Footed examines how one woman’s determination and indefatigable effort can produce enormous change both for herself and people all over the world; worldwide more than one billion people are living with a disability. Jessica’s journey is a story about the power of faith and strength of will that will challenge the way you think about what it means to be ‘disabled’.

TRAILER: Right Footed Documentary 

For the Right Footed Documentary, visit:  http://rightfootedmovie.com/

Some Trump Supporters Are Realizing That Now He Wants To Cut The Aid They Need To Live

Krista Shockey voted for President Trump in November. Now she's one of the people who might get hurt under his plan to cut safety net programs for the poor and disabled.
Article by Heather Long for CNN Money | May 24, 2017                                                                       

Krista Shockey at Diner 23 in Waverly, Ohio. She relies on Supplemental Security Income.

Shockey is on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program to help low-income Americans who are disabled. The monthly payment is just over $700 a month.

"It's my only income," Shockey told CNNMoney in the fall, when we first met her at Diner 23 in Waverly, a small town in southern Ohio that's seen better days. "I couldn't live" without it.

She was stunned to hear the president wants to downsize SSI. She hadn't heard about it until CNNMoney called her.

When releasing Trump's budget Tuesday, the White House hailed it as a "taxpayer first" plan. Trump's goal is to get millions of people off welfare and into full-time jobs. For Shockey, that won't be easy.

"There's no way I could go back to work," Shockey said this week. "I've got a lot of problems. I'm crippled in my feet, knees, back, hands."

Trump has proposed dramatic decreases in funding for food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, student loans, welfare (known as TANF) and disability programs like SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

"Honestly, I haven't been following much (news). I've got so much going on with my family. My mother died," she said.

CNNMoney reached out to about a dozen Trump voters who either rely on government aid to live or who work closely with the poor. Most were surprised.

Surprise at Trump's proposed cuts
For instance, America's "poorest white town" -- Beattyville, Kentucky -- voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Any cuts to the safety net would be felt acutely by its residents: 57% of households in Beattyville receive food stamps and 58% get disability payments from the government.

"I am still happy with President Trump," says Barbara Puckett, who lives in Beattyville and has been on Social Security disability since the late 1990s because of sclerosis. But she says she would worry if the budget becomes law and she loses her benefit.

For now Trump's budget is just a proposal and Puckett's benefits are still the same.

William Owens is a pastor in Beattyville. He's the type of person who pitches in wherever he's needed. In addition to leading a church and youth center, he's also a volunteer fire chief and chairman of the local school board.

William Owens is a pastor in Beattyville, Kentucky

Owens, a Trump supporter, said the president just wants the states and local governments to have more control over how welfare money is spent.

Some Trump voters embrace the cuts
What Owens is referring to is the thinking of Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director. A former state lawmaker in South Carolina, Mulvaney is a big believer that states are better at crafting safety net programs than the federal government.

"We would see this program come down from Washington with all of these instructions on how to use it, and say, goodness gracious, this won't work in South Carolina," Mulvaney said.

Pastor Owens has made it his life's mission to lift people out of poverty. He runs the Kentucky Mountain Mission, which has a bowling alley and gym where a lot of teens hang out after school. He can see both sides of the debate on government aid.

He grew up in an extremely poor family as one of 14 kids. They got "about $300 a month" in Social Security because his father was disabled and couldn't work. He works with families today that truly need the aid, but he also sees some that get dependent on it.

"I think some of it should go away," he told CNNMoney in January when we visited him. "I believe in a hand up and not a hand out."

Some people on food stamps do work
Tyra Johnson (photo) also lives in Beattyville. She's a 39-year-old mom who receives food stamps.

When CNNMoney reached Johnson Tuesday, she was at work. She's earns $8 an hour as a housekeeper at a hotel. She's "not earning enough yet" to get off food stamps.
 Tyra Johnson
Johnson isn't alone. Nearly a third of families on food stamps have a working member, according to an analysis of government data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. They don't earn enough money to be able to afford to put food on the table and get out of severe poverty.

"As of right now, I don't know what I would do" if Trump cuts food stamps and Medicaid, she says. Her two children also receive government-funded health care.

'I'm still trying to process all of this'

Johnson was one of the few in Beattyville who did not vote for Trump. But she's actually doing what he wants: She found a job recently and has come off some government aid. After a car wreck, she received $700 a month from Social Security Disability Insurance for a long time. That aid is gone now, but she says she still needs food stamps.

About 44 million Americans are on food stamps today. Enrollment spiked during the Great Recession as people lost their jobs. It has come down a bit since the peak in 2013, but it's still far higher than the 26 million who were in the program before the financial crisis hit.

"Common sense dictates that programs like these return to a sustainable, pre-Obama trajectory," says Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

But advocates for the poor say a big part of the reason so many people remain on food stamps now is people like Johnson who have jobs but don't earn enough to support a family.

Trump's budget isn't a done deal.
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas has already called the plan "basically dead on arrival." Congress has the final say on what programs gets more or less money. Lawmakers it will almost certainly make changes to what Trump has proposed.

But for many in Trump country, Johnson sums up the feeling right now: "I'm still trying to process all of this."


Thursday, May 25, 2017


Our colleagues at Access Living of Metro Chicago has shared the following Press Release.
May 24, 2017---Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its new score of the effects of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). As expected, the updated assessment only minimally mitigates the vast damage projected by the original scoring; Medicaid remains the single biggest target of reductions within the bill. The AHCA would continue to threaten the lives of the total of more than 42 million people with disabilities across the country who rely on Medicaid, state marketplace plans, employer insurance and other options. It would cut Medicaid by $834 billion over ten years. Taken together with the White House's release of its proposed FY 18 budget yesterday, the AHCA continues to represent a full scale attack on disability rights and economic opportunity.

Overall, the CBO predicts that 14 million people will lose health care coverage by next year under the AHCA and 23 million less people will have it in 10 years than they would under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Currently, there are 28 million people who are uninsured; by 2026, that number would rise to 51 million uninsured. In addition, the plans themselves will be worse. The worst effects are for the states that would ask for waivers to no longer cover all essential health benefits, and to waive protections for people with pre-existing health conditions.

For example, were Illinois to request an Essential Health Benefits (EHB) waiver, out-of-pocket expenses for mental health care and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars a year, escalating our state's mental health and opioid crisis. As a second example, people with physical disabilities routinely face exorbitant costs for habilitative equipment such as wheelchairs. Being forced to pay for this equipment out of pocket would trap thousands in their own homes.

Access Living has repeatedly sounded the warning about the dangers of the AHCA's Medicaid per capita caps, hidden discriminations against persons with pre-existing conditions, weakening of essential health benefits, elimination of lifetime caps, and more. Those who actually have non-Medicaid insurance could face escalating premiums and out-of-pocket costs for far less service. In Illinois alone, over 480,000 people with disabilities count on Medicaid to survive. The new CBO assessment only re-confirms the dangers to a health care system already stretched thin, especially in Illinois.

"Make no mistake. Reductions of this magnitude will result in deteriorating health, costly institutionalization and loss of life," said Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living. "While people with disabilities only make up 15% of the Medicaid population, they account for over 40% of the expenditures. They will be hit disproportionately hard."
"People with disabilities have very complex relationships with Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance," said Amber Smock, Director of Advocacy at Access Living. "The attempt to totally reform health care in this country solely through reductions, without examining what healthcare actually does for people, can only result in economic disaster, increased levels of illness and disability, and ironically, greater costs to consumers. That's not what the public wants."
Access Living calls upon our members of Congress, our Governor, and our civic leaders to do everything they can to avert this unprecedented looming disaster.

Read the CBO release at this link https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52752.

Established in 1980, Access Living is a change agent committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables Chicagoans with disabilities to live fully-engaged and self-directed lives. Nationally recognized as a leading force in the disability advocacy community, Access Living challenges stereotypes, protects civil rights and champions social reform. Their staff and volunteers combine knowledge and personal experience to deliver programs and services that equip people with disabilities to advocate for themselves. Access Living is at the forefront of the disability rights movement, removing barriers so people with disabilities can live the future they envision. Learn more about Access Living at www.accessliving.org.

Dare2Tri Impact's Lives of Chicago Athletes with Physical Disabilities and Visual Impairments

For 8-year-old Gabrielle Sullivan, cerebral palsy is a fact of life, but it's not enough to stop her from running, jumping, biking and swimming like any other kid.

Article by Shelbie Lynn Bostedt for Chicago RedEye | May 24, 2017                                                    
Thanks to Chicago-based organization Dare2Tri, Sullivan even has the opportunity to go above and beyond a "normal kid" in these areas—she recently competed in her first triathlon with the assistance of her mom and Dare2Tri volunteers.

"Gabrielle has gotten so much more confident, in school, on the playground, in speaking to people, in answering questions about her disability," said her mother, Melissa Sullivan of Roscoe Village. "We're so proud of her."

This mini-documentary outlines the journey of four Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club athletes.
YouTube published by Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club

Dare2Tri is in its seventh year, working with people of all ages with physical disabilities or visual impairments to allow them to participate in community-based activities like 5Ks, marathons and triathlons.

The organization was founded by two experts in adaptive sports, Keri Serota and Dan Tun, and an above-the-knee amputee veteran Melissa Stockwell, who lost her leg in Iraq.

"Unlike wheelchair basketball, where you need nine other people also in wheelchairs, community-based sports are accessible to any person, disabled or not, and can participate with their mother, brother, sister, whoever," Serota said. "So we came together and decided, 'Let's get more people involved in the sport of triathlon.'"

The mission later expanded to include everything from 5Ks to marathons.

Don't worry—you don't need to be a marathon runner to be able to volunteer with Dare2Tri. The opportunities available at Dare2Tri encompass a variety of skillsets.

"Volunteers can do anything from getting lunches ready and staffing information booths to actually running or swimming or biking with our athletes," Serota said.

If you are up for a feat of physical strength, Dare2Tri also sponsors an event, Race to Raise Relay, alongside the Chicago Triathlon that pairs able-bodied athletes with a Dare2Tri athlete to split up the segments of a triathlon into a relay race.

Volunteers that aren't ready to race but are looking for a stable opportunity can sign up on Dare2Tri's website to be emailed opportunities as events become available—there's no hourly commitment required.

This summer, Dare2Tri will host three camps: one for disabled Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in Hammond, Indiana, one for all-ages to prepare for a paratriathlon in Pleasant Praire, Wisconsin and a kids camp at 63rd Street Beach. 
For more information, visit Dare2Tri's website.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/redeye/culture/ct-redeye-do-good-volunteering-with-dare2tri-20170515-story.htmlCopyright © 2017, RedEye Chicago

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

President Trump's Budget Continues His Deceitful Attack On Americans with Disabilities

Article by Michael Hiltzik for the Los Angeles Times| May 22, 2017                                                     

We pointed out back in March that Trump budget direct Mick Mulvaney displayed an alarming ignorance about Social Security disability benefits during an appearance on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

Now it turns out that there was method to his muttering. In effect, Mulvaney was telegraphing that the Trump White House was planning to cut disability benefits sharply. The Trump budget released Tuesday includes $1.7 trillion in cuts to major social insurance and assistance programs, including food stamps, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Social Security disability.

Any cut to disability would be a major violation of Trump’s oft-repeated campaign pledge not to cut Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare. Trump also broke that promise, by the way, by endorsing the American Health Care Act, the House Republican Obamacare repeal plan that incorporates a stunning $880 billion in Medicaid cuts.
It turns out that Mulvaney was setting up a flagrant deception during that “Face the Nation” appearance. He asked moderator John Dickerson, “Do you really think that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don't think so.”
Dickerson let the remark, which we described then as “a drive-by shooting” aimed at some of the nation’s neediest and most defenseless people, slide without comment.

But Mulvaney was tapping into a knowledge vacuum that appears to extend more deeply into the Washington press corps. Politico, which reports that the budget document will “avoid revamping Social Security and Medicare,” and the Associated Press, which says the budget “won’t touch Social Security or Medicare,” get snowed by the implication that a cut in disability isn’t a cut to Social Security.

A four-page “talking points” memo being circulated by the White House and published by Politico gives the game away, by stating the budget “does not cut core Social Security benefits.” (Emphasis ours.) This shows that on Face the Nation, Mulvaney was merely seeding the landscape with a rank deception.

At Axios, Jonathan Swan originally described Trump’s cuts as being “in line with his campaign promise” not to cut Social Security. Informed by Dylan Mathews of Vox that disability is Social Security, Swan at first doubled down, tweeting in response, “Isn't it [the] case that if you are disabled and have SSDI those payments end at retirement age? [W]hich is when Social Security kicks in.” (Later the statement about Trump’s promise was removed from the post and the description of Trump’s treatment of Social Security was changed to say the budget wouldn’t cut “Social Security payments to retirees.” So the dime dropped at Axios, eventually.)

Disability insurance is an inextricable part of Social Security. It’s a core part of the program, just like retirement benefits. It was created as an add-on to Social Security in 1956, under President Eisenhower. It’s financed by the payroll tax, and the reserve funds that cover both aspects of the program are more entwined than ever, thanks to a reform measure passed by Congress in 2015. Social Security’s financing structure is based on its role as a combined disability insurance and retirement program, and anyone who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be writing about it, much less managing it.

Mulvaney is merely deploying a classic divide-and-conquer strategy by depicting disability as somehow distinct from Social Security. Disability recipients have been consistently demonized by conservative politicians and inattentive journalists as layabouts and malingerers, just as the program has been described as out of control. Neither assertion is accurate, but that doesn’t stop them from being incessantly trotted out.

Mulvaney in his TV appearance invoked them again, calling disability “the fastest-growing program” and calling it “very wasteful.” In truth, disability rolls have been shrinking. That’s because the economic and demographic trends that sent the rolls higher in recent decades have ebbed, including the addition of more women to the workforce and the aging of the working population.

Nancy Altman of Social Security Works, a leading advocacy group, calls Mulvaney’s attempt to distinguish disability from Social Security “Orwellian,” and properly so. It’s nothing other than a ploy to slither out from a campaign promise that President Trump could not have made more explicitly.

One must ask: Where will the deceit stop? Trump and Mulvaney have no right to redefine the disability program as something other than Social Security. If they’re allowed to get away with it, what’s to stop them from declaring that survivor, dependent, and spousal benefits aren’t “core” Social Security benefits, and take a hacksaw to them too?