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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Federal Study on College Mental Health Services Reveals Long Waiting Lists, and Barriers Impeding Student Success

The research team of the National Council on Disability (NCD) – a U.S. federal agency that provides advice to the President, Congress, and other federal agencies – released the results of a national study on the experiences of students with mental health disabilities on U.S. college campuses during a session at the national conference of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).
To understand challenges, best practices, and emerging trends of supporting students with mental health disabilities, NCD’s report, Mental Health on College Campuses: Investments, Accommodations Needed to Address Student Needs, relied upon interviews with students, social science researchers, mental health service providers, college administrators, college legal counsel, and advocates. It also targeted critical student subpopulations, including veterans, Greek life, athletes, graduate and international students, amongst others.
The Mental Health on College Campuses report is available on NCD’s website at https://ncd.gov/publications/2017/mental-health-college-campuses. Key findings include:
  • Colleges are struggling to provide adequate mental health services and supports for students with mental health disabilities due largely to increased numbers of students with mental health challenges attending colleges and a lack of financial resources.
  • Students with mental health disabilities are often placed on lengthy waiting lists for mental health services – sometimes waiting over a month. Many schools do not screen for emergencies when students seek help.
  • Community colleges are the least equipped to deal with student mental health issues when compared with state colleges and universities, even though they statistically serve the most at-risk student populations.
  • The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has not provided guidance to colleges on how to respond to students that pose a threat to themselves.
  • Multiple restrictions in the provision of federal and college financial aid negatively impact the ability of students with mental health disabilities to complete their postsecondary education.
TO ARRANGE FOR AN INTERVIEW: Members of NCD’s research team and staff are available for interviews prior to and following the presentation at the AHEAD conference. Contact Anne Sommers at asommers@ncd.gov.
About the National Council on Disability: First established as an advisory council within the Department of Education in 1978, NCD became an independent federal agency in 1984. In 1986, NCD recommended enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. Since enactment of the ADA in 1990, NCD has continued to play a leading role in crafting disability policy, and advising the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy.
PRESS RELEASE  July 21, 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Illinois 2017 Energy Assistance Programs Available October 1st for Seniors, People with Disabilities

In Illinois, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps eligible low-income households pay for home energy services (primarily heating during winter months). Energy costs can place severe and continuing stress on a family’s budget. In some instances, households are forced to make painful decisions regarding which bills to pay and which necessities to survive without. Illinois residents with a household income that does not exceed an amount determined annually by the Department of Commerce are eligible. Annual eligibility levels are determined based on available funding and may not exceed 150% of the federal nonfarm poverty level.

The Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) is available for LIHEAP eligible households who are customers of one of the following utilities: Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Nicor Gas and Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas. Under PIPP, eligible households pay a percentage of their income; receive a monthly benefit towards their utility bill and, arrearage reductions for every on-time payment they make, if applicable.

  • Beginning October 1, 2017
  • Seniors, People with Disabilities
  • Beginning November 1, 2017
  • Households with children under the age of 6 years and disconnected households
  • Beginning December 1, 2017
All other eligible households


Contact your local Community Action Agency to make an appointment to apply for LIHEAP.  You can use the "Where to Apply" link to the right to locate the appropriate Community Action Agency for your county.  You may call 1-877-411-9276.

CLICK HERE to find a Community Action Agency (CAA) serving your area

Income Eligibility:

If your household’s combined income for the 30 days prior to application (gross income, before taxes are deducted) is at or below 150% of the federal poverty level as shown in the chart below, you may be eligible to receive assistance. If you rent, and your heat and/or electric is included in the rent, your rent must be greater than 30% of your income in order to be eligible to receive assistance.
Family Size30 Day IncomeAnnual Income
1  $1,508$18,090

Bring all appropriate documentation:

Do not forget to bring all required documentation when you apply, including:
  • Proof of gross income from all household members for the 30-day period beginning with the date of application.
  • A copy of current heat and electric bills issued within the last 30 days (if energy directly paid for).
  • A copy of rental agreement (if renting) showing that utilities are included, the monthly rental amount and landlord contact information.
  • Proof of Social Security numbers for all household members.
  • Proof the household received TANF or other benefits, such as Medical Eligibility or SNAP, if receiving assistance from the Illinois Department of Human Services.
For more information on the State of Illinois Energy Assistance program: CLICK HERE

Programs are available in all states, program and requirements do vary state to state, check with your state's human services agency for information.

Illinois State Workers to Appeal Union Fees Case to US Supreme Court, Effects Home Care Workers

CHICAGO (AP) — Two state workers who joined Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's lawsuit arguing labor unions shouldn't be allowed to collect fees from non-members say they're appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court ruling Tuesday that allowed unions to collect the "fair share" fees from workers covered by collective bargaining agreements.
The U.S. Supreme Court has previously found the fees constitutional. The justices split 4-4 on another case challenging the fees last year.
Jacob Huebert, an attorney for the Illinois workers, says they're pleased the ruling could allow the issue to be before the Supreme Court again.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Lee Saunders says Tuesday's ruling protects workers' rights.
Rauner sued to halt the fees in 2015. It's was a move critics called an attack on organized labor.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A Reading by Kenny Fries and Conversation with Susan Nussbaum - Chicago Oct. 12th, 2017 - FREE


A Reading by Kenny Fries and
Conversation with Susan Nussbaum

Kenny Fries will read from his new memoir IN THE PROVINCE OF THE GODS, and talk with Susan R. Nussbaum, author of Good Kings Bad Kings, at Access Living of Metro Chicago.

Kenny Fries is the author of Body, Remember: A Memoir and The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory. He is the editor of Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. He teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Goddard College and is the recipient of a prestigious Creative Capital grant.

Susan R. Nussbaum is a playwright, novelist and longtime disability rights activist. She won the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for her novel Good Kings Bad Kings.

This event is wheelchair accessible. It is free and open to the public.
Personal Assistants and Sign Language Interpreters will be provided. Please refrain from wearing scented products.

The event is brought to you by Access Living, Bodies of Work: Network of Disability Arts and Culture and UIC Department of Disability and Human Development.

October 12, 2017

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Access Living
115 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60654

ReelAbilities Film Festival Chicago 2017 - Oct. 3rd to Oct. 8th

ReelAbilities Film Festival Chicago (presented by BACKBONES) is dedicated to sharing the human experience of disability through art and film. The Chicago festival is scheduled for October 3-8, 2017 and includes films with engaging panel discussions, guest speakers, exhibitions, and performances.

All films are captioned or subtitled (unless otherwise noted) and all venues are wheelchair accessible. We also offer audio description, ASL interpretation, CART, and information in Braille for select events and upon advance request.

Ticket information: CLICK HERE


6:00-9:00 PM
Location TBD
Invitation Only
Up to six independent filmmakers will be selected and have the opportunity to screen their work-in-progress to members of the Kartemquin and disability community. The screening is followed by a critique in an intimate feedback session.


7:30-10:00 PM
Comcast Studio Xfinity (901 W Weed St.)

Shorts Program starts at 8pm:
Birthday (16 min.) – A severely wounded Marine returns home to his wife after months of surgery and rehabilitation.

Children of God (10 min.) – A young amputee bets his prized possessions on his crush winning the boys vs. girls soccer match.
I Don’t Want to Go back Alone (17 min.) – A 15-year-old blind

teenager and his best friend face issues of jealousy and other new feelings when they befriend a new kid in their class.

Welcome to the Last Bookstore (11 min.) – A day in the life of a bookstore owner—a father, husband, small business owner, and paraplegic—showing the store’s magnetic appeal to the community.



6:30-9:00 PM
Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St)

When 11-year-old Michi finds his estranged father’s address, he can’t believe his luck, but when they meet and Michi discovers that his father, Tom, has dwarfism, Michi and Tom are forced to confront both disability and fatherhood head on.
Panel discussion — 8:30 pm

At Eye Level - Trailer

YouTube published by BerlinBeyond



6:30-9:00 PM
Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St)

The poignant coming-of-age story of four teens who navigate the growing pains of high school, but, unlike most teens, face another challenge—they are blind. Through their personal stories, we learn of the experience of being blind and how these fearless teenagers navigate through it.

Short: Beyond Blind (5 min.)
Panel discussion — 8:00pm

Do You Dream In Color? - Official Trailer [HD]

YouTube published by IZZO


Washington Park Fieldhouse (5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr.)
10:30 AM- 1:30 PM

Follow the underdog journey of the Miami Heat Wheels wheelchair basketball team, in their quest for a national championship. It is a story of unwavering resolve and a testament to our innate ability to connect and work together despite challenges.

Short: 4 Quarters of Silence (17 min.) – The Texas School for the Deaf Rangers, the only high school football team serving students with hearing impairments takes on a competitive league.

Adaptive Sports Activity — 12:00pm

Wheelchair Basketball Documentary: THE REBOUND (Official trailer #1)

YouTube published by The Rebound: A Wheelchair Basketball Story (Documentary)


2:00 PM- 5:00 PM
Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St)

The unlikely collaboration between a veteran choreographer and a young actor with cerebral palsy delivers astonishing proof that each and every body is capable of miraculous transformation. It challenges the boundaries of medicine and art, as well as the limitations associated with disability.
Inclusive Dance Workshop with Momenta — 3:30pm


YouTube published by Enter The Faun


5:30 PM- 7:30 PM
Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St)

A sudden bereavement throws Luke, a fiercely independent young man with Down Syndrome, into a care home, where his frustration finds release in unexpected friendships and the revelation of long-buried secrets.

Short: I Don’t Care (14 min.) – A mother-to-be faces the possibility of having a child with Down syndrome.
Panel discussion — 7:00pm

MY FERAL HEART Official Trailer

YouTube published by BritFlicks.Com


8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St)

Ian, a specialist in spatial orientation, teaches his blind students to move around without using their canes, encouraging them to risk the unknown.


YouTube published by TIFF


7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Victory Gardens Theater (2433 N Lincoln Ave)

ASL poetry changed Aneta Brodski’s life. Poetry, friendship and respect transcend politics as Aneta finds herself in an unexpected collaboration and bold journey into the spoken word slam scene.
Performance & Reception following the film.

Independent Lens | Deaf Jam | Trailer | PBS

YouTube published by PBS

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

EEOC Sues Walmart for Disability Discrimination, Failed to Accommodate Deaf Employee With Visual Impairment

Retail Giant Suspended and Failed to Accommodate Longtime Deaf Employee With Visual Impairment, Federal Agency Charges
Sept 26, 2017 - WalMart violated federal law when it failed to accommodate a longtime employee because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Paul Reina, who has a developmental disability and is deaf and visually impaired, worked as a cart pusher in the Beloit, Wis., Walmart store for 16 years before a new manager started at the store. In his first month, a new store manager suspended Reina and forced him to resubmit medical paperwork in order to keep his reasonable accommodations. Prior to the suspension, Reina performed his job with the accommodation of assistance from a job coach provided by an advocacy organization. Reina's conditions had not changed.
When Reina and his legal guardian submitted new medical paperwork, requesting the continued accommodation of assistance from a job coach, the store cut off communication, the EEOC said. The store's insistence that Reina take a suspension until a new but unnecessary request for accommodations was finalized, coupled with the company's failure to communicate, made a return to work impossible for Reina, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-739), in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit asks the court to order Wal-Mart to pay Reina appropriate back and front pay as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction enjoining Wal-Mart from failing to provide reasonable accommodations for disability in the future.
"Employers have a legal obligation under federal law to work with employees who need accommodations for disabilities," said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District. "When companies shirk that obligation, the EEOC will fight to uphold the rights of people with disabilities."
Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC's Chicago District, said, "It is the employer's responsibility to make sure that all managers are trained on the laws against disability discrimination. Effectively denying a request or a reasonable accommodation to someone with a 16-year track record of successful work is illegal discrimination."
The EEOC's Chicago District is responsible for investigating charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
Source: EEOC press release

Feds Sues St. Vincent Hospital for Disability Discrimination

Hospital Refused to Accommodate and Then Fired Employee Because of Her Lifting Restrictions, Federal Agency Charges
INDIANAPOLIS - St. Vincent Hospital violated federal law when it failed to transfer an employee to a vacant position for which she was qualified, despite knowing that her restrictions were indefinite, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a suit filed today.
According to the EEOC's complaint, when St. Vincent learned the lifting restrictions caused by Latoya Moore's disabilities were indefinite, St. Vincent required her to take leave at reduced pay, even though Moore was interested in continuing to work. Instead of transferring her to vacant positions she was qualified for and could perform despite her disabilities, St. Vincent later fired her, the EEOC alleged.
The EEOC brought the suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against any individual because of disabilities. Under the ADA, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability unless the employer can demonstrate the accommodation would impose an undue hardship.
The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-3426-RLY-DML) was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division on Sept. 26.
"It's especially distressing when a hospital or other health care operation, of all places, discriminates against an employee because of a health condition," said Kenneth Lee Bird, regional attorney of the Indianapolis District Office. "The EEOC will fight for the victims of disability discrimination."
The EEOC's Indianapolis District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and western Ohio, with Area Offices in Louisville, Cincinnati, and Detroit.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
Source: EEOC press release

Allsup’s Settles EEOC Pregnancy and Disability Discrimination Lawsuit For $950,000

Convenience Stores Systematically Discriminated Against Pregnant Workers and Refused to Accommodate Their Pregnancy-Related Disabilities, Federal Agency Charged
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Allsup's Convenience Stores, Inc., owners of over 300 convenience stores in New Mexico and Texas, has agreed to pay $950,000 to settle a pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced today.
The EEOC's lawsuit charged that Allsup's managers and area supervisors subjected pregnant employees to different working conditions because of their pregnancies and/or their pregnancy-related disabilities. The EEOC alleged that Allsup's subjected pregnant employees to negative comments about their pregnancies and gave pregnant employees less favorable tasks and shifts. For example, the EEOC said that some pregnant women were told, "You're too pregnant to continue working," "You are a liability," "Had I known of your pregnancy, you would not have been hired," and "Aren't you ever going to quit having kids?"
The EEOC also alleged that Allsup's denied reasonable accommodations to employees with pregnancy-related disabilities and put them on involuntary unpaid leave. The agency said that Allsup's would not provide extended leave for pregnant employees on bed rest and would not provide reasonable accommodations like modified stocking methods for pregnant employees with lifting restrictions. The EEOC further alleged that Allsup's had a policy of limiting medical leave and that Allsup's fired pregnant employees when they ran out of medical leave without considering when they could return to work.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is incorporated into Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, makes discrimination based on pregnancy a form of sex discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from discrimination because of a disability, including a pregnancy-related disability.
The three-year consent decree settling the suit requires Allsup's to pay $950,000 to 28 women who were discriminated against based on pregnancy or a pregnancy-related disability. Under the terms of the decree, the company must make offers of re-employment to the 28 women and provide them with letters of reference. In addition, the decree requires Allsup's to implement policies and practices that will provide its employees a workplace free of discrimination. The company will also provide training on preventing pregnancy- and disability-related discrimination to its clerks, managers, area supervisors, and human resources employees to ensure that they understand the rights of employees to be free from pregnancy- and disability-related discrimination and how Allsup's managers and staff can accommodate pregnant employees and employees with pregnancy-related disabilities.
"We see too many cases where employers think that pregnancy-related disabilities are not covered by the ADA," said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Employers must understand that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 clarified that employees and applicants with pregnancy-related disabilities are protected from discrimination based on those disabilities. An employer cannot place an employee with a pregnancy-related disability on involuntary leave or fire her because of her disability or her pregnancy."
Elizabeth Cadle, district director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "Pregnancy discrimination is far too common. In the 2016 fiscal year alone, 3,486 charges of pregnancy discrimination were filed with the EEOC. The outcome here should remind all employers of their obligations under the law and encourage them to respect the rights of pregnant employees."
More information on the EEOC's position on discrimination based on pregnancy and discrimination based on pregnancy-related disabilities is available at www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pregnancy_guidance.cfm.
The EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
Source: EEOC press release

EEOC Sues Dollar General for Disability And Genetic Information Discrimination

Retail Giant Rescinded Job Offers Based on Disabilities and Demanded Family Medical History During Post-Offer Medical Exams, Federal Agency Charges
Sept 25, 2017 - Dollar General Stores, Inc., (Dolgencorp, LLC) violated federal law when it rescinded job offers to applicants whose post-offer medical examinations revealed they had disabilities, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. These post-offer medical examinations also unlawfully solicited family medical history from such job applicants, a form of genetic information, the EEOC further charged.
According to the EEOC's suit, in June 2014, Vincent Jackson applied for a position at a Dollar General Distribution Center in Bessemer, Ala. Jackson received a job offer contingent on successfully completing the company's post-offer medical examination. When Jackson revealed during the examination that he suffered from monocular vision, medical personnel informed him that Dollar General required applicants have corrected 20/50 vision or better in both eyes. As a result, Jackson, despite having performed similar work in the past, was not allowed to work at Dollar General.
The company imposed additional medical standards that tended to screen out individuals with disabilities, according to the EEOC's suit. For example, the company screened out people whose blood pressure exceeded 160/100. The EEOC charges that this and other standards screened out applicants with a variety of conditions even when those impairments would not prevent the applicant from safely performing the job. During the medical examinations, applicants were also asked to provide detailed information about their family medical history, including answering questions about family incidences of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees and job applicants from discrimination because of their disabilities. It prohibits employers from using selection criteria or qualification standards that screen out individuals with disabilities, where the standards are not job-related or consistent with business necessity. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) protects employees or job applicants from discrimination based on genetic information. GINA includes a strict prohibition on soliciting a job applicant or employee's family medical history.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Dolgencorp, LLC., Case No. 2:17cv-0001649-JHE) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama after the EEOC's Birmingham District Office completed an investigation and first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
"Employers cannot use post-offer medical examinations to weed out individuals with disabilities," said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas. "The imposition of selection criteria not rooted in business necessity, but rather in stereotypes about what individuals with certain impairments can and cannot do, violates the ADA."
EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker added, "No applicant should be placed in the position of being forced to reveal personal family medical information to get a job. GINA prohibits that, and the EEOC enforces it."
According to company information, Dollar General is the nation's largest small-box discount retailer, with almost 10,000 retail stores in 38 states.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
Source: EEOC press release

EEOC Sues Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas for Disability Discrimination, Refused to Hire Hearing-Impaired Applicant

 Health Care Company Refused to Hire Hearing-Impaired Applicant Because of Her Disability, Federal Agency Charges
Sept 26, 2017 - BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas, a Dallas health care company, violated federal law by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a hearing-impaired applicant during the application process, resulting in her denial of hire, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC, Sheryl Meador, who is deaf, applied through an online application process for an open claims examiner position with BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas. After submitting her résumé, she received an e-mail from the company with instructions to complete a 35-minute assessment exam that included an audio portion. Meador was unable to complete the audio portion of the exam because of her disability. There were no captions or other visible accommodations that would allow Meador to complete the audio portion of the assessment exam and thus complete the application process.
According to the suit, Meador contacted BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas and informed the company's recruiting coordinator that she is deaf and requested a reasonable accommodation for the audio portion of the assessment exam because of her disability. Meador and representatives from the company exchanged emails relating to her disability and her application. However, the company ultimately failed to respond to her requests. As a result, she was not allowed to complete the application process and was denied the claims examiner position.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' and applicants' disabilities. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No.3:17-CV-02626-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent disability discrimination in the future, as well as lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.
The EEOC expects to be joined in this effort by Disability Rights Texas, a federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas. Disability Rights Texas represented Meador throughout the EEOC investigation.
"One of the Commission's priorities is to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities," said Suzanne Anderson, EEOC supervisory trial attorney. "Applicants with disabilities must be provided access to online application processes so they have a chance to present their qualifications to employers for open positions."
Joel Clark, senior trial attorney for the EEOC, said, "Sheryl Meador was very interested in the opportunity to apply for the claims examiner position. She made repeated efforts to communicate with BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas and ask for an accommodation so she could apply. For her to be ignored is both unconscionable and unlawful."
The EEOC is advances opportunities in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
SOURCE: EEOC press release 

ADA National Network Webinar Oct 12th: How Functional Assessment Service Teams (FAST) Are Being Implemented

"ADA National Network Learning Session:How Functional Assessment Service Teams (FAST) are being implemented in 3 states"

October 12th, 2017

Registration: Free on-line at 
Registration closes at midnightOctober 11th, 2017.
Webinars begin at 2.30pm ET/1.30pm CT/12.30 pm MT/11.30am PT/8.30am Hawaii.

When people are displaced from their homes during a disaster and find it necessary to stay in a community shelter, it is essential that community officials, responders, and shelter managers are prepared to provide service and reasonable accommodations to all shelter residents, including those with access and functional needs. A Functional Assessment Service Team (FAST) can help people get what they need to safely stay in a community shelter and to assist them to return home as soon as possible. The webinar will help you learn more about FAST as one possible resource in whole community planning and response. The webinar will provide background as to what is FAST, why it might work in your community or state; and the future of FAST across the nation. California, Washington and Wisconsin will their share their experiences from their FAST journey.
Learning objectives:
  • Understand the original intent of FAST, and the past and future of FAST.
  • Learn about the changes being made to support the expansion of FAST.
  • Learn how FAST operates in the three states.
  • June Isaacson Kailes -  operates a Disability Policy Consulting practice. June's consulting and publications focus on building disability actionable competencies in the worlds of health care and emergency management to insure people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs are integrated and included in service delivery processes, procedures, protocols, policies and training. She originally conceived the concept of FAST and worked with California and other government entities on developing their Teams.
  • Jan Devore - works for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and has held a variety of jobs within numerous program areas for 20 years. All positions have involved people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. During the past five years, Jan has focused on emergency planning and response within the Public Health Preparedness program, focusing on the planning and response capabilities of human services at all levels. Jan is the state Functional Assessment Service Team (FAST) Coordinator and a member of the FAST core training team.
  • Nicole Johnson - is the Access and Functional Needs Coordinator in the Preparedness Division at Pierce County Department of Emergency Management. In this capacity, Nicole coordinates the inclusion of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs into all phases of emergency management. Nicole has been involved with the FAST program in Pierce County since its inception in 2012. Nicole became the FAST program coordinator in 2015.
  • Tarah Heller - is a Senior Emergency Coordinator, Mass Care Representative for the State of California Department of Social Services (CDSS), Disaster Services Bureau (DSB). Tarah is the lead for the Functional Assessment Services Team (FAST) program. She is responsible for planning, training both state and county representatives, deployment, and recruitment of FAST. In the past year Tarah has led 4 trainings classes and is currently overseeing the new online courses being offered for FAST Recertification and Shelter Operations Training. Tarah deploys as a FAST lead and Mass Care Representative for CDSS DSB during disasters. She deployed in the field for the Erskine, Lake, and San Bernardino Fires and to the Orville Dam Auxiliary Spillway Incident.

These 90 minute webinars are delivered using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Collaborate downloads files to your device in order to run. We recommend that you prepare your technology prior to the start of the session. You may need the assistance of your IT Staff if firewalls prevent you from downloading files.

To view upcoming sessions, go to http://www.adapresentations.org/schedule.php
To see previous sessions, go to http://www.adapresentations.org/archive.php
The information presented in this webinar is intended solely as informal guidance, and is neither a determination of legal rights or responsibilities by NIDILRR or FEMA.
Copyright © 2017 Pacific ADA Center, All rights reserved.

Young People with Severe Autism Languish Weeks or Longer in Hospitals with Nowhere To Go

Teenagers and young adults with severe autism are spending weeks or even months in emergency rooms and acute-care hospitals because of a lack of community treatment programs able to deal with their outbursts, according to interviews with parents, advocates and physicians from Maine to California as well as federal and state data.

solid article by Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News | Sept. 2017                                               
These young people - who may shout for hours, bang their heads on walls or lash out violently at home - are taken to the hospital after community social services and programs fall short and families call 911 for help. Once there, they sometimes are sedated or restrained for long periods as they wait for beds in specialized facilities or return home once families recover from the crisis or find additional support.

Although the data on extended hospital stays are limited, national numbers on people with an autism diagnosis who were seen in hospital ERs nearly doubled over five years, to 159,517 in 2014, according to the latest figures from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The total admitted for a behavioral or medical issues also nearly doubled, to 26,811 in 2014.

That same year, California recorded acute-care hospital stays of at least a month for 60 patients with an autism diagnosis. The longest were 211 and 333 days.
"As more children with autism are identified, and as the population is growing larger and older, we see a lot more mental-health needs in children and adolescents with autism," said Aaron Nayfack, a developmental pediatrician at Sutter Health's Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California who has researched the rise in lengthy hospitalizations. "And we have nowhere near the resources in most communities to take care of these children in home settings."
Sixteen-year-old Ben Cohen spent 304 days in the ER of Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo. His room was retrofitted so the staff could view him through a windowpane and pass a tray of food through a slot in a locked door. His mother, who felt it wasn't safe to take him home, worried that staff "were all afraid of him . . . [and] not trained on his type of aggressive behaviors."

The problem parallels the issue known as psychiatric boarding, which has been an increasing concern in recent years for a range of mental illnesses. Both trace to the challenges of deinstitutionalization, the national movement that aimed to close large public facilities and provide care through community settings. But the resources to support that fell short long ago, exacerbated by the 2008 recession, when local, state and federal budget reductions forced sharp cuts in developmental and mental-health services.

The hospital "is the incredibly wrong place for these individuals to go in the beginning," said psychiatrist Michael Cummings, associate medical director at the Erie County facility. "It's a balancing act of trying to do the . . . least harm in a setting that is not meant for this situation."

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder typically diagnosed at a young age and characterized by impaired communication, difficulty with social interaction and repetitive behaviors that fall along a spectrum of mild to severe.

Adolescents and young adults with severe autism may still have the mental age of a child, and short-term care to stabilize those in crisis who are nonverbal or combative is practically nonexistent. Longer-term care can be almost as hard to find. It must be highly specialized, usually involving intensive behavioral therapy; someone with severe autism gets little benefit from traditional psychiatric services.

In New Hampshire this summer, 22-year-old Alex Sanok spent a month in Exeter Hospital after he became violent at home, breaking windows and hurling objects at walls. His mother called 911, and paramedics spent half an hour trying to calm him before restraining him.

At the hospital, his wrists and ankles were strapped to an ER bed for the first week, and he spent several more weeks in a private room before he could be transferred, according to his mother, Ann Sanok. State agencies that handle developmental disabilities and mental health offered little help, she said.

As the days passed, she and her husband wondered: "What if [Alex] escalates again; what are we doing to do? We were getting no answers. Everyone seemed to kick the can down the road."

Exeter Hospital said in a statement that its policy is not to use restraints unless there is an "imminent threat to patient or staff safety" and that any use is reviewed hourly. Sanok was moved in June to a special-needs residential school in Massachusetts, where his mother said he is doing well.

The federal government does no routine tracking of how autism is treated in ERs, but many experts say the problem of lengthy and inappropriate stays is nationwide and growing. Kaiser Health News identified some of the more extreme cases through interviews with autism and disability advocates, physicians and families in New Hampshire, New York, California and six other states - Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Michigan and Arizona.

Nancy Pineles, a managing attorney with the nonprofit group Disability Rights Maryland, said a group home took one young adult to a Baltimore ER earlier this year after he hit a staff member. And that's where he remained for several weeks before the hospital moved him to a room in its hospice wing, she said - not because he was dying but because there was nowhere else for him to go.

Such cases have been "on the increase," Pineles said. "People with autism and more intense behavioral needs are just being frozen out."

In Connecticut, the head of the state's Office of the Child Advocate told lawmakers during a hearing on disability issues in May that the problem had reached a "crisis" level.

Private insurance data underscore the concerns. In a study published in February in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that people ages 12 to 21 with autism are four times likelier to go to the emergency room than peers without autism. They also are 3 1/2 times more likely to be admitted to a hospital floor - at which point they stay in the hospital nearly 30 percent longer.

The analysis, based on a sample of 87,000 insurance claims, also showed that older adolescents with autism are in the ER more than their younger counterparts. The percentage of their visits for a mental-health crisis almost doubled from 2005 to 2013.

Tyler Stolz, a 26-year-old woman with autism and a seizure disorder, was stabilized after a few weeks in a Sacramento hospital. Yet she remained there for 10 months, according to Disability Rights California, an advocacy group that described her case in its 2015 annual report.

Ultimately, Mercy San Juan Medical Center went to court to demand that Stolz's public guardian move her. Although her conditions no longer required her hospitalization, they still "represent dangers to defendant and possibly to others if she were discharged to the community," the facility contended. "There is no safe place for the client to go."

The advocacy nonprofit helped place Stolz at a Northern California center that offered intensive behavioral therapy, said Katie Hornberger, the nonprofit group's director of clients' rights. The medical center did not respond to a request for comment, but two years after an investigator found Stolz in a bed covered by a mesh tent, the case remains vivid in Hornberger's mind. "I don't believe we put people in cages," she said.

Across the country in Buffalo, Mary Cohen struggled to care for her teenage son. Ben's 6-foot-1, 240-pound body dwarfed her petite frame.

She began locking herself in a basement room to escape his outbursts, while still monitoring him via cameras she had installed throughout the house to make sure he was safe. As the lock-ins became more frequent, she realized, "I can't keep going like this." She found a nearby group home, covered by his disability and Medicaid payments, that could accommodate Ben.

On Aug. 1, 2016, it all imploded. Medication changes and an ear infection triggered a rage, Cohen said, and Ben hurt one of the staff members. Someone called 911, he was taken to the psychiatric emergency room at Erie County Medical Center, and a waiting room there is where he lived until early this summer.

Though a 304-day stay is a record there, cases like this have surged at the hospital, said Cummings, its executive director of behavioral health, who worked on Ben's case. They spurred him to launch a grant-funded home-visit program aimed at keeping families with autistic children from reaching a breaking point. He and his clinical partner have counseled nearly 400 families to help manage their youngsters' medications and find services, and their ER visits have dropped by nearly 50 percent, he said.

A bed finally opened up for Ben at Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute - a private, highly regarded facility that offers intensive therapy, psychiatry and family coaching. Cohen held out for a placement there, hoping the staff could turn Ben's behavior around. The teen and his mother made the 360-mile trip in June by ambulance and plane.

"I want to do the right thing for him," Cohen said. "Because one day I'm not going to be there for him."
Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
(c) 2017, Kaiser Health News

Travelers with Autism Changing The World

Wanderlust doesn't discriminate. It creeps up on lifelong homebodies, blossoms in the hearts of grumpy teenagers and pushes those who "can't afford it" out the door, bank accounts be damned.

informative article by Starre Vartan, for CNN • September 26, 2017                                          
Because traveling the world is for everyone that means that none of us should be surprised to hear that those on the autism spectrum get itchy feet, too.

When thinking about travel it's important to understand that autism isn't a monolithic diagnosis. "Autism is a diverse disability and everyone's needs are different," says Zoe Gross, director of operations at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Autism, as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is "a developmental disability that causes social communication and behavioral challenges." An estimated one in 68 children are affected, with the rate higher in boys than girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Depending on personality, where they are on the autism spectrum, and how their particular disability manifests, each autistic traveler will have different needs and challenges. Some might be physical, others might be cognitive, or a mix of the two.

Examples include trouble dealing with unexpected routine changes; finding acceptable food; sensory issues with loud spaces or bright lights; and physical disabilities from minor to significant.

"Travel with service animals might be hard especially in other countries where they have different rules for animals," says Gross. And of course, just like anyone, autistic travelers will have varying interests, passions and bucket-lists.

Travel can be especially onerous for people on the spectrum -- but it can be especially enriching, too.

Making the world more connected
"Travel is often topic-oriented, so, for example, if someone is interested in history and historical sites and they have difficulty with abstraction, seeing what they've learned about in real life can be really meaningful and rewarding," says Gross. "For someone who enjoys languages, which some autistic people do, that can be exciting too," she says.

Even though new experiences and routines can be tough to navigate, autistic travelers might find the planning and organizing aspect of a trip to be really enjoyable, in a way that most others might find annoying or tiresome.

Another foreign travel benefit: It can be particularly relaxing to those autistic people who find navigating their own culture exhausting.

Jennifer Malia is an English professor at Norfolk State University in Virginia who writes and publishes stories as Mom with Autism. She traveled both before and since her diagnosis with autism spectrum disorder, and she says she often feels more comfortable abroad than at home.

"No one expects you to be completely familiar with cultural norms or to speak perfectly in foreign languages when you're abroad," says Malia. "This made it easier for me to communicate as an autistic woman."

Gross backs up the idea: "Some countries have easier cultural norms for people with autism. You can relax, because if you need several tries to understand something, people understand because you're a tourist."

With some minor adjustments, museums, hotels, flying, and even activities can be enjoyed by adults and kids on the autism spectrum. See below for some of the smartest ideas:

The tight spaces, strange noises, and general unpleasantness of flying can be a perfect storm for those with an autism spectrum disorders.

It doesn't help that the general public can perceive common autistic behaviors to deal with that discomfort (like hand-flapping, vocalizations or pacing) as dangerous or disruptive. In 2015 a United Airlines plane was diverted and parents traveling with their 15-year-old autistic daughter were kicked off a flight. Flying is a particular challenge as it's not really something that can be understood or practiced in advance, which is one of the best ways for autistic people to prepare for new situations.

That's why for the past four years, Autism Speaks has worked with JetBlue on Blue Horizons for Autism, a travel program that allows people with autism to practice the full airport experience.

"At Blue Horizons events, we work with JetBlue, TSA and airport personnel to make the experience as realistic as possible. Guests check in at the ticket counter, receive real boarding passes with seat assignments, and go through the full TSA security screening where all of the usual rules apply," says Alexandra Watters, director of family services projects and content at Autism Speaks.

Practice boarding the plane and even taxiing around the tarmac helps autistic travelers work through their particular challenges, with trained airline employees and volunteers on hand to help. More than 3,000 people in 11 cities have already participated, with more planned for the fall.

The TSA also has a separate program, Wings for Autism, that is similar -- a run-through that focuses on the oft-disturbing security protocols and travel too.

Museums can be particularly interesting to autistic people for the variety of learning opportunities they can provide: "in a museum, learning can be verbal or nonverbal; hands-on or hands-off; fast or slow; social or solitary; loud or quiet; directed or inquiry-based.

"In a museum, lack of verbal skills need not stand in the way of discovery, learning, or passion. Lack of social skills need not stand in the way of achievement," writes Lisa Jo Rudy on the Autism in the Museum blog, a "clearinghouse of best practices [...] about making museums welcoming and inclusive for people with autism and their families."

Some museums provide prep and sensory-specific details for attendees with autism, such as New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has six social narratives for visits. These are "printouts written in simple languages with pictures that list out the steps for visiting [...] so people can look at it and practice it in their heads," says Gross.

The Met also provides a sensory map that shows busier and quieter areas, displays with low-light and areas with natural light, all superimposed over a map of exhibits. Preparing in advance means fewer surprises about lights and sounds, knowledge of quiet spots, and a better experience.

Many other museums provide similar details, or have special programs, like the Dallas Museum of Art, the Intrepid Museum, the Boston Children's Museum and more.

Places to stay
Independent travel agents such as ASD Vacations, A Million Senses, and The Guided Tour specialize in hotels for autistic people or parents with kids on the autism spectrum. They can be a great resource since agents are familiar with floor plans, resort or hotel amenities, types of rooms, and will be more able to answer specific questions.

Some resorts welcome autistic travelers specifically: Tradewinds Resort in St. Petersburg, Florida is one of five that has been designated "autism friendly" by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD). To qualify, employees underwent CARD's training program. Beaches resorts, with locations throughout the Caribbean, also offer families with children with autism specialized activities, services and custom dining options via their autism-friendly kids' camps.

Launched in June 2015, Accomable is an Airbnb-style service for people with disabilities of all kinds. The co-founder of the site, Srin Madipalli, loved to travel but, as a wheelchair-user, he hated how much prep work he had to do to ensure he would be able to access places to stay.

The site now has more than 1,000 listings in more than 60 countries, all searchable by price, location, type of space and accessibility. "I want our users to have a wide range of genuine choices and be able to build any kind of travel experience they want, irrespective of their background or physical ability," says Madipalli. Though its searchable features focus on physical disability, not sensory sensitivities -- it's not built specifically for autistic people -- they or their caregivers could find it useful depending on needs.

Theme parks
While they can be high-stimulation, which some with autism seek to avoid, plenty of autistic kids and kids-at-heart have a theme park high on their travel wish-lists: A number have programs to make the long days a little easier for both adults and children.

Disney is seen as a leader: Their parks and resorts have a comprehensive program that includes attraction details with information about lights, sounds, smells, bumps and surprises; special assistance to those with light and sound sensitivity; passes so there's less standing on line; and dozens of break areas in the parks.

Great America and Six Flags parks also have skip-the-line ticketing and other assistance, and the latter's Great Escape location also has an Autism Awareness Day (actually multiple days).

Legoland in Florida has worked with Autism Speaks to be super-supportive of sensory challenges, and every staff member has been trained to understand special needs.

Some smaller parks, such as the shady, nature-filled Dollywood in Tennessee, are a less hectic choice generally, and they also have a calming room on-site, and railroad-themed Edaville Family Theme Park (an hour outside Boston), has a specially designed quiet bathroom and other amenities.

Autism on the Seas has been working with Royal Caribbean International since 2007. They specially staff cruises throughout the year on popular lines including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Disney and Carnival Cruise Lines.

In addition to being able to board early, educated, trained, and background-checked staff accompany cruisers and allow guests to use the ship's facilities and entertainments in an "accommodated and assisted manner." They also have lower-touch programs available for more experienced or independent travelers.

Other fun stuff
Since 2007, AMC Theatres has offered their Sensory-Friendly Films events at more than 50 theaters across the United States, where, their site promises: "we turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing!" Family-friendly film nights are held on the second and fourth Saturday each month and there are Tuesday evening showings for mature audiences.

Like to ski? At Copper Mountain Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado, autistic kids can try an adaptive skiing lesson, which includes equipment rental and a lift ticket.

Some golf and swim centers also have similar programs. Adults and kids can decorate ceramics at autism painting events that are designed for smaller groups and feature lower lights. You can check out other ideas at the Autism Friendly Events page at Autism Speaks, which includes events in many cities throughout the US.

"Normally, I crave routines and like to know what to expect, so sometimes it's difficult to have the courage to travel somewhere new without knowing what it will be like," says Malia. The travel bug doesn't care what you look like or about what other people think of your choices -- when it bites, you're bitten.

Malia loves seeing the world, having gone on safari in Kenya, hiked a Costa Rican rainforest and snorkeled with sharks in the United Arab Emirates. And now other travelers like her have a little extra assistance to go even further.

Monday, September 25, 2017

GOP Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill Might Be Potentially Dead For Now

The GOP's last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare received what appeared to be a fatal blow Monday evening when Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced her decision not to support the bill, becoming the crucial third Republican to oppose it.

nice article by LEIGH ANN CALDWELL for NBC NEWS | Sept 25, 2017                                     
Marilee Adamski-Smith from Brookfield, Wisconsin, left, and Colleen Flanagan of Boston, center, join others outside a hearing room where the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 25, 2017. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Collins joins Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., as GOP "no" votes. Unless one of them switches their position, Republicans can't muster the 50 votes needed to pass it.

Momentum for the bill sputtered Monday morning even after a new version was released by authors Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy that included new incentives to appease the concerns of a handful of uncommitted Republican senators.

GOP leaders faced a Saturday deadline to pass Graham-Cassidy with a simple Senate majority and it's still unclear if Republican leaders will put the bill before the Senate for a vote, even without the votes for it to pass.

Leaving a leadership meeting, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said, "I doubt it" when asked if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. And that was before Collins had solidified her position against it.

Collins' opposition caps off a months long effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act after years of campaign promises to do so. Senate Republicans failed to pass three other version of a repeal to Obamacare in late July when Collins, McCain and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, all voted against it.

Murkowski has not yet indicated her position on Graham-Cassidy.

"Today, we find out that there is now a fourth version of the Graham-Cassidy proposal, which is as deeply flawed as the previous iterations. The fact that a new version of this bill was released the very week we are supposed to vote compounds the problem," Collins said in a statement announcing her opposition.

Collins announced her position despite changes being made to the bill to get remaining holdouts on board. An analysis of state-by-state health care funding shows that under Graham-Cassidy, Maine would see a 43 percent increase in federal health care funds, Arizona would get an additional 14 percent, Kentucky another 4 percent and Alaska 3 percent. But Collins said despite the positive numbers, Maine would still lose money by dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

"Maine still loses money under whichever version of the Graham-Cassidy bill we consider because the bills use what could be described as a 'give with one hand, take with the other' distribution model. Huge Medicaid cuts down the road more than offset any short-term influx of money," Collins said in her statement.

Collins announced her position after an incomplete analysis of an earlier version of Graham-Cassidy by the Congressional Budget Office found that "millions" would lose their health insurance under the plan.

The rushed process to meet a September 30 deadline before the legislation expires that allows passage with just a simple majority frustrated a handful of senators, including McCain who had more problems with the process than the substance. He came out against the bill on Friday.

In an effort to calm the critics on a closed process, the Senate Finance Committee held the first and only hearing Monday afternoon on legislation. It turned out to be highly attended by passionate activists worried about their health care being stripped from them.

Protestors filled the hallways outside the hearing room that snaked around the corner and down the length of a city block. Hundreds of people chanted "shame" as Graham entered the hearing room to testify before the committee. Voluminous protests inside the hearing room delayed the start of the hearing. Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, attempted to gavel in the committee but protestors drowned him out. Police dragged them out, many of whom are disabled and in wheelchairs, out one by one.

             NBC News Coverage Sept 25, 2017

Once the committee room was clear of the public, the hearing began. Protestors maintained their chants in the hallway outside; their sound seeping through the doors providing constant background chanting.The Association of Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield released prepared testimony before the hearing stating that they can't support Graham-Cassidy.

"The bill would have negative consequences on consumers and patients by further destabilizing the individual market; cutting Medicaid; pulling back on protections for pre-existing conditions; not ending taxes on health insurance premiums and benefits; and potentially allowing government-controlled, single-payer health care to grow," a summary of their testimony states.

Graham testified that Obamacare was a “disaster” in his state and boasted that "every major insurance company opposes our bill,” saying it was evidence that his legislation would give states more flexibility in dealing with them.

But Democrats pointed out it wasn’t just insurers upset with Graham-Cassidy: The top industry groups representing doctors and hospitals also publicly opposed the bill along with a parade of patient advocacy groups, from AARP to the American Heart Association. These organizations have argued the bill would cut overall health funding while allowing insurers to treat customers differently based on a pre-existing condition, a practice banned by Obamacare.

Under questioning from Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Cassidy said their assessments were wrong and that it was “not true” that states could charge higher premiums based on their health status under his bill.

But the bill as written allows states to waive Obamacare’s rule preventing insurers from charging sick people more for care as well as its requirements that plans cover certain essential benefits. Outside analysts have consistently said it would weaken protections for pre-existing conditions.

The loosening of the regulations on insurance coverage was seen as an attempt to help conservatives come on board.

Protestors also sat-in the office of Murkowski in protest. Her deputy chief-of-staff came out to address the activists and said that she left Anchorage at 6 a.m. on Monday and is using her flight time back to D.C. “thinking about her decision.”

Marilee Adanski-Smith traveled to D.C. from Wisconsin on Saturday to attend the hearing. She was born without arms and legs and relies on Medicaid.

“We’re here to save Medicaid. Our lives depend on Medicaid,” she said, adding that she’s fearful that the legislation will take away Medicaid recipients' ability to live at home and force people into nursing homes.

“People are going to die in nursing homes if people don’t have the community and home-based services they need,” Adanski-Smith, a small-business owner, added.

Graham-Cassidy would end the Medicaid expansion in 2020 and reduce the money given to Medicaid by changing how it's allocated. It would no longer provide it for whoever is in need — instead, it would cap the number based on population.

The bill would also end the individual mandate to buy insurance and dismantle the structure of the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare. Instead, it would give money to states to implement their own health care systems. And while it would require that people with pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance, like Obamacare, it wouldn't prohibit insurance companies from charging people with long-term health care needs more money.

The new version of Graham-Cassidy would also provide billions of dollars more for states during the transition from Obamacare and as a contingency fund.