By Pam Mack –
I have a sister who is developmentally and medically disabled, and I am deep in dealing with the court system and preparing for a Medicaid application. People with disabilities are one of the vulnerable groups at risk as a result of the ideas of some members of the new administration. Here are some places to start if you want to know more about these issues. Contact Pam Mack at pam55sc@ gmail.com if you want to meet occasionally to talk about activism on these issues or have suggestions or questions.
Education for the disabled:
Children with developmental differences have a right to a free, appropriate public education until they graduate or age 21, and to get that education in the least restrictive placement, not isolated from other children. The key law protecting those rights is on the federal level and was initially created by Republicans: the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which also includes services for children from birth to age 5. Watch for Republican ideas about reducing those services and for Trump’s plan to promote vouchers to allow students to attend private schools (which do not have to provide services for the disabled), leaving vulnerable students in public schools with diminishing resources. Any form of school choice can disadvantage disabled students because IDEA only requires that their home school accept them, other schools (even other public schools) can refuse students with disabilities from outside their designated area.
There is particular concern about the new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who promotes charter schools and vouchers for students to attend private schools. She has shown lack of understanding of the fundamental rights of students with disabilities and the importance of federal oversight: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2017/01/26/devos-says-she-will-protect-students-with-disabilities-but-advocates-arent-convinced/
http://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/1/19/14314890/devos-disabilities-rights-idea-hassan also includes very interesting history of education for disabled students
It is also a concern with the supreme court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who ruled against a family who wanted temporary residential schooling for a child with a serious disability because that child wasn’t making progress at home (the school argued the child was making some progress at school so the local services were adequate, even though the gains made were small and did not transfer to the home) https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/supreme-court-nominee-neil-gorsuch-has-troubling-history-when-ruling-disability
The Republicans have even proposed eliminating the Department of Education, leaving all education policy to the states. Most of the money that goes to the Department of Education then goes out to the states to provide extra funding to school districts to provide services to poor ($15 billion) and disabled ($12.7 billion) students, as well as Pell Grants and federally subsidized college loans. http://www.snopes.com/2017/02/07/republican-introduces-bill-that-would-abolish-the-department-of-education/
The Affordable Care act provided important protection for people with disabilities by prohibiting insurance companies from refusing to insure people with pre-existing conditions or charging them more. It also prohibited lifetime caps on insurance benefits, which were often reached by children born with severe disabilities. To the extent that the Republicans have proposed alternatives to the ACA they tend to keep at least the first, which is popular. But supporters of the ACA argue that if insurance is not mandatory then healthy people will tend not to buy it and the cost will go up unsustainably. http://www.whsv.com/content/news/Disabled-Americans-among-millions-that-may-lose-healthcare-under-APA-repeal-411000555.html
People disabled before age 65 who quality for Social Security disability become eligible for Medicare two years later even if they are under 65. People who are disabled from childhood and not able to support themselves generally depend on both Medicare and Medicaid, which pays living expenses for those who need care. Older people who need nursing home care for longer than the 100 days provided by Medicare (only if you are in rehab and making progress) have to exhaust their savings and then go on Medicaid. Republican plans to cut Medicaid and give more power to the states will reduce the services offered and increase already long waiting lists. http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2017/02/05/opposition-mounts-to-trumps-medicaid-block-grant-idea/#374efece6041
Here is a script for ACA and Medicaid issues: https://www.facebook.com/OregonIDDCoalition/photos/a.1001694889857255.1073741835.998597486833662/1651819894844748/
A leaked draft of a new immigration policy excluded immigrants who might need government services. This would particularly affect families who have children with disabilities, if their children need services like speech therapy. http://thedailybanter.com/2017/02/trump-immigration-disability-discrimination/