July 2016

Here is the legislative update from the Center for Neuroskills and the Brain Injury Association of America.

With Congress adjourned and in their home districts, advocates have an excellent opportunity to speak out about brain injury. Many are campaigning to be re-elected and other candidates are campaigning to take their jobs. They, along with other candidates for statewide and State House offices, will be out and about in county and state fairs, holding public forums and glad handing in public events. It’s a good time to set up meetings with them or visit with them at public events about brain injury issues.

  House E&C Committee Passes Special Needs Trust Bill

Before adjourning for the political conventions and the August recess, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed H.R. 670, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2015, which enables individuals with disabilities to create their own special needs trust accounts in order to be able to have a savings account without losing government benefits. Sponsored by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), the legislation expands legislation previously passed in 2014, Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act), which allowed only families and legal guardians to contribute to a savings account created by an individual with a disability. Interest earned is tax free. The Senate has already passed this legislation by unanimous consent. The BIAA has advocated for passage of H.R. 670.

In accordance with the initial legislation, eligibility is limited to individuals with significant disabilities with an age of onset of disability before turning 26 years of age. All states, except for Florida, have a national enrollment, which means individuals with disabilities can open an account regardless of being a resident in that state. Alaska, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have elected to work together in an effort to provide their residents with access to ABLE accounts in a cost-effective manner. For more information on ABLE implementation and state laws, go to the ABLE National Resource Center.

 House Bill Weakens the ADA – Call to Action!

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), of which BIAA is a member, is calling on advocates to oppose H.R. 3765, which weakens the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, H.R. 3765, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2015, would eliminate the responsibility of businesses to know their obligations under the ADA and place the burden of ensuring compliance on people with disabilities themselves. The legislation imposes several additional steps on plaintiffs before they can file a civil action for an accessibility violation in a public accommodation case. It would also impose criminal fines if demand letters or other pre-suit notifications alleging violations of ADA public accommodation requirements are not sufficiently specific.

On July 7, 2016, the House Judiciary Committee passed the bill out of committee by a 15-6 vote. Two other bills were also heard by the Committee: H.R. 241, the ACCESS ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services Act of 2015; and H.R. 4719, COMPLI Act. Similar to H.R. 3765, these bills are designed to limit the ability of individuals with disabilities from enforcing their rights to public accommodation in the same manner as all other citizens. Advocates are called upon to contact their House Members in opposition to H.R. 3765, noting that businesses have had 26 years to know the provisions of the ADA and to be compliance.

BIAA Supports a National Trauma System

The BIAA and NASHIA co-signed a letter supporting a national trauma system of care, which was discussed during the hearing held this week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. The letter thanked the Subcommittee for focusing on the need for an organized and coordinated trauma care system. The organizations pointed out that a full spectrum of timely and appropriate care — from the time of injury through transport to an acute care facility and to rehabilitative care — is necessary in order to preserve life and to reduce the debilitating effects of a traumatic brain injury.

House Appropriators Release Spending Recommendations

The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations marked up the spending bill for Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education. In total, the draft bill includes $161.6 billion in discretionary funding, which is a reduction of $569 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $2.8 billion below the president’s budget request. To view the Committee’s press release and report, click here.

Congress Adjourns

The House of Representatives adjourned yesterday, a day early, leaving several issues unresolved, including legislation preventing terrorists from purchasing guns, funding for the Zika virus, or spending bills to fund most federal programs starting Oct. 1. Congress did extend funding through September for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs, as funding was set to expire July 15. The House will return Sept. 6. The Senate is formally in recess from July 18 through Sept. 5.