This testimony was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org in support of a rule change that will be heard by the Board on August 3rd in Durango. For information about the board meeting see https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdhs-boards-committees-collaboration/state-board-human-services
To Human Services Board:
From: Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, CCDC
RE: Support for Aid to Needy Disabled Rule Package
Dear Members of the Human Services Board:
I am writing as the director of the largest statewide, disability-run, disability rights organization in Colorado in full support of the AND rule package…and to encourage you to continue with reforms to better support clients that need this program. Our friends from the Southwest Independent Living Center, the Colorado Center for Law and Policy and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will also be testifying and this letter is a supplement to their direct testimony.
Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND) is the program for the poorest of the poor, the most severely disabled with the fewest resources. People on AND are living so far below the poverty level they are not even on the radar. AND was meant to be a bridge between the time one becomes disabled and the time one can get on some sort of permanent disability benefits. It is also meant for those with disabilities that last between 6 and 12 months—making the person unable to work for a long time but not eligible for Social Security. Sadly, for some who are unable to navigate the complicated Social Security process, AND ends up as their only means of support for too long. The disability community, provider organizations, and some state agencies have tried to create programs to help this group of citizens whose disabilities are of a nature that make complying with rules, deadlines and procedures as impossible for them as walking up a flight of stairs is for someone whose legs are paralyzed. Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to fund a support program that serves all in need.
Even when it is a temporary solution, the system still needs to work with an understanding that one is always in a desperate situation to even apply for AND. To be considered one must have NO income, no savings, and no support. It is such as a small amount of money that if people have other options they will take those other options. When someone is waiting for SSI or SSDI and they accept AND the funds have to be paid back when the client receives his or her backpayment. Given that these individuals are already saddled with debt, both formal and informal, people do not sign up for this program when there are other options. Moreover, applying for ANY disability benefit is a humiliating and demoralizing experience, even when everyone involved is kind (which sadly is not always the case). One must tell strangers about extremely personal details, over and over again. One must confront the fact that one cannot do easy tasks that are considered natural for all adults in our society. One has to admit that one cannot support oneself or loved ones (if there are any left). Applying for benefits is one more loss, often part of a cascade of defeat. It is imperative that the Board understand the backdrop against which our fellow citizens are applying. Sensitivity training should include trauma informed care as well as an understanding about grief and loss and the disability process. While disability is NOT a tragedy, the systems that we encounter early in our disability journey do create trauma and find people at their lowest point, when they are still believing that disability is a tragedy.
CCDC strongly supports the following proposed changes for the following reasons:
People have been working on this for a long time, and there has been a lot of engagement in this process. Please pass these rules and continue to work on ways to make the AND benefit easier for those in such desperate need to receive. As a state we are compassionate people and need not make it harder for people at what is often the lowest point of one’s life.
I am willing to answer any questions but my colleagues who will be at the meeting will be in the best position to answer direct questions at the meeting.
Julie Reiskin, LCSW