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issues

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Find the most common issues people with disabilities face and how CCDC can help.

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Tag: disability

Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force

Overview

Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force – HCPF Website

The mission of the task force is to evaluate and set the roadmap to improve the current behavioral health system in the state. This includes developing Colorado’s “Behavioral Health Blueprint” by June 2020, with the anticipated implementation of recommendations starting in July 2020. Continue reading “Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force”

A horse is a sevice animal, of course, of course…

Listen to Colorado Public Radio (“CPR”) this afternoon, 12/30/19, at 4:50 PM to hear an interview by  CPR’s Andrew  Kenney with CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director (“LPD”), Kevin Williams, discuss service animals and the addition of miniature horses to the definition. You can find CPR on your FM dial at 90.1 (wait we do it some other way now, don’t we — sorry your Legal Program Director has been around for a while). In any event, the brief interview will air again today at that time. CCDC’s LPD also apologizes for having lost his voice on the very day the interview occurred. His very strange sounding voice is not the fault of the great people at CPR, we assure you. Continue reading “A horse is a sevice animal, of course, of course…”

Carrie Ann Lucas Obituary in the New York Times (Quoted)

View original article: Carrie Ann Lucas Obituary in the New York Times
By Katharine Q. Seelye
Feb. 27, 2019

Carrie Ann Lucas, who championed people, especially parents, with disabilities and won a major lawsuit to make Kmart more accessible, died on Sunday in Loveland, Colo. She was 47.

Carrie Ann Lucas, second from left, in 2018 in Windsor, Colo., with her children, from left, Asiza, Heather, Adrianne and Anthony. Ms. Lucas fought for the rights of the disabled, especially those who are parents.Credit...Carrie Ann Lucas
Carrie Ann Lucas, second from left, in 2018 in Windsor, Colo., with her children, from left, Asiza, Heather, Adrianne and Anthony. Ms. Lucas fought for the rights of the disabled, especially those who are parents.Credit…Carrie Ann Lucas

Her sister, Courtney Lucas, said the cause was complications of septic shock. Continue reading “Carrie Ann Lucas Obituary in the New York Times (Quoted)”

Action Alert: Tell Social Security No New Burdens for People with Disabilities!

African-American woman with gray hair
The Social Security Administration just announced that it wants to change its rules for people who get disability benefits, including SSI.  Most people would have to prove disability every two years. If Social Security moves forward with this proposal nearly two million people will be at risk of losing benefits over the next ten years.  These are people with severe disabilities who can’t work.

To read the original article, click here.

THE NEW RULES WOULD HURT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.

  • Getting Social Security disability benefits is incredibly burdensome. It can take years to qualify, and the process is time-consuming and stressful.  The new rules would force people to start over just two years later.
  • Social Security makes mistakes. Social Security does not always follow the law for disability reviews, and people get cut off by mistake.  The new rules would make these problems worse.
  • More reviews would clog the Social Security system for everyone. People often wait two years or more for Social Security hearings.  The new rules would push more people into the system, creating long delays for people who need income urgently and cannot work.
  • There are not enough lawyers to help people. Without a lawyer, most people will not make it successfully through the review process. But many lawyers are not able to handle disability reviews, so people will go without the help they need.

TAKE ACTION!

This video is closed-captioned, you can turn them on.
 

What can you do?

Here are three things you can do to fight these new rules:

1. Submit Comments to Social Security.

Social Security is collecting comments on the new rules until January 17, 2020. It will have to read and consider every comment. Below is some sample language, but remember, your comment will be stronger if you personalize it with your own experiences and message.

Dear Social Security Commissioner Saul:

I am writing about the proposed Social Security rule that would make most people getting disability benefits to prove that they have disabilities every two years. I am very worried about the rule. I do not think it should go forward.

It can be very hard to get disability benefits. For some people it takes years, and it is a stressful and time-consuming process. More frequent disability reviews will create additional burdens for people with disabilities who cannot work and are struggling with income insecurity.

Even worse, Social Security often makes mistakes when reviewing disability, meaning there is an even greater chance that people who qualify for benefits will be denied and will go without the help they need. And pushing more people into disability reviews will slow down the system for everyone.

The new rule will put nearly two million people at risk of losing benefits over the next 10 years. This rule would hurt people with disabilities. Please do not go forward with the rule.

Sincerely,

2. Contact Your Congressperson.

Social Security has to follow the law when it issues the new rules. Congress can investigate whether the new rules fit with the law. Ask your Congressional Representative to look into the new rules. Click here to contact your Congressperson. Not sure what to say? Here is some sample language you can modify:

Dear Congressperson ___Last Name___,

I am writing about the proposed Social Security rule that would make most people getting disability benefits to prove that they have disabilities every two years. Please tell Social Security that it should not go forward with the rule.

It can be very hard to get disability benefits. For some people it takes years, and it is a stressful and time-consuming process. More frequent disability reviews will create additional burdens for people with disabilities who cannot work and are struggling with income insecurity.

Even worse, Social Security often makes mistakes when reviewing disability, meaning there is an even greater chance that people who qualify for benefits will be denied and will go without the help they need. And pushing more people into disability reviews will slow down the system for everyone.

The new rule will put nearly two million people at risk of losing benefits over the next 10 years. This rule would hurt people with disabilities. Please work with Social Security to make sure that the rule does not go forward.

Sincerely,

3. Spread the Word!

Social Security needs to hear from as many people as possible about the new rules. Please share this page with your friends and colleagues, and on social media.


CCDC COMMENTS

To download a copy of CCDC’s public comments by Julie Reiskin, ED, click here.

December 29, 2019

Docket Number SSA 2018-0026

These comments are on behalf of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC). CCDC is a statewide social justice organization focusing on disability issues throughout Colorado. Over the past several years we have increased our focus on employment, encouraging employment and assisting people that want to transition from benefits to full employment to do so. The most successful tactic has been the creation of a very successful Medicaid Buy-In Program for working adults with disabilities.

We have also worked with and continue to work with our state Vocational Rehabilitation program to make improvements there. We have a long way to go. People with disabilities in Colorado who have full-time full-year jobs increased by approximately 3% from 2016-2018 (from about 26-29%). People with disabilities are still paid much less than our non-disabled peers. Because the economy in Colorado has been excellent, we have not seen how much of this gain is temporary.

What we know without question is that increasing punitive tactics and bureaucratic trickery to make benefit acquisition and retention more difficult has the opposite effect.

Our interest in employment is for many reasons:

  • Until we have reasonable employment levels we will not truly be fully integrated into all parts of the community.
  • The crushing poverty the disability community experiences can only be solved by increasing employment, both the number of people employed and by achieving pay equity for people with disabilities.
  • People with disabilities have a lot to add to the workforce. We have skills and talents and they should be used.
  • People with disabilities want to work.

We also see the need to redefine how we think about work. This is not solely a disability issue, some of the changes we seek are changes in the US workforce.

  • Work does not have to mean working 40 hours a week somewhere. Part-time work, the gig economy, and working from home are all reasonable options in the 21st century.
  • We must not look at receipt of benefits and employment as mutually exclusive. Many people will always need some level of benefits (both Medicaid and cash assistance) and they should be not only allowed, but supported and encouraged. This is a departure from the current policy where work is punished and people that attempt it are viewed with suspicion.
  • People that have been out of the workforce for several years or who have never been part of the workforce often need extensive support over many years to fully and completely reenter.
  • Some level of a cushion is needed when people are in between jobs. This will be more necessary when the economy changes. While everyone has this risk, people with disabilities are often more isolated, and less able to do temporary work, therefore, less able to survive the time between losing one job and getting a new job.
  • People with all types of disabilities and at all severity levels have value and can do something. This does not mean that all people that receive benefits could survive without those benefits.

It appears that SSA plans to spend $1.8 billion to save $2.6 billion over the next decade. As noted in the analysis, when people are terminated from payment this does affect others and this could create a chill effect and could discourage some people from applying for needed benefits.

While we appreciate the stated intention of helping people get back to work and agree that the longer one is out of the workforce, the more difficult it is to get back into the workforce, we believe SSA is missing the point. The analysis in the NPRM shows a lack of understanding as to why the return to work rate amongst SSA disability beneficiaries is so low.

As an organization run by and for people with all types of disabilities we have direct experience and understand why the return to work rate is so low. Many of us on staff are people that are or were SSA beneficiaries that have been able to get off or reduce our dependence on these benefits. Even with a very supportive employer and more knowledge of the system than most other beneficiaries, the process is excruciating. We assist hundreds of people each year to navigate these systems. The problems are caused by the system – not a lack of desire to work – and the NPRM does NOTHING to address the root causes.

We see the primary causes of failure to re-enter the workforce as follows:

Getting on Social Security or SSI

The process is horrendous. It is demoralizing, long, intense, and terrifying. Most people wait until they are desperate (unless they have a catastrophic event and are in a hospital with a social worker to assist) because people fundamentally do not want to give up work. Work is more than a paycheck. For many, it is an identity, a place that gives one self-worth, a place with social and emotional connections. Even financially because benefits always pay less than the paycheck left behind.

Even in the best-case scenario, the process can take upwards of six months. Usually, it is more like 2-3 years. During this time people are (incorrectly) advised that they should not work at all because social security will look at work negatively. While this is incorrect advice, there is a lot of nuance and documentation required to keep working while applying for benefits. During this time people must fill out form after form focusing on everything that is wrong, every deficit, every ailment, and problem. Nowhere in the application process does SSA provide the applicant space to document what one CAN do, rather than what one CANNOT do. It is a traumatic experience. We see people becoming so despondent during this process that they feel suicidal.

After going through this process once, people will do anything to avoid having to do it again. The safe move is to not even try to work. Even though SSI says they do not do a continuing disability review (CDR) if someone uses the Ticket to Work, they will do a CDR if there is work activity.

SSA Reaction to Work

When someone does try to work, even a little, SSA reacts with suspicion and accusation. People report work and receive letters that start with an accusation “We have information that you have worked” as if that is something bad. Recently someone who went through a disability determination process and was found completely disabled tried to increase work hours and was able to find part-time work for four hours a week at $12 an hour in a supported work environment. That caused a whole new review. Had this individual not had someone to fill out the numerous forms again, they would have stopped doing the additional work. This is not due to laziness or lack of interest in work but due to severe disabling anxiety and inability to understand how to do the paperwork.

Why can SSA not start these letters with “Congratulations…thank you for reporting your work? If one works, one must report monthly to the local SSA office. There is no online reporting and the fact that employers report to SSA anyway seems to be inadequate. They will frequently return documents saying that something was wrong, such as the SSN was written on the wrong part of the page. They ask for paystubs even though most pay is electronic. When people go in for a financial review (for SSI only) they are told they have to resubmit everything because the local office lost the paperwork.

We are regularly told the local offices do not have time to enter the information reported. This leads to overpayments (both legitimate and not) which is another barrier to work. Even if one proves the overpayments are not the fault of the beneficiary repayment may still be required. Often people end up in repayment situations because they did not understand how to do the complex paperwork to ask for a waiver (and sometimes did not understand that they could make such a request or appeal a determination of an overpayment). When one reports honestly and still is penalized, and this happens over and over again, one loses the will and sometimes the financial ability, to continue employment.

SSA needs to use additional resources to properly enter information reported and to properly match data reported by employers to reduce the need for individual beneficiaries to use an archaic paper reporting process. The tone of communications, nature of communications and process to report work activity is punitive and discouraging. When someone is already struggling with numerous barriers this is often the proverbial straw breaking the camels’ back. Other than a brochure called “Working while on Social Security and How We Can Help” there is no adequate assistance for beneficiaries trying to obtain or maintain paid employment. This brochure makes it clear that one can have SSDI or SSI and work, but the overwhelming belief is that work and receipt of disability benefits must be mutually exclusive.

Getting off benefits is complex

Assuming someone is willing to take the risk to try to get off of SSDI or SSI, one must be able to understand and comply with extremely complex regulations and reporting requirements. There is no universal, accredited, accurate benefits counseling. People have reasonable questions and need to know if they try to work how that affects all benefits, not just SSDI and SSI. They need to know how to keep Medicaid if they have significant medical needs. People rarely go from disability benefits to a job with health insurance. Moreover, for most disabled people private insurance is useless.

What we need is Medicaid, not insurance. Private insurance does not cover decent wheelchairs or long-term services such as personal care. Many states now have Medicaid Buy-In Programs for working adults with disabilities which is one of the few actual programs that do help people return to work. Every state program is different, each is at the whim of the state legislature, and some state programs are not actual incentives because the earning limits are so far below what one would need to survive, let along thrive, without benefits.

Moreover, these programs are usually disconnected from SSA. While health care is the biggest issue there are other considerations with other programs. If an individual resides in subsidized housing then knowledge is needed about how housing is affected. Even if someone is eventually able to pay market rent, in some areas finding an accessible unit might be impossible. Getting out of poverty requires a lot of planning so simply having more income may not translate into the ability to afford a move during the first year or even the first few years. Most people have to begin part-time and inch toward more hours.

Different public programs have different reporting requirements. People need to be given information in plain language what has to be reported to whom and how often. Having a universal reporting form, or figuring out information sharing would be incredibly helpful. Even SSA programs are not communicated well. 1619A and B are important and highly effective programs to help people on SSI keep their Medicaid. For many people keeping Medicaid is more important than the cash benefit. Between 1619 and the Medicaid Buy-In Programs, giving up the cash benefits may be possible, but only if it is done properly. People need to have a plan and many will need assistance in implementing the plan. Nothing in this proposal will help—adding more reporting only hinders any hope of getting off of benefits.

Many people have cyclical disabilities

The SSDI disability criteria is all or nothing. Once you earn money for 9 months, you are seen as no longer disabled. People that do well for a period and then crash are afraid to try. While there is the expedited reinstatement process it is not as seamless as it sounds. It does allow someone to get back on SSDI for up to 6 months while SSA evaluates the case. If the evaluation takes longer than 6 months – something common if a doctor has to be found, particularly in rural areas – this is not unusual. Looking at medical records is often a snapshot of a point in time. Even the 9-month trial work period can be broken up so someone could be considered able to return to work because in a period of several years they worked 2 or 3 months at a time on an annual basis. It need not be 9 continuous months. There is a big difference between being able to work 2 or 3 months with several months in between and being able to maintain consistent employment.

The proposed regulations appear to be targeting people with cyclical disabilities, such as many forms of serious mental illness. The fear of being under constant review can actually exacerbate the actual disability. The level of toxic stress caused by having one’s survival threatened can and will affect actual health outcomes. Again, letting people work when they can and forgoing benefits only when they are able work with an easy, non-punitive way to have benefits immediately restored when the person is not able to work consistently would accomplish the goal of having more SSI and SSDI beneficiaries employed. Forcing repeated reviews will not. Some employment, even if not consistent or permanent, would be preferable to none.

Returning to work is a process – not an event

Benefits are taken away too quickly. The simple evaluation of the 9 month trial work period is inadequate as mentioned above. It is easy to get a job, particularly in a good economy. What is harder is keeping the job. When people are out of the workforce for a long time, and in today’s fast paced world even a few years can be a long time, they lose both skills and endurance. Work norms change quickly. People returning to work after an absence need supports. Some will need social coaching, some will need to relearn (or learn for the first time) technology skills. Other than some vague references to “Ticket to Work” people are not told about available supports. Even though people on SSI or SSDI are supposed to be automatically eligible for federally funded Vocational Rehabilitation Services, this rarely happens. The process of applying for Vocational Rehabilitation and then implementing it can be many months.

The definition of disability itself is a huge problem and illustrates very outdated thinking. The ability to engage in SGA (which is not enough to live on in many parts of the country) is not a good indicator of disability. The all or nothing aspect of the definition is problematic. Telling people with obvious lifelong disabilities that they are no longer disabled also is a problem. Telling people that they are no longer eligible for certain cash benefits due to earnings (framed as a positive) would be preferable especially if there was a truly safe and easy way to get back on benefits.

The concept of a work incentive

It is a myth that people do not want to work. It is a myth that if you just take away the benefits people will go out and find a job. While some will find a job most on SSI or SSDI will not be able to keep it without a lot of support. If the system would focus on what people really need, add some flexibility and become less punitive, many more people would be able to successfully exit. Moreover, most so-called work incentive programs have been designed with no input from people with disabilities or our advocates. If SSA would work with people in the disability community in a meaningful way we could help design programs that might work. The programs created including the “Ticket to Work” are very complicated and tend to simply put money in the pockets of various service providers without real accountability to the disabled beneficiary.

Other Concerns with the proposal:

Timeframes

If there are going to be child re-determinations at set ages, this should be well communicated and parents should get information requests many months in advance. It appears these CDRs will be done at ages 1, 6, 12 and 18. We experience issues currently with the age 18 CDR because parents are not given the information and forms in advance. It can take months to get an appointment with a doctor. It can take time to get paperwork from schools and medical providers. At age 18, parents are dealing with a plethora of systems supporting the transition to adulthood. We recommend at least a full year and some support to get documentation together. The criteria are different before and after age 18 and there is no real explanation of the difference. This causes parents to send in what they have always sent in and then experience denials, causing appeals, because they used the wrong standards. This is different than actual ineligibility.

Medical Improvement

This can be a misleading concept. In the mental health evaluation standards in the “blue book” there is a component that grants disability when someone is doing well but that is due to the person being in a highly structured setting for more than a year. This allows for an evaluation of how someone looks based on the support that the person is receiving. Such an analysis should be done universally. It might not be a highly structured setting, but could be that with the demands of work, transportation, getting out and staying out daily, people look more functional (or less disabled) than they are. It is very concerning that SSA sees mental conditions like schizophrenia as non-permanent. Comparing schizophrenia to a broken leg is disingenuous. Moreover, people do not get disability from social security because they break a bone. Most people with schizophrenia have serious functional limitations that last a lifetime. In addition to the psychiatric and related cognitive issues, the medications they are required to take often cause physical disabilities. The same is true for some other serious mental illnesses.

Redeterminations

It is a myth that there are many people on SSI or SSDI that could easily or even at all just go to work. Many of the people targeted for the more frequent reviews will not be able to complete the detailed and exacting paperwork requirements without assistance. There is not enough assistance to go around and people in desperate need are likely to lose benefits simply due to failure to return the paperwork. Once denied they will need to appeal, and if they cannot find help doing this they will end up homeless or in dire situations. This is a particular issue for those with psychiatric disabilities or brain injuries. Forcing people with these limitations to go through reviews every two years is no different than telling someone who is paralyzed to walk up the stairs and if they can do that, they will receive their benefits. Yes, some will get jobs, but SSA has no data on how many will be able to keep jobs. These redeterminations are incredibly stressful and require a lot of work from the entire support system.

You also asked for comments on language that is unclear in any way.

This section appears aspirational. You say you will review cases in a specific amount of time unless you decide for a variety of reasons not to do so. You could simply say you will try to conduct a review of all nonpermanent impairments every three years, as resources allow.

f) Waiver of timeframes. We will review all cases with a nonpermanent impairment at least once every 3 years unless we, after consultation with the State agency, determine that the requirement should be waived to ensure that only the appropriate number of cases are reviewed. We will base the appropriate number of cases we will review on such considerations as the number of pending reviews, the projected number of new applications, and projected staffing levels. We will grant such waiver only after good faith effort on the part of the State to meet staffing requirements and to process the reviews on a timely basis. We may also consider the availability of independent medical resources. A waiver in this context refers to our administrative discretion to determine the appropriate number of cases to be reviewed on a State-by-State basis. Therefore, under certain circumstances, we may delay your continuing disability review longer than 3 years following our original determination or decision or another review. We would base the delay on our need to ensure that pending reviews and new disability claims workloads are accomplished within available medical and other resources in the State agency and that such reviews are done carefully and accurately.

The section quoted below could be shortened to say “We conduct continuing disability reviews to determine whether or not you continue to be eligible for benefits. Payment ends (but eligibility for some other services including Medicaid may continue) if you show that are you able to earn a specific amount of money without special conditions for at least 9 months.” It confuses people when you say that their disability ends because in many cases the person remains disabled, they just demonstrate that they are able to engage in substantial employment.

General. We conduct continuing disability reviews to determine whether or not you continue to meet the disability or blindness requirements of the law. Payment ends if the medical or other evidence shows that you are not disabled or blind as determined under the standards set out in section 1614(a) of the Social Security Act if you receive benefits based on disability or § 416.986 of this subpart if you receive benefits based on blindness. In paragraphs (b) through (f) of this section, we explain when and how often we conduct continuing disability reviews for most people. In paragraph (g) of this section, we explain special rules for some individuals who are participating in the Ticket to Work program. In paragraph (h) of this section, we explain special rules for some people who work and have received social security benefits as well as supplemental security income payments.

Finally, we believe the cost to the public is grossly understated. There are two areas of underestimation.

The cost to comply with the CDR

This is not just a matter of getting records from one doctor. Other evidence is required. This is going to further stress an already overburdened medical system, especially the mental health system. This will require other social service professionals to help people with the paperwork. It will add calls to crisis lines. It will increase medical and mental health visits as people struggle to comply.

When people lose their source of income they often end up in crisis

They must turn to food stamps, other forms of general assistance, etc. They rely on food banks and other charities. Many become homeless requiring services at shelters and others who live in public housing will stop being able to pay their portion of their rent. Once someone loses their housing, they are likely to incur numerous other costs. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness in 2017 someone with long term or chronic homelessness costs the taxpayers more than $35,000 a year. This is double the average SSDI benefit and more than double the full SSI benefit. Most people with disabilities that lose their housing are not able to find new housing. Even if someone gets a job at the SGA level, they might not be able to retain their housing. If they lose their disability status they might also lose subsidies. If there is a break in benefits, even for a couple of months, most people will lose their housing. People on SSI are not allowed to save money. Most people on SSDI do not have the means to save and maybe on other programs that limit asset accumulation. Therefore people using these programs do not have the financial wherewithal to weather a couple of months without benefits. They certainly do not have the ability to find and move into new housing.

In summary, CCDC finds these proposed regulations to be bad public policy. It will not achieve the laudable goal of helping people with disabilities enter or return to work. It will increase the poverty of an already vulnerable population. It will add stress to an already overburdened social services system and cause needless suffering to thousands of voters with disabilities and their families. If there is any real intention to help people with disabilities return to work and escape poverty, SSA should work with the disability community to fix the work incentive programs already authorized in law, and bring forth proposals for improved legislation and regulation so that these programs can function appropriately.

We suggest that SSA withdraw this proposal and convene people with disabilities, including people using SSA work incentive programs and people who have successfully exited SSDI and SSI to better understand the needed elements for success.

Sincerely,

Julie Reiskin, LCSW
Executive Director

2019 Legislative Session Wrap Up

This was a busy session as is typical whenever there is a new administration and many new legislators.  Despite some unfortunate partisanship that caused delays,  the reading out loud of 2000 page bills, hearings that occurred during a blizzard, and overnight sessions some great work did get done that will benefit the people of Colorado including people with disabilities.

Before talking about the bills, I want to call out the amazing CCDC team that worked at the Capitol this year.

  • CCDC Board Co-Chair Josh Winkler showed his typical leadership working some bills very hard, following the budget, and mentoring some of our newer volunteer lobbyists. Other board members that participated in the process were Scott Markham and Dr. Kimberley Jackson.
  • Our volunteer lobbying team consisted of Francesca Maes, Michael Neil, Jennifer Roberts, Haven Rohnert, and Linn Oliver with help from Jennifer Remington, Auralea Moore, and Tim Postlewaite.
  • Valerie Schlecht did a fantastic job as our contract lobbyist for mental health issues and stepped up on several other issues as a volunteer. Dawn Howard our community organizer, AKA Cat Herder in Chief did a great job making sure everyone knew what was happening, where people were needed, etc.

CCDC wants to thank our many partners, in particular the Arc of Colorado, Arc of Aurora, Arc of Adams, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, 9-5 Colorado, ACLU of Colorado, Colorado Senior Lobby, Disability Law Colorado, Colorado Common Cause, PASCO, and Accent on Independence Homecare amongst others.  We also want to thank Colorado Capitol Watch for a great product that made tracking the bills easier.

Because this was a year with many new legislators and many groups rushing to push through bills that had struggled in years past, many of which were bills we were going to support, CCDC made a deliberate decision to NOT run our own proactive bills this year but to focus on our coalition work, and building relationships with the many new Senators and Representatives.   We laid groundwork for policies we want to promote over the next few years while focusing on the many coalition bills and responding to bills that affected our community.    We followed 139 bills.  This report shares the highlights-not every bill that we worked on during the session.

Housing:

This is being dubbed the year of the renter.    There were many bills that helped renters, along with some that will fund affordable housing.

  • HB 19-1085 Increases the property tax/heat/rent rebate program both the amount of the grant and the income limits for people eligible for this grant through July 2021.
  • HB 19-1106 Limits rental application fees to actual costs
  • HB 19-1118: Requires landlords to expand the notice before eviction from three to 10 days, hopefully giving people a way to either find a new place to live or cure the problem that led to the eviction
  • HB 19-1135 Clarifies that income tax credits for retrofitting a home for accessibility are available when one retrofits a home for a dependent.
  • HB 19-1170 Improves warranty of habitability in housing to make it work for tenants.
  • HB 19-1285 and HB 1332 Affordable housing funding
  • HB 19-1309 Creates mobile home park dispute resolution and enforcement program, also increasing time to move if there is sale or eviction.
  • HB 19-1328 Responsibilities of landlords & tenants to address bed bug infestations.
  • SB 19-180 Creates an eviction defense fund to help low-income people

Health Care:

  • HB 19-1044 Allows for an advanced directives for behavioral/mental health.
  • HB 19-1120 Multiple approaches to address and prevent youth suicide
  • HB 19-1151 Revisions to the Traumatic Brain Injury Program funded by the Brain Injury Trust Fund.
  • HB 19-1176 Enables a study of various methods of health care reform including an option for universal health care.
  • HB 19-1189 Reforms wage garnishment laws to take into account medical expenses and medical debt.
  • HB 19-1211 Reforms what health insurance companies can and cannot do regarding prior authorization. This is to stop insurance companies using prior authorization to harass doctors and deny patients.
  • HB 19-1216 Measures to reduce the cost of insulin.
  • HB 19-1233 Health care payment reform to promote increasing utilization of primary care.
  • HB 19-1269 Mental Health Parity-variety of measures to require both private insurance companies and Medicaid to pay for mental health care appropriately.
  • HB 19-1287 Increases treatment funding for substance use disorders
  • SB 19-001 Expands the Medication Assisted Treatment pilot program
  • SB 19-005 Gives state permission to request permission from the federal government to import drugs from Canada to give Colorado residents price relief
  • SB 19-010 Funds professional mental health services in schools
  • SB 19-073 Creates statewide system to allow electronic uploading of advance directive documents so in the case of emergency any hospital can ascertain the wishes of the individual. This is voluntary.
  • SB 19-079 Requires some doctors to submit prescriptions of controlled drugs electronically
  • SB 19-195 Creates a system to better coordinate children’s mental health policy
  • SB 19-222 Increases mental health services for people at risk of institutionalization
  • SB 19-238 Requires the 8.1% increase for personal care and homemaker be passed directly to workers, and sets up stakeholder group to address issues with personal care workforce.

THERE WERE A NUMBER OF BILLS RELATED TO THE COST OF PRIVATE INSURANCE AND HOSPITALS.  PLEASE CHECK OUT THE COLORADO CONSUMER INITIATIVE OR THE COLORADO CENTER ON LAW AND POLICY FOR REPORTS ON THOSE BILLS.

Good Government:

  • HB 1062 Allowing sale of property at the Grand Junction regional center
  • HB 19-1063 Allows information sharing between adult and child protective services and allowed people who are subject to adult protective services to see their own records.
  • HB 19-1084 Requires that staff of legislative council prepare demographic notes on certain bills. For a handful of bills each future session the citizens and elected officials of Colorado will be able to have research on how a bill affects specific (often underrepresented) populations.
  • HB 19-1239 Creates a grant program to do outreach for the 2020 census.
  • HB 19-1278 A variety of changes to election law making it easier for voters
  • SB 19-135 Requires a study of state procurement disparities to see if state contracting is being fair and inclusive to businesses owned by people of color, women and people with disabilities.

Education:

  • HB 19-1066 Requires schools to count special education students in graduation rates.
  • HB 19-1134 Research for better methods to identify dyslexia in young children
  • HB 19-1194 Limits schools ability to expel and suspend children in and below the 2nd grade
  • HB 19-066 Creates grant program to help defray costs of high cost special education students

Employment:

  • HB 19-1025 Limits employers’ ability to ask about criminal backgrounds (with appropriate exemptions) before employee goes through the application process.
  • HB 19-1107 Creates job retention and employment support as part of the Department of Labor and Employment
  • SB 19-085 Increases enforcement for those facing pay-based discrimination
  • SB 19-188 Creates a study of Family Medical Leave

Transportation:

  • HB 19-1257 and HB 19-1258 Brings to the voters a request for state to keep and spend excess revenue for transportation and schools
  • SB 19-239 Creates a stakeholder process to address the changes in transportation

Justice Systems:

  • SB 19-036 Creates pilot program to remind people of court dates
  • HB 19-1045 Provides funding for an office of Public Guardianship
  • HB 19-1104 Creates a right to counsel for parents who are facing custody loss to be represented through the office of respondent parent counsel.
  • HB 19-1777 “Red Flag” bill that sets out when a judge can temporarily take away someone’s gun if they are at imminent risk of harming themselves or someone else. CCDC was initially concerned that this might be based on diagnosis, but it was not.  It is based only on behavior, has many protections and excellent due process.
  • HB 19-1225: Prohibits money bail for some low-level offenses to avoid people being jailed for not having small amounts of money for non-violent crimes.
  • SB 19-172 Makes it easier to prosecute people that abuse at risk adults and makes it clear that inappropriate confinement is abuse and illegal.
  • SB 19-191 Creates defendants’ rights to pretrial bonds to reduce the number of people with low-level crimes sitting in jail just because they are poor.
  • SB 19-223 Reforms regarding the competency process in the criminal court system

State Budget (aka the long bill SB 19-207)

  • Increases personal care and homemaker rates for CDASS and IHSS by 8.1%
  • Funds housing inspections for host homes in the I/DD system for basic life-safety issues
  • Creates an Office of Employment First at JFK Partners
  • State funded SLS and Family Support Services waiver slots
  • Creates a Supported Employment pilot at HCPF for I/DD waivers
  • Provides funding for HCPF customer service
  • Provides funding for food and travel for HCPF Member Experience Advisory Council
  • Provides state mental hospital funding for Disability Law Colorado settlement

Disability Specific:

  • HB 19-1069 Allows Colorado to create our own certification system through the Colorado Commission on the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf/Blind CCDHHDB to adopt or develop a certification system for American Sign Language interpreters. This is address the shortage of interpreters, especially in the rural areas.  THANKS TO THE INDEPENDENCE CENTER OF COLORADO SPRINGS FOR LEADING THIS BILL.
  • HB 19-1151 Revisions to the Traumatic Brain Injury Program funded by the Brain Injury Trust Fund. THANKS TO THE BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF COLORADO FOR LEADING THIS BILL.
  • HB 19-1223 Provides application assistance to people on the Aid to Needy Disabled program to help them obtain approval for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). THANKS TO THE COLORADO CENTER ON LAW AND POLICY FOR LEADING THIS BILL
  • HB 19-1332 Funds the talking book library
  • SB 19-202 Creates a path for accessible ballots for people who are print disabled to allow such individuals to vote in private in our all mail ballot system. THANKS TO THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF COLORADO FOR LEADING THIS BILL.

Overall it was a good year.  There were some disappointments, but there always are—now we have to make sure the bills we like get implemented and make sure people know about these new laws and programs.

 

 

Dear Governor Polis, About Your Inauguration

“This is so exhausting.”  This quote is from Kelly Tobin, a CCDC member who uses a power chair and has multiple disabilities.  This was her sentiment on a day when we should have been excited about participating in our government.   She was feeling hurt as we all were at being excluded once again –this time from the Polis Inauguration.  

CCDC had asked ahead of time and been assured of full accessibility.  We were told a sign language interpreter would be there and we advertised that.  We were told there would be seating for those with disabilities in need.   We reached almost a month ago and offered help.  We shared specific things to think about to make this inclusive of our community. Our offer to help with accessibility was rebuffed and we were promised accessibility was handled.  I guess we were wrong to believe this representation from their staff.

I had been to other inaugurations, Hickenlooper, Ritter, and Owens.  All of those ceremonies were accessible in that people could show up and listen.  Wheelchair users could see and those with other mobility impairments got seating up close and could get around the area.  Today there were tents, barriers, and cops keeping public members out.   We were blocked as we entered the Capitol area from the Colfax side. We were told there was a public space down the hill on Lincoln Street –we asked about ADA seating and the guard said he knew nothing about it.  One of our members who has a service dog,  wanted to get her dog inside before the cannons went off.  She is very limited in her ability to walk distances safely.  The cops refused to let her in the door of the capitol that was close to us, nor could she walk around the short way but would have to walk all the way around the building.  They said she had to go through security, she was wearing an ID badge and they could have walked her across the cafeteria and had her go through security…but no. 

We went down to the “public” area.  If there was an ADA section we could not see it.  There were barriers on the street so we could not get off of the sidewalk if we wanted to.  We looked at the big screen and saw neither a sign language interpreter nor captioning.  If there was an interpreter it was hidden.

Over the West Steps of the Capitol were large banners that said Colorado for All….I guess that meant Colorado for All except for people with disabilities.

The disability community had sent Governor Elect Polis a letter on 12/13 and asked for a response and an introduction to the new Boards and Commission person before the inauguration.  Is this a sign that asking nicely is not going to work with this Governor?   Good thing we have a strong ADAPT chapter. 

It is always disappointing to be excluded but it is especially gut wrenching when the exclusion is created by someone who screams from the rooftops that they are invested in a Colorado for All.   Is this really for all of us…or just for some?  If this is Colorado for all, then it is important that Governor Polis acknowledges our community.

Update on DOJ Project Civic Access Settlement Agreement, Denver Curb Ramps and Denver Sidewalks

One year ago today, the Department of Justice reached an agreement with the City and County of Denver (“City”) under Project Civic Access (“PCA”), the Department’s initiative to ensure that cities, towns, and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). That agreement covers accessibility to numerous programs, services, activities and facilities throughout Denver. The agreement specifically addresses Law Enforcement and Effective Communication, Polling Places, Emergency Management Procedures and Policies, Physical Changes to Emergency Shelters, Web-Based Services and Programs, New Construction, Alterations and Physical Changes to Facilities, Programs for Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse. Many of the deadlines for compliance occurred today, one year after the effective date of the agreement. Click on these links to review the DOJ Press Release and for the DOJ Settlement Agreement. Also, attached is a PDF version of the Agreement with all of the one-year deadlines highlighted.

The Settlement Agreement contains one error in that it states that “On January 20, 2016, Denver and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center [“CREEC”] reached a separate agreement addressing accessible sidewalks and curb ramps in Denver.” It is correct that CREEC with the assistance of CCDC reached a class action settlement agreement with the City regarding curb ramps, but sidewalks were not addressed. Click on the link to review the Curb Ramp Settlement Agreement. Click on the link here to see CREEC’s Website. This Settlement Agreement provides for comprehensive curb ramp replacement throughout the City. CCDC is unaware of why the issue of sidewalks was excluded from the DOJ Settlement Agreement with the City because the case involving curb ramps was never intended to address sidewalks and was approved by the court as a class-action settlement on September 9, 2016 before the DOJ Settlement Agreement. Click the link here to review the Order Granting Final Approval of Settlement. The rules and regulations that apply to curb ramps are different from those that apply to sidewalks.

With respect to sidewalks, according to a recent article published in the Denverite, the City has launched a project to install sidewalks where they don’t exist and make additional sidewalk repairs. At this time, CCDC does not have additional information regarding the sidewalk project. Click on the link here to see the Denverite article regarding sidewalks.

According to the Denver Office of Disability Rights’ (“DODR”) website, “The Denver Office of Disability Rights coordinates the City and County of Denver’s efforts to ensure compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Our role is to ensure that all City services and programs are accessible to people with disabilities.” Information is provided on the DODR website regarding curb ramp renovations and installation and the City’s plan for sidewalks and transportation. The  DODR is also listed as the agency to which all notifications or communications under the DOJ Settlement Agreement are to be made. Click here for the link for the Denver Office of Disability Rights. The address and other contact information for the DODR is:

Denver Office of Disability Rights
201 W Colfax, Dept 1102
Denver, CO 80202
Fax: 720-913-8470
E-mail: disabilityaccess@denvergov.org

Kevin Williams
Legal Program Director
CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program
kwilliams@ccdconline.org

Proposed City of Denver budget falls short

On September 13th Mayor Michael Hancock presented his 2019 budget. As you may know our partners at Denver Streets Partnership and Walk Denver have been meeting city officials to elevate the need for safe and accessible side walks, street crossings and bike paths. These elements are essential for the independence of our people. Some of the glaring deficiencies in the budget included no funding for Federal Blvd., 3.8 million for sidewalks (we had requested 10) and very little money for simple upgrades and fixes such as bollards or paint for roads.
City council now has several weeks to review budget and to make recommendations.
CCDC strongly supports more funding for sidewalks, cross-walks and bike paths.
If you want your voice heard please use the Walk Denver Web site listed below for additional information and ways to reach out to your city councilperson.

Action Center

Jaime Lewis
CCDC Transit Advisor

Action Center

HAPPY ADA DAY to all of you!

28 years ago today the ADA was signed into law….and we have seen changes that only dreamed at one point.  When the ADA was passed into law Estrella Rowe, the daughter of Lucinda Rowe, was not even born.   Please enjoy this guest blog written in honor of the anniversary by the parent of someone who continues to benefit from this incredible law that we must still protect.
CCDC is happy that a new generation of leaders, like Lucinda Rowe, are involved.   Lucinda took our advocacy class, got involved as a volunteer and is now a temporary employee.   Thank you, Lucinda, for writing this guest blog!  We welcome others to submit pieces for this Sound Off Blog.

Happy Independence Day !!


ADA Day

Written by Lucinda Rowe
July 26, 2018

ADA Day is significant to my family but most of all to my daughter. Estrella was born prematurely weighing one pound. She was diagnosed with severe Cerebral Palsy at a month old. Continue reading “HAPPY ADA DAY to all of you!”


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