2018 - Volume 4
Disability Rights New York (DRNY) is the Protection & Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program for persons with disabilities in New York State. DRNY advocates for the civil and legal rights for New Yorkers with disabilities.
Congress Gives $25M to the P&A's to Expand
Advocacy for Social Security Beneficiaries
Under a new law just passed by Congress, DRNY will now conduct reviews of organizations that manage social security funds to ensure that beneficiaries are protected from financial exploitation and abuse.

News accounts have described horrific conditions of people being locked away and exploited for their Social Security checks. Some of this abuse happens by organizations that are supposed to be managing the person’s money. DRNY looks forward to tackling this important work.
DRNY’s Executive Director Joins
Senator Schumer to Announce New P&A
Photo of Executive Director Tim Clune & Senator Schumer
Tim Clune, DRNY’s Executive Director, joined Senator Schumer to bring attention to the long lines and delays at Social Security. “They’ve cut back on the number of people who work in [Social Security] offices and the backlogs are huge” said the Senate Minority Leader. Senator Schumer also added that more than 10,000 people died last year while waiting for a disability determination.  

Clune said, “In addition to securing $480 million in the Social Security budget to address the backlog, the Senator was instrumental in having a new federal program created for the beneficiaries of Social Security benefits who have representative payees. Over the years there has been scandal upon scandal regarding the use of Social Security money, not for the beneficiary, but for the representative payee.” 

Over 90% of Rensselaer County Voting Places are Inaccessible
Photos of Rens. Polling Site Barriers
When you think about going to vote, you probably don’t wonder whether you will be stopped by a step, or blocked by an object. You don’t wonder whether the place where you were assigned to vote will be able to accommodate you or your car. For many people with disabilities, these concerns and many more are present when they consider whether to cast a ballot. They must decide not just who to vote for but whether it is worth exposing themselves to the voting process.  

DRNY goes out each election cycle and surveys polling places to make sure that they are accessible to everyone. In 2017, we surveyed Rensselaer County polling sites and found that over 90% continued to have barriers to voting. Previous surveys in 2015 and 2016, caused us to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. DOJ demanded corrective action and Rensselaer County addressed some of these concerns. During our 2017 survey, we located additional problems that were not resolved by the DOJ. In April, we filed another complaint with the DOJ.

If you count yourself among the group of people who face barriers to voting because of your disability, consider contacting DRNY to hear about our work and help support our efforts to ensure voting access for all.

NYS Special Education Conference Success!
Photo of Senator John E. Brooks - SD8. A Keynote Speaker.
We are excited to report that over 150 parents, educators, advocates and students came together for our annual Special Education Task Force Advocacy Conference. 

This year marked our 21st conference. We learned and shared strategies for increasing educational outcomes and opportunities for students with disabilities. 

DRNY Program Director, Julie Keegan, who coordinated the event, said, “New York has a strong and knowledgeable special education network, but teachers, parents, students and providers seldom have the chance to learn from each other in a collaborative forum. The conference brings these stakeholders together and promotes the model across the state through its eight regional task forces.”
What is the NYS Special Education Task Force?
Did you know that NYS Special Education Task Force fosters local groups to come together and promote collaboration in Special Education? In our 2-minute explainer video, you will learn about the origins of the Task Force and the efforts we made to expand this model across the State. Watch the video and visit the NYS SETF website, www.nyspecialedtaskforce.org, to find a Task Force in your region.
Major Changes Planned for Medicaid Services
Graphic for Medicaid Plan Changes in NYS
The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (the State agency that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities) published a 500 page document titled the "1115 Waiver Transition Plan." Although this Plan will result in significant changes to services, the public was only given 31 days to comment on it. The Plan is extremely complex and will impact all service recipients starting on July 1, 2018.

One major change is the termination of the Medicaid Service Coordination (MSC) program that is currently used to coordinate services. MSCs will transition to Care Coordinators. All Care Coordinators will be overseen by one of six Care Coordination Organizations (CCOs) across New York State. DRNY raised concerns about how this model will serve rural communities in New York State. None of the six CCOs are located in the rural communities they serve and some will only provide remote care coordination. 

Also, the state is sponsoring local forums to explain this transition process and the impact on service recipients. See a list of these forums here: https://on.ny.gov/2pJ8wac
Security Restored
Photo of Mark in his new home.
After Mark had open heart surgery, he could no longer use stairs, and needed to find a new accessible apartment. He needed his security deposit returned so he could afford to move, however, his landlord refused to return it.

Mark was relying on social security disability benefits while he was recovering from surgery and did not have any resources to fight with his landlord to get the deposit returned. We made sure that he got a partial refund so he could get into an accessible apartment and connected him with another lawyer who could help him recover the rest.  
Mental Health Advance Directives Fact Sheet 
Advance Directives Fact Sheet photo

DRNY has created over 50 helpful Fact Sheets on various disability advocacy topics.  This month we are highlighting our Mental Health Advance Directives Fact Sheet and form that presents mental health treatment choices in easy, readable language. You can choose someone to act as your agent or simply lay out your instructions for others to follow.  

We also provide links to other advance planning documents like a Living Will, in case you want to address your end of life treatment decisions.  Please make sure you plan ahead to ensure your choices are known! You can read the Fact Sheet & form at the following links:
Student Loan Forgiveness Reinstated
Photo of Julie
Like all graduating college students, Julie was preparing to enter the workforce and was planning for her student loan payments. Julie applied for and was granted loan forgiveness due to her disability.

Then inexplicably, the Department of Education (DOE) reinstated her loan payments that she was financially unable to pay. DRNY advocated on Julie’s behalf. DOE admitted their error and immediately excused her from making any payments. 
Last month PrideAbility held an event at Albany Law School. PrideAbility works to expand LGBTQIA advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

DRNY co-hosted the event with Albany Law’s LGBTQIA student group, OUTLaw, and is happy to continue to support the group as it grows. To learn more or join the movement visit: https://www.facebook.com/prideability
Have a Passion for Advocating for People with Disabilities?
Do you know someone with a passion for advocating for people with disabilities? DRNY is growing and we encourage you to share the news far and wide. 

DRNY is currently seeking attorneys, advocates and interns. Please refer them to DRNY’s employment opportunities page at http://www.drny.org/employment-opportunities.html for our open positions. 
If You Shop at AmazonSmile – DRNY Gets a Donation!

Amazon.com makes it so easy to support the work we do here at DRNY! Visit AmazonSmile and choose Disability Rights New York - You shop - Amazon.com gives!!

Share Your Story
Graphic for Casting Call
We are looking for New Yorkers with disabilities who wish to share their personal experiences and concerns in our video series. 

If you or someone you know wishes to share their story, please send a brief description and a headshot to:  mystory@drny.org
Open Call For Artists
Call For Artists Graphic

We are looking for art to feature in our campaigns throughout 2018. This is an open call for all media (paintings, sketches, photos, videos, projection, or digital art).

Please submit your work to: submissions@drny.org
Empire State of Rights
Empire State of Rights Logo

We hope you enjoy the DRNY Newsletter, “Empire State of Rights”, with its new inclusive and thoughtful logo. 

DRNY represents people with all types of disabilities – both seen and unseen. This logo embodies not only who we are, but more importantly, those who we represent.
DRNY is supported by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration; U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration; and, the Social Security Administration. This Newsletter does not represent the views, positions or policies of, or the endorsements by, any of these federal agencies.