January 14, 2022
VOR Weekly News Update
VOR is a national non-profit organization that advocates for
high quality care and human rights for all people with
intellectual and developmental disabilities.
VOR promises to empower you to make and protect quality of life choices for individuals with developmental disabilities
Does Extra $ Mean Loss of SSI Benefits?

In last week's newsletter, we featured an article on the IRS raising the limit on ABLE accounts. This week, the Social Security Administration has announced that they are increasing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other Social Security benefits.

We are sending out by a separate email a letter from VOR's Harris Capps that speaks to what these increases may mean to your family.

Look for it in your inbox!

As always, please consult with your tax expert on the best ways to
ensure your loved one's financial future.
National News:
Bigger Social Security, SSI Checks On The Way
By Shaun Heasley, Disability Scoop, January 10, 2022

Millions of Americans with disabilities are seeing a big bump in their Supplemental Security Income and other Social Security benefits.

Monthly payments are growing 5.9%, according to the Social Security Administration. The change applies to SSI payments beginning Dec. 30 and Social Security benefits paid this month.

This year’s COLA is the largest it’s been since 1982.

For individuals receiving SSI, the maximum federal benefit for 2022 will rise to $841 per month. The figure is $1,261 for couples. Actual payments could be higher since some states contribute more.

The Social Security Administration said it mailed notices in December to beneficiaries detailing new payment amounts. Most people can also access the information online through their Social Security account, the agency said.

Reprinted from last week:

IRS Raises Limit For ABLE Accounts
By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, January 3, 2022

For the first time in four years, the amount of money that people with disabilities can save without jeopardizing eligibility for government benefits is rising. The increase is the first since 2018. It comes as a result of inflation, the IRS said.

Starting this month, the Internal Revenue Service said that the federal gift tax exclusion is growing from $15,000 to $16,000 annually. That same cap also applies to contributions to ABLE accounts, a special savings vehicle for people with disabilities.

ABLE accounts, which were created under a 2014 law, allow individuals with disabilities to save up to $100,000 without risking eligibility for Social Security and other government benefits. Medicaid can be retained no matter how much is in the accounts. Interest earned on funds in ABLE accounts is tax free and money saved can be used to pay for qualified disability expenses including education, health care, transportation and housing.

Annual deposits in ABLE accounts are generally limited to the value of the IRS’ gift tax exclusion, now $16,000.

However, people with disabilities who are employed can also save some of their earnings in the accounts above and beyond the gift tax amount. For those in the continental U.S., that means up to an additional $12,880 this year, according to the ABLE National Resource Center. Alaska residents can save an extra $16,090 in compensation and that figure is $14,820 in Hawaii, the center said.

To be eligible for the accounts, individuals must have a disability that onset before age 26.

Medical & Dental News:
Doctors Know Little About Their Obligations To People With Disabilities, Study Finds
By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, January 11, 2022
Three decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act took effect, new research finds that many physicians remain unaware of their obligations under the law when caring for people with disabilities.

More than a third of doctors surveyed had little or no knowledge about their legal requirements under the ADA and 71% did not know who determines reasonable accommodations.

The findings come from a survey of 714 doctors in outpatient practices across the nation that was published this month in the journal Health Affairs.
“Despite the fact people with disabilities comprise 25% of the population, they often confront barriers to basic health care services such as physical examinations, weight measurement and effective communication with their physicians,” said Dr. Lisa I. Iezzoni of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, the lead author of the study. “The lack of knowledge about who makes accommodation decisions raises troubling questions about health care quality and equity.”

Age-related Medical Conditions Going Unrecognized, Untreated in People with IDD
Yahoo News, from a press release from IntellectAbility, January 10, 2022

The population of the United States is getting older quickly. By 2050, it's projected that approximately 90 million adults will be over age 65.(1) By 2030, it's anticipated that one in five Americans will be 65 years old or older.(1) These estimates include a large number of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). People with IDD are just as likely to suffer from the same age-related ailments as any other person. Dementia, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, vision and hearing loss, and many other chronic health conditions affect large numbers of people with IDD, but signs of those problems often go unnoticed by supporters. Dr. Craig Escudé, President of premier IDD education and training firm IntellectAbility, says, "Since people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are living longer, we have to shift to ensure we're addressing all the factors that affect individuals as they get older. Supporters need to learn to recognize how chronic conditions like dementia might appear differently in a person with IDD."

According to the Association on Aging with Developmental Disabilities, the average lifespan of a person with IDD is approximately 70 years old—fairly close to the average American's projected lifespan of 77 years.(2) But little is known about how these individuals' lives change over time. As with anyone else, it's important for a person with IDD to continue living on their own terms. That includes maintaining health and maximizing function, as well as reducing the impact of chronic diseases.(3) But those with IDD may have difficulty understanding their own need for greater support and care, while also struggling to communicate with others about that need. In many cases, problems are underestimated as supporters fail to recognize symptoms of age-related health issues.(4)

Dr. Seth Keller, Past President of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry, Co-president of the National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices, and Chair Adult IDD Section of the American Academy of Neurology, says, "You must know the individual's activities and abilities and see if there are any changes. Supporters must collect detailed information on how, when, and under what circumstances the changes are occurring. But don't jump to conclusions—it might be normal aging or changes in social environments and the person with IDD is just reacting to that. Or, it could be a social decline, not a physical one. Supporters must recognize these factors, and that's where training comes into play."

Unfortunately, people with IDD often show signs of earlier medical, functional, and psychosocial changes compared to those without IDD.(5) With those changes comes a variety of symptoms which may be mistaken for behavioral changes in a person with IDD, especially if that person doesn't use words to communicate.

Disparities in Dental Care Facing Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
By Raquel Rozdolski, D.D.S., and Susan DiSenso-Brown, D.D.S, Touro College of Dentistry, January 10, 2022
There is a divide in access to proper dental care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Many general dentists are not trained to properly handle situations that may arise when treating the population, while caregivers for those with IDD are in a constant search for providers equipped to address the disparities.

Doctors Raquel Rozdolski, D.D.S., Touro College of Dental Medicine's (TCDM) Director of Anesthesia and Pain Control, and Susan DiSenso-Brown, D.D.S., TCDM's Director of Special Needs, are working to spread awareness for bridging these gaps and training oral health professionals on the topic. Here, they share their perspective on the gap in care in the IDD community and why it is so important that dental professionals receive training for treating this population.

Q: What qualifies someone as special needs? ​

A: Dr. Raquel Rozdolski: The term "special needs" is broad, including physical, cognitive, developmental and/or medical conditions that necessitate unique individualized care considerations.  This includes individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), who comprise roughly 17% of the US population. According to the American Dental Association, this can include people with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, spinal cord injuries, and countless other conditions or injuries that can make standard dental procedures more difficult.

Q: What are some of the challenges facing those with special needs when looking for dental care? 
A: Dr. Susan DiSenso-Browne: Challenges are unique for each person, but specifically, persons with IDD face a tremendous challenge in access to
care.  From lack of provider training to insufficient facilities and services to transportation roadblocks, or lack of oral health education by the individuals’ caregivers, many people with IDD go months to years without proper dental care.  

Q: Are those with special needs any more susceptible to oral health issues? 

A: Dr. Susan DiSenso-Browne: In general people with compromising medical conditions and related disabilities are often more susceptible to oral disease.  This increase in susceptibility may be linked to systemic disease or genetic condition, subsequent to dexterity issues affecting home care, lack of caregiver education on the importance of oral health; or related to the aforementioned access to care issues, to name a few.  

Q: Why is proper training in special care dentistry important, from a provider’s perspective?

A: Dr. Susan DiSenso-Browne: Training in special care dentistry provides experience, competence, and confidence for a provider in proper assessment and care management for an individual’s needs, thus enhancing the dentist's communication and clinical skills, as well as helping to close the gap in access to care.  The provider expands their scope of practice and also better understands when and how to refer.  Improved training also enlarges the referral base and, by extension, an individual’s care options.

University at Buffalo Dental School Receives $735K Grant to Increase Access to Care to People with Disabilities
From ADA News, January 13, 2022
The University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine announced Dec. 14 it received a $735,000 grant from to help increase the delivery of critical dental treatment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Western New York.
The funding, provided by Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, will also help grow the oral health care workforce treating this population, according to the dental school.
The funding will help resume and expand a previous initiative between the school’s S-Miles To Go program and nonprofit Arc GLOW that provided dental care to patients with disabilities in the university’s mobile dental clinic. It funds a mobile dental unit — a 40-feet-long, two-chair clinic outfitted with a panoramic X-ray unit, digital radiography, sterilization center, wheelchair lift and electronic health record system — that will operate at Arc GLOW locations several days per week. 
Patients with disabilities face numerous barriers to oral health care, including a lack of access to transportation and adequate coverage and
reimbursement through Medicaid and other insurances, along with a shortage of dentists trained to meet their needs, according to Stephen N. Abel, D.D.S., senior director of community and professional initiatives at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. 

Dr. Abel added that Inadequate compensation for provider time leads some dentists to decline treating patients with disabilities, and those who do treat this population often have waiting lists that are months-long.

One organization that has been at the leading edge of improving Medical and Dental services for people with I/DD is the American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry (AADMD).

The AADMD was established in 2002, and continues to provide advocacy and training to medical and dental professionals in order to improve service offerings to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For more information, go to https://www.aadmd.org/what-we-do
State News:
Texas - Public Invited to Comment on HHS Strategic Plan Through January 31
Public Notice from Texas Department of Health and Human Services, January 12, 2022

Texas Health and Human Services invites public input on the HHS system’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2023 through 2027. The plan covers the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Office of Inspector General.

A strategic plan lays out how an organization will achieve its goals and objectives, charting a path three to five years into the future. The HHS strategic plan will be based on the following goals:

  • Improve health outcomes and well-being.
  • Ensure efficient access to appropriate services.
  • Protect the health and safety of vulnerable Texans.
  • Continuously enhance efficiency and accountability.
To learn more about the plan, visit the Goals and Objectives here (PDF).

To share your comments, email [email protected]
by Jan. 31 at 5 p.m. Central time or speak, in person or virtually, at the public hearing Monday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. Central time. You must register in advance to share oral comments at the meeting. For more information, visit the meeting agenda here.

Kentucky - Gov. Andy Beshear Proposes Billions for Health and Human Services in 2-year Budget Plan
By Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier-Journal, January 12, 2022

Gov. Andy Beshear proposed billions of dollars for Medicaid, nursing scholarships, local health departments, child protection and other human services Wednesday during his third preview of his state budget plan.

"Ensuring opportunity and caring about our people is good business, and it's the right thing to do," Beshear said in unveiling more details of the two-year budget proposal he will present to the General Assembly.

Among Beshear's health and human service proposals outlined Wednesday:

  • Fully funding the state's share of Medicaid, a $12 billion-a-year government health plan that covers about 1.5 million low-income or disabled Kentuckians, including about 660,000 children. The federal government covers about 70% of the costs.
  • Providing $6 million a year for the next two years for nursing scholarships of up to $3,000 a semester per student, a move Beshear hopes will ease the state's acute nursing shortage highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beshear also proposes up to $5 million a year for a student loan forgiveness program for nurses
  • Spending $36 million over the next two years to shore up the state's 60 health departments that have been strained by demands of the pandemic that hit departments hollowed out by years of budget cuts.
  • Adding 600 more slots to ease a years-long waiting list for housing and care for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities through Medicaid programs known as Supports for Community Living and the Michelle P. Waiver.

Minnesota - Senator Calls on the Governor to Deploy National Guard Assist Group Homes
Press Release, Minnesota State Republican Caucus, January 13, 2022

Senator Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services Reform Finance and Policy, today called on Governor Tim Walz to deploy National Guard members to aid in the staffing shortage crisis in the state’s group homes.

Across Minnesota, long-term care and nursing facilities are unable to find the staff needed to serve its residents, with a recent statewide survey by the Long-Term Care Imperative showing Minnesota care facilities are estimated at being 23,000 staffers short. To help address this issue, National Guard members have been deployed to aid these facilities. 

However, a less commonly discussed area being impacted by the care facility shortages — and one not currently receiving the assistance of the National Guard —   are Minnesota group homes. This can be seen clearly through the dire situation at the Mount Olivet Rolling Acres – a 50-year-old nonprofit committed to providing services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Due to staffing shortages, residents in over 30 group homes are having to choose to either move back home or into a different group home temporarily.

Tracy Murphy, president at Mount Olivet Rolling Acres, noted the following in her testimony before the committee today. 

“We are no longer in a crisis. We are in an emergency. We are in a dire situation,” Murphy said. “I currently have 80 open positions. I am operating at 50% of my shifts open at any time.”

“With some of our group homes on the verge of collapse, it is long overdue for Governor Walz to call on the National Guard and provide critically needed assistance to these facilities,” Abeler said. “This is a people-focused issue, not a political issue, and serves to ensure our loved ones have a place to receive the necessary care.”  

New Jersey - Senate Clears O’Scanlon Bill Creating Jobs for Workers with Developmental Disabilities
Press Release via Insider NJ, January 10, 2022

Businesses in New Jersey would be encouraged to hire more employees with developmental disabilities under legislation sponsored by Senator Declan O’Scanlon and passed today by the Senate.

The bill (S-3809) would create a new tax credit of $3,000 for every new hire with developmental disabilities. The credit would be applied against the corporation business tax.

“These credits will incentivize the hiring of more adults with disabilities, allowing them to improve their standard of living and give them hope for the future,” said O’Scanlon. “Job opportunities are the missing ingredient for many developmentally disabled residents who are prepared and ready to step out on their own.”

Currently, the state offers a $1,000 tax credit for each employee who specifically works under a special license that allows the individual to work for less than minimum wage under the supervision of extended employment services, formerly referred to as “sheltered workshops.”

Under O’Scanlon’s bill, the credit would also be increased to $3,000.

Nice Story of the Week:
Kentucky - Local Barber Caters to Those with Intellectual Disabilities
By Christie Netherton, Messenger-Inquirer, January 12, 2022
Since opening her studio in February last year, barber Sam Greer’s goal has been to work with individuals with intellectual disabilities, providing them with quality haircuts and a positive experience.

Greer, along with her wife, owns Precision Studio in Owensboro. The studio, she said, is a full-service salon and barber shop that is dedicated to serving anyone, no matter gender, nationality, race or age.

“Whoever you are, you’re welcome,” she said, “and that’s something I’ve been so adamant about.”

Greer got her start cutting hair about four years ago in Evansville, holding her first job at a Latino barber shop.

There, she said she worked with a diverse clientele, gaining a perspective on who she was as a barber.

After about a year, she said she moved to Owensboro, where she worked at a shop before deciding to branch out on her own.

When she opened her shop on Triplett Street, Greer said serving a clientele with intellectual disabilities was one of her main goals, inspired by members of her own family.
“That has been something I have aspired to do since I started working in Owensboro,” she said. “I have some cousins — one has Down and one has Asperger (syndromes), and I’ve seen how people treated them; I’ve seen how people weren’t patient, how they weren’t fair.”

While the road to accomplish that goal has never been an easy one, Greer said the reward is well worth it.

“I enjoy the challenge — the reward of seeing their face light up, the reward of seeing them appreciate a service that other people take advantage of,” she said. “I’m sure you go to the salon and get your hair done. You go and you do your thing, and you feel like a million bucks, but I feel like the kids and people with intellectual disabilities … afterwards, they feel so rewarded. They feel brand new, and it may be an experience that they’ve never had before.”

What's Happening in Your State?
Try as we might, there are often relevant articles in local papers that don't make it onto our desks or into our newsletter. Due to internet algorithms, cookies, and search engine optimization, many of the articles we receive often concern news from just a handful of states.

Therefore, we are asking our members to reach out to us whenever an article that pertains to people with I/DD, severe autism, intermediate care facilities, sheltered workshops, or other stories that may be of interest to our families.
We can't promise to use everything that is submitted (we often pare down our list stories each week from 15-30 stories down to a half dozen or so), but we will try to add them to the newsletter or our Facebook page as we see appropriate.

If you do come across any articles of interest, please send a short email with a link to the story to us at [email protected]
VOR Bill Watch:
[Please click on blue link to view information about the bill]


Modifying the Build Back Better Act to include language to provide funding for Intermediate Care Facilities in parity with increased funding for HCBS services, and to remove any provisions that would phase out or eliminate 14(c) wage certificate programs.

H.R.6075 - The HEADs UP Act - To amend the Public Health Service Act to expand and improve health care services by health centers and the National Health Service Corps for individuals with a developmental disability as a Medically Underserved Population (MUP).

H.R.4761 - A bill to amend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to ensure workplace choice and opportunity for young adults with disabilities.

H.R.4762 - A Bill to amend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to clarify the definition of competitive integrated employment.


H.R.4131 & S.2210 - The Better Care Better Jobs Act - To be clear, we don't oppose this bill. We object to the fact that it excludes the most vulnerable members of the I/DD population.

While the Better Care Better Jobs Act would greatly increase the amount of federal funding for people with I/DD, it only supports those in waiver programs receiving Home and Community Based Services. It unjustly discriminates against those who have chosen Intermediate Care Facilities as the necessary and proper form of residential treatment. By giving a 10% increase n federal matching funds only to HCBS clients, and providing training and increased pay only to direct support professionals working in HCBS facilities, the act deliberately favors one form of treatment over another, one ideology over another, and one set of people with I/DD over another.

H.R. 603 & S. 53 - The Raise the Wage Act - These bills are aimed at raising the minimum wage, but they also have provisions to phase out and ultimately eliminate vocational centers and 14 (c) wage certificates over the next six years and to immediately stop the issuing of any new certificates. VOR believes the issue of employment options for individuals with intellectual disabilities should not be buried in a bill for raising the federal minimum wage. Both issues deserve clean, stand-alone bills.

H.R.1880 - To amend the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 to make permanent the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration.

H.R. 2383 & S. 3238 - The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act - this bill purports to assist employers providing employment under special certificates issued under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in transforming their business and program models to models that support individuals with disabilities through competitive integrated employment, to phase out the use of these special certificates. We feel that, if enacted, tens of thousands of people with I/DD and autism will still be forced out of opportunities they currently, needlessly, and left without viable alternatives to occupy their time or address their needs and their abilities.
Direct Support Professionals:

Our loved ones' caregivers are essential to their health, safety, and happiness.
In appreciation of their good work and kind hearts, VOR offers free digital memberships to any DSP who would like to join.

We encourage our members to speak with their loved ones' caregivers to extend this offer of our gratitude.

If you are a Direct Support Professional interested in receiving our newsletter and e-content, please write us at

with your name, email address, and the name of the facility at which you work. Please include the name of the VOR member who told you of this offer.

What's Happening In Your Community?

Is there an issue in your loved one's home that you need help with?
Do you have information or a news story you would like to share?
Is there legislation in your state house that needs attention?

Contact us at [email protected]
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