October 18, 2019
VOR Weekly News Update 
VOR is a national organization that advocates for high quality care and human rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
VOR promises to empower you to make and protect quality of life choices for individuals with developmental disabilities
VOR and YOU:
VOR's Supports the American Health Care Association
Earlier this week, VOR's Rita Hoover and Hugo Dwyer attended the Annual Convention of the American Health Care Association (AHCA) in Orlando. We attended sessions for I/DD providers focusing on topics on leadership, recruitment of DSPs, hiring foreign-born workers as DSPs, and ethics. We met with vendors of products services designed for individuals with I/DD and their caregivers, and we met some very nice, very dedicated people from across the country.
Orlando, Florida October 15, 2019
VOR's Abuse and Neglect Document

For over two decades, VOR has been collecting articles on critical incidents involving abuse and neglect in community settings and the failures of state and federal systems to provide the necessary protections for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The document is a rich resource for advocates who wish to show that our HCBS waiver placements do not always produce the best outcomes for our family members with I/DD.

The Abuse and Neglect Document has been recently updated and may be found on our website at www.vor.net

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National News:
Opinion - Improving Data on People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
By Dr. Susan Havercamp, The Hill, October 12, 2019
In the research community, concern is growing that those with intellectual and developmental disabilities are becoming invisible in data collected from nationwide health surveys. 

Regular collection, analysis and interpretation of health data is a crucial part of how the United States tackles public health. Data collected from health surveys informs planning, implementation and evaluation of public health practices which, in turn, affect researchers, policy makers, planners and IDD advocates in roles like ours at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

This issue is not a new one. In 2002, a U.S. Surgeon General’s report called for improved data collection. The current methods of collecting that data, however, have left health organizations with a blind spot.
Just when resources were needed to help learn more about the IDD population, two major surveys cut items instead. The National Health Interview Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation, two major national surveys, no longer contain questions that allow for monitoring the health of people with IDD.

Here are some of the changes needed to improve IDD representation in nationwide health data:

  • Greater consistency in how IDD is defined
  • Continued Collaboration
  • More sophisticated data analysis
  • Diversity Representation

Trump Special Ed Chief Calling It Quits
By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, October 17, 2019
The federal government’s top special education official is heading for the exit.

The U.S. Department of Education said Wednesday that its assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, Johnny Collett, plans to resign at the end of this week. His last day at the agency will be Friday.

Collett has been at the helm of the Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services since the Senate confirmed his nomination to the post in late 2017. The office is tasked with overseeing the federal government’s implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other laws.
Angela Morabito, an Education Department spokeswoman, said Collett is leaving Washington to spend more time with his family. He will be succeeded by Mark Schultz, who has been commissioner of the Education Department’s Rehabilitation Services Administration since August.

Providers Look to Foreign-Born Caregivers to Ease LTC Staffing Shortages
By Danielle Brown, McKnight's Long Term Care News, October 16, 2019
Note: While this article refers to the Aging Community, the policies would also apply to caregivers for people with I/DD.

LeadingAge announced Tuesday a set of proposals aimed at increasing the number of foreign-born aging services workers in the United States. The IMAGINE (International Migration of Aging and Geriatric Workers in Response to the Needs of Elders) Initiative is aimed at members of Congress and includes seven policy recommendations, which include expanding the EB-3 visa program to allow more foreign-born direct care workers to ender the United States. 

“Foreign-born workers already play a valued role in the LTSS field. More than a quarter of the current nursing home and home care workforce is made up of people born in other countries,” the organization stated. 
Earlier this year, LeadingAge supported a bill that would nearly double the number of employment visas granted annually and ensure access to healthcare workers. The organization has also previously proposed the idea of foreign-born workers as a solution to long-term care staffing shortages. 

The nation will need 2.5 million additional caregivers working in long-term services and support by 2030 in order to keep pace with the growing needs of the rapidly aging population, according to LeadingAge.

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State News:
By Aly Delp, Explore Venango, October 15, 2019
A group of Pennsylvania Senators, including Scott Hutchinson, has called on state Inspector General Bruce Beemer to investigate the process that led to the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) announced plans to close the Polk State Center and the White Haven State Center.Senators Scott Hutchinson (R-21st District), Michele Brooks (R-50th District), Lisa Baker (R-20th District) and John Yudichak (D-14th District) sent a letter to Inspector General Beemer citing a number of troubling issues that led them to question the actions taken by DHS.

The Senators questioned the lack of notification provided to residents of the Centers and their families, significant internal communication problems and potential conflict of interest issues in their letter to the Inspector General.

“Subsequent to the announcement, the Department held two perfunctory public hearings, as required by Act 3 of 1999, and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the standing oversight committee, held a public hearing. These hearings have only raised more questions about the integrity of the decision making process at the Department,” the letter states.
“One concern in particular is the potential conflict of interest between the Department’s Director of the Bureau of State Operated Facilities, who was directly involved in the decision to close Polk and White Haven and the Selinsgrove State Center Director, one of two centers to remain open.

During the Senate hearing, the Deputy Secretary of the Office of Developmental programs stated that the relationship was disclosed to her, but she could not confirm if that relationship was disclosed to the Office of General Counsel or if a ruling was made as to whether the Director of the Bureau of State Operated Facilities should recuse himself from deliberations on this matter.”

The letter also points out the potentially dire consequences of the closure.

Vermont - How Many Failures in Vulnerable Adult's C are Does it Take for the State to Intervene?
By Ryan Mercer, Burlington Free Press, October 10, 2019
More than a year after Travis Luxenberg, a high-needs adult with autism was left alone and wandered 12 miles from home on a cold April night, his mother received a letter from the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living that her ex-husband had been placed on the Adult Abuse Registry.

Despite this, Roland Luxenberg remained in charge of Travis' care and Tom Ensalata — the caregiver that Roland permitted to leave Travis alone — was still employed as his case manager.

Linda Luxenberg hoped this might shake officials at Vermont's Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living into taking swift action in improving Travis’ situation. She was wrong. In an email from Transition II, an organization that helps with logistics for Travis' care, she was told that according to the state, being placed on the abuse registry did not disqualify Roland Luxenberg from remaining in charge of his son's program. Nor did it apparently disqualify Ensalata from remaining the case manager. 

So how many and what kind of violations would spur state officials to intervene?

"I don't have a good answer for you," Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Commissioner Monica Hutt told the Free Press.

n the case of Jordan Machia, another vulnerable adult who died while in a community-based care program in Vermont, any potential answer to that question came too late. Some of the violations that appeared in the Disability Rights Vermont investigation had been reported by his designated agency, Lamoille County Mental Health Services, according to that report.

Wisconsin - Walmart Faulted In ADA Discrimination Case
By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, October 15, 2019
A jury has awarded $5.2 million to a longtime Walmart employee with a developmental disability after determining that the company failed to accommodate him.

The award comes in a case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the company of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act in its treatment of Paul Reina who worked as a cart pusher at a Beloit, Wis. location.

Reina, who has a developmental disability and is deaf and visually impaired, had worked at the store for 16 years when a new manager took over. In his first month on the job, the new manager suspended Reina and required him to resubmit medical paperwork in order to maintain his reasonable accommodations, which included the assistance of a job coach, the EEOC said.

Reina’s condition had not changed, but when the new paperwork was submitted requesting that the
job coach continue to assist him, the EEOC indicated that the store stopped communication with Reina and “effectively terminated him.”

The jury found in favor of the EEOC after a three-day trial, awarding Reina $200,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

“Employers have a legal obligation under federal law to work with employees who need accom­modations for disabilities,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “In this case the jury sent a strong message to Walmart and to other employers that if they fail to live up to their obligations under the law, they will be penalized.”

Blogs: On Laws Governing Work Centers & 14(c)
Kudos to VOR's Jill Barker for posting a concise and comprehensive guide to the bills that would eliminate Work Centers, Section 14(c) wage certificates, and links to VOR's policies on this issue!

Massachusetts - Questions for a Legislative Subcommittee Reviewing Employment of the Developmentally Disabled
By Dave Kassell, The COFAR Blog, October 8, 2019
A special legislative subcommittee’s review of barriers to employment of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is long overdue, but it is unclear what direction the subcommittee will take on this important issue.
The “Workability Subcommittee” of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee has scheduled a public hearing on October 22 at 10:30 a.m. at the State House in Room B-1.

The hearing notice states that the Subcommittee is seeking to identify “solutions to promote opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate and succeed in the workforce.”

COFAR and our members plan to testify at the hearing. We haven’t been consulted by the Subcommittee as part of its review, which began last spring and involved meetings with “disability advocates, employers, employees, and other stakeholders,” according to the hearing notice.

So on October 4, when we heard about the hearing, we posed questions in an email to the office of Representative Josh Cutler, chair of the Subcommittee and vice chair of the Children and Families Committee. Those questions were the following:

  • Does the Subcommittee recognize that there are some persons who do not have the capability to succeed in the mainstream workforce, or does the Subcommittee take the position that all persons, no matter how profoundly intellectually disabled, can handle jobs in the mainstream workforce?

  • Is the Subcommittee also looking to promote work opportunities for individuals in their community-based day programs funded by the Department of Developmental Services?

  • Does the Subcommittee have data on the availability of mainstream workforce jobs for persons with I/DD? We have long been concerned that not nearly enough of those jobs exist even for those who are capable of doing them.

  • Is the Subcommittee aware that the Legislature has apparently never appropriated the level of funding sought by the Baker administration for training and other services to help prepare former sheltered workshop participants for mainstream work settings? If so, has the funding for that transition so far been adequate?

  • Does the Subcommittee support the continued payment of subminimum wages to persons with I/DD in order to enable them to get work opportunities either in mainstream or DDS settings?

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]
VOR Bill Watch:
Click on blue link to view information about the bill


H.R. 555 & S. 117 - The Disability Integration Act - This bill has written into it the goal of eliminating "institutional care". In addition to the inherent bias against ICF's and people with severe and profound I/DD, the bill is prohibitively costly and there are not enough Direct Support Professionals to meet the provisions of this act.

H.R. 582 & S. 150 - The Raise the Wage Act - This bill is aimed at raising the minimum wage, but it also has provisions to eliminate 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. 873 & S. 260 - The Transformation To Competitive Employment Act - This bill has declared the goal of eliminating Sheltered Workshops and 14(c) Wage Certificates, under the mantle of everyone with a disability is capable of competitive integrated employment.
Sponsors of the bill recently added a new summary that significantly downplays the effect the bill would have on eliminating work centers and 14(c) that benefit those who are unable to compete in the employment opportunities the bill promotes.


H.R. 2417 - 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).

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