September 3, 2021
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

Please Support Parity Funding For
Intermediate Care Facilities & ICF Caregivers
In The Build Back Better Reconciliation Bill

VOR and its peer organizations have been reaching out to Members of Congress to support parity for ICFs in the Build Back Better Reconciliation Bill that is being drafted and likely to be introduced shortly after Labor Day, 2021. We ask your help in reaching out to ensure that all people with I/DD receive comparable increases in funding, and that and all of the Direct Support Professionals who work with people with I/DD receive increases in pay and career-path training.

For more information on this issue:

In addition to VOR's Action Alert of Sept. 2, 2021, we are asking our members to write letters to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06) asking for their support. Click on the links below to download pdfs of suggested language for your emails (courtesy of our friends at Together for Choice) then please personalize your email to each office.:

Please address your email to Senator Wyden via his
Chief of Staff: Jeff Michels: [email protected]
Sr. Domestic Policy Advisor: Rebecca Nathanson: [email protected]
Please address your email to Representative Pallone via his
Chief of Staff: Liam Fitzsimmons: [email protected]
Legislative Director: James Johnson: [email protected]

National Recognition Week For
Direct Support Professionals
September 12 - 18, 2021

National News: Coronavirus Mandates
There continues to be a lot of controversy over mask mandates and vaccine mandates as they affect the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers. Below are a few of the articles published this week.
The U.S. Education Department Is Investigating 5 States Over Their Mask Mandate Bans
By Erica L. Green and Daniel E. Slotnik, NY Times, August 30, updated September 2, 2021

The Education Department has initiated investigations into five states whose prohibitions on universal mask mandates in schools may run afoul of civil rights laws protecting students with disabilities, federal officials announced Monday.

The department’s civil rights head wrote to state education leaders in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, notifying them that the department’s Office for Civil Rights would determine whether the prohibitions are restricting access for students who are protected under federal law from discrimination based on their disabilities, and are entitled to a free appropriate public education.

The investigations make good on the Biden administration’s promise to use the federal government’s muscle — including civil rights investigations and legal action — to intervene in states where governors and other policymakers have come out against mask mandates in public schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone in schools wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

In letters to state leaders, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights said the department would explore whether the prohibitions “may be preventing schools from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from Covid-19.”

‘A decision no parent should ever have to make’:
Families are Suing over Mask Mandate Bans
By Alia Wong, USA TODAY, August 29, 2021

Samantha Boevers’s 4-year-old son, Porter, has made so much progress since being diagnosed with autism that he was assigned to a general preschool classroom this fall. So when Boevers dropped him off for his first day of school earlier this week, she wanted to feel all the emotions a parent should in that moment: excitement, pride, relief. 

“The only thing I felt was heart-rending fear,” said Boevers, an instructional coach with a background in special education. “Because I didn’t know if he’d be safe.”

Porter’s disability puts him at heightened risk of getting sick from COVID-19. Mitigation strategies such as universal masking indoors, Boevers says, are critical to limiting that risk. 

Yet Boevers and her family live in South Carolina – one of more than half a dozen states where schools are prohibited from requiring everyone on campus to mask up. Mask-wearing has been the exception rather than the rule in many of South Carolina’s school districts, and evidence suggests the trend has taken a toll. South Carolina has the of pediatric COVID-19 infections in the U.S., according to data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, with children accounting for roughly a fifth of the state’s positive cases.

CMS Provides Glimpse into Potential Vaccine Mandate Enforcement
By Danielle Brown, McKnight's Long-term Care News, August 27, 2021

Providers who fail to quickly comply with a forthcoming federal staff vaccine mandate likely won’t be stripped immediately of their Medicare and Medicaid program eligibility, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials said Wednesday.

The new rule, as yet unpublished, will be “enforced in the same manner that is expected of all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities with regard to compliance,” said Jean Moody-Williams, deputy director for CMS’ Center of Clinical Standards and Quality, during a call with providers Wednesday. 

“We usually use a progressive pattern of enforcement and remedies, in which there’s notification. There could be civil monetary penalties, denial of payment, and ultimately, removal from Medicare/Medicaid programs,” Moody-Williams added. “Typically, that is not where we generally go first.” 

CMS officials could only offer so much comment regarding the new mandate because federal law prohibits them from talking about pending regulations during the rulemaking process, explained Evan Shulman, CMS’ director for the Division of Nursing Homes. 

Officials, however, wanted to help guide conversation and address some questions before publishing the staff mandate rule, a move that should happen in late September.

British Columbia, Canada - COVID-19 Vaccinations Should Be Mandatory for Staff in Community Living Settings, Operator Says
CBC News, August 30, 2021

A group-home operator wants to see mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations extended to staff in community-living settings, out of concern for the safety of residents. 

Earlier this month, health officials announced that immunization would be mandatory for anyone working or volunteering in long-term care and assisted living facilities. Workers have until Oct. 12 to be fully vaccinated.

The CEO of UNITI, a non-profit organization that operates group homes and other living spaces for people with disabilities, says the mandate is leaving their clients in a position where they are no longer safe in their own homes. 

"Our decisions that we've made throughout the pandemic have been with the safety of the people we support and our staff members being our first priority," Doug Tennant told CBC's The Early Edition guest host Michelle Eliot.

"To us, that means that vaccinations are necessary for the staff members who work in our group home."

State News:
New Jersey Group Homes for Disabled Scramble to Vaccinate Staff by Phil Murphy's Deadline
By Gene Myers, North Jersey .com, August 30, 2021

Group homes for New Jerseyans with disabilities are scrambling to meet a Sept. 7 state deadline to get thousands of workers vaccinated or tested, an effort that's laying bare the challenges for employers seeking to impose COVID vaccine mandates. 

Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the homes to take action in an early-August executive order, a reaction to the resurgence of the coronavirus around the nation.

Operators say they're struggling to make that mandate a reality in a low-wage industry where hesitant workers may choose simply to walk away, and with testing options that have shrunk since the height of the pandemic.

“This order came out with very short notice," said Kathy Walsh, CEO of the Arc of Bergen and Passaic Counties, which serves 81 people and runs 15 homes in North Jersey. "The state provided absolutely no resources for people to begin a testing program. We are talking about thousands of people,”

Murphy, however, has no plans to extend the deadline, Deputy Press Secretary Christine Lee said in an email last week. While the administration is looking for ways to lighten the burden for providers, it also gave group homes "over a month to develop a testing strategy" with the order issued on Aug. 6, she said.

The order said vaccinations and testing were necessary to "help prevent outbreaks and reduce transmission to vulnerable populations that may be at higher risk of severe disease." Staff had the option of getting fully vaccinated or presenting negative test results "a minimum once to twice weekly."

No Visitors Allowed in Virginia Mental Health Hospitals Due to COVID-19 Outbreaks
By Monique Calello, Staunton News Leader, September 1, 2021

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services announced changes in the visitation policies at all 12 DBHDS facilities across Virginia in light of high community transmission of COVID-19, with a case positivity rate of 10.1% as of Aug. 30, 2021, according to a release. 

As of Friday, September 3, 2021, all 12 DBHDS facilities will move to a restricted visitation policy.
The visitation policies apply to anyone who is not currently admitted to the facility or not directly employed by the facility. This includes, but is not limited to family members, friends, authorized representatives, guardians, legal representatives, members of the general public, regulatory agencies and site inspectors, the release said.

Restricted visitation means that visitors will not be allowed in the facility at all, except for contractors and vendors who are mission critical to the operations of the facility and lawyers representing a client currently admitted to the facility.

The facilities and their locations are as follows:
  • Catawba Hospital, Catawba, Adult Mental Health Hospital
  • Central State Hospital, Petersburg, Adult Mental Health Hospital
  • Commonwealth Center for Children & Adolescents, Staunton, Children’s Mental Health Hospital
  • Eastern State Hospital, Williamsburg, Adult Mental Health Hospital
  • Hiram Davis Medical Center, Petersburg, Medical Center for DBHDS Patients
  • Southeastern Virginia Training Center, Chesapeake, Center for People with Intellectual Disability
  • Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, Falls Church, Adult Mental Health Hospital
  • Piedmont Geriatric Hospital, Burkeville, Geriatric Mental Health Hospital
  • Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute, Danville, Adult Mental Health Hospital
  • Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute, Marion, Adult Mental Health Hospital
  • Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, Burkeville, Rehabilitation of Sexually Violent Predators
  • Western State Hospital, Staunton, Adult Mental Health Hospita

VOR Bill Watch:
[Please click on blue link to view information about the bill]


Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI) has introduced two bills in the House to support
Vocational Centers and 14(c) Wage Certificates:

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 - 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 - 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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