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April 7, 2021
The Great Lakes Special Needs Planning Symposium’s EARLY BIRD pricing is ending soon!
Just TWO WEEKS left to lock in this amazing discount of $100 off registration to this highly sought out virtual event. Come hear from top experts in their fields and get the best education on all things special needs planning.
Take advantage now before April 30th! Find tickets, agenda and more here: www.greatlakessymposium.eventbrite.com

The Great Lakes Special Needs Planning Symposium: A one-day immersion course dedicated to building a foundation of knowledge in special needs planning for professionals who plan for persons with disabilities and those who administer special needs trusts. This course is for those who want to learn more about this area of practice as well as experienced planners. Lead by national experts in special needs planning, you will have an opportunity to learn, chat, and mingle with them and top resources to help you in your practice as you are Moving to Mastery™ in this complex and rewarding field.


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February 18, 2021

In its first three weeks in office, President Biden’s administration reversed a range of high-profile Trump Administration regulations that affected people with disabilities — rules covering Medicaid, disability reviews, immigration and housing discrimination.

Medicaid work rules: Since 2018, the Trump Administration had been pushing states to enact work requirements for certain Medicaid recipients to maintain benefits. In Arkansas, the only state that enacted these requirements, the program resulted in 18,000 people losing Medicaid coverage in three months before a court put the program on hold. This included many people with disabilities, despite being ostensibly exempt from the rules.

According to sources, the Biden Administration will withdraw the Trump Administration’s permissions to states to enact work requirements or invitations for states to apply for waivers to enact such requirements. It will also rescind existing waivers for Arkansas, Kentucky, and New Hampshire. Courts have uniformly ruled that the Medicaid Act prohibits these work mandates, although the question is now in front of the Supreme Court.

Disability reviews:  On January 28, 2021, the Social Security Administration (SSA) withdrew proposed regulations that would have subjected certain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients to more frequent reviews to ensure people receiving benefits still have qualifying disabilities. The SSA currently requires these reviews on a seven-year, three-year, or six- to 18-month basis, depending on if the person is classified as “Medical Improvement Not Expected,” “Medical Improvement Possible,” or “Medical Improvement Expected.”

The proposed regulations would have created a new category, covering an estimated 4.4 million people, called “Medical Improvement Likely.” These recipients would have been subjected to reviews every two years, and the every-seven-year requirement for people in the “Medical Improvement Not Expected” category would have been shortened to six years. Disability advocates, who had characterized the proposed rules as a way to harass SSDI and SSI recipients, applauded the SSA’s withdrawal of the proposed changes.

Public Charge Rule: President Biden signed an executive order February 2 ordering a review of regulations finalized by the Trump Administration that would permit the federal government to deny people citizenship on the grounds that they may be a “public charge,” meaning they are likely to need government benefits. While existing laws already permit the government to deny people citizenship on this basis if they are likely to need SSI, the Trump Administration’s regulations expanded the “public charge” definition to encompass people who have received or may need SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid and other benefits that many people with disabilities rely on for help.

For many advocates, the rules harkened to a time when immigration laws systematically excluded people with disabilities. The rule was also credited with sparking a significant drop-off in non-citizens seeking medical care out of deportation fears.

Housing discrimination: On January 26, President Biden issued an executive order rescinding proposed Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations that would have made it significantly harder to prove discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The proposed regulations targeted claims where discrimination is proven not by showing the intent of a policy but by demonstrating the policy’s discriminatory effects, such as through statistical analysis and other evidence. The Trump Administration would have created a higher, “robust” standard for plaintiffs to make FHA claims, thus making it significantly harder to prove housing discrimination based on disability.

Disability discrimination claims have long been the most frequent type of claim brought under the FHA. They have traditionally been used to successfully challenging everything from bank lending practices, to landlords discriminating against people with housing subsidies, and zoning ordinances that limit the placement of group homes.


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November 27, 2020
  President-elect Joe Biden has made more promises to the disability community than perhaps any incoming president in U.S. history, raising the hopes of advocates.  The former vice president’s proposals range from strengthening enforcement against disability discrimination to nearly doubling the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly benefit.

“The Biden-Harris campaign laid out an ambitious plan to meet the needs of Americans with disabilities, and it is our sincere hope to see that plan carried out and fully implemented,” the National Disability Rights Network said in a news release.

In May 2020, then-candidate Biden released a comprehensive disability rights plan encompassing civil rights and inclusion, health care, employment opportunities, economic security, education, affordable housing, transportation and technology, and global disability rights.  Some of the proposals can be realized upon taking office, while others will require Congressional action.

In regard to actions that can be done on his own, Biden has promised to appoint a White House director of disability policy. He plans to implement a long-standing proposal to make it easier for people with disabilities to stay independent in their community, and to roll back President’s Trump’s public charge rule, which made it harder for immigrants with disabilities to obtain work permits.

President-elect Biden has also promised to direct his Department of Justice and other federal agencies to reinvigorate enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws, to review guardianship laws, to protect the rights of parents with disabilities, and to work with police departments to improve how they accommodate people with disabilities. Shifting Medicaid funding away from institutional to integrated services will be restored as an overarching goal. Reasserting affirmative action obligations to people with disabilities, protecting special education students in school discipline hearings, and expanding voting rights are also among the new administration’s goals.

In terms of actions that would require legislation from Congress, President-elect Biden has called for a range of changes to Social Security disability benefits. Specifically, he wants to tie the SSI benefit rate to 125 percent of the federal poverty line, which would effectively raise the average monthly benefit for an individual from $783 to about $1,300.

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, President-elect Biden has called for, among other things, ending two burdensome waiting periods: a five-month wait between when recipients are approved for the program and when they begin receiving benefits, and a two-year wait until recipients are Medicare-eligible. To protect these programs’ long-term financial stability, Biden would raise payroll taxes on people with incomes of more than $400,000 and change the way annual Social Security increases are calculated by using a new measurement known as the CPI-E.

On the campaign trail, Biden unveiled a $775 billion plan to assist family caregivers.  “Families are squeezed emotionally and financially,” Biden said at the time. “They need help, but too often they can’t afford it. And the professional caregivers out there, the home health care workers, child care workers … are too often underpaid, unseen and undervalued.”

President-elect Biden has also called on Congress to abolish sub-minimum wages. Nationwide, more than 400,000 people with disabilities are legally paid wages less than the federal minimum wage, as part of a Department of Labor program that awards certificates to employers to hire people deemed otherwise unemployable in the competitive market. Civil rights groups have long characterized the New Deal-era program as exploitative.

To read the full “Biden Plan for Full Participation and Equality for People with Disabilities,” click here.


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August 26, 2020

Illegal evictions of Medicaid nursing home residents are nothing new, but the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the problem, according to an investigation by the New York Times.

Some states have asked nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients in order to ease the burden on hospitals. Even as the virus has devastated nursing homes, some have been welcoming these patients, who earn facilities far more than do Medicaid patients. To make room for these more lucrative coronavirus patients, the Times found that thousands of Medicaid recipients have been “dumped” by nursing homes. Many of the residents were sent to homeless shelters.

Nursing homes make far more money from short-term Medicare residents than from Medicaid residents, especially since the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services changed the reimbursement formula last fall. Now, writes the Times, a nursing home can get at least $600 more a day from a Covid-19 patient than from other, longer-term residents. In other cases, it wasn’t about the money but simply pressure from states to accept Covid patients.

According to federal law, a nursing home can discharge a resident only if the resident’s health has improved, the facility cannot meet the resident’s needs, the health and safety of other residents is endangered, the resident has not paid after receiving notice, or the facility stops operating. In addition, a nursing home cannot discharge a resident without proper notice and planning. In general, the nursing home must provide written notice 30 days before discharge, though shorter notice is allowed in emergency situations. A discharge plan must ensure the resident has a safe place to go, preferably near family, and outline the care the resident will receive after discharge.

According to the New York Times, nursing homes have been discharging residents without proper notice or planning. Because long-term care ombudsmen have not been allowed into nursing homes, there has been less oversight of the process. Old and disabled residents have been sent to homeless shelters, rundown motels, and other unsafe facilities. The Times heard from 26 ombudsmen, from 18 states, who reported a total of more than 6,400 discharges during the pandemic, but this is likely an undercount. In New Mexico, all the residents of one nursing home were evicted to make room for coronavirus patients.

If you or a loved one are facing eviction, you have the right to fight the discharge. Contact your attorney to find out the steps to take.

To read the New York Times article about the evictions, click here.


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