Chapter Vice President Sean Gibbs and Executive Director John DeMauro will be visiting with congressional leaders from Central Florida in Washington DC the first week in March. Our conversations will center around the following Point Paper Summaries.
AIR CARRIER ACCESS ACT
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in air travel. Despite progress, too many passengers with disabilities regularly encounter significant barriers. Enforcement of ACAA protections is limited to administrative action and civil fines. In October 2018, the President signed legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (Public Law 115-254). This legislation included several provisions from the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (ACAAA), including increased civil fines for passenger injuries and wheelchair damage, development of an Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, and establishment of a Department of Transportation (DOT) Advisory Committee on the Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities. In the 116thCongress, PVA is supporting congressional oversight of these provisions to ensure that DOT carries out the law’s requirements. PVA is also working to ensure the reintroduction of legislation addressing the remaining pieces of the ACAAA not already enacted into law. Key provisions that still need to be passed by Congress include strengthening ACAA enforcement through referral of certain complaints to the U.S. Attorney General and a private right of action and requiring airlines to ensure that airplanes meet broad accessibility standards such as those found on other modes of transportation used by the public.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers must have the resources necessary to allow it to meet the expansion timelines provided for in the VA MISSION Act (Public Law 115-182) in order to service veterans injured before September 11, 2001. Congress must also pass legislation to allow primary caregivers to earn income credits for caring for disabled veterans, to safeguard primary caregivers’ own income security. Additionally, Congress must make eligible for the comprehensive caregiver program those veterans with catastrophic illnesses that are a result of their service.
LONG-TERM SERVICES AND SUPPORTS
Congress must enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to successfully balance its long-term services and supports (LTSS) systems as well as maintain a safe margin of community living center capacity. In that vein, VA should publicly report its LTSS workload and waiting times. Likewise, Congress must conduct oversight of VA’s initiative to provide home and community-based services (HCBS), as well as request GAO conduct a follow-up report on veterans’ access to and availability of VA HCBS.
PROVISION OF IVF
Congress must make in-vitro fertilization (IVF) a permanent part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical care package. In addition, Congress must allow for further services to address the needs of women veterans whose injuries prevent a full-term pregnancy, as well as the needs of veterans whose injuries destroyed their ability to provide genetic material for IVF.
SPECIALLY ADAPTED HOUSING PROGRAM
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant program provides home modifications for catastrophically disabled veterans with service-connected disabilities to help them live barrier-free lives. PVA supports legislation that would allow VA to prioritize a veteran’s SAH claim if he or she has been diagnosed with a terminal illness to include, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Due to the aggressive nature of ALS, it is imperative that veterans are afforded the opportunity for an increased quality of life while they still have the ability to enjoy it. PVA also supports legislation that would increase the current amount of the SAH grant to better match the cost of construction. Finally, PVA supports legislation that would allow a veteran to utilize the grant more than one time. Veterans should not have to limit themselves from moving into a different residence due to not being able to afford making the necessary modifications, or having to shoulder the burden of paying for the modifications themselves.
REHABILITATION AND PROSTHETIC SERVICES
(Automobile Allowance and Adaptive Equipment)
PVA supports improvements to the Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE) Program and the Automobile Allowance Grant. Specifically, PVA supports legislation allowing veterans to utilize the Automobile Allowance Grant more than once for the purchase, not lease, of an adapted vehicle. Considering vehicles do not last a person’s lifetime, veterans should have the ability to purchase a vehicle, with the assistance of an AAE grant, once every ten years without having to shoulder the burden of the full cost of a vehicle themselves. In addition, VA must continue to reimburse for adaptive equipment requirements as stated in statute. Veterans should not have to submit an itemized list of this equipment to qualify for the grant. Finally, PVA supports improvements in the AAE program for veterans with non-service-connected disabilities.
READI FOR DISASTERS ACT
(Readying Elders and Americans with Disabilities Inclusively)
The 2017 and 2018 natural disasters around the nation revealed numerous gaps in the ability of the emergency response and recovery system to address the needs of people with disabilities. The READI for Disasters Act would create a network of centers focused on research, training and technical assistance to assist states and localities to better involve and support people with disabilities and older adults during times of disasters. It would also establish a National Commission on Disability Rights and Disasters to study the needs of individuals with disabilities, older adults and others with access and functional needs. In addition, it calls for a review of the spending of disaster funds to ensure people with disabilities and older adults have access to services and that buildings and structures reconstructed following disasters are accessible. Finally, the measure would require the Department of Justice to examine how the civil rights of people with disabilities and older adults are treated during and following disasters.