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  1. Bill Seeks Benefit for Caregivers

    April 5, 2016- "Bill Seeks Benefit for Caregivers"- A proposal in Congress seeks to ensure that caregivers who take time away from work to care for loved one with disabilities won’t lose out on Social Security retirement benefits in the process. Under a bill known as the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, people who leave their jobs or limit their hours in order to care for a relative would be able to continue accruing credits with Social Security. The proposal calls for caregivers who provide at least 80 hours per month of unpaid assistance to a relative with special needs to be able to earn Social Security credits for up to five years.  

    • Apr 06 2016 08:34 AM
    • by brian
  2. Military Families, Therapists Brace for Cuts to...

    March 24, 2016- "Military Families, Therapists Brace for Cuts to Autism Care Fees"- Beginning April 1, Tricare will cut ABA reimbursement rates as much as 15 percent, with a second rate cut planned in some locales next year. The Tricare program covers ABA therapy for more than 10,500 service families and retirees with children with autism. The rate cut will occur as scheduled despite Tricare officials receiving two complaint letters this month from members of Congress urging the postponement of the rate drop until the autism care demo ends in December 2018.

    • Mar 28 2016 03:39 PM
    • by brian
  3. Schools Warned on Shortened Schedule for Those...

    March 22, 2016- "Schools Warned on Shortened Schedule for Those with Disabilities"- State officials claim Oregon schools have occasionally, at time illegally, used disability-related misbehavior by students as a reason to send them home early from school.These actions not only violate federal education laws, but denying a student a full school day for a prolonged period of time can violate that student’s civil rights. A memo sent to all school districts at the beginning of this year made clear that a special education student’s day can only be shortened in “very limited circumstances.”  This article continues to go into detail about regulations for students with disabilities and cites some examples of students who were robbed of receiving a full education without proper justification.

    • Mar 24 2016 10:21 AM
    • by brian
  4. Florida Passes Safety Bill for Individuals Who...

    March 21, 2016- "Florida Passes Safety Bill for Individuals Who Wander"- The Florida legislature recently passed SB 230- Missing Persons with Special Needs, also known as Project Leo, which will create pilot projects in certain areas of the state to provide locating technology to aid search-and-rescue efforts for person with special needs in cases of elopement. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott. Project Leo sites will be established throughout the state and will be available to individuals that are at risk of wandering. The legislation will also provide locating technology to sheriff’s offices of participating counties and will be distributed by them in conjunction with Florida Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD).

    • Mar 21 2016 03:36 PM
    • by brian
  5. Congress Introduces Legislation to Expand ABLE

    March 21, 2016- "Congress Introduces Legislation to Expand ABLE"- Recently, Senators introduced legislation to expand the ABLE program for individuals with autism and other disabilities.  The package includes the ABLE to Work Act, the ABLE Financial Planning Act, and the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. The proposed enhancements would allow rollovers to and from 529 college savings plans. Other improvements would strengthen the financial tool by allowing individuals with disabilities to deposit income directly into their state-facilitated ABLE accounts. The legislation would also raise the eligibility age from 26 to 46.

    • Mar 21 2016 12:36 PM
    • by brian
  6. Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill to Protect I...

    March 8, 2016- "Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill to Protect Individuals who Wander"- Legislation that was recently introduced by Senators will help families to locate missing loved ones with autism or other conditions that may cause them to wander from caregivers. S. 2164, also known as Kevin and Avonte’s Law, will reauthorize the expired Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program and include new provisions to support people with autism. The bill allows Justice Department grants to be used by law enforcement agencies and nonprofits for education and training programs to prevent wandering. The grants will facilitate training and emergency protocols for school personnel, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make local tracking technology programs available for individuals who may wander from safety.

    • Mar 10 2016 02:14 PM
    • by brian
  7. Bill Would Create Lottery Game to Benefit Autis...

    March 8, 2016- "Bill Would Create Lottery Game to Benefit Autism Research"- A unique bill in Illinois would raise money for autism research through the Illinois Lottery. Beginning in January, the bill would require the Department of the Lottery to create a scratch-off game to benefit autism research by depositing revenue from the game in the Autism Research Fund. The bill is seen as a solution to the budget impasse the state is currently experiencing and would ensure a steady flow of funding that can be only used for autism research. The bill stipulates that the fund would be used by the Department of Public Health to conduct research, conduct investigations, experimentation, and help to create more viable treatment options for those living with autism.  

    • Mar 09 2016 09:32 AM
    • by brian
  8. ABA Coverage to Expand for Federal Employees in...

    March 1, 2016- "ABA Coverage to Expand for Federal Employees in 2017"- The Office of Personnel Management, which manages the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB), has directed its carriers to not exclude coverage of ABA starting next year. The FEHB program is the nation’s largest employer-sponsored health benefits program, covering 8.2 million federal employees, retirees, and dependents. The OPM urged its participating providers to include ABA coverage for the first time in 2012, but it in a recent letter they instructed “that appropriate coverage of ABA treatment by all plans/options is necessary."

    • Mar 01 2016 09:56 AM
    • by brian
  9. ABA Therapy Hard to Come By Despite Mandates

    February 24, 2016- "ABA Therapy Hard to Come By Despite Mandates"- Since 2001, 44 states have begun requiring some insurance plans to cover ABA for children with autism. However, the rules vary across states, making coverage hard to come by in some areas of the country. In fact, Autism Speaks estimates that only 36 percent of Americans have access to autism coverage. There are several reasons for this. For one, large companies who insure their own workers are exempt from the mandates. In some state, small businesses are not required to offer coverage.  The breadth of the coverage also varies, with some states only requiring coverage up to a set dollar amount per year or a set number of hours of treatment per week, or only require the coverage until a child reaches a certain age, ranging from 8 to 21. The article also discusses varying dollar caps for coverage, examples of families forced to leave their state to find better coverage, and how investing in autism treatment now can reduce future costs of caring for these individuals as adults.

    • Feb 26 2016 11:29 AM
    • by brian
  10. Senators Question Proposal to Cut Tricare Autis...

    February 24, 2016- "Senators Question Proposal to Cut Tricare Autism Reimbursement Rates"- Tricare officials announced late last year they plan to reduce reimbursement rates for providers for applied behavior analysis therapy by as much as 35 percent at some locations.  Under the new plan, the national hourly rate will be set at $114 for providers with a doctorate – more than $10 less than the current rate – and then further adjusted up or down based on a geographic rate calculation used by Medicare. Currently, providers are paid a fixed rate based on education and certification level, regardless of location. Advocacy groups, like Autism Speaks, are worried that rate cuts will lead to a reduction of ABA services, a problem that already exists for several military locations across the country. In opposition to this new policy, NC Sen. Thom Tillis and Sen. Kristen Gilibrand of NY have voiced their concerns about the rate cuts.

    • Feb 25 2016 04:31 PM
    • by brian
  11. Battle Erupts Over Changes in California Autism...

    February 24, 2016- "Battle Erupts Over Changes in California Autism Program"-  According to children’s health advocates in California, roughly half of providers who work with the 9,000 children with autism at the state’s regional centers could be excluded from seeing those kids as the state shifts to managed care. Beginning March 1, the state Department of Health Care Services will start the transition at 21 regional centers across the state. These centers are nonprofits that contract with the state to provide services for people with developmental disabilities. State officials say the regional centers will continue to serve kids without a disruption in services because no one will lose a provider without another one lined up. However, advocates fear the families of up to half of these kids could find themselves searching for new providers because the new state’s rules seem to exclude longtime providers from payment unless they are supervised by people with newer credentials. Advocates are concerned because after speaking with state officials about the new rules, it became clear that about half of the providers would not be authorized to perform the same duties as before.

    • Feb 25 2016 12:21 PM
    • by brian
  12. Tufts Health Plan Revises Autism Treatment Poli...

    February 17, 2016- "Tufts Health Plan Revises Autism Treatment Policies after Settlement"- Tufts Health Plan will revise its coverage policies and pay a $90,000 fine after settling allegations from the Massachusetts attorney general’s office that the health insurer restricted treatment for autism services. The prosecution argued that Tufts violated autism insurance, mental health parity, and consumer protection laws when it restricted access to ABA therapy. Tufts has since revised their policies to make ABA more accessible, by allowing treatment at daycares and preschools, and by removing a restriction that required a parent to be present at every appointment.  

    • Feb 19 2016 11:47 AM
    • by brian
  13. Iowa Bill Aimed at Providing Insurance Coverage...

    February 14, 2016- "Iowa Bill Aimed at Providing Insurance Coverage for Autism Treatments to All Iowans"- Legislation passed in 2010 provided Iowa state employees insurance coverage for autism treatments. A new bill proposed in the Iowa House and Senate hopes to expand this legislation by providing coverage for more than 1 million families affected by autism in Iowa. The proposed bill would require all insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment plan for those with autism under the age of 22.

    • Feb 17 2016 02:08 PM
    • by brian
  14. Federal Panel Rejects Universal Autism Screening

    February 16, 2016- "Federal Panel Rejects Universal Autism Screening"- Recently, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force affirmed its position that too little is known about the benefits and harms of universal autism screening to endorse it nationwide. The statement comes six months after the panel made waves within the autism community for a draft detailing a similar position. Comprised of 16 physicians, the panel is authorized by Congress and overseen by a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The task force emphasized the need for more research and have opted to leave it to the professional opinion of clinicians as to if their clients warrant a screening. The task force’s statement flies in the face of recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggests children undergo developmental screening at each well-visit and all children be screened for autism at 18 and 24 months.

    • Feb 16 2016 01:56 PM
    • by brian
  15. #AutismMatters Campaign Pushes to Mandate Insur...

    February 12, 2016- "#AutismMatters Campaign Pushes to Mandate Insurance Coverage for Autism Therapies in Alabama"- The Autism Society of Alabama has recently launched a social media campaign and petition to spread awareness and promote autism insurance coverage legislation with #AutismMatters. Alabama is just one of 7 states that does not provide insurance coverage for autism intervention. Advocates from the Autism Society of Alabama plan to present their concerns to state legislators in person on March 15th in Montgomery.

    • Feb 15 2016 02:47 PM
    • by brian
  16. Student Pushes Bill on Autism Training

    February 9, 2016- "Student Pushes Bill on Autism Training"- Lydia Brown is a student at Northeastern Law School and is an advocate for individuals on the spectrum. Brown, who has autism herself, is the chairperson of a state council on disability and is urging the Massachusetts Legislature to pass bills on police and criminal justice training for working with people who have autism. The bills would institute police training on autism and other developmental disabilities to reduce harm to people interacting with law enforcement or prison staff. Police and corrections officers would learn basic information about autism and other disabilities and techniques to de-escalate conflict.

    • Feb 11 2016 11:15 AM
    • by brian
  17. States Developing Alternatives to Sheltered Wor...

    February 9, 2016- "States Developing Alternatives to Sheltered Workshops"- In recent weeks, Minnesota state and county workforce officials have quietly introduced a new project to give people with disabilities an alternative to working in “sheltered workshops,” which often pay below minimum wage and consist of mundane jobs such as packing boxes, shredding paper, and collecting trash. The project tests the assumption that people with developmental disabilities prefer the safety and routines of segregated workshops to better-paying jobs in the competitive workplace. A similar program in Ohio implemented three years ago has led to 650 Ohioans with disabilities gaining employment in the regular workforce with another 2,200 individuals having crafted individual plans for moving into mainstream work. Ohio now boasts one of the highest rates of integrated employment, with 24 percent of adults who receive state services working in the community.

    • Feb 10 2016 11:21 AM
    • by brian
  18. Florida Budgets Could Increase Supports for Ind...

    February 8, 2016- "Florida Budgets Could Increase Supports for Individuals with Autism"-  Earlier this month, both the Florida Senate and House Appropriations Committees passed budget proposals that would benefit individuals with autism. The proposed Senate budget included $36.4 million to move 1,350 individuals off the waiting list for the iBudget waiver and the House version included $15 million to move 700 individuals off the waiting list. iBudget waiver providers have been seeking new rates for adult day training, residential habilitation, and personal supports services that are being impacted by new rules. Last year, autism advocates celebrated a victory as their campaign led to Florida Governor Rick Scott’s signing of a new budget law that included funding to move more than 2,000 people off the waiting list for iBudget Waiver services.

    • Feb 10 2016 10:25 AM
    • by brian
  19. Feds Boost Spending on Special Ed, Disability P...

    January 19, 2016- "Feds Boost Spending on Special Ed, Disability Programs"- The $1.1 trillion plan Federal lawmakers approved last month boosts spending for most federal government programs that affect the lives of people with disabilities. Advocates say most of the gains are modest especially when spread across fifty states, but after years of cutbacks, any rise is a good sign. Specifically, the funds include an additional $16 million for housing for people with disabilities and increases Social Security to improve its administrative services. The government’s respite care initiative and the CDC’s developmental disabilities efforts will also see more money.

    • Jan 19 2016 10:59 AM
    • by brian
  20. Bill Passed to Protect People with Alzheimer...

    January 15, 2016- "Bill Passed to Protect People with Alzheimer's, Autism"- A Florida bill passed by the Senate provides $200,000 for a pilot program in seven counties designed to prevent tragic deaths due to wandering. According to this article, around 60 percent of people with autism or Alzheimer's have a tendency to wander off. The program provides GPS tracking bands for those at risk of wandering.

    • Jan 18 2016 11:11 AM
    • by brian
  21. For Some, Wait for Disability Services is Over

    January 13, 2016- "For Some, Wait for Disability Services is Over"- New reforms in the state of Minnesota are giving some families relief from one of the nation’s longest waiting lists for Medicaid assistance. In the final months of 2015, about 1,100 people were moved off waiting lists, reducing the overall backlog by 23 percent statewide. After a news story broke about the state’s huge waiting lists, the legislature and state officials pushed for reforms, which have unlocked tens of millions of dollars set aside to fund a variety of services. Despite the reforms, the state still has nearly 4,000 applicants stuck on county waiting lists for waivers, and for someone with a developmental disability, the median wait had been 5 ½ years, state records show.

    • Jan 13 2016 02:45 PM
    • by brian
  22. Scientists, Advocates Hail Hilary Clinton's...

    January 12, 2016- "Scientists, Advocates Hail Hilary Clinton's Autism Plan"- During a recent campaign stop, presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton unveiled her plan to ramp up autism researcher and services across the nation. If elected, she promises to launch a national outreach campaign to boost early screening rates, focusing on families that are traditionally underserved by healthcare. This article includes some criticism, both positive and negative, from some autism researchers and professionals across the country. The article also dissects Clinton’s plan in great detail, discussing what the plan gets right and where the plan needs to improve to better the autism community.

    • Jan 12 2016 09:30 AM
    • by brian
  23. ABLE Accounts May Be Available Sooner Than Expe...

    January 11, 2016- "ABLE Accounts May Be Available Sooner Than Expected"- A provision inside a tax bill recently approved by lawmakers will permit individuals with disabilities to open new accounts under the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in any state, regardless of where they reside. The change means that people with disabilities across the country will be able to open ABLE account when the first state programs are up and running, which could happen as soon as February or March, according to advocates. So far, 35 states have approved legislation, with some states farther along than others in implementing programs. Without the recent legislative changes, individuals with disabilities across the nation would have been limited by the timetable and specific offerings in their state. Now, families will be able to shop around to find the state program that best suits their needs and the availability of many options should promote competition among states to make their programs attractive, according to Chris Rodriguez of the National Disability Institute.

    • Jan 11 2016 01:26 PM
    • by brian
  24. Clinton Unveils Plan to Increase Autism Services

    January 5, 2016- "Clinton Unveils Plan to Increase Autism Services"- In a recent announcement, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton shared her broad plan to address the needs of the nation’s growing number of children and adults with autism. The plan calls for nationwide screening efforts for the developmental disorder, a push for states to widen insurance coverage mandates to ensure access to treatments, and the implementation of a new Autism Works Initiative that would offer resources and engage public-private partnerships to “ensure a post-graduation transition plan for every student with autism” and expand employment opportunities, and more. You can read about the specifics of Clinton’s plan in this Fact Sheet.  

    • Jan 06 2016 10:49 AM
    • by brian
  25. Parker Drake Bill is on Gov's Desk

    December 21, 2015- "Parker Drake Bill is on Gov's Desk"- After a harrowing ordeal in which an individual with autism was victimized, the New Jersey legislation has sent a bill to Gov. Christie’s desk which would make it a crime to willfully endanger individuals with developmental disabilities. Parker Drake, a 19-year-old with autism, was offered two packs of cigarettes and $20 to jump off the Manasquan jetty into the freezing Atlantic Ocean last February. Although he survived the ordeal, the men who issued the dare were not charged with any indictable offenses because there is no law on the books making what they did a crime.  The legislation that would penalize those who endanger developmentally disabled individuals with up to 10 years imprisonment passed the Assembly last Thursday by a vote of 65-1, with the Senate having passed their version of the bill over the summer.

    • Dec 30 2015 09:57 AM
    • by brian