Disability

Group Home for Developmentally Disabled Investigated for the 72nd Time in 5 Years

A Murfreesboro group home for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities is under investigation on allegations of abuse for the 72nd time in the past five years, the Daily News Journal reports. Employees of the Stones River Center are most recently accused of choking and assaulting a patient who became combative when asked to remove his headphones. After the altercation, the man told his mother that he was assaulted. The mother noticed unexplained injuries on the man’s body and notified authorities of the incident. Staff members involved maintain that that they did nothing wrong and that the restraint performed was approved for use on aggressive patients. 

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Parents of Disabled Children Engage in Disability Day on the Hill

Advocates and parents of disabled children met with Tennessee lawmakers on Feb. 12 to address concerns and request additional resources, The Tennessean reports. The event, dubbed Disability Day on the Hill, is intended to draw attention to problems facing these families in an effort to create a pathway to Medicaid for all children with long-term, debilitating disabilities. The group communicated concerns regarding access to TennCare for disabled children with intensive medical needs who may not qualify because of salary restrictions on parents, maintaining that even when most costs might be covered, high deductibles copays and other out-of-pocket expenses can be overwhelming. Members of the General Assembly pledged support for this initiative, with Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, saying he plans to submit legislation intended to address these concerns in the coming weeks. 

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Tennessee's Process for Handling Disability Applications Stirs Controversy

The way Tennessee physicians earn money by reviewing disability claims is stirring controversy, The Tennessean reports. There are currently about 50 doctors statewide who review disability applications, for which they receive a flat rate payment on each claim filed. Detractors feel that this incentivizes the physicians to speed through the review process because how much they earn depends on how fast they work. The article notes one doctor in particular who earned $420,000 for reviewing the disability applications of 9,088 Tennesseans during the 2018 fiscal year, averaging 12 minutes on each case. 80 percent of the cases reviewed by this doctor were denied. Tennessee has among the highest denial rates for disability applicants, rejecting 72 percent of all claims in 2017 compared to the national average of 66 percent.

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CBO Report Includes Proposals to Cut Veteran Benefits

A Congressional Budget Office report was released last week which included 121 cost-saving proposals, Stars and Stripes reports.  A 2017 proposal resurfaced in the report; it calls for significant cuts to a Department of Veterans Affairs program called Individual Unemployability in 2020. The report includes options of removing 235,000 disabled veterans from the program and removing veterans once they reach age 67. The projected savings are nearly $50 billion over 10 years. Although the proposal is included in the report, it does not necessarily mean it will be considered by The White House or Congress.

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SSA’s Study on National Benefit Offset Policy Completed

A nine-year study for the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding a potential national policy that pays partial disability benefits to beneficiaries of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program when earnings exceed SSA’s substantial gainful activity level has concluded, Cision PRWeb reports. Current law for SSDI recipients includes losing all SSDI benefits after 12 months of substantial earnings. In the $127 million Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) study, nearly one million disability recipients were sampled. Instead of experiencing a sudden loss of benefits, beneficiaries received reduced benefits by $1 for every $2 in earning above the substantial earning threshold. The study examined whether this policy change would increase beneficiaries’ earnings and produce national savings. It found no evidence of a change in earnings for beneficiaries and found that the rule change produced an overall increase in benefits paid out under the SSDI program. You can view the SSA's full report here.

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Winery Websites Unclear How to Comply with ADA

Fifteen New York wineries have been named in a suit filed by a visually impaired woman residing in Brooklyn, Forbes reports.  She uses screen-reading software to access website content for businesses. However, the suit claims that these wineries are in violation of ADA rules by not making information on the website, like hours of operation and winery location, compatible with screen-reading features. One California-based law firm that deals with many aspects of the beverage alcohol industry claims that the courts have not made it clear which businesses must make websites ADA compatible. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice does not have guidelines for wineries seeking to make its website ADA compliant. The article notes that World Wide Web Consortium, an international standards organization, has Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that wineries can utilize, but there is no federal law stating that following these guidelines makes a winery website ADA compliant.

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Disability Law Forum Survey

The TBA Disability Law Executive Council welcomes feedback and suggestions regarding the 2019 Disability Law Forum. Completing this brief web form will assist in ensuring the forum remains timely and relevant. Please respond to this survey by Oct. 2.  Your help and participation are greatly appreciated!

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7th Circuit to Rule on Obesity ADA Protections Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh District faces a challenging case surrounding whether severely obese workers without an underlying medical condition should be protected from job discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bloomberg BNA reports. A former Chicago Transit Authority bus driver, Mark Richardson, alleges that the CTA violated the ADA after they regarded him as disabled due to his severe obesity and fired him, though Richardson claims he is still able to work as a bus driver. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does consider severe obesity alone to be a physical impairment protected under the ADA and has a case pending before the Ninth Circuit arguing just that; however, in previous years, the 8th, 2nd and 6th Circuits have ruled the opposite way. The Obesity Action Coalition, AARP and other groups have filed friend of the court briefs with the 7th Circuit in support of Richardson. The ruling of the court will affect Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin employers.

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Ventures Hosts Annual DisABILITY Resource Expo in Williamson County

Ventures, a collaboration among agencies, is set to host the annual Path to Independence DisABILITY Resource Expo aimed at parents or caregivers with children or adults with special needs and/or disabilities. There will be more than 50 agencies that serve the disability community present at the expo, The Tennessean reports. The event will take place at the Williamson County Enrichment Center in Franklin on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to noon.

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Program to Help Vulnerable, Elderly Crime Victims Expands Across Tennessee

The Collaborative Response to Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Abuse (CREVAA) program will be expanding to 13 additional counties across the state: Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Maury, Marshall, Moore, Perry and Wayne counties, The Elk Valley Times reports. It will be administered through the South Central Tennessee Development District, and it aims to help vulnerable, elderly and adult victims of crime. CREVAA advocates work closely with victims and provide emergency services as well as personalized long-term support systems. In order for victims to receive services, they must be officially referred to the program by law enforcement agencies, Adult Protective Services, District Attorneys or Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Teams.

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