Expanding Opportunities for People with Disabilities

 We now face a make-or-break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. After decades of eroding middle-class security as those at the very top saw their incomes rise as never before and after a historic recession that plunged our economy into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover, it is time to construct an economy that is built to last. The President’s 2013 Budget is built around the idea that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules. We must transform our economy from one focused on speculating, spending, and borrowing to one constructed on the solid foundation of educating, innovating, and building. That begins with putting the Nation on a path to living within our means – by cutting wasteful spending, asking all Americans to shoulder their fair share, and making tough choices on some things we cannot afford, while keeping the investments we need to grow the economy and create jobs. The Budget targets scarce federal resources to the areas critical to growing the economy and restoring middle-class security: education and skills for American workers, innovation and manufacturing, clean energy, and infrastructure. The Budget is a blueprint for how we can rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.

To expand opportunities for people with disabilities, the 2013 Budget will:

Increase Funding for the Education of Children with Disabilities. The Budget provides $11.6 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Grants to States to provide a high quality education and help offset State and local education costs for children with disabilities. The Budget also provides a $20 million, or 5 percent, increase for the IDEA Infants and Families Program to provide the youngest children a good start. In addition, the Budget provides $30 million, a $28 million increase over 2012, for PROMISE (Promoting Readiness of Minors in SSI), a four agency joint pilot program, to fund and evaluate innovative approaches to improving outcomes of children receiving Supplemental Security Income and their families.

Encourage Workforce Innovation to Improve Outcomes for People with Disabilities. The Budget provides $125 million to the Departments of Education and Labor for a Workforce Innovation Fund to support reforms of the workforce system, including projects that improve education and employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. The Vocational Rehabilitation program will contribute $10 million, and use its expertise to help ensure that the Fund invests in innovative programs and evidence-based practices to provide high-quality employment services to individuals with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities. The Budget also provides authority for the Department of Education to use unspent Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants funds to support innovative projects that would focus on improving outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

Support Workers with Disabilities. The Budget provides $24 million to the Department of Labor for the Disability Employment Initiative, which awards grants to build the capacity of One-Stop Career Centers to serve individuals with disabilities. The Budget also proposes a new Disability Insurance Work Incentives Simplification Pilot to make the Social Security work rules more straightforward and allow beneficiaries more flexibility to try to work without fear of losing their benefits.

Reduce Social Security Appeals Hearing Backlog. Disability programs are at the forefront of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) operations. The Budget maintains services to the public, which SSA provides through multiple avenues, including the Internet, over the phone, and in person at hundreds of local offices. In addition, the agency will continue to increase efficiency by holding hearings via video conference for areas of the country with the most cases and increasing the use of online services. By completing approximately 960,000 hearings in 2013, the average processing time will be reduced to SSA’s target level of 270 days in September 2013.

Support Disability Research. The Budget provides $107 million for the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). NIDRR conducts comprehensive and coordinated programs of research and related activities to maximize the full inclusion, social integration, employment, and independent living of individuals with disabilities of all ages. NIDRR will continue to support a cloud computing initiative that uses the internet infrastructure to improve technology access through the development, implementation, and delivery of mechanisms that will provide on-demand accessibility for everyone who faces technology accessibility barriers.

Strengthen Anti-Discrimination Enforcement. Even in tough budget times, the substantial investments that have been made by the Administration to strengthen civil rights enforcement against racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, disability, religious, gender, and gender identity discrimination continue in the 2013 Budget. The Budget proposes an increase for the Community Relations Service in the Department of Justice to fight hate crimes and provides a $14 million, or 4 percent, increase over the 2012 enacted level for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is responsible for enforcing Federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee. This investment will allow EEOC to add staff to reduce the agency’s backlog of private-sector discrimination charges.

Provide Housing for Persons with Disabilities. The Budget provides a total of $150 million for the Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program. Even in tough fiscal times, the Budget continues to invest in the expansion of this program and includes $54 million to fund approximately 1,900 additional units awarded through states for partnerships integrating health care and affordable, supportive housing for extremely low-income persons with disabilities in community-based settings.

Expand Passenger Rail Options. The President’s surface transportation reauthorization proposal includes funding to eliminate the longstanding ADA gap at intercity passenger rail stations. Overall, the Administration’s reauthorization provides $47 billion over six years for intercity passenger rail, plus $6 billion for immediate rail investments in 2012, putting the country on track toward a system that gives 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, providing many citizens with disabilities access to additional, convenient transportation options.

Support the Medical Needs of Veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates an increase in the provision of health care services for veterans in Priority Levels 1-4 (largely those with service-connected disabilities). To meet the needs of this specific group of veterans, the VA Medical Care Budget includes $32.7 billion.

Improve Effectiveness of Disability Programs. The Administration will conduct a Government-wide review of ways to improve the effectiveness of disability programs through better coordination and alignment of priorities and strategies. This will build on previous efforts that have sought to better coordinate policies and programs across Federal, State, and local governments, the service provider community and employers to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of programs serving individuals with disabilities. While some significant coordination efforts have proven successful, the Administration expects collaboration and innovation to improve efficiency and effectiveness as well as reduce costs even further. The focus of the upcoming review will be to work with agencies authorized to run disability-specific programs and those programs that impact and affect people with disabilities to explore how they can achieve better results for this population by sharing data; defining shared objectives; coordinating goal-setting, integration, implementation and measurement to track progress; and improving management response time when adjustments are needed.

Support the Rights of People with Disabilities Internationally. The Budget provides funding to support the newly-created Disability Office at the Department of State. The office, which is part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, is critical to the Administration’s efforts to: develop a comprehensive strategy to promote the rights of persons with disabilities internationally; ensure that foreign assistance incorporates persons with disabilities; ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are addressed in international situations; and conduct public diplomacy, including with civil society, on disability issues.