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Legislative Update: April 2013

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Budget
On April 10, 2013, President Obama released his budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget includes recommended spending amounts for the Administration for Community Living (ACL), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), among others.

This is just the first step; Congress still has to prepare and submit a final budget, which has to then be signed by the President. Even though the budget isn't final, it does put forward a set of recommendations for Congress to consider as they work towards a final product.

This process happens every year; but this year the budget includes specific proposals that are relevant to the Foundation and for you as advocates. Included in the President's budget was a recommendation that the Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) be transferred to the Administration for Community Living (ACL). The PRC was previously housed at the CDC and this proposed language is the first step in having it transitioned We'll describe the ACL and the importance of the PRC's move in more detail below. As for the budget, we will continue to update you on new proposals as they are developed and will provide you with information on how they impact the paralysis community.

ACL

Paralysis Resource Center and the Administration for Community Living
The Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) partners with organizations across the country to offer programs that promote independent and healthy living for all individuals living with paralysis. Its mission is to be a comprehensive, national source of information for people living with paralysis and their caregivers to promote health, foster involvement in the community and improve quality of life. The PRC provides services to over 500,000 individuals annually, and is indispensable in providing vital information and services that the paralysis community depends upon each day.

The President's budget proposes to move the PRC to the Administration for Community Living (ACL). The ACL was founded in 2012 and its mission is to maximize the independence, well-being and health of older adults, people with disabilities across the lifespan and their families and caregivers.

Why was this move proposed? Well, with its focus on programs, services and support for disability across the life course, the ACL is an ideal home for the PRC. We are excited about the opportunity this move presents for the PRC and for you.

While we remain excited, it's important to remember that the move is not final yet, and we will need your support over the coming months to ensure that policies and programs focused on improving the lives of those in the paralysis community are enhanced and protected.

Sequestration
On March 1, a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to federal government spending took effect. These cuts will total $1.2 trillion over the next decade, split between defense and domestic discretionary spending programs. This year alone will see cuts totaling $85 billion. The impact of the sequester will be felt by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and most notably, the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The NIH will be forced to reduce its $30 billion budget by five percent. The NIH funds some of the most groundbreaking spinal cord injury and paralysis research, including locomotor training and the Tongue Drive System. Funding dollars are critical to advance treatments that are improving the quality of life for the more than five million Americans living with paralysis. These across-the-board cuts will have a significant impact on research, as well as the quality of life for those living with paralysis. It is unclear at this time how the NIH will prioritize research given the new budget constraints, but we will continue to update you as we learn more about the impact on the disability community.

Starting April 1, 2013, payments to Medicare providers, health plans, and drug plans will be reduced by 2 percent. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that cuts to Medicare will equal $123 billion in 2013 alone. This could have an adverse effect on those living with spinal cord injuries and paralysis who depend on Medicare to finance their care and treatment.

While the President's budget would replace sequestration through entitlement reform and tax increases, the majority of Republicans are opposed to any proposal which includes increases in revenue. All of this leaves the future of sequestration hanging in the balance. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor efforts by Congress to mitigate, delay or repeal these cuts as they put together a final budget.

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