​Summer 2022 Roundup Health Policy Blog: Part 1

Posted by Reeve Foundation Staff in Daily Dose on September 08, 2022 # Advocacy and Policy

CaptiolWith the summer coming to an end, Congress is gearing up for a busy fall. The House is scheduled to come back on September 6, for Committee work periods, with floor action beginning the following week. The Senate is slated to return the first week of September, where it will resume consideration of Judicial nominations. Below are some updates in disability policy that has taken place over the past three months, thanks to your dedicated hard advocacy work.

ABLE Act Update:

On June 21, 2022, The ABLE Age Adjustment Act unanimously passed out of the Senate Finance Committee as an approved amendment to the Enhancing American Retirement Now (EARN) Act. If the EARN Act passes, the age eligibility for an ABLE account will expand from before age 26 at the onset of disability to before age 46. This bipartisan legislation, led by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) would provide more than 6 million Americans with disabilities the opportunity to open an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings account.

The original ABLE Act, passed in 2014, created tax-preferred savings accounts for people with disabilities to save for qualified disability-related expenses, including education or training, technology, transportation, and health care. Today, these accounts can be opened in 43 states and the District of Columbia, where individuals can save up to $15,000 annually. The savings accounts are also exempt from asset determinations for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, helping people with disabilities save for the future while maintaining access to crucial services.

The Reeve Foundation is closely monitoring the bill and strongly supports raising the limit on age of onset of disability.

Department of Transportation’s Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights:

The Reeve Foundation has long advocated for improving air travel for people living with paralysis, especially since the experience is often undignified, inconvenient and can jeopardize personal safety and cause significant damage to wheelchairs. This past July, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published the first ever Bill of Rights for Airline Passengers with Disabilities, which includes ten fundamental rights of air travelers with disabilities and the obligations of airlines (to include their employees and contractors) under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

Because of intense advocacy by the disability community, the DOT established this framework to help educate passengers about their rights, which we hope holds airlines more accountable. This bill of rights does not expand legal obligations by the airlines; the Reeve Foundation will continue to advocate for legislation that would expand these obligations. We also want to acknowledge the work of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), which has led a coalition of disability-focused organizations over the past few years focused solely on improving air travel for people with disabilities. We are also grateful to the DOT for working with the disability community and listening to our concerns about this critical issue.

In a recent New York Times article, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) National President Charles Brown, documents his air travel experience as a wheelchair user. The article illuminates wheelchair users' treatment at the airport and on the plane.

Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations:

On July 20, 2022, after months of committee testimony, hearings and markups, the House voted to pass its first set of six appropriation bills for fiscal year 2023, on a 220 to 207 vote. The package included funding for:

  • Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development
  • Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration
  • Energy and Water Development
  • Financial Services and General Government
  • Department of the Interior, and Environment
  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs

It was initially expected that the following week, the House would vote on the Department of Labor and Health and Human Services bill, (HR. 8295), which would continue to fund the Paralysis Resource Center (PRC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). This bill includes $10.185 million in funding for the PRC, a $2.5 billion increase for NIH, and a $1 million increase from fiscal year 2022 for NIDILRR. However, due to an amendment issue, the bill was not included in the House’s floor schedule for their last week in session. Therefore, the fate of the bill is uncertain and may be reconsidered when the House returns this September. Please be aware that we will be publishing an Action Alert, which will urge Representatives to vote yes to ensure the vital programs can continue to serve the paralysis and spinal cord injury communities.

Before the Senate recessed for their district work period, Senate appropriators released their spending bills for fiscal year 2023. This is big news because in the proposed language of the legislation, the Committee recommends, “$11,185,000 for the Paralysis Resource Center, which has long provided essential, comprehensive information, and referral services that promote independence and quality of life for the nearly 5.4 million people living with paralysis and their families. The Committee directs ACL to support the National PRC at not less than $10,200,000.” The bill also includes a $2 billion increase for NIH and a $2.53 million increase for NIDILRR. Please note, this is just the Senate’s version; final funding levels will not be set until legislators from both parties in both chambers iron out the details and come to a final number.

The Reeve Foundation is very pleased to see a push for an increase in the crucial funding to these agencies and critical programs. We thank you for all your important advocacy efforts and will keep you informed in the coming weeks on the status of this year’s appropriations.

Make sure to check out part two about this summer’s round-up on Health Policy.

If you are interested in joining our efforts, sign up to receive advocacy updates or contact Gerard Arnum, our Grassroots Advocacy Manager, at [email protected].

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.