Thursday, April 7, 2011

Government would continue to make Social Security payments to 53 million beneficiaries

SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue noted this week he planned to continue services in concert with White House's statement that Social Security checks will continue to go out in the event of a shutdown. He noted SSA’s field and hearing offices, teleservice and program service centers, and State disability determination services will provide "limited services" if there is a shutdown. "Limited services" remains a bit unclear. Speculation continues that interruption of new claims and pending appeals will occur.

The New York Times advises the government would continue to make Social Security payments to 53 million beneficiaries. “We will continue to process applications for benefits, but it might take longer if a shutdown does occur,” said Mark Hinkle, a spokesman for Social Security. “Our local offices will open for limited services. We are working on the specifics.” However, a huge backlog of applications for Social Security disability benefits would grow even larger, agency officials said. Medicare, the program for people who are 65 and older or disabled, would continue to pay doctors and hospitals for several weeks, using money from its trust funds. While Obama administration officials hoped to notify federal employees by Friday April 8th, whether they would be furloughed as nonessential workers, they also expected all federal employees — essential and nonessential alike to go to work on Monday April 11th, to help “close up shop in an orderly way”, the officials said.

Meanwhile, The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) discussed the potential shutdown - asserting that if the current continuing resolution expires at 12:01 a.m. on April 9, 2011 without passage of an FY 2011 appropriations bill or a further continuing resolution, Federal departments and agencies will be required to execute contingency plans for a shutdown. These contingency plans detail which agency activities are allowed by law to continue to operate, and which activities must stop. Employees whose salaries are funded through annual appropriations will not be able to work and will be furloughed, unless their duties qualify under the law as "accepted" to continue to work during periods of lapsed appropriations. During a shutdown, non-excepted employees are not permitted to work. OPM assures it will provide information through its website and updates regarding these matters no later than Friday, April 8th.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Balancing the Texas Budget on the Backs of the Disabled

Jason Embry in today’s American Statesman writes about 50 facts in the House’s proposed state budget.

Texans can be thankful that the republican dominated house has no plans to raise their taxes.

However, if you are disabled, access Medicaid, have a child with autism, suffer from a mental disability, are deaf or hard of hearing, care about abuse at child day care centers, and other residential centers; happen to be aging, require community mental health hospitalization, happen to be a homeless individual or a part of a homeless family, need Medicaid for nursing homes, access or plan to access community mental health services or care about the Children’s Health Insurance Program; the house plans to significantly cut, zero out and downright remove significant services.

Here are just a few:

$3.3 billion short in necessary state funds and $8 billion of all funds of the money that state agencies say they will need to pay for Medicaid, an entitlement program that the state is legally obligated to provide.Reduce funding for state-supported living centers so much that, as a spokeswoman for the Department of Aging and Disability Services told the Texas Observer this week, the state would default on a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. During the Bush administration, the Justice Department found the conditions in the homes for Texans with mental disabilities were so bad that the constitutional rights of the residents were violated.

The budget zeroes out $6.7 million from a program that provides services to children with autism.Reduces rehabilitation services to individuals who have general disabilities or are deaf or hard of hearing by 13.5 percent.

Cuts $4 million — 6 percent — from the agency that enforces minimum standards and investigates reports of abuse at child day care centers, residential child care and maternity homes.Cuts Medicaid rates to nursing homes by 10 percent, even though Texas already ranks 49th nationally in Medicaid rates for nursing homes. Many nursing-home operators say the cuts will force them to close.

Cuts funding for community mental health services by $162 million, and it cuts $34 million from state and community mental health hospital funding.In addition to cuts made during the interim, it reduces reimbursement rates for health-care providers that see patients on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by 10 percent.

Virtually eliminates all funding — $20 million — for housing placement and retention services for homeless families and individuals.

Legislative Budget Board, House Research Organization, Center for Public Policy Priorities, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, CSHB 1.