Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Disability Rights In Schools Are Civil Rights Too!




Disability Rights In Schools Are Civil Rights Too!
Life
Disability Rights In Schools Are Civil Rights Too!Are we still leaving disabled students behind?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was signed into law on July 26. 1990. More than fifty million Americans have some kind of physical, cognitive, sensory, or mental disability. The ADA’s extensive provisions for employment, state and local governments, transportation,public accommodations, and telecommunications, has helped end discrimination towards those with disabilities tremendously.Congress' concern to eliminate intentional and benign discrimination against disabled individuals is evident in the findings and purpose of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12101. The purpose of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act is "to include persons”.The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was signed into law on July 26. 1990. More than fifty million Americans have some kind of physical, cognitive, sensory, or mental disability.

The ADA’s extensive provisions for employment, state and local governments, transportation,public accommodations, and telecommunications, has helped end discrimination towards those with disabilities tremendously.       However, the fight is far from over, and even in our public schools, we find that faculty and educators are many times, inadaquately trained to understand, and conform to the ADA.  In a Northern  California High School, a young student with Asperger's Syndrome (a form of Autism) has developed an aversion to wearing footwear, which is symptomatic to his disability, and has been denied the right to finish and graduate at the public ceremony barefoot. The student had been attending classes barefoot with de facto acceptance from teachers until the Principle discovered him barefoot in the halls one day. The Principle refused to accommodate the student’s symptomatic issue even after the student’s parents requested accommodation.  The Principle and his superiors claim it is a safety issue and the school's financial liability overrides reasonable accommodation. The parents offered to sign a release of liability, which at first was acceptable but then they were told it was not sufficient.                                                                                                                

    The student would not be allowed on campus nor even attend his graduation ceremony barefoot. The ADA states: “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs,or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” (42 U.S.C. §Section 12132)    There have been many cases where school districts and other public entities waste taxpayers money fighting the ADA, only to lose in federal court because reasonable accommodation is not understood. It is reasonable accommodation to accept a waiver and release of liability from the parents of the student.

The school has a football team and other sports activities that require athletes and participants sign such releases.  It can be argued that many injuries have occurred through those programs. How many times has a barefoot student posed a danger to others, much less injured themselves and the school was harmed?  The student's diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome is recent, although the school was aware of the students Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis earlier and failed to start the Individual Education Plan (IEP) as required by law.

  The Principle told the parents that by the time they can redress the ban from campus, the school year will be over. The school is also rejecting the Asperger’s diagnosis until the school’s experts can now evaluate him. Had the evaluation been done in timely fashion as the law prescribes, time would not be against the student to have the resolution completed.   The ADA utilizes a three-pronged definition of disability. For the purpose of coverage under the ADA, a person with a disability is defined as an individual who: has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or has a record or history of such an impairment; or is perceived or regarded as having such an impairment.                                                                        

The phrase "major life activities" means functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks. Whether or not an impairment substantially limits a major life activity is made on an individual basis, and is not based on the existence of a condition or impairment but rather by its impact on the individual. A substantial impairment will be found when the conditions, manner, or duration under which a major life activity can be performed by the individual are limited when compared to most people.  The school cannot claim a safety issue is not addressed by liability waiver as they have published on a website that all graduates attending the official graduation party hosted by them, have a waiver of liability all students must sign: “By signing the Release and Assumption of Risk Agreement, you are releasing Project Graduation of all liability and accepting responsibility for any action by your son/daughter with respect to bodily injury and property."  There will be dancing and as customary, shoes will come off.  Shoes are not worn in some activities on campus and at sports games and events which come under the jurisdiction of the school and their surrogate agents.  The school district maintains they have a right to keep their rule on the barefoot issue as an absolute rule.  It has already been decided in one ADA court case that waiving an age requirement and safety claim for a disabled student to participate in football, a contact and dangerous sport, was reasonable accommodation.  JOHNSON v. FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES ASS'N, INC.899 F.Supp. 579 (1995) United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division September 6, 1995)
                                                                                                                                                                                        Also, reasonable accommodation can be made where the student may be restricted to areas deemed threat free from nails, glass and foreign objects avoiding areas beyond maintenance workers control. Swimming area’s are kept free from glass and sharp objects, but in this day and age the entire campus is relatively monitored and policed well where students often go barefoot while in-between classes. Twenty seven years after enactment of the ADA, one would think we would be closer to ending discrimination against people with disabilities in education. This writer has experienced it as well in undergraduate institutions because administrators feel it is more important to protect academic standards, and school policy, than civil rights. Whether it is lack of empathy, training, or by adminstrators who have an "us against threm attitude" ...it seems we will always need advocates and organizations that monitor and intervene on behalf of our disabled.  Congress' concern to eliminate intentional and benign discrimination against disabled individuals is evident in the findings and purpose of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12101. The purpose of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act is "to include persons”.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

VA Suicide Prevention


One small act can make a difference. Show your support for Veterans and Service members who may be in crisis, and spread the word about The Power of 1. Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.
The responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances — from those coping with mental health issues that were never addressed to recent Veterans dealing with relationships or the transition back to civilian life.
Since its launch in 2007 through September 2016, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 2.5 million calls and initiated the dispatch of emergency services to callers in crisis nearly 66,000 times. The Veterans Crisis Line anonymous online chat service, added in 2009, has engaged in nearly 308,000 chats. In November 2011, the Veterans Crisis Line introduced a text-messaging service to provide another way for Veterans to connect with confidential, round-the-clock support, and since then has responded to more than 60,000 texts.
VA is working to make sure that all Veterans and their loved ones are aware of the Veterans Crisis Line. To reach as many Veterans as possible, VA is coordinating with communities and partner groups nationwide — including community-based organizations, Veterans Service Organizations, and local health care providers — to let Veterans and their loved ones know that support is available whenever, if ever, they need it.
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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Shulkin to eliminate 40-mile, 30-day rule for non-VA care



By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: February 26, 2017
WASHINGTON – Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Sunday proposed eliminating a controversial policy that limits veterans from receiving private-sector health care.
Speaking to hundreds of people at the Disabled American Veterans annual conference in Arlington, Va., Shulkin laid out his top 10 priorities for the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was his first public address since becoming VA secretary.
High on Shulkin’s list was redesigning the Veterans Choice Program into what he called “Choice 2.0.”
His plan would include removing the rule that allows veterans to go outside the VA for health care if they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or live more than 40 miles driving distance from a VA facility. Some veterans and lawmakers have criticized the 40-mile, 30-day rule for limiting veterans’ health care choices, and Shulkin called the program “extremely complex and bureaucratic.”
“We want to make sure we continue the current program so veterans don’t experience any gap in care,” he said.
The program was created as a temporary measure in 2014 after it was discovered veterans were suffering long waits for health care at some VA facilities. It was funded with $10 billion and given an expiration date of Aug. 7, 2017.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., introduced legislation last month to do away with the expiration date. The lawmakers estimated by August, the choice program would still have approximately $1 billion in funding.
Congress has yet to taken action on either the House or Senate bill.
“If Congress doesn’t act, we will see a significant amount of resources be removed,” Shulkin said.
Shulkin has previously attempted to ease concerns that the VA would move completely to the private sector. He did so again Sunday, saying the private sector does not have the "military cultural competency" that the VA provides.
Other priorities
Shulkin on Sunday also listed employee accountability as a top priority. He said he would work to push legislation in Congress that would allow the VA to “make sure bad employees are leaving the system.”
Some lawmakers have pushed to make it easier to fire VA employees as a way to root out a perceived culture of corruption in the department.
The VA will also announce some “bold proposals” regarding suicide prevention in coming weeks, Shulkin said.
Trump commented during his campaign on the number of veteran suicides – calling it a “national tragedy” – and said he would improve mental health care at the VA. According to the latest VA statistics, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide each day in 2014.
Other priorities Shulkin listed Sunday included improving VA infrastructure, better coordinating with the Department of Defense, enhancing information technology and making quicker decisions on claims for disability and pension compensation.
“Now I’m focused on the future,” Shulkin told Stars and Stripes. “I’m focused on how we can make significant advancements from where we were to make this a better system.”
Disabled American Veterans and other veterans organizations will have opportunities soon to highlight their own priorities for VA reform to the Senate and House veterans' affairs committees.  
Disabled American Veterans will present their priorities to lawmakers on Tuesday, followed by The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars on Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

President Trump taps David Shulkin to Department of Veterans Affairs.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his choice of David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Shulkin is the current undersecretary for health at the VA and has been in that post since July 2015.
During his tenure, Shulkin told USA TODAY recently that he had cut the number of veterans waiting for urgent care from 57,000 to 600. At the same time, he spearheaded an effort to provide same-day care at all 167 VA medical centers across the country by the end of last year. It’s unclear whether he reached that goal.
Shulkin is a physician who previously ran hospitals in New Jersey and New York and was named among the 100 most influential people in American health care by Modem Healthcare.
Trump promised during the presidential campaign to overhaul the VA so that veterans wouldn’t have to wait for care and could choose to get care outside the VA if they wanted. Currently, they can do that if they can’t get a VA appointment within 30 days or within 40 miles of their homes.
Shulkin has said in interviews that he favors a hybrid model, where the VA provides care that it specializes in, such as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and loss of limbs, for example. And he said the VA should consider discontinuing other services that the private sector may better provide, such as obstetrics and gynecology.
Shulkin is blunt about the challenges facing the VA. He has said the agency has had trouble attracting talent from outside the agency, at one point, saying simply, "I need help."
Trump made the announcement about Shulkin during Wednesday's long-awaited news conference.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Fairness for Veterans Act Signed Into Law




WASHINGTON -- With President Barack Obama's signature of the annual defense policy Friday, the Fairness for Veterans provision becomes law.
The Fairness for Veterans Act was featured in the TEGNA investigative docu-series, Charlie Foxtrot. The bill requires military discharge review boards to consider post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
More than 12,000 people signed a petition calling for Congress to pass the provision after watching the series. The provision was included in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Earlier this month, Charlie Foxtrot was shown on Capitol Hill as part of a discussion with participants of the docu-series, as well as several bills aimed at safeguarding veterans' mental health.
As a result of the passage of this bill, the military will now be required to consider mental health conditions for troops who receive less than honorable discharges.  If a service member does something the military considers undesirable, their mental health will now factor in to any discharge review. Now, thousands of veterans will now be eligible for at status upgrade and VA medical care.