Jewish Disabilities Network Advocacy Day

I had the privilege to attend the annual advocacy day on Capitol Hill of the Jewish Disabilities Network (JDN). The JDN is comprised of representatives of Jewish communal organizations - The Jewish Federations of North America, the Religious Action Center (RAC) of the Reform Movement and the Rabbinical Assembly among others - that advocate on behalf of the disabled. We meet quarterly to learn about impending federal policies and how they might impact the disabled community. We also learn how best to advocate Congress on behalf of our community.

Yesterday - Feb 12 - was the advocacy day in which we not only learned about 2 policies but also had the opportunity to talk to the staffs of various congressmen and senators. We learned about the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act which will enable family members of the disabled to set up a tax exempt 529 fund to be used to supplement the SSI payments that all disabled Americans can receive. Such a fund will allow for greater independence, access to transportation, housing, education, etc. Many in the House and Senate had supported the bill before and we are hoping that it will be passed in the next few weeks.

We also learned about the Community First Choice (CFC) option in Medicaid. This is a state plan which would expand access to home and community based care. In other words, each state under the so-called "Obama care" has to decide how it will provide Medicaid. This CFC will allow people who need it to be served at home instead of having to go to a nursing home or other health care facility. We all agree that in-home care is more emotionally satisfying and much less stressful.

You can imagine that the details of these programs are quite complex and my head was swimming with information. But the important things to realize are:

1. It is essential to be an advocate for issues. It is easy to do and your representative and senator wants to hear from you. Just Google the name of your elected official, go the website, and write a comment. If you want more information about these issues you can contact me or the RAC.
2. We need to always keep in kind that we are all created in God's image. Therefore we need to ensure that all gain the benefits and access to services equally and fairly.

I thank Rabbi Jack Moline for asking me to represent the R.A. on the JDN and I look forward to sharing more information with you in the future.