HD28 - 2002 Annual Report of the Disability Commission

Executive Summary:
The Disability Commission's first order of business this year was to use its authority to help coordinate and support the efforts of the Olmstead Task Force (*1) and other primary systems change initiatives. Staff from the Lieutenant Governor's office and the Commission, joined with the Olmstead teams on Medicaid waiver, housing, employment and other issues.

The four meetings of the Commission this year included extensive public testimony and agency reports to review the quality of disability services, unmet needs and suggestions to streamline and optimize the Commonwealth's resources. The Commission provided this information to the Governor during the budget planning process in order to shed light on several critical community service programs that would be harmed through budget cuts. In the past, the Commission has focused on developing a coordinated, community-based and consumer-driven system of services for individuals with disabilities in the Commonwealth by patroning strategic budget amendments. This year the Commission made recommendations to preserve current funding for key programs.

The Commission's top action priority for 2002 was housing, which coincided with the renewal of the Governor's State Housing Conference. The Lieutenant Governor represented the Disability Commission at the State Housing Conference, giving a keynote address in order to bring statewide attention to the housing needs of people with disabilities. The Commission's work group also ensured that several national disability speakers presented important information to maximize federal resources at the conference.

The Commission also expanded its Disability Housing Work Group and appointed a new Chairman, Carey M. Friedman, Director of Policy for Lieutenant Governor Timothy M. Kaine. The Work Group immediately began collaborating on a state strategy of compliance with HB 813 (*2) and Olmstead Planning, as well as to continuing the Commission's interests in better maximizing federal and state housing opportunities for people with disabilities.

One of the most significant housing actions this year was the Work Group's effort, along with the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA), to promote a recommended change to the 2003 Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). The Work Group's recommendation was designed to ensure that the competitive LIHTC scoring system provides every developer of LIHTC housing with a strong incentive to include accessible units in their development plan as a way to significantly increase the availability of accessible housing for Virginians with disabilities. The VHDA Board approved this recommendation in November 2002. The 2003 plan went into effect after the Governor's approval in December 2002.

The Commission is particularly proud of its to efforts this year to bring about intergovernmental and interagency cooperation toward the development of a Medicaid Buy-In opportunity for working Virginians with disabilities pursuant to HJR 219 and SJR 128. After careful study and close communication with stakeholders, the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS), in collaboration with the Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) and the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy provided an extensive report on the development planning for a Medicaid Buy-In for the Commonwealth. Learning of the various Medicaid Buy-In design options used in other states and the requests of consumers here in Virginia, the Commission determined to continue the progress made this year by advancing an affordable a Medicaid Buy-In program as a pilot study, despite the current budget limitations. The Commission expects this pilot program to be actualized through a special 1115 Research Waiver to be requested of the Federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a small sample of 200 Virginians, beginning in early FY 2005. The Commission's design for a Buy-In waiver program has been developed in a collaborative process with stakeholders to carefully restrict participation within budget constraints for the start-up year.
(*1) State planning for Olmstead Compliance - On June 22, 1999, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions may constitute discrimination based on disability. The President issued an Executive Order that directs key federal agencies to work closely with states to ensure full compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling in the Olmstead case.
(*2) House Bill 813 (2002) - An Act to amend and reenact §§ 36-137 and 36-139 of the Code of Virginia, relating to the Department and Board of Housing and Community Development; affordable housing for older Virginians and Virginians with disabilities.