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October 2009
NDI Hosts Annual Asset Development Summit in Washington, DC

The National Disability Institute (NDI) hosted its annual Asset Development Policy Summit on October 20, 2009 in Washington DC.  The summit, hosted this year at the World Bank, was attended by over 75 participants representing the asset development, disability, employment, financial, government, and policy sectors.
Bringing together diverse stakeholders from multiple tiers of local, national and international agencies, the Asset Development Summit for People with Disabilities has been designed to increase outreach and promote the provision of services to individuals with disabilities through the establishment of collaborative relationships with key entities in the disability and asset building communities.   
The morning session focused on building connections between local asset development and disability leaders interested in participating in an asset development working group focused on disability in the Washington DC metropolitan area.  This is a model that has been deployed in various cities throughout the country who have participated in NDI's Real Economic Impact Tour.  Local partners will now have an opportunity to participate in a longer-term dialogue in the creation of a roadmap to build a better economic future for individuals with disabilities and their families in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The DC Department of Disability Services will serve as the leading government entity for the future, and Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB) has agreed to be the lead partner in managing the Asset Development Working Group for Washington DC.
The afternoon session focused on trends in asset development policy initiatives at both the federal and international levels.  Agency officials from the FDIC, IRS, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Treasury, and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs all presented on key initiatives each agency was leading to foster greater economic security for individuals with disabilities.  Participants also learned about policy efforts being led by a number of external organizations, including the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), New America Foundation, and the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination.   Policy topics included updates on the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2009, the Savings for Working Families Act, and new legislation being introduced shortly by Representative Tsongas to increase asset limits related to SSI eligibility determinations.  The final panel focused on international perspectives in promoting asset development and economic self-sufficiency among individuals with disabilities.  Speakers from the World Bank, U.S. State Department, Bank of America and AT&T shared examples from the public and private sector on ways their organizations were expanding innovative strategies to achieve economies of scale across populations, and also efforts taking place by the international governmental agencies to encourage nations across the globe to incorporate disability-inclusive policies in poverty eradication strategies.

Real Economic Impact Tour Expands to 100 Cities

On October 21st at the National Press Club, the National Disability Institute (NDI) announced plans to expand the Real Economic Impact Tour (REI Tour) to 100 cities nationwide.  The REI Tour helps low income workers with disabilities receive free assistance in filing their tax returns and accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  The REI Tour also provides added access to financial education, saving and asset-building strategies. During the past four years, the REI Tour has assisted over 330,000 individuals with disabilities with accessing over 300 million dollars in tax refunds and beginning to plan for a better economic future. "We believe that in these challenging times, the REI tour conveys a message of hope beyond disability and beyond charity that economic empowerment is fundamental for a democracy to survive," stated REI Tour Director Johnette Hartnett.
Introduced to an overflow crowd, government partner Internal Revenue Service and corporate sponsors for the REI Tour, Bank of America, AT&T, Visa Inc., Acorda Therapeutics, 54Freedom and Sealund & Associates Corporation made the business case for supporting outreach and education activities to this growing market segment. "One in five families has a member with a disability. People with disabilities are the fastest growing minority in America," said Michael Morris, Executive Director of the National Disability Institute (NDI), creators of the REI Tour.
REI Tour City Awards were given to Rochester, New York; Las Vegas, Nevada; Denver, Colorado; and Atlanta, Georgia. REI Tour Deaf Tax Awards were given to the Harlem, New York Independent Living Center and Lexington Vocational Services Center in New York City. The Federal Employee Award was given to Lee Bowman of the FDIC and an Outstanding Leadership Award was given to Brian Moynihan, President, Consumer Banking Division of Bank America. REI Tour Outstanding Achievement Award went to Maria V. Reina, Executive Director, Global Partnership for Disability and Development (GPDD) Secretariat, Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
Exciting new initiatives unveiled included a disability online version of the Visa Inc. critically acclaimed Financial Soccer game to test individuals' knowledge of core financial concepts of managing credit, saving and staying on a budget and the Sealund & Associates Corporation's donation of its Alaris Financial Literacy e-learning products to the disability community in the 100 REI Tour cities.
54Freedom announced a nationwide entrepreneur search to identify and honor outstanding business owners with disabilities and NDI introduced its first Building Economic Strength Together (BEST) Fellow, Joshua Beal, who will create innovative new economic empowerment strategies to be tested and piloted with government and private sector support.
The highlight of the Tour Kick-Off was the appearance by AT&T-sponsored USA Team Paralympian Brad Emmerson; Erika Bogen, Ms. Wheelchair America and Robert David Hall who stars as Dr. Robbins on the CBS hit show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Hall urged the capacity crowd to stay focused and dream about the power of real economic impact to change communities and build their roadmap to financial freedom.     For more information, please visit www.reitour.org
NDI Participates in Global Partnership in Disability & Development Forum in Turin, Italy

On October 14-17, 2009, leaders in the asset development and disabilities communities from across the globe met in Turin, Italy, for the Global Partnership in Disability and Development Forum, which was sponsored by the Directorate General of Development Cooperation (DGCS) of the Italian Foreign Ministry, the World Bank, the Turin-based Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio (CRT) and the Global Partnership for Disability & Development.  The four-day forum included workshops, seminars, and entertainment to raise awareness and develop new criteria for treating the theme of disability and social inclusion. Participants in the event included representatives of international organizations, national institutions, local Italian bodies, worldwide volunteer associations and organizations of persons with disabilities.   During the Forum, a study was presented which reviewed the results of Italian Cooperation projects that focused on persons with disabilities and were conducted in several countries between 2000-2008.  NDI also made a presentation of its work with the Real Economic Impact (REI) Tour as a successful case study demonstrating effective public-private partnership for developed countries with strong tax laws that offer work incentives and other benefits for employers and employees with disabilities.

The Global Partnership on Disability and Development will continue to focus on building awareness of the impact of disability in countries throughout the world. Approximately 80% of world's 650-800 million persons with disabilities live in developing countries. Numerous studies reveal that the increase in disabilities is associated with higher levels of illiteracy, malnutrition, infrequent vaccinations, low birth weight and rising unemployment and underemployment.
The Directorate General for Development Cooperation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has included the promotion of inclusion and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2006 and ratified by Italy in 2009) among its 2009-2011 policy concerns and in confirmation of its long history in the sector, acknowledged in 2002 when Italy was selected for the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Disability Award.

NDI Testifies during FDA Advisory Committee hearing in support of new pharmaceutical intervention that increases mobilization for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis

On October 14th, NDI federal government affairs consultant Serena Lowe testified on behalf of the National Disability Institute at an FDA Advisory Committee about the importance of therapeutic interventions aimed at improving mobility for individuals with MS and the connection between improved mobility and increased opportunities for individuals with disabilities to actively engage in the workforce and economy.

NDI submitted testimony on October 14th in support of New Drug Application # 22-250, which proposed for the first time a drug to be indicated to improve walking ability in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  MS represents a chronic degeneration of the central nervous system.  Approximately 400,000 Americans have MS, and every week an estimated additional 200 people are diagnosed. World-wide, MS affects about 2.5 million people. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not require U.S. physicians to report new cases, and because symptoms can be completely invisible initially, the numbers can only be estimated.

Problems with gait (difficulty in walking) are among the most common mobility limitations experienced by people with MS.  Limited mobility affects the ability of individuals to accomplish daily tasks at home, work, school and in the community, and significantly limits their independence.  NDI provided research about the significant barriers that limited mobility can cause in terms of preventing an individual from engaging in a meaningful way in the workforce, economy, or community.  Research from the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University was shared with the advisory panel, demonstrating that lack of mobility and other challenges related to disabilities results in major obstacles to an individual's ability to work, earn, save, and contribute back into the economic system through taxes, investments and consumption.[1]  Because there are currently no therapies indicated specifically to improve walking ability for those with MS, this aspect of the disease has not been adequately treated and clinicians and patients alike are frustrated by the lack of viable therapeutic interventions. As Lowe stated, "Even the most incremental benefit in an individual's mobility could make the difference between that person not being able to actively engage in the workforce and the ability of that person to earn, save, and sustain one's financial independence".

Immediately following the public forum - in which 21 individuals testified, including Lowe - the FDA Advisory Committee approved the New Drug Application.  This decision was deemed a major victory for the MS population and will likely lead to the pursuance of more therapeutic interventions focused on increasing the mobility of individuals with chronic disabilities.



[1] Mendelsohn, Steven.  "Barriers and Opportunities in Asset Reform," Building a Better Economic Future:  A Progress Report for Individuals with Disabilities and Their Families in America.  Manchester, NY:  Community Economic Development Press.  2008.  pp. 35-43.


Tsongas to Introduce Legislation to Increase Asset Limits required for SSI Eligibility Considerations

NDI and other national disability organizations have long advocated for a revisiting of current asset limits connected with supplemental security income (SSI) eligibility, arguing that the significantly low asset limits discourage individuals with disabilities from working, earning and saving resources.  In an attempt to address this concern, Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) will soon be introducing legislation which would make the following modifications under the SSI program:
  • Increases the limits on countable resources to $7,500.00
  • Excludes up to $10,000 for individuals and $15,000 for couples of any assets included in a qualified retirement plan, trust, education savings account, savings bond, or individual development account. 
  • Eliminates current requirements that SSI recipients apply for periodic payments form deferred compensation arrangements;
  • Excludes from income 1/3 of distributions from deferred compensation arrangements
Representative Tsongas has been working with CFED and others to craft the legislation, and is now seeking input from the disability community. 

SPECIAL IN-FOCUS:  Incorporating Asset Development in Legislative Proposals focused on Transition and Employment for Individuals with Disabilities
Current efforts are underway in both the House of Representatives and Senate to develop comprehensive legislation in the areas of transition and employment for individuals with disabilities.  In order to ensure that asset development and financial planning are key themes included in these legislative initiatives, NDI is seeking your input on specific recommendations to share with Congressional champions leading these initiatives.  Please send your comments and feedback to Serena Lowe, Federal Government Relations consultant, at EwolAneres@gmail.com.  Comments are requested no later than November 20th, 2009.

As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics for September 2009

Vol: 1 Issue: 9
In This Issue
NDI Hosts Annual Asset Development Summit in Washington, DC
Real Economic Impact Tour Expands to 100 Cities
NDI Participates in Global Partnership in Disability & Development Forum in Turin, Italy
NDI Testifies during FDA Advisory Committee
Tsongas to Introduce Legislation to Increase Asset Limits required for SSI Eligibility Consideration
SPECIAL IN-FOCUS: Incorporating Asset Development in Legislative Proposals
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National Disability Institute

The National Disability Institute (NDI) is a not-for-profit research and community development organization and creators of the Real Economic Impact Tour, dedicated to promoting work, saving, and asset building for persons with disabilities and their families nationwide.