Disability activists protest shutdown

Person in wheelchair, shadow shows person has arms raised.
Activists Storm D.C.

The government shutdown is already having a large impact on people with disabilities, sparking outrage by disability advocates, especially in response to attempts to block the Affordable Care Act from going into effect.

On September 30, more than 200 protesters from ADAPT, an advocacy group long-known for its direct action techniques, stormed the Washington D.C. office of House Speaker John Boehner.

Thus far, some House of Representatives members have refused to accept a budget deal without a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which is set to go into effect at the beginning of 2014.

“Who do we want? Boehner! When do we want him? Now!” they chanted outside the building, according to the Huffington Post.

During the government shutdown, qualified people with disabilities will continue to receive Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Contrarily, research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Justice enforcement actions of disability laws shut down indefinitely Oct. 1, according to a Disability Scoop article.

For many programs, funds for services were already allocated for October, meaning that benefits won’t be affected immediately, but may cease if the shutdown continues for an extended period of time. This is the case for special education services and various housing benefits from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

On October 2, the Department of Veterans Affairs warned that its recent success reducing the backlog for veterans disability claims is “at risk” due to the shutdown.

“People with disabilities disproportionately rely on government services to live, learn, and work in their communities,” said Katy Neas, Chairperson of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the nation’s largest coalition of disability advocacy groups, said in a news release. “These services were created by the government because the private market place did not meet the unique needs of people with disabilities. Congress must adopt appropriations legislation now.”

“However, this legislation must not lock in the harmful low spending levels from the sequester and must not defund or delay the Affordable Care Act. Now is not the time to make it more difficult for people with disabilities to access important services and supports.”