I am writing this letter, not only as a volunteer and supporter of Adam Schleifer but as a sister to someone with special needs. When I first came into contact with Adam Schleifer’s campaign, I was most interested in his relationship with his brother, David, and the impact that growing up around a loved one with special needs has had on him. In my experience, there are few more empathetic than the brother or sister of a member of the special needs population, which currently accounts for 25 percent of Americans. Adam has been a public servant for most of his professional life and been of service to his brother David for far longer. Defending those unable to defend themselves and advocating for their needs is something he has done both through his work as a consumer protection regulator under Governor Cuomo, as a federal prosecutor, and as a brother to David. Adam will continue to fight for underrepresented communities like persons with special needs when he is elected to Congress.
Adam Schleifer’s plan enumerates challenges that the disability community has faced for years — federal income benefits, health care, education, civil rights, and public infrastructure — and offers concrete and meaningful solutions to overcome them. Schleifer’s plan will increase financial benefits and savings limits for recipients of Social Security Income (SSI), and overturn benefit waiting periods for newly eligible recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Schleifer will also draw on his experience as a former federal prosecutor to enforce civil rights laws that protect people with disabilities in schools and the workplace and invest in infrastructure to comply with ADA regulations. Adam’s personal experience has made him more cognizant of the needs of so many Americans and is invested in fighting for their rights.
While my sister received support from some wonderful teachers throughout her education, that is sadly not the case for many Americans, especially if their families don’t have access to additional means of support. Schleifer will protect the civil rights of, and fight for equal opportunities for people with disabilities in schools and in the workplace. He calls upon the president to revive the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and its important role in enforcing civil rights protections in our schools. He also calls for ending corporal punishment, restraint, and seclusion in schools. Schleifer notes that students with disabilities make up 12 percent of the student population, but represent 58 percent of those placed in seclusion or involuntary confinement. He would enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Olmstead v. L.C. Supreme Court decision, which said people with disabilities have the right to live in their communities and cannot be segregated because of their disabilities.
I believe the stigmatization that accompanies mental health is outdated and this conversation needs to open up. In health care, Schleifer would repeal waiting periods that delay payments and health insurance to newly eligible SSDI recipients. Currently, federal law requires a 5 month waiting period before getting benefits after receiving SSDI eligibility and a 24 month waiting period before accessing Medicare. For individuals with mental disabilities, Schleifer’s plan also calls upon private insurance companies to provide sufficient mental health services, noting that private insurance companies paid 13 to 14 percent less for mental health care in 2014 than Medicare for identical services. Finally, Schleifer would support temporarily raising the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) by 12 percentage points, as proposed in former Vice President’s Joe Biden’s plan, so that states have the necessary resources to fund critical health insurance programs like Medicaid that serve the disability community.
Working on Schleifer’s campaign has shown me that there are solutions to the issues that the special needs community faces and that we have gone too long without instituting these solutions. I look forward to a future of equality for all Americans, regardless of any physical or cognitive obstacles.