Friday, December 4, 2009


Contrary to the expectation of economists and the wishes of the Republican leadership in Congress, unemployment fell in November from 10.2% to 10.0%. The number of jobs lost in November fell from 190,000 in October to just 11,000 in November. Read the article in "The Hill."

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Senator Judd Gregg (R - NH) has written a letter to his Republican colleagues reminding them of most, if not all, Rules of the Senate that can be used to prevent a final vote on any bill being considered by the Senate, but directly aimed at the current Health Care Reform bill. When one looks at these devices, it is clear that the "Greatest Deliberative Body" can be tied into knots by even one reckless Senator, much less all Republicans acting in concert.

So far, the Republicans' bark is worse than its bite. Nonetheless, the closer the Senate gets to actually voting on the reform bill, the harder it will be for the minority Republicans to refrain from using these delaying tactics.

Of course, one cannot complain about the Republicans using delaying tactics, alone. The Democrats are not totally blameless. They, too, interfered with Senate action while they were in the minority. It is time, however, to change these Senate Rules that allow, if not encourage, reckless actions on the part of a minority to frustrate the will of a significant majority of Americans when that will is not subversive to the American way of life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Informative Comments on Health Care Reform by California Nurses Association

Once again, Medical News Today publishes a timely and informative comment about the recently House passed Health Care reform bill. Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, issued a statement on November 9th noting some of the strengths and shortcomings:

Of all the torrent of words that followed House passage of its version of healthcare reform legislation in early November, perhaps the most misleading were those comparing it to enactment of Social Security and Medicare.

Sadly no. Social Security and Medicare were both federal programs guaranteeing respectively pensions and health care for our nation's seniors, paid for and administered by the federal government with public oversight and public accountability.

While the House bill, and its Senate counterpart, do have several important reform components, along with many weaknesses, neither one comes close to the guarantees and the expansion of health and income security provided by Social Security or Medicare.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chelation Therapy Drug Treatment & Children with Autism

Medical News Today reports two small studies involving 65 children from ages 3 - 8 suggests that a drug approved by the FDA for treatment of lead poisoning may help children with autism who have a problem with heavy metal toxicity. These studies used a drug known as DMSA which was reported to increase the excretion of several toxic metals, including lead, with no adverse side effects.

These two studies also suggest that using DMSA might improve some of the symptoms of autism such as language, cognition, and sociability, although formal, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are still needed.

Paul's comment: Small studies are useful to help suggest areas needed for appropriate follow-up trials. At the same time, much of what has plagued the autism community in the past are small, open studies or anecdotal references that send parents desperate to find that "magic bullet" trying yet one more treatment that may help a handful of children but are totally ineffective for the vast majority of those afflicted with autism. We stopped years ago desperately seeking the magic bullet for our son, but that decision has left me ever plagued by the thought "what if?"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One summary of latest House Healthcare bill

The Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy has issued a summary of the "Pelosi" health care reform bill, HR 3962. Medical News Today has "an AMCP staff summary of some of the key provisions of interest to the Academy." See

Down Syndrome Births Decline

Patti Dudek posted a note about the decline in Down Syndrome births, primarily due to abortions, on her blog: The main point is that many of the abortions result from lack of information about Down Syndrome and not having an opportunity to meet families that have a Down Syndrome member.

Follow Patti's blog. It is always quite informative.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

National Resource Directory for Veterans Useful for Others, Too

I recently came across a Resource Directory as a result of a feed from The title of the particular page that addresses adaptive technology for automobiles is "Where Can I Learn About Adapting Automobiles for Disabilities." (Available at Although nominally for "Wounded, Ill, and Injured service members," this site has a wealth of information that would be useful to almost everyone in the disability community. If you are part of the disability community, whether disabled, yourself, a family member, or volunteer, or a person who works with the disabled, please take some time to explore this wonderful site. You might also go to the government's Disabilities Web Site and choose one of the alternatives on the right-hand side of the page to stay updated.

As long as I am making reference to one Resource Directory, another Resource Directory can be found at by the Center for Infants and Children with Special Needs (at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center). This is a fantastic resource to find help for anyone, child or adult, who has a disability. (Available at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blind and Visually Impaired Social Security Recipients Win Major Legal Victory

Blind and Visually Impaired Social Security recipients won a major victory on Tuesday when Judge William Alsup of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California found that the Social Security Administration was violating the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

In 2005, The American Council of the Blind sued the Social Security Administration for failing to provide important information to, among others, blind and visually impaired recipients of social security in alternative formats such as Braille or other media besides its standard printed notices.

The case finally came to trial before Judge Alsup for a seven-day trial. On October 20th, Judge Alsup issued his Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and his Judgment that Social Security was violating the Rehabilitation Act. Plaintiffs were represented by a number of attorneys, including the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.

The DREDF press release with information about other counsel for plaintiffs and links to the decision is found at

Paul's Comment:

Four years of litigation to come to a conclusion that seems as plain as the nose on one's face is a slap in the face to the disability community. The amount of money spent by the government to fight this litigation is the height of irresponsible waste of taxpayer's money. This sad saga is a further reminder to the disability community of the need to stand together, support each other's causes, and fight the intellectually weak and spineless, in this case, the Social Security Administration.

Please help by disseminating this information to everyone who may possibility be affected by this decision.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Will First-time Homebuyer Credit Be Extended?

On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, and Republican Senator Johnny Isakson agreed that the first-time homebuyer tax credit should be extended through June, 2010. Both see this tax credit as having a stabilizing effect of the housing market and would like to see it extended.

It's any body's guess, of course, whether this expression of extending the credit will make its way into law. The first-time homebuyer's credit is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Much has been written about the question “When should I start taking my social security benefits?” The pros and cons have been well discussed, but those discussions have left out one element that could make a critical difference in the answer to this very important question. That element is the little known social security benefit called “Disabled Adult Children,” a social security disability income program.

Social Security considers this to be a “child’s” benefit, because it is paid on a parent’s earnings record, not the child’s. To receive benefits under this program, the child need not ever have worked. The qualifications for these benefits are:

The adult child must have a disability recognized by social security and have been diagnosed before age 22.
The adult child must be at least 18 years old.
The adult child must be unmarried.
The adult child’s parent (sometimes step-parent or even grandparent or step-grandparent) must be deceased or receiving social security retirement or disability benefits.

Once qualified, even though the adult child must be “totally” disabled, he or she is allowed to earn up to $980 per month. (This figure changes from year-to-year.) Further, since this disability income payment will likely be higher than the current Supplemental Security Income benefit, the adult child should apply as soon as qualified to determine which benefit is higher.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, once the adult child has been receiving Social Security Disability Income benefits for 24 months, he or she qualifies for Medicare, no matter how old he or she is. Hypothetically, then, the adult child could be receiving both Medicaid and Medicare, as well as SSDI benefits, and still only be in his or her twenties.

Moreover, the parent only needs to apply and qualify for social security benefits. The parent still may be employed and even earning too much money to actually receive any social security cash benefit. (IRS calculates your retirement benefit based upon your age and earnings record. For example, assume an individual is entitled to $1,400 per month at age 62. If that individual earns approximately $50,000, he or she will not receive any cash benefit. [These figures are not exact but a rough approximation of a hypothetical situation.] If the individual does not receive any cash benefit prior to full retirement age, qualifying for social security at age 62 will have no negative affect on that individual’s full retirement age monthly cash benefit.)

It is, therefore, critical for all adults who have children with disabilities to understand the Disabled Adult Children benefit program of Social Security. Deciding to apply for social security benefits at age 62 seems to be a “no-brainer” for parents of children with disabilities who qualify for DAC benefits.


A former social security claims representative who wishes to remain anonymous. She frequently clashed with her supervisors by applying the law the way it was supposed to be applied.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Operation Hero Miles

Follow this LINK to a really great way to help troops in Iraq and Afghanistan get home for free on leave and families of injured soldiers to fly to hospitals across the country to visit with them. You can donate frequent flyer miles to the Fisher House Foundation for this purpose.

Whatever your feelings are about these wars, we are all sensitive to the tremendous sacrifices being made by our servicemen and servicewomen and want to help where we can. Please try to help, if you can.



National Report Pegs Autism Prevalance at 1 in 91

Bethesda, MD (October 5, 2009) --

A national report released today in the journal Pediatrics reveals that 1 percent of U.S. children ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder, an estimated prevalence of one in every 91children. This is a dramatic increase from the one in 150 prevalence rates currently reported.

“This national study charts a dramatic rise in the prevalence of autism in the United States and we applaud this administration’s recognition that autism is an urgent public health priority,” said Autism Society President and CEO Lee Grossman. “But families today are asking: how high must these prevalence rates rise before the nation responds? Significant resources must be directed toward screening and diagnosis, affordable interventions that treat the whole person and comprehensive education plans to foster lifelong skill development so that people with autism will have the ability to work and live independently.”

The report, entitled “Prevalence of Parent-Reported Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder among Children in the US,” published in today’s issue of Pediatrics, was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services National Survey of Children’s Health, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report was conducted via a telephone
survey of over 78,000 parents, and determined a point prevalence of 110 per 10,000 respondents, roughly 1 percent of the population of children in the United States.

On a constituent call to discuss the report, the CDC reported that its initial analysis of the Autism and Developmental Delay Monitoring project data, due out later this fall, confirm the 1 percent figure. This report will also contain more data on age of diagnosis, groups affected, and access
to interventions.

The increasing numbers have long-term economic costs to the country, as autism is a chronic medical condition affecting people across the lifespan. “Lifespan services, particularly for adults, are typically inadequate and inappropriate,” Grossman stated. “This new data should be a call to action to the government to improve and increase services and supports first.”

The Autism Society has been working with Congress on several key bills, which have stalled. “The information in this new report highlights the pressing need for additional services, support and treatments for families affected by autism spectrum disorders,” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). “My bill, the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act, will help children and adults with autism gain better access to coordinated services, improve training for professionals treating these disorders, and will relieve the financial burden on the millions of families struggling with this disability.”

This bill, if funded, would provide funding for applied research into effective interventions, the first ever demonstration grants on adult services, create an adult prevalence study, and fund family support and information networks.

“Autism affects millions of American families, and the cost of diagnosis, early intervention, and treatment imposes a heavy burden on most of them,” said Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA), co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus. “This legislation, the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act of 2009, would improve the dissemination of information between autism researchers and service providers, improve training for professionals treating autism spectrum disorders, and mandate that health insurers cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Enactment of this legislation would do a lot to help millions of American families.”

“The increase in the reported prevalence of autism across the nation testifies to the urgency of executing a comprehensive strategy in response to this public health emergency,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus. “For its part, Congress must ensure robust funding to support aggressive programs of research, education,
and services. Furthermore, Congress needs to enact additional legislation, such as the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act of 2009, that will establish the infrastructure and mechanisms for delivering appropriate services across the lifespan to individuals with autism and their families. We must look to maximize the reach and impact of our investments and activities by closely
coordinating government efforts with those of national advocacy organizations, such as the Autism Society.”

About Autism

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disability that typically appears during the first two years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.

About the Autism Society

The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. For more information, visit

Monday, October 5, 2009

Are the costs of ABA therapy deductible as a medical expense?

I approach answering this question with some trepidation. I have not found a clear-cut answer, and there are aspects of ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapy with which I am not familiar. Therefore, I am going to put some disclaimers directly into this post:

I. IRS Circular 230 Disclaimer

NOTHING in this post is intended or written to be used for the purpose of avoiding Federal Tax penalties, and it cannot be used by the reader or any taxpayer to avoid Federal Tax penalties, and this post was not written to support the promotion or marketing of any transaction or matter discussed in it.

II. Consult Your Tax Advisor

This is not legal advice that you can use in any way. Consult your tax advisor about whether you can or should take this as a medical deduction.

III. This does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Now, back to the question:

It is my belief that ABA therapy does qualify, in whole or in some parts, as an expense that is properly deductible on Schedule A as a medical expense. How much of the therapy you can deduct will depend upon the actual modalities used in your particular situation. The fact that something is called ABA therapy does not necessarily make it "medical" in nature. You might have to look at each particular activity and deduct some but not all activities.

Therapy to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body, is deductible as a medical expense. Based upon my understanding of ABA therapy, the premise of ABA therapy would qualify under this test for deductibility as a medical expense.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mary Travers Dies

Mary Travers, one of my son's all-time favorite singers, passed away on Wednesday from complications of chemotherapy for a bone-marrow transplant she had after being diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago. Her passing leaves yet another huge void for many of us who grew up in the '60s and '70s. Ms. Travers was 72 years old. Article

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A case of questionable taste and questionable tax deductions

From "Suits & Sentences," a blog written by Michael Doyle:

September 15, 2009

The lawyer, the hooker and the tax deduction

Say this about New York attorney William G. Halby: He's pretty darn ballsy.

As recounted in a U.S. Tax Court case decided Monday, Mr. Halby in 2004 claimed a $65,934 tax deduction for his use of prostitutes and a $2,368 deduction of sundry books, videos and pornographic magazines. For 2005, Mr. Halby claimed $5,005 worth of deductions for books, videos and pornographic magazines and $42,152 for prostitute services.

There was no explanation for the fall-off in commercial sex use.

As noted in the Expatriate Owl blog, Mr. Halby had previously lost a state tax case over similar issues. Nor did the IRS did not look kindly on the medical deductions. As U.S. Tax Court Judge Joseph Robert Goeke noted:

"Petitioner did not visit these prostitutes as part of a course of therapy prescribed by his doctor, nor did petitioner ask his doctor to prescribe any sort of sex therapy. Petitioner kept track of these visits in a journal. The journal included the date, the name of the “service provider”, and the amount. Petitioner did not discuss these visits with his doctors afterwards to determine their impact on his health."

Mr. Halby nonetheless argued that he should be able to deduct expenses because of the health benefits associated with a good sex life. The judge, though, reasoned that a tax deduction can't be allowed for an illegal activity -- frequenting prostitutes -- nor for porn that wasn't prescribed by a therapist. Stated the judge:

"Petitioner has been an attorney for 40 years and specialized in tax law. Petitioner should have known that his visits to prostitutes in New York were illegal and that (regulations and)...caselaw do not support his claimed deductions. Accordingly, petitioner is liable for the (tax) penalty."

Accordingly, Mr. Halby is on the hook for a $21,491 tax deficiency and a $4,298 penalty.

H1N1 Preparedness Guide for Small Businesses

The U. S. Department of Homeland Security, with the cooperation of the U. S. Small Business Administration, the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has issued a Guide for Small Businesses to prepare for the spread of H1N1 influenza. It is a short booklet, and it is applicable to far more situations a small business faces than just the H1N1 flu. It also has a section containing tips for the individual. Small business owners and their attorneys should review this booklet and take appropriate action. Copies can also be printed out and distributed to employees.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Industry groups weigh in on Obama's speech

Healthcare industry groups generally agreed with President Barack Obama that the status quo on the current healthcare system was not sustainable, but offered differing views on how the system should be fixed.

Insurance regulation was a chief focus of the president's speech on Wednesday night. Obama said that a government-run public option would be a way to get insurers to lower costs. In a written statement, Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, reiterated the organization's longtime position that a public plan was not the solution to improving coverage. “New health insurance reforms and consumer protections will solve the problem without creating a new government-run plan that will disrupt the quality coverage that millions of Americans rely on today,” she said.

“America's hospitals stand ready to do our part to extend coverage to more Americans and to continually strive towards providing high-quality care for patients that is more efficient and affordable,” said Richard Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, in a written statement. The AHA continues to have concerns on how a public plan would be constructed, but is “glad to see that President Obama is open to exploring other ideas that would help us achieve our shared goal of universal coverage.” --
Jennifer Lubell


Posted: September 10, 2009 - 1:00 pm EDT

Paul’s Comment: Why has the insurance industry not already put into effect those “insurance reforms and consumer protections” that Ms. Ignagni finds acceptable? Since it takes an earthquake-sized shift in electoral politics to move Congress to enact fundamental reforms, if Congress doesn't enact some type of public option now, will there ever come another time when Congress will adopt a public option before it is too late?

College Tax Credit Changes Could Help Students with Disabilities

Section 1004 of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ("ARRA") made several changes affecting college expenses and tax credits for the 2009 and 2010 tax years. Tax-free distributions from 529 plans are expanded, and the Hope Credit for college expenses are significantly broadened.

While contributions to 529 plans are not deductible for federal income purposes, distributions from 529 plans are tax-free, if they meet certain criteria. The ARRA adds computer technology and equipment or Internet access and related services to the list of expenses that qualify for tax-free treatment. The existing list of qualified expenses include tuition, required fees, books, supplies, equipment, special needs services, and, if the student is at least a half-time student, room and board.

The Hope Credit can now be used for a student's first four years of college, rather just the first two years. The ARRA also increases the maximum amount of the tax credit to $2,500; increases the income limitations to qualify to $80,000 of modified adjusted gross income for individuals and $160,000 for "married filing jointly" with a phaseout for taxpayers with higher incomes; adds books to the allowable expenses; and, in some cases, allows up to 40% of the credit to be refundable.

For more information, see the "Tax Benefits for Education: Information Center."

Note: For some families, generally at the higher end of the tax brackets, it might be more advantageous for the student to file his/her own tax return to get a tax refund because of this refundable credit. Check with your tax advisor about this issue.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Time for Bi-Partisanship is Over

Like virtually every President in recent memory, President Barack Obama came to Washington with one of his stated goals being to emphasize bi-partisanship. In more colloquial terms, President Obama seemed to be a lover, not a fighter. But the time to fight, every President learns, is now. Except that some Presidents learn this lesson too late to be an effective President.

Everytime President Obama has talked about bi-partisanship, the Republican leadership has kicked him in the teeth. They have no interest in bi-partisanship. They want the stimulus package to fail. They want health care reform to come to naught. They are desperately looking for campaign issues for 2010 and 2012. They are interested in returning to power only for power's sake, not for the sake of the country.

It's time President Obama jettisons "bi-partisanship" and goes about the business of governing. He may need the votes of two or three Republican Senators to get health care reform passed, but that is not bi-partisanship. It is simply cobbling together a viable majority to get critical legislation passed. If the cost of getting health care reform legislation passed is watering down the proposal to get 70%, then do it.

Democrats never seem to get the message. There is no purity in politics. When Hubert Humphrey was not pure enough for many Democrats, we got Richard Nixon as President. When Jimmy Carter wasn't great enough, we got Ronald Reagan, then George W. Bush. It's time for progressives to lead the way, picking up support where possible; sacrificing perfection where necessary.

Lyndon Johnson understood the need to get important legislation passed. When he proposed his War on Poverty, a Commission studied the issue and suggested that it would take about $30 billion dollars to do it right. All President Johnson could get out of Congress was $5 billion. While this was a prescription for failure, he took what he could get, and we are better off for it. The "War" was lost in the first days, but we did get Head Start out of the ashes. What a wonderful gift to the country. We may not have gotten all of the community organizing we needed to make the War successful, but we got some very treasured programs and principles that have proved successful and long-lasting.

It's time for President Obama to "break some eggs." He needs to get significant health care reform passed this year. It doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be real reform. Mr. President: Your Presidency and the country hang in the balance. The time to act is now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

UBS Settlement -- We Can Help

If you are or know of someone about to be ensnared in the UBS settlement with the Justice Department, we can help. You are not necessarily destined to go to jail because of the settlement; but you need to act fast.

Call me at 513.563.1595 or e-mail me at ASAP.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

August 12, 2009 (From NPR News Headlines)

The story has spread so fast even President Obama got asked about it at one of his town hall meetings. But no, the health care overhaul bill now working its way through Congress would not require seniors to learn how to die prematurely.

It's not, however, because people aren't saying it. The most notable spokeswoman for the cause is Elizabeth McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York. McCaughey's last brush with major public prominence came during the debate over then-President Bill Clinton's health plan, when she wrote a highly controversial critique of the proposal published in The New Republic arguing the bill would have bound everyone inside the new system.

This time McCaughey has been making the talk radio rounds arguing that the latest version of a health overhaul has the government sponsoring suicide education.

"One of the most shocking things I found in this bill, and there were many, is on Page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory — absolutely require — that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go into hospice care," McCaughey said on former Sen. Fred Thompson's radio show July 16.

That claim won her a "pants on fire" rating for its lack of truth from the nonpartisan Web site run by the St. Petersburg Times. But it has nonetheless spread like wildfire, being repeated not just on blogs and radio shows but by Republican members of Congress as well. Said a joint statement from House Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), "this provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law."

The claims have been highly upsetting to groups like the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which strongly support what the bill really does — pay health care providers to talk to Medicare patients about creating so-called advance directives, or ways to express their health care desires in writing before they become incapacitated.

In fact, says Kathy Brandt, vice president of professional leadership, consumer and caregiver services, advance directives need not be about cutting off care at all. "If you want everything to be possibly done; all medical treatment to be done for you until your last breath, that's what advance directives can do for you," Brandt says. "I think most people who are healthy adults, not facing a terminal or life-limiting conditions, would want treatment, and nothing that's in any of the health care reform bills that I've heard or seen does anything that would prohibit that."

So why have the demonstrably false claims about death gotten so much life? Harvard public opinion expert Robert Blendon says it's because seniors are very sensitive about their health care. "Seniors worry more about their health care than any other group in American life," Blendon says. "They feel more vulnerable."

Blendon says it's no accident that opponents of the health overhaul chose to single out a provision aimed at seniors to make their case, because if seniors think they have something to lose from the current health care overhaul, "[they] are really going to be very active opponents of this, because that's not what they signed up for," he says.

And seniors, unlike many younger people, are very likely paying more attention to the health care debate.

"The seniors are really going to read and listen to everything and be concerned if they think as a result of the bill their current circumstances are going to deteriorate," Blendon says.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Senate Committee Hears Testimony on Autism

From the August 7, 2009, edition of Autism Speaks e-Speaks Newsletter:

"U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, chaired a hearing Wednesday, August 5 on the state of autism research, treatments and interventions. Senator Harkin was joined by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senators heard testimony from Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health; Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer for Autism Speaks; and four parents of children with autism, Joshua Cobbs, chair of the Iowa Autism Council, Nicole Akins Boyd, vice chair of the Mississippi Autism Task Force, David Miller, board member of the Northern Virginia Community College, and Dana Halverson, co-founder of BEAT-Iowa. Click here to view the hearing on"

Paul's Comment: I watched a repeat of the testimony on Tuesday night on C-SPAN. They all did a wonderful job presenting their positions on the needs of the autism community. At several points, there was some light friction between Dr. Insel and some of the others about NIMH's research agenda. It is well worth watching, but I would recommend having some tissues with you when you do.

However, while Chairperson Harkin and Ranking Republican Thad Cochran were very sympathetic and supportive, at one point they leaned towards each other and suggested that they might want to introduce a bill to end insurance discrimination against people on the autism spectrum. This was extremely disheartening, because they apparently didn't know (or remember) that the House Energy and Commerce Committee had adopted an amendment to this effect to President Obama's Health Care Reform effort last week and a similar effort in the Senate had already been effectively killed.
House Energy and Commerce Committee passed an autism insurance reform amendment to “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,” H.R. 3200, sponsored by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Chairman of the Congressional Autism Research and Education Caucus in the House. Link to article.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Does the IRS Owe You Money?

Who couldn’t use a little extra cash this summer! The IRS may have some money for you.

If you have not filed a prior year tax return and are due a refund, you should consider filing the return to claim that refund. If you are missing a refund for a previously filed tax return, you should contact the IRS to check the status of your refund and confirm your current address.

Unclaimed Refunds

Some people may have had taxes withheld from their wages but were not required to file a tax return because they had too little income. Others may not have had any tax withheld but would be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.

· To collect this money a return must be filed with the IRS no later than three years from the due date of the return.

· If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

· There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

· Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications web page of or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

· Information about the Earned Income Tax Credit and how to claim it is also available on the IRS web site,

Undeliverable Refunds

Were you expecting a refund check but didn't get it?

· Refund checks are mailed to your last known address. Checks are returned to the IRS if you move without notifying the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service.

· You may be able to update your address with the IRS on the “Where’s My Refund?” feature available on You will be prompted to provide an updated address if there is an undeliverable check outstanding within the last 12 months.

· You can also ensure the IRS has your correct address by filing Form 8822, Change of Address, which is available on or can be ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

· If you do not have access to the Internet and think you may be missing a refund, you should first check your records or contact your tax preparer. If your refund information appears correct, call the IRS toll-free assistance line at 800-829-1040 to check the status of your refund and confirm your address.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hamilton County Commissioners Need to Hear From You!

Once again the Hamilton County Commissioners are about to deal a devastating blow to the disabilities community. Here is a letter from Cheryl Phipps, Superintendent of the Hamilton County Board of MR/DD. Please read it and take action to help.

July 31, 2009

Dear MR/DD Supporter:

On August 12, the Hamilton County Commissioners will decide the amount of the levy that will be placed on the November 3 ballot for us. We need your help in the next two weeks to convince them to choose an amount that will enable us to serve new people.

They are considering three options for the 5 year levy period, all of which are below the amount recommended by the tax levy consultants who reviewed us earlier this year. Those options are:

1) $416.8 million – our requested amount. We will be able to serve new people each year of the levy, and we will have enough money to use as match for Medicaid waivers
2) $400.2 million– an amount that will result in waiting lists. We can only serve 10 new adults each year (the need is 70) and enroll 10 people each year on waivers (the need is 100) with this amount.
3) $388.6 million ­ - a devastating amount! We will have to cut services currently provided and not be able to serve new people who need us.

Please contact the County Commissioners before August 12, tell them what MR/DD services mean to you, and urge them to vote for the $416.8 million. Their address is 138 E. Court Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202, and their e-mail addresses and phone numbers are:

David Pepper 946-4410
Todd Portune 946-4401
Greg 946-4405

On behalf of the 8,000 individuals we now serve and the thousands more who will need our services in the next 5 years, thank you!


Cheryl Phipps, Superintendent

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Sad State of The Healthcare Debate

The following was found on "The Hill's pundits blog." The author, Peter Fenn, comments on "The Republicans and Small Business and Healthcare." As an illustration of the way ALL politicians spin issues, it is sickeningly accurate. The politician's rule is: ignore what the other (person) (reporter) (candidate) says or the question he or she asks. Answer the question you wanted the reporter to ask; address the issue you want to address, whether relevant or irrelevant to the issue to which you are responding. But, most importantly, never, ever let the facts get in the way.

July 28, 2009 – 9:36 am

By Peter Fenn

The Republicans and Small Business and Healthcare

I just love the Republicans’ rhetoric on how they stand up for small businesses.

Democrats propose any kind of tax on millionaires and it suddenly becomes an attack on “America’s small businesses.” We try and put together a healthcare plan that makes it possible to keep costs down for small businesses and allows them to insure employees and it becomes about “big government.”

Democrats go after Goldman Sachs for their average salaries of $900,000 when unemployment is nearing 10 percent and we are “socialists.” Democrats complain that Goldman received over $10 billion last year in bailout money, parlay that into $5.1 in first-quarter profits and prepare to shell out $11.4 billion to their executives so far this year and we are attacking the capitalist system.

Now we find out that Goldman has a Cadillac of a healthcare plan that costs over $40,000, just less than the average American family makes in a year. This plan is truly amazing — no co-pays, no deductibles, no cost for prescriptions and don’t worry about pre-existing conditions. And, of course, all free — and it is not taxed, all deductible. Now, tell me, how does that help our small businesses?

Here are the facts on small businesses: 1. Firms with fewer than 20 employees account for 18 percent of private-sector jobs but almost 25 percent of net employment growth in the past 15 years; 2. However, small businesses pay nearly 20 percent more for the same health insurance policy than larger firms because of broker fees, administrative costs and adverse selection; 3. While 99 percent of firms with over 200 employees offer health insurance only 49 percent of firms with three to nine employees do.

Furthermore, there has been a decrease from 2002 to 2008 of small businesses (three to nine employees) offering health insurance — 58 percent down to 49 percent.

Now, explain to me how this is working so well for small businesses. Since I started my firm over 25 years ago I have paid 100 percent of my employees’ health plans. I was glad to do it and lucky enough to be successful. But, like all small-business owners, I have seen those costs rise considerably. My partner and I saw first-hand how pre-existing conditions can raise the costs; we watched as our premiums went up over the years much faster than inflation or the cost of living. Again, we are fortunate that we can afford it, but many small businesses cannot.

To say that we can’t afford health insurance reform is counterintuitive — we cannot afford not to pass real change to the current system. Small business deserves it and needs it — now. Republicans should get on board and really help America’s small businesses.

© 2009 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., a subsidiary of News Communications, Inc.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Useful Articles

For those of you who have not yet filed your 2008 income tax return, here's How to Find Your 2008 Stimulus Payment.

For more information about about non-profits, here's How to Start a Non-Profit Organization.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Take Action to Support Autism Insurance Reform in Congress

Federal Action on Health Care Reform legislation is taking center stage in Congress. Even though more and more states are passing laws to require insurance companies to provide full treatment coverage for people with autism, the vast majority of states do not. Thus, there is good cause for federal legislation in this area.

Please follow this link to
Autism Speaks. You will find the telephone numbers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, so you can call their offices and leave messages. You will also be able to send e-mails to your local representative and senators. Please take time to do this. This is very important to parents (like me) and people with autism (my son). Please spread the word.

Thank you very much.


Paul A. Nidich

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Case of autistic Marine brings recruiting problems to the forefront

Here is an incredibly sad article from the Los Angeles Times about a young man with high-functioning autism who was recruited into the Marines. Not surprisingly, he didn't quite understand the rules, being yelled at constantly by his drill instructors, and all the other matters faced by a new recruit at boot camp. So, he simply decided to leave to go home (to a group home where he had been living when he signed up) but didn't make it out the gate. When his drill instructors finally learned he had autism, instead of having him evaluated for discharge, they simply eased up on him; so he could get through boot camp successfully.

He did get through the eleven-week program (somehow). He was then sent to Camp Pendleton for infantry training. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested for desertion and another crime. That was one year ago. That's right: He has been in the brig at Camp Pendleton for one year. He is also facing another charge, FRAUDULENT ENLISTMENT. The young man is under a conservatorship and cannot legally enter into a contract by himself. A motion to dismiss the charges against him on the ground that he didn't have the legal capacity to enlist was denied. Another hearing in this matter is scheduled for July 27th.

PLEASE pass on this post to everyone else you know who might want to help this young man. Also send it to your Representative and Senators.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Supreme Court Approves Reimbursement for Private Special Education Services

In Forest Grove School District v. T. A., decided by the Supreme Court on June 22, 2009, the issue decided was whether the 1997 Amendments to the IDEA prevented Courts from ordering school districts from having to pay for private special education services. An Administrative Due Process Hearing Officer held that the Forest Grove School District violated the IDEA by not providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and ordered the school district to reimburse T. A. for private special education services in T. A.'s junior and senior years of high school. The school district refused and filed suit in the federal district court.

The district court held in favor of the school district, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court accepted the case for review. The 6 - 3 majority (perhaps to become a 7 - 2 majority if and when the Senate confirms Judge Sonia Sotomayor) held that the 1997 Amendments did not change the law and affirmed the Ninth Circuit's decision. The following quotation from the end of the majority's opinion sets out the standard:

"When a court or hearing officer concludes that a school district failed to provide a FAPE and the private placement was suitable, it must consider all relevant factors, including the notice provided by the parents and the school district's opportunities for evaluating the child, in determining whether reimbursement for some or all of the cost of the child's private education is warranted."


History, Briefs, and Other Information
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

HHS Announces Initiatives in Support of the “Year of Community Living”

June 22, 2009 -

Goal is to create Aging and Disability Resource Centers in every State

In support of President Obama’s proclamation of the “Year of Community
Living,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced a funding
opportunity that will make it easier for older people, younger adults,
and their families to learn about and access health and long-term care
options through Aging and Disability Resource Center Programs (ADRCs). 
ADRCs provide “one-stop shop” sources of information, one-on-one
counseling, and streamlined access to programs and services that can
enable people to remain in their own homes and communities.

Read Full Press Release with excellent hyperlinks for more information
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June 22, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today joined President Obama's commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision by announcing that it will offer rental assistance to 4,000 non-elderly families with disabilities, including 1,000 vouchers specifically targeted to those transitioning out of nursing homes and other care facilities. Through its funding notice, HUD is seeking comment from public housing authorities and others to ensure this critically needed assistance is distributed and administered in the most effective manner possible.
Read Full Press Release

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Student Loans, Loan Forgiveness Program, and More

President Obama's budget contained programs for tuition and loan forgiveness for students.

Go to the GovCentral Web site for more information.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

EEOC Votes to Revise Rules to Conform to ADA Amendments Act

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has voted to revise its regulations to conform to changes made by the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008, which would make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability.

View Original Article

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Federal Health Care Reform Legislation

There seems to be general agreement among members of Congress that there is a significant need for health care reform. The rising cost of health care cannot continue unabated, and the need to provide affordable health care for most, if not all Americans, is subject to little debate.

Legislative action on this issue cannot be allowed to turn on anecdotes. Unfortunately, people always have and always will fall through the cracks. During the debate in Congress, one will hear of isolated incidents after isolated incidents; the person who had to wait an inordinate amount of time to get a follow-up appointment; the person who was sent to the wrong specialist. These are the statements of members of Congress who realize the need for reform, but want the reform to wind up looking as much like the current system as possible.

The real question for people to focus on is how large are the cracks in the system, and how to close those gaps? A person with cerebral palsy may need physical therapy every week for his or her life. It is a common feature of health insurance plans to pay for only 10 visits per year for physical therapy. This is a major crack in the system and needs systemic reform.

A number of organizations that are involved with people with disabilities are working hard to try to shape the legislation to address the needs of people with disabilities. One such organization is Easter Seals. You can go to its Health Care Reform Web Site for information or directly to its "Support Health Care Reform Legislation" site to send messages to your members of Congress. I hope you will go to its "Support" web page; but, if not, at least, become familiar with the issues at its Health Care Reform site.

Thank you.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Emergency Information Forms for First Responders and Families

Autism Speaks, an organization devoted to helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorders in many, many ways, has posted a Web Site for its Autism Safety Project, a collaborative project of families and first responders.  This project has provided pdf files where all families who have have people with disabilities in them can print out the files to have on hand in case of an emergency or even a simple trip to the doctor.  These forms can be found at this web site,

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ethical Wills and Legacy Letters

Ethical Wills and Legacy Letters may be particularly helpful to parents and siblings of children with special needs.  The following is an except from an article written by Attorney Andrew Hook of Portsmouth, Virginia and published on Attorney Robert Fleming's blog at

A recent Investment News article by Kathleen M. Rehl discussed the value of parents leaving “legacy letters’ for their children and grandchildren to share after the parents are gone.  The author described the letter her mother had written shortly before her death.  “Please know how important you are to me and how much I love you.  Life has been such a fascinating and interesting adventure with you, my family, being a big part of this journey.”  She wrote about her values, lessons life taught her, and her love for each member of the family.  Ms. Rehl says that “[w]hat she experienced during her 84 years of life was much more valuable than the material stuff she left behind.”

Moe information about Ethical Wills can be found at  The website includes samples of ethical wills, written by people at various stages of their lives.

Ms. Rehl says that writing a legacy letter not only helps loved ones by communicating the meaning of the author’s life, but is a gift for the writer.  “In reflecting upon the past and recording thoughts on paper, writers learn about themselves, ponder what they stand for and have the opportunity to articulate that which is closest to their hearts.”  People can write their initial letter and keep it updated each year.

View Original Article

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Federal Student Aid -

Provides information on federal student aid and career resources to help unemployed workers pay for education and training to find new job opportunities.

View Original Article

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Comprehensive Autism Legislation Introduced in House of Representatives

The Autism Society of American reports that major legislation regarding autism was introduced into the House of Representatives last week as a companion to a bill introduced into the Senate in April.

"The Autism Society applauds this comprehensive autism legislation focused around enhancing the quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

The Autism Society especially applauds the inclusion of support services for adults on the autism spectrum in this bill. Currently, the federal government provides for educational services until age 21; however, autism is a lifelong disorder, and when the school bus stops coming, individuals and families are often left to fend for themselves. ATAA creates a demonstration project to provide an array of services to adults with autism spectrum disorders, including: postsecondary education; vocational and self-advocacy skills; employment; residential services, supports and housing; nutrition, health and wellness; recreational and social activities; and transportation and personal safety.

The legislation also would provide for the establishment of a national network in order to strengthen linkages between research and service initiatives at the federal, regional, state and local levels, and facilitate the translation of research on autism into services and treatments that will improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families. A national data repository would be created to share emerging data, findings and treatment models.

Other key aspects of the bill include:

* the establishment of a national training initiative on autism and a technical assistance center to develop and expand interdisciplinary training and continuing education on autism spectrum disorders; and
* a requirement that health insurers cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, including Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, assistive communication devices and other effective treatments.

The Autism Society needs your help in order to help pass this critical legislation. Please contact your U.S. Representative and ask him or her to co-sponsor the bill. We’ve composed an e-mail describing all the vital aspects of this bill but it will be especially effective if you add your own story describing how ATAA would help you and your family.

The time to act is now. Please support this important issue today, and urge your friends to take action as well. Together, we can improve the quality of live for individuals with autism across the lifespan."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Keeping Track of Healthcare Reform in Washington

For those of you interested in President Obama's effortsd to reform the nation's healthcare system, here is an article regarding the pledge of some healthcare providers to reduce the cost of healthcare and to support portions of the President's program.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ohio Insurance Reform


Your Senator Can Bring About Fair 
Health Insurance Rates

Ask Your Senator to "Keep the Open
Enrollment Reforms in H.B. 1"

Paying claims costs insurers money, so they
have a powerful reason to protect themselves
against covering individuals in less-than-perfect
health. In Ohio, insurers can deny coverage to
individuals with pre-existing conditions, exclude
coverage for a pre-existing condition, or charge
higher premiums. 

Over a decade ago, Ohio created an Open
Enrollment Program for people who were denied
coverage. Unfortunately, that Program no longer
works because the extremely high premiums are
out of reach for most Ohioans. Over 196,063
Ohioans between ages 50-64 are uninsured and
that number is growing with more lay-offs and
plant closures every day. For these individuals,
who do not have employer-based coverage,
insurance rates in 2010 are expected to average
$815 per individual per month. Some insurers
are advertising rates that exceed $3,000 per
individual per month. 

This can be fixed. The new Open Enrollment
Program in House Bill One will narrow the
wide variation in premiums. It will also limit
"cherry picking"... also known as "segmentation,"
to prevent unfair discrimination against individuals
with less-than-perfect health or with perceived
health risks. 

        There's no time to delay. 

    Please Call 1-888-844-5009

You will be connected to the office of Your Senator. 

Tell Your Senator... 

"Fix It Now. Keep the Open Enrollment Reforms
that were passed
by the House.  HB 1 -- State Budget Bill." 

Please send this Alert to others who support fair insurance rates.