Colorado’s Citizen Legislature – April 2018

~ By Doris Beaver ~

“In federal fiscal year 2016, over ten thousand people died waiting to be approved for federal disability benefits,” – a statistic that should haunt every legislator in this country.

House Bill 18-1192: The “maze” of paperwork for those in need of federal disability benefits can be daunting and downright frustrating for those needing help, many of whom are the most vulnerable in Colorado. HB 1192 creates a program to help individuals with disabilities apply for federal disability benefits.

The General Assembly’s legislative declaration declares, “It is necessary to help persons applying for or receiving aid to the needy disabled benefits in navigating the application process for federal disability benefits.” Here are the findings the legislation is based on:

  • Federal disability benefits, including supplemental security income and social security disability insurance, help Coloradans with the most significant disabilities achieve stability providing income for necessities, including housing;
  • The state aid to the needy disabled program is approximately $200 per month to individuals who cannot work due to a severe disability while the individuals are applying for federal disability benefits. Such limited income cannot possibly meet the basic needs, often leading to being unable to engage in sickness prevention or health maintenance activities, resulting in high-cost emergency room visits or other high-cost medical treatment.
    Past medical records are required in the process while enduring debilitating mental and physical health conditions and the additional barrier of extreme poverty;
  • Despite extreme needs, applicants determined to be eligible are often denied multiple times;
  • Delayed access prolongs homelessness or put individuals at risk of homelessness (57 percent of Colorado’s chronically homeless population are persons with disabilities);
  • Delayed access places Coloradans with disabilities at increased risk of health crisis. Nationally, in federal fiscal year 2016, over ten thousand people died waiting to be approved for federal disability benefits; (writer’s emphasis)
  • Assistance in applying for federal benefits improves the rate of approval of initial applications, and therefore reduces the time it takes for individuals to access federal disability benefits; and
  • Access to federal disability benefits improves the stability, health and well-being of persons living with disabilities, reduces state spending on homeless services, preventable emergency health care and other public programs and boosts the state and local economies by providing federally funded support that recipients spend in Colorado cities and counties to meet their basic needs.

Sponsors of House Bill 18-1192: Representatives Lois Landgraf (R-El Paso) 866-2946, and Michaelson Jenet (D-Adams) 866-2945; and Senator Don Coram, (R-Archuleta, Dolores, LaPlata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan, San Miguel), 866-4884.

House Bill 18-091: Dementia diseases and related disabilities describe a condition where “mental ability declines and is severe enough to interfere with an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks, and include Alzheimer’s disease, mixed dementia, Lewy Bodies dementia, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and other types of dementia.”

  • HB 1091 provides for these updates on terminology for Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases:
  • to reflect both the range of dementia diseases and the impact on a person’s functioning in terms of memory and cognitive ability;
  • adds persons with dementia diseases and related disabilities to the Missing Senior Citizen and Missing Persons with Developmental Disabilities Alert Program operated by the Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies; and
  • renames the Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment and Research Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine as the Dementia Diseases and Related Disabilities Treatment and Research Center.

HB 1091 passed its third reading in the Senate on March 8, 2018.
Sponsors of House Bill 18-091: Representatives Susan Beckman (R-Arapaho) 866-2953, and Joann Ginal (D-Larimer) 866-4569; and Senators Jim Smallwood (R-Douglas) 866-4869, and Nancy Todd (D-Arapaho) 866-3432.

Doris Beaver is a free lance journalist who writes from her home high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains on senior issues, politics, ethics and environmental issues. Visit her website www.dorisbeaver.com, or e-mail her at doris@dorisbeaver.com.