Schleifer running for Congress, pledges to fight for: increased federal benefits for disability community, fight civil rights abuses and discrimination in schools and workplace, and invest in ADA-compliant infrastructure.
White Plains, NY – On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the American Disability Act (ADA), Adam P. Schleifer, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in New York’s 17th District, announced his plan to promote economic opportunity, inclusion, and justice for persons with disabilities throughout Rockland and Westchester Counties. Schleifer’s plan enumerates challenges that the disability community has faced for years — including in 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.
“As the brother of someone with special needs, ensuring the rights of people with disabilities is personal for me,” Schleifer comments. “People like my brother are productive and hard-working, and deserve the appropriate accommodations to thrive in school and in the workplace. I will work every day in Congress to ensure that the disability community has the same rights, freedoms, and privileges that are afforded to me and other able-bodied Americans.”
Schleifer’s plan comes at a critical time for people with disabilities. Today, a quarter of Americans live with a disability while a quarter of 20-year-olds will become disabled before retirement age. Adults with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty and twice as likely to be unemployed as those without a disability. Meanwhile, graduation rates for students with disabilities are 18 points lower than the graduation rate for students without disabilities.
To address these challenges, Schleifer’s plan starts by creating more economic opportunity for caretakers and people with disabilities by increasing savings, benefit, and earnings limits. Schleifer would raise monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly benefits for recipients, the vast majority of whom have a severe disability, as a means of lifting more people with disabilities out of poverty. Schleifer notes that more than half of recipients depend on SSI benefits as their sole source of income, yet, the current SSI monthly benefit of $771 means that many recipients still live under the federal poverty line. Schleifer also notes that SSI places a $2,000 limit on how much individual recipients can save without losing their benefits. Schleifer would propose eliminating this cap to give SSI recipients more flexibility to save for necessary expenses while worrying less about losing benefits as a result. Finally, Schleifer will raise the monthly earnings threshold of $1,260 for non-blind individuals and phase out benefits at a fair rate when earnings exceed this threshold. Currently, any non-blind individual earning more than $1,260 per month loses all of their SSDI and SSI benefits, disincentivizing many disabled Americans from entering the workforce.
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.
In education, Schleifer would fight for students with disabilities by pushing for greater enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a law that requires districts to provide adequate services to students with disabilities to succeed in school. A 2018 report by the National Council on Disability found that the federal government is failing to meet its financial obligation to support students with disabilities, paying out less than half of what it promised when it was passed. Schleifer would call upon the federal government to pay its fair share so that states have the full resources they need to educate students with disabilities.
Additionally, Schleifer would 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. Indeed, 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. As detailed in his gender equality plan, Schleifer would increase funding for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to eliminate discrimination against job applicants and employees with disabilities. Finally, he would offer incentives for businesses to hire employees with disabilities and support funding for sensitivity and educational training for employers and neurotypical employees in the workplace.
Finally, Schleifer calls for greater investments in critical infrastructure to comply with ADA regulations and make schools, public housing, transit systems, and other infrastructure more accessible to people with disabilities. These investments are in line with Schleifer’s housing and infrastructure and transportation plans, released earlier in May.
About Adam Schleifer:
Adam Schleifer, 38, graduated from Chappaqua’s public schools in 1999 and went on to attend Cornell University and Columbia University Law School, where he served as a Senior & Staff Development Editor on the Columbia Law Review. After graduating from law school, Schleifer served two years as a federal law clerk, first in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and then in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Schleifer then built a career at one of the nation’s leading law firms before reentering public service, first as a New York State consumer-protection regulator, and then as an Assistant United States Attorney. Schleifer has prosecuted regulatory and federal-criminal actions against predatory payday and subprime auto lenders; taken dangerous and illegal weapons out of communities; prosecuted crimes of sexual violence and predation; and protected our clean air by prosecuting a conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act. Adam Schleifer and his wife, Nicole, are residents of New Castle.
Schleifer: “As the brother of someone with special needs, ensuring the rights of people with disabilities is personal for me.”