The mission of VCDR is to advance the human and civil rights of people with disabilities to ensure full and equal participation in all aspects of community life and the political process.


VCDR Legislative 2013 End of Session Report


Legislative Summary

The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights is committed to participating in the legislative process to ensure that state policy and budget issues reflect the needs and values of Vermonters living with disabilities and their families. VCDR developed their Legislative Platform in December of 2012.

“Vermont was an early and successful pioneer in integrated education, employment and community service programs. In recent years some of our successes have been threatened by policy changes and budget reductions. As we entered this new legislative session we saw much to celebrate as well as reasons for concern.
VCDR has been concerned about children being diagnosed with developmental disabilities and disabilities affecting more Vermonters as they age, including family caregivers. At the same time, younger individuals moving from school to adult life continue to strive for equal opportunities to work and contribute to community life.

The interests and concerns of Vermonters with disabilities included are Medicaid benefits and long term care services that individuals with disabilities of all ages depend on to maintain health and independence; essential elements of health care reform; successful peer directed services and other mental health services;  children and families services, transportation and economic development initiatives; legal resources; educational services; and other state and community programs that promote self-determination, community participation, health and employment.”

~Deborah Lisi-Baker, Past President VCDR introducing the 2013 Platform

This year the proposed 2014 budget presented extraordinary challenges for persons living with disabilities and low income individuals and families still struggling to get by in these tough economic times.

The State had been through 6 years of State budget cuts, through a “Great Recession”, and recovering from Tropical Storm Irene. The federal budget situation was uncertain and more cuts to federal funding were expected.
At the same time, this state was experiencing dramatic increases in need for Developmental Disability Services and safety–net programs like LIHEAP, General Assistance, Crisis Fuel and Reach - Up to name a few. People currently on Vermont low income Health Programs were facing significant increases in their out of pocket cost as these Vermont programs end, and people are required to go into the federal Health Care Exchange.

The administration had termed a number of these human services budgets as “unsustainable” and proposed a budget that targeted people living with disabilities and  the poor and low income through budget cuts, tax increases, reductions in benefits, and increased cost for those who could least afford it.
VCDR worked to ensure that disability budget and policy concerns were addressed, and that the safety-net was maintained and the needs of Vermonters with disabilities would be addressed and result in policies and programs that are beneficial to all Vermonters.

Much of the Legislative session was consumed with the implementation of the Health Care Exchange, the proposed use of the EITC for Childcare purposes, the changes in Reach-Up policy, the Developmental Services budget, and Physician’s Assisted Suicide. As usual there were discussions about raising appropriate revenues, taxes and the budget process.
In addition to the Budget Bill and the Policy legislation there a numerous study committees, work groups and other groups created to look at various issues during the interim session.


VCDR Activities

The Vermont Coalition of Disability Rights member organizations attended and testified at 4 public Hearings, testified over 47 times on Disability Issues and Partner Organizations and Citizens testified 22 times on VCDR Disability Issues in Legislative Committees including: House Appropriations, Senate Appropriations, Senate Health and Welfare, House Human Services, House Health Care, Senate Judiciary, Senate Government Operations, House General Housing and Military, and House Education.
VCDR communicated with the greater disability community, legislators, state administrators and others through producing weekly calendars containing brief summary of legislative activity, committee schedules throughout the session highlighting those issues of interest to the disability community, and weekly links and descriptions of legislation introduced during the session. VCDR email “Alerts” included public hearing notifications, links to news articles and disabilities in the news, the Governor’s speeches, analysis of legislation, surveys, petitions, notifications of meetings and other events. VCDR Updates and Reports include the VCDR Platform, Budget Breakdowns, Analysis of Specific Legislation, and Legislative Session Reports.
(See selected news articles at end of report).

VCDR Member Organizations and others testifying on disability Issues included the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights (VCDR) , Green Mountain Self Advocates (GMSA), Brain Injury Association of Vermont, Vermont Family Network (VTFN), Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL), Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council (VSILC), Disability Rights Vermont (DRVT) and Vermont Federation of Families. VCDR worked closely with the Vermont Developmental and Disabilities Council, Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project, and the Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council, the Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health Services  and a number of other individuals, parents and advocates speaking out on VCDR platform and other disability Issues.

VCDR Platform issues, both Budget and Policy, acted upon during the 2013 Legislative Session included the FY 2014 Appropriations “Big Bill” with funding and policy issues related to Choices for Care, the MEDICAID
3% Reimbursement increase, Healthcare Subsidies, Developmental Disabilities Services funding and language, Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Legal Aid funding, and the Reach–Up policy changes and others.

Other VCDR Platform issues  acted upon included bills pertaining to Children’s Integrated Services, Mental Health Care, Adult Protective Services, Medicaid, and the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange; Independent Direct Support Providers (Unionization Efforts) among others.

VCDR Opposed legislation related to Physician Assisted Suicide, changes proposed to Special Education due process, and use of the Earned Income Tax Credit.



Disability Awareness Day

The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights and the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council once again hosted the annual Disability Awareness Day on March 28th at the Vermont Statehouse.

This year’s theme was the Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Closing of the Brandon Training School. Hundreds of people with disabilities participated in the day’s events, including : being introduced on the House Floor, visiting legislative committees, providing testimony, attending workshops  and informational sessions,  meeting with their legislators and speaking out on the State Budget funding for Disability Services.

The day ended with appetizers, a keynote speaker and a panel discussion about ”Moving Beyond the Barriers People with Disabilities Still Face 20 years after the Closing of Brandon Training School”. Curtis L. Decker, Executive Director of National Disability Rights Network, the nation’s largest non-governmental enforcer of disability rights gave the keynote. 

Others speakers and panel members included:  Bill Ashe, Executive Director of Upper Valley Services, supporting people with developmental disabilities s for over 40 years;  Gail Falk, who has had a distinguished career closing institutions in Vermont and West Virginia and building strong individualized supports for people with disabilities in their communities; and Larry Bissonnette, an advocate, artist and subject of  two award winning films, including  Wretches & Jabberers, a global quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. 

Numerous articles highlighted the Disabilities Services Budget and awareness of the Brandon Training School history and experiences.

(See full articles at end of the report) Quotes from Articles:

Deborah Lisi-Baker, a disability rights activist said, “We must never forget how leaders in the eugenics movement wrongly said that people with developmental disabilities should be segregated, or sterilized, or both.”

Nicole LeBlanc, a young activist who has autism said, “I was shocked to see the photos of how people lived when institutionalized at Brandon Training School. It is frightening to think how just 20 years ago, my sisters and brothers with disabilities were banished to a life of isolation and total segregation.” 


Fiscal Year 2014 Budget

BUDGET LEGISLATION -  H. 530 Fiscal Year Budget Bill – Act 50 

Legal Services

The legislature increased Vermont Legal Aid (VLA) funding by $125,000 to replace lost revenue from federal and organizational sources. VLA and Homeownership centers each received $75,000 for Mortgage Assistance

Childcare Subsidies - EITC

An initial proposal to increase childcare by $17 million using the Earned Income Tax Credit was reduced to an increase of $4.5M, changing FPL from ’09 to’13 and funding a 3% provider increase. NO Earned Income Tax Credit was used.

Medicaid Reimbursement

The Appropriation’s bill implements the Governor’s recommended cost shift (3% rate increase) and initial premium subsidy proposal.  Provides a 3% increase in provider reimbursement for DA’s, direct care workers, services to elderly, etc.
“Beginning on November 1, 2013, the Agency of Human Services shall increase Medicaid reimbursements to participating providers for services provided by an amount equal to three percent of fiscal year 2012 expenditures for those services.”

Premium Assistance

This transitions healthcare funding from VHAP and Catamount to VT Health Connect with premium subsidies and cost-sharing mitigation ($8M in all funds which annualizes to more than $16M) ($4.3 State plus Federal

Choices for Care

The bill defines “savings”, use of long term waiver funds, and priority use (after long term care) be given to home and community based services.

“The Department in collaboration with long-term care providers shall
conduct an annual assessment of the adequacy of the provider system for
delivery of home- and community-based services and nursing home services. In fiscal year 2014, as a result of federal action or emergency system funding needs, the Commissioner may present proposals for reinvestment of choices for care savings to the Joint Fiscal Committee at its September 2013meeting. Upon approval of the Joint Fiscal Committee, such reinvestments shall be authorized, notwithstanding E.308 of this act.”

Substance Abuse Continuum of Services Needs and Review

“The Secretary of Human Services shall report on the capacity of the
system, including outpatient, inpatient, residential treatment, and recovery
substance abuse, medical, and mental health services to address these needs”

Mental Health

The Department of Mental Health Budget contains $75,000 in general fund for the mental health housing vouchers, these funds will be matched with federal global commitment funds. The Governor and House had recommended a funding level of $100,000 for this item. There is also $50,000 for adult suicide prevention.

The new state hospital has received an appropriation to begin operating 16 beds in May 2014 with a report to the Joint Fiscal Committee in November recommending how many state hospital beds will be needed in total.

General Assistance

Up to $1.5M for Emergency Housing,
$400K for Family Supportive Housing,
$2.9M for Community Housing Grants,
 VT Rental Subsidy Program level funded at $500K.

DCF shall continue engage interested stakeholders in the design, implementation and evaluation of the GA flexibility program.

“The program may operate in up to 12 districts designated by the
Secretary of Human Services. The Agency shall establish outcomes and
procedures for evaluating the program overall, and for each district in which
the Agency operates the program, it shall establish procedures for evaluating the district program and its effects.”


The bill places a five year cap on Reach Up benefits beginning at age 18 with a two year baby deferment and additional deferments for other circumstances. It provides grants after 60 months for community service employment and meeting work requirement. It establishes a workgroup to analyze Reach Up effectiveness and outcomes, and transfers funds from  Vocational Rehab for substance abuse issues relating to employment.

“Up to $300,000 of the funds formerly budgeted within the Reach- Up
program for transfer to Vocational Rehabilitation and subsequently to
Department of Labor may be reallocated, including a transfer through the
Global Commitment waiver by the Commissioner for Children and Families
with the approval of the Secretary of Human Services and the Commissioner of Finance. The funds shall be used to address substance abuse and mental health as a barrier to employment for Reach Up participants.”

LIHEAP – Crisis Fuel

This year’s budget sets the first state funding for LIHEAP funded at $6 million in the budget – with the opportunity for additional funding available from reserves; adds Weatherization /LIHEAP program language from H.520 (Square footage calculation for Home Weatherization Services) and prioritizes for LIHEAP recipients for Weatherization Services.

Reduction of number of Crisis Fuel Assist (Estimated to save $1.4 million in LIHEAP)

“Crisis fuel grants shall be limited per winter heating season to one grant
for households that are income-eligible and have received a seasonal fuel
assistance grant and meet all eligibility requirements for crisis fuel assistance, or to two grants for households that are not income-eligible for seasonal fuel assistance and meet all eligibility requirements for crisis fuel assistance.”
Developmental Disabilities Services

In addition to finding a $2.5 million dollars “savings” in the Developmental Services Budget, language is added to DAIL to create a workgroup. Although there was interest in the House to delay any budget reduction until January of 2014 during the Budget Adjustment if savings could not be found the Senate was successful in trying to achieve that reduction before the end of this year.

Sec. E.333 Disabilities, aging, and independent living - developmental

(a) The Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living, the
Agency of Human Services, the Department of Finance and Management, and
the Joint Fiscal Office shall:

(1) After review of preliminary fiscal year 2013 close out of the
developmental services appropriation unit, present an estimate to the Joint
Fiscal Committee at its July 2013 meeting regarding the amount, if any, of the
fiscal year 2014 Developmental Services program budget that needs to be
addressed through administrative or operational changes in order to manage
the service needs within the appropriated funds;

(2) Review the methodology for forecasting both the caseload and
utilization for developmental disabilities programs and shall report any
recommendations for changing this methodology to the Joint Fiscal Committee
at its September 2013 meeting;

(3) Recommend a consensus estimate for the fiscal year 2015
developmental services caseload, utilization, and budget to the Emergency
Board at its January 2014 meeting.

(b) In anticipation that there will be some fiscal year 2014 amount of
administrative or operational changes needed to manage the service needs
within the appropriated funds, the Secretary of Human Services, or designee shall convene a Work Group to:

(1) assess whether the methods of developmental service case planning
and oversight should be revised;
(2) assess whether alternate practices could be identified, resulting in
more cost-effective use of the resources available for developmental services;
(3) determine what changes could be reasonably implemented in fiscal
year 2014 to manage the service needs within the appropriated funds and
identify the fiscal year 2014 amount, if any, of budgetary management that will
be accomplished through existing System of Care Plan rescission processes
based upon the estimate provided in subdivision (a)(1) of this section;
(4) report to the Joint Fiscal Committee at its September 2013 meeting
on subdivisions (b)(1)-(3) of this section;
(5) identify cost-effective, innovative models of care and develop
recommendations as to how these models could be implemented in Vermont;
(6) inform participants working to update the System of Care Plan for
June 2014 on these findings and recommendations.

(c) There is created a Work Group composed of the following members:

(1) the Secretary of Human Services or designee, who shall be chair;
(2) the Commissioner of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living or
(3) the Director of Developmental Services or designee;

(4) two members appointed by the Vermont Council of Developmental
and Mental Health Services;
(5) two members appointed by the Developmental Disabilities Council
who may be any combination of a parent of, a family member of, or a person living with a disability; and
(6) up to three additional members appointed by the Secretary or
designee deemed desirable for policy expertise or stakeholder input.

(d) For fiscal year 2014, no modifications or rescissions to the System of
Care Plan shall be initiated until September 1, 2013.

Excerpt from “Legislative Intent” on Sec. E.333 Work Group 

The department is expected to manage the program within the appropriated funds for fiscal year 2014. The intent of the work group process established in this section is to identify program changes to minimize or eliminate the need for rescissions in the developmental services program to accomplish this. It is anticipated that the work group will move forward as expeditiously as possible and that their recommended changes and/or rescissions will be implemented in a manner that minimizes negative impacts for consumers.


Policy Legislation

Selected legislation of interest to the Disability Community:

S.59 An act relating to Independent Direct Support Providers – ACT 48   

This legislation provides independent direct support providers the right to bargain with the state by through a union. The mandatory subjects of bargaining under this section include: compensation rates, workforce benefits, and payment methods and procedures, and professional development and training.

“Independent direct support provider” means any individual who provides home- and community-based services to a service recipient and is employed by the service recipient, shared living provider, or surrogate. 

“Service recipient” means a person who receives home- and community-based services under the Choices for Care Medicaid waiver, the Attendant Services Program (ASP), the Children’s Personal Care Service Program, the Developmental Disabilities Services Program, or any successor program or similar program subsequently established.

If the State and the exclusive representative reach an agreement, the Governor shall request from the General Assembly an appropriation sufficient to fund the agreement in the next operating budget. If the General Assembly appropriates sufficient funds, the negotiated agreement shall become effective and binding at the beginning of the next fiscal year.

If the General Assembly appropriates a different amount of funds, the terms of the agreement affected by that appropriation shall be renegotiated based on the amount of funds actually appropriated by the General Assembly and shall become effective and legally binding in the next fiscal year.

The law established a Self-Determination Alliance to advise the State on issues related to stabilizing the independent direct provider workforce and improving the quality of services provided to people with disabilities and elders who manage their services. The alliance shall consist of:
“The Commissioner of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living or designee;
The Commissioner of Health or designee;
Two service recipients who manage their services under Developmental Disabilities Services;
Two service recipients who manage their services under Choices for Care Medicaid Waiver;
Two recipients who manage their services under Attendant Services Program (ASP);
One service recipient who manages his or her services under the Traumatic Brain Injury Program;
One family member of a service recipient under Children’s Personal Care Program and one family member of a service recipient under Developmental Disabilities Services.”


S.4 An act relating to Health and Schools - Concussions Bill – ACT 68  

The Legislation further defines Concussions and Head Injuries and adds language to existing law on dealing with sports activities in schools:
Requires a management action plan for each school to address procedures surrounding the incidents of sports activities that can cause head injuries
Including effective methods to reduce the risk of concussions occurring during athletic activities; and protocols and standards for clearing a youth athlete to return to play following a concussion or other head injury, including treatment plans for such athletes and who makes the final decision that a student athlete may return to athletic activity among other requirements.

Language was added to S.4 an act relating to concussions and school athletic activities that requires the Department of Education and the Agency of Human Services to conduct a summer study on school mental health and substance abuse issues.

S.27 Respectful Language  (Currently in House Government Operations). As passed by Senate: 

The legislature passed a Respectful Language bill in 2011 that created a committee to review the Vermont Statutes and recommend language changes. Draft legislation was called for in 2012 to accomplish this and that legislation was acted upon in the 2013 Legislative Session. S.27 passed in the Senate and will be taken up in House Government Operations in 2014.   

S.77 An act relating to Patient Choice and Control at End of  Life  - ACT 39:

Although VCDR opposed “Physician-Assisted Suicide” and felt that the campaign to pass this legislation was happening at a time when there are  still many unresolved inequities in our current health care system, the legislature  did pass a “hybrid” version of  legislation that creates end of life “choice” for individuals to hasten their deaths. VCDR will continue to work on those policies that ensure equal access to the programs, practices and protections that will make quality palliative care, hospice, and community supports at the end of life a “real choice” for all Vermonters.

Act 39 Summary from Legislative website:   

This act creates a process in statute by which a physician may receive immunity from civil and criminal liability and professional disciplinary action for prescribing to a patient with a terminal condition medication for the patient to self-administer to hasten his or her death. It requires the physician to document the occurrence of 15 separate actions, some of which include multiple steps. After three years, the act repeals the statutory process and replaces it with immunity for physicians who take certain steps with respect to a patient with a terminal condition, including prescribing a dose of medication that may be lethal to the patient, if the patient later makes an independent decision to self-administer a lethal dose of the medication.

H.403 An act relating to Community Supports for Persons with Serious Functional Impairments – ACT 33

This legislation includes a study that will look at the needs of individuals with severe functional impairments who are incarcerated or at risk of incarceration. The Study Committee is charged with determining how to most effectively allocate funds within the constraints of past appropriations for this population.

The Study Committee includes:

“(1) the Secretary of Human Services;
(2) the Commissioner of Health;
(3) the Commissioner of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living;
(4) the Commissioner of Mental Health;
(5) the Commissioner of Corrections;
(6) the Commissioner of Vermont Health Access;
(7) the Commissioner for Children and Families;
(8) the Office of the Attorney General;
(9) the Mental Health Care Ombudsman;
(10) the Court Administrator;
(11) the Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health
(12) Vermont Legal Aid’s Mental Health Law Project;
(13) the Executive Director of the Vermont Developmental Disabilities
(14) the Executive Director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission;
(15) Disability Rights Vermont;
(16) Vermont Psychiatric Survivors;
(17) Vermont League of Cities and Towns;
(18) Office of the Defender General’s Prisoners’ Rights Office; and
(19) other interested stakeholders.”


Summary from the State Legislative web-site of community supports for persons with serious functional impairments: 
This act establishes a legislative study committee to examine the needs of persons, regardless of whether they are in the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections, with mental and functional impairments or developmental disorders so severe that they cannot live in the community without substantial supports and who have been charged with, or have been identified as being at risk of committing a criminal offense that renders them a threat to public safety, their own physical safety, or both.
This act directs the study committee to consider appropriate treatments and services for this population, practices for lowering this population’s recidivism rate, manners of protecting this population’s legal rights, approaches for managing the public safety risks posed by this population, and cost-effective treatment approaches used by other states to serve comparable populations.
H.533 an act relating to Capital Construction and State Bonding –
ACT 51 

The Capital bill specifies funding for the new state hospital and names it, the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin.  The Commissioner of Buildings and General Services is directed to develop a proposal to establish a permanent secure residential facility in January for the Legislature to consider


H.105 An act relating to Adult Protective Services Reporting Requirements – ACT 46

Act Summary from Legislative Web site:  

An act relating to adult protective services reporting requirements

This act requires the Commissioner of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL) to provide quarterly reports for two years regarding DAIL’s adult protective services (APS) activities, including the number of reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation that DAIL received and assigned for investigation and the reasons that some cases were not investigated. It also modifies the Agency of Human Services existing APS annual reporting requirement to include data on several additional possible outcomes for reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Effective Date: May 24, 2013

H.107 An act relating to Health Insurance, Medicaid, the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange, and the Green Mountain Care Board
- Act 79

Excerpt from Act Summary on Legislative web-site:  

This act makes a number of changes to laws affecting health insurance, Medicaid, the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange, the Green Mountain Care Board, and health care consumers, providers, and facilities….

The act creates an Office of the Health Care Advocate with duties similar to those of the existing Health Care Ombudsman, which the act repeals… The act allows the GMCB and DFR to bill-back to the regulated entities expenses associated with the duties of the Office of the Health Care Advocate for three years and caps at $300,000.00 the amount that can be billed back for this purpose during fiscal year 2014.

S.130 An act relating to Encouraging Flexible Pathways to Secondary School Completion - Act 77   

This act creates a Flexible Pathways Initiative within the Agency of Education to expand opportunities for secondary students to complete high school and achieve postsecondary readiness through high-quality educational experiences that acknowledge individual goals, learning styles, and abilities, dual enrollment in college classes.

The law includes identifying and providing necessary support for participating students and continuing to provide services for students with disabilities, participation by families and other engaged adults to guide decisions regarding course offerings and other high-quality educational experiences documented by a personalized learning plan.

A working group has been convened to consist of teachers and principals of elementary and secondary schools, superintendents, and other interested parties to support implementation of the personalized learning plan process, particularly in those schools that do not already have a process in place.

“The working group shall consider ways in which effective personalized learning plan processes enhance development of the evolving academic, career, social, transitional, and family engagement elements of a student’s plan and shall identify best practices that can be replicated in other schools.”


Other Legislation Passed or worked on this Legislative Session

Look up any Bill by Number:

H.99 An act related to Equal Pay -  ACT 31

H.349 An Act relating to the Timing of Due Process Actions related to the Provisions of Special Education. (Testimony taken in House Education – Group meeting on issue off session)

H.140 - An act relating to Choices for Care (Testimony Taken in House and Senate)

S.128 An act related to Updating Mental Health Judicial Proceedings
(Passed Senate – In House Human Services)

S.114 Mental Health Care Ombudsman
(S.114 was incorporated into S.128 as voted out of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare)

H.522 An act relating to Strengthening Vermont’s Response to Opioid Addiction and Methamphetamine Abuse - Act 75

S.155 An act relating to Creating a Strategic Workforce Development Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan – ACT 81

H.538 An act relating to making Miscellaneous Amendments to Education Funding Laws – ACT 60


Legislative Web-Site: 

Joint Fiscal Web-Site :  

VCDR Issues in the news

Sampling of VCDR Issues in the News:

Developmental Services: 

State Budget:

Developmental Services Funding:  

State System of Care Plan Changes: 

Physician Assisted Suicide:


Disability Awareness Day

VT Digger: 

WPTZ – Channel 5:

VT Seven Days: