Health care is a human right and our current system is broken. With millions of people laid off and facing financial hardships, the COVID-19 pandemic only highlights how bad an employer based system is. Everyday people struggle with health care costs and choices because insurance premiums and copays have become unreasonably high with no end in sight.
I strongly believe in a clear, definite pathway to single payer healthcare.
The ACA was a step in the right direction. Letting students stay on their parents’ insurance plans longer and removing pre-existing conditions were essential reforms, but not nearly enough. We are the richest country in the world. No one should be afraid to go to the doctor because of the potential medical bills. We can, and we should do more by moving towards a single player system. While we can use a public option as a runway to a single payer system, we must agree that the end goal is to ensure complete healthcare for every single person in the United States and we should make that clear in the legislation reforming our healthcare system.
I am the only candidate in this race with experience taking on big insurance and pharmaceutical companies. When a big pharma company sold a harmful drug that made seniors go blind, my law firm took them on and got the drug pulled from the market. For too long, I’ve seen insurance companies accept expensive premiums and then try to get out of paying for their clients' healthcare. I’ve fought those companies in court, and in Congress,
I’ll fight them in DC to pass healthcare that works for your health, not corporate profit.
Admittedly healthcare is a big, complex issue. However, we can start addressing our broken health system now with some of these immediate, commonsense, bipartisan steps:
- Allow Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. We need to end this giant giveaway to pharmaceutical companies, at the expense of everyday Americans. As the largest buyer of prescription drugs, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices would lower the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans. Van Taylor recently voted against HR 3, which allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices. I am the only candidate in this race with experience taking on pharmaceutical companies. When a company sold a harmful drug to seniors that made them go blind, my firm took them on, held them accountable, and we helped get the drug pulled off the market. In Congress, I’ll take on Big Pharma and stop the price gouging, so you can afford your prescriptions.
- End surprise billing, also known as balance billing. No one should be hit with an expensive and often crippling bill after an emergency, especially while insured. In Congress, I would work to pass legislation enabling providers and insurers to work together to end surprise billing.
- Protect women’s health. I fully support a woman’s right to choose. That is a decision between her and her doctor, and the government has no place in that conversation.
-Expand access to mental health. Mental health care services are routinely and consistently overlooked. We need to increase access to mental health providers, and provide incentives for providers to go into underserved areas.
- Treat addiction as a health concern. Addiction has been tearing apart families and communities for too long. Treating drug addiction as a crime is a waste of resources and does not solve the underlying problem. We need to treat those dealing with this disease with compassion and respect, while shifting resources to rehab and treatment programs that can actually help people overcome addiction.
We have come a long way in advancing women’s rights, but as a father with 3 daughters I know there’s still a lot of work to be done. I will fight to remove the barriers that women face in today’s society and work to expand and protect women’s rights.
In Congress, I will:
- Protect the right to choose. I strongly support a woman’s right to choose and support the Women’s Health Protection Act. That decision is between a woman and her doctor. The government should not be interfering in these incredibly difficult and personal decisions.
- Protect women’s reproductive health and freedom. We need to ensure access to family planning and contraception, which has played a huge part in reducing the number of teen pregnancies and abortions. I will oppose any effort to defund organizations that provide medical services for women, especially those in underserved communities.
- Ensure equal work for equal pay. I believe that everyone should get equal pay for doing the same work. I support the Paycheck Fairness Act to help close the wage gap between men and women, especially women of color.
- End violence against women. We need to provide support and resources for victims of domestic violence, abuse, and harassment. I would support reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which would not only safeguard, but also expand, access to justice and safety for all survivors. It is unacceptable that Van Taylor voted against reauthorization and North Texans deserve better.
I’m sick and tired of waking up every day and hearing about a new instance of gun violence. There are concrete, bipartisan steps we can take today, that would reduce the gun violence epidemic and save lives. My opponent, Van Taylor, is funded by and has an “A” rating from the NRA, and is more concerned with pandering to the NRA and gun manufacturers than the safety of his constituents.
In Congress, I will:
-Close the gun show loophole and make sure there are background checks on every gun sale. We need to do everything we can to make sure criminals, domestic abusers, and those that want to use weapons to harm others do not have guns. Right now, unlicensed sellers are able to sell guns without a background check. We need to make sure every sale goes through a background check to ensure guns stay out of the hands of irresponsible people.
- Keep weapons of war out of our neighborhoods. I support an assault weapons ban. We should keep these weapons out of our neighborhoods, schools, places of worship, and our communities.
- Support extreme risk protection laws. Also known as “red flag” laws, this would ensure that those that are at extreme risk to harm themselves, or others, do not have access to a gun. Gun deaths account for over half of all suicides, and we should do everything we can do prevent that. This would save lives immediately.
- Fund the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to research gun violence. The gun violence epidemic is a public health crisis and we should treat it as such. I support funding the CDC to research gun violence and find solutions to save lives.
These are just some common sense solutions that we can take immediately and save lives right away. But we need elected officials that won’t bow down to the NRA and that will stand up and take bold action.
The power in our government should reside in the people, not corporations and special interests. For too long, government has only served the privileged few, and it’s time to get it back to serving everyday Americans. I am committed to rooting out corruption and restoring the rule of law to our government.
- Increase transparency in elections. While candidates for elected office have to disclose all donors that contribute over $200, so called Super PACs or “dark money” groups are not required to do so. I would support any legislation that requires outside groups that spend money to influence elections to disclose all their donors. Furthermore, digital advertising in elections should be held to the same disclosure rules as television, mail, and radio.
- Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Dark money has a corrupting influence on our government. I strongly support any effort to curb and eventually stop the influence that super PACs have on our elections. Until we can get rid of super PACs, we should make sure they are as transparent as possible, and make them fully disclose their donors and ads.
- Reduce the number of career politicians. I fully support enacting term limits on members of Congress. Furthermore, we need to put an end to the revolving door in government. Congress should not be a stepping stone to a cushy lobbying job and I support a lifetime ban on Congresspeople becoming lobbyists. There should not even be the perception that a vote is taken to earn favor with a special interest group.
- Improve voter access and protect election security. There should be as few barriers to voting as possible. I support HR 1 which would, among other things, make Election Day a holiday and make it easier for the public to vote. Furthermore, we need to take steps to ensure our voting machines are secure and accurate.
- Protect and advance voting rights. We need to end partisan gerrymandering. We must preserve and expand the voting franchise. Van Taylor voted against the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 because he is happy with current efforts to suppress full and fair voting. We need representatives that believe in strong and expansive voting rights and that will fight against efforts at suppressing the vote.
- Get money out of politics. Our elected officials need to listen to the will of the people, not special interests. I am not and will not take any corporate PAC money and will fight for legislation to remove the undue influence of money in politics.
Everyone can agree that we need to get special interests out of politics and get our government working for us again. If we remove corruption in our government, commonsense, bipartisan legislation becomes so much easier to enact.
North Texans need a Representative that understands that climate change is a real threat to our community. It is the existential crisis of our time and we should use every tool at our disposal to address the problem. We should not see fighting climate change as a burden, but an opportunity. Texas has always been a leader in energy, and we can be a leader in lucrative, green, sustainable, and clean energy. We’re already doing it with wind energy, but we can do more.
In Congress I will:
- Invest in clean, sustainable energy. Texas has the opportunity to be the leader in 21st century, high paying, clean jobs. It is estimated that we spend over $20 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. That should be shifted to new, innovative, clean energy. We need to work with the private sector to encourage research and innovation and provide incentives for new technologies to be implemented right here in Texas. I support a transition to 100% clean energy by 2035.
- Restore and protect the EPA and NOAA. In Congress, I would work to restore and strengthen the ability of the EPA and NOAA to keep our environment and communities safe. I’ve seen firsthand how bad corporate actors can take advantage of hard working, everyday people, and I am committed to making sure they don’t do the same to the places we live. We should impose heavier restrictions on HFC superpollutants and ensure that new building construction is done with new and aggressive environmental benchmarks.
- Implement market-based solutions in tandem with emission regulations. The threat of climate change is too important of an issue and the threat is too serious not to consider all our options. The status quo is evidence that a purely market-oriented approach to addressing the climate issue is insufficient. But markets can be ruthlessly effective if properly regulated and supported. I would support efforts to tax the price of carbon while at the same time working to establish federal clean energy standards that create both uniformity and certainty in America’s approach to confronting the climate crisis.
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Change Accords. I would do everything I can in Congress to ensure America rejoins the Climate Accords and work with the international community to protect our planet. America must be a global leader on climate change and we should not shirk our responsibility to the planet.
This is an issue that affects all Texans, regardless of political affiliation. We all live in this community and deserve a Representative committed to protecting our environment for our children and grandchildren.
Jobs and The Economy
Collin County’s economy has been growing remarkably fast over the past ten years. But we must remain vigilant to ensure we improve the economy for those still hurting and prepare for an inevitable downturn in the business cycle. To ensure our economy gets better for everyone and stays strong, we need to protect workers, invest in education and infrastructure, and ensure equal rights for all.
- Invest in our infrastructure. With North Texas booming in development, we need to make sure our roads and bridges can handle the increased traffic. With greater investments in infrastructure, we can connect jobs with people and make Collin County an even more attractive destination for employers. A more efficient and modernized infrastructure will increase Collin County’s and North Texas’s productivity and growth rates.
- Invest in sustainable, green energy. Texas can be and should be the nation’s leader in green, sustainable energy from solar to wind. We can create a cleaner future for our children and ensure there are plenty of high paying jobs here in our community.
- Protect workers’ rights. Only by standing together can we address the growing inequality between working families and those at the top. The right of all workers to organize and collectively bargain is important to me and I would oppose any effort that limits or takes away from collective bargaining rights. There is a reason that the middle class is being hollowed out and income inequality is skyrocketing – a steady assault on labor rights. We must work to reverse this trend to ensure the economy grows for everyone, not just those at the top.
- Raise the minimum wage. Texas has not increased its minimum wage in decades and it’s time companies paid their workers a fair wage. Years of stagnant wage growth have deepened and worsened economic inequality. I support increasing the federal minimum wage to help hard working people worry less about caring for themselves or their families.
Enact paid parental leave and greater access to child care. When families succeed, our economy succeeds. No one should ever be forced to choose between supporting their family and their job. Enacting parental leave and greater access to child care, parents can stay in the workforce and help drive the economy forward.
- Equal pay for equal work. It’s unfathomable that women get paid less than men for the same work. And that gap only increases with non-white women. We need to make sure that people get paid equally for their work, regardless of background.
- Invest in education and jobs training. North Texas is booming with a job friendly environment. However, we have to make sure everyone in our community has access to the education and training required to fill these jobs. Whether that’s an advanced degree or skills learned at a community college or with an apprenticeship, we need to work with the private sector to match supply with demand. With an educated workforce, Collin County can become a hub of innovation and economic growth for years to come.
- Protect and expand Social Security. Seniors who’ve worked their whole lives and paid into the system should not have to worry about their Social Security benefits. I will fight to protect Social Security, which so many of our seniors depend on. President Trump’s 2020 budget proposes massive cuts to both Social Security and Medicare. We must have a representative that is willing to fight for Social Security and stand up to President Trump. Van Taylor will not.
I grew up in North Texas and went to public schools my whole life. My wife and I chose to make this district our home because of the great public schools in the area, which our daughters now attend. I know firsthand the value of a strong public education system, and in Congress I will:
- Support universal Pre-K and early education. Studies have consistently shown that early education is a strong predictor for later academic success. I will support legislation that provides Pre-K for all children.
- Oppose privatization of schools at the expense of public schools. Too often, charter and private schools are oversold and wind up draining resources away from our public schools. I support holding charter schools to the same standards and guidelines as public schools and oppose efforts to siphon away resources from public schools in favor of private schools.
Support our teachers. Educators are among the most influential people in our children’s lives. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and need resources so they can focus on educating our children. I support providing incentives like loan forgiveness, to attract more qualified teachers and paying a competitive salary to keep them in the profession. Furthermore, we should strive to provide every school with support staff so teachers can just focus on teaching.
- Fight to fulfill the funding promise for the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). When IDEA was crafted decades ago, Congress promised to fund 40% of the extra cost of special education. Even though more students need special education, Congress has continued to chronically underfund IDEA. That is unacceptable and in office, I will fight to meet that commitment to fund special education.
- Place a greater emphasis on career education. There is a need for workers in high paying and rewarding technical and trade jobs. Our schools should be preparing students not just for college, but for any profession they are interested in – whether that be a trade school, apprenticeship program, or otherwise. Students should be aware of all the options available to them and pick the path that is best for them.
- Tackle the problem of student loan debt. The problem is twofold. We need to figure out a way to lower the cost of tuition, and provide relief for those already saddled with student loan debt. Everything from allowing debt to be cancelled in bankruptcy to expanding student loan forgiveness programs for those that give back to their communities, no one should be under crushing debt for choosing an education.
Every child has the right to a quality education, regardless of where they live, family income, or skin color. Education is the backbone of any strong society and is the catalyst for innovation and a strong economy. An investment in our children and our educational system is a core investment in our country.
I support comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for those already here and makes it easier to accept those coming in.
In Congress, I will:
- Support a pathway to citizenship for law-abiding immigrants. We need to find a way to ensure immigrants that are working hard, contributing to the economy, paying taxes, and abide by the law become citizens.
- Support a clean DREAM Act. DREAMERS who have lived here all their lives and are hard working contributors to society should have a pathway to citizenship. This only serves to boost our economy and make us stronger.
- Secure our borders. Trump’s border wall is an archaic, expensive, inefficient method of border safety that is largely a symbolic gesture. I would not support federal funds going to such a project. Instead, I would support methods that work, such as increased surveillance and training.
- Support our judicial system to better handle immigration cases. There is a backlog of over a million immigration cases that need to be processed. Everyone deserves a speedy and fair trial, and these cases need to be resolved immediately.
- End the crisis at the border. Families should not be separated and everyone deserves to be treated humanely and with respect. We should welcome refugees and asylum seekers but their cases need to be heard quickly and fairly. I would also support ways to improve conditions in their home countries, to stem the flow of refugees and asylum seekers.
Diversity has always been one of our greatest strengths. We should welcome our immigrants and make it easier for them to be fully contributing citizens of our country, which would only boost our economy and make us stronger.
Time and time again, we see the mistreatment of black Americans by the police. The tragic and unnecessary killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others make it clear that we need to fight for racial justice. We need policies that work to stop the mistreatment of black people at the hands of the police and the justice system. We need to maximize empathy and compassion, and listen to and lift up communities of color. I don’t know what all the solutions are, but there are some things I think Congress can do to help fight this grave injustice. This is not an exhaustive list, and I will work with the black community to find answers.
- End “qualified immunity” for police officers, and public officials. Qualified immunity is essentially a get out of jail free card for many police officers. That should change. Police need to be at exposure personally for deaths or brutality that occurs on their watch. It will make them think twice and begin to shift cultural attitudes of indifference to police violence and be a source of potential monetary justice for the aggrieved.
- Ensure civil rights oversight is enforced and observed by the DOJ. As a Congressman, I would put pressure, if not craft legislation, aimed at ensuring the civil rights division of the DOJ is actively working to pursue compassionate policing training and policies but also actively working to enforce and punish violations of the civil rights laws. We should also work to establish civilian oversight of police departments.
- Expand the use of body cameras. While many cities require their police officers to wear body cameras, I will work to make it mandatory for all police officers, and provide funding for smaller jurisdictions that can’t afford it. Furthermore, steps should be taken to ensure that body cameras are always on, such as fined for when they are not, and immediate termination if a body camera is off during an interaction with a civilian.
- Ensure better training for police officers. I would provide incentives for police departments to have mandatory training for their officers that include racial sensitivity and implicit/explicit bias training. This should be mandatory for all departments that receive any federal assistance.
- Eliminate or reduce the militarization of the police. The 1033 Program permits excess military equipment to be transferred to state and local police departments. Billions of military-grade equipment has been transferred under this program to local police departments and, incredibly, even school districts. President Obama issued an executive order to limit and prohibit certain equipment transfers. Predictably, President Trump reversed this executive order and rolled back the Obama-era suspensions. It is time for Congress to pass legislation that ends the transfer of military grade equipment to local police forces or school district security forces.
- Set a new federal standard of force. Emphasis should be placed on de-escalation and non lethal tactics, especially for non violent suspects. The use of lethal force should not be a standard operating procedure, and should only be an absolute last resort. We can use new technology and tactics to focus on de escalation and save lives, while keeping police officers safe. We need more legislation like HR 4408, introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, would prohibit the use of chokeholds.
- End cash bail. Cash bail unfairly targets poor communities, and no one should be held in jail simply because they don’t have money.
- End racial disparities in the justice system. Whether it’s discriminatory policing, or disparities in sentencing, it’s unacceptable that black Americans are unfairly targeted by the police and receive longer sentences. Justice should be equal for all. There’s no reason why a white person that commits fraud receives a lesser sentence than a black person possessing marijuana.
- End “broken windows” policing. Nonviolent, minor crimes should not mean automatic jail time. Too often, these activities are a result of mental health issues, homelessness, poverty, or other problems with our society. They should be addressed by social services and healthcare professionals. We need to ensure that all abandon tactics like “stop and frisk” which too often racially profiles black and brown Americans.
- End the war on drugs, and treat addiction as a health concern. The war on drugs has clearly failed. It only serves to disproportionately jail people of color, and doesn’t help those suffering from addiction. And it’s long past time that we decriminalize marijuana and expunge records for non violent users.
- End for profit incentives in our justice system. Our criminal justice system should not be used to generate profit. Whether that’s ending police quotas, getting rid of private prisons, or other pro profit positions, our goal should be rehabilitation, justice, and equality, not corporate profit.
These are just some of the policy ideas that are needed to reform our system. In Congress, I will work with groups like Campaign Zero, to make sure that the black community, which is disproportionately affected by police brutality, is very involved with the process. Make no mistake, there are concrete steps that Congress can take to make meaningful reform, but we need Representatives willing to challenge the status quo and speak truth to power.
A portion of the work I have done over the past four years has been personal injury litigation involving significant injuries that have left individuals with disabilities. We have worked with medical providers and therapists to ensure our clients receive necessary and important medical care and treatment. We have worked with life care planners to evaluate, price, and advocate for full and fair treatment for individuals suffering from traumatic injuries that have left them with certain disabilities. These clients have built in me a deep reservoir of compassion and empathy for individuals with disabilities and I recognize the importance of advocating for these issues.
We need to make sure our government works for everyone, and I firmly believe we should be actively working to protect the rights of those that have been traditionally overlooked. I’m especially proud to have received the endorsement of the Collin County Democrats With Disabilities and I will always do my best to ensure that people with disabilities have an ally and an advocate as their representative. I would listen and work with individuals with disabilities to outline the areas where Congress can improve their lives, and I would:
- Fight for a single payer healthcare system, where all individuals receive the treatment they require. But in the meantime, we have to do what we can to protect and expand Medicaid. Medicaid provides critical healthcare, especially to disabled people, and we need to make it as robust as possible. I vociferously oppose the cuts recently proposed in the Trump Administration’s 2021 budget. I would also work hard to roll back the recent and stricter work requirements imposed by the Trump administration, as that could disproportionately target and affect individuals with disabilities. In the short term, Congress must ensure the Affordable Care Act is not struck down as unconstitutional, should strengthen its provisions to help stabilize insurance markets and reduce premium costs, and make exceptionally clear that individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage simply because of their pre-existing condition or chronic illness. Congress should consider passing separate legislation on this last point to ensure that portion of the ACA is not struck down in the pending constitutional challenge in the Northern District of Texas federal court.
- Protect access to state & federal safety nets like Medicaid. There are at least three specific reforms that should be taken immediately: (1) Congress should pass legislation that reverses the recent work requirements added to Medicaid and restrict the executive agencies discretion to adversely regulate the social safety net out of existence; (2) Congress should pass the Disability Integration Act, which has broad support and would help people with disabilities receive care in their home if they so choose; and (3) Congress should reject any cuts to Medicare and Medicaid outlined in the 2021 Budget and steadfastly hold the line against a strategy of block granting medical funding to the states.
- Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) to make sure children with disabilities have the resources needed to succeed both in the classroom and in the workforce. My family has been advocating for strong public education funding at the state level for the past several years. Fully funding these programs would enable state budgets to reallocate special education resources to other programs and make state public education dollars go further in impacting the lives and education of kids across the state. If the states chose to not reallocate resources and instead chose to have even deeper and more meaningful special education programs or provide even broader support education initiatives for kids with disabilities, that would also be a victory. In any event, fully funding IDEA is an essential piece of assisting public education and championing the cause of education for those children with disabilities.
Children need to have teachers and staff with appropriate training, and the schools themselves should be 100% accessible to children with special education needs. I see two significant barriers to this worthy goal: (1) funding needs at the state level to ensure reasonable and necessary accommodations are timely made and (2) stigmas associated with children with disabilities. Both of these can be solved, but it requires significant funding from the federal level because the states, and Texas in particular, have already proven they will not sufficiently fund these programs. Teacher and Administrator certification and education courses focusing on the needs and capabilities of children with disabilities should likewise be offered and funded. That guarantees the educators that deal with these children are both sensitive to all of their needs and have best pedagogical practices for children with disabilities at the forefront.
- Support efforts to curb discrimination against individuals with disabilities, whether that’s in school, the workplace, home care, or otherwise. I believe we can do more to ensure that broader civil remedies are present for individuals with disabilities and would be an advocate for legislation that provides broader rights to individuals to sue for such discrimination.
- Supporting initiatives that educate people about disabilities, individuals with disabilities, and how disabilities do not have to be and are often not limiters. One component of the GOP-led ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 that should be implemented (albeit as a standalone bill not tied to restrictions on civil remedies, which was the ultimate GOP goal with that bill) was the requirement that the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice develop a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability. This is exactly right and we should pass legislation that does, in fact, accomplish this education objective without tying it to restrictions on civil remedies.
- Support incentives to businesses that train and hire disabled individuals. I support increasing and making it easier to enforce penalties on discrimination and failing to be ADA compliant. I would incentivize and reward businesses that do hire and train individuals with disabilities, with tax breaks or credits. And I would support companies owned by people with disabilities when it comes to bringing resources back into the district.
- Oppose legislation that makes it easier for businesses to discriminate against people with disabilities. Congress should stop taking actions like the ADA Education and Reform Act, which promises guidance and education on disability accessibility issues, but then specifically removes civil protections for individuals facing structural discrimination based on inaccessibility.
- Oppose federal legislation that attempts to prevent or preclude individuals with disabilities from exercising their Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. The ADA Education and Reform Act specifically attempts to mandate alternative dispute resolution in an effort to permit businesses that do discriminate against individuals with disabilities from having to face a jury of their peers. That type of legislation is both demeaning to individuals with disabilities and contrary to our constitutional system.
- Strengthen and perhaps even extend trial work periods and extended eligibility periods currently provided for under the Social Security Disability Insurance program. For example, the SSDI benefit program allows individuals with disabilities to try and go back to work without fear of losing benefits for a nine month period and receive both employment income and SSDI benefit. I would support increasing the trial work period and would consider expanding the threshold income requirements that trigger the period. In addition, the SSDI benefits program permits a 36 month extended eligibility period to receive disability benefit income and employment income so long as the employment income is not substantial. Congress should specifically study the threshold amounts to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not faced with a choice between choosing a non-living wage and forgoing disability benefits. Getting the income/benefit mix right is both the compassionate and just thing to do and one that Congress must carefully study and consider to ensure that the SSDI benefit programs are achieving their desired ends.
- Help people with disabilities to explore home and community based services. The Disability Integration Act would require public and private insurance to cover home and community based services. I support efforts like the National Nursing Shortage Reform Act that allocates federal funding to educate and train nurses. I would also specifically target and provide funding (whether it be scholarships, grants, or no interest loans) for those that want to become nurses or community attendants serving people with disabilities. I also support investing in education and training for caregivers and other staff that work in home and community based care. I would also support transition housing assistance in the form of either tax-based credits or perhaps housing subsidies to ensure that individuals with disabilities that choose home care instead of institutional care have the means to afford their own homes.
- Provide for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the community. I support legislation like the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, which would provide tax incentives for new and affordable housing. I would also support tax incentives, including individual tax credits for individuals with disabilities to assist with home purchasing. Congress should create a select committee on disability housing and study the impact and need of public assistance funds to supplement housing costs for individuals unable to afford permanent housing as a result of or because of their disability.
- Make it easier for individuals with disabilities to access the justice system to seek justice. We should do things like provide funding, training, and staff to prosecutors helping sexual assault victims and give courts greater leeway in letting people with disabilities testify in an environment that’s comfortable for them. I also support making a registry of caregivers to increase transparency. And we need to increase services and education for the disabled community, so they can identify abuse, and can easily speak out so justice is served. I would support legislation that provides federal penalty enhancements for crimes against individuals with disabilities. Penalty enhancements can offer both a certain degree of punitive justice, but are likely even more effective as important signals from our collective criminal justice system that crimes against the vulnerable, including people with disabilities, are more threatening and insidious.
- Increase benefits for veterans with disabilities. Congress should start with ensuring that the cost-of-living adjustments (“COLA”) reflect the current reality of our economic situation. I would support something like the current proposed legislation in the Senate, Veterans’ Disability Compensation Automatic COLA Act of 2019, which mandates automatic annual increases in disability benefits consistent with Social Security indexing benefit increases. Congress should also consider legislation that funds a specific component of the VA’s Transition Assistance Program that is designated for counseling and assistance for veterans with disabilities. As it is presently constituted, it appears that the majority, if not all, of the Transition Assistance Program is calibrated towards veterans without disabilities returning to civilian life and entering into the regular labor force. We should be mindful of the needs and capabilities of all of our veterans, including those returning home with service-incurred disabilities or otherwise, and dedicate a specific portion of the funding towards facilitating specific transition assistance to these veterans with disabilities.
- Advance innovations that promote increased employment, access and independence for people with disabilities. I support efforts to reauthorize the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 and would support legislation in the U.S. House similar to the pending Senate Bill 1835 (“21st Century Assistive Technology Act”), which recognizes the need for additional federal-state partnership and leadership on incentivizing continued assistive technology development. As the bill makes clear, “the rapid and unending evolution of technology requires a Federal-State investment in State assistive technology programs, as well as an investment in protection and advocacy systems, to continue to ensure that individuals with disabilities reap the benefits of the technological revolution and participate fully in life in their communities.” I fully support such efforts and believe that the federal government is at its best when it sets high standards for success and integration and partners with the states to ensure that the standards and goals are met.