Communications from SPW

August 24, 2018

VA Wrongly Denies MST Claims

Logos of the VA and VA OIGWe were distraught and disheartened – but sadly, not surprised – by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General report released Tuesday, which found that nearly half of the denied claims related to military sexual trauma were denied due to improper processing.

Wrongly denying services for MST is life-threatening. It is hard enough for a survivor to trust someone enough to disclose their experience in the first place – let alone go through this challenging process of applying for benefits only to be turned away. Continue reading “VA Wrongly Denies MST Claims”

August 14, 2018

Why the DIA is the Civil Rights Act of Today

Disability Integration Act supporterThe last 25 years have seen a massive shift toward preserving the ability of people with disabilities to remain integrated members of their communities. A bill now before Congress would go a long way toward making that the law of the land.

The Disability Integration Act addresses the fundamental issue that people who need long term services and supports (LTSS) are forced into institutions and thereby lose their basic civil rights. It would prohibit governments and insurers from denying home and community-based services (HCBS) that would enable these persons to live in the community and lead an independent life. Continue reading “Why the DIA is the Civil Rights Act of Today”

June 7, 2018

Empowering Patients to Drive Research

SCI Research Readiness Training Cohort Visit the site – see their stories
SCI Research Readiness Training Cohort
Visit the site – see their stories

We spend a great deal on medical research that often does not reflect the interests of people who have the condition.

In 2016, $171.8 billion was spent on medical and health research and development in the United States, the majority (67.4%) financed by industry, which includes biopharmaceutical developers, medical technology developers and healthcare service companies. Federal spending on medical and health research is subject to statutory budget caps.

The American Journal for Managed Care estimates that the US spends less than 5 cents of each health dollar on research and development. The result is industry-driven research that doesn’t reflect the needs and priorities of those who stand the most to gain from it – real people with the actual condition being studied. Continue reading “Empowering Patients to Drive Research”

May 16, 2018

What’s in Our New 1115 Behavioral Health Waiver?

Man in hoodie drinking by the side of the roadThis month, we celebrated the long-awaited approval of llinois’ 1115 behavioral health waiver. Having testified in 2016 on an early version of the proposal, we were gratified to see the initiative become a reality at last.

As you may know, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services was notified on May 7 that its proposal had finally been approved. The agency announced the program the same day. The first pilot kicks off in just six weeks. Continue reading “What’s in Our New 1115 Behavioral Health Waiver?”

April 30, 2018

Why We Started: Our Story of Impacting Survivors

Shot from above of sneakers next to Passion Led Us Here on sidewalkSeven years ago, started what would impact thousands of MST survivors. We conducted military culture trainings for civilian clinicians around Illinois with the goal of getting them to sign up as volunteers or with Tricare. We wanted to increase the network of behavioral health providers in our state willing to work with veterans.

A new documentary came out called “The Invisible War.” The documentary was about military sexual assault. Thinking the film seemed interesting, we considered screening the movie and moderating a discussion.

Wanting to get the military’s take on the matter, we asked a colleague if he had seen it. Continue reading “Why We Started: Our Story of Impacting Survivors”

April 13, 2018

How a Commander Learned to Support Survivors

Baptism by fire is how I would describe my early career as a junior officer in the Armed Forces. (This post is in the words of an anonymous commander.) During that time, sexual assault and harassment was a foreign term to me in the context of the military. I never thought twice about being alone in the woods or in close quarters with another soldier regardless of how long I knew that person. Maybe I was naïve, but the thought never crossed my mind that threats could also exist within. Make no mistake, I knew these atrocities existed in my world but to me they were few and far between and how they were addressed was outside of my pay grade. When I became Company Commander my level of responsibility drastically changed. Continue reading “How a Commander Learned to Support Survivors”

April 6, 2018

Stop Talking, Not “Where’s my Shotgun?”

An angry man shoutingI’m sharing my story so that you can learn from my mistake and be prepared to support a survivor during a first disclosure.

Here’s the essence of the message: Reward a survivor’s confidence in you, not by bringing up your weapons, but by listening. In other words, stop talking.

People trust me, for some reason or another, and a college acquaintance was no exception. Partly through the chat she became quiet, and the vibe told me that our topic had hit a nerve. I could sense something was amiss. Continue reading “Stop Talking, Not “Where’s my Shotgun?””

March 16, 2018

Have You Done Enough to End Rape?

Reaching outIn case you don’t know how to end rape, a quick online search brings forward dozens of three-point steps to ending rape culture, stopping rape on campuses, and empowering women. “Make it a man’s problem,” “Promote Enthusiastic Consent,” or “don’t raise your boys to be ‘tough. ‘ ” My sarcastic self wondered, “How about ‘Don’t do it’?”

The best answer is, “tell your story.” Look, stories are how we convince people. We aren’t convinced by statistics. Continue reading “Have You Done Enough to End Rape?”

March 13, 2018

Work Requirements Don’t Solve Problems

Construction worker carrying a big pipeSince efforts to repeal the ACA stalled out in Congress, the Trump Administration has used its administrative authority in an attempt to reshape Medicaid to be more in line with conservative arguments that employment is linked to better health outcomes and helps move people off Medicaid and out of poverty.

The Administration is giving the green light to states to condition Medicaid eligibility on meeting a work and/or community engagement requirement. Guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has expressed a preference for following existing federal program work requirements found in programs like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Continue reading “Work Requirements Don’t Solve Problems”

February 13, 2018

The President’s Budget Doesn’t Reflect Smart Policy

Rebuild America's Infrastructure panel from White House budget graphicsThe President’s proposed budget is a wholesale shift of federal responsibilities onto states, with little to no support for those states to fulfill those responsibilities. It includes cuts to fundamental federal programs such as public housing, utilities, and food assistance programs. It also revives the President’s wish to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act through the use of Medicaid block grants that would strip $250 billion from state Medicaid programs over the next ten years.

Smart Policy Works is most troubled by the efforts of this Administration and Congress to consistently undermine the Medicaid entitlement. A shift to block grants breaks the 50-year compact between the federal government and states to provide health care to the poor. A block grant – or flat funding – puts the onus on states to deliver the same quality of care without taking into account increases in medical costs, health care epidemics, or increased Medicaid enrollment in times of economic decline. Continue reading “The President’s Budget Doesn’t Reflect Smart Policy”