Letter: Tax bill would burden those with disabilities

To the Editor:

The "Tax Cut & Jobs Act" winding its way through Congress will seriously burden those of us who have a disability. We're already twice as likely to experience poverty, and this bill is about to make it worse while handing corporations a substantial tax break.

This tax "reform" intends to eliminate most of the itemized deductions and credits that have led to our improved health and access to employment. Repeal of the medical expense deduction will be a major blow to the nearly 9 million taxpayers — many of whom have a disability — who currently use it to offset some of their high "out of pocket" medical expenses for drugs, long-term physical and occupational therapies, medical equipment (including wheelchairs), and the cost of long term care services and supports (including in-home care). Without the deduction, disabled people who can live independently in the community only with the aid of a personal care assistant may be forced into nursing homes.

The Republicans also plan to repeal the disabled access credit (DATC), which helps small businesses comply with the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Without this credit — 50 percent of eligible expenditures up to $10,000 — many small businesses who build ramps, hire sign language interpreters, and the like will, in effect, pay more in taxes in order to comply with the ADA.

Compounding the problem, there's a separate bill pending in the House (HR 620) designed to make it harder for disabled people to sue businesses that do not comply with the ADA. The ADA has few "teeth" to it now, and HR 620 will make it even less enforceable.

And none of this takes account of the fact that the tax bills will trigger the "PAYGO Act" rules on preventing deficit increases. These rules will result in automatic spending cuts to more social programs. One estimate is that as much as $25 billion will be cut from Medicare alone.

Conservatives say that we should be working, not living "on the dole," but they are determined to cut services and supports that help us do just that. And if repeal of the DATC is accompanied by passage of HR 620, they will also reduce the ability of people with disabilities to simply live in our communities, let alone enjoy them by going out to restaurants, movies, and other local businesses.

Charlie Murphy



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