Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Maine Human Rights Commission Supports Diabetic Belfast Firefighter's Disability Discrimination Complaint

The Bangor Daily News reports that the Maine Human Rights Commission, in a unanimous decision, is supporting firefighter/paramedic David Cobb's claim of disability discrimination by the city of Belfast. Ability Maine previously reported that caused had filed a discrimination complaint and the grounds for that complaint.
Investigator Robert Beauchesne found that the accommodation Cobb had requested was reasonable, and that two doctors agreed that changing sleep patterns is a factor in elevated blood sugar levels in diabetics. He found that Cobb had reasonable grounds to believe he was discriminated against, and on Monday, Feb. 24, all four commissioners present at the hearing agreed.
Read the complete story in the Bangor Daily News.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Maine Human Rights Commission Reverses Earlier Disability Discrimination Finding Against Camden Inn

The Bangor Daily News reported in early February that a Wisconsin couple who stayed at a Camden Harbour luxury inn had filed a complaint of disability discrimination with the Maine Human Rights Commission. Earnest and Susan Patnode came to Maine to celebrate Earnest's 86th birthday. He died a few months after their trip. Susan filed the complaint, the gist of which was that the "accessible" suite they were given had four steps to climb and had an entrance that was blocked by construction, requiring extra walking to get in and out.

The inn claimed that they did not have a sufficient understanding of Earnest's disability and that the entrance to the suite was not blocked. They also said they went "above and beyond" to try to accommodate the Patnodes.

An investigator for the Commission found evidence that discrimination had taken place, according to Maine laws.

In a follow-up article, BDN reported the Human Rights Commission cleared the Camden Inn, overturning the previous decision. Links for both articles are below:

Human rights panel clears Camden Inn of discrimination

Wisconsin woman claims Camden Harbour Inn discriminated against her and disabled husband

Maine Human Rights Commission says Belfast Firefighter/Paramedic Discriminated against Due to Diabetes

Last month the Bangor Daily News reported that Robert Cobb of Randolph was discriminated against by the city of Belfast when they refuse to accommodate his request to limit the number of overnights he worked due to medical reasons:
The city of Belfast denied that Cobb had a disability, adding that a doctor determined his blood sugar spikes were largely due to his own poor food choices and didn’t warrant any work schedule modifications, according to the report from investigator Robert Beauchesne.
“Complainant was placed in the position of having to endanger his health, and ignore his doctor’s advice, if he wanted to continue working for [the city],” Beauchesne wrote in the Jan. 24 report. “Under the circumstances, it was reasonable for complainant to decide that he had no choice but to resign in order to safeguard his health. Disability discrimination is found in this case.”
Read the complete article.

Harper Named Acting Superintendent of Riverview psychiatric Center

An Associated Press story picked up by numerous news outlets throughout New England, including the Portland Press Herald and WABI, reported yesterday that Robert "Jay" Harper has been appointed acting superintendent of Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. Harper has served as a patient advocate for the Disability Rights Center and as a professor in the Human Services department at the University of Maine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recent Coverage of Veterans' Benefits Bills in House and Senate; Maine Veteran in Spotlight; Maine Senators Divided

Several similar bills pertaining to veterans benefits have been debated recently in the US House and Senate. These are of particular significance to Maine because Maine has a higher than average proportion of citizens who are veterans and because one component of the bill — sometimes a separate bill, sometimes a provision in a larger bill — is named for Maine veteran Ruth Moore who has put a face on the pervasive problem of sexual assault in the military.

A February 26 article in the Portland Press Herald gives a good overview of the bills, what's at stake, and who supports and opposes them:
The Senate on Tuesday began debating a broad veterans’ benefits bill that would expand health care and education services for former military personnel but that some Republicans warned could overburden programs already struggling to meet demand.
A provision in proposed legislation – named for Moore – would make it easier for veterans who were sexually assaulted while serving in the military to qualify for disability benefits.
The Democrat-sponsored bill would allow more uninsured veterans to receive health coverage through the Department of Veterans Affairs and would expand dental coverage. It would also allow veterans to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges in whichever state they are living and cover the costs of fertility treatment for veterans made infertile because of service-related injuries.
The legislation also includes a provision – named for Maine veteran Ruth Moore – that would make it easier for veterans who were sexually assaulted while serving in the military to qualify for disability benefits.
Read the complete article, "Broad veterans' benefits debated in U.S. Senate."

A short March 7 article in the Portland press Herald by the same reporter as the previously mentioned article provides an update on the bills named after Ruth Moore, focused on Maine's two senators' different takes on the best way to curb sexual assault in the military.
Maine's senators split on military sex assault measure
Susan Collins was a co-sponsor of the bill, while Angus King supported a competing but less-sweeping measure.
Maine's senators split their votes Thursday on a bill to transfer the decision over whether to prosecute rape and other serious crimes from military commanders to military trial lawyers.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins supported Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill while Sen. Angus King opposed it.
Both supported moving forward with consideration of a competing but less-sweeping bill written by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
Read the complete article, "Maine's senators split on military sex assault measure."

A March 8 article in the Washington newspaper, The Hill, discussing the frustration of Democrats in the House in getting bills passed through the Senate put some of the veterans bills in this category" Maine's Representative Pingree on the subject:

Three of the stalled Democratic bills deal with veterans and the military.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has two House-passed bills awaiting action in the Senate. The Ruth Moore Act aims to improve the disability claims process for veterans with mental health problems due to sexual trauma experienced in the military.

Pingree spokesman Willy Ritch said he doesn't know when, or if, the bill will come up on the other side of the Capitol.

“Absolutely, it is frustrating to [Pingree] that this bill passed House and hasn’t passed the Senate,” Ritch said.
If it doesn’t move in the Senate, Ritch said Pingree might seek an administrative remedy.

“She's been pushing this issue for a few years now. The end result may be legislation, but it may also be putting pressure on [the Department of Veterans Affairs] to act on their own,” Ritch said.
Read the complete article in The Hill.

Petition: Health Insurance for 69,500 Uninsured Mainers? Yes, please!

Jennifer Lunden, whom Ability Maine interviewed last year, is up to her healthcare activist ways again. She has written a petition on MoveOn.org to try to secure health insurance for the almost 70,000 uninsured Mainers. Her letter about this is below:
Here we are at a critical time, with a second chance to bring federal funds to Maine so that low-income Mainers can benefit from the Affordable Care Act just like every other Mainer. I've started a new petition to help bring our message to Governor LePage and our legislators. Will you take a moment to sign it now? Health Insurance for 69,500 Uninsured Mainers? Yes, please!
You can also make a big difference by contacting your legislators, particularly if they are Republican. You can easily look them up here: Voter Information Lookup. Let them know why you want to bring those federal funds to Maine.
Thank you for everything you're doing to bring healthcare to all Mainers.
P.S. Please help this petition grow by emailing it to friends and posting it on Facebook.

Ability Maine encourages you to support this petition! You can start by signing it here