Saturday, March 8, 2014

The CRPD and Senator Johanns

Senator Johanns, a Republican from Nebraska, has many things going for him -- he knows how governments work at all levels; he has executive experience; and he is not afraid of bipartisanship. These things have served him well in the Senate, a place that benefits from the presence of a practical person. What I especially admire about Senator Johanns is his care and support for veterans and his wholistic approach to legislation to help them.

He has sponsored legislation related to mental health, employment, and housing for veterans. His Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment (HIRE) at Home Act was part of the National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report, which became law, and told the Defense Department how to spend its funds. We all realize that it is a real miracle to see anything become law right now. With Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, Senator Johanns sponsored the Housing Assistance for Veterans (HAVEN) Act, a pilot program to assist disabled and low-income veterans in need of housing accessibility modifications or home repairs. In Senator Johanns' words -- "The  HAVEN Act allows non-profit organizations to work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help make simple repairs, keeping veterans safe, healthy and out of more costly health care facilities." He has introduced and cosponsored bills to improve mental health services for vets, especially those with post traumatic stress disorders. Let's hope his housing and mental health bills make it all the way to the President's desk this year.

We have a chance to make Senator Johanns an ally. He is retiring from the Senate at the end of this Congress. He has a solid record on veterans. If veterans in Nebraska would chat with him, Senator Johanns just might decide to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and put it in his win column. It would be an honorable addition to his legislative achievements.

Here is Senator Joahanns' contact information:

Washington, D.C.:  202.224.4224
Lincoln:  402.478.1400
Omaha:  402.758.8981
Kearney:  308.236.7602
Scottsbluff:  308.632.6032

Twitter:  @Mike_Johanns

I urge veterans with disabilities, especially those from Nebraska, to reach out to Senator Johanns.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The CRPD: it's Time to Go on the Record

We have started a petition to urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move the CRPD out of committee to the Senate floor. Please sign the petition at the White House website --

We need 100,000 signatures by April 1, 2014.

Here are the details:

Urge the SFRC to move the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the Senate floor for a vote!

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has held two important hearings on the U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Hundreds of disability organizations, U.S. businesses, and our nations veterans support the CRPD. It's time to develop Reservations, Understandings, and Declarations (RUDs) that will move the CRPD to the Senate floor for a vote.

The U.S. Is losing businesses opportunities because other countries that have ratified are turning to other countries that have ratified for advice and technology that the U.S. can provide because we have decades of experience and the technology and manufacturers! Improved access overseas also creates opportunities for people with disabilities who want to live, work (DoD civilians) and travel overseas

Created: Mar 06, 2014
Issues: Disabilities, Foreign Policy, Veterans and Military

Please sign the petition and get your friends and family to do the same. Ratification of the CRPD IS SO WORTH IT!

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The CRPD and Senator Enzi

Senator Enzi joined the Senate in 1997. One of his committee assignments was Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. He's been there ever since. He cares deeply about families and children, including people with disabilities. He served for awhile on the Committee on Foreign Relations. His other current committee assignments include small business, finance, appropriations, and budget. At one point he was the CEO of NZ Shoes. Who knows, may be he still is!

In late summer of 2012 I went to visit Senator Enzi to urge him to support ratification of the CRPD. I thought my job would be easy. I was aware of his efforts for people with disabilities; I counted some of his staff as long time friends; I had educated myself about issues important to him; and some of my time as a committee staffer had overlapped with his first three years in the Senate. And, I had brought him a signed copy of a published thriller, Gradual Descent, I wrote. Word is, Senator Enzi was an avid reader, who reads six books a week. He confirmed that for me when we met. I don't know if he ever read my book, but he sent me a hand-written note of thanks!

He was a gracious listener, but I left his office without a clue about whether he were inclined to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). We all know he voted nay in December 2012.

Now it is 2014. Senator Enzi is up for re-election this year. On January 6, 2014 Liz Cheney dropped her bid to challenge Senator Enzi. People in Wyoming know Senator Enzi and like him. His Republican colleague from Wyoming, Senator Barrasso, already supports ratification of the CRPD. Senator Barrasso, who is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, can bring Senator Enzi up to speed on the issues that concern Senator Enzi the most -- parents' rights and sovereignty. Senator Barrasso has suggestions from conservative legal scholars, who testified, which address Senator Enzi's concerns.

If you visit Senator Enzi's website -- -- and look at issue statements you learn things that may help make him an ally on CRPD:

He and Senator Barrasso cosponsored the Accuracy for Adoptees Act (Dec. 2013). This legislation focuses on parents' ability to change birth certificates with inaccurate information about children they adopted overseas.

He sees small business as the backbone of Wyoming's economy. Many assistive technology entrepreneurs are small businesses.

With regard to education, he strongly endorses the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. One of his comments on education --
"...United States must move faster in order to have a strong economy. American students must have all of the tools they need to complete a higher education and to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to become and remain competitive in a 21st century economy. Strong partnerships and alignment among K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, businesses, and government will help meet that need. I am working to find ways to encourage students to stay in school and prepare for and enter high-skill fields such as math, science, engineering, health, technology and critical foreign languages."

In his issue statement on foreign relations he leads with this sentence -- "The ever-increasing interdependency of the world requires that we maintain a strong voice in the world community." Later, he highlight some international initiatives to assist people in developing countries become more self-sufficient.

Finally, Senator Enzi, in his issue statement on veterans affairs, points out there are two large Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Wyoming. So, I am sure he has experience with and would welcome more conversations with vets with disabilities.

Any of these selected facts about Senator Enzi could be the start of a conversation and the foundation for shifting to talking about ratification of the CRPD.

Senator Enzi was born in 1944. So, in addition to being especially interested in securing votes from his constituents, I bet he is also interested in his legacy and making a potential next term really count. Being for opportunity, freedom, disability rights, and a safer, brighter future where the United States stands tall are surely on Senator Enzi's short list. As the leading Republican on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where the Americans with Disabilities Act was born, he can help us get the votes we need. We need to talk to him now.

His contact information:
Washington D.C.: 202.224.3424
Toll free:  888.250.1879
Twitter:  @SenatorEnzi

Thank you.
Common Grounder