Des Moines, Nov. 14 – Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is focusing on caregivers and assistance for people with disabilities this month, according to Bruce Koeppl, a senior advisor for the campaign who is based in Iowa.
“That’s what you can look for this weekend as we begin to unroll some additional issues. Sunday we will be having the panel on caregiving. Soon we will be going out and doing coffee with aging advocates around Medicaid, Social Security, caregiving. So it’s going to be an important issue for him this fall as we get into the caucuses.”
Tomorrow’s invitation-only roundtable on caregiver issues is expected to focus on a variety of issues – from people who take care of their aging parents due to dementia and Alzheimers to people who stay home to care for an adult child or sibling with a disability to direct care and nursing.
During a conversation with two-dozen disability leaders yesterday, Koeppl said Sanders is a “leader on veteran issues and part of that has been trying provide more assistance to caregivers of vets.”
Koeppl also said the presidential hopeful knows the importance of expanding and fully funding Medicare.
“Sen. Sanders’ instincts are to expand Medicare; he want to broaden that, expand Social Security, expand Medicaid,” Koeppl said. “He’s got ways to pay for it so it’s not going to necessarily add to the debt.”
When Sanders is asked about a plan for helping people with disabilities enter the workforce, his response often gravitates toward ensuring there is no decrease in Social Security Disability Benefits, which Koeppl reinforced by focusing on the importance of a variety of benefits.
Throughout the campaign season, Sanders has discussed the importance of employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
“I have worked with the disability community in my own state,” Sanders said in Davenport, IA in May. “People with disabilities must have all of the opportunities possible open to them from an educational point of view and from an employment point of view.”
In early July, the Senator said, “Work is part of what being human is about. We have to establish a full employment program for all people, with disabilities and without disabilities.”
And later that month, Sanders said to the National Council on Independent Living rally, “in the year 2015, it is unacceptable that over 80 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed… People need work. They need jobs.”
Yet the presidential hopeful has yet to outline any specific policies to make this happen.
Fully one-in-five Americans have a disability and polls show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. This leads to poverty and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disability benefits.
There are 357,730 Iowans with disabilities. Of that number, 169,300 Iowans with disabilities are of working age. Among this population there is a huge gap in terms of employment compared to their non-disabled peers. Only 44.8 percent are employed compared to 82.1 percent of those without disabilities living and working in the first primary state.
Introducing policies that create opportunities for employing people with disabilities is not a conservative issue or liberal issue; it is a human issue, and it affects a large portion of the electorate in the United States. The top issue in the disability community is jobs. Government policies that help people with disabilities get and keep jobs are a win-win because they allow people with disabilities the dignity and financial benefits of work and also grow our economy and save taxpayer money.
At tonight’s debate and Sunday’s roundtable, Sanders has the opportunity to not only talk about healthcare and caregiver issues related to people with disabilities but also the importance of assisting people, including wounded veterans, with the opportunity to join the workforce.
Read the Full Transcript of Bruce Koeppl’s remarks:
Well Sen. Sanders has been clearly aware of these issues over his time in Congress and the Senate and he’s been a leader, for example, on veteran issues and part of that has been trying to provide more assistance to caregivers of vets. And that was included in the recent legislation that was passed. In addition to that, obviously Medicare is very important to this community and making sure it’s funded adequately and expanded is part of Sen. Sanders stood for and worked for.
We are going to be focusing on caregiving, this being National Caregivers’ Month, on Sunday and talking to folks about workforce issue, for example, a livable wage, a wage that CNAs and direct care workers can afford but also hopefully be able to afford healthcare for themselves, as it is a very dangerous profession. People get hurt all the time.
Also, regards to dementia, research to work on Alzheimer’s, care for family caregivers who need a break, doing what they love to do to take care of a family member, but need some time to make sure that they are staying healthy. Those are all things we’ve talked about, Sen. Sanders, and has supported in the past, and we look forward to hearing him talk about it while he’s in town.
I think if you look at Medicare, it is an important issue for healthcare. Sen. Sanders’ instincts are to expand Medicare; he want to broaden that, expand Social Security, expand Medicaid. He’s got ways to pay for it so it’s not going to necessarily add to the debt, but these are all issues that can help. My belief is that Sen. Sanders is a can-do guy. He understands policy, likes to talk about policy and once he’s got his position together, he’s going to work very hard and advocate for those issues.
So I think that’s what you can look for this weekend as we begin to unroll some additional issues. Sunday we will be having the panel on caregiving. Soon we will be going out and doing coffee with aging advocates around Medicaid, Social Security, caregiving. So it’s going to be an important issue for him this fall as we get into the caucuses.