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Candidates 2018 Answers

Thomas Combs 
(D) Doddridge District/Circuit 6

Disability Rights

1. What initiatives would you undertake to ensure the protection of the Civil Rights of West Virginians with disabilities?

2, How will you ensure West Virginia state entities and businesses are in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act to prevent discrimination against West Virginians with disabilities?

3. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers all activities of State and Local Governments. The Act states that:

No qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any public entity.

A public entity shall administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities. (a provision upheld by the Olmstead Decision of the US Supreme Court)

A public entity that employs 50 or more persons shall designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under this part, including any investigation of any complaint communicated to it alleging its noncompliance with this part or alleging any actions that would be prohibited by this part.
How can West Virginia best uphold the Olmstead US Supreme Court decision and comply with the most integrated setting provision in Title II of the Act?

4. Do you support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act in West Virginia? Why?

5. Do you support funding the Medicaid Waivers sufficiently to eliminate the waiting lists and make them accessible to those who need them? Why? 
Yes, this money should never be used for anything other than helping families on the waiver program obtain the necessary services to allow them to live their lives as they choose. Having a child on this program I feel gives me a better look at necessary changes within this program.

Community Services
6. What strategies will you use to ensure every West Virginian with a disability has access to a Center for Independent Living?

7. How will you maximize West Virginia’s access to federal funding to improve and sustain services and supports for people with disabilities?

8. How will you ensure FEMA funding received by West Virginia is used to meet the specific needs of survivors with disabilities following a disaster?

9. Transportation in West Virginia, especially in rural areas is a problem for anyone who doesn’t own a vehicle. However, due to the lack of accessible transportation it is an even bigger issue for people with disabilities. Transportation is critical to the ability of an individual to work, live, and fully participate in his/her community.
What will you do to improve access to transportation statewide for all West Virginians, including people with disabilities? 
This is excessively hard in West Virginia and I’m not sure what the answer is because within my district my constituents struggle with any type of transportation need daily. There are no buses in most areas so people rely on family others to help and the problem with an aging population this will not get any easier.

10. A. How will you make sure all schools are aware of and access all transition services available for youth with disabilities?
B. How will you enforce existing laws ensuring access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education for all youth with disabilities and ensure local school systems understand and comply with their responsibilities?

11. How will you ensure the existence of post-secondary education/training, services, and supports that facilitate all youth with disabilities becoming working, productive citizens?
12. Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been federal law since 1975, many students with disabilities are still segregated, bused to a single school in the county, or otherwise excluded from the education in the “least restrictive environment” provision of IDEA. 
The integration of students with disabilities into general education classrooms and activities with typical students has been shown to increase acceptance, expectations, and inclusion and to reduce fear, misunderstanding, and bullying.  What steps will you take to increase integration of all students with disabilities in schools throughout West Virginia?  
No matter the cost integration is absolutely a top priority.  No child should be kept from attending the school of their choice.  Again, in having a child with disabilities this is on the forefront of my mind so I feel that although I don’t have all the answers and struggle with this in our own home/county I have a better look at the situation than most.

13.  71.3% of working age West Virginians with disabilities are not in the workforce. What steps will you take to change that? How will you ensure all working West Virginians with disabilities are paid at least minimum wage and eliminate sub-minimum wage? 
In doing away with sub-par centers that only contribute to the down grade of people with disabilities. I feel that laws should be enacted and enforced to ensure that all West Virginians are given the right to work and be paid for their work. I feel that any company being caught paying employees under minimum wage should be fined and forced to pay back wages and benefits.

While I would like to say I know the answers to all these questions, I clearly don’t have the answers. The only thing I can say is that I will fight for people with disabilities and all West Virginians to the best of my ability. Having a child with disabilities and the struggles that we have faced and currently face I can understand some of the plight of our disabled population.

When it comes to the good of the citizens of West Virginia I will work with any and all to make our state better. I plan to work across party lines to advance West Virginia for all and to help those that need it the most have the best access to what West Virginia has to offer. It is a struggle for families with disabilities to access even the basic services in our state because of the rural population and also because while we are moving forward in the diagnosis and care of those with disabilities we have a long way to go.
I don’t believe there is a right answer on most of your questions because we do have so far to go and getting our elected officials to even listen to our problems is a full-time job in itself. I know that the Fair Shake Network and the WV Disabilities Council work tirelessly in trying to obtain laws and services for our disabled population and I will say that if elected my door will always be open and I will always be will to listen to the needs of our citizens.

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