CSG Midwest
Michigan has become the third state in the Midwest to require certain recipients of public benefits to undergo drug testing. Signed into law in late December, HB 4118 and SB 275 will operate as a one-year pilot program in three counties. In those counties, some recipients of cash assistance will be drug-tested based on an “empirically validated substance abuse screening tool.”
 

Veterans are enrolling in postsecondary education institutions in large numbers, most of them with extensive occupational experience. Many colleges use Prior Learning Assessments to award academic credit when the knowledge and skills an individual has gained outside the classroom--including employment, military training and service, civic activities, and volunteer service--can be matched to college-level coursework. Veterans who earn credit for general courses are able to complete their degrees in a shorter period of time, reducing...

Working with student veterans on a daily basis, Jan Del Signore sees the challenges of making the transition from military service to civilian life, especially when assisting those building credentials to find sustainable employment. Unlike many college students, military veterans bring a set of skills and past training, but are less likely to persist to a degree and more likely to be unemployed. When postsecondary institutions offer college credit for prior learning in the military, most students complete college faster, attain a degree or credential and leave with less student debt.

The poverty guidelines for 2015 are available and published here in the Federal Register. These guidelines -- often cited as 100 percent of the federal poverty line -- are used to determine eligibility for a number of stata and federal programs. Sometimes eligibility is greater than 100 percent; for instance, the Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of federal poverty. 

Top Five 2015 Health Issues: A Further Examination

A flurry of state governors - in the 24 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid - are talking about expanding Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the Affordable Care Act. Many of these governors are offering up solutions that they say are designed uniquely for their state, carefully differentiating the new proposals from “traditional” Medicaid. This activity is likely to continue throughout 2015. Outside ACA issues, states will consider a number of health delivery issues. These include how to match the workforce to the need for professionals and how to expand some service areas such as mental health and substance abuse.

Within the next year, Michigan will pilot a program in three counties that will require drug tests for welfare applicants who are suspected of drug use under HB 4118 and SB 275 signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Dec. 26, 2014.  

The Michigan law comes on the heels of a federal circuit court ruling declaring unconstitutional a Florida law to drug test applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the federal welfare program known as TANF.

This act requires parents that wish to delegate their parental powers for more than one year to file a petition through the juvenile court system in order to allow the court to assess if the new parents will be able to adequately care for the child. Previously physical custody could be signed over through a power of attorney document, which required no state oversight. The act also closes a loophole in the states advertising laws, making it illegal to advertise that a child is up for adoption over the internet.

Even as the recession abates, working family incomes often cannot cover family expenses and families are reaching out to food banks and community support systems to meet basic needs. These support systems also have struggled under economically stressful times and new creative approaches are needed.

In a ruling that may have implications for other states, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the law strongly supported by Florida Gov. Rick Scott that would have required drug testing for applicants of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the federal welfare program known as TANF.

In a unanimous ruling (see the text here) on Dec. 3, 2014, the panel of judges said it was unconstitutional to force applicants to surrender their rights to receive assistance.

U.S. veterans involved in the justice system face unique challenges. Since 2008, court officials have begun to step in to prevent jail time for veterans suffering from mental health disorders. Judge Robert Russell of Buffalo, N.Y., has offered one solution--specialized veterans treatment court.

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