One of our top public policy priorities for 2014 is to continue to push for the United States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disabilities Treaty).
The Disabilities Treaty is a UN human rights treaty that promotes the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act around the world. The treaty sets out the obligations of countries that ratify it to promote, protect, fulfill, and ensure the rights of people with disabilities. To date, 158 nations have signed the treaty, including the United States, and 150 nations have ratified it.
On December 4, 2012, the treaty was brought to the floor of the U.S. Senate for ratification. While former Senator and disabled veteran Bob Dole looked on, the Senate voted not to ratify the treaty by a final vote of 61 to 38. Sixty-six votes were needed to ratify the treaty.
The majority of opposition to the Disabilities Treaty was based on misinformation about the impact of the treaty on our nation’s sovereignty and the ability of parents to homeschool their children. In fact, the treaty would neither endanger our nation’s sovereignty nor would it lessen parental rights.
Because the previous session of Congress ended, the treaty was returned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We have been assured by Democratic Leaders in the Senate that ratifying the treaty remains a top priority.
In 2013, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held two hearings on the Disabilities Treaty. On November 5, hearing witness Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) did an excellence job explaining why the treaty is important for our nation’s 5.5 million veterans living with a disability. On November 21, the committee held a second hearing at which Secretary of State John Kerry testified about the importance of ratification for all Americans living with disabilities. The business community, represented by IBM, also testified about the importance of US involvement in international disability rights to help ensure that standards for access are standardized around the world.
On July 22, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-6 to send the Disabilities Treaty to the full Senate.
Contact your Senators and ask them to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disabilities Treaty). Click here to take action: http://capwiz.com/actioncenter/go/crpd
07/23/2014: VetsFirst participated in a press conference with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Bob Dole, and leading veterans service organizations in support of the Disabilities Treaty.
07/22/2014: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) voted the Disabilities Treaty out of committee by a vote of 12-6. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) joined Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and all other SFRC Democrats in voting in favor of the treaty.
05/20/2014: Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole met with leading veterans service organizations to discuss support for the Disabilities Treaty.
03/28/2014: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) told advocates that he will continue to fight for ratification of the Disabilities Treaty. Senator Harkin also released a video requesting stories from people with disabilities regarding their experiences in working, studying, and traveling abroad.
02/23/2014: Albert R. Hunt, a Bloomberg View columnist, wrote an editorial regarding the split in the Republican party over the Disabilities Treaty.
01/20/2014: VetsFirst’s Christopher Neiweem wrote an opinion piece for U.S. News and World Report in support of U.S. ratification of the Disabilities Treaty.
01/15/2014: VetsFirst and other coalition partners met with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) regarding the Disabilities Treaty. Senator Ayotte expressed her continued strong support for ratification.
01/15/2014: VetsFirst joined advocates from Tennessee in a meeting with Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) regarding his decision not to support the Disabilities Treaty. Although the meeting was well received, Ranking Member Corker restated his opposition.
01/08/2014: VetsFirst returned to Capitol Hill to encourage Senators to support ratification of the Disabilities Treaty.
12/20/2013: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) announced that he would not be able to support the Disabilities Treaty, ending negotiations with Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ). VetsFirst is extremely disappointed in Senator Corker’s decision. We call upon him to reconsider his position and resume negotiations.
12/03/2013: On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, VetsFirst called on advocates to let their Senators know that the U.S. must ratify the Disabilities Treaty.
11/21/2013: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a second hearing on the Disabilities Treaty. At the hearing, Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) referenced letters of support from 15 veterans service organizations. After the hearing, the Chairman met with veterans and staff representing the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and VetsFirst to thank them for their support.
11/14/2013: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced that it will hold a second hearing on the Disabilities Treaty on November 21. Secretary of State John Kerry is among the witnesses who will testify.
11/8/2013: United Spinal Association President and CEO Paul Tobin met with UN Ambassador Samantha Power to discuss veteran support for the Disabilities Treaty. Ambassador Power pledged her support in fighting for ratification.
11/5/2013: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Disabilities Treaty. Witnesses supporting the treaty explained to a crowded hearing room why America must ratify the treaty to ensure disability rights abroad. Although neither for nor against the treaty, University of Georgia Assistant Law Professor Timothy Meyer testified that any opposition concerns such as sovereignty can be fully addressed by the Committee before ratification.
10/30/2013: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced that it will hold a hearing on the Disabilities Treaty on November 5. Witnesses will include treaty supporters Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.
10/24/2013: United Spinal Association President and CEO Paul Tobin met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and other advocates regarding efforts to move toward ratification of the Disabilities Treaty. Chairman Menendez assured advocates representing the veterans, disability, and business communities that ratifying the treaty is his top priority.
10/18/2013: VetsFirst encouraged advocates to sign Handicap International’s petition in support of the Disabilities Treaty.
09/17/2013: VetsFirst served on a panel to express why the Disabilities Treaty matters to veterans at an educational forum on the treaty sponsored by the National Council on Disability. Advocates from across the nation were in attendance. Afterwards, VetsFirst and disability advocates from Georgia headed to Capitol Hill to meet with key Senate offices regarding our support for ratification.
08/09/2013: The U.S. State Department has launched a new section on its website devoted to the Disabilities Treaty.
07/10/2013: Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) has announced his official support of the Disabilities Treaty. Marca Bristo, CEO, Access Living Chicago, publicly thanked the Senator for his support in the Chicago Tribune.
06/19/2013: VetsFirst Committee Chair Terry Moakley met with Senators on Capitol Hill to discuss our support for the treaty.
06/18/2013: VetsFirst presented our Congressional Bronze Star Award to Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in honor of his leadership on the Disabilities Treaty.
06/05/2013: VetsFirst attended a briefing on Capitol Hill about the impact of the Disabilities Treaty on global commerce and international technology accessibility. We learned from leaders in the business and technology fields that the US needs to ratify the treaty in order to maintain our status as world leaders in disability rights and accessible technology.
05/14/2013: VetsFirst participated in a community webinar on the Disabilities Treaty to discuss the importance of the treaty for veterans with disabilities.
04/23/2013: United Spinal President Paul Tobin, a Navy veteran, presents comments to the National Council on Disability in favor of Senate ratification of the treaty. Tobin states, “CRPD [Disabilities Treaty] will allow veterans with disabilities to have greater opportunities to travel, work, study and live abroad.”
03/08/2013: The push to ratify the treaty continues.
02/01/2013: The treaty is returned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is appointed Secretary of State and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) assumes leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
12/04/2012: VetsFirst laments the Senate’s failure to ratify the Disabilities Treaty by a vote of 61-38. United Spinal President Paul Tobin calls the failure “disgraceful.”
12/03/2012: VetsFirst participated in a press conference with Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) and other elected officials and members of the disability and veterans communities to rally support for the CRPD. Twenty veterans organizations join VetsFirst in support of the Disabilities Treaty, including American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Wounded Warrior Project.
11/08/2012: Action alert sent out to help defend the rights of people with disabilities around the world.
07/26/2012: Tell Your Senators to Ratify the Disabilities Treaty–VetsFirst calls on public to help ratify the Disabilities Treaty.
07/26/2012: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bi-partisan resolution of advice and consent to the treaty, sending it to be considered by the full Senate.
07/12/2012: VetsFirst participated in a press conference with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) and veterans organization representatives to show support for the Disabilities Treaty.
07/12/2012: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Disabilities Treaty.
05/17/2012: The Obama Administration submitted the treaty package to the Senate for ratification.