the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Employment & Social Security

Redefining Social Security’s Definition of Disability: Why People of All Ages Should Get Engaged

By Emily Ladau, CareerACCESS Intern

Social Security policy reform is critical as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

CareerACCESS logo - Career ACESSYoung adults with disabilities who receive Social Security benefits face serious dilemmas navigating their world: they can either pursue a successful career and lose all support from SSI/SSDI, or remain on SSI/SSDI and lose opportunities to find lucrative work.

If you’re tired of unfair policy barriers directed at people with disabilities, this is your time to be part of the advocacy to make change!

CareerACCESS Now!

CareerACCESS, a grassroots initiative supported by NCIL, will be holding a forum:

Reforming Social Security’s Definition of Disability

July 27, 2015; 1:00 p.m.
Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., Main Ballroom
NCIL’s Annual Conference on Independent Living

We need the ADA generation, this country’s workforce, to be there to speak out!

We must modernize current Social Security policies for people like Kathleen, a young woman about to graduate college who is concerned about finding employment while maintaining financial support to keep the personal care attendants she needs to go about daily life. We must continue our activism for people like Derek, who has experienced several roadblocks on his path to a career due to SSI/SSDI.

It is up to people of all ages to support the ADA generation of the disability community so we can all thrive. This is why we need you at our forum!

Showing your support for Social Security SSDI Reform and CareerACCESS will be a huge step in the right direction for positive Social Security reforms.

CareerACCESS is a proposed program of reforms to the Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income Program to provide services and supports to propel youth into careers, enable them to build assets, and allow them to keep their disability benefits when they develop careers. The young adult drives their own individual career plan with access to coaching, counseling, and employment support services.

What do we want? CareerACCESS! When do we want it? Now!

Join the ADA Generation hosting this forum. For more information, see the Facebook event page and visit the CareerACCESS website at www.ourcareeraccess.org.

The United States owes it to all generations to make it possible for people with disabilities to have equal opportunities to thrive!

Act Today and Tomorrow: Cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) on the Table

Today, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) filed Amendment 667 to the Senate Budget Resolution, in order to create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to “ensure that individuals do not simultaneously receive unemployment compensation and disability insurance benefits”.

Read CCD’s Fact Sheet about Amendment 667 (PDF or plain text).

As the U.S. Senate considers its 2016 budget resolution, cuts to benefits for people who receive both SSDI and Unemployment Insurance (UI) are on the table are.

Senators Flake and Manchin’s amendment would cut these extremely modest but vital benefits. More amendments are possible. Action on amendments and the budget resolution is expected today and tomorrow.

SSDI and UI are earned benefits, paid for by workers and their employers. Workers who qualify for both should be able to receive the insurance benefits they have earned. SSDI beneficiaries who try to work should not be treated differently from other American workers. UI should be there for them when they need it.

75 national organizations (PDF) have opposed harmful cuts to concurrent SSDI and UI benefits. Get the facts and take action!

Today and tomorrow, call your Senators. Tell them:

  • Please oppose Flake Amendment 667 to the Senate Budget and any similar amendments to cut Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for people who also receive Unemployment Insurance.
  • Any cuts to Social Security or SSDI would harm the financial security of people with significant disabilities and their families.
  • SSDI beneficiaries who try to work should not be treated differently from other American workers. Unemployment Insurance should be there for them when they need it. It’s fair and it’s right.
  • For decades, Congress has passed bipartisan laws to open up employment opportunities for SSDI beneficiaries. Cutting SSDI for people who also receive Unemployment Insurance would instead penalize SSDI beneficiaries who have tried to work — creating new, harmful work disincentives.

Announcement of DOL Grant Funding for Training of People with Disabilities

On March 9, the President announced our TechHire initiative in a speech to the National League of Cities. To kick off TechHire, 20 regions, with over 150,000 open technology jobs in 2014 and more than 300 employer partners, announced plans to work together to create more fast track tech training opportunities. The President is challenging communities across the country to follow their lead.

As a part of this announcement, the Administration announced a commitment to make $100 million available through the Department of Labor to support innovative approaches to moving lower skilled workers with barriers to training and employment on the fastest paths to mid- to high-skill information technology jobs in high growth jobs in industries like healthcare, advanced manufacturing, financial services, and other in-demand sectors. Each grantee will agree to develop strategies that serve one or more groups of individuals with barriers to employment, including those with child care needs, people with disabilities, people with limited English proficiency, and disconnected youth, among others.

Read the fact sheet on this opportunity (PDF). The Administration plans to have a full application ready by the end of 2015.

SSA: Free Monthly Webinars on Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) Teach Beneficiaries about Ticket to Work and Work Incentives

Source: Social Security Administration

A person using the Ticket to Work WISE webinar website - Ticket to Work LogoSocial Security’s Ticket to Work program provides free employment support services to Social Security disability beneficiaries age 18 through 64 who want to work so that they can successfully transition from receiving cash benefits to full-time employment. Ticket to Work connects beneficiaries to services, such as interview coaching, résumé development, benefits counseling, vocational counseling and job placement. It also helps many beneficiaries take advantage of Social Security Work Incentives to safely transition from cash benefits while keeping their health care coverage. These services and incentives can help beneficiaries on their journey to employment and financial independence.

SSa hosts free monthly Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) webinars to teach beneficiaries and their supporters (both individuals and disability organizations) about the Ticket to Work program and Work Incentives.  [Read more…]

Free Webinar: Disability and Employment: Research, Policy, & Practice

Source: Institute on Disability / UCED

You are invited to participate in the Disability and Employment: Research, Policy, & Practice Webinar on Tuesday, April, 28, 2015 from 2:00 – 3:00 pm ET.

The persistently low employment rates among people with disabilities in the United States are accompanied by consistently high rates of participation in safety net programs. As funding for employment related services is limited, people with disabilities who wish to access employment services may face either delays in access or scarcity of available options. The lack of coordination between available employment services and safety net programs is an additional cause for concern.

In efforts to address issues surrounding persistently low employment rates among people with disabilities, the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment Policy and Measurement (EPM-RRTC) at the Institute on Disability (IOD) is gathering compelling evidence-based information on the effectiveness of past employment promotion initiatives and efficient ways of measuring and monitoring employment outcomes as innovative policy options are tested and implemented.  [Read more…]

Bender Virtual Career Fair: Employment for People with Disabilities

Bender Consulting LogoAre you a person with a disability looking for a career opportunity or internship? This Virtual Career Fair is free for students and alumni with disabilities to attend. This is a unique opportunity for college students & college grads with disabilities to meet online with employers across the nation including ANSYS, Epic, Medtronic, National Security Agency, Nestle Purina, Verizon, & More!

Students and alumni are invited to interact with employers via chat sessions.  [Read more…]

“Only Employed, Responsible People Wanted”- Working Around SSI toward A Career

CareerACCESS, a community-driven proposed program of reforms to SSI that will provide an alternative benefits program for youth with disabilities, has a new blog that features stories of youth with disabilities across the US and their experience with SSI.

One recent installment is called “‘Only Employed, Responsible People Wanted’ – Working Around SSI toward A Career” by Justin Harford. Check out Justin’s story below, and read more stories and take action at: www.ourcareeraccess.org/index.php/blog.

“Only Employed, Responsible People Wanted”- Working Around SSI toward A Career

By Justin Harford

Justin Harford - scenic landscapeA lot could be said about the hours of sleep that I lost growing up as a youth with blindness whose greatest fear was failure, and relegation to dependence and poverty on SSI.

My name is Justin Harford, and I am the Disability Community Advocate at FREED Center for Independent Living in Grass Valley, California. Much of my work involves policy and community organizing for positive systemic change at the local grassroots level for people with disabilities like myself. I am proud to be gainfully employed for the first time in my life, and grateful to be in a job that I believe in and enjoy. I hope to work my way up, and to strive for a career which constantly challenges me and expands my outlook on the world.

I spent five years as a student at the University of California Berkeley between 2007 and 2012, graduating with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American History, with a minor in Spanish Literature. I directed a class on LaTeX for three years, a computer markup system for mathematicians and scientists to publish documents with arithmetical notation. I intensively studied Spanish, as well as Portuguese. I put together a 50 page senior thesis, using over 500 pages of primary source Spanish language materials, on the history of the blind in Chilean society 1920-1950. During these years, SSI was both a source of support, and anxiety.  [Read more…]

Join Our Partner, the LEAD Center, for a Webinar on WIOA from a Disability Perspective: An Overview – Part 1 of 4

The LEAD Center, funded by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Policy, is hosting a four-part webinar series titled “WIOA from a Disability Perspective.”

LEAD Center Logo - www.leadcenter.orgSigned into law by President Obama last July, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) maintains a primary focus on assisting job seekers and workers with and without disabilities to succeed in the labor market and matching employers with skilled workers who may benefit from education, skills training, and career services. At a state and local level, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) must engage in a unified state planning process that will enhance their focus on cross system collaboration (Title I Adult and Youth programs and services with Wagner-Peyser Employment Services and Title I of the Rehabilitation Act programs).

WIOA represents new opportunities for support for job seekers with disabilities that increases responsibility of WIBs and American Job Centers to be fully accessible and offer necessary accommodations to provide job seekers with disabilities effective and meaningful participation in the use of skills training and career pathways for 21st century jobs.

As the regulations for implementing WIOA are now not expected until the Spring, join the LEAD Center for this webinar series to help you understand the possibilities of WIOA from a disability perspective.  [Read more…]

ABLE Act Becomes Law, with Exceptions

The Senate has passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 and it is now headed to the President’s desk. NCIL has supported the ABLE Act since it was first introduced in 2006. The ABLE Act was designed to allow individuals and families to save funds in an ABLE Account to better support our health and well-being, our employment, our independent living, and our self-sufficiency over time. The ABLE Act amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to make these accounts possible. Originally, ABLE Accounts were to be open to anyone applying for or participating in the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI).

Unfortunately, the ABLE Act, as passed, only applies to people who acquire a disability before age 26. People who acquire a disability after that age will not be helped by the bill at all. NCIL is disappointed that Congress chose to gut this long-standing priority of the disability community. However, NCIL members may find the following information helpful in understanding the new law.

Research shows that living with a long-term disability means having routine, higher, out of pocket costs. The ABLE Act allows families that include someone with a disability under the age of 26 to be able to save and pay for these needs.

The National Disability Institute (NDI) has created a list of 10 items about ABLE accounts that individuals with disabilities and their families should know:

1. What is an ABLE account?

ABLE Accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families, will be created as a result of the passage of the ABLE Act of 2014. Income earned by the accounts would not be taxed. Contributions to the account made by any person (the account beneficiary, family and friends) would not be tax deductible.

2. Why the need for ABLE accounts?

Millions of individuals with disabilities and their families depend on a wide variety of public benefits for income, health care and food and housing assistance. Eligibility for these public benefits (SSI, SNAP, Medicaid) require meeting a means or resource test that limits eligibility to individuals to report more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds and other items of significant value. To remain eligible for these public benefits, an individual must remain poor. For the first time in public policy, the ABLE Act recognizes the extra and significant costs of living with a disability. These include costs, related to raising a child with significant disabilities or a working age adult with disabilities, for accessible housing and transportation, personal assistance services, assistive technology and health care not covered by insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.  [Read more…]

Action Alert: Tell Your Senators Not to Gut the ABLE Act!

Last Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, H.R. 647 by a vote of 404-17. The Senate is expected to take action this week, and with 74 Senate co-sponsors, it is likely that it will pass.

The ABLE Act allows individuals with disabilities and their families to save funds in an ABLE Account, a tax-free savings account that can go towards housing, transportation, home health, and other eligible expenses. This will allow individuals to accumulate assets without jeopardizing eligibility for Medicaid or Social Security benefits.

However, NCIL has significant concerns regarding who can access and open an ABLE Account. The ABLE Act has a lot of potential, but because of recent changes, only individuals who acquire a disability before the age of 26 are eligible for an ABLE Account. This means that individuals who acquire a disability at or after that age will not be helped by the ABLE Act at all.

We need Congress to hear from us and understand that the ABLE Act is important for all people with disabilities, regardless of when we acquire our disability! Accumulating assets is just as important for people who acquire a disability at or after the age of 26 to be able to improve their economic status and earn their way out of poverty.

Because of the advocacy of NCIL members and other disability rights groups, our concern regarding substantial gainful activity has been resolved, and individuals who meet the definition of disability are able to maintain an ABLE Account regardless of engagement in SGA. We need to make sure our voices are heard on this critical issue as well. The Senate needs to hear from you before they vote on the ABLE Act! Call your Senators and let them know that this needs to be fixed in the current (or future) Congress. Let them know that ALL people with disabilities should be eligible for an ABLE account!